Update May 2018: As many of you know, China has already cracked down on VPNs in 2017 after doing so multiple times over the past couple years. Not only that, but the Chinese government has been threatening to ban all non-state sanctioned VPNs by March 31, 2018. Obviously, that hasn’t happened (I’m using a VPN to write this). So what’s the deal? Do the best VPNs for China still work? As an expat who has spent over a decade in China and still lives here, I’d like to offer my thoughts and recommendations.
Sadly, FarWestChina has been unreliably accessible here in China since 2009, blocked by the “Great Firewall” (i.e. China’s censorship). I have no idea why it was blocked – other than the fact that I’m talking about Xinjiang, one of the most sensitive regions in China – and there’s nothing I can do to unblock the site. Trust me, I’ve tried everything short of knocking on a government official’s door.
The only way I’ve been able to work on this site from my home here in China is through what is known as a VPN, or a Virtual Private Network.
Because I have over 8 years of first-hand experience with over 20 different VPN services, I get more than a few emails every month from people asking me what I recommend as the best VPN for China in 2018. It’s an obvious need for anybody living in China but more and more people are realizing that online security is something netizens in every country should consider.
I’m not trying to hard-sell anybody here…more than anything I just want to provide some helpful information for those people who need to get a new VPN. A few of the links here and in the video are affiliate links which means that at no additional cost to you I will be compensated if you purchase the service. I have continually used each of these services from my home here in China over the past year, so I’m confident about my recommendations.
When it comes to the best VPNs for China, I’ve given you three ways to hear my thoughts: watch the video, check out the comparison chart or read my person reviews for each VPN below.
Best VPNs for China | Video Review
Click below to hear my thoughts and see each of these best VPNs for China in action.
*Click to watch the video and then subscribe to the FarWestChina Youtube channel!
Best VPNs for China | Comparison Chart
30 day MBG**
*They allow torrenting but will pass on DCMA notices for illegal activity.
**”MBG” refers to a Money Back Guarantee
As I mentioned in the video above, there are literally hundreds of VPNs to choose from on the market and there are quite a few good ones that didn’t make this list.
These, however, have stood the test of time (they are all at least 5 years old), have made a specific effort to reach the China market, all offer hundreds of servers across the globe and they all have unlimited bandwidth.
ExpressVPN in China (Editor’s Choice + 3 Free months)
I always recommend ExpressVPN to anybody I know who doesn’t consider themselves tech-savvy for a couple of reasons.
- It’s super easy to set up!
- Their software is some of the best in the industry.
- They offer a no-hassle, 30-day money back guarantee.
For those who desire simplicity and ease, ExpressVPN has been a solid option here in China for the past few years. You can check out their pricing here and if you use this link (which is an affiliate link), they’ll give you 3 months free on any annual plan!
NordVPN in China (77% off Discount Code!)
NordVPN has been a surprise addition to my VPN arsenal over past year. They’ve purposefully entered the China market and are aggressively tackling the blocking issues that plague all the best VPNs in China.
There are a number of reasons I’ve come to like the NordVPN software and service.
- The software is well-designed, both on computers & mobile devices.
- They allow 6 simultaneous connections (most VPNs give 3-5)
- They also offer a no-nonsense, 30-day money back guarantee.
In many cases, I often tell people to purchase both ExpressVPN and NordVPN (I have both) to figure out which one works best in your China location. Best of all, I have a NordVPN discount code that you can use to get over 70% off an annual plan for two years or 77% off for 3 years! Use the code FARWESTCHINA at checkout to get the discount (you’ll see the link to input a discount code when you choose your method of payment).
Using VyprVPN in China (25% Discount Code!)
Here’s what I love about VyprVPN:
- Proprietary “Chameleon” protocol for added security
- Simple-to-use software
- A 3-day FREE trial (but no 30-day money back guarantee)
VyprVPN has been around since 2009 but their parent company, GoldenFrog, has been around for more than a decade providing online services. I’ve spoken at length with some of their representatives and really like their focus on the China market, which is comforting considering how much the Chinese internet landscape changes.
If all of this sound good to you, they have given me a special link that will allow you to give them a try for free for 3 days and then get an exclusive 25% off annual plans.
Using PureVPN in China
*Note: PureVPN consistently offers some of the lowest prices. Currently you can get two years of VPN for the price of one with PureVPN, which includes up to 5 devices connected!
While I wasn’t a big fan of their software at first, thankfully they have since updated the design and it functions much better. Their speeds are excellent and I found them to be the best in terms of streaming – at least for me out here in western China.
What you might find useful is their “Server Selection Tool” where you tell the software what you want to do (download, stream US content, stream UK content, etc) and it will tell you which servers best suit you needs.
Considering the price – which is often one of the lowest around – PureVPN is an excellent VPN option for the price conscious buyer.
A Look at 12VPN in China (10% Discount Code)
The software isn’t flashy and they don’t have a dedicated iPhone or Android app but setup for both was an easy download of one file that took me all of 5 minutes.
One of the things I’ve truly appreciated about 12VPN is their commitment to communication. I get periodic emails informing me of changes in the VPN and changes in the Great Firewall. For example, last year one of the submarine cables that connects Asia with North America was severed. Out of the 10 VPNs I had running at the time, 12VPN was the only one that let me know what was happening and why I should expect slower speeds on the Los Angeles servers.
In addition to VPN services, 12VPN is also one of the few companies that offers SmartDNS as part of their package. I won’t go into details about what SmartDNS is, but suffice to say I use it to watch Netflix on my Apple TV in China and it is so much faster than connecting on a VPN.
Best of all, I have a 12VPN Discount Code that you can use! Just enter FWC10 to get 10% off your order.
VPNs to Avoid in China
Here’s the thing about the relationship between China and VPNs – China is always making changes that affect the landscape of VPN use within the country. If the VPN you choose doesn’t devote resources to adapt to these changes, that spells trouble for you.
This rules out most small VPN services such as Buffered or all the free services such as Hotspot Shield. Neither seem to have the manpower or resources to play the constant game of cat and mouse with China’s internet censors. I’ve had a difficult time connecting to their servers from within China.
Finally, despite its popularity in China, I personally don’t recommend Astrill VPN. My biggest problem was their customer support but the deal breaker was that they require users to provide their phone number for authentication. In China, that kind of connection between my VPN and my phone number is a big no-no.
Conclusion | Best VPN for China 2018
So that about covers it! Obviously there are plenty of VPN services which have been left out of this list, but I stand by the fact that if you’re coming to Asia, these are the best VPNs for China in 2018.
If you’re here in China and using a VPN, leave a comment below to let me know what you use.
- Best VPNs for China in 2018 (that still work despite the ban) - May 1, 2018
- Urumqi’s International Grand Bazaar | Worth a Visit? - September 12, 2017
- Traveling China’s Karakoram Highway | 2017 Traveler’s Guide - September 6, 2017
- Celebrating Qurban in Urumqi, Xinjiang - August 31, 2017
- Xinjiang in 360 Degrees | Virtual Reality Travel - August 28, 2017
- 10 Crazy, Little-Known Facts about Xinjiang - August 14, 2017
- “Big Plate Chicken” DaPanJi (大盘鸡): Xinjiang’s Best Food - August 6, 2017
- Kashgar Old City | A Timeline of Changes - July 18, 2017
- Exploring the Wilds of Wusu, Xinjiang (Off Road!) - July 11, 2017
- Living in Xinjiang | One Foreigner’s Perspective - February 16, 2017