Update January 2019: As many of you know, China spent a good portion of 2018 cracking down on VPN usage throughout the country and even threatened to ban all non-state sanctioned VPNs. Obviously, that hasn’t happened (expats are still using VPNs today). So what’s the deal? Do the best VPNs for China still work? As an expat who has spent over a decade in China, I’d like to offer my thoughts and recommendations.
Sadly this website, like many others, has been blocked in China since 2009 under what is affectionately referred to as “The Great Firewall” (i.e. China’s censorship). Some websites, Like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, are blocked because the government can’t control the sharing of ideas on the platforms. Others, like the New York Times or the Wall Street Journal, are blocked because they are labeled “western media”.
I have no idea why FarWestChina 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 online from in China is through what is known as a VPN, or a Virtual Private Network.
Because I have over
8 years 10 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 2019. 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 2019 | 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 2019 | Comparison Chart
|*Recommended VPN*||Other Excellent Virtual Private Networks|
|Money Back Guarantee?|
*Both ExpressVPN and NordVPN offer generous 30-day money back guarantees.
**VyprVPN and PureVPN offer 7-day and 14-day money back guarantees respectively.
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, they’ve been reliable and consistent over the past 3 years (that’s important), they all offer hundreds of servers across the globe and they all have unlimited bandwidth.
ExpressVPN in China (Editor’s Choice + 3 Free months)
ExpressVPN is my go-to VPN for China in 2019. I’m a huge fan of their overall design (which was just updated in January) – the website, desktop app and mobile app are all beautiful, quick to install and easy to use.
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 (75% off Discount Code!)
NordVPN has been a surprise addition to my VPN arsenal over past two years. 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. They’re very competitively priced and run specials throughout the year. I always keep this link up-to-date so click here to learn about the latest deal:
Using VyprVPN in China (68% Discount)
I was turned on to VyprVPN about 4 years ago and have been incredibly impressed with the transparency of the company (just compare their about page with any other VPN).
Here’s what I love about VyprVPN:
- Proprietary “Chameleon” protocol for added security
- Transparency and honesty
- 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 even longer than that 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 68% off their 2-year plan.
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!
PureVPN is another popular option here in China. They boast over 1 million users world-wide and their market share in China seems to be growing at a rapid pace.
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)
I’ve been a 12VPN customer since 2013 and in many ways it’s been my go-to VPN on my phone. Why? It’s simple and it just works…every time.
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, two years ago 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 (ExpressVPN does as well). I won’t go into details about what SmartDNS is (read about Smart DNS here), 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 – every year China 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 2019
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 2019.
If you’re here in China and using a VPN, leave a comment below to let me know what you use.
- How to Fly as an Air Courier in 2019 - January 15, 2019
- Is Xinjiang Safe for Travelers? Security & Threats in 2019 - January 14, 2019
- Best VPNs for China 2019 (that still work despite the ban) - January 8, 2019
- Is the Internet Accessible in Xinjiang? XJ Q&A #3 - January 2, 2019
- How I Access Instagram in China - January 1, 2019
- Uyghur Knife from Yengisar | A Lost Cultural Symbol - December 18, 2018
- How to Teach English in Xinjiang, China (Updated 2018) - December 10, 2018
- Understanding “Xinjiang Time” and China’s Two Time Zones - November 26, 2018
- Xinjiang in the Winter | Traveler’s Guide for What to See & Do - November 12, 2018
- Uyghur Customs | 26 Rules for Hosting or Being Hosted - October 29, 2018