Before getting started
This article is a complete guide that is updated monthly on how to easily access Google, Facebook, WhatsApp, Youtube and other websites that are blocked in China, using a VPN.
The first part of this article explains what a VPN is, the simplest and most effective way to access the Internet without restrictions.
The second part is a comparative review of ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, NordVPN and VPN Area, in our opinion one of the best VPN providers for China. We compare the prices, functionality and performance of the four VPN.
We also give a short review of the most popular VPN in China and show the results of the survey of VPNs that our readers in China use. On top of that, you will find multiple sections to help you evaluate and optimize your VPN and in general which types of websites are blocked in China.
Important: Many of the VPN services mentioned in the article have offered us exclusive deals for our readers. To get the discount, all you have to do is access the VPN service’s website via one of the links that you’ll find in this article.
comparison of the best VPN for China!
What VPN do we recommend for China?
- ExpressVPN: A VPN that’s easy to use, fast and which has proven to be one of the most reliable VPNs for China over the past years.
- VyprVPN: A VPN with an excellent quality to price ratio, good performance in China and numerous options for a secure connection.
- NordVPN: A VPN that is very complete and easy to use. It has a good performance in China if you choose the right server.
- VPNArea: A VPN that’s less popular in China and a bit difficult to use, but which has one of the best performances on the market at a very low price.
Important: Due to the increased restrictions to VPN which came into effect in October 2017, you should always keep your VPN updated in order 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 are blocked by the “Great Firewall.” Among the websites that you can’t access there are Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter and Google+.
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). The most striking case is probably that of Google.com, which often returns an error message when used from within the Middle Kingdom.
But there is still hope…
In order 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 years and today we’re going to review the four we like the most.
When should I install the VPN?
We recommend installing the VPN before traveling to China, because if you wait until you get to China, it will be more difficult to install the VPN app on your smart phone, as Google Play is blocked and the Apple App Store doesn’t let you download these apps when you’re in China!
What are the best VPN for China and which should I choose?
In a nutshell, if you are looking for a VPN that has good performance, that’s easy to set up and has servers in many countries, we recommend you use ExpressVPN.
VyprVPN has similar performance, but has less servers.
The third option is NordVPN, which offers a reliable and cheaper option to ExpressVPN and VyprVPN.
Finally VPN Area is another smaller VPN service provider less popular but offers an excellent performance in China at a very competitive price (although it is a bit difficult to set up properly).
Even though there are several free options such as Freegate (which is actually a proxy, not a VPN), they aren’t at all reliable and are extremely slow. The practical result is that by resorting to a free option, you won’t be able to do anything other than checking your Facebook or Twitter feeds. Even posting a comment on Facebook will become an impossible task. Forget about watching a YouTube video.
Recently, several free VPN have been released that might offer decent performance. Our suggestion is to consider your decision carefully before installing one of them on your laptop or smartphone as in many cases, they’ll install other applications, such as programs that cause pop-up ads when you are surfing the internet, programs that store your browsing data to sell it to third parties or in the worst cases, programs that use your computer as a server (with the result that both your laptop and internet connection will work much more slowly).
Since they only cost a few dollars per month, the best option is without a doubt to get a decent VPN service.
Nowadays, there are a large number of VPN services on the market. During the years we’ve spent in China, we have tested many of them, such as Witopia (which was really good back in 2010), Astrill (probably the most popular in 2011/2012), Webmaster and others.
Regardless of what the reviews that you find on the web say, many of them don’t work anymore because the Great Firewall is being constantly updated and is becoming more difficult to bypass every day. Many reviews you find are outdated or written by people that never went to China; therefore, check the publication date and whether the website specializes on China before believing the review!
Since 2013 and up until recently, we were using StrongVPN, and we must say that until then, we had never had many problems. However, during the past few years, many better VPN have appeared when it comes to using them from China.
As of January 2014, we also started to use VyprVPN, and rediscovered the pleasure of having internet on our cellphones. Since January 2015, due to the attack suffered by multiple VPN providers, we started to also use ExpressVPN, to have an alternative with services similar to VyprVPN, and to date, it has turned out to be the most reliable. In October 2015, we started to also use PureVPN which worked very well up until 2017. Starting in August 2017 and above all in October, many VPN started to encounter problems (such as PureVPN), and because of this, we started to test NordVPN, which was one of the VPN that held out the best and which continues to offer good services.
At the beginning of 2018 there was an intensification of internet use restrictions and some of the most reliable and popular VPN suffered attacks getting to partially affect its service by short periods of time. For this reason, we decided to test less popular VPN that could also offer good performance in China. Undoubtedly VPN Area was the one that offered the best results.
Important update: March 2018 marked the end of a 14-month process during which all Internet access services – including VPN – that weren’t previously authorized were closed. Almost all VPN with headquarters in China were closed, including Green VPN, a VPN that was quite widely used in China.
The majority of VPN services are located outside of China and for the time being, there are no reasons to believe that they will have problems in the near future.
Why are ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, NordVPN, and VPNArea are the best VPN for China?
- First of all, they work: as we’ve already stated, we test the four of them often, so if one of them stops working in China, we’ll update this article.
- They are fast: We tested many VPN and we have to say that ExpressVPN, VyprVPN and NordVPN are the fastest ones that we’ve used.
- They are stable: Once you’re connected, it’s very rare to lose the connection (this is a major issue with most VPN out there).
- They offer excellent post-sale service: If you have any doubt or problem with your connection, you can chat with a technician at any moment. Just head to the website of the VPN that you bought and send an inquiry. Usually, the support team will find a solution within hours (it can also be within 30 minutes if the problem has an easy solution).
- They offer a large number of protocols and servers: It’s an important detail because the Great Firewall is being constantly updated. Therefore, even if your VPN works today, nobody can assure you that it will work tomorrow. Having the possibility to choose from different protocols and servers provides you with much more flexibility. Therefore, it’s more likely that your VPN will make it through the next firewall update.
The best VPN for China
[Limited-Time Discount Offer] We are now offering an exclusive discount for ExpressVPN: if you buy ExpressVPN’s yearly package, you’ll get 3 months for free and only pay 6.67 USD per month. This offer is limited, so you had better take advantage of it right now by clicking on this link and then clicking on the “Get ExpressVPN” button!
- Main Advantage
- Money Back Guarantee
- Monthly Plan
- Yearly Plan
- Server Count
- Countries with Servers
- Payment Methods
- Desktop Apps
- Browser Extension
- Mobile Apps
- Encryption Protocols
- VPN Location’s
- Fastest and Easiest to Use
- 30 days
- 12.95 USD
- 6.67 USD/month
3 months free)
(Best service in our
- Credit Card, Paypal,
Bitcoin, Alipay, Union
Pay and others
- Windows, Mac, Linux
- Chrome, Firefox, Safari
- Android, iOS, Windows
- Yes (until 3)
- OpenVPN, L2TP-IPsec,
- Try ExpressVPN
- Most Secure (Premium version)
- 30 days
- 12.95 USD
- 5 USD/month
- Credit Card, Paypal
- Windows, Mac
- Android, iOS, Windows
- Yes (until 5)
- PPTP, OpenVPN™,
- Try VyprVPN
- Dedicated IPs
- 30 days
- 11.95 USD
- 6.99 USD/month
- Credit Card, Paypal,
- Windows, Mac
- Android, iOS, Windows
- Yes (until 6)
- OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec
- Try NordVPN
- Cheapest (among the best)
- 7 days
- 9.90 USD
- 4.92 USD/month
- Credit Card, Paypal,
- Windows, Mac
- Chrome, Firefox
- Android, iOS,
- Yes (until 6)
- OpenVPN, IKEv2/IPsec
- Try VPNArea
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. Apart from VPNArea, all the VPN we recommend offer 30 days of money back guarantee.
Monthly Plan: If you are traveling to China for tourism or temporarily, a VPN for only one month is the best for you. In this case, since the prices are quite similar, we recommend ExpressVPN.
Annual Plan: Annual prices for different plans may vary greatly, but if we compare the prices of plans with similar performances between the four providers (ExpressVPN, VyprVPN Premium, NordVPN and VPN Area), their price are 6.67 (with our exclusive discount), 5, 5.75 and 4.92 USD per month, respectively. Thus, VPN Area is the cheapest.
Support: When it comes down to use 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. According to our personal experience, the experience of our writers based in China and the feedback of our readers (both the ones that let comments at the end of our articles and the ones that contact us by email), so far ExpressVPN is the company that is providing the best, fastest support.
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. In this aspect, ExpressVPN is the one that offers the most guarantees.
Countries With Servers: This is a basic function, especially if you want to access content restricted to a specific country. In addition, 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. In this sense, ExpressVPN is the VPN with the most countries with servers and the most servers nearby China.
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 VPN 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 this isn’t an essential option, it makes it a lot easier to use the VPN and you don’t have to open and close the browser every time that you change server. In this sense ExpressVPN is the one that offers more possibilities.
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. All the VPN we recommend offer at least 3 simultaneous connections, which shall be more than enough.
Encryption Protocols: Encryption protocols are important to avoid censorship and 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. While in China, OpenVPN tends to work the best. VyprVPN Premium also offers a protocol exclusively designed to avoid blocking, called Chamaleon.
VPN Location’s Switchings: This aspect is very important in China, as not all servers work well all the time, and changing servers is basic. In this aspect, there are no differences within the VPN featured in this review.
But what VPN should I choose…
We know this is a lot of info to digest and if you aren’t a tech expert, you might be a bit lost. In order to help you make the right choice, we suggest that you choose the best VPN depending on your priorities (speed, price, mobile devices performance, user-friendliness and security).
- If you’re looking for a fast VPN, then ExpressVPN is, in our experience, the fastest VPN from China at the moment. Also, it offers you the highest number of servers close to China (the closer the server, the fastest your connection will be, on principle). It has also been the VPN that in our experience has best withstood the constant updates to the Great Firewall.
- If having internet on your smartphone or tablet is a key feature for you, then you should go for Express VPN or VyprVPN.
- 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 Premium, which offers more protocols including Chameleon, which is especially designed for China, and Nat Firewall, for an extra layer of security.
- If you all you care about is the price, then VPNArea is cheapest option.
- 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?
What is the most popular VPN in China (our survey)
Your opinion is important for us, click here and tell us what’s your favorite VPN for China!
Here to Try NordVPN and Here to Try VPNArea
Most popular VPN for 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 the are based on subjective criteria.
Speed, reliability, ease-of-use, stability in China, number of servers and technical service
Price and simultaneous connections
ExpressVPN is without a doubt, as of today, the most popular VPN in China and the one that we usually recommend for the majority of users. It’s a VPN that’s very easy to use and offers a service that rarely has problems, even with the poorest Internet connections and during periods of severe Internet use restrictions. The few times that problems come up with the connection, its excellent technical service tends to resolve them quickly and efficiently. Without a doubt, it’s a VPN for people that don’t want complications.
Speed, security, its own servers and the Chameleon protocol
VyprVPN is definitely one of the best VPNs for China, especially if you’re interested in having the most secure connection possible, as it offers its own servers, its own encryption protocol (Chameleon™) and an additional security layer with Firewall NAT. However, it is not as reliable as ExpressVPN, especially on poor quality connections. Over the past years, it has had problems with the Great Firewall on a few occasions, but they have resolved this quickly.
Simultaneous connections, ease-of-use, security and dedicated IP addresses
Price and stability
NordVPN is one of the VPNs that offers the best services in China, and is very complete, fast and easy to use. However, in China, it occasionally has problems with stability, and some servers don’t work very well. During times when restrictions are increased, it holds out quite well, although it has had problems at times. While the price is a bit high, its extra security and anonymity options are worth it. Undoubtedly, it’s a VPN to keep in mind, especially if you’re looking for the possibility of having a dedicated IP address.
Speed, stability, price, dedicated IP addresses, simultaneous connections and extra options
Ease-of-use and website
VPN Area is definitely a very high-quality VPN (stable, very fast and reliable) at a very reasonable price. In addition, it tends to be less well-known than the previous VPNs, which makes it less likely to be targeted by the Great Firewall. However, it’s quite difficult to configure it to get it to work properly in China without the help of its technical service, and its website is not very up-to-date. VPN Area is not recommendable for “beginners,” but it’s a VPN to keep in mind if you’re looking for an efficient alternative to the main VPN providers.
Speed, private IP addresses, and StealthVPN protocol
Technical service and assistance, reliability, number of servers and price
Astrill is without a doubt one of the most popular VPNs in China. In the past, its excellent services and low price made it an extremely popular VPN among foreigners in China. However, its recent increase in prices (it has turned into one of the most expensive VPNs) and the constant attacks from the Great Firewall (it has stopped working on multiple occasions) combined with its terrible after-sales service have made many people stop using it.
Price, ease of use and number of countries with servers
Software, technical service, add-on prices and reliability
PureVPN is a very complete VPN at a very competitive price. However, its low price is apparent in its inefficient technical service, lack of reliability in China when restrictions are intensified or in its software (or app), which at times have errors. It’s a good VPN if you’re not worried about losing reliability and speed in exchange for a low price.
Reliability, dynamic IP addresses and technical service
Encryption protocols and extra options
StrongVPN was one of the first companies to offer a VPN with quality services, and for many years, it was one of the most reliable VPNs and a sure asset for China. However, over time, it has been overtaken by the new VPNs that have appeared on the market, such as ExpressVPN, VyprVPN or NordVPN. Recently, it has greatly improved its services, but it’s still quite a basic VPN.
Stability, number of servers, free trial and dedicated IPs
Performance in China
TorGuard is one of the most complete VPNs on the market, among the ones that offer a competitive price. It provides many options such as proxies for shadowsocks, dedicated IPs, DDOS protected IPs, Stealth VPN, and other. However, in periods of restrictions, its performance in China is not optimal.
Security, free plan
Performance in China, number of servers
TunnelBear is the best and safest free VPN that exists in the market. It is ideal for those who only need a limited use of the Internet in China (for example send text messages with WhatsApp). Its performance is a bit poor in China, especially for iOS devices.
Which is the 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 respond to this question, over the past months, we have been testing from within China the connection speed of the four VPN that we recommend. To do so, we have calculated the ping, download speed and upload speed while connected to different servers of these VPN when accessing websites located in the USA, 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 four VPN 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), while in some cases VyprVPN and VPN Area have similar or even better results for download speed.
- The values of the tests vary greatly: In China, the connection speed varies greatly depending on the day and time, and this affects the performance of the VPN. In addition, speeds can vary also depending on the server you are connected to and where the website or data source you are accessing is located.
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).
Description of the main 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 the internet blocking in China and other countries. Below you can find the main encryption protocols:
- PTTP: PTTP, with 128 bits, is the weakest encryption protocol, and because of this, is faster than the other protocols. In addition to its speed, it has the advantage of being supported by the majority of devices.
- L2TP/IPSec: 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 which 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 many mobile devices, in particular, iOS systems.
- 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.
- SSTP: This is one of the fastest protocols, and can even be faster than PTTP. In addition, it offers encryption which 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.
Regarding China, currently, PTTP and SSTP don’t tend to work, and the protocol which tends to be most effective when it comes to getting around the firewall is OpenVPN.
Performance of VPN 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 VPN in China.
VPN work better outside of large cities: Despite not being able to find technical data to confirm our observations, it appears that the Great Firewall is much more effective in large cities such as Beijing or Shanghai. This makes it a lot more difficult for VPN to connect, and also makes connections less stable. There are even VPN that don’t work in these two cities, but which do work in second or third-tier cities.
Poor internet connections limit VPN performance: While this point is obvious, we wanted to highlight it, because it seems to be typical to blame things on the quality of the VPN when it doesn’t connect. Often, the problem is due to the fact that the connection quality is so bad that it prevents all VPN from working normally. This situation is common on hotel WIFI networks (normally at hostels) or in cafés. The same goes for mobile data connections, as in large cities, they tend to be so saturated that they prevent VPN from working properly.
Different VPN 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 VyprVPN might work better from home. Nonetheless, as a general rule, ExpressVPN tends to have the least problems connecting, even on low-quality connections. As for VyprVPN, even though it tends to run into quite a few problems when on low-quality networks, if you have a relatively good connection and use the “connect to the fastest server” option, its services are normally very good, and at times even better than those of ExpressVPN. With regards to NordVPN, although we have only been testing it for a short time when connections are poor, it has some problems upon connecting, but with good connections its performance is quite acceptable. Last of all, based on the short time that we have been using VPN Area, it seems to have very good and stable performance on the majority of connections, but configuring it properly and getting it to work can be tedious.
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.
Some tips to optimize your VPN
Important: Sometimes, VPN can be detected as malware for your operating system (especially VyprVPN). If you want to use the VPN, you need to give it permission so that your firewall doesn’t block it. Before giving this permission to the VPN, it’s important that you make sure that the VPN is from a trustworthy company (such as the ones that we recommend in this article, as some VPN can be dangerous for your laptop or smartphone.
What package should I buy?
If you are going to be in China for a long time, I recommend that you choose annual packages, as they tend to be a lot cheaper, and with the guaranteed money-back offered by these 4 VPN, if they don’t work well, you can always switch to another VPN.
How to avoid unwanted recurring payments
It’s a common practice among VPN providers to renew your subscription automatically (included the four VPN we recommend). This means that after one month (or one year), they will charge you for another month (or another year, according to the subscribtion you purchased).
How to avoid that?
ExpressVPN: ExpressVPN allows you to turn off the auto-renewal by logging in to your account.
VyprVPN: To avoid the recurring payment with VyprVPN you should cancel the subscription by accessing to the Control Panel. You should do it before the actual billing period ends.
NordVPN: To opt out of recurring payments, go to “My Account” and click on “Payments,” where at the end you will see the “Cancel Subscription” option. Select the reason for your cancellation and click the “Continue” button. Then, click “Continue” once again, finishing by clicking on “Cancel My Subscription” to verify the cancellation of recurring charges.
VPN Area: For the time being, VPN Area does not have automated recurring payments, so when your subscription (for 1, 6 or 12 months) is about to expire, you will receive an email notice, and if you don’t renew it, the VPN will stop working.
Note that if you subscribe using Paypal you can also disallow recurring payments directly from your Paypal account.
In the case you forgot to deactivate the auto renewal and the company already charged you for the next billing period, in many cases you can still ask the money back. ExpressVPN gives you 30 days to ask for a refund (however it’s not clear if it also applies to the auto-renewal), VyprVPN and NordVVPN doesn’t specify if you can get a refund.
How do I optimize my connection?
Open ExpressVPN software and click on Run a Speed Test. Then, click Run Tests (the blue button on the top right-hand side) and wait until the test finishes (about 5 minutes). At this point, select the server that appears first in the list (the fastest). It’s as simple as that!
Open VyprVPN software and click on the Location icon. Then click on Show servers –> Chronometer –> Ping test. At this point you should select the server that shows the smallest number (this represents the time necessary for the info to travel from your laptop to the server).
To make the most of NordVPN in China, when opening the application, go to Settings– -> Show advanced settings. Click I know what I’m doing and scroll through the options until you find see Obfuscated servers and activate it. By doing this, to the map will show obfuscated servers. According to the people at NordVPN, the server with the best performance is Japan 20-22, but in our experience, the one that has given the best results is the Singapore obfuscated server
VPN Area works quite well but it is usually a bit difficult to optimize for China. Although it is possible that sometimes you need to use the obfuscated servers (read this article), you can usually connect simply by doing the following:
Open the VPN Area application -> Show Dashboard -> Servers / Speed → Select a server → Switch to TCP in Protocol and 53 in Port.
It may also be necessary to activate the “Anti-DNS Leak” and the “Extra DNS protection”.
Is it illegal 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 just our personal opinion:
As far as we know, using a VPN in China isn’t illegal. Even so, there are a lot of contradictory rumors and news on the subject, which means that currently, it’s difficult to say which VPN can be used legally and which can’t. Even if it’s true that VPN get often blocked, in another hand VPN are 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, in January 2017 the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology declared that the VPN services in China will now need to obtain a government approval.
The new regulation seems to only refer to VPN providers that operate from within China. It’s not clear yet how (and if) this will also affects VPN providers that operate from outside China (like the ones we recommend).
As of July 2017, the apps of the main VPN have been removed from Apple’s App Store in China. While this doesn’t stop you from using them (you can download them outside of China or configure the VPN manually), this indicates that multinational corporations are taking what’s happening seriously and are trying to adapt.
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 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.
One last warning: When you use a VPN, it’s as if you were connecting from the country where the server is located (normally the United States). Because of that, intellectual property laws can be a lot stricter than what you’re used to in China, where regulations are much more lax in this sense. Therefore, do so at your own risk.
Here to Try NordVPN and Here to Try VPNArea
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, Twitter, Instagram, Flickr, etc), blogging platforms (WordPress.com, Blogspot, etc), Google services (Google.com, Gmail, Google+, Google Hangouts Google Docs, etc), messaging applications (WhatsApp, Line) 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 softwares 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 in a Chinese server will be slow, when you try to connect from within China. This is especially true after 8 PM (Chinese time), as this corresponds to both American and European working times. This implies that the traffic in and out the Chinese network will be larger, and tends to saturate fairly often.
The best way to overcome this problem is, of course, to choose a VPN that is working well in China!
Current state of the different VPN
As we’ve mentioned before, evaluating which VPN is the best for China is complicated because it depends on many factors. A good VPN in one city or for a particular connection may have worse performance than in other circumstances. During times when internet restrictions are intensified (for example, party meetings, or at the beginning of Chinese New Year), some VPN hold up better than others.
Thanks to our personal experience and the multiple comments from our readers, we can currently say that in general, ExpressVPN tends to offer the best services in terms of speed, stability and the best resistance to times of restriction. In January 2018, its services were affected quite a bit, but it looks like it has been progressively improving. Now, in March 2018, ExpressVPN has turned out to be the most reliable, whereas other VPN have had a lot of connectivity problems. In April 2018 (after the completion of the 14 months of “cleaning up” the Internet), it seems like the situation has gone back to normal, and the majority of VPN are no longer experiencing too many problems.
With respect to VyprVPN, some of its servers don’t work at times (especially the servers closest to China). Even so, if you choose the automatic connection option or play around with protocols and servers a bit, you can normally find a configuration that offers good services (the best servers tend to be located in South Korea, Canada and the United States). Both the OpenVPN and Chameleon protocol work quite well (the Chameleon protocol it’s a bit slow), and with a good connection, your speed tends to be excellent, at times even better than ExpressVPN. With bad connections (such as in cafés), it tends to have significant problems connecting. In August 2018, Vypr’s OpenVPN protocol stopped working in China, although it’s possible that it will be restored quickly.
As for NordVPN, we have less experience using it, but it looks like during times when restrictions are intensified, it holds out better than other VPN with similar prices. However, its performance is irregular at times and there may be days when it is difficult to connect or alternatively, when speeds are very good. Normally, NordVPN takes a long time to connect, but it tends to be quite stable once connected. In our experience, the Japan and Singapore obfuscated servers tend to give the best results.
We have recently started using VPN Area, a much less popular VPN and therefore less likely to suffer attacks. For now its performance is excellent despite its reduced cost. However, it is a bit difficult to configure. The servers in Taiwan and South Korea tend to give the best results.
TorGuard VPN is quite a cheap VPN with relatively good performance in China, although not quite as good as the previous four. Its main advantage is that if you manage to get it to connect, it tends to be quite stable. In our experience, the server that works the best is Los Angeles (Asia Optimized) with the Stealth protocol. In addition to that, TorGuard VPN probably has the best server in China, in case you’re interested in accessing Chinese webpages from outside of the country.
In the past, we also recommended PureVPN, but since August 2017, during which there was an increase in VPN use restrictions, its functionality was seriously affected, making us decide to remove it from the list of the best VPN for China. Despite this, under normal conditions, its functionality is acceptable.
Another VPN that is quite popular in China, Astrill, has been a target of the Great Firewall over the past years, and because of this, it often stops working. This is one of the reasons why we no longer recommend it.
With the increasingly widespread use of VPN in the past years, VPN service providers are constantly innovating to improve their services. One of the most recent services that all VPN service providers are incorporating are VPN routers.
What are VPN Routers?
To put it simply, we can say that a VPN router is like connecting your VPN directly from the router in your house or office, and not from your computer or mobile device. This has a huge advantage, as you extend the VPN over the whole network and not just from specific devices, thus improving security and permitting all devices on the network to use the VPN (regardless of the number of simultaneous connections).
Types of VPN Routers
Depending on how the VPN on the router is configured, VPN routers are divided into three types.
- Physical: There currently exist various VPN providers who offer routers with the VPN already installed on them, making it extremely simple to configure the VPN Router. Some of the most famous VPN brands which offer this type of device are ExpressVPN and NordVPN. You can click here to see other VPN offering this type of device.
- Application: Other VPN offer downloadable software that you later install on your router, making you able to control the VPN from your laptop. This is similar to the last type of VPN router, and the only difference between them is that instead of buying a router with pre-installed software, you install the software yourself on the router you already have. This is obviously a little bit more complicated than the last option, but is within the ability of everyone. The main problem with this type is that not all routers are compatible with this type of software.
- Manual: Some routers allow you to configure a VPN manually. You will have to log in to the router and change its configuration so that it channels your internet connection over your VPN. However, this is not the ideal option, as although VPN providers provide step-by-step guides for each router model, it can be difficult for people who are not experts, and it is somewhat difficult to change the VPN configuration.
VPN Router for ExpressVPN
Currently, ExpressVPN is offering the possibility of purchasing a physical VPN router (that is a router with a pre-installed VPN). You can also choose to configure your router manually. The routers compatible with ExpressVPN are the following: Asus, DD-WRT, D-Link, FlashRouters, Linksys, Netduma, Netgear, Sabai, Tomato, TP-LINK
VPN Router for VyprVPN
Although VyprVPN does not offer routers with pre-installed software, it does offer an application so that you can install it on your router. To do you, before anything else, you are going to have to install the Tomato firmware on your router ( You can click here to see the list of compatible routers) and then the VyprVPN app.
VPN Router for NordVPN
Just like ExpressVPN, NordVPN also has routers with preinstalled software and can also be configured manually. Some of the permitted routers are the following: Asus, TP-Link, D-Link, Linksys, Mikrotik, OpenWRT and pfSense.
VPN Router for VPNArea
VPN Area also has routers with preinstalled software, and can also be configured manually on DD-WRT and Tomato routers.
Here to Try NordVPN and Here to Try VPNArea