The Top VPNs for China That Still Work in May 2024: A Comprehensive Comparison

Best VPN for China

China has its own internet landscape, featuring many apps and services unknown in other countries. In fact, most services commonly used elsewhere are inaccessible there, making really dificult the communication with the outside world. Currently, using a VPN is the easiest and most effective method to circumvent these restrictions.

As expatriates who have lived in China since as early as 2010, we have had to face the challenges brought by every update of the Great Firewall many times. In this monthly-updated article, we want to share our experience in using VPNs in China to get unrestricted internet access.

Best Working VPNs for China (our choice)

Express VPNExpressVPN: Fast and a reliable VPN for China. The recommended choice for non-tech-savvy people.

Pure VPNPureVPN: Affordable, complete, and easy to use. Recently one of the most reliable choices for China.

SurfsharkSurfshark: Cheap, very complete and it has a good performance in China. A good alternative to the big providers.

IvacyIvacy: Good performance in China at a very low price. The recommended choice to have as a backup.

Important: You should always keep your VPN updated to make sure it works at its best.

What is a VPN and Why Do I Need One in China?

As you probably already know, the internet doesn’t work like we would like it to in China, and a large number of websites and apps are blocked by the “Great Firewall.” Among these websites and apps that you can’t access are Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Twitter, and all Google Services.

There are many other blocked websites, and depending on what you do, it may be virtually impossible for you to work in China without a VPN (Virtual Private Network). In addition, most of the services that aren’t blocked but are allocated outside China, are extremely slow.

To solve this problem, you can install a VPN, which masks your I.P. address so that your laptop appears to be connected from the U.S. or Japan even if you are in China

A VPN will allow you to bypass the firewall and access any website you want. However, you need to choose wisely, even though there are dozens of VPN services available, only a few work well in China. We have tested several of them for more than 10 years and today we’re going to review the ones we like the most.

Essential Tips for Using a VPN in China

  1. Update the VPN app or software: It’s essential for you to always have the latest version of the VPN program or app. The Great Firewall of China is constantly being modified to limit VPN use in the country. The majority of the software updates offered by the main VPN providers have the purpose of ensuring that their VPN continues to be accessible in China.
  2. Install the VPN before traveling to China: If you wait until you’re in China to install (and purchase) the VPN, it can be quite difficult due to the following reasons:
    • Google Play is blocked in China.
    • The Apple AppStore (and other app markets) don’t let you download VPN apps
    • Many VPN provider websites are blocked in China.
  3. Note: Some VPNs offer alternative websites that are accessible in China. We try to make it so that the links that you find in this article are also accessible from China, but this isn’t always possible.

  4. Use obfuscated servers: The Chinese Great Firewall has the capability to detect VPN connections and block them. However, some VPN providers, such as the ones mentioned here, offer obfuscated servers that mimic regular internet traffic. This technique helps bypass VPN blocking and allows users to access restricted content in China.
  5. Check VPN provider’s recommendations for China: The best VPNs normally offer constantly updated information about how to connect effectively your VPN in China. Here you’ll find some tips on how to connect the most popular VPNs in China.
  6. The closest servers are usually the fastest: A VPN’s speed often depends on the distance between your connection and the server. Servers in countries surrounding China, such as Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong, tend to be the fastest. However, sometimes servers in the United States are faster because they have fewer users connected to them.
  7. We recommend having a backup VPN: No VPN is infallible, and even less so in China. If you’re going to be in China for a long time and having unrestricted Internet access is essential for you, you should consider having at least one backup VPN.

    Pressure on VPNs has greatly intensified over the past years, and all VPNs have undergone breakdowns in service at some time. Even though a good VPN tends to recover in a few hours or days, having a second VPN can be very useful if needed.

  8. Test out your VPN before going to China: It’s important to become familiar with your VPN before going to China. Check its connectivity, speed, and whether it’s capable of giving you access to geographically restricted websites or services (such as a local streaming service). If the VPN doesn’t offer good performance in your country, it probably won’t work in China.
  9. There’s no best VPN for China: No VPN is better than the others all the time and everywhere in China. The majority of VPNs have different performances depending on the place in China, the type of connection, the device you are using, among other circumstances. Many VPNs offer a money-back guarantee, so you can try out multiple options before committing.

VPN for China Review

How to Choose a VPN for China

  • Does it work in China? The large majority of VPNs don’t work well in China. The VPNs that we recommend in this article normally work well in China and have a have a proven record of adapting when the restrictions are intensified.
  • Is it fast? Although there are VPNs that work in China, their speed leaves a lot lacking. After trying many VPNs, we can say that ExpressVPN, PureVPN, Surfshark and, Ivacy are among the fastest that we have used. In any event, a VPN isn’t a magical solution, so don’t expect to have the same speeds as when you’re in your country.
  • Is it stable? Another common problem is that the connection is unstable (it gets constantly disconnected). The VPNs that we have chosen rarely lose their connection once they are connected.
  • Does it offer good technical support? It’s essential for a VPN to have 24-hour technical support that can solve your problems in a few minutes if you have any questions or problems with your connection. Besides, the technical support should be capable of quickly solving the problems that may come up during each update to the Great Firewall.
  • Is the software updated regularly? This is very important because, in China, new measures affecting VPN performance are implemented constantly. The best VPNs regularly update their software in order to adapt to the new restrictions imposed in countries like China.
  • Does it offer obfuscated servers?: This is an essential feature to consider when choosing a VPN. Without obfuscated servers, your VPN most probably won’t be able to connect. However, while obfuscated servers are essential, they alone may not be sufficient to ensure reliable and effective VPN performance.
  • Does it offer encryption protocols that work in China? Good VPNs offer multiple encryption protocols to ensure security and good performance. Currently, it’s important for the VPN that you choose to have at least two of the following protocols: Open VPN, Lightway, Wireguard, IKEv2/IPsec and L2TP/IPsec.

Best VPNs for China (comparative table)

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FeaturesExpressVPNPureVPNSurfsharkIvacyWhat’s the Best?
Main AdvantageFastest and Easiest to UseCheap and CompleteExtra OptionsCheapest
(among the best)
It depends on your needs!
Money Back Guarantee30 days30 days30 days30 daysExpressVPN
Monthly Plan12.95 USD10.95 USD12.95 USD9.95 USDIvacy
Yearly Plan6.67 USD/month
(exclusive offer: 3 months free)
3.33 USD/month3.99 USD/month
(first year)
3.99 USD/monthPureVPN
Support24/7/36524/7/36524/7/36524/7/365ExpressVPN
Server Count3,000+6,500+3200+5,000+PureVPN
Countries with Servers105886556ExpressVPN
Payment MethodsCredit Card, Paypal, Bitcoin, Alipay, Union Pay and othersCredit Card, PaypalCredit Card, Paypal, Amazon Pay, Bitcoin, SofortCredit Card, Paypal, Bitpay, Alipay, Perfect MoneyExpressVPN
Desktop AppsWindows, Mac, Linux, ChromebookWindows, Mac, Linux, ChromebookWindows, Mac, LinuxWindows, MacExpressVPN
Browser ExtensionChrome, Firefox, Edge, SafariChrome, Firefox, EdgeChrome, FirefoxChrome, FirefoxExpressVPN
Mobile AppsAndroid, iOS, Windows PhoneAndroid, iOS, Windows PhoneAndroid, iOS, Windows PhoneAndroid, iOS, Windows Phone
Simultaneous ConnectionsYes (until 8)Yes (until 10)UnlimitedYes (until 5)Surfshark
Encryption ProtocolsLightway, OpenVPN, IKEv2 OpenVPN, IPSec/IKEv2, WireGuardIKEv2, OpenVPN, Shadowsocks, WireGuard®OpenVPN, IKEV, L2TPSurfshark
Dynamic IPsNoNoSDN TechnologyNoSurfshark
Languages Supported1618135PureVPN
Try ExpressVPNTry PureVPNTry SurfsharkTry Ivacy

VPN Features Description

  • Money Back Guarantee: This is an important feature when choosing a VPN, most of all in China. Even though the four VPN generally work well in China, every place is different. One VPN can work better than another in Shanghai but worse in Changsha, so it is important to have the opportunity to test the VPN before making a year commitment.
  • Support: When it comes down to using a VPN in China, it’s extremely important to have access to a support team that can help you when your configuration, for any reason, doesn’t work anymore.
  • Server Count: This is a very important feature, as the more servers there are, the less likely it is that your connection will be slow or get cut out due to too many users using the same server.
  • Countries With Servers: This is a basic function, especially if you want to access content restricted to a specific country. Besides, it is also necessary to obtain a good browsing speed, as the closer you are to the server, the better the potential speed will be. Therefore, having a large number of servers in countries around China increases the possibility of finding one with good services.
  • Browser extension: Google Chrome, Mozilla Firefox, and Safari, the two most widely used browsers, allow the possibility of adding small programs (or extensions), which provide new useful tools when browsing the web. Some VPNs offer extensions for these browsers that are used to be able to control a VPN and see the state of the connection easily from your browser while surfing the web. Although it is not an essential option, it makes the use of VPNs much easier and avoids closing and opening the browser every time you change servers or want to connect/disconnect the VPN.
  • Simultaneous Connections: Today, being able to have simultaneous connections is a basic feature of a VPN, as having a reliable and free connection to the internet is not just necessary for your laptop but also for your cell phone, tablet or other devices. Having simultaneous connections saves you from the problem of having to connect the VPN depending on which device you want to use to access the internet. With this, for example, you can check Google Maps on your cell phone while you check your Gmail on your computer.
  • Encryption Protocols: Encryption protocols are important to improve security. Having various possibilities will ensure that you have more weapons to avoid the Great Firewall, as some encryption protocols don’t work at times. The protocols that tend to work the best are OpenVPN (desktop) and IKEV2 (mobile devices), although the newer protocols WireGuard and Lightway offer better speed and stability.

How to access Facebook from China

What VPN Should I Use in China?

We know this is a lot of info to digest and if you aren’t a tech expert, you might be a bit lost. To help you make the right choice, we suggest that you choose the best VPN depending on your priorities (speed, price, user-friendliness, and security).

  • If you’re looking for a fast VPN, then ExpressVPN offers the Lightway protocol, a good number of servers close to China and in our tests, tends to always be one of the fastest.
  • If you’re looking for a user-friendly VPN then, once more, ExpressVPN is the easiest of the four VPN to use.
  • If you need a secure connection for transmitting sensitive data, then you should go for VyprVPN, which offers more protocols including Chameleon, their own servers and Nat Firewall, for an extra layer of security.
  • If you all you care about is the price, then Ivacy is the cheapest option among the best VPNs.
  • If you need a VPN that can connect to servers from many different countries, ExpressVPN is the one that offers the most possibilities.

Still not sure what VPN should you choose?

Top VPNs in China (survey)

Your opinion is important for us, click here and tell us what’s your favorite VPN for China!

Most popular VPNs in China

Below you’ll find a short review of some of the most popular VPN in China. These reviews are based on our experience using these VPN in China, so they are based on subjective criteria.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN China

Speed Reliability Ease-of-use Stability in China Number of servers Lightway Protocol
PriceExclusive Discount


ExpressVPN is currently one of the most popular and recommended VPN in China due to its ease of use fast connections, and reliability. Additionally, ExpressVPN has exclusive access to the Lightway encryption protocol, which is very efficient in China. It’s a great option for those who don’t want complications.

PureVPN

PureVPN China

Price Ease of use Countries with servers WireGuard
Software Technical serviceExclusive Discount


PureVPN is a comprehensive VPN service at a competitive price. However, its low price is reflected in its less efficient technical service and occasional problems with its software. This VPN is a good option if you are willing to trade off some service quality for a lower cost. PureVPN has recently been one of the most reliable services.

Surfshark

Surfshark china

Price Easy to use Connectivity Shadowsocks WireGuard Simultaneous connections Nexus
Annual price


Surfshark offers a good performance at a very good price, particularly for the 2-year plan. One of its main advantages is that it is one of the few VPNs that offer both Shadowsocks and the newer WireGuard protocol. Additionally, it offers dynamic IPs through Nexus, a software-defined networking technology. However, significant discounts are only available for at least 2-year subscriptions.

Ivacy

Ivacy China

Price Stability Dedicated IP addresses Extra options
Number of serversExclusive Discount


Ivacy is a lesser-known but innovative VPN, which was one of the first to offer split tunneling. Despite being a low-cost service, it offers a quite good performance in China. Ivacy is one of the few VPNs that have working servers in China and can bypass the Great Firewall in both directions. However, its number of servers and connection speed may be slightly lower compared to the big VPN providers. It can be a good alternative when large VPN providers experience problems or as a backup VPN.

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NordVPN

NordVPN China

Number of servers Ease-of-use Security Dedicated IP addresses WireGuard ProtocolRed MeshPrice StabilityExclusive Discount


NordVPN is one of the top VPN services in China, known for its completeness, speed, and ease of use. Despite recently is facing severe issues in China, it generally performs well. Although it may be more expensive than other options, its added security and anonymity features make it worth the cost. Overall, NordVPN is a solid choice, particularly if you’re interested in options like a dedicated IP address or setting up your own VPN server with Red Mesh.

VyprVPN

VyprVPN China

Speed Security Own servers Chameleon and WireGuard
Technical service StabilityExclusive Discount


VyprVPN is considered one of the best VPNs for China, particularly if you prioritize having a highly secure connection. It offers its own servers, its proprietary encryption protocol (Chameleon™), and an additional security layer through Firewall NAT. It also supports the newer WireGuard protocol. However, it has experienced some reliability issues in China in recent times.

VPN Area

VPN Area China

Speed Stability Price Dedicated IP addresses Simultaneous connections Extra options
Number of servers Website


VPN Area is a high-quality VPN service that offers stability, fast speeds, and reliability at a reasonable price. Due to being less well-known than other VPNs, it may be less likely to be targeted by the Great Firewall of China. However, it does have a smaller number of servers and may require technical assistance to function properly in China. Despite this, VPN Area is a solid alternative worth considering if you are looking for an effective alternative to the major providers.

Astrill VPN

Astrill VPN China

Speed Private IP addresses Encryption protocols VIP plans
Support service Reliability Number of servers Price


Astrill is a well-known VPN in China and is one of the most effective VPNs bypassing the Great Firewall. In the past had some reliability issues, but after restructuring its service, it has improved its performance and is considered one of the most reliable VPNs in China. However, it’s currently one of the most costly VPNs and it’s known to have poor after-sale service, making it less desirable option compared to other VPNs.

StrongVPN

StrongVPN China

Reliability Dynamic IP addresses WireGuard Protocol Technical service
Extra options


StrongVPN is one of the pioneers in providing high-quality VPN services and for many years, it was one of the most dependable VPNs for use in China. Last years it’s services have been greatly improved, which makes it a less popular but a good option to consider.

TorGuard VPN

TorGuard VPN China

Stability Number of servers Free trial Dedicated IPs WireGuard
Performance in China


TorGuard is a highly comprehensive VPN service that offers competitive pricing. It provides many options such as proxies for Shadowsocks, WireGuard, dedicated IPs, DDOS protected IPs, Stealth VPN, and more. However, during periods of restrictions in China, its performance may not be optimal.

Fastest VPN in China

Determining which VPN is the fastest is quite a complicated question, as it depends on a lot of factors (encryption protocol, Chinese city from which you are connecting, the website you want to visit, and the VPN server you connect to, among many other factors).

To try to answer this question, we tested the connection speed of the VPNs that we recommend in China. We tested the ping, download speed, and upload speed while connected to different VPN servers while accessing websites located in the United States, Europe, and Hong Kong. While the results obtained are complicated to interpret due to the high number of parameters involved, we have been able to come to some conclusions:

  • The VPNs tested offer good connection speeds: In general, tests show a ping of less than 250 ms and upload and download speeds which in the majority of cases are better than speeds without a VPN.
  • ExpressVPN seems to be the fastest VPN: In the different tests that we carried out, in the majority of cases, ExpressVPN is the VPN that offers the best results for the three indicators (ping, download speed, and upload speed).
  • The values of the tests vary greatly: In China, the connection speed is subject to substantial fluctuations depending on the day and time, which directly impacts the VPN’s performance. Additionally, the speed can also vary depending on the specific server you are connected to and the geographical location of the website or data source you are trying to access.

While ExpressVPN seems to be the fastest, this may depend on the place in China from which you are connecting. If you want to verify the performance of your VPN, in this article you can test your connection speed and also explain how to interpret the results obtained.

With these results, you will be able to know if your VPN works well (the values will be similar to or even better than without the VPN). You will as well find out the quality of your connection in China (the values you obtain without a VPN).

Main VPN Encryption Protocols

Encryption protocols are an essential feature when it comes to choosing a VPN, as they determine its level of security and its ability to overcome internet blocking in China and other countries. Below you can find the main encryption protocols:

  • PPTP (Point-to-Point Tunneling Protocol): PPTP, with 128 bits, is the weakest encryption protocol, and because of this, it is faster than other protocols. In addition to its speed, it has the advantage of being supported by the majority of devices.
  • L2TP/IPSec (Layer 2 Tunneling Protocol/Internet Protocol Security): L2TP/IPsec is a 256-bit encryption protocol that is very robust but quite slow. Its main advantage is that this protocol can be used on the majority of mobile devices.
  • OpenVPN: OpenVPN can be either 160 or 256 bits, and is a protocol that offers a very high level of security combined with a more than respectable speed. The main problem it has is that it is often not supported by default in many mobile devices, in particular, iOS systems.
  • IKEv2 (Internet Key Exchange version 2): IKEv2 is often used in conjunction with IPsec for secure communication. It is lighter and more stable than OpenVPN while retaining a certain level of customization. However, it’s only available over UDP. IKEv2 has significant advantages, particularly in terms of speed. Its ability to quickly reestablish connections if they are interrupted makes it especially suitable for mobile devices that frequently switch between networks.
  • Chameleon: Chameleon is a protocol very similar to OpenVPN 256 bits, offering a good speed with very robust encryption. It has the feature that it is specially designed so that the connection cannot be identified as a VPN, therefore avoiding it being blocked.
  • StealthVPN: Encryption protocol based on OpenVPN with an additional layer of traffic obfuscation. StealthVPN works with both TCP and UDP, and like Chameleon, it is designed specifically to prevent connections through automatic firewalls from being detected.
  • OpenConnect: Open source protocol that works with both TCP and UDP. It was designed to replace Cisco’s AnyConnect SSL VPN. The protocol uses a TLS authentication system and DTLS to encrypt traffic. It usually has performance similar to OpenVPN.
  • SSTP (Secure Socket Tunneling Protocol): This is one of the fastest protocols, and can even be faster than PPTP. Also, it offers encryption that is almost as robust as LTP2/IPSec. However, this protocol is difficult to implement on the majority of systems and is normally only compatible with Windows.
  • WireGuard This is a new open-source protocol with a lot of potential and that should be taken into account. Some VPN providers like NordVPN, VyprVPN, Surfshark, StrongVPN, PureVPN, or TorGuard already offer it. It is a very fast, stable, and secure protocol since it works directly at the kernel level of the operating system. The protocol still needs some development
  • Lightway: This is a new open-source protocol and exclusive to ExpressVPN which is similar to WireGuard. It’s faster and more stable than OpenVPN while maintaining very robust encryption.

With regards to China, most VPN protocols are currently blocked in China and it’s necessary additional measures, like obfuscated servers to bypass the Great Firewall. The protocols that tend to be the most secure and stable are OpenVPN, WireGuard, and Lightway. In the case of mobile devices, IKEV2 tends to work quite well.

Performance of VPNs in China

Before starting this section, we would like to inform you that these conclusions are not based on objective data; rather, they are based on our personal experience using VPNs in China.

  1. VPNs work better outside of large cities: We haven’t found any technical data to confirm our observations, but it seems like the Great Firewall is particularly effective in big cities like Beijing and Shanghai. As a result, it’s harder for VPNs to connect reliably in these places. Some VPNs don’t work in these cities at all, while others work better in smaller cities.
  2. Poor internet connections limit VPN performance: When your VPN won’t connect, it’s easy to assume that the problem is with the VPN itself. But poor internet connections can actually be the main reason, especially in places like hotels or cafes where Wi-Fi may be spotty. Even mobile data connections in big cities can be so congested that VPNs can’t function properly.
  3. Different VPNs don’t always behave the same: It’s common that depending on the place you’re connecting from, some VPN work better than others. For example, ExpressVPN might work better from your workplace internet connection, whereas NordVPN might work better from home.

What to do if your VPN doesn’t work?

China is constantly updating the Great Firewall to make VPN connections harder, and even the best VPNs can fail or have difficulties connecting.

Some providers offer regularly updated pages with the current status of the VPN in China and offer suggestions on the best way to connect them in China. Below is a list of links to the most popular VPN information pages:

Below you’ll find some general recommendations in case your VPN stops working:

  • Update its software: It’s important to always be running the latest version of the software, as many of the updates are done to prevent the VPN from being blocked by the Great Firewall.
  • Give the VPN permissions: Sometimes VPNs can be detected as malware by your operating system or your anti-virus. Try deactivating your Firewall/anti-virus and see if this solves the problem. If you want to use the VPN, you will have to give it permission so that your firewall doesn’t block it. It’s important to make sure you’re using a trustworthy VPN (like the ones we recommend in this article), as many VPNs can be dangerous for your laptop or smartphone.
  • Check if you are using obfuscated servers: Some VPNs, such as ExpressVPN, automatically enable obfuscated servers by default in China. However, many VPNs have this option disabled by default due to the potential impact on connection speeds.
  • Change server: Even though many VPNs have the option to connect to the server with the best performance automatically, sometimes it’s useful to test which server works the best with your connection. As a general rule, choose servers located in countries nearby for better VPN performance
  • Change encryption protocol: In our experience, currently, the only protocol that works well in China is OpenVPN (or versions of it, such as Chameleon). However, if you experience difficulties, you can always try other protocols, which sometimes work as well. In order, I would try the following protocols: WireGuard / Lightway, OpenVPN UDP, OpenVPN TCP, IKEv2, L2TP/IPSec, and SSTP. Don’t bother trying PPTP, as it has never worked in China.
  • Contact the technical service: If none of the above has worked for you, you can contact your VPN’s technical department to find out what is happening (it might be temporarily out of service in China) and get a recommended configuration for getting around the Great Firewall. This is why we place a lot of importance on the quality of the VPN’s technical service. Good VPNs respond efficiently and are capable of quickly reacting when the Great Firewall blocks their service.
  • Port forward to port 433: This is a more technical solution and isn’t usually necessary. We don’t recommend it for the majority of users.

What is IP leaking and how can it affect me?

When you use a VPN, in theory, your IP address is masked and external observers and the websites you visit can’t determine your real IP address.

To put it simply, IP leaking is when your real IP address is discovered by the webpage you are visiting (normally through the execution of a script) despite you using a VPN. This causes you to lose your anonymity and your geolocation may be detected.

In addition to the anonymity problems that this may pose, IP leaking can make a VPN useless for accessing geographically restricted websites.

While there are many ways of avoiding IP leaking, some of them are quite complicated for people who aren’t experts on the subject. Even so, there are simple measures that can substantially reduce the likelihood of this happening.

Obviously, the better your VPN, the lower the likelihood of IP leaking.

The other precaution has to do with choosing your browser. Studies carried out on multiple browsers show that without a doubt, Microsoft Edge is the worst of them all and in this sense, Safari is the most secure. Opera and Google Chrome are similar and despite being better than Edge, are quite insecure. Mozilla Firefox is quite secure without reaching the same level as Safari.

Is it legal to use a VPN in China?

We aren’t lawyers and we are certainly not qualified to provide any legal advice. So what follows is result of our extensive research on the topic.

There are many rumors and contradictory information on the subject, but as far as we know, using a VPN isn’t illegal in China. Even if it’s true that VPN gets often blocked, on the other hand, VPN is a necessary tool to improve security at companies, and because of this, it would make little sense to declare all VPN to be illegal.

However, at the beginning of 2017, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology declared that the VPN services in China need to obtain a government approval.

While this legislation appears to only refer to VPN providers operating from within China, it’s not clear how this legislation is also being applied to VPN providers operating outside of China like the ones we recommend.

Since 2017, the apps for the main VPNs have not been available in the Apple App Store in China. However, this doesn’t stop you from using them (you can download them outside of China or configure the VPN manually).

In any event, you should keep in mind that when using a VPN, it doesn’t necessarily have to be illegal: it depends on the situation, and whether what you do with the VPN can be illegal or not. For example, if someone uses a VPN (to avoid being identified) to scam people, it’s obvious that this activity is illegal and will, therefore, be prosecuted.

For more information on the subject, we published a comprehensive guide on Chinese 2017 cybersecurity law and its consequences.

What Websites are Blocked in China?

The list of websites blocked in China is long and changes every day. Generally speaking, the most popular social networks (Facebook, Youtube, Instagram, Twitter, TikTok, etc), messaging applications (WhatsApp, Messenger, Snapchat, Line, etc.), blogging platforms (WordPress.com, Blogspot, etc), Google services (Google.com, Gmail, Google Maps, Google Hangouts Google Docs, etc) and media websites that may be or have been critical towards China (The New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, Bloomberg and LeMonde, just to provide some examples) are blocked.

Then, there are websites or software that aren’t blocked but are so slow that they become practically useless. The most common example is probably Skype, which works on and off (for calls, messages usually work fine).

Generally speaking, most of the websites that aren’t hosted on a Chinese server will be slow, when you try to connect from within China.

The best way to overcome this problem is, of course, to choose a VPN that is working well in China!

Best Free VPNs for China

We recommend that you NEVER use a free VPN. They are normally a serious risk to your security and privacy or simply don’t work. Maintaining a VPN that works in China implies a significant financial expense, and therefore you should ask where the VPN is getting this money from.

My recommendation is that you should carefully examine any VPN of this type before installing it, as in many cases, it will install other things, such as programs that display ads while you are browsing, programs that store your browsing data to sell it to third parties or programs that use your computer as a server (your laptop and your Internet connection will work much more slowly). Plus, in the worst case, they are simply viruses or malware.

Given that they only a few USD a month, there is no doubt that the best option is to buy a decent VPN.

If I haven’t convinced you, this article gives some recommendations on free VPNs for China.

Other Frequently Asked Questions

What’s the Best VPN for China (that REALLY works)?
As the Great Firewall is constantly being updated, most VPNs don’t work. The VPNs that we suggest are among the best and we constantly test them to make sure they keep on working.
How do you download a VPN in China?
The majority of VPNs that work in China have websites (or mirrors) that aren’t blocked in China from which you can download their computer software as well as apps to install on your phone or tablet (remember that Google Play is blocked in China).

If you have an Apple device (iPhone or iPad), first you have to manually configure the VPN (see the instructions on the VPN provider’s website), connect, and then later use the App Store to download the app. Keep in mind that if you try to download the VPN app directly from the App Store before connecting your VPN, you will get an error message. You can get more detailed information in this article.

Are VPNs blocked in China? Do VPNs still work in China?
Currently, there are VPNs that work in China without many problems despite the news from some time ago stating that China aims to completely block the use of this software.

Nonetheless, the large majority of VPN websites are blocked and their apps have been withdrawn from the App Store and Chinese app markets.

Do I need to buy VPN for China?
You don’t need to buy a VPN for China as long as you don’t use any of the websites and apps blocked in the country, such as all of Google’s services, WhatsApp, Facebook, and Twitter, among many others.

In any event, China has services that are equivalent to those that are blocked, such as Baidu, WeChat, and Weibo, among others.

What VPN to choose for one month in China?
All of the VPNs that we recommend in this article offer subscriptions for only a month.

However, it’s important to cancel recurring payments if you want to avoid automatically being charged the fee for the following month.

Can I use a VPN on my iPhone or IPad?
Despite the alarming news on the subject, using a VPN on an Apple device is not a problem.

However, you should know that once in China, the App Store will prevent you from downloading (or updating) VPN applications. If you want to use a VPN on your Apple device, you will have two options: downloading the app outside of China or configuring it manually (VPN websites tend to have detailed instructions on how to do this).

Remember that once the VPN is connected, you will be able to download or update the app without any problem.

Which free VPN works in China?
There are very few VPNs that work in China, and they are constantly blocked every time the Great Firewall of China is updated, which means that if you do find one, it will likely stop working soon. Plus, using free VPNs can be risky, as is explained in this article dedicated to analyzing free VPNs.
Which VPN has Chinese servers?
Due to legal problems, many VPN services don’t offer servers in China. Out of the few VPNs that do offer servers in China, many are virtual and don’t work, or if they do work, the speed doesn’t let you browse the Chinanet normally. If you’re interested in finding out which VPNs offer servers in China that work, you can read this article.
Can China completely shut down all VPN services?
It’s difficult to believe that China will completely close all VPN services, although it’s possible that it will increasingly restrict their use bit by bit.
How to download apps in China?
Apple’s App Store works without problems, and in the case of Android, there are multiple Chinese app markets that substitute Google Play, which is blocked, such as Tencent MyApp (腾讯应用宝) or 360 Mobile Assistant (手机助手).

However, many apps aren’t available unless you use a VPN, such as VPN apps, WhatsApp, Skype, and many others.

What is a VPN in China?
In China, a large number of websites are blocked, including Google, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and Gmail, among others. Currently, VPNs (virtual private networks) are the most effective way to get around the blocking and to be able to browse the Internet without restrictions.

Photo Credits: 1. Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay
2. Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay
3. Photo by Gerd Altmann on Pixabay

432 thoughts on “The Top VPNs for China That Still Work in May 2024: A Comprehensive Comparison”

  1. Hello,
    i am from main land china using OneVPN with Cisco anyconnect client its flawless, work for me like a camp.

  2. I live in China and have done for the last 25 years, so no nipping home and loading a new VPN. Totally agree with Huge Mason. Windscribe is good, reliable and has a free option. Also there are some very good free services out there which unlike the paid ones do not grind to a halt at the week end. They limit user not band width and speed, which the rip you off boys cannot do. Obviously ExpressVPN pays the best affiliate link commission!

    1. Windscribe free accounts limit bandwidth and you grant them the permission to send you mail advertising and include adds during browsing. The paid version might be a good option for China and we might consider testing it, but I don’t like their refund policy (at least Express and the other VPNs recommended here, can be tested and if you don’t like their service they give your money back). Anyway, I always suspect services that promise privacy but at the same time, they offer free accounts.

      1. Sorry, Windscribe ‘free’ does not send ads or include ads while browsing. It has been as reliable as Express , which was blocked for me last year.
        The CCP plays cat & mouse; frequently pulling the plug on Express, Nord, etc..

        1. The free version give’s you 10GB and limited bandwidth, you can allow them to send adds to your email to increase you bandwidth. What I want to say is that no VPN is really for free and I prefer to pay for a good service instead of trying to find out where they get the money from.

  3. How can you guys keep pushing Express and Nord unless you are getting paid to do so. Before I cam to China and after reading articles such as you put out. I bought a subscription for both Express and Nord, Express never worked full stop managed to get my money back. Nord does not work as it says I had to go over to their OpenVPN which does work, nut why should I go to all this trouble to get it working. Its like buying a car then having to tune and reconfig the engine before you buy it. From comments here and other blogs it is obvious that China blogs are bought by the big VPN suppliers and do not represent actual working conditions here in China.

    1. You can read our disclaimer to know more about this, you have plenty of options faster than Windscribe. The big suppliers offer faster speeds and they are more reliable long term, but obviously are also a target in periods with increased restrictions. If you want the best performance of a VPN is normal that you need to adjust their settings.
      Anyway, in my case, most of the time I use ExpressVPN because it’s fast. When Express have problems, I usually use VyprVPN or other smaller providers like Ivacy or Surfshark

      1. I understand I have other options than Windscribe, but it has never let me down like Express and Nord. Sorry I cannot believe you use Express most of the time as my experience and the experience from a lot of other expats in China is that it does not work, period. Sorry to go on about this but I am really peed off that after extensive searching for VPN to use in China before coming here, the two highly rated, by reviews, turned out to be crap and I was lucky to have a freebe that actually worked and got me out of the poo.

        1. Hi Hugh, I know that Express isn’t perfect but, at least in my experience, when it works is the one that gives me the best performance (I always follow their recommendations for China).

          About Nord, it had problems recently but it’s still is a big provider that has the ability to fix the connectivity problems faster than smaller providers.

          Also, in this article, you have some other good alternatives: Vypr, Ivacy, Surfshark, Strong and Astrill. VPN Area and PureVPN are also good VPNs but sometimes are a bit too slow or less unreliable.

          The idea is that there isn’t a “perfect VPN” and you should try some of them and stick with the ones work better for you. Almost all of them have the 30-day refund policy

  4. ExpressVPN is not the most effective in China, you just say so because of affiliate referral like everyone else. The trusted research site https://cc.greatfire.org/en?d=1 measures speed and reliability in real time updated everyday. Express is for normies, but tech savy researchers do not respect ExpressVPN but rather free software like Tor, Lantern, VPNGate, Psiphon, and I2p. According to GreatFire, today the free Lantern circumventor is 84% faster than Express in China.

    1. Our experience is really different from what the greatfire says, in our experience, PureVPN and HideMass (that they rank quite good in greatfire) don’t work or have really low performances in China. We test the VPNs in real conditions not automatically and considering user experience.
      Ps. greatfire is full of affiliate links
      Ps2. Lantern is a peer to peer tool and I will never recommend it because may pose a risk to its users

      1. I believe GreatFire is less biased. I’m pretty sure peer to peer is a good thing. It makes the circumventor more sustainable, decentralized and resilient.

        1. Yes, and more difficult to control security threads.
          I don’t say that GreatFire is biased, it’s a great resource, just that most of the data is collected automatically and our personal experience is different of what they get.

    2. The last time we checked Tor wasn’t working and only covers browsing
      Also, just a suggestion if you use a free VPN you have to be really careful, most of them are basically malware

      1. There are a couple ways to get Tor working in China. You could find or be given a Obfs4 bridge through a social network. You could run your own private Obfs4 bridge back at home in the West and connect from China. And you could use the Meek bridge. You could technically force Tor connections for your whole operating system by using something like TailsOS, but installing additional programs is not user friendly.
        Unlike a paid VPN, Tor is anonymous. Also the free tools: Tor, Lantern, VPNGate, Psiphon, and I2p are very legit software, and highly respected by tech researchers. But some of them may or may not be ideal for privacy :-/

        1. Hi Bart, thank you for the feedback. There’re excellent ways to circumvent de GFW. However, for common people without thechonlogy knowledge is easier and safer to use a paid VPN. I would never recommend to use Tor to a person that don’t know what is doing.

          1. Tor is slow and tricky to get working in China, therefore I recommend Lantern. But if anonymity is part of your ‘threat model’ I recommend Tor. I’m not denying, VPNs can have great benefit too: circumventing geo-blocking, preventing ISP throttling, prevent web tracking (but only if you isolate/delete cookies), hence getting unbanned from a site, securing your local connection in an insecure environment (library, coffee shop wifi, school, or doggy ISP), and even saving money on an airplane ticket!

    3. Well said @Bart, Expressvpn is crap, constant disconnects, It gets blocked every other week and then have to wait for them to fix, The Author is completly biased because of affiilate referrals… waste of an article, should have juts title the post, Advertisement for Expressvpn!

      1. Do you have a better one? All the VPNs mentioned here have good performance and they are secure to use. I’ve been using Express for a long time and even is far from being perfect is still the most reliable for me.

        1. Here are some better ones: 1. the paid version of Lantern, 2. Freegate, 3. XX-Net, 4. Outline with google cloud

  5. NordVpn has been down for nearly 2 weeks and its impossible to get a clear answer on when they will be back up. Very dissappointed with my subscription and if not back up soon will ask for a refund.

    I was with ExpressVPN for a few years and there service seemed pretty good and reliable, however when I came to renew last year the price had shot up. More than double what I had been paying. So I decided to try an alternative, now I’m thinking this might have been a mistake. I might give Vypr a try next time however.

    1. Yes, all the popular VPNs are having problems this year, this is why I have always a backup. Vypr is not a bad option, but also was down sometime this year (but they recovered quite fast). Anyway, still Express is my preferred option when it works well is faster than any other VPN in my personal experience

  6. I am staying in Shenzhen in China and I recently bought Nord VPN in August 2019 but I could not use it because it did not work so Nord VPN refunded my money. So I advice other people that don’t by Nord VPN if you are in China.

    1. try using pure. youll be able to use the pptp protocol which is fast as well. thats the only one currently working consistently in china. also its very cheap at the moment because of halloween so worth a try

      1. Pure has a lot of problems in China, it’s a long time I don’t try to use PPTP protocol, but in my experience was the first protocol to be completely blocked in China (almost 8 years ago)

    2. Just want to share my latest experience in China.

      ExpressVPN: not working well after the recent CPC conference (apps), but my VPN router is working fine. You may need to switch the server location if the router is not working.

      Nord VPN: not working. have talked to the customers services and Nord provides me a “special troubleshooting” method. It’s not very user friendly but at least the problem is solved.
      https://support.cn-nord.info/Connectivity/Troubleshooting/1047408742/Connecting-from-a-country-with-internet-restrictions.htm

      Windscribe: it’s my backup VPN for free. It’s working surprisingly well and even better than ExpressVPN and Nord. Good enough for short trip traveler.

      Hope the above information can help.

      I guess it’s time to leave this country. Start feeling annoying to stay in China.

  7. I was in China for two weeks in mid May 2019. I tried both Express VPN and Shadowsock (hosted by Digital Ocean), for purpose of comparison.
    Both worked well at beginning in Shanghai, Beijing and several days in Nanjing. Shadowsocks had more reliable connection. While ExpressVPN had more bandwidth when connected. I was amazed by the good results on my Android phone and laptop. But both stopped working around June 1. I tried different server sites of ExpressVPN including US, Hong Kong, Japan etc. None worked. Shadowsocks had the same story. Both were useless until I left China, regardless I continuously trying. Very frustrating. I had no clues at that time. Thinking back, it is coincident with the time when China imposed counter measures against US’s sanctions early June. This is an observation for reference. Consumer VPNs (like ExpressVPN and Shadowsocks) are vulnerable to be sacked by China’s Great Wall. They are big targets. I would like to hear whether they are usable now in China. Both are not reliable tools in my case.

    1. Hi Lake, at the moment I can tell you that Express is working quite well but they are still are working to recover the 100% functionality from the 1st June “attack”.

      Yes form time to time China is able to nearly shut down the use of VPN; however reliable providers don’t take a long time to recover from it.

      About Shadowsocks, I have little knowledge at the moment

  8. I’ve been using expressVPN since 2017 so far their services are good and the speed is acceptable but after 6/1 all the servers were blocked, below the apps said that connectivity is impacted due to political events. I have a back-up VPN (Thunder VPN) but all the servers are also down. I don’t know if all other VPNs are affected by the said political event but are there any other VPNs that are still working.

    Thanks.

  9. Hi, there, I really want to recommend a new service provider to you right now. It’s called SSRocket. It’s a new service based on the socks protocol. You can go to our website, they have some introductions

    Now we offer a trial in a small range at a very low price of $6.99 per month,And if you are not satisfied, you can get a refund at any time. We also support PayPal payment.
    Another important point is that because of the working principle of traditional VPN, its traffic characteristics are very obvious, which can be easily recognized by GFW and thus blocked. But we don’t have that concern at all.

    If you’re interested in trying,You will get unlimited data traffic, secure, stable, fast, and very nice customer service.

    Hope you guys all best.

    1. My fiancee lives in China until her fiancée visa is approved to come to the US. How can she get skype downloaded so we can talk to each other.

      1. Skype doesn’t work very well in China… She can either get a VPN, or you can get WeChat, which is free, and you guys can talk via WeChat

      2. If she has a VPN, she can talk to you using Facebook messenger, which is better than WeChat. WeChat notifications are often problematic. We provide free trial and guide

      1. Surprisingly, I always use it when I travel. You can quickly connect to the server and use VeePN on your phone and laptop it is very convenient)

  10. My business between China to Hong Kong, so I will be at China every night, also communicates with my client using WhatsApp!

    So I subscribed NORDVPN at the end of last year for my two iPhone & one MacBook pro, at the first five month so far so good, I can connect VPN server using iOS app/Mac OS App. When iOS VPN disconnect suddenly it can be connect again automatically. But you must enable Connect On Demand before you connect VPN. Go to the setting → VPN→”i” you will see it!

    Some day of April 2019, 99% NORDVPN obfuscated servers offline, just two location within three server online only, at that time very hard to connect server.
    Next day, NORDVPN obfuscated servers a 100% offline. I ask custom support what’s going on? They said it will have new servers launch at few days, tell me wait patiently (I am being cheated at that day)!

    Also custom support want me to install IkeV2 profile to my two iPhone and send me some server address list and they say it could be connect servers, I follow their instruction setup, install, input server address, after that connect successful but it is a nightmare beginning!

    Every time when I connect NORDVPN at China using IKeV2 it could be success but after few minutes or a hour must disconnect automatically, so you need to connect manually again because it don’t have Connect On Demand function you can enable it. You need to eyes on your iPhone every minutes or hours to check connection, if you don’t you will miss a lot of instant message like WhatsApp, FB, Line, etc.…..

    I ask custom support again when the new serves online? They always same answer, (few days will be launch, ETA, try to IKeV2 profile etc.…) I begin anger and ask again is that any way to connect NORDVPN, and they reply me it is only way I can do now! Some of custom support tells me networking reset, WIFI network reset, Renew Lease; I can say it is noting to help the connection!

    One more question I ask custom support did they support iOS now? But they don’t want answers me! Just tell me manual connect IKeV2!

    When you want to subscribe NORDVPN service please consider what they can provide? If you are using iOS, don’t subscribe! Android, Windows, Mac OS, I think it should be fine!

  11. I think VPN is a must yeah things might be different with various brands but for me, I have been using Express VPN and it seems to be best for me

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