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How to Download a VPN in China in 2023 — 8 Ways That Work

While in China, you can’t access many international services, including VPN sites. The country has region-specific versions of the App Store and Google Play, so the popular VPN apps aren’t available there. Plus, the Great Firewall of China makes it impossible to download a reliable VPN using traditional methods.

My team and I found effective ways to download a VPN in China. We also tested over 60 services and found the best VPNs for China that work there reliably. They have advanced security and privacy features to protect your online activity from hackers and snoops. You can use them to bypass geoblocks and easily access worldwide content too.

ExpressVPN is my top choice for China. It protects your online privacy with military-grade encryption, obfuscation, and a no-logs policy. Plus, you get a vast global network of lightning-fast servers to access your favorite websites without interruptions. Best of all, you can try ExpressVPN in China without risk, as it’s backed by a trustworthy 30-day money-back guarantee.

Get the Best VPN for China Now

Important: You may encounter restrictions on using VPNs in China. We at vpnMentor do not condone any unlawful activities. Please check the latest regulations before downloading a VPN in China to avoid accidentally breaking the rules.

Quick Guide: How to Download a VPN in China in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Get a reliable VPN. I recommend ExpressVPN for its secure global network to safely bypass geoblocks and keep your personal data private. To download ExpressVPN in China, use one of the easy methods listed below.
  2. Connect to a server. Choose a server in a country that allows you to access the content you want. For example, connect to a US server to check your Gmail and Facebook accounts.
  3. Start browsing. You’re all set to use a VPN in China and securely access popular online services.

Why You Need a VPN for China

China is a heavily-regulated country that uses geoblocks to make international services unavailable. Its firewalls block access to many sites like Wikipedia, BBC News, and social networks (including Twitter, YouTube, and Instagram). Due to the licensing agreements, you can’t access your Netflix US, Disney+, and HBO Max accounts in China either. Besides, certain VoIP apps such as Telegram and WhatsApp are inaccessible too.

Websites and firewalls use your IP address to identify your location and allow you (or not) to access specific content. But connecting to a VPN server outside of China reroutes your traffic via a secure tunnel and changes your IP address. This way, a VPN protects your data from firewalls and lets you get past geo-restrictions.

However, only the best VPNs can overcome sophisticated Chinese geoblocks. You also need to buy a service with a vast network and obfuscated servers to access international sites. Plus, a VPN for China should have robust encryption and tunneling protocols to safeguard your sensitive data from prying eyes.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Today

How to Download a VPN App in China — 8 Tried-And-Tested Methods

My team and I tested many ways to download VPNs in China reliably. Whether you plan to go there or are already in the country, you can try one of these methods to get a VPN on your device.

1. Download a VPN Before Arriving in China

The best way to get a VPN working is to set it up before arriving in China. Simply download the VPN from the official website or your app store (Google Play, App Store, or AppGallery).

Bear in mind that some VPNs are banned in China. It’s better to use a tried-and-tested provider like ExpressVPN to reliably bypass geoblocks and protect your online data.

2. Use Your Hotel’s WiFi

Many international hotels in China have unrestricted internet to let their guests access popular online services. This means you can visit the hotel, log in to the guest WiFi network, and download a VPN for your device.

The places known for WiFi with looser online censorship include Hilton, Marriott, Crowne Plaza, Shangri-La, Wyndham, Pangu, and Starwood. Still, the policies can change, so it’s better to check with the hotel if it allows VPN connections.

3. Use a SIM Card from Your Home Country

A foreign SIM card may help you download a VPN in China if your smartphone is set to international roaming. After installing and setting up the account, you can disable roaming and switch to a local SIM card. But beware that roaming can be costly, so it’s a good idea to check the rates with your provider beforehand.

4. Use Mirrored Sites or Dynamic Links

It’s possible to download a VPN for desktop operating systems via mirrored sites — copies of the provider’s site hosted under different URLs. Providers host these sites to help users avoid geoblocks. You may also use dynamic links that automatically forward you to an available unblocked version of the website.

5. Download an APK File for a VPN

You can get a VPN for your Android smartphone or tablet via the APK installation package. China doesn’t block most websites that share these files. If you wonder how to download apps in China, just visit an accessible platform (like Yalp Store available on F-Droid). Then, download a VPN.apk file and install it on your phone.

However, these sites don’t vet apps like Google Play. There’s always a risk the app can contain malware or be discontinued. So, it’s better to ensure you're downloading from a safe source.

6. Ask a Friend for Help

Your friend can download VPN installation files and send them to you. Remember that you both must use a government-approved service like WeChat or Weiyun for file transfer. A friend of yours might need to sign up and subscribe to a VPN for you too. Fortunately, major payment methods like PayPal and Western Union work in China.

Alternatively, you can tether onto a VPN-enabled device. Just ask someone with a VPN in China to share their encrypted connection. To do that, the person should:

  1. Connect to a VPN server on their device (and choose any server but China).
  2. Navigate to the WiFi hotspot settings (“Mobile Hotspot and Tethering” on Android and “Personal Hotspot or Settings” on iOS).
  3. Set up the login and password for the personal hotspot.

Now you can connect to your friend’s personal WiFi hotspot to use their encrypted traffic. Just download a VPN for your device, set it up, and test how it works.

7. Visit Hong Kong or Macau

The internet doesn’t work the same throughout China. For example, Hong Kong and Macau have fewer restrictions. So, if you’re traveling to these places, you should be able to download a VPN for China without too much hassle. You can also visit nearby Taiwan.

8. Choose a VPN That Works in China

Most importantly, you should choose a VPN that works in China. Many free services are banned, can’t bypass the Great Firewall blocks, or have very limited features. So, it’s best to make sure you download a reliable VPN that functions well in the country.

Best VPNs That Work in China - Full Analysis (Updated in February 2023)

Every VPN on my list is a good choice for China. They all protect your online privacy with high-grade encryption and no-logs policies. Each VPN lets you bypass geo-restrictions to access the content you need and watch your favorite shows as well.

They also come with extra features like multiple simultaneous device connections and 24/7 live chat support to help you with any issue. Plus, the VPNs are compatible with the most popular desktop and mobile operating systems.

1. ExpressVPN — Top-Grade Security to Safeguard Your Privacy in China and Beyond

  • Military-grade encryption and RAM-only servers to protect your private data
  • 3,000 servers in 94 countries to access the content you need in China
  • Lightning-fast speeds for buffer-free streaming
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, HBO Max, YouTube, Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Apple TV, routers, and more
ExpressVPN Offer February 2023: For a limited time only, you can get an ExpressVPN subscription for up to 49% off! Don't miss out!

ExpressVPN protects your data with leading tunneling protocols (like Lightway and OpenVPN). I use OpenVPN (super secure) to safely log in to my Alipay account and Lightway (speed oriented but also safe) for streaming. Your internet sessions are kept safe from hackers and snoops with military-grade encryption. Plus, the Perfect Forward Secrecy regularly changes your encryption keys to minimize the risks of data theft.

Obfuscation makes your VPN traffic appear like regular online activity if you set the protocol to automatic. It prevents deep-packet inspections and helps bypass strict firewalls. I didn’t detect any leaks while testing ExpressVPN’s servers, so my actual location wasn’t revealed. You’re also protected from accidental data exposure with a kill switch (Network Lock) — it stops your internet connection if a VPN disconnects, but it didn’t happen during my tests.

Screenshot of leak test results for the ExpressVPN New York serverExpressVPN keeps your private information hidden from prying eyes

TrustedServer tech (RAM-only servers) erases your online data with each reboot for extra privacy. Even better, ExpressVPN is headquartered in the British Virgin Islands, outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances — intelligence-sharing pacts. The VPN has a strict no-logs policy as well, meaning it doesn’t share your personal information with any third parties.

An extensive server network covers 94 countries to easily bypass geoblocks. While in China, I watched Peaky Blinders on my BBC iPlayer and 30 Rock on my Netflix US account trouble-free. You get to quickly access Twitter, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, and other international services too. There are also servers in Hong Kong and Macau to access local content.

When I connected to the US servers from China, my speed decreased by only 23% compared to my base speed — from 89 to 69 Mbps. So, ExpressVPN’s speeds let you stream your favorite shows in 4K quality (you need just 25 Mbps to watch UHD content without buffering). You can even play online games lag-free. Plus, thanks to unlimited bandwidth, it’s possible to stream and torrent without limits.

All apps are intuitive and easy to use. The MediaSteamer (SmartDNS) allows you to unblock content on many devices that usually aren’t compatible with VPNs. I easily configured it on my PlayStation 5, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. The VPN also works with Kindle, Amazon Fire TV, and smart TVs. You can learn more about ExpressVPN features from the vast knowledgebase on the official website or ask any questions via 24/7 live chat.

On the downside, the subscriptions are pretty expensive (starting at $6.67/month). Luckily, ExpressVPN regularly offers generous discounts. When I signed up for the 12-month plan, I got 49% off and 3 extra months for free.

Getting a refund is effortless during the first 30 days, thanks to a money-back guarantee. I quickly applied for a refund via an online chat — it took me just a few minutes. The money returned to my credit card only 2 days later.

Try ExpressVPN Today

2. Astrill VPN — Vast Global Network to Easily Access International and Chinese Sites Anywhere

  • Smart Mode and StealthVPN to safely bypass China’s Great Firewall
  • Servers in 57 countries to unblock international content
  • Multiple simultaneous connections to use Astrill VPN on up to 5 devices
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, HBO Max, YouTube, Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, Apple TV, routers, and more

The vast server network spans 57 countries letting you unblock most online services. I accessed my Amazon Prime Video account without issues and binge-watched The Boys. I quickly accessed Telegram and Facebook while testing Astrill VPN’s US servers too. Some servers are specially optimized for gaming, so you can play World of Warcraft with low ping.

Screenshot of Astrill VPN unblocking Amazon Prime Video TV show (The Boys)Astrill VPN can access Amazon Prime Video with the OpenWeb protocol

My speeds clocked at 63 Mbps on servers in Seattle — more than enough for seamless streaming and gaming. The VPN doesn’t cap your bandwidth, so you can download as much as you want. It also has numerous fast P2P-optimized servers too for reliable torrenting.

Astrill VPN has China-optimized servers for enhanced security. I ran several IPv6 leak tests and didn’t detect any. At the same time, the VPN has a zero-logs policy, meaning it doesn’t share your personal data. Similar to ExpressVPN, the provider is based outside the 5/9/14 Eyes Alliances — in the Republic of Seychelles. Plus, you can prevent the possibility of data exposure on your desktop devices with a kill switch.

A proprietary StealthVPN protocol obfuscates your VPN connection to avoid firewalls. Another excellent protocol for China is OpenWeb, and WireGuard gives you great speeds without compromising security. The built-in ad blocker lets me browse CGTN without annoying pop-ups. Astrill comes with several encryption levels as well. It offers AES 256-bit encryption, but you can switch to faster (and also secure) 128-bit.

It took me only a few minutes to download the VPN on my iPhone and Windows PC in China. You can also set up Astrill VPN for your Amazon Fire Stick, Kindle, and Roku. All apps are beginner-friendly, and the Android one is even available in Chinese. Additionally, there are extensive guides on the website and helpful 24/7 live chat support that can answer your questions.

Unfortunately, the VPN doesn’t offer a money-back guarantee. However, it’s possible to use Astrill VPN for free within a month if you refer a friend who signs up for a paid plan.

Subscriptions are reasonably priced — you can get Astrill VPN for as low as $12.50/month. I recommend the yearly plan as it saves you the most in the long run.

Try Astrill VPN Today

3. PrivateVPN — Fast Speeds for Interruption-Free Streaming and Gaming in China and Abroad

  • High-speed connections for UHD streaming and lag-free gaming
  • Stealth VPN mode and leak protection to keep your online activity safe in China
  • 24/7 live chat support to answer your questions anytime
  • Can unblock: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, ESPN+, HBO Max, YouTube, Google, Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and more
  • Compatible with: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, routers, and more

PrivateVPN’s speeds let you game, stream, and torrent without slowdowns. The VPN also supports P2P traffic, so you can safely download and share files. My speeds were great while testing PrivateVPN’s US servers in China. I averaged 57.6 Mbps — fast enough to play ranked matches in Dota 2 at low ping. Besides, the VPN doesn’t cap your bandwidth, letting you stream and download without limits.

Screenshot of PrivateVPN's speed test results on servers in the US, Poland, UK, and FrancePrivateVPN’s speeds are fast enough for UHD streaming in China

Like Astrill, PrivateVPN has a Stealth mode that hides your VPN traffic to avoid the strictest firewalls. It also protects your sensitive information with AES 256-bit encryption, Perfect Forward Secrecy, and a no-logs policy. I tried several servers in Hong Kong and the UK and detected no IPv6/DNS/WebRTC leaks. There’s a kill switch enhancing your online protection as well.

The apps support multiple languages, including Chinese. They are easy to install too — I needed less than 5 minutes to fully set them up for my Galaxy Fold 3. You may even configure PrivateVPN for your router and use it on Android Smart TV and Amazon Fire Stick. What’s more, the technical support rep can remotely install the VPN on your desktop device. Plus, the developers can answer your questions via 24/7 live chat.

Unfortunately, PrivateVPN doesn’t have the biggest server network. However, servers across 63 countries let you unblock popular services from within China. For example, connecting to a server in the UK allows you to access your Facebook and BBC iPlayer accounts. I unblocked the global version of Steam too. The VPN also offers servers in Hong Kong to watch TVB News Channel anywhere.

You can get PrivateVPN for just $2/month. All plans have the same features, so I picked the 3-year option as it’s the best value for money.

It’s effortless to get a refund thanks to a 30-day money-back guarantee. I used the contact form on the website to cancel my subscription. My bank account was reimbursed after 4 days.

Try PrivateVPN Today

Tips on Choosing the Most Reliable VPN for China

All VPNs on this list protect your online data, let you access geoblocked content, and download files at top speeds in China. However, if you want to test the VPNs yourself, you can use these criteria as your checklist:

  • Global server network — A VPN with worldwide servers can bypass geoblocks to access international services (like Facebook Messenger, Twitter, and Instagram) from China and abroad.
  • High-grade security and privacy features — Pick a VPN with AES 256-bit encryption, a kill switch, and a no-logs policy to protect your online activities and communications.
  • Fast connection speeds — Choose a VPN with fast speeds (no more than 50% drop compared to your base speed) for streaming, torrenting, and gaming without interruptions.
  • Easy-to-use apps — Make sure your VPN has intuitive apps for your operating systems, allows multiple simultaneous connections, and has 24/7 live chat support.
  • Trustworthy money-back guarantee — Check if a provider offers a reliable money-back guarantee to get a full refund if the VPN doesn’t work out for you.

Try ExpressVPN Risk-Free Today

FAQs on Downloading a VPN in China

Is it legal to use a VPN in China?

You can legally bypass the Great Firewall by using government-approved VPNs in China. Unfortunately, these services are either heavily regulated or only available to state-owned enterprises. However, there are other VPNs designed to work in China. They encrypt your traffic and have obfuscation technology to hide your browsing activity from prying eyes.

The government isn’t known to persecute tourists who use non-approved VPNs to access international services and streaming platforms. Still, some VPNs are blocked or outlawed in China. So, you should check local laws and regulations for VPN use in China to avoid breaking any rules.

Which VPNs don’t work in China?

Some VPNs are restricted in China, including several popular providers. Besides, many VPN websites are blocked, preventing you from downloading the apps. It’s important to buy a trusted VPN with advanced security features that reliably works in China. Some of the popular providers that don’t work in the country include:

  • CyberGhost
  • Private Internet Access
  • IPVanish

Is it safe to use social media in China?

Social media access in China is heavily regulated. Many international services (like Facebook and Twitter) are blocked. However, connecting to a VPN server outside of China lets you use geoblocked social networks safely. Otherwise, you can use only government-approved social networks and messaging apps (mainly WeChat) that share user data with third parties.

Authorities actively monitor comments you leave online and can obtain your personal data from ISPs. Using trustworthy services with top security protocols and no-logs policies helps maintain your online privacy, as your private information can’t be shared. It’s also important to stay up to date with current rules on social media use to avoid getting into trouble.

What can I do if my VPN stops working while I'm in China?

Try connecting to other VPN servers or change its settings. This should usually do the trick. Alternatively, you can switch to the tried-and-tested VPNs that work in China. Here are some solutions that might get your VPN working:

  • Try different security protocols and encryption levels.
  • Turn on the obfuscation feature to hide your VPN traffic.
  • Activate or deactivate the kill switch, split tunneling, and other security features.
  • Configure port 433.
  • Use custom DNS servers.
  • Update the VPN software or contact customer support through email that works in China (so not Gmail).

Can I download a free VPN in China?

Yes, but finding a safe free VPN in China is unlikely. These services usually lack robust encryption, share your data with third parties, and may even contain malware. It’s a safer alternative to get a premium VPN with a trustworthy money-back guarantee for secure internet access.

Plus, most free VPNs have limited networks, meaning you can’t use them to access popular online services. They also often bombard you with intrusive ads and force you to upgrade to a paid plan. Proxy servers aren’t safe as well — they leave you exposed to cyber threats as they lack strong security measures.

Download a VPN for China Today

Start Using the Best VPN for China Now

A VPN is the best way to safely access international services from China. You need to ensure your provider offers robust encryption and leak protection to keep your online data private. It’s also essential that your VPN has a global server network and fast speeds to access the content you need without interruptions.

My top choice for China is ExpressVPN. It works reliably across China and offers industry-leading security features to safeguard your web activity. Plus, this VPN has a vast global network to bypass geoblocks for popular websites and apps. To top it off, you can try ExpressVPN in China with confidence, as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

To summarize, the best VPNs for China are…

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About the Author

Georgii is an avid writer with a knack for producing content about hi-tech and web services. He has a strong legal background and stands for safe, fast, and unrestricted Internet for everyone.

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