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Best VPN for China

Simon Migliano
Simon MiglianoUpdated

Unless you use a VPN in China, you won’t be able to access many websites and apps you take for granted, including Google, Facebook and Wikipedia, and your activity will be strictly monitored. Not every VPN works in China and the situation has got more challenging since the introduction of a VPN ban in March. To ensure every VPN we recommend beats the Great Firewall, we continually test our picks to make sure they provide fast, reliable access in China.

The best VPN services for China allow you to beat the censors and enjoy private, encrypted browsing along with reliable access to your favorite sites and apps. Thousands of hours of speed tests means you can rely on our VPN picks to perform.

The 5 Best VPN Services for China
  1. ExpressVPN
  2. Astrill
  3. NordVPN
  4. PrivateVPN
  5. VyprVPN
Read on for our detailed analysis of each VPN.
Our pick for China
1
ExpressVPN
Our rating: 5
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Most reliable China VPN. Consistent access to blocked sites. Simple but powerful.

Best price
$6.67 per month
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
94 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
3
What we like
  • Unrivaled speed & reliability
  • Choice of Asia & west coast US servers
  • Very easy to use. Instant set-up on all devices
  • Chrome, Firefox and Safari browser extensions
  • No restrictions on P2P traffic
  • Reliable access to streaming services
What we like less
  • Price could be lower on shorter plans
  • Three simultaneous connections only
Bottom Line

ExpressVPN continues to be the most reliable VPN in China even following the latest VPN ban. This alone justifies the higher price, which drops to a reasonable $6.67 on 15 month- plans.

Its server network is huge and has tons of options across Asia plus multiple servers in LA, critical for best performance in China.

The large range of custom apps are super easy to use yet pack in important features, such as a VPN killswitch along with manual protocol settings to give you options should content blocks get more aggressive.

The logging policy is sensible, collecting the bare minimum in basic usage stats needed to keep the network running at peak performance.

Customer support is 24/7 and top notch but inaccessible without a VPN in China as, like all VPN providers, its site is blocked. ExpressVPN is both super reliable in China and a great all-rounder for other uses.


Read our full review on ExpressVPN

2
Astrill
Our rating: 4.25
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Solid and reliable VPN for China with good track record

Best price
$8.33 per month
Money-back guarantee
7 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
49 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
5
What we like
  • Two proprietary protocols to beat censors
  • Well-established VPN for China
  • City-level server choices in Asia and US
What we like less
  • No free trial for China users
  • Strict refund policy
  • Decreasing reliability & performance
Bottom Line

Astrill made its name as the VPN for China and while it’s not as reliable as it once was since the ban, it remains one of the better options even if it’s pricey.

The biggest selling points are the two proprietary protocols: Stealth and OpenWeb. Combined with the standard VPN protocols, this means you have plenty of options during crackdowns.

City-level server choices in Asia as well as the US is great for optimizing your connection even if the number of servers/IP addresses isn’t best-in-class.

Less appealing is the ineligibility of China users for the free trial and a consumer-unfriendly refund policy that doesn’t allow for change of mind. Speeds and reliability also lag behind the bar recently set by ExpressVPN.

The price doesn’t drop below $8.33 even with 12-month plans, so combined with the drop in performance, Astrill is an at-your-own-risk VPN despite its many plus points for China.


Read our full review on Astrill

3
NordVPN
Our rating: 5
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Budget option for China. Manual only but solid access and very cheap.

Best price
$2.75 per month
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
60 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
What we like
  • Incredible value on longest plan
  • Specialty servers include China-friendly options
  • Solid speeds in China, much faster globally
  • Lots of servers in nearby Hong Kong
  • Connect securely to 60 countries
  • Still working despite crackdown
What we like less
  • Manual config required for China
  • Browser extensions are proxies
Bottom Line

NordVPN is a great budget pick for China as long as you are comfortable with the small amount of manual set-up required to use the L2TP protocol. Fortunately, this will frequently get you over the Great Firewall, although don’t expect ExpressVPN-levels of reliability.

A three-year commitment brings the price down to an incredibly cheap $2.75 monthly. The trade off is you can’t use the app itself in China as it is OpenVPN-only, which is blocked by the censors.

Performance is solid thanks to over 50 servers across Hong Kong and Taiwan. It’s not possible to manually select west coast US servers but automatic server selection should ensure an optimal connection.

A strict zero-logs VPN based in a friendly jurisdiction, NordVPN offers a series of specialty server types that are useful during crackdowns, including double VPN, obfuscated servers and onion over VPN.

Customer support is good quality but blocked without a VPN so set up before you go. Overall very good value but more fiddly and less reliable than our top pick.


Read our full review on NordVPN

4
PrivateVPN
Our rating: 4.35
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Under-the-radar budget VPN that works in China and is great elsewhere

Best price
$3.60 per month
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
Live chat Support
No. of Server Locations
56 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
What we like
  • Works in China with LT2P protocol
  • Great value on longer plans
  • Servers in Hong Kong, Taiwan and west coast US
  • Simple set-up on a range of devices
  • Advanced privacy features such as Tor over VPN
What we like less
  • No alternatives if LT2P blocked
  • Small number of individual servers
  • No browser extensions available
  • No advanced privacy options on mobile
Bottom Line

PrivateVPN is an alternative budget option for China with some limitations that doesn’t require as much commitment as NordVPN. It’s also a smart choice if you plan to use it outside China thanks to superb speeds and streaming access.

The only connection option you’ll have is the LT2P protocol – which unlike with NordVPN is built into the app and therefore easier to use. While it’s pretty effective, it does mean you may experience blackouts during crackdowns due to the lack of alternatives.

The availability of servers in Hong Kong and a 30-day money-back guarantee are big selling points, as is the fact that this smaller VPN service has yet to attract the attentions of the Chinese censors.

The strictly zero-logs VPN is super fast outside China and very attractive at $3.60 monthly if you sign up for 17 months, especially if you are a heavy P2P user or streamer.


Read our full review on PrivateVPN

5
VyprVPN
Our rating: 4.25
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User-friendly VPN with great Asian server options for China users

Best price
$4.00 per month
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
64 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
5
What we like
  • Chameleon protocol bypasses Great Firewall
  • One of few services to still work in China
  • User-friendly apps. Instant set-up.
  • Many Asian servers, inc Macau & Hong Kong
  • Connect securely to 64 countries
What we like less
  • Best features restricted to the Premium plan
  • Connection data logs stored for 30 days
  • Less reliable since VPN ban
  • Limited knowledge base compared to rival providers
Bottom Line

VyprVPN makes the grade as it still works in China following that ban, thanks to its proprietary Chameleon protocol. It’s not as reliable as ExpressVPN or Astrill but is still worth considering if those VPN services aren’t for you.

Server locations are China-friendly with options in nearby Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Vietnam, South Korea, Japan along with options down the west coast of the US and Mexico.

Speed and reliability could be better, especially since the latest crackdown, but if unrestricted internet access is vital, VyprVPN can be a valuable part of your toolset along with other services.

Why choose VyprVPN over our top picks? If you use it with multiple devices, it’s more configurable experience than ExpressVPN and more user-friendly than Astrill.

For a limited time, it’s also only $4 (usually $6.67) over 12 months for the premium plan that includes the Chameleon protocol along with a NAT Firewall.


Read our full review on VyprVPN

How we picked the best China VPN of 2018

Our top picks for China must of course work reliably to beat the Great Firewall despite attempts to block them. We look for the best performance in our global speed tests, taking into consideration the limitations caused by China’s internet infrastructure and the availability of nearby Asian server locations. Other differentiating factors include the user experience of the apps themselves and the level of support offered.

We continually test every VPN so that our top picks are as accurate as possible. We test access to Google, Netflix, Facebook and other popular sites. We manually evaluate the VPN apps and put them through their paces before making our picks.

Do I need a VPN in China?

If you want to access the kinds of sites you take for granted then yes you do. A VPN is the only way you will be to use Google products, western social media such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Snapchat, Wikipedia and often even foreign news sites, such as the BBC. The Chinese government is the most aggressive and effective internet censor in the world, whose so-called “Great Firewall” blocks thousands of sites of which it doesn’t approve. By disguising your location with a VPN, it’s possible to access these censored sites.

The Chinese government also strictly monitors all web traffic and takes a very dim view of anything it sees as dissidence, so if you value your privacy (and potentially your freedom), then encrypted internet access via a VPN is a must.

While VPN use was long unofficially tolerated in China, they are now completely banned in China. The government have also become increasingly successful at blocking VPNs. There are only a handful of VPNs that continue to work in China, so choose wisely. If you decide to use a VPN in China, you do so at your own risk and must absolutely be discreet in your usage.

How to choose a VPN for China: 8 Tips

  • Is it blocked in China?

    The VPN situation in China is in constant flux. The best VPN providers are in a game of cat and mouse with the government as they try to block them. A VPN can be working one day, blocked the next, only to return later. While this page is your best resource for finding out which VPN is working, it’s worth considering getting a back up VPN if access is critical while you are in China.

  • Does it offer some kind of "stealth" protocol?

    Now that unofficial VPNs are banned in China, it’s critical that your VPN offers some kind of stealth protocol, ie additional layers of obfuscation on the usual VPN protocols, in order to hide the VPN traffic from the censors and avoid being blocked. This kind of information can be buried on the provider websites or lost in the marketing speak, so look to our picks on this page to call this out.

  • Does it have servers in location close to China?

    The nearer the VPN server to your physical location, the better the performance. More servers tends to mean less congestion and improved speeds but this is not always the case. Look for server locations in Singapore, Hong Kong and the west coast of the US for the best performance.

  • Does it offer automatic reconnection on mobile?

    Mobile signal dropouts can be frequent in China and manually reconnecting every time gets old fast.

  • Does it work on your preferred devices?

    Almost all VPN software will work on Windows, Mac and Linux machines, along with iOS and Android mobile devices. However, some VPN services are also compatible with other internet-connected items, such as routers, games consoles and streaming devices, such as the Amazon Fire Stick.

  • Check the number of simultaneous connections supported

    Do you want to protect your family’s devices as well as your own? Look for as many connections as you are likely to use at the same time.

  • Are their client apps and software easy to use?

    No-one likes a clunky, confusing app. Look for a VPN with software that’s well-designed, simple and powerful and you will be much more likely to use it all the time. We share the results of our hands-on testing of each VPN app in the the Ease of Use part of its review. We spend all day testing VPN apps, so hopefully we know a thing or two!

  • Finally, check the price and money-back guarantee

    Even the most expensive VPN plans are very affordable but you will likely have a budget in mind. 12-month plans typically offer the best value and you can reduce the risk of buyer’s remorse by choosing a VPN with a long refund period, preferably 30 days and with no questions asked. These guarantees are much more common than traditional free trials but are essentially the same thing.