Imagine for a minute you could access whatever apps and websites you want in China.
Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, WhatsApp and more would all be a click away.
Posting the latest photos or chatting with friends would be easy.
But the reality is, accessing these types of apps is hard, right?
- You can’t post easily on social media.
- Chatting with friends overseas is almost impossible.
- You can’t even binge-watch movies on Netflix.
You’ll be pleased to know, it doesn’t have to be this way.
The secret of unblocking any app you want in China is just a few seconds away below in this article.
You likely already know that unblocking Chinese internet access is where a VPN comes into play.
Below you’ll learn which VPNs are suitable to use, which don’t work and even those you should avoid entirely.
I’ll show you exactly which VPN to use and provide speed test results, so you know you’ll be getting the best possible download speed.
Watch the video below for some exclusive hints and tips that will help your VPN use in China go much more smoothly. You won’t find these anywhere else.
How to choose a VPN
Are you struggling to find a reliable and more importantly working VPN for use in China?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone.
Finding a VPN specifically for use in China is like searching for one for no other purpose.
Below I’ve rounded up the six most reliable services, but more on that later.
First I want to help you choose a working China VPN so I’ve listed a few things you should consider before searching and definitely consider before signing up.
- Works in China – OK, this one seems obvious and should go without saying. But if you’re a visitor to China, you might not realise that most VPN services are blocked. It’s essential to pick one that’s confirmed as working… and not confirmed in 2016 either, one that’s confirmed working this year. Things change fast.
- Unique connection modes – The Chinese internet service is one of the best in the world in actively monitoring for VPN connections. Look for VPN services that work to evade the blocks and have unique connection modes just for internet users in China.
- Money back guarantee – A lot of times a VPN can be working and then all of sudden stop. Choose a VPN that offers a longer guarantee period, if you sign up and it doesn’t work for you, just get your money back.
- Local payment options – If you’re a Chinese resident or there for an extended period paying via a local payment method such as Alipay may be beneficial. However, how well these payment services are connected to the ‘regime’ is up for debate. You might want to weigh up the pros and cons of using local payment methods.
- Less popular services – Less popular VPN services usually manage to fly under the radar for longer than the popular ones. If everyone is talking about a specific VPN service that works, then you can put money on it being blocked and fast.
- Avoid local VPN services – You should avoid Chinese based services at all costs. Not only could they be a honeypot but officially registered services are monitored, which defeats the object. Those that are unregistered put the owners at risk and it isn’t unusual to see local VPN sellers fined or even jailed. Stay well clear.
Most reliable VPN for use in China
With both on the ground reports from China and individual service testing, we found the following six services to work the best in China.
Below you can read detailed descriptions of the benefits and negatives of each service.
ExpressVPN is our Editor’s Choice VPN for 2020 and it’s not without good reason. They are also our top choice for bypassing the great firewall and come highly recommended by users in China.
Server locations are available in some 94 countries including nearby Hong Kong and Taiwan. Tests throughout 2019 and 2020 have shown them to offer some of the fastest download speeds, they’ve also been one of the most reliable.
January speeds were reasonable but slightly lower than historically. Results can vary depending on the server you connect to and the time of day, which highlights the need to play around with a variety of locations.
However, ExpressVPN continues to offer the most reliable connections overall. Some have noted long connection times depending on the network you’re using.
There’s also a vast range of apps for mobile devices and traditional desktop and laptops. A standout feature is their kill switch to keep your connection secure should the VPN drop unexpectedly.
In testing on China Telecom and other networks, ExpressVPN offered the fastest and most reliable speeds.
ExpressVPN offers one of the most extensive ranges of payment methods available including all the regular payment methods such as Credit / Debit Card and Paypal plus Bitcoin, AliPay, Union Pay, WebMoney and a whole host more.
Our #1 Recommended VPN for China
30-day money back guarantee
VPN.ac has been our go-to VPN service for some years and quite simply because they work and continue to work in China.
This Romanian-based VPN service is lesser known across the VPN-sphere and in China itself. We’re a little apprehensive about letting this little-known secret out of the bag.
One of the best features of the service is they have a dedicated “China Optimized” section. These are specific servers that work well in China. While they span the globe, our tests show their Hong Kong and Taiwan servers work the best for download and upload speeds.
Download speeds were down slightly again this month but follow the pattern of most other VPN services this month.
There are a couple of other locations such as the UK, USA, France, Canada, Japan and Germany but your mileage may vary when using these distance servers.
You can pay for the service using Bitcoin which if you’re in China is probably the best option.
However, local payment options such as AliPay and UnionPay are available. If you’re travelling to China, then it’s best to sign up before you go and can use any of their payment methods including Paypal and Credit Card.
VPN.ac recommend you stick with their shorter deals due to the uncertainty around VPN connections in China. However, if you have problems connecting, then their helpful customer service usually gets them resolved.
Surfshark moves up a position in their third month of making our rankings.
Their Shadowsocks service has been performing well over the past month and somewhat surprisingly speeds surpass most of the other alternatives.
The dedicated app on offer now works in China and results show that IKEv2 performs well. It works either using OpenVPN, IKEv2 or for the best speeds, Shadowsocks.
Shadowsocks performs well, but other connection modes can be hit and miss depending on what network or where you’re located in China. Making use of their 30-day money back guarantee while you test is essential.
One factor to be aware of is Surfshark is a new service. Good speeds could be as a result of lesser users knowing about and using this service so as it gains in popularity it’s worth considering that speeds could be affected.
Although Surfshark is a relatively new service, they offer connection points in 61 countries with more than 1,000+ individual VPN servers.
They also have apps for all the most popular devices and allow unlimited simultaneous connections.
You won’t see 12VPN recommended on many VPN comparison websites and for the simple reason, most Chinese related VPN guides haven’t done any extensive on the ground testing.
Our reports show that 12VPN is one of the best choices with a range of China specific security features. This Hong Kong-based service is active in unblocking access across China and works to ensure their service is continually accessible across the country.
Speed tests carried out showed extremely favourable results. However, the best rates are using Shadowsocks, so there’s a lack of privacy for the speed advantages. OpenVPN speeds are generally good but slower than ExpressVPN.
12VPN continues to offer reliable speeds using their Shadowsocks mode this month. Again, one of their optimised servers is in Russia, so while it provides good speeds, you should consider the privacy implications of connecting through there.
Payments are accepted using a variety of international payment methods and local payments such as Alipay and UnionPay. The service also allows Bitcoin payments which is excellent if you’re wary about signing up to a VPN in China or for use there.
We found an excellent resource over at TipsForChina where you can check out their results for 12VPN, Wireguard tests and other China related VPN information.
Unfortunately, there’s no dedicated Android app so you will need to contend with installing various OpenVPN profiles if you wish to use their service on your phone.
The service offers a range of VPN protocols including WireGuard plus a SmartDNS and an auto-proxy.
VyprVPN has been playing cat and mouse with the Chinese authorities for many years but their service continues to work well although for the past few months speeds have been relatively poor.
Periodically the service gets blocked and you may need to wait a few hours (or days at the most) for it to resume.
VyprVPN have been one of the most vocal in this regard and most active. If you’re looking for a service that actively works to keep their service functioning, then you’re in the right place.
The unique Chameleon mode is especially useful in China. It’s a dedicated version of OpenVPN with modified headers that lets your connection fly under the radar helping you avoid deep packet inspection.
While VyprVPN saw a slight increase in download speeds in January their upload speed struggled. This has been a regular pattern for the past few months.
Our tests suggest that the service is not suitable for use with China Telecom but when using China Mobile it is much more reliable and a good option.
The Chameleon mode is useful in attempting to thwart live blocks of VPN services and while it’s not a perfect solution, reports show it works well. Speeds may not be the best but it’s a good VPN and one worth considering.
VyprVPN accepts payment via Credit / Debit Card, Paypal and AliPay. They’ve now finished their 3-day free trial but you can get your money back within 30-days if it’s not for you.
A few months ago we introduced PrivateVPN who replaces Astrill as one of our recommended services for use in China.
PrivateVPN has struggled in terms of speed over the past three months. Unless there is a significant improvement in February, we no longer recommend their service and will be removing them next month.
Which VPN should you choose for China?
Choosing a VPN for China needs to be critically thought about. Unfortunately due to the ‘Great Firewall of China’ accessing most commonly recognised sites is impossible.
That’s where a VPN comes into play. While ExpressVPN has proven itself to be continually the fastest and best for China, you may find that your specific needs call for a different VPN service.
Below we’ve listed some of the most common usage scenarios in China to help you choose the best VPN for your needs for accessing a free and open internet.
If you want the overall best VPN, choose ExpressVPN. With a range of nearby servers and local payment options, ExpressVPN is unrivalled. They’ve also got some of the fastest confirmed speeds in our recent tests.
If you want unique modes for China, choose VyprVPN. Their Chameleon protocol is excellent at busting through the Chinese firewall. They’ve also got the bonus that they actively work to keep their service unblocked across the country.
If you a service with local knowledge, opt for 12VPN. They’re lesser known in the western world and as they’re based in Hong Kong they have a greater insight into what works in China and what doesn’t. They’ve also got a range of modes suitable for access in China.
Get stuck? Their customer support will help you out.
If you want a lesser-known service, get VPN.ac. They’re a popular service that is lesser known across the industry. Coupled with their China-specific modes, they’re able to fly under the radar while other services feel the blocking heat.
Why VPN port selection matters in China
No matter which virtual private network you use in China, it’s always going to be a hit and miss affair.
A lot depends on the VPN server you select but sometimes there are options that you can change that both increase the reliability of your connection and the speed.
One of the best to consider is the ‘Port’ your VPN connection is using. Most VPN apps allow you to change the port of the VPN connection and by testing various ports you may gain distinct speed advantages.
Most VPN apps will allow you to change their port in the settings area.
Is there a free VPN for China?
Free VPNs, in general, are a terrible idea due to their insecurity and I wouldn’t recommend them for use outside China.
Inside China, they come even less recommended. Free VPNs don’t have the investment to put effort into keeping their service working in China.
There’s also the more pressing issue that shady companies in China itself operate many free VPN services. What they are doing with your data is unknown and you could end up being monitored when using them.
For the sake of a few dollars, it’s not worth the risk.
Services that don’t work in China
There are many VPNs for China that don’t work.
You’ll find poor recommendations all over the internet with little to no testing. Here are some very well respected services for other purposes and countries that don’t work in China:
What’s the best to use for Facebook, YouTube, Whatsapp etc
There’s no one single ‘best’ service to use specifically for any social media website or chat app.
All six services recommended above disguise what you’re doing on the internet. So as long as you can connect then they are suitable for accessing all types of websites and apps.
This includes social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram but also extends to any chat apps like Whatsapp, Messenger or Telegram.
You will also be able to unblock video streaming sites like Youtube, Netflix and BBC iPlayer. However, you’ll need to have fast enough speeds to stream in decent quality.
What websites and apps are blocked in China?
China blocks so many websites and apps there are too many to list here.
Some of the most popular that are blocked that you will need a VPN to access include:
Through our extensive testing and research, we found ExpressVPN to be the most reliable VPN for China, regarding speed and stability keeping you safe from the prying eyes of the Chinese government.
However, the other 5 VPN services listed in this guide also work well. You may need to try a few to get the best both for your location and types of usage.
Remember, gaining any access to the outside internet in China should be considered a bonus as many VPN services are blocked in China. While some VPN services do offer good enough speeds to stream video, it’s often the case that whatever you receive is as good as it gets.
- The New York Times | How to Travel to (and Around) China, From VPNs to T.P.
- Entrepreneur | Hundreds of Millions Have Downloaded Suspicious VPN Apps