It’s no secret that accessing the most popular international sites and apps in China can be a headache. Getting around the Chinese Great Firewall requires internet users in this country to have a plan — and Virtual Private Networks, or VPNs, are the name of the game. But which is the best VPN for China?
VPN China—Know Before You Go
Before we answer that question, there are a few things anyone traveling to China should keep in mind. The first, and most critical, is to make sure to choose your VPN in advance, as these providers are restricted. Most VPN websites will not be accessible once you’re in the country, though the previously installed software should work correctly.
You’ll also want to make sure you choose the best VPN for China. If you find that your provider is faulty, you’ll be left with few options for accessing blocked or restricted sites. We recommend doing plenty of research and ensuring that the VPN you choose meets all of your needs (which we’ll talk about in greater detail at the end of this post).
Keep in mind that premium VPN services for China will include several ways to contact customer support should you run into any issues. Any company worth its salt will work quickly to resolve problems (and they tend to have minimal downtime anyway), though it’s a smart idea to travel with a backup VPN just in case.
With these essential tips in mind, it’s time to talk about which VPNs will grant you reliable access to your favorite sites while in China.
Short on Time? Here’s Our Pick for the Number One VPN for China
Want to cut straight to the chase? If you want to go with the number one China VPN, look no further than Astrill. We consider Astrill to be the most reliable provider out of the seven on this list. They provide fast speeds for users, military-grade encryption, and no extra configuration to bypass geo-blocks.
We’ll discuss more on the Astrill VPN China below, but first, let’s talk about the six other best providers out there.
If you want to use ExpressVPN in China, you’re not alone—ExpressVPN is one of the most popular providers despite its somewhat high price tag. It’s a highly respected brand with plenty of features needed for unrestricted browsing in China, including the capability of connecting up to five devices simultaneously.
ExpressVPN is known for delivering quick speeds, mostly thanks to its wide range of server locations. It’s got servers in 160 locations in 94 countries, with many located near China. Having servers near China allows for greater speeds, and we recommend connecting to those found in Hong Kong, Japan, or Los Angeles for the best results.
Interestingly enough, ExpressVPN does not have any custom protocols to bypass blocks, but they manage to keep the VPN working despite temporary unavailability. Users can access the 24/7 live chat support if they run into any issues with blocked sites or if they have problems with any other service aspect.
Security and Privacy
When it comes to security and privacy, ExpressVPN has advanced security features, such as AES 256-bit encryption and a no logs-policy. It has an automatic kill switch to keep you protected should the connection drop and a split-tunneling feature, which allows users to control which apps go through the VPN. The company makes use of obfuscated servers to mask your VPN, which keeps activity private.
ExpressVPN is compatible with all operating systems and devices, such as:
- Fire TV
You can use it to torrent, and several servers work with Netflix.
Finally, the service includes a 30-day money-back guarantee with a no-questions-asked policy. This money-back guarantee means that if you’re taking a short-term trip to China, you could use this excellent VPN for free.
NordVPN is another well-known and highly respected provider. Despite being on the more affordable end, it still offers all the features you want from a VPN—especially when traveling to China. The company recently started investing more time and energy into the China VPN sector, and those efforts are quite apparent.
Why? Because NordVPN is now known to be excellent for accessing the internet in areas with heavy censorship. It’s got over 5,000 servers worldwide, which hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. Since no one will know that you’re using one, your traffic won’t be blocked.
When it comes to China, NordVPN uses obfuscated servers to bypass the Great Firewall. It also has several servers that are geographically close to China, and if you connect to one of those, you can enjoy faster speeds.
Privacy features include AES 256-bit encryption, which hides relevant information about you, like your IP address, data, and online traffic. NordVPN has a strict no-logs policy, so you don’t have to worry about the company saving information about your browsing history.
Of course, users also get an automatic kill switch. An automatic kill switch is a feature any premium VPN should have, as it blocks your traffic if you run into any connection problems. Plus, you can use the VPN to unblock streaming sites like Netflix and Hulu.
Premium users can connect up to six devices with one subscription, and they receive access to the company’s 24/7 live chat support. NordVPN also offers a 30-day money-back guarantee.
SurfShark is another VPN that has recently put a lot of effort into bypassing China’s restrictions, and there is plenty to love about this service. To start, you gain access to over 1700 servers in more than sixty countries, including several close to China, which gives you faster speeds.
It has several features that make it ideal for getting through even the most stringent geoblocks, such as the NoBorders Mode. This mode handles the Great Firewall with ease, and you can also use Camouflage mode to hide the fact that you’re using a VPN. Users also enjoy things like a strict no-logs policy, military-grade encryption, and an automatic kill switch.
SurfShark’s CyberWeb delivers even more excellent privacy benefits, offering protection from ads, trackers, malware, and phishing. You can also whitelist certain apps and websites to bypass the VPN, a handy feature that allows you to access domestic sites in China while still being able to view whatever you want.
Additionally, the MultiHop component is excellent for connecting to several locations at once. The advantage in doing so is that tracing you becomes nearly impossible since you’re bouncing around from server to server. Speeds are excellent, both for downloading and streaming, and you get unlimited bandwidth. P2P file sharing is supported as well.
Who Is SurfShark Best for?
We’d recommend this VPN to anyone who plans to do a lot of streaming, as you can use it to unblock Netflix, Hulu, and the BBC iPlayer. Large families or households with several people might also be interested in Surfshark, as you can use one subscription with unlimited devices.
If you’re looking for reliable connections and fast speeds, VyprVPN could be right for you. With more than 700 server locations in over sixty countries, plus the ability to connect up to five devices simultaneously, VyprVPN has plenty of features that make it ideal for use in China.
The first is the Chameleon protocol, which VyprVPN designed specifically for use in China. Chameleon enables users to avoid China’s VPN blocking and hides the fact that you’re using a VPN.
The more than 700 server locations we mentioned are all protected by VyprDNS, seeing as VyprVPN owns all of the servers that it uses. Owning the servers is a unique security feature, and it means that you don’t have to worry about your activity being turned over to third parties.
You also get high-end encryption, an automatic kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy.
VyprVPN is excellent for streaming across a variety of platforms with no limit on data bandwidth or speed. These include:
- Amazon Prime Video
- BBC iPlayer
The VPN offers protection when you connect to public Wi-Fi (a feature we like), and in case you run into any issues, you can contact customer support via a 24/7 live chat or through VyprVPN’s email ticket system.
Pricing and Trials
Though the service may seem a bit pricey, the cost drops dramatically if you pay for a year or two upfront. You have thirty days to try it out with VyprVPN’s thirty-day money-back guarantee. A bonus for China residents is that the company accepts Alipay, a payment system similar to PayPal.
Hotspot Shield is one of the very few VPNs that have servers in China. If you plan to access domestic sites regularly, you may want to consider Hotspot Shield, since the server sites in China will give you higher speeds. It also has plenty of servers nearby (such as in Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam) to keep speeds high when accessing restricted contact,
Overall, Hotspot Shield has over 3200 servers in more than 80 countries, making it an excellent VPN provider to use worldwide and not just in China. Although the company has suffered from some privacy concerns throughout its history, it has cleaned up its act and updated its policies. Nowadays, Hotspot Shield keeps no identifying logs, which is good news.
To get past the Great Firewall, it uses Catapult Hydra, which is a proprietary protocol that we know little about. What we do know is that you get excellent speeds and high security, and users don’t have to worry about any leaks that might leave them exposed. Advanced encryption and built-in malware protection also offer a strong line of defense when using public Wi-Fi connections.
You can connect up to five devices simultaneously on one account, and unlimited server switches are included in the service. Netflix lovers rejoice; Hotspot Shield allows users to stream their favorite shows and movies.
The VPN has apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android, as well as a browser extension for Chrome. Where it lets us down a bit is that only the Windows app has an automatic kill switch.
Pricing and Free Trials
Hotspot Shield includes an even longer money-back guarantee than most, at 45 days. And should you run into any problems while using the service, a customer support team is waiting to help you via the live chat feature at any time.
When searching for reliable VPNs to use in China, TunnelBear garners plenty of attention. Though it has some limitations that we’ll get into shortly, it’s still a trustworthy service that may be right for you. Lots of people like the free version of TunnelBear, which you could even use in China, but the add-ons are what make this VPN worth it.
The most essential add-on is Ghostbear, which disguises VPN traffic to look like regular traffic, a critical feature in China. It does so thanks to Obfsproxy technology that changes your traffic signature. Ghostbear is also incredibly adept at getting around the Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) that the Great Firewall employs to identify and block specific forms of traffic.
You can also choose to add on VigilantBear, which is a dedicated kill switch, as well as browser extensions for Chrome, Opera, and Firefox. TunnelBear lets you connect up to five devices at once, and it uses OpenVPN and IPSec/IKEv2 encryption protocols.
Potential customers can try out the service for free for up to 500MB per month to see if the VPN is right for them. One thing we like about the free version is that you don’t have to worry about ads or malware, a common issue with other free VPNs. The free version even works in China, though it would only be for someone with limited needs (i.e., sending WhatsApp messages).
Because you’re so limited by the free version, most people would probably do better with a subscription, though there are some downsides to note about using TunnelBear. The biggest one is that GhostBear is not available on iOS, so it’s not the best VPN china for iPhone. It does work for Windows, Mac, and Android, however.
Another issue is that the VPN seems to slow down your connection significantly at times. If you’re looking for lightning-fast speeds, you’ll probably want to choose a different VPN. TunnelBear doesn’t work with Netflix either, which is something to consider.
However, TunnelBear does offer a well-priced, secure, and reliable option for anyone traveling to China. If you’re on the fence, we recommend trying out the free version first to see how you like it.
Finally, we have our choice for the best VPN in China, Astrill VPN, which offers speed and privacy. Many long-term residents in the country opt to use Astrill thanks to its reliability in getting around the Great Firewall.
Servers and Stealth VPN
This dependability is thanks in part to the more than 300 servers in 59 countries that Astrill has. The brand also has several servers located geographically close to China, in places such as Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Japan, which allow you to reach the high speeds we mentioned.
Astrill includes many features that make using the VPN straightforward. It has several VPN protocols, but the one that works in China is known as Stealth VPN. Stealth VPN gives you unrestricted access to blocked content while keeping you away from the prying eyes of third parties.
Additionally, Smart Mode automatically activates the VPN when it sees you’re trying to access an international site. This feature is quite handy, as it eliminates the need for any extra configuration for bypassing geoblocks. Plus, Astrill uses regional IP addresses when connecting, which gives users faster connection speeds for browsing and streaming.
Speaking of browsing, Astrill is excellent for watching your favorite series on Netflix, though you can use the VPN for use with several other streaming services. It works with favorites like Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime Video, YouTube, HBO Go, and NowTV. You also get access to P2P sharing on any server.
Additionally, you get privacy features like military-grade encryption and an automatic kill switch to keep your browsing info private. Users can connect up to five devices simultaneously, and the VPN supports split-tunneling. You also receive access to Astrill’s 24/7 live chat, where you can head if you run into any issues using the VPN.
There are a couple of things to note about Astrill. One of them is that the company has a strict no-refund policy, unlike many others that we’ve included on this list. If you aren’t pleased with the service, there’s not much recourse, though most people won’t run into this problem.
You can try the service to see if it’s right for you, but another thing to note is that Astrill’s free trial is shorter than its competitors at only seven days. The trick we’ve mentioned previously about signing up for a free trial before going to China won’t work here unless your stay is relatively short.
Having noted both of these small downsides, we still feel that the service is well worth it, especially if your travels to China will take you to the country long term. High speeds and reliability are what you want from a VPN in this case, and Astrill delivers.
VPNs That Don’t Work in China
Now it’s time to take a quick look at some of the more popular VPNs that just don’t have the technology to break through the Great Firewall.
Private Internet Access
Despite being a reputable VPN, there are only scattered reports of Private Internet Access functioning well in China. Even when it does work, it requires manual configuration, and you rely on third-party scripts to connect. Another issue is that you typically have to try several different servers to find one that works, and there’s no promise that any server will be successful.
Additionally, if you’re at all interested in using it for Netflix or streaming in general, getting the provider to do so is very challenging. Despite being fantastic in other areas, we wouldn’t recommend PIA for China.
Up until recently, CyberGhost used to be a frequent recommendation, especially when searching for the best VPN for China Reddit, as you could use it to bypass blocks and censorship. Unfortunately, times have changed. While CyberGhost is excellent in many other ways, and it’s very reliable in general, it has stopped being able to make it across the Great Firewall.
So if you’re looking for a top-notch P2P sharing and Netflix streaming VPN, check it out. But if a trip to China is in your future, you’ll need something else if you want to access your favorite content.
IPVanish is another provider that fails to penetrate the Great Firewall with any consistency. The company offers a guide to manual configuration if you’d like to try, but even IPVanish representatives recognize that it’s not a reliable service to use in China. It does work well for unblocking streaming sites and maintaining privacy pretty much anywhere else though.
It’s a shame that ZenMate still hasn’t worked out a solution to bypassing China’s stringent restrictions, given that this VPN is highly secure and well-rated otherwise. They’re working on finding a way, but as of now, ZenMate doesn’t work in China.
Avast Secureline VPN
Avast Secureline VPN suffers from similar issues as the rest of the providers we’ve mentioned—namely a lack of obfuscation features that would allow it to get around the Great Firewall. China blocked this VPN’s ability to communicate with its firewall, so it doesn’t work any longer (nor does its antivirus software).
But don’t just take our word for it—there’s even an answer to a customer support query from an Avast Secureline team member confirming that the service does not work in China.
In the past, both Betternet’s free and premium versions have been known as a VPN to China, but we can’t recommend it as a reliable VPN. Some users can occasionally get Betternet to work, but aside from issues with reliability, Betternet also has a concerning history with privacy—specifically with keeping logs.
If travel to China is in your future, whether you plan to stay a few days or a few months, make sure to purchase the best China VPN you can. We recommend any of the seven options listed above, which will allow you to bypass the Great Firewall and access blocked sites in China.