9 Best VPNs for Travelers to China – Verified List as of Oct 2018

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Update – October 12, 2018: After crackdown on a host of websites and services on the web, the Chinese government is now after a new target: online gaming. Twitch, the blazing hot game streaming site has been banned in China. The Twitch app suddenly disappeared from the iOS App Store following the raving popularity of games like Monster Hunter and Fortnite. However, if you’re traveling to any Chinese city, you can make use of the best VPNs for China and break the blockages imposed by the Great Firewall. There is no clue why the government felt the urge to ban such a popular app, the sole purpose of which is entertainment for video game enthusiasts. What we know is that authorities have been quite silent on the issue. Another affront to online freedom? You bet!


Dear reader,

  • Are you traveling to China anytime soon for vacations or work?
  • Would you miss watching Netflix?
  • And will you be using the internet to use services like Facebook, Snapchat, and Google?

Then don’t forget to pack a good China VPN with you.

Why is that?

China is home to many great things, but restriction free internet isn’t one of them.

The Great Firewall filters and blocks numerous websites and web-based services in the region. Popular social platforms, VoIP services and streaming apps, all have faced the wrath of internet censorship and are blocked in the country.

You need a VPN to circumvent blocked sites and apps and enjoy internet freedom. Since VPN providers are banned within the country, we have handpicked only the select few services that function properly. Go through our list and pick a service that suits your needs.

 

9 Best VPNs for China in 2018

RankProvidersPrice ($)DiscountMore Info
1
Surfshark
Editor's Choice
 $11.95 
$1.99Per Month
83% Off
2 Years Deal
2
ExpressVPN
$8.32Per Month
35% OFF
No Exclusive Offer
3
NordVPN
 $11.95 
$3.99Per Month
66% Off
2 Years Plan
4
PrivateVPN
$2.55Per Month
67% Off
Limited Time Discount
5
PureVPN
 $10.95 
$3.29Per Month
70% Off
2 Year Deal
6
Ivacy VPN
 $8.95 
$4.08Per Month
77% OFF
2 Years Deal
7
VyprVPN
$5.00Per Month
1 Year Plan
8
Strongvpn
 $10 
$5.83Per Month
42% OFF
1 Year Deal
9
TrustZone
 $6.99 
$3.33Per Month
53% Off
1 Year Deal

 

China has been known for blocking numerous web-based services, including VPNs. However, the nine best VPN services listed below work seamlessly within Mainland China; they offer excellent all-round performance and will allow you to enjoy the internet to its fullest.

 

1. Surfshark

A newcomer to the VPN industry, Surfshark is already on a roll providing excellent service to users all over the world and receiving rave reviews from users and experts alike.

SurfShark VPN Service for China

Despite the increasing efficiency of The Great Firewall to block VPNs, Surfshark takes advantage of its nascence to bypass Chinese restrictions with ease.

Surfshark is far from being the market leader in the VPN industry. Nonetheless, the level of performances and features it is delivering is promising enough to expect the service to become known as another good VPN services for China region.

What’s special about it?

For starters, Surfshark does not have a large number of users compared to say, Nord or ExpressVPN. As a result, you are much less likely to find its servers overcrowded by users. Moreover, the provider is already boasting a server network consisting of 500 servers in 50 countries. This is quite exceptional considering how many well-established providers are still offering servers in the 300-500 range.

The service is offering OpenVPN and IKEv2 tunneling protocols – two of the fastest and strongest protocols in terms of security. To access foreign content in China, you can’t overlook the importance of securing your privacy and activities from the authorities.

The privacy policy of Surfshark ensures no logging of sensitive information such as session logs and IP addresses. Privacy is hard to come by in China these days, but Surfshark, with strong encryption and clear no-logs policy enables users to turn themselves invisible online.

The best aspect of this service is that its 2-year plan is currently available for only $1.99/month and offers unlimited multi-logins. Thus, if you want to break through the GFW of China for cheap, Surfshark should be your go-to VPN.

Speed: The download speed of Surfshark is the major drawback of the provider. The tested speed performance recorded more than 50% decline in connection speed.

SurfShark Speed

Best Server: Hong Kong – Surfshark has no servers in China. The closest physical servers offered by the services are in India and Hong Kong. The latter is preferable owing to greater assurance of user privacy.

Customer Support: Excellent – The support staff possess sound technical knowledge and their response rate is extremely good over live chat.

Protocol: IKEv2 – Surfshark performs well over this protocol, offering a decent combination of speed and security.

Compatibility: Surfshark is compatible with Windows, mac OS, Linux, iOS, Android, Chrome, and Firefox.

Simultaneous Connections: Unlimited

Pros

  • Provides OpenVPN and IKEv2 tunneling protocols
  • Transparent no-logging policy
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • Multi-Hop feature
  • Excellent customer support or live chat

Cons

  • Somewhat overly priced, especially on monthly plan

Visit SurfShark 

 

2. ExpressVPN

Question: Does ExpressVPN work in china?

Answer is: Damn Yes! You can read ExpressVPN China blog for further details.

Highly Reliable, Fast & Easy-to-Use! Access any blocked content in China and stay connected with your loved ones at all times.  

ExpressVPN China

ExpressVPN is a widely popular service with a huge clientele all over the world. The provider offers more than 1,700 servers that operate at exceptionally fast speeds. The provider also has a strong privacy policy and uses military-grade encryption protocols to protect user privacy.

These are the reasons Express is considered as one of the best VPNs that work in China:

Speed: The download speeds of ExpressVPN were impressive, as there was not a major drop in download speeds and the results were fairly consistent throughout the testing.

Best Server: Hong Kong – ExpressVPN doesn’t offer any servers in China, so I tested their Hong Kong server that the above speed results show fast performance.

Customer Support: Excellent – the support agents were quick to respond to all my queries and help me out with anything I threw at them regarding their service.

Protocol: OpenVPN protocol

Compatibility: Offers apps on all operating systems. These apps are available on respective app stores or on its official website.

Simultaneous Connections: 3 devices

Pros

  • Provides extensive geographical coverage in 90+ countries with 1,700 servers
  • Offers cross-platform functionality
  • Excellent live chat customer support available 24/7
  • Users can avail 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • Slightly more expensive option than other providers

Visit ExpressVPN

 

3. NordVPN

Question: Does NordVPN work in China?

Answer: Yes! You can read the detailed guide of NordVPN for China blog for further details.

Loaded with features and servers that will help you access US Netflix, Facebook & other services in the mainland. DoubleVPN feature is really useful in bypassing the restrictions of Great Chinese Firewall. 

Best VPN for China in 2018

Visit NordVPN

Nord, with a set of extraordinary features, qualifies it as an industry standard VPN service. Currently, NordVPN offers over 4,000 servers distributed across more than 60 countries including France, Germany, Hong Kong, Netherlands, UK, United States and more.

The service provides exceptional privacy benefits to Chinese users by offering dedicate or static IPs for an additional cost. Moreover, the servers in the Netherlands, Canada, Sweden, and Romania allows a user to download torrents and P2P files without getting caught by copyright trolls.

To assure robust data protection, it offers Tor over VPN as well as another exemplary feature known as Double VPN. This will keep you anonymous at all times and help bypass GSW with ease.

Speed: NordVPN delivered the fasted download speeds amongst all other providers in line, when tested on a 30 Mbps network. Following results were achieved when connected to Hong Kong:

Best Server: Singapore – NordVPN does not offer any servers within China, but the closet server you can use is of Singapore, along with Hong Kong and Malaysia.

Customer Support:  Fast – I tested the live chat feature of NordVPN and inquired about their servers. The response of the support agent was quick and he guided me through the process of setting up the correct settings.

Protocol: OpenVPN – I tested Nord on OpenVPN protocol and that worked out to be the best. Therefore, if you are in China and are using NordVPN, make sure you are connected through OpenVPN protocol.

Compatibility: NordVPN offers apps for all dedicated platforms, which are easy to use.

Simultaneous Connection: 6 devices

If you want to explore about the provider in detail, you can read a detailed review of NordVPN.

Pros

  • Provides over 4,000 servers distributed across 60 countries
  • 6 Simultaneous Connections
  • Supports advanced tunneling protocols including OpenVPN and IKEv2
  • Offers a generous 30-day money-back guarantee

Cons

  • The Double-VPN feature can slow down Internet speeds

Visit NordVPN

 

4. PrivateVPN

A quick and lightweight provider that offers apps for all the operating systems. It’s a small packaged product that packs a big punch. 

PrivateVPN China

PrivateVPN unlocks every website that are restricted in and out of China, and it will give you complete online anonymity. The service is increasingly gaining growth in the mainland due to the strong encryption that makes it impossible for Chinese authorities to trace.

If for any reason you wish to unsubscribe the service, it gives you 30-day money-back guarantee to do that. Unlock anything and protect everything in China with PrivateVPN.

Speed: PrivateVPN offers manageable speeds. I did experience a drop in download speeds which makes it a less preferred option.

Best Server: Hong Kong – I didn’t find any of their servers in China, but the closest you can use is of Hong Kong (hk-hon.privatevpn.com).

Customer Support: Average – the response rate is slow to average of PrivateVPN and there is no live chat feature as well.

Protocol: L2TP – PrivateVPN suggests the use of L2TP VPN protocol.

Compatibility: Offers easy to use apps for all platforms that are lightweight and doesn’t make your device slow.

Simultaneous Connections: 5 devices

Pros

  • Zero data logging policy
  • Offers Protection from IPv6 leak
  • Uses 2048-bit encryption with AES 256-bit
  • Allows up to 5 devices to connect simultaneously

Cons

  • A relatively small server network

Visit PrivateVPN

 

5. PureVPN

Fast and affordable VPN! Access Netflix and Youku anywhere easily.

PureVPN China

PureVPN is a leading service that has established a firm place in the industry after years of excellent performance. The product offers excellent security features and coupled with a large list of servers distributed across 140 countries of the world, it works well in China.

This large server list means that users located in China can digitally change their location to access any blocked service in the mainland.

The customer support is exceptional, where the 24/7 live chat support solves even the most complex query in just a matter of time. PureVPN offers a highly functional 5 multi-login feature that allows a user to connect to a single VPN account from Smartphone, laptop, and desktop at the same time.

With a vast range of servers located in torrent friendly countries including Canada, Mexico, Netherlands and Spain, downloading of torrents and P2P files is safer than ever. To ensure a reliable protection from the GFW, the internet kill switch pauses the network traffic whenever a connection is dropped.

Speed: PureVPN displayed good speeds, but they weren’t as fast as Nord or Express. There was slight drop in download speeds when connected to their Hong Kong server.

Best Server: Hong Kong – Using Pure’s Hong Kong-based server is best. However, it is one of the few services that also offers servers inside China, located in Beijing and Shanghai.

Customer Support: Good – had a fair idea of the provider’s capabilities and features. Also they were quick to suggest the two working server locations.

Protocol: L2TP / OpenVPN – Users need to try both the protocols while using PureVPN, as they have varying results and performance.

Compatibility: Offers apps for all platforms, including browser extensions.

Simultaneous Connections: 5 devices

Pros

  • Provides 700+ servers in 140 countries
  • Offers servers in Beijing and Shanghai
  • More than 80,000 IP addresses
  • Offers advanced features such as Internet Kill Switch and NAT Firewall
  • Delivers 24/7/365 Live Chat support
  • Allows up to 5 simultaneous logins

Cons

  • Users can avail money back guarantee for 7 days only

 Visit PureVPN

 

6. Ivacy

A VPN that allows P2P support in China while being easy on your wallet. Download and upload torrents with ease using this VPN. 

Ivacy China

Ivacy is a Singapore based service. It offers decent features for privacy and is right on technical grounds. Unfortunately, if we talk about customer support, user-friendliness, and presentation, Ivacy needs to improve in some grounds. Ivacy would have to overcome such loopholes to come into the place.

However, in favor of users’ ease, Ivacy offers great in-house desktop clients for Windows and Mac OS X.

An internet kill switch, DNS leak protection and 270+ servers located in 100+ locations across the world allows a user to bypass the Great Firewall of China while staying anonymous at all times. As a Mainland VPN, Ivacy caters the privacy needs of Chinese users with 5 multi-login, 7-day money back guarantee and zero activity log policy.

Speed: It is not the most quickest VPN around for using in China, but it does perform better than most. I did several tests and the fastest result showed 18.22 Mbps download speeds.

Best Server: Hong Kong – Ivacy also offers servers in China but they were unstable at times and caused disconnections on a frequent basis.

Customer Support: Good – the support staff was quick to respond and had an idea about their service and performance.

Protocol: OpenVPN – this protocol was the most stable throughout my testing.

Compatibility: Supports all major platforms.

Simultaneous Connections: 5 devices

Pros

  • Provides optimized P2P servers for absolute anonymity for filesharing
  • Offers 270+ servers in 100+ locations
  • Uses Split Tunneling to save bandwidth
  • Equipped with Internet kill switch

Cons

  • Does not have a free trial feature

Visit IvacyVPN

 

7. VyprVPN

Offering decent speeds and innovative security mechanisms, VyprVPN passes through the GFW with perfect ease.

Vypr VPN for China

VyprVPN is known for its security protocols that offers extremely strong protection to users. It uses Chameleon protocol which makes it almost impossible for any agency to trace the user. The server network of GoldenFrog’s VyprVPN is classed as tier-1, since it owns all the servers operating under it.

There are more than 700 servers in its network, distributed in over 70 locations worldwide. 14 of these servers are located in Asia. For users in China, these servers provide the best speeds coupled with strong penetration power for access sites lying on the other of the GFW.

Speed: The results of several speed test that I conducted for VyprVPN amply demonstrate the great stability and consistency in its performance. Though the speed by no means poor, it is one of the weaker attributes of the provider that could do with a little improvement. On average, its speed looks something like this:

VyprVPN

Best server: Hong Kong – It is the closest server for Chinese users; delivers the most stable and fastest performance.

Customer Support: Excellent – The support staff is available over live chat 24/7 and suggested Hong Kong and India as the best servers for China.

Protocol: OpenVPN – It does not disconnect or suffer from speed fluctuations

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, Android, iOS

Simultaneous devices: 5 devices

Pros

  • Innovative chameleon technology
  • Strong penetrative power through GFW
  • More than 700 servers
  • Excellent customer support

Cons

  • Moderate speeds

Visit VyprVPN

 

8. StrongVPN

An exceptionally capable service for users in China, StrongVPN can drill a hole through the Great Firewall and bring you access with the promise of robust security.

StrongVPN Service for China

StrongVPN lives up to its name: it has quite strong built-in security that effectively prevents hackers and snoopers from appropriating important user data. In terms speed, it is not the fastest but is capable of unblocking websites with no hassle at all. It offers 2048-bit encryption and uses proprietary StrongDNS technology for preventing DNS leaks.

In a country like China where online security is of utmost importance for citizens daring to voice their opinions on controversial matters, StrongVPN does its protective duties admirably well. As such, you can’t go wrong with this provider if you are expatriate in China or a native of the country.

Speed: StrongVPN cannot be considered as a reasonably fast VPN. Its place is somewhere in the middle in the speed spectrum of VPNs.

StrongVPN

Best Server: Hong Kong – The service has no servers located in China, but it does offer a server in Hong Kong which works well within China.

Customer Support: Good – Support staff offers live chat round the clock. They are quite prompt in resolving queries.

Protocol: IKEv2 – This protocol works particularly fast and strong with StrongVPN.

Compatibility: Windows, Mac, iOS, Android.

Simultaneous Connections: 5 devices

Pros

  • StrongDNS technology excellent for DNS leak protection
  • Bypasses geo-restrictions around the world with no hassle
  • Strong encryption protocols

Cons

  • Higher priced than many other alternatives

Visit VyprVPN

 

9. TrustZone

Based in Seychelles, Trust.Zone boasts a modest-looking VPN app that is immensely effective for circumvent The Great Chinese Firewall with robust security mechanisms.

TrustZone

Trust.Zone is not that widely known in the VPN industry. Nonetheless, it offers a wide variety of features, particularly when it comes to security. Trust.Zone uses OpenVPN protocol and combines it with AES-256 bit encryption for maximum effect. Chinese authorities are going to have a hard time trying to break through this level of encryption.

Trust.Zone is able to bypass restricted content in China at good speeds and does not suffer from the problem of WebRTC or DNS leaks. The logging policy is also highly favorable for the users and travelers to China who fear for the breach of their privacy can rely on Trust.Zone to stay protected in the digital world.

Speed: The download speeds of Trust.Zone are not as fast as the top premium providers, but are in no way abysmal. The consistent performance of the VPN is good enough for all purposes including torrenting.

Trustzone speed

Best Server: India – This server offers decent speeds if you are in China. Trust.Zone has a range of options for Chinese users, however, and has servers within China, Hong Kong, and Singapore as well.

Customer Support: Average – This is one of the serious drawbacks of the service. It does not offer live chat support which is a disappointment.

Protocol: OpenVPN

Compatibility: It is compatible for all major devices including mac OS, Windows, Linux, iOS, and Android.

Simultaneous Connections: 3 devices

 

View our guide on how to download VPN in China, if you are unsure about the process.

 

How to Choose the Best VPN for China?

How-to-pick-the-Best-VPN

Here’s what you should look for while choosing a VPN service for China:

1. Package Plans

If you’re making your trip to China for a short duration like a month or so, then a VPN with a monthly plan will be suitable for you. In addition to this, many services have varied offerings in specific plans, meaning simultaneous connections, encryption protocols, data limit may differ in a monthly and yearly plan.

Considering the situation. We suggest you to carefully examine the packages & plans of a service before making payment.

2. Money Back Guarantee

As a matter of fact, some VPNs works better in specific areas but may not even connect in other regions. This is because of the Great Firewall which is more intense in big cities like Shanghai.

To get around with the issue, we advise you select a service with a money back guarantee, so you can claim a refund if the service doesn’t work in your area. Currently, PureVPN and ExpressVPN are among the providers who offer a money back guarantee.

3. Customer Support

Customer support is the first source of assistance that a subscriber seeks at times of query. We suggest users choose a service with a range of support channels, including FAQs, email ticketing, and live chat tech support. Moreover, we recommend users to test the support system of a VPN service, inquire them about service features and check if gives a prompt response.

4. OpenVPN Protocol with TCP Port 443

Always try to go for OpenVPN protocol along with TCP Port 443. This is because when you use OpenVPN with TCP Port 443, it looks like your internet traffic is regular HTTPS traffic.

The reason why this is beneficial is that HTTPS is the backbone of all security protocols on the internet and blocking HTTPS means breaking the internet. Many websites use HTTPS as the standard protocol for protecting and securing their user’s communications.

So it’s essential to select a China VPN that offers OpenVPN protocol and TCP Port 443. And, even if the provider does not support TCP Port 443, it is often supported at a server level. You can easily edit the OpenVPN configuration files (.ovpn) and use TCP Port 443. To better understand if your VPN service offers this protocol and supports this port, we recommend that you contact their support staff and find out more details.

5. Number of Protocols Offered

Although we have emphasized on using OpenVPN protocol on TCP Port 443 it’s worth having a look at other protocols. Since GFW has been busy blocking and banning different VPN services, you should choose a service that offers multiple protocols such as PPTP, SSTP, L2TP/IPSec, and IKEv2.

SSTP is another useful protocol as it also uses TCP Port 443. However, do note that SSTP is not offered by many providers and can also be available on limited servers.

6. Stealth Servers

A number of servers are very important when it comes to choosing a VPN. This is certainly the case with using a VPN in China. There are different providers that also offer ‘Stealth’ servers located in regions free from the clutches of Great Firewall.

Some of these server locations include Hong Kong and they use a technology incorporated by Tor to hide its nodes. This hides your VPN connection by concealing it in SSH or SSL tunnel. Using these stealth servers, users privacy is highly secured and protects them from GFW content filtration and monitoring.

7. Encryption Levels Offered

Encryption also plays an important role when it comes to boosting your VPN performance in the mainland. There are different encryption keys offered by various providers. The highest and the strongest encryption level is AES 256 bit as of today.

Encryption is highly important for securing your privacy from GFW’s Deep Packet Inspection. It encrypts the contents of your web traffic into alphanumeric characters; making them unreadable to anyone. So when Internet Police inspect your data packets, all they will see are jumbled characters.

8. Simultaneous Connections

Look for the number of simultaneous connections offered by a service. This will help you share a single account among your friends and co-workers while traveling to China. It also minimizes your cost and lessens your risk if the service stops functioning.

 

Crackdowns: Are VPNs legal in China?

VPN services have been long at war with the Chinese government. Over the years, the Chinese authorities have made it strict for VPN services to operate in the region and have penalized numerous providers. It started a massive crackdown back in 2017 and shut down any VPN service that operates outside the parameters of Chinese regulations.

This was because VPNs allowed users to bypass the content filtering implemented through GSW and also escaped the prying eyes of Chinese surveillance. Although, in my experience, there has been no case involving users being fined or imprisoned for using a VPN.

However, there have been cases where the government has penalized VPN services providers. In December 2017, a similar incident occurred where a local man, Wu Xiangyang was arrested and sent to jail for five and a half years for providing illegal VPN services without having a proper license. He was also fined 500,000 yuan (USD 76,000), which is the exact amount of the profit he made since providing VPN service.

After this case, China ordered a complete ban on VPN services, earlier in March 2018. It even ordered state-owned ISPs to block access to any VPN service being used in the region. That’s why you will see many VPN services shutting up shop in China and closing their operations.

 

But, Is Using a VPN Illegal in China? NO!

Most users confuse between that fact that using a VPN is not illegal by any means, as long as you are not using it for any illegal purposes. However, as per the latest update and a crackdown on VPN services, the Chinese government deems any provider operating without the permission of the government will be illegal.

Many VPN providers don’t have offices, servers, and employees operating in the region. Since these providers don’t have the state’s approval, they are seen as illegal. That said, using a VPN is NOT illegal. There have been no cases as yet regarding users being penalized and fined for using a VPN in China.

 

Avoid These VPNs in China

While local VPN services were shutting down left, right and center, other popular providers were also facing the same difficulty. When I tested these providers and also reached out to various providers, some of them don’t work in China.

Here is a list of services to avoid while accessing the blocked content in China:

  • Private Internet Access

PIA has itself admitted that they have trouble maintaining connections in and outside of China. A poor connection is a reason why you should avoid PIA to unblock Chinese websites.

  • HideMyAss

Many internet users have reported poor connection quality when connected to Chinese servers. The logging policies of this VPN provider is also considered substandard that can get you in trouble.

  • VPNGate

VPNGate has stopped working in China for reasons unknown. The encryption used by this VPN provider is not as secured as it should be. Therefore, you must avoid using the VPN Gate.

 

Local Chinese VPNs That No Longer Work

If you are planning on purchasing a local VPN when arriving in China, then think again. In January 2017, the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology issued a statement, ordering the countrywide ban on unregistered VPN providers. This led to several Chinese servers of popular VPNs shutting down, including many local ones.

Here is a look at the local VPN vendors that no longer function in China:

  • Green VPN: once a famous VPN service in China, is no longer active as it announced that it would stop its service from July 1, 2017.
  • Tianxing VPN: following the deactivation GreenVPN, other VPNs also stopped working in the mainland and Tainxing VPN was one of them.
  • NetShuttle Elite: on July 21, 2017, the author of NetShuttle Elite software was visited by police and was forced to shut down the service.
  • Free Door: no longer active.
  • Blue Light: the service got shut down in October 2017.
  • Shadowshocks: no longer functioning.
  • Racing Style: no longer working in China.
  • Tianhang VPN: On February 2018, Tianhang VPN announced that it will no longer provide its service.
  • 91VPN & TreeVPN: following Tianhang VPN, other providers like 91VPN and TreeVPN also suspended their operations in China.

 

Best Free VPNs for China

Free VPN providers offer a good opportunity for people in China to test a service whether it is effective within the country or not. There is a number of good VPNs that work in China and are free. Some of the best freebies in the VPN industry are briefly discussed below:

  1. ProtonVPN – Offers unlimited bandwidth, which is rare for a free VPN service. It also values the privacy of users and uses advanced encryption techniques to ensure user safety.
  2. Windscribe – A popular free VPN provider based in Canada. This service comes with a 10 GB/month bandwidth limit. However, it offers multiple servers for free and also has a user-friendly privacy policy.
  3. Tunnelbear – The free subscription of this VPN comes with a 500 MB/month bandwidth limit. It offers moderate speeds, limited servers, and is also known to log some user data.
  4. SecurityKISS – Offer 8.78 GB limit on monthly data for free. It has only a few numbers of servers. The best feature of SecurityKISS is that users can sign up for it without giving any details.
  5. Hide.Me – The free version offers 2 GB monthly limit on data. It also offers the most advanced encryption techniques like L2TP, SSTP, IPSec, and IKEv2

 

What is the Great Firewall of China (GFW)?

The Great Chinese Firewall is an unofficial name given to the internet censorship in China, but officially known as Golden Shield Project. The internet traffic is restricted by state-owned Internet Service Providers to and from China.

The Great Firewall of China

Restricting the internet outside the country allows authorities to monitor the online activity of its local internet users. The Great Firewall uses many methods to censor the internet, and that includes IP blocking, tampering with the DNS, Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), Keyword and URL Filtering, and so much more.

 

How Does The Great Chinese Firewall of China Work?

The Great Firewall of China is a menace when it comes to using the internet freely. It’s the main purpose is to monitor – quite literally – the internet traffic that goes in and out of the country.

How Great Firewall of China Works

GFW does this by using sophisticated technologies to block any content that can be deemed dangerous to the Chinese citizens. Some of these technologies include Deep Packet Inspection (DPI), packet filtering, DNS blockages, URL filtering, keyword filtering, resetting connections, and IP address blocking.

DNS Filtering & Blocking

When you enter a website (URL) in your browser, your computer contacts a DNS server and looks up an IP address. If the DNS is instructed not to give an address, you won’t be able to reach the website and probably see the message, ‘Site not found’.

Deep Packet Inspection

GFW inspects an unencrypted data packet and looks for sensitive keywords in those packets. If the keywords are blacklisted, the content is then blocked or restricted for the user.

IP Address Blockages

There are numerous IP addresses blocked or forbidden by The Great Firewall in order to stop users from accessing different websites. For instance, GFW can block IP addresses of Facebook and prevent users from accessing the service from within China.

URL Filtering

Some URLs are also blacklisted by the Chinese government and blocked from being accessed. In certain cases, some websites are accessible but few pages within the website are blocked or filtered out.

Resetting Connections

GFW also blocks communication between the user’s computer and the blocked website for a certain period of time. This is done by resetting the connection between the two systems, restricting either one of them from communicating with each other.

In addition to using these tools, the web traffic in China passes through very limited gateways: six in total. This way, the Internet Police inspects, filters, and blocks content. According to ‘Reporters without Borders’, China is considered the world’s largest prison for the Netizens.

If the reports are to be believed, China has more than 2 million people in its Internet Police force. The internet police force works more to censor the content that doesn’t seem to adhere to its policies rather than minimize cybercrime threats. One of the ways for protecting your privacy and accessing the entire internet is using a VPN.

 

How to Access US Netflix in China

As you can see, the Great Firewall is highly stringent in filtering and blocking numerous web services and thus blocks Netflix as well. The popular streaming service, which is available in over 190 countries and home to famous shows and movies, is inaccessible in China.

Therefore, anyone traveling from the USA to China should pack a VPN with them, as it’s the only way to unblock the service. Once you get hold of a VPN, follow these steps:

  1. Launch the VPN app on your device
  2. Now connect to a US server offered by the VPN
  3. Wait for a successful connection to be established
  4. Check your IP address in case of any leakage
  5. Now access US Netflix and enjoy unlimited streaming

US Netflix holds the largest content library amongst all other Netflix regions. In addition to its original content, you get more shows and movies to stream on US version.

List of Popular Websites & Social Networks Banned in China

If you are in China or traveling soon, chances are you won’t get access to Google and every other service associated with it. If you think that’s enough, then wait, because it only gets worse.

Here is a list of services and websites are blocked in China:

  • Facebook
  • Instagram
  • Netflix
  • Linkedin
  • Gmail
  • Google Maps
  • Kakaotalk
  • Snapchat
  • YouTube
  • Twitter
  • WhatsApp
  • Blogspot
  • LINE
  • WordPress
  • Skype
  • SoundCloud
  • Github

List of Popular Websites Social Networks Banned in China

To access these websites, you will have to install a VPN on your laptops and PCs. A VPN will cloak your IP address and will hide you behind one of its IP addresses. If you are located in China and want to stream any of these services, we recommend you to either connect to the UK or US server.

Chinese expats will have difficulty in accessing streaming services such as Youku and Tudou outside China. This is where a VPN with servers located in Mainland China will come to the scene.

 

Unblocking Facebook in China?

Facebook needs no formal introduction and stands as the world’s top social networking site. With having over 1.71 billion active monthly users, Facebook is used in almost every part of the world except China.

facebook-ban250-1

The government of China has put similar restrictions on Facebook, as it imposed on Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat.

To get around with the restrictions, Chinese residents need a Facebook VPN in Mainland China.

Here are the steps you can follow:

  1. Select a VPN from our suggested listed
  2. Subscribe to a package of your choice
  3. Download & install the VPN service
  4. Launch VPN app
  5. Connect to a US server
  6. After successful connection, access Facebook

 

Unblocking Snapchat in the Mainland

The most popular media sharing app and social network “Snapchat” is unfortunately blocked in China. If you want to access it safely from within China, refer to our easy step-by-step guide to instantly unblock Snapchat.

However for a quick overview, just follow these steps:

  1. Grab hold of a VPN (we’ve mentioned the ones that work in China)
  2. Subscribe to the service
  3. Now download and install the VPN app on your preferred device
  4. Connect to any server where Snapchat is accessible
  5. You should be able to access the social media application in China

Having over 100 million daily active users and 7 billion video views per day, Snapchat stands among top social networking apps in the world. However, strict censorship regimes and the Great Firewall of China don’t allow users to access the app within Chinese territories.

The reason behind the ban lies in the nature of the app. Once a user shares a media on Snapchat, it becomes invisible as soon as seen by a viewer. The privacy policy of Snapchat states that the shared information is even removed from the company’s servers. The working mechanism of Snapchat bothered the Chinese government and led to an immediate ban on the service.

 

Why Should You Trust Us?

Ever since the inception of VPNRanks.com, I have reviewed over 100 different VPN services. These include premium and free providers; most of which are so old that they don’t even exist anymore. Each service goes through rigorous testing and only then makes it the list of top providers.

And when it comes to different VPN review websites, VPNRanks.com is amongst the best. Having a global web traffic of over 1 million per month, the website attracts users from all corners of Earth and seeks to help them out.

Likewise, I have covered numerous topics that stem from Internet Freedom umbrella. That’s why, I have a high emphasis on helping readers, travelers, and citizens of China getting around the internet restrictions in the country.

 

Our Reviewing and Testing Process

For determining the best VPN for China, I went through several users queries on different communities, reached out to each service, asked them about their service being operational in the region, which server locations do they provide, and how can their users avoid the hurdles faced in China.

In addition, I tested each provider based on the following parameters:

  • Speed: To see what speeds can users expect, I tested the download and upload speeds of each provider on a 30 Mbps network while connecting to the nearest server from China.
  • Best Server: Since most VPNs don’t offer a server in China, you need to connect to the closet server possible. To find the most suitable server, I different locations and found which region you should connect too.
  • Customer Support: This is an important factor because when things go wrong, you need quick and responsive customer support to sort out things.
  • Protocol: Which is the best and most secure protocol to use.
  • Compatibility: I tested whether the provider offers dedicated apps for different operating systems
  • Simultaneous Connections: Users can share a single account, but to determine how many can connect at a time, I looked into the number of simultaneous connections offered

 

FAQs – Frequently Asked Questions

Living in China or traveling to the mainland may seem hard, especially if your work is internet dependent.

Here are different frequently asked questions (FAQs) about a VPN with respect to China:

A VPN or virtual private network is a tool that creates encrypted tunnels between your device and the internet. It allows you to access the internet without any restrictions. For China, a VPN is almost a necessity, especially if you are an expat. Due to strict internet censorship regulations and countrywide content filtering by GSW makes it impossible to access websites, web based services, and channels.

A proxy service uses a server that routes your network traffic through its IP address by masking your actual IP address. A proxy service is, therefore, a tool to access blocked sites only.

A VPN on another hand uses a sophisticated mechanism, where it masks an IP address of a user with it’s server located in a foreign country. Afterward, VPN encrypts your entire network traffic with secure tunneling protocols, making your data encrypted and unreadable to ISPs, hackers, spy agencies, and cybercriminals.

So a Mainland VPN in comparison with proxy services, offers premium anonymity, 101% online freedom, reliable online protection and better online experience. Here’s an illustration created by ExpressVPN about VPN vs Proxy:

vpn vs proxy

If you enjoy watching videos on YouTube or want to stay in touch with your loved ones through social media websites (Facebook or Twitter), or want to access services offered by Google (Gmail), then ‘yes’ you will need a VPN service. This will not only help you unblock your desired websites but also bring you other benefit such as protecting against cyber threats; DPI conducted by GSW and also helps in accessing other streaming services from China.

If Chinese authorities wish, they could block all VPN traffic within China. That said, there has to be a balance that needs to be maintained by the authorities in order to attract foreign business. The main reason why the government blocks a VPN is that these providers target the Chinese audience and don’t comply with the data regulations set forth by GSW.

To quickly gauge which VPN services are working within China, it is better to inquire about their customer support before making a purchase.

Following are the services still working in China:

  • NordVPN
  • ExpressVPN
  • PrivateVPN
  • PureVPN
  • Ivacy
  • These providers successfully work in China and allow you to unblock any of the websites blocked by the Chinese authorities.

    A VPN can cost you zero dollars to hundreds of dollars. It all depends on the service you chose. There are many free services that will offer you the service without charging anything. However, as I explained earlier, freebies are not always safe and they don’t often work in China.

    That said, a good quality premium VPN service will cost you somewhere between $7 to $15 for one month plan. Likewsie, if you go a one year plan, then it might cost you around $50 to over $100.

    But since China is notorious for blocking VPNs, it’s better to use a service that offers at least 15 or more days as money back guarantee period. This way you can ask for a refund if the provider stops to function in Mainland China.

    There can be numerous reasons behind the slow speed of your VPN. Network congestion due to high traffic load, protocol, multiple downloads working in the background, your system’s firewall, and much more can hinder your VPN’s performance. You can reach the live support of the service and complain about the slow performance.

    Shadowsocks is a socks5 proxy tool that functions just like a VPN. It encrypts and tunnels your web traffic, hides your IP address, and allows you to overcome the Great Firewall. Shadowsocks is open source and completely free. The best part about it is that is still working in China and is hard to trace.

    Reddit is one of the largest communities in the world and home to billions of users. Sadly, the popular website is no longer working in China. According to a latest Reddit thread, a user posted that he was unable to access the website in Beijing without a VPN. Previously, few subreddits were banned in China, but now it looks like that entire website is inaccessible in the region.

    Protocols play an essential role in evading the censorship measures of GFW. While GFW uses deep packet inspection technique to block PPTP, L2TP/IPSec, and SSTP protocols, it makes a majority of Mainland VPN services unable to work in China. Here are some more details about the best torrenting VPNs available.

    There are lots of payments methods that you can use to purchase your preferred VPN service. If privacy is your top concern then you should look for Bitcoin as a payment method. Bitcoin allows you to make payments anonymously as you don’t have to provide any personal details or credit card information.

    You will need a VPN in China if you:

    • Live in China or are traveling there for leisure or business purposes
    • You need to use the Internet for professional purposes
    • You need the Internet for social, communication, and educational purposes
    • You wish to avoid being a victim of censorship and access censored content
    • You want to attain privacy and security on your online activities

    The pesky Firewall of China uses sophisticated methods to block content. One of these methods is through DNS filtering. So, when you look up a website on the internet, you connect to a Chinese DNS server. This is why you can’t access various internet services in China.

    Therefore, it is important to use a Mainland VPN service along with changing your DNS server. But, before you go onto change your DNS server, it’s better to check your DNS using various free tools such as https://www.whatsmydns.net/ or dnscheck.pingdom.com. These tools will show you if you’re using a Chinese DNS server.

    Once you have you have checked for a Chinese  DNS server, it’s time replace the DNS server. There are several ways through which you can do this:

    • Use the DNS server provided by your service
    • Use Google Public DNS: 8.8.8.8 and 8.8.4.4
    • Use OpenDNS server: 208.67.222.222 and 208.67.220.220

    KakaoTalk is a free instant messaging app that, like many other similar apps, is banned in China. If you are visiting China, make sure you are aware of the ways to bypass censorship and access blocked services. This can be done most easily with a VPN service.

    Here are the steps:

    • Subscribe to one of the services listed above
    • Download and install the VPN app on your device
    • Enter your credentials
    • Connect to an overseas server like Hong Kong, Japan, UK etc.
    • Keep the VPN running in the background and open KakaoTalk
    • Enjoy the app like normal!

    With having over 800 million video views per day, Youku stands as China’s largest video hosting service. Based in Beijing, Youku offers an enormous of media library with popular movies, TV series, arts, music, hit videos, entertainment, news and more media. However, due to a content licensing agreement, the traditional on-demand media service is blocked outside of China.

    This leaves Youku’s fans unable to access the entertainment service from outside of China. Considering the blockage, a VPN for Chinese region will allow users to access Youku from anywhere in the world instantly.

    A majority of Chinese VPN services offer unblocking feature from within China only, but what about the Chinese expats resided in foreign countries, who want to access local Chinese services like Tudou, Youku, and Renren from abroad?

    Surprisingly, few providers offer servers in Chinese territories including Shanghai, Beijing, Hubei, Guizhou, Shandong, Guangdong and more regions. However, due to strict restrictions on VPNs in China, most of these servers close down fairly quickly. For that, I would suggest that you contact your provider beforehand.

     

    Wrapping Things Up – Best VPN for China in 2018

    China has the world’s strongest internet censorship program and nothing like you have ever seen. From multiple websites to web hosting services, streaming providers, VPNs, and anything containing blacklisted keywords will be filtered and blocked by the Great Chinese Firewall. Therefore, if you are traveling to China, then using internet freely can be a major hurdle.

    To overcome the perils of GFW in 2018, a VPN is a must. The providers that we mentioned earlier are working well for Chinese users. Their comprehensive server spread along with great performance would allow you enjoying the internet in China to the fullest.

    Aazim Akhtar

    Aazim Akhtar

    Senior Editor
    All Posts by Aazim Akhtar

    Aazim Akhtar's Biography :


    A privacy advocate by day and a binge-watcher by night, Aazim Akhtar loves to write about online security, internet freedom, and all the latest technological trends. Finding ways to secure any sensitive data and protect against existing and emerging cyber threats is his passion. Follow him on Twitter to stay in touch with his work!


    8 Responses to 9 Best VPNs for Travelers to China – Verified List as of Oct 2018

    1. Jonathan Blacksmith says:

      I regularly visit China for office purposes. Usually, VPN services work well in Beijing and Shanghai. But when you go to countryside and village areas, they become useless.

      • Usman Hayat says:

        Dear Jonathan Blacksmith,
        Thanks for the firsthand information. You are right! censorship varies according to different regions in China. The VPNs we have mentioned work in most corners of the country.
        Cheers!!!

    2. 刘张 says:

      very good for me ,an internet user from china.

      • Usman Hayat says:

        Dear 刘张,
        We are glad that you found our guide useful. keep using best VPN for China and enjoy online anonymity hassle-free.
        Thanks for reaching out to us.
        Cheers!!!

    3. Verneda Marcia says:

      I had an interesting experience while I travelled to China last year. I was on a business trip to Shanghai and one of my colleague told me about the distressing restrictions in that region. But fortunately I subscribed to a China VPN service before making my trip. And believe me it was the best decision of my life. I wasn’t able to access even gmail for official mails. But thanks to China VPN that as soon as I connected to US server, I was able to access Google+, Gmail, Snapchat, Facebook, Twitter and almost each and every services from within China.

      • Usman Hayat says:

        Dear Verneda Marcia,
        Thanks for your valuable comment,
        You are right to certain extent. Through China VPN, you are able to use your desired social media services accordingly.
        Cheers!!!

    4. Emily says:

      I made my trip to Shanghai, China last year. Everything was going so good, until I visited Facebook and was immediately blocked by the Great Firewall. Afterwards, I tried Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat and even Tumblr, but was unable to access any of them. The funniest of all was Google being banned in China.
      It was then I came up with ExpressVPN, connected to the US server and accessed social media sites. For all the users who are about to visit China, make sure to equip yourself with a VPN to make your time worthwhile during the stay. Also, if you’re about to choose a different VPN service, then read the considerations of a VPN, specified in this guide above.

      • Dear Emily,
        Yes, you are right. You need to have a VPN while coming to China. Otherwise, you may not be able to access your desired social media sites.
        Thanks for reaching out to us.
        Cheers!!!

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