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Best VPN for China

Simon Migliano
By Simon MiglianoUpdated
Illustration of the flag of China

China has the most heavily censored internet in the world. You really need a VPN if you live there or are just visiting, otherwise you won’t be able to use Google, Twitter, WhatsApp, and many more websites and apps.

You will also need to use a VPN if you want to keep your online activity private and hidden from Chinese state surveillance.

We tested 99 VPN services and the five VPNs below will beat the Chinese VPN ban and bypass the Great Firewall of China.

These VPN providers will unblock your favorite websites and apps, and they will also hide your web activity from the Chinese government.

Remember to set up your VPN before you travel. You likely won’t be able to download and install a VPN while in China as most VPN websites are blocked and VPN apps have been removed from the country’s app stores.

The Most Important Factors When We Review a VPN for China

  1. Does it actually work in China
  2. VPN servers in nearby countries
  3. Download (and upload speeds)
  4. Strong privacy & security features
  5. No logs & no IP, DNS & WebRTC leaks
  6. Ease-of-use & customer support

Wondering why you should trust our reviews? Take a look at How We Test VPNs

See More Information on the Top 5 Best VPN Services for China

Ranked #1 out of 99 VPNs for China

Works with

Netflix, BBC iPlayer, HBO, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, Sky, SlingTV, Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android
  5. Linux
  1. Works reliably in China
  2. Goog download (and upload) speeds in China
  3. Obfuscation tools to beat web blocks
  4. Nearby VPN servers in Asia
  5. No logging & no IP, DNS, WebRTC leaks
  6. Full-featured VPN browser extensions
  1. Fairly expensive on shorter plans
The Bottom Line

ExpressVPN is the most reliable VPN for China, even following the latest VPN ban. It consistently works to bypass the Great Firewall.

Connecting to nearby servers is critical for the best VPN speeds connecting out of China.

ExpressVPN’s server network is extensive and covers many locations across Asia such as Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. You can also connect to ExpressVPN VPN servers on the West Coast of the US, with multiple options in LA, San Jose and San Francisco.

Worried that ExpressVPN isn’t safe?

Rest assured, ExpressVPN is one of the safest and most secure VPN services we’ve tested. You will benefit from great advanced security features like its ‘Network Lock’ which is essentially a kill switch to keep you protected if your network connection drops.

Every ExpressVPN app uses the most secure protocols and all VPN connections benefit from AES-256 encryption. Its proprietary obfuscation tools allow ExpressVPN to work in the most censored countries, and that’s why ExpressVPN is the best VPN for China.

ExpressVPN doesn’t collect any activity logs, and the apps never suffered any IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks in our extensive tests. It’s also headquartered in the privacy-friendly British Virgin Islands, which is another strong plus.

The simple ExpressVPN apps work great with all popular devices – PC, Mac, iPhone, Android, Fire TV, and more – and are very easy to setup. The interfaces are eye-pleasing and user-friendly.

If you like to use browser extensions, ExpressVPN provides the best VPN extensions for Chrome, Firefox and Safari for an even better web experience.

ExpressVPN customer support is very responsive and helpful and you can reach it 24/7, via live chat or email. If somehow you’re not happy with ExpressVPN, let it know within the first 30 days and you’ll be refunded, no-questions-asked.

If you’re in China, or planning on going there, ExpressVPN is definitely the VPN you want to be using.

Ranked #2 out of 99 VPNs for China

Works with

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Sky, HBO, Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android
  5. Linux
  1. Stealth VPN protocols to beat censors
  2. VPN servers optimized for China
  3. Nearby VPN servers in Asia
  4. Minimal logs & no IP,DNS, WebRTC leaks
  1. Live chat doesn’t always work
  2. Mobile apps lack advanced privacy features
  3. No VPN browser extensions
  4. Free trial not available to China users
  5. No refunds given
The Bottom Line

Astrill made its name as the best VPN for China but it’s no longer as reliable an option as ExpressVPN.

Astrill’s two stealth VPN protocols are usually effective at bypassing the Great Firewall, and nearby VPN servers in Asia – Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea – and US servers in Los Angeles, San Francisco and San Jose, make for good VPN speeds.

Astrill VPN is also great choice for privacy, with all connections using AES-256 encryption. The VPN kill switch is another essential feature, preventing true IP addresses being leaked (Astrill didn’t leak any IP or DNS credentials in our tests).

Still think Astrill isn’t secure enough?

All your web traffic will go through Astrill’s own DNS servers, meaning there is no chance it will be routed via less secure third-party servers.

Astrill collects some connection to maintain a high level of performance. It logs your connection time, IP address, device type, and VPN app version for the duration of your VPN session.

The great thing is that you can use Astrill VPN on all major platforms like Microsoft Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.

It’s not all good with Astrill, though.

We don’t like that the mobile VPN apps lack many of the advanced security features, and that Astrill doesn’t have any VPN extensions.

Live chat doesn’t always work and we also don’t like that users in China aren’t eligible for the Astrill free trial and it also has strict no refunds policy.

Ranked #3 out of 99 VPNs for China

Works with

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Sky, HBO, Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android
  5. Linux
  1. Obfuscated VPN servers for China
  2. Solid VPN speeds in China, much faster globally
  3. Lots of VPN servers in nearby Hong Kong
  4. Strict no-logs policy & no IP/DNS/WebRTC leaks
  5. Well-designed custom VPN apps
  1. Extra protocols require manual configuration
  2. Obfuscated VPN servers don't always work in China
The Bottom Line

NordVPN is a good VPN for China, but it does come with some limitations.

NordVPN has huge server network (over 5,700 servers) with servers located in nearby Hong Kong, Japan and South Korea. If you want to connect to the US from China, there are over 1,800 servers there.

NordVPN also provides obfuscated VPN servers which are particularly useful in high censorship countries.

Great privacy features such as a VPN kill switch, Double VPN, and AES-256 encryption make NordVPN one of the most secure VPNs around.  We also didn’t detect any IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks either so your privacy is safe – NordVPN doesn’t collect any activity logs either.

NordVPN provides custom VPN apps for PC, Mac, iPhone, Android smartphone and Amazon Fire TV. You can use NordVPN on six devices at once, which is more than ExpressVPN’s five simultaneous connections.

So why is NordVPN not the best VPN for China?

Unfortunately the NordVPN apps lack automatic protocol selection provided by ExpressVPN. In fact, if you want to use VPN protocols other than OpenVPN then you’ll have to manually configure them.

Also, the obfuscated VPN servers don’t always work in China and they are not available on the iOS app, which is no good for iPhone users.

If you’re not happy with NordVPN, know that you they have a 30-day money-back guarantee and you will get your money back quickly.

NordVPN is a very good VPN for China, but it just isn’t as reliable as our top two VPN recommendations above.

Ranked #4 out of 99 VPNs for China

Works with

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Sky, HBO, Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android
  5. Linux
  1. Stealth VPN protocol working in China
  2. VPN servers in nearby Asian cities
  3. Works with TCP Port 443 & Tor
  4. No-logs policy & no IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks
  1. Small server network
  2. No browser VPN extensions
  3. Live chat not always available
The Bottom Line

PrivateVPN is an inexpensive VPN that still works in China.

It doesn’t have a big server network but you’ll be able to connect to PrivateVPN servers in Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan and South Korea, providing good and reliable connection speeds out of China.

PrivateVPN’s proprietary stealth VPN protocol is a major advantage, along with a VPN kill switch, AES-256 encryption and no IP or DNS leaks detected in our tests. A strict no-logs policy also means that none of your web data is collected.

You’re safe and secure with PrivateVPN.

PrivateVPN disappoints a bit when it comes to VPN browser extensions (there are none) and customer support, with live chat often proving inconsistent. If these two drawbacks don’t concern you, then you’re going to be fine with PrivateVPN.

You can also take advantage of a free seven-day trial in case you want to give PrivateVPN a try before getting a paid subscription

Ranked #5 out of 99 VPNs for China

Works with

Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Hulu, Sky, Now TV, HBO, SlingTV, Torrenting, Kodi

Available on

  1. Windows
  2. Mac
  3. Ios
  4. Android
  5. Linux
  1. Chameleon VPN protocol bypasses Great Firewall
  2. Many Asian VPN servers, inc Macau & Hong Kong
  3. User-friendly VPN apps. Instant set-up
  4. No-logs policy & no IP, DNS or WebRTC leaks
  5. Over 200,000 IP addresses
  1. Best VPN features restricted to the Premium plan
  2. Less reliable since China's VPN ban
The Bottom Line

VyprVPN used to be a very strong contender for best VPN to use in China but since the China VPN ban it currently sits in fifth position due to its varying reliability.

VyprVPN’s server network is solid, with over 700 servers across the world, all owned by VyprVPN itself. This means it don’t use any rented (third-party) servers. You’ll be able to connect to nearby servers in Hong Kong, Macau, Japan and South Korea.

Just like ExpressVPN and NordVPN, VyprVPN also utilizes obfuscation tools to bypass the Great Firewall – in their case, the proprietary stealth VPN protocol ‘Chameleon.’ This feature is only available on VyprVPN’s premium plans only, though.

It doesn’t finish here though. VyprVPN provides a VPN kill switch, AES-256 encryption, and DNS protection (via its VyprDNS feature) to prevent your connections being hijacked and redirected to a different website.

VyprVPN also operates a no-logs policy, which has been independently confirmed, so you’re online activity won’t be recorded.

At this point, you might be wandering why VyprVPN is only ranked fifth in our list of recommendations.

The problem with this VPN is its lagging speeds in China. Unfortunately, it doesn’t come close to the speeds provided by the VPN services above. Connection speeds in China are always slower than usual, so if you need to use a VPN for buffer-free streaming or to download large files then VyprVPN is probably going to frustrate you at times.

Having said that, VyprVPN does come with a free 3-day trial so you can always try it out before buying. Remember to cancel before the three days are up though.

Do I Really Need a VPN in China?

Yes, you definitely need a VPN if you want to get online when in China. Why? Because most popular (Western) websites and apps are banned and blocked by the Chinese government, which has even started restricting VPN providers themselves.

The constant intrusive monitoring of web users in China is also a problem. If you don’t want the Chinese government to see and record what you’re doing online, then using a VPN is vital.

To use a VPN in China, it’s best to download the VPN app and set it up before you travel there, as many VPN websites are now blocked. Most VPN apps have now also been removed from the iOS App Store, and the Google Play Store is not available in China either.

You should also ask your VPN provider’s customer support (before you travel) which VPN servers they recommend to connect to from China.

What is the Great Firewall of China (GFW)?

The ‘Great Firewall of China’ (or GFW) is the nickname given to China’s internet censorship system, through legislation and filtering technologies.

It gives Chinese authorities the power to monitor and restrict internet access to anyone based in mainland China (Hong Kong and Macau are exempt).

The GFW uses a combination of methods to block websites and apps:

1. IP blocking – blocking IP addresses that resolve to URLs (websites)

2. DNS cache poisoning, or DNS spoofing – to divert traffic from one website to another, which practically blocks you from accessing your desired website or app.

3. Keyword & URL filtering – scanning websites and URLs for specific terms

4. Deep packet inspection (DPI) – the inspection of headers in data packets to detect the destination IP address (website)

5. Manual actions – Chinese authorities employ thousands of workers to censor forbidden content

What Websites & Apps Are Blocked in China?

Many of the most popular websites and apps in the world are blocked in China, for example:

Google (Gmail, Google Maps & all other Google services – blocked since 2014)

YouTube (blocked since 2011)

Facebook (blocked since 2009)

Twitter (blocked since 2009)

Instagram (blocked since 2014)

WhatsApp (blocked since 2017)

Skype (blocked since 2017)

Pinterest (blocked since 2017)

Here is a more comprehensive list of websites blocked in mainland China. You can also use this checker to find out if a website is available or not.

Are VPNs Legal in China?

VPNs are not illegal in China, but only government approved VPNs are allowed. VPN services have to gain strict approval from the Chinese Communist Party before they can operate.

This often involves agreeing to conditions that undermine the purpose of a VPN such as logging and sharing user data with local authorities, rendering the VPN pointless when it comes to privacy.

Using a VPN “without authorization” can result in fines of up to 15,000 yuan (approximately $2,200), although so far it seems to affect Chinese nationals rather than foreigners.

If you choose a legitimate, trusted, and safe VPN for China – like ExpressVPN – it’s highly unlikely that you’ll get into trouble for using it.

Can I Use a Free VPN in China?

Many free VPNs are not equipped with the technology to bypass the online censors, and popular free VPN apps like TunnelBear and Hotspot Shield won’t work reliably there.

Some free VPN mobile apps may work, like Turbo VPN and VPN Proxy Master, but they will be slow and your online activity will most likely be monitored and stored by the Chinese authorities.

In fact, we investigated some of the most popular free VPNs on the market and discovered that many have very questionable links to China.

If you want to use the Internet reliably from mainland China, a free VPN is definitely not a good choice. You’re best paying a small monthly fee for a reliable VPN service, one that has obfuscation technology to beat the Great Firewall, like ExpressVPN or Astrill.

How to Install and Set up a VPN for China

It’s very important to install a VPN before you arrive in China. Most VPN apps aren’t available from Chinese app stores, and VPN websites are blocked.

In order to install your VPN, you will need to sign up to a subscription and create an account. Make sure that the VPN is known to work in China before buying it – our VPN recommendations above are a good place to start.

Before you get started setting up the VPN, ask customer support if the custom apps work in China or if you need to manually configure the VPN on each of your devices instead.
If manual configuration is needed, follow the VPN service’s instructions carefully as it will differ from provider to provider.

If the VPN apps work in China with no manual configuration, simply download the relevant software for your device from the ‘Downloads’ page on the VPN provider’s website. The best VPNs for China will have custom VPN apps for at least Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS.

Once you’ve downloaded the software, follow the installation instructions and log into the app with your login details.

Before you connect, make sure that any extra privacy settings are enabled, such as the VPN kill switch, DNS leak protection, as well as any stealth protocol or scrambling tool.

Once you’re in China, we recommend you connect  to nearby servers – Hong Kong and Japan are popular VPN server locations – as these will provide the fastest speeds. Once you’ve selected your chosen server, click/tap connect.

What to Do If Your VPN Is Not Working in China

Sometimes even the best VPNs with the most effective stealth technology stop working in China, depending on how aggressive the Chinese censors are at that moment in time.

Your VPN may stop working after a recent crackdown by the Chinese government.

When this happens, there are a few things you can try to get back online:

1. Try connecting to a different VPN server

2. Change the VPN protocol

3. Forward the VPN traffic (known as port forwarding) to port 433

By directing your VPN traffic through port 433, which is typically used for encrypted communications, you may be able to get your VPN connection back up, but it’s not guaranteed.

If none of the above suggestions work, you will have to get in touch with your provider’s customer support, which will be tricky to do as many VPN websites are inaccessible in China without a working VPN.

It’s a good idea to have a back-up VPN that comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee so that you will never be without a safe, secure, and reliable VPN connection.

How Can I Get a Chinese IP Address?

If you are looking to use a VPN to connect into China there are a handful of VPN providers with virtual servers that will give you a Chinese IP address: PureVPN, Ivacy, HideMyAss!, and Hotspot Shield.

These VPN servers are not physically located in China but do assign you a Chinese IP, which will make it seem as if you’re located in mainland China.

To change your IP to a Chinese one, simple select the ‘China’ server and click connect.

By using a VPN to connect into China, you will be able to access popular Chinese streaming websites such as Youku.com, Tudou.com and tv.Sohu.com.

Can I Access Blocked Websites in China Without a VPN?

Yes, but not reliably (or safely).

There are some ways that you may be able to access blocked websites and apps in China without a VPN, we wouldn’t recommend them. Most alternatives do not protect your privacy, and they aren’t guaranteed to work.

One option is to use a proxy server, which is used to spoof your IP address but doesn’t encrypt internet traffic. This means that your ISP – or the Chinese government – will be able to log what you’re doing online.

Some websites release mirrors of their sites that have been blocked by the Great Firewall so that those in China can still access their content. However, these mirror sites tend to get blocked soon after too, making it a very unreliable option for those in China.

The third option is to use Tor, a free software that anonymizes your browsing by randomly routing your internet traffic through a network of servers.

While Tor is a safer option than using proxy severs or mirror websites, it comes with some major disadvantages. Firstly, accessing the web through Tor is very slow – much slower than a good VPN. Secondly, China actively blocks access to Tor, so it might not always work to access blocked websites.

Does Tor Work in China?

The Great Firewall of China actively blocks access to Tor, and many users report that it rarely works in the country.

You need to use a reliable VPN service to bypass censorship in China instead – our above VPN recommendations are a good place to start.

Can I Make My Own VPN for China?

It’s possible to set up your own VPN server outside of China – in your home, for example – and use it to access blocked websites while in China.

Connecting to a home VPN server will assign you your home IP, which may unlock banned content such as Google and YouTube.

However, building your own server comes with security risks if you fail to set it up correctly. It’s for those with plenty of tech know-how, and beginners should steer clear.

Connecting to a self-built VPN server might not work to unblock content in China if the VPN server doesn’t use any obfuscation tool. OpenVPN traffic is often blocked by the Chinese censors.

If you are traveling to China, the safest option is to use a trusted third-party VPN that comes with the necessary obfuscation tools to get around the Great Firewall.

Do I Need a VPN in Taiwan?

While China still controls Taiwan, internet censorship there is nowhere near as rife. You can access popular sites like YouTube, Facebook, and Google in Taiwan without a VPN.

However, no matter where you are in the world you should still use a VPN.

Using a VPN in Taiwan will help to protect you against hackers stealing your personal information while you connect to public WiFi. It’ll also prevent any third parties from snooping on your online activities.

How to Choose a VPN for China: 5 Tips

Many VPNs don’t work in China due to the blocking measures that Chinese censors use.

Some VPNs can be working one day and blocked the next, only to return later as VPN services constantly try to outwit Chinese government censorship.

It goes without saying, but dependable access within China is the first and most important thing to look out for when you purchase a VPN subscription.

This page is regularly updated to make sure you can count on our VPN recommendations.

While they are great VPNs in general, we don’t recommend CyberGhost or IPVanish for use in China because they rarely get over the Great Firewall.

With so many VPNs banned in China it’s critical that your choice offers some kind of stealth VPN protocol. These are additional layers of obfuscation that help hide the VPN traffic from the censors.

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 highlight them.

Ordinarily you’d want to be connecting to VPN servers within the same country as you, but that’s not an option when you’re trying to bypass government censorship.

To get around China’s Great Firewall while maintaining browsing speeds, look for VPNs with servers in neighboring nations like Japan, Vietnam, South Korea, and India.

Mobile signal dropouts can be frequent in China. To avoid having to constantly switch between apps, look for a VPN that automatically reconnects for you.

Also make sure that your VPN includes a kill switch feature so that it blocks internet traffic if the VPN connection suddenly drops. A VPN kill switch is essential for keeping you safe online in China.

Even the most expensive VPN plans can be made affordable by taking out a longer subscription.

Don’t bother with a one-month plan – 12-month plans typically offer the best value and you can reduce the risk of buyer’s remorse by choosing one with a long refund period.

We’d advise a 30-day no-questions-asked guarantee – they essentially act as a free trial period.

Make the right choice, though, and you hopefully won’t be thinking about a refund at all.