10 Best VPNs for China (STILL WORKING in 2021) – 3 Are FREE!
- What Is the Great Firewall of China?
- What You Need To Know About Using a VPN in China
- The Best VPNs for China – Full Analysis (Updated in March 2021)
- ExpressVPN – Unbeatable Speed, Security, and Reliability
- NordVPN – Advanced Encryption and Super Fast Speeds
- Astrill VPN – Specifically Designed With China in Mind
- VyprVPN – Unique Features to Maximize Speed and Security
- Surfshark – Super Secure Connections on Unlimited Devices
- PrivateVPN – Privacy That Lives up To Its Name
- Hotspot Shield – Servers in China Offer Lightning-Fast Speeds
- ProtonVPN – Basic Free Plan and Affordable Upgrades
- Windscribe – Free Plan With 10GB of Data per Month
- hide.me – User-Friendly VPN With Decent Speeds
- The VPNs That Don’t Work in China
- What You Need to Know About VPNs in China BEFORE You Travel
- What To Do If Your VPN Isn’t Working in China
- Research Methodology: How We Tested These VPNs
If you’re traveling to China, you might think any VPN will let you access the internet. But the country’s strict censorship system makes many VPNs useless – and even dangerous. If you use an ordinary VPN in China, not only will you have trouble connecting, but you may put your own privacy at risk.
The viability of a VPN also depends on where you’re located. That’s why we have a team of testers in different locations throughout China who regularly test each service and report back to us.
According to them, the best VPN for China is ExpressVPN, thanks to its super-fast speeds, world-class security features, and ability to bypass the Chinese government’s anti-VPN measures.
Short on time? Here are the best VPNs for China in March 2021
- ExpressVPN – My top choice for China for its super-fast speeds, high reliability, and industry-leading security features. (You can get it right now for 49% off.)
- NordVPN – A solid way to get past the Great Firewall with advanced encryption and security features, plus consistently speedy connections.
- Astrill VPN – Offers security measures specifically created for countries with high censorship, although there aren’t many servers.
- VyprVPN – The network is relatively small, but dynamic server switching maximizes speed and security.
- Surfshark – Provides a secure connection on an unlimited number of devices, although torrenting can be slow in China.
What Is the Great Firewall of China?
The Great Firewall of China refers to the strict system of censorship that blocks internet users in China from accessing websites and apps like Google, Instagram, YouTube, Netflix, Wikipedia, and many more.
This isn’t an official name, but it’s become a common term over the past few decades as the Chinese government has developed a sophisticated strategy to control internet usage. It involves various methods of blocking access, from legal regulations to advanced technology.
The purpose, to put it simply, is to restrict the flow of information for political reasons. It all started a couple of decades ago when Chinese citizens started gaining widespread access to the internet. The government sprang into action to get things under control, and started creating the complex system that exists today.
No one really knows exactly how it works, and part of the reason is that it’s constantly changing. This also makes it even harder to get around the restrictions, as they can vary greatly in different areas, for different internet service providers, and from day to day.
However, there is one way to get past the Great Firewall: by using a Virtual Private Network, commonly known as a VPN.
China blocks most VPNs, so most of the ones that work in other countries won’t do you any good there. But there are a few that are reliable, even under the country’s strict censorship – which we’ve confirmed through rigorous testing. Our top recommendation is ExpressVPN.
These top VPNs allow you to connect to servers in locations outside of China, getting you past the restrictions and allowing you to access blocked websites and apps.
They also protect your privacy and security online by encrypting your data and keeping it hidden from the government, hackers, and your ISP.
As you might imagine, VPNs are essential for those traveling to China – and if you’re going there for business or just want to stay connected during your trip, you’re going to need one too. In fact, you’ll probably need more than one; it’s always good to have a backup!
What You Need To Know About Using a VPN in China
It’s not exactly easy to test VPNs for China if you’re not actually in China. That’s why we rely on several different testers who live in various locations throughout the country.
These team members are constantly testing each VPN to make sure it’s up and running. They send us the results at regular intervals, allowing us to keep our recommendations up to date.
Before we dive into the best VPNs for China, there’s one important thing to mention: if you’re traveling to China, you’ll need to download and install your VPN before you arrive.
This is because the Great Firewall blocks all the top VPN websites. If you wait until you’re already in the country, you’re pretty much out of luck.
I also recommend downloading more than one VPN before you travel, in case the first one stops working at some point. Different VPNs work in different regions, and the government might block your VPN at any moment.
If you do have to connect to the backup, go ahead and download a third option too – you should always have at least two VPNs ready to go.
Remember: Downloading more than one VPN in advance doesn’t mean that you’ll end up paying extra. All of the best VPNs have money-back guarantees, so you can get a refund in case one (or more) of them suddenly stops working.
The Best VPNs for China – Full Analysis (Updated in March 2021)
These are the top 10 VPNs for China right now, based on the results we regularly receive from our team of testers throughout the country.
- More than 3,000 servers in 90 countries, including Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore
- Lightning-fast connection speeds
- Obfuscated servers to bypass the Great Firewall
- RAM storage wipes data at the end of each session
- AES 256-bit encryption, kill switch, DNS and IP leak protection
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, SHOWTIME, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, and more
ExpressVPN is hands down my top choice for browsing in China. It provides an incredibly fast connection, a high level of security, and several user-friendly features that really set it apart from the rest.
First of all, it has more than 3,000 servers at 160 locations in 90 countries, including some close to China in places like Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore. Our testers in China usually prefer to use these servers; the closer the servers are to their actual locations, the faster their connections.
That said, our speed tests show that ExpressVPN is super fast no matter where you’re connecting from, so you can rest assured that you’ll be able to browse, stream, and download with ease in China.
Obfuscated servers might sound complicated, but all you need to know is that they’ll allow you to bypass restrictions while keeping your traffic – and the fact that you’re using a VPN – totally hidden. To learn more about how this works, check out this article.
My teammates in China feel comfortable relying on ExpressVPN’s advanced security features, which include AES encryption with 256-bit keys: the same kind used by the U.S. government. The DNS and IP leak protection ensure that your location and traffic are never exposed.
In addition, the automatic kill switch automatically disconnects you in case of connection failure – which is a definite possibility in China – in order to prevent leaks.
Another useful feature is the split tunneling, which allows you to choose which apps go through the VPN’s obfuscated servers and which don’t (in case you want to access domestic sites too).
ExpressVPN also has a strict no-logs policy, meaning it never saves your browsing history. It also uses TrustedServer security, which means its servers run on RAM only rather than writing to hard drives. Every time each server reboots, all its data is wiped clean, minimizing the risk of third parties being able to access your data.
You can connect up to 5 devices at once on a single account, and there’s 24/7 live chat support in case any issues arise. If you can’t access live chat, you can also send an email to the support team.
Finally, the 30-day money-back guarantee means that you can test out ExpressVPN risk-free and make sure it works in China before fully committing.
- More than 5,480 servers in 60 countries, including Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore
- Obfuscated servers to bypass the Chinese Government’s restrictions
- Blazing-fast speeds regardless of location
- AES 256-bit encryption and automatic kill switch feature to guard against leaks
- Strict no-logs policy to keep your data hidden
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Disney+, CBS, NBC, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and more
NordVPN is a solid choice for anyone looking to get around the Great Firewall. It’s super fast, highly effective, and reasonably priced, making it one of the best VPNs to use in China.
There are more than 5,480 servers in 60 countries, and although China isn’t one of them, NordVPN does have over 370 servers in nearby countries like Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore.
Like all the top VPNs for China, NordVPN uses obfuscated servers that will let you get around even the toughest restrictions – without revealing that you’re using a VPN. You can find them under the “Specialty Servers” section in order to connect from China.
All of these servers have unlimited bandwidth and incredibly fast connections, which our testers have verified in extensive NordVPN tests. You’ll be able to access any site and app you want, regardless of geoblocks.
NordVPN has a proprietary connection protocol, NordLynx, which is specifically designed to maximize speed without compromising privacy. It’s easy to switch to NordLynx in the settings, and my teammates report that it works like a charm in China.
NordVPN also offers several other advanced security features, including AES 256-bit encryption and an automatic kill switch to prevent leaks in case of connection issues. Our team in China absolutely trusts NordVPN to protect their privacy, even on public WiFi.
The strict no-logs policy means that NordVPN will never store your browsing history, and it keeps your IP address hidden so that you can share sensitive files and information without worrying about security.
One subscription allows you to connect up to 6 devices at once, and there’s 24/7 live chat support available whenever you need it.
The 30-day money-back guarantee means you can sign up for NordVPN and see how it goes once you arrive in China. The company is also currently running a promotional sale: I’m not sure for how long it will be going on, but if you sign up right now, you can get 68% off the marked price.
- More than 150 servers in 60 countries
- Stealth VPN protocol to get past automated firewalls
- Smart Mode optimizes speed through regional IP addresses
- Automatic kill switch keeps your data safe no matter what
- 5 simultaneous device connections
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and more
Astrill VPN is much smaller than its main competitors, with a relatively low number of servers around the world – but that doesn’t mean it’s any less effective.
In fact, Astrill VPN offers several features that make it ideal for browsing in highly restricted locations. It’s clear that its developers have spent a lot of time figuring out how to get past the Great Firewall.
Astrill VPN has more than 150 servers in 60 countries, which might not seem like a lot. But Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore are among those countries, so you’ll have access to servers near China to optimize connection speed.
It also has a proprietary protocol called Stealth VPN, which is inspired by OpenVPN. This is specifically designed for countries with high censorship, as it adds an extra layer of security to bypass automated firewalls.
Another unique feature is Smart Mode, which allows you to use regional IP addresses instead of foreign ones. This maximizes the speed of your connection and makes it even harder for anyone to see that you’re using a VPN.
Like its competitors, Astrill VPN has an automatic kill switch to prevent accidental data leaks if your connection suddenly fails. My colleagues in China constantly emphasize the importance of this feature, as connection problems are a common occurrence there.
For an even higher degree of anonymity, the multi-hop feature routes your traffic through multiple servers. This makes it incredibly difficult for anyone to trace it back to you. Find out why our testers love these security features in our Astrill VPN review.
You can connect up to 5 devices on a single account. You get access to 24/7 live chat for support.
Just keep in mind that unlike most of the VPNs on this list, Astrill VPN does not offer a money-back guarantee. However, you can get 50% off the marked price if you sign up through this link.
- More than 700 servers around the globe
- Dynamic server switching for extra speed
- Proprietary Chameleon protocol and self-owned servers for increased security
- Protection on public WiFi connections
- Strict no-logs policy to keep your activity private
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ESPN, SkySports, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Blackberry, Smart TV, and more
VyprVPN is an incredibly secure service that offers the kind of anonymity you’ll need to maintain peace of mind while using the internet in China. It’s also super fast, so you won’t get frustrated by slow streaming or endless buffering.
There are more than 700 VyprVPN servers around the world – several of which are located near China in places like Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong – with a total of over 300,000 IP addresses.
In order to optimize the speed of your connection, VyprVPN uses dynamic server switching to avoid overloaded and unavailable servers that might slow you down. Our regular speed tests show that this service is indeed super fast.
Its security system is also first-class, including VyprDNS: its own DNS service to protect all your requests without involving third parties. Your DNS requests will never be recorded – and neither will anything else, thanks to the strict no-logs policy.
VyprVPN’s Chameleon protocol builds on the OpenVPN protocol, enhancing it to ensure that you can bypass any firewall while remaining completely secure. Our testers consider it ideal for browsing in China, but you can also opt for OpenVPN or L2TP/IPsec if you prefer.
This VPN uses high-end encryption and advanced security features, including a kill switch to automatically block traffic if the connection is lost. VyprVPN also kicks in automatically whenever you use an unknown WiFi network.
You can use VyprVPN on up to 5 devices at once, and rest assured that you can try it out risk-free and get a refund if anything goes wrong, thanks to its 30-day money-back guarantee.
- More than 3,200 servers in 65 countries, including Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan
- NoBorders Mode to get past the Great Firewall
- Camouflage Mode provides extra privacy
- CleanWeb blocks ads, malware, and phishing attempts
- Unlimited device connections
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, Disney+, Sky TV, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Xbox, Playstation, and more
Surfshark is definitely a solid choice for browsing the internet in China, or anywhere in the world, for that matter. It has more than 3,200 servers, including several in countries like Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore, so you never have to worry about speed.
Surfshark is also known for its top-notch privacy features, such as Camouflage Mode. Activating this feature makes sure that no one, not even your ISP, can see that you’re using a VPN – which is especially vital to avoid raising suspicion in China.
NoBorders mode is also super helpful, as it allows you to use Surfshark in even the most restricted regions. And the CleanWeb feature protects you from ads and malware, prevents phishing attempts, and allows you to browse faster without wasting mobile data.
Surfshark uses AES-256-GCM encryption and has a strict no-logs policy, so you can be sure your data is totally protected and never recorded. There’s also an automatic kill switch to keep your information private in case of unexpected issues.
For optimal flexibility, our testers recommend using the Whitelister split tunneling tool to choose which traffic goes through the VPN and which doesn’t. This is useful if you want to browse some local websites in addition to blocked international content.
The MultiHop feature also allows you to connect through servers in various countries, making it even harder to track your real location. My colleagues in China tested out all these features and you can read more about them in our detailed Surfshark review.
One of Surfshark’s most unique advantages is the fact that it allows simultaneous connections to an unlimited number of devices, making it ideal if you’re traveling with family or friends.
There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try out Surfshark risk-free for a full month to make sure it meets your needs.
- More than 150 servers in 60 countries, including Hong Kong, Japan, and Singapore
- Unlimited data and bandwidth to optimize streaming and downloads
- Unlimited server switches to increase speed even further
- AES 256-bit encryption with 2048-bit DH key
- No-logs policy keeps your data private
- 30-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, ESPN, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Xbox, Playstation, and more
PrivateVPN is one of the most trusted VPN providers on the market, offering solid security and speedy connections to people all over the world. It’s smaller than some of its competitors, but that doesn’t mean it’s any less reliable – as confirmed by the thorough testing completed by our team in China. You can see the full test results in our in-depth PrivateVPN review.
Although there are only around 150 servers, several of them are located in countries near China like Hong Kong and Japan, which is what matters when it comes to connection speed. PrivateVPN also offers unlimited server switches, so you can move between them at will.
Stealth mode hides your VPN traffic, allowing you to bypass the Great Firewall and browse international sites without being detected. Not even your ISP will know that you’re using a VPN. There’s also a strict no-logs policy to keep your online activity private.
PrivateVPN also boasts advanced AES 256-bit encryption and lets you choose from several security protocols. However, if you’re using it in China you’ll be limited to L2TP VPN, as all of the service’s other protocols are blocked.
PrivateVPN offers the ability to connect up to 6 devices at once. Since there aren’t many servers in the network, you might want to contact customer support before heading to China to ask which servers work best there. PrivateVPN offers 24/7 live chat support, so you won’t have any problems getting in touch.
There’s also a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can try PrivateVPN with no long-term commitment.
- More than 1,800 servers worldwide, including some in China
- Catapult Hydra protocol increases connection speed
- Automatic kill switch to ensure anonymity
- Connect up to 5 devices on the premium plan
- 45-day money-back guarantee
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO GO, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Blackberry, and more
Hotspot Shield is known for its speed, but it also has high-end security and an extensive network of servers – more than 1,800 servers in over 80 countries, to be exact.
Even more interesting is the fact that Hotspot Shield has VPN servers in China, which is incredibly rare. This means that you can actually browse in China with a Chinese IP address, and you’ll be super close to the server. No wonder it’s so fast!
Hotspot Shield has its own VPN protocol, Catapult Hydra, which is specially designed to combine speed and security in highly restricted locations. Our testers in China regularly check to make sure it works and keep our Hotspot Shield review up to date.
There’s an automatic kill switch to keep you safe in case of a failed connection, advanced encryption, and built-in malware protection to prevent malicious attacks.
If you want complete privacy with no small print, you might prefer a VPN with a stricter no logs policy.
Hotspot Shield’s premium plans allow you to connect up to 5 on a single account.
There’s 24/7 live chat support to help you solve any problems. Hotspot Shield also offers a generous 45-day money-back guarantee with a no-questions asked policy, give you a long time to try it out risk-free.
- Basic free plan with servers in 3 countries
- Unlimited bandwidth
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Strict no-logs policy
- Built-in ad blocker
- Works with: YouTube, Google, Facebook, Twitter, WhatsApp, Kodi, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, and more
ProtonVPN is a reliable option if you’re looking for an affordable – or free – VPN that doesn’t compromise on speed or security. There are some limitations, though, especially on the free plan; it only includes one VPN connection and medium speeds. You can find out more in our in-depth ProtonVPN review.
ProtonVPN’s free plan does provide basic capabilities, unlimited data, and access to servers located in the U.S., the Netherlands, and Japan. If you’re trying to use the internet in China, our testers suggest using the servers in Japan for the fastest connection.
If you opt for a paid plan, however, you’ll get access to more than 1,000 servers in 54 countries, as well as extra features like P2P/BitTorrent support and Secure Core VPN, which routes your traffic through multiple servers.
Speeds increase with each pricing tier, so if you’re looking to stream videos or do a lot of downloading, it’s worth it to pay a bit more. To increase your anonymity even further, choose a plan that includes Tor over VPN capability, so that you can browse through the Tor network.
ProtonVPN has a strict no-logs policy to protect your privacy and keep your data hidden. There’s AES 256-bit encryption for maximum security and a built-in ad blocker to guard against malware and viruses.
The number of simultaneous connections ranges from 1 to 10 depending on the plan, and there’s an online ticketing system for customer support. The paid plans come with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can sign up risk-free.
- Free version with servers in 10 countries, including Hong Kong
- 10GB of data per month
- R.O.B.E.R.T tool blocks ads and trackers
- Double Hop allows you to proxy your connection through two servers
- AES 256-bit encryption and strict no-logs policy
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Kodi, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, and more
Windscribe is a reliable VPN provider with a great free plan in addition to a paid Pro version. Although its full network includes 180 servers in 60 countries, the free plan only includes 10 countries – one of them being Hong Kong, which is perfect for browsing from China.
Windscribe also has industry-leading AES 256-bit encryption. Its R.O.B.E.R.T. tool offers customizable server-side domain and IP blocking to protect you from trackers, malware and other threats.
The free plan includes 10GB of data per month, which is enough for moderate usage and several hours of streaming.
Our testers have found that Windscribe’s connections are usually reliable, although speed tests show that they lag behind some competitors. The connection speed is sufficient for basic browsing, but if you want to stream or download a lot, consider one of the top five options above.
This service also boasts industry-leading encryption and a strict no-logs policy, which means all your traffic will be kept hidden and will never be recorded by the VPN.
If you go for the Pro plan, you can either pay monthly or yearly. The yearly option works out to a significant discount, so it’s definitely worth it if you’ll be using the VPN for several months.
I recommend testing out the free plan first, however, as you only have three days to cancel your Pro plan subscription to receive a refund. Even on the free plan, you’ll have access to 24/7 live chat.
- Free plan with servers in 5 locations
- Premium plan with unlimited data
- AES 256-bit encryption and IP leak protection
- Unlimited server switching
- Automatic kill switch and strict no-logs policy
- Works with: Netflix, Hulu, YouTube, Amazon Prime Video, HBO GO, Sky Go, and more
- Compatible with: Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, and more
Hide.me lives up to its name; it’ll hide all your activity through military-grade encryption, making it nearly impossible for anyone to see what you’re doing online.
With more than 1,900 servers in 75 locations around the globe, you’ll always be able to find a connection. If you’re in China, you can connect through servers in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Vietnam, and other nearby countries – but only on the Premium plan.
Although hide.me does have a free version, it only includes five servers in Germany, Canada, the Netherlands, and the U.S. (east and west). For that reason, I wouldn’t recommend the free version if you want a VPN for China.
The Premium plan offers unlimited data and top-notch security features, including IP leak protection and an automatic kill switch to disconnect you in case of any issues.
Hide.me also has a strict no-logs policy to guarantee privacy, and unlimited server switching to give you maximum freedom and flexibility.
Our testers in China found that connections are usually reliable, but you might run into some issues with lagging – so it’s not my top choice. Find out more in our detailed review.
Hide.me is super easy to use and set up, and you don’t even need to provide an email address to get started.
Keep in mind that the Premium plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee, and you can always use the 24/7 live chat support to get help whenever you need it.
The VPNs That Don’t Work in China
While there are hundreds of VPN providers out there, not all of them work in highly restricted locations. That’s why we employ a team of expert testers in various locations across China to regularly test the top VPNs and make sure they’re up and running.
We use these test results to keep our reviews up to date, and to tell you which VPNs to try – but also which ones to avoid. Here are a few services that definitely won’t get you past the Great Firewall of China.
CyberGhost is a great VPN for many purposes, but browsing the web in China isn’t one of them. Don’t be fooled by the fact that it has servers within China; you can use them to access Chinese sites from abroad, but if you’re actually there they won’t do you any good. Read our full CyberGhost review to find out more.
IPVanish is an awesome VPN for unblocking streaming sites and staying anonymous online – unless you’re in China, that is. You can see right on the provider’s website that it doesn’t claim to work in China, and our testers confirmed this.
ZenMate has publicly stated that its VPN service doesn’t work in China, and even advises users against taking out a paid subscription there. That said, our in-depth ZenMate review concludes that it’s a decent option for regions that don’t have super-strict censorship.
UltraVPN’s website isn’t super clear about whether it works in China, but our testers found that it currently doesn’t. For now, we only recommend it for use in other countries; if you’re outside China, you’ll appreciate its large server network and the ability to unblock Netflix.
What You Need to Know About VPNs in China BEFORE You Travel
The first thing you need to know is that finding a VPN that works in China can be challenging. Most VPNs aren’t reliable there, and even the best ones could be blocked at any moment. The best way to avoid frustration and delays is by preparing well in advance.
Just by reading this article and doing your research, you’re already halfway there! The next step is to download multiple VPNs before you arrive in China. This is because the Great Firewall blocks every VPN provider’s website (besides the government-approved VPNs, and you don’t want one of those), as well as the Google Play store. The Apple App Store isn’t blocked, but you shouldn’t rely on it; find out more below.
In addition to downloading at least two or three VPNs, I recommend that you test them out before going to China. Of course, you won’t find out if they work there until you arrive, but you can at least see how they operate and get them up and running on your devices.
This might sound like an expensive strategy, but most of the best VPNs for China, such as ExpressVPN and NordVPN, offer 30-day money-back guarantees. That means you can buy a subscription to several services, and then cancel the ones that don’t work once you’re in China to get a full refund.
Want to check if a certain website is blocked before you arrive in China? Use our testing tool to find out.
What To Do If Your VPN Isn’t Working in China
Troubleshooting a VPN in China is no easy task, but there are some tips and tricks to help get you back online in no time. Before angrily slamming your laptop shut, follow these steps to figure out what’s gone wrong and fix it.
The simplest solution is to switch to a different VPN service. This is why I recommend subscribing to at least two before you leave for China, so that you always have a backup. If the other VPN doesn’t work either, try the following steps.
There are a few ways to increase your chances of finding a steady connection. To start with, try connecting to a different server, perhaps in another country. This requires some trial and error, but it’s the simplest strategy.
If that doesn’t work, switch to a different security protocol. Many of the best VPNs for China allow you to choose between their own protocols (like NordVPN‘s NordLynx) and several others (like OpenVPN or IKEv2). Each one has a different level of speed and security, and some may work when others fail.
Next, try a different device. If you’re on your laptop, switch to your smartphone (or vice versa). This might not seem logical, but sometimes it makes a difference!
Finally, your last resort is to use a different network connection. Try a public WiFi network or get a friend to set up a mobile hotspot. The key is to just keep changing things up until something works. And although this process can be tedious, it usually leads to success.
Remember: VPN connections are often less reliable during big events and at controversial moments. If there are protests going on or China is on the global radar for a negative reason, the government may step up censorship – but it’s likely only temporary!
Research Methodology: How We Tested These VPNs
As the Great Firewall becomes increasingly advanced, it’s getting harder and harder to find VPNs that actually work in China. To make our recommendations as helpful as possible, our team of testers throughout China constantly tests and retests each service.
These testers report results on dozens of different elements for each VPN, to create the most complete picture possible of what it actually has to offer. This is how we know which VPNs really work. Here are some of the criteria we consider in this process:
- Ability to bypass the Great Firewall of China. This is one of the world’s most advanced censorship systems, so getting past it is a huge challenge – if not impossible – for most VPNs. Our testers have confirmed that ExpressVPN, NordVPN, and the other top VPNs for China can consistently get around the Great Firewall’s restrictions.
- High speeds. If you’re going to be stuck staring at a blank screen while waiting for an app or website to load, you might as well not have internet access at all. Our team tests browsing, streaming, downloading, and gaming speeds across multiple servers to confirm that you’ll have a lightning-fast connection on your VPN of choice.
- Servers in neighboring countries. One of the best ways to guarantee a good connection is by using VPN servers in countries near China like Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, Taiwan, and Vietnam. Our testers in China check to make sure that these servers are reliable in terms of both speed and performance.
- Advanced encryption. If there’s one place in the world where you want military-grade encryption, it’s China. That’s why every VPN we recommend has industry-leading AES 256-bit encryption – the same kind used by the U.S. government. In the eyes of our testing team, anything less than that immediately disqualifies a VPN from this list.
- Kill switch. When you’re using a VPN to browse the internet in China, the connection could unexpectedly drop at any moment. If that happens, it’s crucial to ensure that your data and identity won’t become vulnerable. Every service on this list has an automatic kill switch feature that immediately disconnects you from the internet if the VPN connection fails, in order to protect your privacy at all costs.
- Ease of use. No one wants to spend hours figuring out how to use a VPN, so our testing team makes sure that every service we recommend is user-friendly and intuitive. Even if you’re totally new to VPNs, our top picks are easy to install and set up. You don’t need a technical background to have a stress-free VPN experience.
🤓 What is the Great Firewall of China?
The Great Firewall of China is a set of laws, regulations, and technologies used by the Chinese government to regulate internet use within the country.
You don’t need to know exactly how it works (no one does), but you do need to know that it will keep you from accessing many of the world’s most popular websites and apps. That includes Twitter, Facebook, Google, YouTube, WhatsApp, Wikipedia… and the list goes on.
The Chinese government uses several sophisticated methods to control what you can and can’t do online, from IP blacklists and DNS spoofing to manually blocking certain sites and IP addresses.
However, a top VPN like ExpressVPN can unblock censored sites and apps by hiding your location and routing your connection through servers in other countries – without revealing that you’re using a VPN.
🙂 How does China block VPNs?
If your VPN provider doesn’t hide the fact that you’re using a VPN, the Great Firewall will immediately detect it and block you from the sites you’re trying to access.
The methods that the Chinese government uses to block VPNs are varied and complex, ranging from active filtering and probing to proxy distribution. The Great Firewall selectively blocks certain sites by using fake DNS servers, network black-holing, and other advanced methods. It also often issues probes to identify and block blacklisted VPNs.
China does allow the use of certain VPNs, but they have to be government-approved – which essentially defeats the purpose.
There are several VPNs that manage to get around these restrictions and allow you to access prohibited websites. But you won’t be able to download them once you’re in China, since the VPNs’ websites are also blocked.
That’s why you need to develop a strategy before you travel to China: do your research, download multiple VPNs, and test them out in advance. I recommend the winning combination of ExpressVPN and NordVPN.
🙂 Can I use a free VPN in China?
However, I would always recommend opting for a paid plan, as most free VPNs are missing important features. Depending on the provider, that might mean more ads, no kill switch, or lower-level encryption. Plus, many free plans limit your browsing speed and data allowance.
If you’re using the internet in China, security is especially important. You don’t want to raise suspicion or draw unwanted attention to your activity, so it’s absolutely vital to get the best security features possible – even if it means paying a little bit more.
The good news is that if you’re only traveling for a short time, you can take advantage of one of the top VPN’s money-back guarantee and use it for free. For instance, ExpressVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee with a no-questions-asked policy, so you can use it during your trip and then just request a refund when you get back.
I would also strongly advise against using any free VPNs that aren’t on this list. Not only are they unlikely to work in China, but they may even put you at risk with subpar security measures. And when it comes to online privacy, that’s not a risk worth taking.
😎 Can I still use my apps if I’m traveling to China?
If you try to use popular apps like Gmail and WhatsApp (among many others) when you travel to China, you’ll realize right away that they’re blocked. But that doesn’t mean you can’t use them – it just means you have to get creative and go through a VPN.
The best VPNs will allow you to access most of the apps that the Great Firewall blocks, so that you can stay connected throughout your time in China.
😉 Which sites are blocked in China?
There’s a long list of sites that are blocked in China, from Google and Facebook to Twitter and popular news sites… plus many, many more. For a full list of all the restricted sites and how to access them, check out this article.
🤓 Should I leave my VPN on all the time in China?
It’s not necessary to leave your VPN on all the time if you only need it occasionally. But if you’re browsing in China, I’d recommend leaving it on as much as possible. You can never be too careful, and this is the best way to ensure your security and privacy.
Leaving your VPN on also reduces the risk of forgetting to turn it on in more vulnerable circumstances, like when you’re using a public WiFi network.
🤓 Why is my VPN slow in China?
Browsing on a VPN is always going to be a bit slower than using a regular network connection, since all your data is being encrypted, decrypted, and rerouted through a server somewhere else in the world. However, with premium VPNs like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, the difference should be barely noticeable.
If it seems to be taking an especially long time to access the internet, it might be because the network or servers are crowded with extra traffic. You can always try switching to a different server, and if that doesn’t work, see the troubleshooting section above for potential solutions.
🙂 How do VPNs bypass the Great Firewall?
VPNs get around the Great Firewall by hiding both the contents of your traffic and its destination. They scramble your data so that the censorship system can only see encrypted data going to a server – but not what it is or where it’s going. The best ones also use obfuscated servers that make it impossible to determine that you’re using a VPN.
😎 Can I bypass the Great Firewall without a VPN?
There are a few other strategies for getting past the Great Firewall, but none of them are as reliable as using a VPN. You can try tunneling networks or proxy applications, or even Tor. However, this last option will require some extra configurations, and I always recommend using Tor in combination with a VPN anyway for maximum anonymity.
🤓 How can I get a Chinese IP address?
A Chinese IP address can come in handy if you want to access domestic sites within China. But it’s not super easy to get one; you’ll need to use a VPN that has servers inside the country. My top recommendation for this purpose is HotSpot Shield’s Premium plan.
🤓 What is the best VPN security protocol to use in China?
In general, I would always suggest using OpenVPN or IKEv2, both of which guarantee a high level of security. But these protocols may not always work in China, and OpenVPN in particular requires additional measures to hide your traffic.
That’s why many of the top VPNs have created their own protocols that are specifically designed to work in highly restricted locations. I recommend NordVPN’s NordLynx technology (based on the WireGuard protocol) or VyprVPN’s Chameleon protocol (based on OpenVPN).
😎 How can I access the iOS App Store in China?
The iOS App Store isn’t actually blocked in China, but in order to stay in operation, it has to abide by the rules of the Chinese government. That means that the Chinese version of the App Store is missing lots of content – including most VPN apps. If you set up your Apple account outside of China, however, you’ll still be able to access all the same content.
🙂 Are VPNs legal in China?
VPNs are not technically prohibited in China. Many of the most popular VPNs from abroad are blocked by the Great Firewall, but it’s not actually illegal to use a VPN. However, if the censorship system detects that you’re doing so, it’ll probably block your connection. That’s why you should choose a service that effectively hides the fact that you’re using a VPN.
🙂 Can I watch Netflix in China?
Netflix is blocked by the Great Firewall, but that doesn’t mean that you’ll have to go without your favorite series. The best VPNs for China allow you to watch Netflix by connecting you to a server in a different country where it’s not banned. Remember that the Netflix library varies from country to country, though!
🙂 Do I need a VPN in Hong Kong and Taiwan?
China may claim sovereignty over Hong Kong and Taiwan, but the Great Firewall does not extend to these countries, so you don’t need a VPN to use the internet there. That said, you might want to use one anyway for extra security and privacy or for access to international streaming services like Netflix US and BBC iPlayer. It certainly can’t hurt.
If you’re traveling to China, keep in mind that accessing the internet is going to be more complicated than you’re used to – especially when it comes to maintaining privacy.
But there’s a reliable way to get around the Great Firewall of China so that you can browse and stream to your heart’s content: download a VPN (or two) to regain your freedom and maximize your online security.
The best VPNs for China are fast, secure, and consistent, with all kinds of first-class features to give you peace of mind and keep your identity, location, and activity hidden.
For the best combination of all these elements, I recommend ExpressVPN. It has plenty of secure servers near China, super-fast speeds, and the ability to access virtually any site or app you can imagine.
To Summarize, the Best VPNs for China are:
Your data is exposed to the websites you visit!
Your IP Address:
Your Internet Provider:
The information above can be used to track you, target you for ads, and monitor what you do online.
VPNs can help you hide this information from websites so that you are protected at all times. We recommend NordVPN — the #1 VPN out of over 350 providers we've tested. It has military-grade encryption and privacy features that will ensure your digital security, plus — it's currently offering 68% off.
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