Best VPN for China 2023 (that still works despite the ban)
Updated May 2023: As you may know, China has systematically been cracking down on the use of VPNs for the past few years. Almost every virtual private network experiences connection troubles, but do the best VPNs for China still work? As an expat who has spent over a decade living here, 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. censorship).
Some websites, Like Facebook, Twitter and even Instagram in China, are blocked because the government want to retain control of how ideas (or rather, dissent) is shared online.
Other websites, 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 the country. 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 15 years of first-hand experience with over 30 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 2023.
For the purpose of this article, I’ve given you three ways to hear my thoughts:
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.
Comparing the Best China VPNs in 2023
|*Recommended VPN*||Other Excellent Virtual Private Networks|
|Money Back Guarantee?|
*Each VPN listed here offers a standard 30-day money back guarantee.
As I already mentioned in the video above, there are literally hundreds of virtual private networks to choose from on the market and there are quite a few good ones that didn’t make this list.
So with so many to choose from, how am I setting the criteria to list out the “best VPNs”?
Best VPN for China Reviews
For each of these VPNs, they reach a standard I set that includes:
- They are at least 5 years old. This means they have a history of working and serving the China market.
- They’re reliable: All VPNs have had trouble in China, but not all of them work to resolve the issues quickly.
- They offer hundreds of servers across the globe. I like having choices from multiple countries.
- They offer money-back guarantees. Not every VPN works perfectly, so in those cases where it doesn’t work well, I want you to be able to get your money back.
Here is a more comprehensive look at each of the recommended VPNs that meet this criteria.
ExpressVPN in China (Editor’s Choice + 3 Free months)
ExpressVPN is my go-to VPN for China in 2023. I’m a huge fan of their overall design (which was redesigned again this year) – 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 for the past few years. You can check out their pricing here:
Use the link above to get 3 months of free service when you purchase an annual subscription!
NordVPN in China (w/ 68% Discount)
NordVPN has been a surprise addition to my VPN arsenal over past few years.
They’ve purposefully entered the China market and are aggressively tackling the blocking issues that plague all the best VPNs.
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 specific 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 the link above, you can get a multi-year discount with significant savings.
VyprVPN in China (up to 80% Discount)
I was turned on to VyprVPN about six 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” connection protocol for added security
- Transparency and honesty
- Simple-to-use software
- A 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 30 days risk-free and then get up to 80% off their 2-year service plan.
Use the link above to get up to 80% off the VyprVPN service!
PureVPN for China Travelers
PureVPN is another popular option here. They boast over 1 million users world-wide and their market share 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 Xinjiang.
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.
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.
Use my 12VPN Discount Code. Just enter FWC10 to get 10% off your order.
VPNs to Avoid (in my opinion)
Here’s the thing about the relationship between China and VPNs – every year the government is 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 Chinese internet censors. I’ve had a difficult time connecting to their servers from within China.
Finally, despite its popularity, 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.
For me, that kind of connection between my VPN and my phone number is a big no-no.
Which is the Best VPN for China?
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 2023.
My best advice for those planning to come to China anytime this year is to download and install multiple VPNs that offer a 30-day money back guarantee (and the above recommended services all do).
Once you arrive in China, you can see which one works best for your specific situation and then get a refund on the rest.
I wish you the best staying connected!
why not astrill?
Josh Summers on January 15th, 2015 at 2:34 am
I gave Astrill a try and had a pretty bad experience. A lot of people use them in China, though so that’s not a reason not to have them on this list.
The reason I didn’t include them as one of the best VPNs in China is because they’ve had multiple occasions this past year when their service went offline. They offered no good explanation and in my opinion this is unacceptable.
As an aside, I’m also very skeptical about the fact that they require my phone number in order to sign up (and they send me a text for verification). Their support staff told me that this “is necessary” and yet there is no other company that requires this. Since the point of a VPN is anonymity and security – this took Astrill down a few notches in my book.
So that’s why. They have a good service and I’m not trying to bash them…I just don’t think they’re the best for China users. Look around the internet for “Best VPNs in China”…you’ll see that I’m not the only one who thinks this either.
Andrea on April 14th, 2015 at 9:17 am
Hi, I have spent last 5 months in Kaifeng (Henan), I am living in Hangzhou (Zhejiang) right now.
I am a linux user, maybe astrill is not the best vpn service, but is the only one with full support for linux.
Openweb and “stealth vpn” work (sometimes not smoothly) on linux and android mobile phone. I have problems with standard openvpn, it simply doesn’t work.
I gave expressvpn and purevpn a try, I could use the pptp service (not always), nothing else.
When It will be possible to use Vyprvpn Chameleon service on linux, probably I will switch.
Other linux users have any suggestion?
Gene on June 5th, 2016 at 11:43 pm
ExpressVPN has a text based client that works quite well. I was pleasantly surprised to discover they can punch through consistently. I was curious if you tried it. As a Linux user a text based client shouldn’t bother you at all.
AirVPN has a full GUI with their Linux client that gives you a wide range of choices as far as protocol. I’ve had moderate success with them, but I suspect their methods are being detected (OpenVPN over SSH or SSL).
I haven’t tried Witopia in several years. If you gave them a shot in the last couple of years I’d be interested to know what you think of their Linux setup.
Josh Summers on June 7th, 2016 at 10:53 pm
I don’t do Linux so I’m not sure. Sorry!
Victo Rise Up on August 10th, 2016 at 11:44 am
I asked the question to the technical service and here is their answer :
“It’s used for user verification only. We do not send code to email because email can be hacked.
We will not use your phone for any other purpose nor we will share it with any 3rd party. We will never contact you by phone, the only message you will ever get from us is verification code during registration process.
Another reason is security., for example to prevent credit card fraudsters to use our service, we require each customer to be verified via SMS.”
Sur Kubuntu, je suis actuellement très satisfait d’Astrill.
Coleen Brennan on February 9th, 2016 at 5:13 am
I am in Shanghai, China now and using PureVPN. It seems to work great here I would highly recommend the use of it.
No word about astrill? Hands down the best in Chuna.
Josh Summers on January 15th, 2015 at 2:35 am
Thanks for the comment Gabyu! Please refer to my response to Gregory. I think Astrill is a good VPN but I disagree that they’re the best in China. By a long shot.
Thanks for this good one.
Been using LibertyVpn for 3 years now after having tested a couple of ones.
One question though.
In terms of connection speed, which one would you put on top?
Josh Summers on January 15th, 2015 at 7:01 am
Hey Bruno, thanks for the comment! I’ve actually never heard of LibertyVPN before so thanks for sharing.
Here’s my thing with connection speeds: I don’t think it’s a fair assessment of VPNs, at least here in China. You see, I know for a fact that my internet speeds in Xinjiang are different than somebody’s in Beijing or Xi’an. Sometimes my internet speeds differ on a daily basis even from my home! There are so many different factors that affect speed here in China including router (crappy Chinese routers slow things down), ISP (there’s a vast difference between ISP speeds here in China), location and many more.
So all that to say, I’ve never seen significant speed differences between VPNs in China. Sometimes my connection with one VPN will slow significantly so I’ll switch VPNs only to find that it’s incredibly slow with all the other VPNs.
I’ve seen other VPN review sites test speeds for each service and I just don’t think it’s as helpful as you imagine. My advice is to always test what works well in your location and then expect that speeds will go up and down throughout the year. This is China!
Bruno on January 16th, 2015 at 8:54 am
Did not realized you guy were in Xinjiang…
Got some family relative overthere and spent some time in this lovely place last year after the events…
Agree with you on the speed issue and the associated root cause laying somewhere in between the Isps and the GF (with most probably a kind of cooperation in between).
LibertyVpn is the one I am using so far and it provides amongst others a french IP allowing me to access the French stuff ( I am French….. I see you coming… Alright! nobody’s perfect, right?)…
This beeing said I noticed over the last 10 years that accessing outside based web sites was beeing more complicated, even through Vps chanels, indicating an on-going maturating of our big GF.
For your information I had confirmation lately that our Dear Leaders had implemented a new technology allowing probing VPN transmission fluxes. I have only one local involved source for this info but I indeed noticed since January the first that any connexion through vpn (Liberty) was reseted after 3 minutes.
I contacted the company and still waiting for a feedback. I’ll keep you posted.
Would be curious to see if you noticed something similar on your side.
Anyway, gonna stick now on your posts. Quite informative…..
I’ve used StrongVPN for 2 years. If there’s an issue, I can contact them (even without the vpn running) and they fix it immediately. I’m not tech savvy but I can use this one with no problem.
Josh Summers on January 15th, 2015 at 6:55 am
That’s great, Jan! I used StrongVPN a couple years ago and had a good experience. I’ll have to revisit them again and see how things have progressed.
I appreciate your input, Jan :)
Thank you. I was using Astrill for years and it just stopped working. So I have switched to VyprVPN. However in last few days I don’t know why, but VyprVPN got very slow and Astrill somehow got very fast. Dont understand it. But still, VyprVPN is far more better. Astrill Mac app is terrible, I often have to restart my computer because of it.
BTW I wanted to ask you, where is your website hosted? In China (Hong Kong), other Asian countries or US/EU?
Josh Summers on January 15th, 2015 at 7:59 am
Hosted abroad. It’s far too much hassle to host here in China (plus, I’m blocked here so it doesn’t even matter…remember?) :)
I used Astrill for two years two – one in Guangzhou, one year traveling, and a few months in between traveling. I remember it not working twice in Xinjiang, but both times it was back on in a day or so.
Their headquarters are in the Philippines, and their customer service has a few odd quirks, but I didn’t have any major problems with it.
One feature I really liked was the ability to have the VPN hide my location *only* when browsing sites blocked in China – which meant I could download material from Baidu or other sites without switching off the VPN. For similar reasons, I also liked the ability to choose my location.
Josh Summers on January 16th, 2015 at 3:27 am
That’s a great point, Arianne and I’m glad you brought that up. The idea of selective VPN (where it only kicks in for certain blocked sites) isn’t something only Astrill does.
12VPN has a similar protocol called “China Hybrid” that only kicks on for known blocked websites. It’s quite nice!
As for the not working…I just have a hard time with a company that has multiple times a year where it doesn’t work – even if it was “back on in a day or so”. I haven’t had that happen with any of these other VPNs which is again why I couldn’t add Astrill to this list despite their obvious popularity here in China.
Thanks for your comment!
hello, Josh. I have a question. can I use this 5 VPN with same price on computer, ipad and smartphone at the same time? With VPN Torguard must i more pay for 2nd and 3rd device. thanks in advance.
Josh Summers on January 16th, 2015 at 8:15 am
Hi Yang, great question. Each of these VPNs offers at least 2 simultaneous connections, which means that your computer and iPad can be connected to the VPN at the same time. These are simultaneous, though, so you can setup the VPN on as many devices as you want…you just can’t connect them all at the same time. Make sense?
Here’s the breakdown:
Thanks for your info. Can you tell me the status of VyprVPN in China at this moment (assuming you are still using VyprVPN)? I ask this because I read that some VPNs may be good today but may not be good tomorrow. So I presume I can get the most updated info from you. I’m traveling to China next week and just need some “assurance” before I commit to VyprVPN. Thanks!
Josh Summers on January 22nd, 2015 at 8:35 pm
VyprVPN still works for me. As with most VPNs, there are certain protocols or servers that don’t connect as fast, but I can find one and do what I need to do!
I am following right now several information about VPN and Internet for China. I will move with my family in some month.
Have you ever tried to run a VPN Server in the US with DD-WRT?
Is there a difference with the commercial VPN Services and the private VPN you install in the house of your friend or parents?
Does the IT experts in China block/attack most of these commercial connection but do not look into small Volume VPN connections?
First of all, thank you for taking the time to write this up – it’s VERY much appreciated! I spent 2 hours researching for VPNs and a recent-date-parameter Google search brought me to your web page.
After hearing that many VPN services have been disrupted over the past few weeks, do all of the services listed above still work well with fast connections? Which 3 are the absolute best (price is no object, fastest, most reliable connections wanted)
The last time I was in China, I purchased 3 separate VPNs because of them getting blocked from time to time, I’m looking to buy the 3 best this time around.
Josh Summers on February 10th, 2015 at 2:08 am
Hey Mike, thanks for your comment. I’m very similar to you in that my livelihood depends on having a VPN so I have at least 3 active accounts from different providers at all times. Price doesn’t matter as much as consistent connection does.
The three that I use the most on my computer are 12VPN, Witopia and VyprVPN. Each have had their own little issues here and there, but with these three together I’ve never had a moment that I can’t connect to a VPN.
Hope that helps and thanks for stopping by!
I am going to China and just signed up VyprVPN because of your review. I use iPhone and looks like the dont support Chamaleon protocol in it.
Their support said to me to use L2TP protocol. I dont understand about this protocols, but I will work in China?
Thanks for the great post and video.
Josh Summers on February 12th, 2015 at 2:36 am
Hey, thanks for the comment and I’m glad you found it useful! Unfortunately, due to iOS restrictions they can’t offer the Chameleon protocol for iPhones, but I use their app on my phone and iPad and the other protocols work great. In fact, they are often speedier than the Chameleon so that should be good.
@fugita on February 12th, 2015 at 3:58 pm
Thanks! I was “afraid” that L2TP protocol was blocked in China. Glad do know it works!
And like Mike above and you, I probably will sign up for a 2nd, maybe a 3rd VPN service as a backup. I am traveling on vacation and internet is a plus, not essencial. But you know, we live in a connected world :-)
I am testing Vypr now on my iPhone here in Brazil and will be soon in China.
Hi Josh, thanks for your video is awesome!!! I’m currently lived in Shenzhen (Shekou district) and my internet connection is China Telecom fiber optic 100M. Those 5 VPN you mention, which is the best for watching Hulu and Netflix?? Please let me know, again, thank you for this helpful video!!
My pleasure! Thanks for the updates and safe travels as you make your way out here to China!
Why not ipvanish is in the top of the list? I am using and its best in all.
Josh Summers on February 26th, 2015 at 8:45 am
I’m still testing IPVanish. At this point I’ve had a lot of trouble connecting but I haven’t spent too much time on it. We’ll see.
Thanks for your comment!
Neo on February 26th, 2015 at 7:43 pm
Connection download speed from baidu cloud service thru Astrill became very slow in the last few months. It was above 3.2MByte/s once then it dropped down to 1.5MByte/s
Now in the last few days it’s even below 500KByte/s. Always using their China Optimized servers and StealthVPN protocol. Don’t know about their VIP servers, they want more money to let customers use those.
IPVanish speed connection with baidu using some of their Japan servers with OpenVPN UDP connection it’s always between 700KByte/s and 1000KByte/s
I was wondering if any of the VPN services you recommed here can go at 3MByte/s or higher with baidu then…
Great article – one caveat though, I use a Mac and an iPhone – I dropped Strong when their service dropped off a cliff a month ago and have been trying to replace their service.
I recently signed on with Pure VPN and it has been a terrible user experience. I was able to configure the service manually but have no use of the software or the App because neither of them will run. I have a new iphone 6 and a recently upgraded Mac and cannot get any of their software to run.
Once manually configured the VPN is excellent but I will have to switch servers manually when I run into trouble (and I will have to keep a copy of the servers with me as I cannot reach their site without a VPN.)
I would really like to find a VPN that works on Mac and iOS and could use some advice.
Been using ExpressVpn for a couple of years without any problems aside from occasional slow connection speed. However, for the past few months, I was not able to connect to it on any of my iOS devices without turning them off first. And I would have do this every time I need to use Expressvpn and this means numerous times a day. I contacted Expressvpn support and was told this is an iOS issue, nothing to do with them. I wonder does anyone else had this issue. Also, I just signed up Vyprvpn’s 3 day trial but discovered that I can’t contact live chat without vpn being on. That’s useless to me when my vpn is down and can’t contact support for immediate solution.
I want to watch youtube in china. Which one is the best? Money is not a problem.
Josh Summers on May 1st, 2015 at 3:21 am
Each of these work great for me while using Youtube. I don’t think there’s a “better” one for this application, although I personally like ExpressVPN and 12VPN.
If money’s not a problem, I recommend getting two VPNs. There are times when one VPN is running too slow so I switch to another.
I will travel one month in China in few days. I’m not an expert… I just want to use Facebook and my website (created with wordpress.org) during my trip. I’m using a mac book air and it seems to be more difficult than windows with some of the VPNs… What is according to you the best VPN for my profile ? Thanks a lot !
Josh Summers on May 3rd, 2015 at 2:15 am
Hi Elodie…I am currently using 12VPN on my Mac and it works great. I get a good connection every time and the software is simple and unobtrusive.
Hope that helps!
Thanks for your post. I am going to China (Shanghai, Sichuan, Yunnan provinces) for the month of July. I have a Windows laptop and an iPhone I want connections on, and I really only want to be able to access Gmail and some mobile apps like Facebook and Snapchat. I would like the cheapest one since it’s only for a month, so I was thinking of PureVPN. What’s your input? (I’m totally clueless when it comes to this stuff).
Josh Summers on May 7th, 2015 at 10:00 am
Hey Danielle! If you just need something for a month, PureVPN should work just fine. There are plenty of other good options but there’s no need to complicate things if you’re happy with the price and features of this one :)
Have you tried Gom? Would love to hear what you think about it.
My vote with IpVanish because it work well for me last month when i visit China. I choose it from a review site VpnRanks.
I am moving to Beijing in just under two weeks. I use Private Internet Access (PIA) here in Australia and it works great. However, I’ve been reading a lot of articles like yours and PIA is never mentioned.
Do you have any experience with PIA in China?
Josh Summers on July 2nd, 2015 at 3:13 am
I do, actually. They work here in my experience but when it came to picking out a top 5, I decided they didn’t make the cut. No particular reason, I’m just not the biggest fan of their software, I think.
Hi Josh, Thanks for the wonderful article! I just moved to Shanghai from Texas, and I was wondering if you could recommend any one of those VPNs that offers best connection to US servers. I mainly need VPN for ESPN/NFL Game pass since it’d be so hard to live a life without football :)
I’ve tried Nydus and PureVPN, but they seem to have better service for Japan/Hong Kong servers, which is fine if I only access FB/Twitter. But since I do need a U.S. IP address, can you help suggest a product? Thanks again!
Josh Summers on July 31st, 2015 at 3:29 am
Hi Holly! Glad you found the article and video useful :)
For US servers, you’ll find a good number with VyprVPN, ExpressVPN or even 12VPN. I’m surprised you don’t think PureVPN has enough US servers – perhaps you tried them a few years ago? They have plenty of them now.
Hope that helps!
Holly on August 15th, 2015 at 2:27 am
Thanks Josh! I’ll probably try Vypr this time. The problem with PureVPN is that their US servers were much slower than their Asian ones. My budget doesn’t allow me to subscribe to several VPNs at the same time, so it’d be great to just take one more stable than others.
Hope everything is going well!
Josh Summers on August 21st, 2015 at 4:42 am
Glad it was useful, Holly! Thanks for the comment.
milos on September 7th, 2015 at 11:10 am
Holly – I’m like you; I use Game Pass (from nfl.com). You might know this by now but I will say it anyway for others who may wonder: China doesn’t block nfl.com, so you don’t need a VPN to watch the games on game pass. I often like to try to stay on the VPN anyway, but it’s always better to get the normal speed of your local provider (nothing worse than having the game repeatedly freezing). China doesn’t mind the occasional American circus to go with the bread, and that generally means sports (I even saw some NFL games on Chinese TV last season, live, at 3 in the morning, with Chinese broadcasters and everything).
So just FYI on that one.
Holly on September 14th, 2015 at 8:33 pm
Milos- Thanks for the input. You’re right, China doesn’t block NFL. But apparently overseas users are priced differently from domestic users (at least for Game Rewind) at a much higher rate. Due to time difference and work schedule I can’t watch the games live, so I thought Game Rewind is sufficient :) LeTV now has some rights to broadcast NFL games in China but …. well it just weird, weird to hear commentaries in Chinese. Maybe I’m too picky lol
I’ll be in Being in the coming weeks and wondering if VyprVPN is still generally working great in China? I have read a couple of issues in the past 3 days that they cannot access blocked websites?
Josh Summers on September 6th, 2015 at 11:30 pm
Hey Aniven, the issues you probably heard about happened during the big 70-year celebration here in China – and all the VPNs were having issues. It happens during any sensitive celebration or anniversary here in China.
It’s back to working well, as are all the other VPNs that I use, so rest assured you’ll be fine!
I’ve been living in Wuhan for two years and am always on the lookout for new or better VPN services. Like you, I am normally subscribed to about 5 at any given time.
What amazes me is how variable the experiences are. I’ll do a brief rundown of mine, just because anecdotes are useful in cases like this:
1) StrongVPN – the first one I subscribed to and I still subscribe, though since it got attacked early in the year it has been less useful for me. I use it mostly as a fallback. There is nothing wrong with it per se; it always connects and the service is good. The speeds simply don’t allow me to do what I mainly want to do, which is stream US TV (usually netflix and youtube are ok; but this website I subscribe to, USTVNOW, requires really fast streaming).
2) Vypr. This was the second one I used, and by far the most divergent in my experience from what others report who live elsewhere. At first, it worked rather well and it was my mainstay, but after about four months it just went ballistic, to the point where I couldn’t connect without being disconnected after ten minutes, every time I connected. It became useless, so I ditched it.
Fast forward six months later. I bought a new computer back in the States and figured that might allow Vypr to start working again, but no luck. I had the same issues and now I just stay away from Vypr. I can’t explain why this happens when everyone else has such positive experiences with it. Maybe it’s just Wuhan, and maybe just my area of Wuhan. Oh well.
3) Express – this has been my number one for most of my times here, but lately (since January) it has not been what it used to be. The Japan connection and Singapore connection don’t work anymore (for me), and the only server I can get tolerable speeds on is Hong Kong. Usually it’s good enough for youtube, but not for faster streaming. Express is my number 2 right now, but I gather from all the positive responses across China, it is probable the safest to recommend as the best.
4) 12vpn – I tried this after Express stopped working well for me earlier in the year. Signed up for a year subscription; unfortunate because it is by far the slowest of all my VPNs and I only use it when the other ones are wigging out for some reason. I have never been able to get even reliable youtube speeds on 12, no matter which protocol I use.
5) VPN.ac – this is the last one I tried, and it is by far the best for me. For a while it was in competition with Express, but now it is clearly in front. No problems connection, and always the fastest speeds (I use the Tokyo PPTP servers/protocols, and do continuous three month subscriptions – it’s kind of pricey).
One little footnote to VPN.ac, and my only negative with them, is that their customer service can be rather surly sometimes. They do provide help, so it’s no big gripe. Just noting it when Express (and, yes, Vypr and 12vpn) have quite excellent customer service.
I also tried a few other ones and had horrible results (pure, vpn ninja, I think Witopia but I can’t recall for sure, IPNvanish). The only suggestion I would make it is to consider VPN.ac if you haven’t already. I only heard of it when I was rifling through “best VPN in China” articles and saw it mentioned in one of those articles as among the five best. Normally, however, I see nothing about it (maybe it just works well in Wuhan but not elsewhere? Possible).
The most frustrating thing for me is speed, and it is the decisive thing. Your justification for not emphasizing it too much is perfectly reasonable, and I would only add that not only is speed extremely variable depending on where you are in China, but so is the more basic issue of connectivity – as per my terrible experience with Vypr (and honestly I haven’t heard of anyone having similar issues with it; it makes me wonder).
Regardless – I concur with Express and would add VPN.ac (from Wuhan, at least). I’ve never had to resort to trying Astrill, but I’ve been tempted. Can’t give an opinion on it.
All the best!
Which one of these is hands down the easiest to use? I leave for China in a few days and I am looking for something easy to use.
Josh Summers on September 18th, 2015 at 1:27 am
Easiest to setup and use is probably ExpressVPN. They’re all pretty user friendly but this one, at least in my opinion, was best in terms of setup and UI.
Hope that helps. Enjoy your trip to China!
I ve been using Astrill for a year now, but it sucks. Slow and not very reliable, and you have to buy a three months package as a minimum. . . so I ll switch toanother one now. Anyone that could be recommendedas the absolutely best?
Josh Summers on November 28th, 2015 at 4:16 am
I’m a big fan of both ExpressVPN and 12VPN mentioned above. They offer good speeds here in China and good service as well.
Why is Astrill not on the list? I think a lot of people complain about Astrill because of their customer support, which I totally agree with. But for the best VPN in China for just their VPN Service(s) alone, as I have been living here in China for many years and tried all of the above, is Astrill.
John on February 8th, 2016 at 5:25 am
I agree. I’ve lived in China for 13 years, the last 5 in Chongqing. I’ve used all the so-called “best” VPN’s and find Astrill to be the best. I have a China Unicom 60GB/10GB service and I almost always (except during Spring Festival) get 95% of my normal upload/download speed with Astrill. Their software integrates with my router and mobile devices. There technical support has gotten better. Most of my ex-pat friends are also using Astrill for the same reasons.Besides, I never trust “The Best” reviews that have a “buy” icon underneath. That implies the reviewer is being paid in one way or another. Just say’in.
Josh Summers on February 8th, 2016 at 10:23 am
Thanks for your thoughts, John. Unfortunately, Astrill has shot themselves in the foot yet again…and reminded me why I still stand by my original recommendation to not use them:
Astrill’s deleted Twitter comment to China users
All above listed VPNs are crap, don’t even work in China. I have used almost all of these VPNs. Only VPN that works in China is Astrill. I am using Astrill since 2012 and i have no issues.
Josh Summers on February 9th, 2016 at 10:38 am
Thanks for your opinion, Katya, although I don’t think saying they “don’t even work in China” is correct. I personally use them, so I know they DO work here.
Astrill is hit or miss – they’ve been having some big customer support issues recently that caused them to delete their Twitter account, though.
Gene on June 6th, 2016 at 12:52 am
It probably doesn’t hurt to keep in mind that your location can make a difference. I have learned (through several experiences and sources) parts of the FW are managed VERY locally, possibly even depending on what section of a city you’re in at the time. I’ve found it best not to commit to one service for more than a month at a time since using the same service too much sometimes results in it getting blocked.
Josh Summers on June 7th, 2016 at 10:52 pm
I understand exactly what you mean, Gene. My solution, instead of going through the hassle of going month-by-month with VPNs, is to just sign up for multiple VPN services.
Of course, my business depends on being able to access the entire internet, so it’s pretty important to me ;)
I’ve tried out all the VPNs listed, granted only the trial versions, (express has a 7 day trial, vypr has 500mb, pure has 3 servers) while vypr and express works on and off, I have been literally unable to connect to any server for purevpn.
Initially ive had trouble with all 3 and contacted customer support via email, express had the fastest response, followed by vypr, pure has yet to get back to me after 3 days. I have not received any confirmation they even received a ticket.
So while pure’s pricing plan looks cheap, I would think twice about almost literally burning money…
Josh Summers on February 17th, 2016 at 3:25 pm
Thanks for sharing Anca. I’m sorry you didn’t have a great experience with PureVPN.
The Vypr VPN is great service as well connectivity to vpn server is very rapid :)
I recently had a bad experience with Astrill. I signed up for a VPN with them because they advertise you can use a laptop/desktop and mobile device at the same time. I have an iPhone 4 and they have discontinued the Atrill ap support for this device. There is another way I can connect, but only if I am not on my laptop. So every time my mobile connects to the VPN. my computer VPN stops working. I have written to them about this and they have said that if I pay $60 more, on top of the $69 subscription I already have, I can use both devices at once.
WitopiaVPN got very slow with baidu in the last few days. It was 3MByte/s to 5MByte/s download speed on average using their Tokyo server. Yesterday it barely reached 500KByte/s. Today it can’t even get above 200KByte/s. What is going on?
Several of these offer Linux support, recently including ExpressVPN. Their client is text based, but for most Linux users that’s a non-issue. I’ve found their speeds to be among the best.
As I mentioned to another Linux user’s comment, AirVPN has a full GUI client for Linux as well ones for Windows and OS X. Their customer support is generally good, thought they do seem to expect a bit more knowledgeable customer. I’ve also noticed that speeds tend to drop if I use them a lot.
I managed to get LimeVPN to work here for a while, but then found their Windows client suddently wasn’t able to retrieve server addresses. My guess is it was because their server addresses had “vpn” in the name. However, they also offered support for SoftEther in several locations. I eventually cancelled my service because I began having trouble connecting to their servers no matter what protocol or software I used.
I’ve also set up my own servers with VPN software. There are several benefits to this, chiefly being tightwad-friendly. Dig up an old desktop, put it at a friend’s house and you have VPN service for free. You can also rent a server for as cheap as $2/month. There’s the added advantage of always having an SSH tunnel even if a protocol is blocked. Blocking SSH would seriously cripple the Internet. However, SSH tends to get throttled after a while if you’re using it as a tunnel – packets start dropping and then you lose the whole connection. Still, you can usually connect long enough to download your Gmail or the other email services that have been blocked.
SoftEther, the protocol I mentioned above, is relatively easy to set up on a server. There’s great server manager software that works well in Windows which makes adding users, tracking usage, etc very easy. My biggest complaint with SoftEther is that there’s no GUI for Linux even though the developers suggest you install it on a Linux server. They have a command line client for Linux, but it’s pretty clunky and a pain for even a frequent Linux user. However, a SoftEther server will accept L2TP and SSTP connections which provides you with a fairly easy setup for Linux or Android.
There are more and more restrictions on the Internet in China, and I Wonder if 12VPN or ExpressVPN are still reliable at the moment in China. I am going there for a month and would like to know if I need to download it before leaving.
Josh Summers on June 23rd, 2016 at 10:25 am
Hey Rachel, I’m still using both of them from within China so…I think they’re reliable! Whichever VPN you choose, I definitely recommend that you get everything set up before you head out to China. It’s MUCH easier that way. Have a good trip!
Hi…just downloaded express vpn gor my trip to china Fri ny..tomorrow. I can’t seem to get an email respoused in time
So I turn to u..when do I choose a server ( I assume LA in California) and begin. Do I choose before I leave us or after I reach china?
Hope u get this in time..:(. TIA#!
Thanks for sharing information. I think China getting these VPNs in low cost as compare to other countries.
Josh Summers on August 16th, 2016 at 4:36 am
Why do you say they’re low cost? It’s the same price as getting them in any other country in the world.
I’ve used witopia in the UAE with great success, but will be moving to China this month. I would like a solid VPN that I can use on a buffalo router to use Apple TV or a roku. Which VPN do you recommend for this type of set up?
Thanks for the informative reviews Josh. In you experience, does VyprVPN and PureVPN services get blocked in China (like Astrill) during high security times? And if so, is one more reliable than the other?
I have done extensive testing of many VPNs in China including some of the ones recommended on this page, and some others as well. You can see my detailed VPN in China blog to see which servers perform the best with China Telecom and China Unicom.
Just a little advice from my side.. Choosing a VPN provider is more related to which IP you use and your location in China. Vypr for instance does not have shared servers with China Telecom in any foreign countries.. Their speed on China Telecom is dead slow, on China Unicom on the other hand usually the fastest. (Keep in mind this is Shanghai region!!) Vypr doesn’t connect to China Mobile 4G in Shanghai, while others have no problem. Vypr connects easily on China Mobile in Jiangsu province. As a Shanghai resident with China Telecom broadband Vypr was completely useless, but I still believe that its a good product in general. Too bad I had to let their offer for 60% discount pass and switch to Express.
Josh Summers on February 19th, 2017 at 3:36 pm
Great thoughts! Thanks for sharing.
Hi Josh.. I am an Astrill user and was in China briefly in 2015. It worked fine back then.. I am still with Astrill and I am planning to visit China again so I hope those offline issues are now fixed.
Josh Summers on February 27th, 2017 at 4:22 pm
I hope so too! Best of luck, Jay.
I am Astrill user from China since 2014. I am not an IT geek but shocked that you do not have Astrill in this list. Astrill service and support is best among all. I don’t know much about computers so I always prefer their remote desktop when I mess up something on my PC. Their technicians always helped me to get back online to access international sites in no time.
Josh Summers on May 10th, 2017 at 9:59 am
I specifically took Astrill off this list because of their notoriously bad customer support. They have well-publicized incidents where their support has publicly (on Twitter) called its user base stupid, they’ve been horrible in my experience and they don’t seem to care or apologize.
The service works well in China, that I agree. But the fact that I have to give over my phone number to use them is enough to make me say “no, thank you”.
I recommend Express VPN for china.
Josh Summers on May 28th, 2017 at 4:53 am
I agree…it’s definitely been a reliable service for me here.
Thanks to this review I used NordVPN for two weeks I have been in China. Before going I chatted with customer support about possible issues and got directions what to do if I were unable to connect. Basically the only thing I had to do was pick servers with highest number to stay unblocked… Once I came back I of course had no real use for the service anymore and could have taken the 30 day refund guarantee :D But decided not to, since the service was really great. Now I use it for streaming until the month I have runs out, perhaps I will renew it, but I am not a security freak so we will see.
Josh Summers on February 10th, 2018 at 8:08 am
Great feedback, George! The only thing I would add is that although there is no need for a VPN to unblock websites once you leave China, there is still need for a VPN. In fact, even when I’m back in the US, I use a VPN every day when I connect to a public wifi network.
The original intent of a VPN is to encrypt data that is being sent between two servers. While this can help unblock websites in places like China, the reality is that it’s super important when you do something like connect to the internet at an airport or coffee shop. We think that we’re safe when we connect to these public wifi networks, but we’re not. We’re quite vulnerable!
Using a VPN anywhere outside your home in this day and age of hacking and identity theft isn’t just a good idea, it’s becoming a necessity.
Hi Josh, I am aware that Astrill provide a router to enable your whole home wifi network to be under the VPN, are you aware of any other providers who also offer this option?
Josh Summers on February 28th, 2018 at 11:32 pm
Many providers offer this, including ExpressVPN.
I have an active NordVPN subscription, but since VPNs are outlawed in China, I am worried to use it. I am only going to be in China for a week so I can live without outside internet during that time. Not sure if the risk is worth it, though if I were staying longer I would probably use it sooner or later. What do you think about that?
Josh Summers on March 5th, 2018 at 9:18 am
There’s no real risk, Isla. The only risk is that you’ll arrive in China and it might not connect. Using a VPN as a foreigner has never caused any problems – I’ve used a VPN every single day since I last arrived in 2013!
Have you tried VPN.ac? Apart from their appalling customer service I’ve heard a lot about them being best VPN for China recently, at least here in Xiamen anyways. I also have ExpressVPN and NordVPN like you do, so far NordVPN are performing far better than EVPN. Thanks for all your valuable advice ????
Josh Summers on March 5th, 2018 at 9:19 am
My pleasure, Jason. Thanks for the suggestion! I’ll have to look into it.
Hi and thank you for your reviews ! I will live in Chengdu for 2 years (September 2018) and I was wondering if ExpressVpn would work there, thank you.
Josh Summers on March 31st, 2018 at 2:17 am
Hey Sam! Glad this was useful to you. Yes, ExpressVPN has been pretty much the most reliable VPN in China, and I know many people in Chengdu who use it.
Express VPN is the best one
Been visiting a friend of mine last week in China, and bought nordvpn. Haven’t had any problems using it! Just one thing to mention reach out to their support before going to China in regards to your trip, they’ll give you some useful advice.
Josh Summers on July 2nd, 2018 at 9:32 am
Thanks so much, George!
China’s ISP does a good job on blocking VPNs.. It should be hard for the people living in there full time. I’m using NordVPN, and it worked fine while I was in China, so a recommendation from me, I think it’s a reliable choice.
Josh Summers on July 2nd, 2018 at 9:31 am
Thanks for the comment!
I’m using PureVPN. Since several days ago, I can’t connect anyway on my cellphone, PC, and Pad… I guess PureVPN got totally blocked by the Chinese GFW? Huh?
Josh Summers on July 26th, 2018 at 7:43 pm
Maybe…maybe not. In some cases I’ve had one VPN work well on my phone but perform horribly on my laptop, while another VPN is just the opposite. That’s why I keep 2-3 active VPN subscriptions.
IP Vanish has been consistent for 3 years but recently has fallen off a cliff. I guess the great firewall got them. Customer service has also nosedived
In October 2018 all VPN providers were blocked in China!
That included ExpressVPN but they were back on stage after one week. After 2 weeks, there are 5 VPN Servers one can connect to.
But it is not possible any more to use a router as a VPN Client (OVPN).
So I am looking for a new provider.
Anything left beside ExpressVPN ?
Josh Summers on November 6th, 2018 at 10:28 am
In October China definitely cracked down on VPNs, but that’s pretty normal once or twice a year. Thankfully, there are companies like ExpressVPN that work fast to fix any connection issues. I’d recommend staying with them and maybe supplementing with another good one like NordVPN or VyprVPN – both of which I use daily.
According to your experience, which VPN provider, in general, offers the most servers from China? I know this question is pretty simple outside China. But it becomes tricky and volatile over areas and periods inside China where the GFW plays its role.
Josh Summers on December 3rd, 2018 at 2:23 pm
It’s the same inside and outside of China – no difference. Some work better than others, which is why I recommend both ExpressVPN and NordVPN.