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5 Best VPNs for China in 2017

VPNs are one of the best ways to defeat China’s infamous censorship system, popularly known as the Great Firewall of China (GFW). In this article I will discuss not only the five best VPNs for China, but how the GFW works in general, and how it can be defeated. If you want the TL;DR version, here’s a quick summary, but for more detailed analysis read on:

The Best VPNs for China

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. VyprVPN
  3. NordVPN
  4. BolehVPN
  5. AirVPN

Recent alarmist reports that China has clamped down on VPN use are inaccurate. New draft legislation does indeed clamp down on Chinese “Internet data centers, ISP and CDN enterprises” that use or offer private secure communications channels (such as VPNs).

But, alarming as this move is for privacy advocates and proponents of free speech in China, it will mainly affect domestic internet services. Foreign companies who wish to do business in China may well deem it prudent to comply with the new rules, as Facebook seems to be doing.

This means that (at least for now), nothing has changed with regards to international VPNs that work in China. They still work, and remain one of the most effective ways to access the uncensored internet (including uncensored Facebook!) from within mainland China.

Best VPN China: Summary

    • Provider
    • Price
    • Features
    • Our Score
    • Visit Site
    • 1
    • ExpressVPN LogoExpressVPN
      10/10
    • $8.32
      PER MONTH
    • 30 day Money-back Guarantee!
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 87 countries
      24/7 Live Support
      Connect up to 3 Devices
    • 10
    • 2
    • VyprVPN LogoVyprVPN
      8.8/10
    • $6.67
      PER MONTH
    • 30 day Money-back Guarantee!
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 70 countries
      24/7 Live Support
      Connect up to 3 Devices
    • 8.8
    • 3
    • NordVPN LogoNordVPN
      8.4/10
    • $5.75
      PER MONTH
    • 30 day Money-back Guarantee!
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 54 countries
      Ticket Support
      Connect up to 6 Devices
    • 8.4
    • 4
    • BolehVPN LogoBolehVPN
      8.4/10
    • $6.67
      PER MONTH
    • Hides your geolocation.
      Makes your Internet use more private.
      Encrypts your online data.
      Works on multiple OS platforms.
      Helps you stream media.
    • 8.4
    • 5
    • AirVPN LogoAirVPN
      7.4/10
    • $4.82
      PER MONTH
    • 3 day free trial (on request)
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 15 countries
      Support Ticket and Forum
      Connect 3 devices
    • 7.4
Editor's Choice Award

Winner

ExpressVPN

5/5

  • ProsPROS
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • No usage logs
  • Servers in 87 countries
  • “Stealth” servers in Hong Kong
  • .onion web address
  • ConsCONS
  • Connection (metadata) logs

ExpressVPN provides a world-leading VPN service. Key to this is superb customer relations, which includes a genuine, no-quibble, 30-day money-back guarantee and 24/7 live chat support. This focus on user-friendliness can also be seen in the design of ExpressVPN’s apps for Windows, Mac, iOS and Android. These are very simple to use, yet hide powerful VPN features. These include a firewall-based kill switch, DNS leak protection, and superb OpenVPN encryption.

ExpressVPN operates “stealth” servers in Hong Kong that are purpose-made for defeating the GFW. In addition to these, servers in 87 countries, including nearby locations such as Japan, Taiwan, and the US West Coast, are handy for users in China. ExpressVPN is not the cheapest service out there, but it is arguably the most polished. It even throws in a Smart DNS service for free!

Additional features: three simultaneous connections, DNS leak and WebRTC leak protection, great OpenVPN encryption with perfect forward secrecy.

Choose the best VPN for China today!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30-day money-back guarantee

2nd place

VyprVPN

4.4/5

  • ProsPROS
  • Very fast due to own infrastructure
  • Servers in over 70 countries
  • Port selection
  • “Chameleon” stealth servers
  • No usage logs
  • ConsCONS
  • Connection (metadata) logs
  • P2P: no

Thanks to owning and maintaining its entire infrastructure, VyprVPN is one of the fastest and most secure VPN services out there. Encryption is fantastic on all its plans.. For users in China, the most important of these is “Chameleon” stealth technology (premium plan only). This is specifically designed to defeat the GFW. VyprVPN also uses UDP ports in its apps to help defeat port blocking and other throttling issues.

Like ExpressVPN, VyprVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee and a free Smart DNS service for all customers. One drawback, however, is that VyprVPN does not permit torrenting.

Visit VyprVPN »


3rd place

NordVPN

4.2/5

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • Six simultaneous devices
  • Servers in 47 countries
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • Supports obfsproxy
  • ConsCONS
  • Speeds can be slow

Arguably, NordVPN’s biggest selling point is that it is based in Panama. This puts it comfortably outside the direct influence of both the NSA and copyright holders. And it backs up this privacy-friendly stance by keeping no logs at all, using great encryption, and accepting potentially anonymous payment in bitcoins. Although I have to be convinced of its utility, many also value NordVPN’s support for “double-hop” VPN chaining.

When it comes to China, NordVPN supports the obfsproxy VPN obfuscation technology. This is the same technology that Tor uses to evade censorship blocks, and should therefore be considered very robust. Unfortunately, NordVPN suffers speed issues. But fast servers exist and can be found with a little trial and error.

Additional features include P2P being permitted, and great OpenVPN encryption with perfect forward secrecy.

Visit NordVPN »


5th place

BolehVPN

4.2/5

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • “xCloak” stealth servers
  • Client with VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection
  • VPN over Tor
  • Smart DNS included
  • ConsCONS
  • Somewhat techy and bare-bones

BolehVPN keeps no logs at all. Much like AirVPN, it provides a service that emphasizes privacy and technical know-how over customer care. Its Windows and OSX software is excellent, and features a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection. Also like AirVPN, it  offers VPN through Tor for true anonymity.

On paper, this Malaysian VPN provider has now moved to the Seychelles, but in reality it remains based in Malaysia. This is no bad thing, as BolehVPN is one of East Asia’s most popular VPN providers. For users in China, it operates “xCloak” servers in Hong Kong, as well as servers on the West Coast of the US.

Additional features: P2P permitted, two simultaneous connections, free Smart DNS service, accepts bitcoins.

Visit BolehVPN »


5th place

AirVPN

3.7/5

  • ProsPROS
  • No logs at all
  • VPN through Tor
  • SSL and SSH tunneling
  • Accepts bitcoin
  • P2P: yes
  • ConsCONS
  • Very techy
  • Customer support could be better

People either love AirVPN or they hate it. On the one hand, it is probably the most privacy-focused VPN service on the market. It backs this up with some of the best VPN technology available. On the other hand, this techy focus puts many people off, and is not helped by the brusk (albeit knowledgeable) support style. This is something of a pity, because this zero logs VPN service uses first class encryption and offers an open source client with a firewall-based kill switch, DNS leak protection, port selection, and VPN through Tor (for true anonymity).

Users in China will benefit particularly from AirVPN’s support for hiding VPN connections inside an SSL or SSH tunnel. This makes it a great service for evading the GFW. It runs a server out of Hong Kong.

Additional features: real-time user and server statistics, perfect forward secrecy, three-day free trial, dynamic port forwarding, three simultaneous connections.

Visit AirVPN »

VPN for China: Considerations

5 best china

A Word or Two of Warning

The Great Firewall is the most far-reaching and sophisticated internet surveillance system in the world. This means that you should not be surprised when it works well. VPNs and other censorship-busting technologies can be very effective at evading the GFW, but this cannot ever be guaranteed.

Unrestricted internet access from within China is a game of cat-and-mouse, and sometimes the cat will win!

It is also worth noting that BestVPN.com is not based in China, and we therefore have no direct means of testing what works, let alone on any given day and at any given place! I do, however, perform ongoing research for this article, and thanks to feedback from many of our readers, I believe I have a good idea about what does and does not work “on the ground.”

However, anyone visiting China and expecting a magical pill that infallibly defeats the most far-reaching and sophisticated internet surveillance system in the world should manage their expectations. That said, the VPNs listed above do work for most users most of the time.

What is the Great Firewall of China?

Part of the Golden Shield Project, the first phase of the GFW was completed in 2006, but it has since grown in complexity and scope. It now restricts internet access into and out of mainland China to only three access points. It also employs up to 50,000 cyber-intelligence specialists to police the internet.

The GWF uses a range of technologies to “protect” Chinese citizens from content the Party deems inappropriate or dangerous for them to see. These technologies include simple IP blocks on website addresses. DNS filtering, URL filtering, packet filtering, and more are also used.

china-gfw

In addition to these, deep packet inspection techniques are used to foil attempts to bypass these blocks. If you are interested in learning about the censorship methods used by the GFW, an excellent discussion on the subject is available here.

An interesting quirk of the GFW is that it is primarily concerned with censoring access to international websites. Domestic Chinese websites and social media platforms are not really blocked by the GFW, as such.

But they are heavily monitored for signs of political dissent. And the government’s cyber-army actively works to sow propaganda, spread misinformation, and discredit opponents on domestic platforms.

But China is Really BIG!

All of which sounds very impressive, until you consider just how large a country China is. It has a population approaching 1.5 billion people (18.5% of the world’s population). In 2016, over 720 million of these were internet users (52.2% of the population). So it’s big. Very big.

What this means in practice is that no matter how advanced the GFW is, it simply cannot prevent every determined individual who tries, from circumventing it. As a consequence, websites that are blocked in one province or jurisdiction are often accessible from one next door.

In addition, many totally innocuous websites that are apparently devoid of political or otherwise objectionable content may find themselves blocked. For example, the Big Bang Theory TV show. Conversely, even widely blocked websites such as Google+ are occasionally accessible.

This patchy and highly inconsistent implementation of the GFW also applies to VPNs that work in China.

GMail Feb 2017

Despite being fairly comprehensively banned in China, Google services such as Gmail still manage to generate a fair amount of traffic!

Useful tools are available here and here that allow you to check if a particular website is banned in China.

Using a VPN for Facebook in China

Facebook is banned in China. So in order to access it, you need to use a VPN or similar anti-censorship technology. It does seem, however, that Facebook is considering censoring its content in order to get back into China in the not-too-distant future.

This certainly makes sense on a business level, as China represents a hugely lucrative and as-yet untapped market. But any such move would compromise one of Facebook’s core mission statements, “to make the world more open and connected.” It’s also generally pretty morally reprehensible.

If such a thing does come to pass (as seems likely), then you will be able to access a neutered version of Facebook in China, unhindered by the GFW. However, if you want full and uncensored access to the social media platform, then you will still need to use a VPN.

VPNs for China

Using a VPN is a great way to evade government censorship. Unfortunately, the Chinese government knows this. It therefore takes steps to block access to both VPN-related websites, and internet traffic encrypted using VPN protocols.

Good news, however, is that many VPN services implement special measures in order to ensure they work in China. Please see my How to Bypass VPN Blocks guide for an in-depth discussion on these. The provider descriptions above also include notes on how each provider listed evades being blocked.

VyprVPN Chameleon

VyprVPN’s “Chameleon” is specifically designed to defeat the kind of censorship used by China.

AirVPN SSH SSL tunels

AirVPN allows you to hide VPN connections inside an SSL or SSH tunnel. This is a highly effective tactic.

Your life will be made much easier if you sign up for a VPN service and install its software before travelling to China. This is because, although many VPN services work fine in China (at least most of the time!), access to their websites is often blocked.

Note that free VPNs for China are very unlikely to work, as putting anti-censorship technologies in place is an expensive business for VPN providers.

Other Ways to Defeat the GFW

In How to Bypass VPN Blocks I discuss other technologies that can be used to evade internet censorship in China. At the very least, these methods can be used to access VPN providers’ websites, allowing you to sign up and download their software from within China.

Honorable mention, in particular, goes to Shadowsocks (影梭), “an open-source proxy application, widely used in mainland China to circumvent Internet censorship.” Tor with the obfsproxy pluggable transport can also be very effective.

Blocked in China not

BestVPN.com is itself blocked in China. So we’ve set up an alternative URL that isn’t blocked. Yay!

Another tactic that works well is to run your own VPN server. This can be done either with a VPS or on a computer left running at home while you visit China. Please see the comments section of this article for notes from Manuel and PLiang on how they have got such setups working for them.

China VPN Servers

Somewhat surprisingly in my view, given that VPNs are banned in China, some VPN providers do offer VPN servers located inside the Chinese mainland. Please see VPN into China – Get a China IP Address for more information.

As discussed at the beginning of this article, however, China is cracking down on VPNs and other “private communication” services that operate within the country. So I would imagine that accessing a Chinese IP via VPN will become increasingly difficult from now on.

Best Chinese VPN Services: Conclusion

Despite some hubbub in the press recently, international VPNs for China are largely unaffected by the country’s recent crackdown on private communications. Indeed, they remain arguably the very best way to defeat the Great Firewall’s censorship systems. Just remember that a little trial, effort, and patience are all part of the game.

VPN Services for China: Summary

    • Provider
    • Price
    • Features
    • Our Score
    • Visit Site
    • 1
    • ExpressVPN LogoExpressVPN
      10/10
    • $8.32
      PER MONTH
    • 30 day Money-back Guarantee!
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 87 countries
      24/7 Live Support
      Connect up to 3 Devices
    • 10
    • 2
    • VyprVPN LogoVyprVPN
      8.8/10
    • $6.67
      PER MONTH
    • 30 day Money-back Guarantee!
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 70 countries
      24/7 Live Support
      Connect up to 3 Devices
    • 8.8
    • 3
    • NordVPN LogoNordVPN
      8.4/10
    • $5.75
      PER MONTH
    • 30 day Money-back Guarantee!
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 54 countries
      Ticket Support
      Connect up to 6 Devices
    • 8.4
    • 4
    • BolehVPN LogoBolehVPN
      8.4/10
    • $6.67
      PER MONTH
    • Hides your geolocation.
      Makes your Internet use more private.
      Encrypts your online data.
      Works on multiple OS platforms.
      Helps you stream media.
    • 8.4
    • 5
    • AirVPN LogoAirVPN
      7.4/10
    • $4.82
      PER MONTH
    • 3 day free trial (on request)
      Unlimited downloading and streaming!
      Servers in 15 countries
      Support Ticket and Forum
      Connect 3 devices
    • 7.4

Image credit: Jose Gil/Shutterstock.com


Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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106 responses to “5 Best VPNs for China in 2017

  1. VyprVPN is checking you by its own security check after you signed in. According to my friend who signed up recently got blocked the account because VyprVPN said that she couldn’t pass their security check. So beware!

    1. Hi Douglas,

      My friend said that she signed up, then the next day got block. After a few emails, VyprVPN said they couldn’t provide service to her because she didn’t pass security check. She was very surprised and then asked for explaining, then here was the reply from VyprVPN: ” As explained previously, your account did not pass our security checks. As such, we are not able to offer you service. We are not obligated to give out any details regarding our security checks.”.

      Now she is waiting for the refund, and also she has signed up for another VPN provider now.

    1. Hi Elle,

      Astrill was on this for quite a while, but I removed it following many complaints about the service.

    1. Hi Guy,

      Wow! That is not good news. Thanks for the link – expect an article on the subject soon.

  2. New configuration for OPEN VPN 2.4 for china (still not tested, but now TLS handshake is encrypted)

    Interface Type TUN
    Protocol: UDP
    Server Port: 443
    Firewall: Auto
    Authorization Mode: TLS
    Username/Password Authentication: Yes
    Username / Password Auth. Only: No
    TLS control channel security: Encrypt channel
    Auth digest ecdsa-with-SHA1
    VPN Subnet / Netmask 10.8.0.0 255.255.255.0
    Poll Interval 0 minute(s)
    Push LAN to clients Yes
    Direct clients to redirect Internet traffic Yes
    Respond to DNS Yes
    Advertise DNS to clients Yes
    Cipher Negotiation: Enable (with fallback)
    Negotiable ciphers AES-128-GCM:AES-128-CBC
    Legacy/fallback cipher AES-128-CBC
    Compression: Disable
    TLS Renegotiation Time -1 seconds
    Global Log verbosity 3
    Manage Client-Specific Options No

      1. Hi Dennis,

        All prices quoted in this article are indeed in $ USD because this is the currency quoted in by most international VPN providers.

  3. Surprised to not see Astrill on the top 5 list. I have been using them for 18 months now starting with a free trial and never had an issue with their speed or reliability. Must update this one huh…

  4. I’m now not certain where you’re getting your information, however great topic. I must spend a while studying more or understanding more. Thanks for magnificent information I was on the lookout for this information for my mission.

  5. As a businessman who’s dependent on China, I think Astrill works for me best. I mean, yeah, it did have a problem before but I was treated fairly by the company. My issue took a few days to be resolved but their customer support kept in touch with me and gave me updates from time to time regarding my problem; hence, I stick to using it despite the problem.

    1. Hi peppermint79,

      Thanks for the feedback. I removed Astrill from this list due the the high number of complaints we received about the service. I will continue to monitor the situation, however.

    1. Hi Guy,

      This is indeed an interesting development – how it’s implemented technically will eventually determine what impact it has. We’re currently reaching out to some VPN providers to ascertain their take on it and will produce a news item on this in due course.

      Best wishes,

      Ben

  6. I just Bought “PURE VPN -LIFETIME SUBSCRIPTION” for 436 Yuan. It is working well on iOS as well as in my Laptop. I checked the DNS LEAK etc. Its pretty fast and the offer lasts only for 4 more days.

  7. Official site of express vpn is still access in China. Don’t you think this is suspicious? China has blocked so many sites except world largest vpn service, and express will store customers’ visit log in server. What I guess is that express is selling customer privacy to CCP, help government of China to take control of China people.

  8. Do you have a NAS? I have Synology NAS (not in China) that has a VPN function. I have the VPN (PPTP, L2TP, OpenVPN) setup on my phone and pads. When I travel to China, and I often do, I use my own VPN. And it works most of the time, at least one of them.

    If you have notebook you might look into Tor and ‘Pluggable Transport’, specially the MEEK protocol.

    1. Hi Spy004,

      Thanks for those tips! In How to Bypass VPN Blocks (linked to in this article) I discuss the obfsproxy pluggable transport. I will look to the MEEK protocol. I also mention that running your own VPN server from a router or PC is a good option. I don’t have a NAS, and tbh was unaware that they can also be used as VPN servers. Thanks for letting me know about this.

  9. I suggest to those who has their relations/family members across a internet firewall to try REMOTE CONTROLLED DEVICES.
    As it is a FREE solution and under the condition that you and your partner has access to internet, this solution is really the best one and legal.

    1) Get a PC which the owner can switch it on and connect to internet when you need, the best one is your partner, family or good friends.
    *Come on! you want access to other country’s network, make a friend there first, it’s time to use your social network to expand you internet network!

    2) Here, I suggest a free version ‘team-viewer’, install it in his computer and your computer(It is better and the speed is faster if you have already the license). His pc now is a device to be controlled and your pc is a remote controller.
    *Not necessary a pc, team-viewer is now available for ios, android etc…
    *There are other software for Remote control u can find on google if you want try more.

    3)Then, you can remote control his pc from wherever your are using your computer, while remote controlling his pc, you can visit all sites that available in his country but forbidden in your country.
    *I think this is the purpose of most people asking for VPN.
    *Then, “you help me, I help you!” you can also provide a pc for him if he needs to visit google from his country, China for example.
    **this solution allows you to watch movie that is not available in your country too.
    **The VLC Media Player also allows you to stream movie in remote condition.

    Note/precaution:
    -Whoever you with, make sure you can trust him to protect your privacy.
    -When you remote controlling the pc, the owner can see what are you doing, so this solution don’t work if you really need privacy. Sorry to those who living in country where porn site are blocked…
    -The remote control provider are ‘middle person’ who may reveal all your activity. Don’t use this solution to log in your important/privacy account or bank account.
    -You can leave a pc at home and also someone stays and help you to establish the remote control connection before you go to China. So you can log in your facebook just like you logging in at home. The SPEED is depending on the download speed of your internet in China and the upload speed of the internet at your home.

    1. Hi PLiang,

      Indeed. Running your own VPN server (or having a freind/family member run a VPN server in another country can be a great way to evade GFW censorship (see Manuel’s comments below). Using TeamViewer5 one option for this, as is using Hamachi + Privoxy. If you don’t have any reliable friends/family to do this for you, you can rent a VPS and run a VPN instance on that instead.

    1. Hi Guy,

      Thanks for the link. That is rather worrying. To date, I understand that no-one has got into trouble for simply using a VPN to evade the GFW. This report relates to the opinion a single police chief in Xinjiang province (an area in which terrorist incidences are an issue), so hopefully it does not presage a wider crack-down on VPNs and other privacy tools users’.

  10. Even a PPTP is working.

    Settings:

    Authentication MS-CHAPv2
    MPPE Encryption MPPE-128
    Connect to DNS Server automatically Yes
    Connect to WINS Server automatically Yes
    MRU 1450
    MTU 1450

    Netflix can be seen in HD (arround 2Mb/s traffic).

    Facebook, Google, Play Store, all working perfectly with both type of VPN.

    1. Hi Manuel,

      Running your own VPN server definitely seems a good way to evade the GFW. I will add this info next time I update this article.

  11. My personal OpenVPN server from Portugal (in an ASUS RT AC 56U) is working fine, without XOR encryption.

    Interface Type TUN
    Protocol UDP
    Server Port 443
    Firewall Auto
    Authorization Mode TLS
    Username/Password Authentication Yes
    Username / Password Auth. Only No
    Extra HMAC authorization Bi directional
    Auth digest ecdsa-with-SHA1
    Poll Interval 0
    Push LAN to clients Yes
    Direct clients to redirect Internet traffic Yes
    Respond to DNS Yes
    Advertise DNS to clients Yes
    Encryption cipher AES 128
    Compression Disabled
    TLS Renegotiation Time -1

  12. I returned from a Southern China trip on 14 Oct 2016. I tested and can confirm that all of the VPN services listed here are useless in China. I was operating from a China Unicom 4G LTE Wifi connection and running various International Internet speed tests on all VPN connections I could make. I couldn’t even get VPN connection on any of the 5 listed services. The best performing VPN that I had no problem streaming video, youtube, google / googlemaps, etc was IBVPN. I could get stable permanent connection with downloads up to 26mbs and uploads to 34mbs (verage speeds about 10mbs DL, 8mbs UL) while connected to a large range of IBVPN servers worldwide. I was able to watch AU, US and UK TV, Netflix, peer to peer downloads, get and send gmail, etc..
    I don’t know who is giving you data that the listed VPN services work going out of China but they where all blocked between 8 Oct to 14 Oct 2016. You should get your China based techs to try a larger range of services as your current list sucks and gets people to buy a service that they will regret and have to cancel. I travel to China 5-6 times a year and have found IBVPN to be the fastest, most reliable service that has stood the test of time against the Chinese fire-walling (no problems encountered within China over past ~2yrs).

    1. Hi Colin,

      Thank you for the feedback. We always value “on the ground” reports from China as I’m afraid BestVPN.com does not have “China based techs.” That said, we receive regular reports that the services listed above do work in China…

      1. I’ve tried several of the ‘major’ services. They all suck on a reliable basis. How much they suck is variable. I’ve spent hours dealing with customer service for various companies, including your top pick, ExpressVPN. Yes, when it works well enough to connect (which is not always), I can ‘access’ blocked websites, but the connection speed is absolutely abysmal. I have a 150 Mbps fibre optic connection from China Telecom. Not connected to any VPN, I regularly get speed test results of around 109 Mbps. Sometimes they throttle, but I’ve yet to clock anything under 30 Mbps (download), and even that was when using a wifi connection. When I connect to a VPN, I’m *lucky* if I can get between 1.5-2.5 Mbps download speeds, and the upper end of that range is a rarity. Recently, it’s usually been hovering in the 0.3-0.8 Mbps download speed range. You need at least 1.5 Mbps for Netflix to work with low quality, and Netflix is the only reason I’m using Express at all, since it’s one of the most expensive options. The rest of the time, I use PureVPN, which isn’t any faster or more reliable (both have times where they won’t connect at all, or take forever to do so), but at least it’s a hell of a lot cheaper. I really need to find a better way to do this, because right now even thinking about trying to stream even a 30s video on Facebook makes me want to gouge out my eyes. Some of the comments here and some of the other information found on this site, but not on this page, seem to indicate that running a VPS can yield better results. At the office where I work, they have a proxy server I can use, and there, albeit with some delays and buffering, I can usually at least stream videos, sometimes even in HD, so I’m very curious about options for doing that outside of work.

        When you say that you have people on the ground giving your reports that these services are working, make sure you check for more details. A lot of people who say things like that don’t run speed tests and aren’t giving you good data, I think. There’s a big difference between being able to use twitter and waiting five minutes for a page with images to load, or having a 2 minute video take 20 minutes to watch. I’ve asked people who brag on other sites about a VPN service that they say is “blazingly fast,” to actually run a speed test and tell me how fast it is–usually what they are calling ‘blazingly fast’ is around 1 Mbps download.

        I would kill just to have 3-4 Mbps download reliably, let alone 10-15, which would still only be a 10th of what I pay for each month.

        1. Hi Micheal,

          At the end of the day, BestVPN.com is VPN review and comparison website. So naturally we concentrate on comparing commercial VPN services. That said, when I next update this article (which will be soon) I will flag up the VPS/run your own server option. I do try to check facts as much as possible, but when it comes to VPN use in China, facts are not only thin on the ground, but are also very inconsistent.

    2. I do confirm that VPNExpress works in Shanghai. However, like all VPNs, they are bound to get too “famous” in the expat community and the government works harder to get the server down. I use a VPN not listed above and it works 350 days a year. On special anniversary, which were the case for the long march recently, VPN can be out for one or two days. The longest I experienced was a black out of 2 weeks for the 60 years anniversary of the CPP.

  13. Astrill customer service is crap!

    I actually been using them for 2 years… but looking for a new VPN because:

    – They do not have 24hr service anymore. Sometimes they open, sometimes they are not
    – There was a time my friend could not use Astrill for about 5 days I set it up, so I requested a refund before the 7 days, but they did not reply to my request till the 7 day passed, and stated they cant refund me because it passed 7 days. WTF?
    – Their customer service email replies have been as long as 1 week, and they did not resolve the problem. I kept telling me the solution has not been resolved, and they just closed the case.
    – I referred a user, and did not get the credit. I contacted their customer service, and they said they can not “manually” provide this, but my friend used the refer link I provided! I’m also 100% sure this link was used since I set it up for her.
    – Iphone has a hard time using Astrill. Almost impossible even contacting them about this problem, and when I contacted them, they would give me a general answer which didnt resolve the problem.

    Astril lost a loyal customer that referred many friends… no more!

    1. Hi Manuscope,

      As you can see, based on readers’ feedback, we have removed Astrill from our recommended list this month.

  14. I am in China and I find this list highly questionable. ExpressVPN used to be good but recently they removed the Hong Kong 3 server which is the only good server for users in China. You need to re-evaluate this page, I don’t think ExpressVPN should be rated #1 anymore. I also tried NordVPN and it’s total garbage, it shouldn’t even be on this list. Have you actually tested these VPNs from China?

    1. Hi Brian
      Yes, we have tested and continually test the VPN providers that we list. As I’m sure you’re aware the GFW and VPNs themselves are constantly changing so they might not always work. Hence we always provide 5 as it’s unlikely that none of these will work for you.

    2. Hi Brian,

      I update this article every month, and usually include a disclaimer that BestVPN is not based in China, and we therefore have no way to test VPNs from there directly. We must rely on readers’ feedback and other online sources (such as reddit discussions) in order to make our recommendations. That said, feedback is usually positive about our recommendations. Given the extremely patchy nature of GFW effectiveness (as discussed in this article), providing a definitive list that matches everyone’s on-the-ground experiences is all but impossible (even if we could test all services directly ourselves).

  15. Please stay away from ASTRILL. They only care about customers who sign up or those thinking of renewing. From experience, they basically stole from their customers by providing little or no service. Instead of being apologetic or compensating for the loss of service, they blamed their valued customers for spreading news about ASTRILL through social media. The next day they apologized for their tactless comments due to a huge backlash from customers (you can confirm this with other subscribers from Oct 2015 – July 2016). I was a subscriber of ASTRILL for two years in China.

  16. It’s a little disappointing to see that Astrill is included in your top 5 VPNs in China list. I have been using this VPN for the last year but in February it went downhill in a big way. Due to political meetings it was shut down for over month, during which time Astrill shut off live chat for support. Eventually, StealthVPN (which you must pay for) came back online but Astrill didn’t offer apology of discount for it’s substandard service. Maybe OpenVPN (the free protocol) is back online, but if so it took them much longer to get up and running.

    Additionally, their support department is curt and unhelpful. Once I asked if there was a newsletter or something to subscribe to check about service outages. They told me to check Facebook. I reminded them I was in China. They did not answer. The service is slow and the answers copied and pasted.

    Thirdly, to add insult to injury, the majority of their servers have been blacklisted by Netflix :'(

    So, please consider taking Astrill off your top 5 list. It no longer deserves the spot. There are very few things to recommend it.

    1. Hi Sara,

      As I clearly state in this article, I am not a big fan of Astrill in general. I have included it on this list, however, thanks to numerous reports that in works well in China. I am monitoring the situation, and if I receive more negative feedback will remove it from this list. If any other readers out there would like to share their experiences with the company (or any other VPN service, for that matter), that would be helpful.

  17. I have tried Express VPN for almost a year on the 1-year subscription. The experience had been very smooth until they took the Hong Kong 3 away. At first, I was wondering what’s going on, as every Express VPN user knows that Hong Kong 3 is the best and the fastest location to connect. So I went to talk to the customer support and he somehow tried to beat around the bush, saying that the team has no control over this matter.

    Luckily, I still have my company’s corporate account to try on. I logged in using one of my corporate accounts and found out that the Hong Kong 3 is still there! So I went back to him and asked what really happened. Surprisingly, he still keeps saying the same thing. I was kinda upset so I told him about how I would let my subscription end (which is about next month) without extending it because there’s no point to continue using it when I can’t use it like the way I used to.

    Maybe it’s because 1 month that I have left came from recommending my company – for free. So they don’t think I deserve to use the best? Who knows. Anyone experience the same situation, please let me know and for those who are considering about buying this VPN to use in China, please take my comment into your consideration too.

  18. I am living in china and had use expressvpn before. I stop my subscribtion once the 6 months period was up. With the expensive price, the quality, speed and connection provided was very poor. Its a waste of money and time. Please be aware that once u signed up, your account is automatically renew once your subscription expired. You have to manually set your account to “off automatic renewal” if not expressvpn will keep charging u. This is somewhat like a scam. Considering others much cheaper vpn available in the market with much better performance, especially those VPN that had been established for many years i.e. Witopia and etc, do not even consider expressvpn. In addition, expressvpn spend lots of money on advertising in the internet to get more new customers but neglect their service. Dont believe what u read in the internet as many webpage, bloggers are paid by some vpn companies like advertisement to write good review.

    1. Hi Derrick,

      Thank you for the feedback. I’ll just note that BestVPN receives affiliate payments for referrals, but as we have an affiliate relationship with just about every VPN provider out there, this does not influence our recommendations.

  19. Astrill does NOT have a free 7 day trial if you are in China.

    Amy 15:26:54
    Hello, hope you are fine.
    We do not offer free trials in China

    This is exact words from Tech support

  20. I don’t know why Vypr VPN is listed as a good one.

    I started using Vypr a few months ago, and I can not say it’s a good VPN. It often can not connect, sometimes even if it’s connected, all traffic is not working. Connections tend to drop often as well. All in all, besides it’s nice and polished app, I didn’t experience a good VPN service in China (but also in Hong Kong and Vietnam when I was using it there).

    All in all, either Vypr improves their service or please move it from the place it doesn’t deserve. At the moment, I just think that Vypr offers an excellent affiliate package, and this is why reviewers rank it high.

    I had to get another VPN in order to have a VPN solution, so I must combine Vypr with another service.

    1. Hi Nick,

      Please note that none of the BestVPN team is based anywhere near China, so we must rely on readers’ reports and research when making these recommendations. From what we have been able to gather, VyprVPN’s “chameleon” stealth technology is quite effective in China, but we are unable to test this ourselves. It is also worth remembering that the GFW is very patchy and inconsistent, so experiences can vary considerably (and sometimes it actually does its job quite well!).

      1. Dear authors, are you getting paid by Goldenfrog to promote their offensively horrible so-called “service” VyprVPN? Constant issues and troubles, the Chameleon technology is obviously a scam, a dial-up speed trash. I cannot even connect on my phone, and on PC it takes forever to connect and disconnect. Avoid like plague and do your research elsewhere, do not trust these assessments.

        1. Hi John,

          BestVPN receives affiliate payments from VPN companies that we recommend, but as just about every VPN company runs an affiliate program, it doesn’t really matter to us which one readers choose (or affect our recommendations). It is also worth noting that even when VPN companies do not offer affiliate programs (such as AirVPN), we recommend them anyway, based on their merits. BestVPN is not based in China, so we cannot test performance there ourselves. We therefore rely on feedback from our readers. I have used VyprVPN from the UK, however, and found it a fast and polished service (although I am none too keen on its logging policy). With regards to China, please remember that the GFW is actively trying to block VPN connections, and that sometimes it can be quite good at this.

  21. ASTRILL : don’t use it !!!!! Dear all. Sorry but Astrill was not working / blocked by China firewall during 8 months this year from Jan to July. And it is still not working on PC. No apologize from them, no rebate, no answer to my emails. An many expats / friends had same issue so I strongly suspect the “positive” constribution

    1. Hi Vincent,

      I have recommended Astrill on the basis of readers’ recommendations. Thanks for the input. I am monitoring feedback, and may well change my recommendations if I receive more comments like yours.

  22. “– But surely use of TCP/IP for tests reflects real-world usage?”

    Not exactly. Network traffic operates as burst of packets and not as a steady stream. That is why when network drivers transmit data, they transmit it in size <=MTU (maximum transfer unit). Typically this MTU is 1500 bytes or less depending on how you connect to Internet. TCP/IP treats data as a virtual stream and the programmer has no control over how the packets are transmitted or retried. Furthermore network conditions, loading and routing are all dynamic. They keep changing and are not constant.

    Video streaming is a real life application. As long as your burst speed is high enough you are able to watch smooth video. Your sustained speed can be variable and may even be subjected to ISP throttling. A constant high sustained speed is not necessary for smooth streaming, high burst speed is all what you need.

    1. Hi expat,

      But that is what buffering is for – to “store” any excess packets you receive in order to deliver a smooth streaming experience.

  23. TCP/IP is not the best way to test network speed. TCP/IP is sensitive to packet loss and will slowdown if there is any packet loss. TCP/IP is a slow starter and if it backs off due to packet loss, regaining speed is slow too. Averaging such results is not accurate. SO in summary TCP/IP based test are OK if there are no packet losses, otherwise not.

    1. Hi expat,

      But TCP/IP is slower than UDP because it performs error correction for lost packets – it waits for confirmation that the packet has arrived before re-sending the packet (if no confirmation is received), or sending the next packet (if confirmation is received). UDP does not bother to do this, and so is faster but less reliable. Personally, I would say that TCP/IP tests, which average the time to receive to receive all packets, are preferable to UDP tests where there is net packet loss.

      1. Hello Douglas,

        Since you mentioned UDP, here is what UDP can measure and TCP/IP can never measure.

        Packet loss
        Jitter
        Out of order packets

        Since TCP/IP and UDP/IP can both measure bandwidth but UDP offers more information than TCP/IP. I would say the bandwidth test should have both TCP/IP and UDP/IP not just one of them. That is why a TCP/IP only bandwidth test is incomplete.

        BTW TCP/IP ACK is far more complicated than what most people think it is. First of all TCP/IP does not ACK packets, it ACKs segment offsets and secondly TCP/IP uses the concept of sliding windows so the transmission is not just one packet but multiple packets. A packet by packet ACK would simply flood the entire Internet with ACKS 🙂

        1. Hi expat,

          I agree that a dual TCP and UDP test would be ideal. I still think, however, that a test measuring average TCP performance is the most reliable indicator of rw results.

  24. Hello man, thanks for the publication. I have a question if you access to chinese browsers such as Baidu, you first need to turn off your VPN server to avoid any kind of issues?

    1. Hi Fong,

      I can’t read Mandarin, but I did just access the Baidu website when connected to my VPN (AirVPN), and it appears to work without any issues.

    2. Thanks to GeoIP blocking many local websites will block you when you are using located in another company. Most people use VPN to access block contents (blocked by ISP or the country that serves the contents). The problem is that they get blocked by several domestic websites when connected to VPN. Even if they don’t get blocked, the domestic website access will be very slow because of VPN. The solution is split routing. i.e. Route domestic traffic directly using ISP and the rest or some of the traffic via VPN. Here is a demonstration video on how split routing works.

      https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2BaHViaWNdQ

      1. Hi expat,

        Since you have engaged with me on this subject, I will let this one through. Please note, however, that I usually moderate advertising on this website’s comments sections. If you want to advertise on BestVPN, I will be happy to put you into contact with our sales team.

  25. HI guys,

    Moving to China (Shanghai) in November 2016, so really appreciate this post!
    Just one question : will these VPN tools allow us to use videostreaming as Netflix and AmazonPrime, or is the speed not sufficient ?
    I only ask this because i’ve noticed in the past (even in Europe)streaming might suffer a lot from using a vpn tool.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Bjorn,

      Using a VPN will slow down your internet connection, and the further away the resource you connect to, the slower your internet will be (the quality of the VPN service is also a factor). Here in the UK with a 50 MB/s internet connection I can stream HD Netflix content from the US using a VPN without any buffering issues. The speed of your internet connection in Shanghai will therefore be the determining factor in how well you can watch video streaming services (although it should go without saying that connecting to West Coast US servers and US services will be faster than to ones in Europe).

      1. What Doug is saying is correct, but not in China. China is the bizarro world where even a 200 Mbps Internet will be slowed down to a crawling 200 Kbps as soon as you leave its Internet boundaries. I have seen it with my own eyes. You will believe it when you see it 🙂 Have a safe trip.

      2. Douglas, accessing Netflix in China is pretty hit and miss. Overall I could use it almost anytime but it took work and patience. One day one server would work, then another day another server would work better. Often my stream would stop after a bit and need to buffer for a few minutes, often I would have to start the process of looking for another server in the middle of a show. Once in a while, I simply could not get an adequate stream at all, but as I said, usually I could, but it would take up to half an hour or more of fiddling, other times I could get it on the first try.

        The Great Firewall is different in different parts of China and what works great in Guangzhou may not work in Beijing and visa versa and the next day (or 5 minutes later) nothing (or everything) can work. The long and short of it is, you will not find one VPN service for China that is a be all and end all. No matter what service you go with you will have issues, the key seems to be finding a service that you can fiddle with enough (such as switching servers, using different protocols etc.) that you will eventually find the right combination that works for whatever city you are in for that day. It is largely a matter of trial and error and learning the tricks and learning what servers generally work from where you are and even what time of day. Yes, it is a real pain in the butt, but in the end if you put in the effort, you can usually get out and you can usually stream things like Netflix, but not always.

        When I am back home I would never go through all that much hassle to watch Netflix, but when I am in China and desperate to watch English TV, I am usually willing (but with much frustration and annoyance) to put in the extra effort.

        I used ExpressVPN mostly while in Mainland China and I would never recommend it as it is anything but reliable and seamless in China and often the connection speeds are deplorable and I often have spend well over 1/2 an hour, or more trying to find a server that had enough speed to do anything, much less Netflix. For the premium price they charge it should be better. The reality is though, I could get it to work almost all of the time, with patience, which is better than most, so therefore I would recommend it, but not for the faint hearted.

        Beware though, the best way for someone to navigate China if you read only English is still Google maps, really it is almost the only realistic option. However standing on a corner when you are lost taking 5-20 minutes fiddling with trying to get a good VPN connection so you can use Google maps, in the rain, is annoying but it is a reality. In the end, cabs are cheap, keep the address of somewhere you know, or where you are going written down in Chinese in your wallet, and be prepared to flag down a taxi and hand him the paper.

        ExpressVPN does have fairly good customer support, but in the end they can only get you started and often give the same old canned answers, but they can at least help those who are new to the Great Firewall jungle and VPN’s and point you in the right direction.

        In the end, my biggest beef with ExpressVPN was them not having a family plan. The price is high already high for a product that is far from seamless and needing to pay the same high price for both my wife and I with no discount is a bit much. I wish I could honestly say don’t use them since it far from works perfectly but from my experiences and the experiences of many of my friends, again, there is no VPN service in China that is 100% (or 90% or 80% or 70% or…)

        In the end, learn Mandarin or Cantonese, and use Chinese websites and watch Chinese TV. In the end, this might just be easier than finding a completely reliable VPN for China. (I say that tongue in cheek, but just barely)

        To summarize, there is no 5 out of 5 star VPN for China, the most you will get is 2 or 3 stars out of 5 and only then because you can get some of them to work, most of the time if you have the patience.

        Also remember, different VPN’s work differently in different parts of China. The Great Firewall is not the same in all parts of China! If you are going there for a short time sign up before you go with a trial service or pay for a month and once you get there, ask other expats, in the area you will be in, what is working for them and what they use it for and compare it with your needs. If you are lucky enough to know expats in the area already, ask them before you go.

        China is one of the most amazing and beautiful countries in the world. At first it can be daunting, but get out and have fun and adventure. Learn at least a few words of Mandarin and go exploring, shopping, traveling etc. It might take a few minutes but usually you can find someone who knows English at least enough to help you find where you are going if your VPN simply is not cooperating. Charades is an invaluable tool to pick up before you leave! For the most part, body language is universal. The Chinese people are some of the most friendly people to foreigners I have ever met. Be warned though, if you ask directions from a Chinese person, whatever they tell you, do the opposite. I don’t understand, but it usually works.

        1. Hi Fireeater,

          Thanks for that “on-the-ground) information.

          “The Great Firewall is different in different parts of China and what works great in Guangzhou may not work in Beijing and visa versa and the next day (or 5 minutes later) nothing (or everything) can work. The long and short of it is, you will not find one VPN service for China that is a be all and end all.”

          This is pretty much what I understand about the VPN situation in China, and is what I have tried to convey in this article.

          “Charades is an invaluable tool to pick up before you leave!”

          I am failing my Google-fu! Can you tell us more about this tool?

  26. VPN is not really illegal in China. Its used by many offices in China locally and globally for secure data exchange. Its never the intent of Chinese ISPs to completely block the VPN. If they wanted too its not that hard to accomplish. Chinese ISPs throttle international traffic, but there are ways around it. The International data throttling of GFW has flaws because of its complexity. A VPN can never work consistently all over China unless it can tackle the throttling. if a ground is littered with shattered glass would you be able to run bare footed? Obviously not. Similarly without dealing with the throttling a VPN can never attain high speed and sustain it. That is why Anti-Throttling technology combined with VPN is good news for many expats who otherwise were unable to watch even a 360p video without stop starting.

    1. Hi expat,

      Thanks for that explanation. With reference to VPN Turbo boost that you recommend – how does this service work? Does it, for example, hide VPN traffic inside an SSH tunnel?

      1. Anti-Throttling technology is the new game changer in China and perhaps other such countries using similar throttling technology as China. Its got nothing to do with SSH tunnels which is a known technology and is susceptible to ISP throttling like any other network traffic. I am sure every VPN company on the planet wants to get their hands on this technology. Unfortunately its not something that is available by googling and the inventing company is not going to give out the technical details for obvious reasons. Since no other VPN company offers Anti-Throttling except one it won’t be long before Chinese VPN user interested in sustainable VPN speed will migrate to the company that offers this technology.

          1. Its not so much about opensource, its about invention. Don’t you think inventors are entitled to benefit financially from their inventions? If the technology is given out freely, every VPN company will simply copy it and the inventor gets nothing for all their research and hard work. Of course nobody is stopping the other VPN companies from inventing. If one company can invent VPN Anti-Throttling, so can they 🙂

          2. Hi expat,

            There is an ongoing conversation about this subject within the security world. I think a viable compromise solution is to copyright the technology but make the code source -available so that it can be independently audited (should anyone qualified have the time and/or inclination to do so). At the very least, respected independent auditors can be hired to ok the code (this is the route ProtonMail took initially, although it has now open-sourced its entire project).

  27. My daughter lives in china
    Looking for a vpn for iphone 5 which i can install in india and send the phone to her.
    She is student so would like to know about a free vpn!

    1. Hi Rajeev,

      Please also check out 5 Best VPNs for iOS. I would suggest ExpressVPN (connecting to its Hong Kong “stealth” servers) as a good paid-for option. For a free option that reportedly works well, then Shadowsocks may be be your best route. I hope to review this in the near future.

  28. A good thorough review of a few VPNs.

    I would like to add my experience with one of the listed VPNs i.e. Astrill.
    I have been using it since 2012 and I found it pretty much good rather than other VPNs like Express or VyprVPN.
    When Chinese government cracks down against VPNs then all of them get down for some time or some days but they, again, get in working after taking some maintenance time.

    I won’t ask anyone to buy Astrill straight away. I must recommend all to use their trial first and decide on your own!
    For me Astrill is best!

    1. Hi Sadaf,

      Thanks for the input. It is precisely because our readers have recommended Astril so often for China that we now include it on this list.

    1. Hi expat,

      Well, for a start, speedtest.net does not produce reliable results when using OpenVPN. This is because the Flash based speedtest.net tool does not account for LZO compression, which is built into the OpenVPN protocol. For a discussion on this, please see /blog/10562/testing-vpn-speeds-an-overview/. Inconsistent results is also a big issue, which is why BestVPN has changed the way in which we publish out test results. Please see Why we’re changing our VPN Review speed tests for more details.

        1. Hi Expat,

          Hmm. Interesting. As far as I know, however, VPNs are banned, not throttled, in mainland China. This technology seems aimed at circumventing throttling by ISPs, so I am unclear how this works with regards to VPNs…

          1. Hello Douglas,

            VPN is part of network traffic and is subjected to throttling like any other network traffic.

            Have you experienced the peak hour VPN slowdown? China Telecom is especially famous for this. It’s throttling. VPN or no VPN, as soon as you go International you will be throttled by China Telecom and other ISPs.

            If you really want to see throttling in action then download a large file like 1 GB from US/UK etc. using China Telecom and your favorite VPN. The speed will take off initially then it will go down after 5 or 10 seconds. They never let you sustain high speed for long duration to any international IP.

            Here is the download link to 1GB file from the video. Try it yourself.

            http://download.thinkbroadband.com/1GB.zip

            I think the download link doesn’t even work without a VPN.

          2. Hi expat,

            Sure – I know that ISPs can throttle VPN traffic. Given that use of VPNs are banned in China, however, it just seems a little odd to me that Chinese ISPs would throttle traffic they detect as being VPN traffic, rather than blocking it. I can’t do the test myself, as I am not based in China, but I do believe you (the GFW is very wiggy). As I say, it just seems rather odd.

        1. Hi expat,

          True, and if LZO compression is turned off then speedtest.net results will be more accurate (if still Flash-based). Testmy.net uses pre-compressed test files, which will give more accurate results for most users (and is HTML5 based).

          1. Sure. However tesmy.net has many problems too.

            1. Lack of servers. This is especially troublesome when you are trying to test a VPN in CA and testmy.net is located in Dallas. The accuracy of such a test is questionable too.

            2. Use of TCP/IP. At the end all websites use TCP/IP as their transport and its not the best way to test network speed especially for lossy lines with high ping. The accuracy of the test becomes questionable.

            3. Chinese ISP throttle and they throttle a lot when it comes to international traffic. Because of this throttling its near impossible to maintain a steady stream. Most of these website are not designed to take throttling into account. A large transfer of data/file will take longer time. The longer the duration the higher the chances of getting throttled.

          2. Hi expat.

            – Nothing is perfect, and there are always many variables in play. This is why we perform multiple speed tests when assessing VPN services’ performance. As far as I am aware, though, Testmy.net produces among the most accurate results available.
            – But surely use of TCP/IP for tests reflects real-world usage?

            – I do not doubt that that Chinese ISPs throttle international traffic.

  29. I just came back from a 3 week business trip in China. I have been using Astrill for a while, but I will let my subscription expire because the service was very poor in China. It only worked about 50% of the time. I was very disappointed.

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