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Best VPN for China

Callum Tennent
Callum TennentUpdated

China officially has the most heavily censored internet in the world – a VPN, whether you live there or are just visiting, is an absolute essential.

A VPN will unlock websites like Google, Facebook and Wikipedia, while shielding your browsing habits from the prying eyes of the Chinese government.

We continuously test every VPN featured on this page to make sure that you can count on them to bypass the Great Firewall and restore your online freedom.

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
ExpressVPN

Most reliable China VPN. Consistent access to blocked sites. Simple but powerful.

Best price
$6.67 per month
Special deal
49% off 15-month plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
94 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
3
Pros
  1. Unrivaled speed & reliability
  2. Choice of Asia & west coast US servers
  3. Very easy to use. Instant set-up on all devices
  4. Chrome, Firefox and Safari browser extensions
  5. No restrictions on P2P traffic
  6. Reliable access to streaming services
Cons
  1. Price could be lower on shorter plans
  2. 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 kill switch 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 ExpressVPN review

2
Astrill

Solid and reliable VPN for China with good track record

Best price
$8.33 per month
Special deal
47% off with 12-month plan
Money-back guarantee
7 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
62 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
5
Pros
  1. Two proprietary protocols to beat censors
  2. Well-established VPN for China
  3. City-level server choices in Asia and US
Cons
  1. No free trial for China users
  2. Strict refund policy
  3. 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 Astrill review

3
NordVPN

Budget option for China. Obfuscated servers and manual protocol configuration bypass censorship.

Best price
$2.99 per month
Special deal
75% off with 3-year plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
62 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
Pros
  1. Great value on longest plan
  2. Specialty servers include China-friendly options
  3. Solid speeds in China, much faster globally
  4. Lots of servers in nearby Hong Kong
  5. Connect securely to 62 countries
  6. Still working despite crackdown
Cons
  1. Manual config sometimes required for China
  2. 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 setup 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 $2.99 monthly. The tradeoff is you can’t always use the app itself in China as it is OpenVPN-only, which is blocked by the censors. Some users report that obfuscated servers within the apps work in the country, but it’s not always guaranteed and these aren’t included for iOS.

Performance is solid thanks to almost 50 servers across Hong Kong and Taiwan. You can also select west coast US servers to 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 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 picks.


Read our full NordVPN review

4
PrivateVPN

Under-the-radar budget VPN that works in China and is great elsewhere

Best price
$3.60 per month
Special deal
67% off with 17-month plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
Live chat Support
No. of Server Locations
57 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
6
Pros
  1. Works in China with stealth protocol
  2. Great value on longer plans
  3. Servers in Hong Kong, Taiwan and west coast US
  4. Simple set-up on a range of devices
  5. Advanced privacy features such as Tor over VPN
Cons
  1. Small number of individual servers
  2. No browser extensions available
  3. No advanced privacy options on mobile
Bottom Line

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

You can connect using PrivateVPN’s proprietary stealth protocol to mask the fact you’re using a VPN, which massively reduces your chances of being detected by government censors and makes accessing blocked sites simple.

The availability of servers in nearby Hong Kong and Taiwan are big selling points, as is the fact this smaller VPN service is yet to attract the attentions of Chinese censors. A 30-day money-back guarantee is another added bonus.

This strictly zero-logs VPN offers super fast, reliable performance and is 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 PrivateVPN review

5
VyprVPN

User-friendly VPN with great Asian server options for China users

Best price
$4.17 per month
Special deal
68% off with 2-year plan
Money-back guarantee
30 Days
Customer Support
24/7 live chat support
No. of Server Locations
64 Countries
Simultaneous Connections
5
Pros
  1. Chameleon protocol bypasses Great Firewall
  2. One of few services to still work in China
  3. User-friendly apps. Instant set-up.
  4. Many Asian servers, inc Macau & Hong Kong
  5. Connect securely to 64 countries
Cons
  1. Best features restricted to the Premium plan
  2. Connection data logs stored for 30 days
  3. Less reliable since VPN ban
  4. 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.

It’s currently only $4.17 per month over two years for the premium plan that includes the Chameleon protocol along with a NAT Firewall.


Read our full VyprVPN review

How We Picked the Best VPN for China 2018

The number one priority for all of our picks is its ability to guarantee a way around the Great Firewall – China’s relentless and uncompromising digital censorship.

After that we look for the availability of servers placed in Asian nations around China as without these you won’t get the speeds you deserve. The very best will then also grant you access to sites and services like Netflix.

We continually test every VPN so you can be sure that our top picks are as accurate as possible.

Do I Need a VPN in China?

Never has the answer to this question been such an emphatic ‘yes’.

Too many travelers and expatriates to China arrive in the country, only to find out that some of their most frequented websites are totally inaccessible. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Wikipedia head up just a handful of the big-name sites banned by the Chinese government.

Even if you’re willing to take the chance on your favorite sites being available, the constant intrusive monitoring of Chinese web users should be enough to convince you. The Chinese government has even started banning VPNs themselves, which makes picking the correct one even more important than usual.

We recently conducted an original investigation into the legitimacy of some of the most popular free VPNs on the market, and discovered that a number of most highly-downloaded apps have questionable links to the Chinese mainland – you can read all about it here.

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. This page is your best resource for finding out which VPN is working, and it’s even worth considering getting a backup VPN if access is critical while you are in China.

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

    With so many VPNs banned in China it’s critical that your choice offers some kind of stealth 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.

  • Does it have servers in locations close to China?

    Ordinarily youd want to be connecting to servers within the same country as you, but thats not an option when youre trying to bypass government censorship. To get around Chinas Great Firewall while maintaining browsing speeds, look for VPNs with servers in neighboring nations like Japan, Vietnam, South Korea and India.

  • Does it offer automatic reconnection on mobile?

    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.

  • Will it work with your computer, smartphone or streaming device?

    Almost all VPN software will work on Microsoft Windows, MacOS and Linux machines, along with iOS and Android mobile devices. However, some are also compatible with other connected devices, like routers, games consoles and streaming devices. If, for example, you game on an Xbox One or watch TV on an Amazon Fire TV Stick then youll definitely want to look out for a VPN that can protect them, too.

  • How many connections does it allow at once?

    Just covering your smartphone or desktop computer can sometimes be enough, but do you want to protect every device on your network? Look for a VPN that allows as many connections as you are likely to use at any one time. A cheap VPN can become poor value very quickly if it turns out it wil only protect one device. The very best options will allow upwards of 10 simultaneous connections, with some not even limiting it at all.

  • Are its apps and programs easy to use on every device?

    No-one likes a clunky, confusing app. Look for a VPN with software that’s well-designed youll 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 we know just how good (and bad) they can be.

  • Finally, check the price and money-back guarantee

    Even the most expensive VPN plans can be made affordable by taking out a longer subscription. Dont 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. Wed advise a 30-day no-questions-asked guarantee they essentially act as a free trial period. Make the right choice, though, and you hopefully wont be thinking about a refund at all.