The Best VPNs To Use In China (Updated April 2014)

The Best VPNs To Use In China

In A Nutshell

As of February 2014, a new round of blocking was activated in China. We currently recommend these VPNs to bypass the firewall:

  • 12VPN: Headquartered in Hong Kong, and they have experience with the Great Firewall, many Chinese customers. 7 day money back policy. But no P2P downloading/torrenting.
  • ExpressVPN: Servers in Hong Kong and the US West Coast. Many apps available. They have a 30 days money-back offer.
  • IPVanish: VPN server in Shanghai, good reputation for privacy and fast connection speeds, allows torrents
  • VPN.AC: Servers in Hong Kong, company with good reputation and a focus on privacy

The Details

The easiest way to bypass Chinese Firewall is to use a VPN that serves China. A VPN or “virtual private network” is a service that encrypts and redirects all your internet connections. The Chinese government has never stated that using a VPN to circumvent the Great Firewall is illegal, and nobody has been prosecuted for using a VPN. Despite this, China blocks the websites of most major VPNs.

When in China, you want to connect to VPN server in Asia (e.g. in China, Hong Kong, Bangkok). The next best option is to connect to a server on the West Coast of the US (e.g. Los Angeles, San Francisco).

Which VPN Protocols To Use?

  • OpenVPN: Strangely, this is the least reliable protocol/client to use — you’ll find most ports are currently blocked (connection reset). The main cause appears to be spoofed RST packets.
  • L2TP: This is a fast protocol for China and has few problems right now
  • PPTP: Use only if L2TP doesn’t work for you. Slower and less reliable than L2TP

Here are more details on the best VPN to use in China:

12VPN

12VPN are headquartered in Hong Kong, and they have experience with the Great Firewall. They also have a huge Chinese user-base. 12VPN gives you the choice of four server locations for OpenVPN, all of them based in the UK and US. The West Coast of the US is the best choice if your are in China, due its (relative) proximity to Asia. 12VPN provides you with a file of pre-configured settings for the to use with the OpenVPN app (Windows), or the Tunnelblick app (Mac OS X). You simply drop these in the correct location (as 12VPN’s site wiki explains very clearly) on your computer.

12VPN‘s service cost $9.95 per month or $79 per year.

ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN is optimized for China — it has servers Hong Kong and the US West Coast. Many people like their 30-day money back offer. They are slightly more expressive than other VPNs, but worth it if you want reliability. The monthly rate is $12.95.

IPVanish

IPVanish started operation in 2012, and is headquartered in the USA, but they have a server inside Shanghai, China. They have already earned a good reputation for privacy and fast connection speeds. According to the company there are “no restrictions on any legal use of the VPN”, and P2P services such as BitTorrent are not filtered. The service costs $10 per month or $77 per year. IPVanish has 110 VPN servers located throughout 47 countries giving 7,000+ potential IP addresses. They run their own tier-1 network, and they company claims that they have the fastest VPN connection speeds. IPVanish supports OpenVPN, PPTP and L2TP/IPSec protocols.

The cost of the service is $10 per month, or $78 per year.

Link: IPVanish

VPN.AC

VPN.AC has servers in Hong Kong. It is owned by Netsec Interactive Solutions – a company with ten years of experience in internet security. It hosts servers in 7 countries capable of reaching gigabit port speeds. You can get 20% off if you use the code “BVPNZ20″.

Link: VPN.AC

StrongVPN

StrongVPN has built a excellent reputation over the years. They have become known for the reliability of their service and the number of servers they offer (350 in 19 countries). They are also one of the few VPN providers that offer 24 hour live help. Until recently, StrongVPN was blocked in China. However, they have now set up some mirrors for China, and they are not longer blocked.

StrongVPN’s Phil Blancett said recently: “We have seen a rapid increase in users coming from China in the past few months. It’s pushed us to automate as much as we can from inside our customer area. Customers can now choose from many locations on the West Coast of the USA, which ensures they have the best possible speed”. Blancett also stated that StrongVPN itself is growing and focusing more on Asia as well: “Early last year we purchased a FCP Routing Device from Internap that allowed us to automatically adjust and optimize our routes. It’s really improved our routes to Asia.”

This service doesn’t allow torrenting, so look for a VPN that allows torrents (e.g. ExpressVPN)

StrongVPN‘s service costs $30 for 3 months or $85 per year.

More Info

Just as a side note, whatever VPN service you’re using, you’ll still have problems if you’re using a Chinese DNS server (ie, your local ISP provided DNS server). China love to mess with DNS and implements a lot of filtering through their DNS servers, returning bad data or no data at all for a lot of requests. If your computer is using Chinese DNS servers, you’re gonna have a bad time.

You can check what DNS servers you are using here:

If you’re still using a Chinese DNS, change your DNS settings to use either the servers provided by your VPN, or one of the many public DNS servers. I recommend the following:

Google DNS:

  • 8.8.8.8
  • 8.8.4.4

Open DNS:

  • 208.67.222.222
  • 208.67.220.220

If just want to browse the uncensored internet in the short term, you can use the free Tor Browser. Note that, while using Tor, your web page will be somewhat slow to load, and your other internet connections will still be blocked. Also, make sure you use a Tor Bridge.

Comments

  1. Jeremy says

    It seems that http://citizenvpn.com works well in China. Their customer service helped me get it working again after OpenVPN was also blocked recently (I had to make a simple change). I can also connect with PPTP on my iPad but this can sometimes be blocked though. I haven’t tried the new OpenVPN app on iPad yet, but will definitely give it a try as it should also work with CitizenVPN.

  2. Estebanero says

    Hi

    I am disappointed in some of the most popular VPN’s for Asia as even for e.g. StrongVPN I have recently cancelled a subscription since the minute after I paid and registered my account on the opening page they announced that they were having problems reaching Facebook from China. They then recommended to go into a separate set of settings to try and bypass this.

    Ideally a reliable VPN service should straight forward give you the situation and make it clear what is the situation. Further it was rather complex to handle and when logging my ticket to unsubscribe it took 2 weeks to get a reply.

    I am hence now looking into a VPN Router for China so I bypass the complete Client Setup and can subscribe all my Network Connected devices. Any recommendation you may be able to share for VPN Routers? I know Astrill has them but you mentioned that their Customer service was poor so I am a bit uncertain now.

    Thx!

    • andy doglas says

      its true that u cannot open such web like youtube or facebook by only use VPN swich, most web block system in china is blacklist block , so even use software to change ur VPN, is the same result. you need find a subcontractor of CMCC or CT or CU, they will have their private band width its much more secure and stable compare to the VPN software. but its little bit expensive for individuals but its really handy for business.

  3. GreyOne says

    Also, if you haven’t already, you should use an alternate DNS instead of the default from your ISP. This is because China sometimes uses DNS Poisoning as a part of their blocking process.

    To do this, do as follows : (This is for Windows 7 users. WinXP users should have to follow a similar process. Just find your main connection properties. Mac users, try to Google where OSX users can find their connection properties. Sorry but I know close to nothing about Macs, I’m one of those guys that rebel it with a passion just because).

    Open “Network and Sharing Center”

    Open your current connected network’s status window (not the VPN network, your main network)

    Open “Properties”

    Double-click “Internet Protocol Version 4 (TCP/IPv4)”

    Both IP and DNS should be automatic by default. Leave IP alone.

    For DNS, choose “Use the following DNS Server Address”.

    Use one of these DNS servers to fill in the blanks (or any you might know of and trust more, I just know these. I use Google’s since I figure they’re probably the fastest and most reliable) :

    Google DNS :
    Preferred DNS Server : 8.8.8.8
    Alternate DNS Server : 8.8.4.4

    StrongVPN DNS :

    Preferred DNS Server : 216.131.95.20

    Alternate DNS Server : 216.131.94.5

    If you had some instability issues before and were using default DNS, this will probably help.

  4. JonoR says

    I’ve had a lot of sucess using EzyVPN. The speed’s are very good when I travel to china and I have set up on my iphone too. They also offer a free trial. Recommended A+

  5. rain says

    Just a note that I’m in China now and as of Feb 2014, cannot access Private Internet Access.

    Also, 2 vpns that seems to work and not listed here are: Astrill VPN and Vypr. Would love to hear what you think of those two.

    • houston says

      Astrill is good. Unicom has increased their Net speed. They now offer 20/20 cable net. I have used punchvpn routers (www.punchvpn.com) with Astrill service. Works great. I can use one astrill account and share the net from three different locations (my home, my office and my restaurant) including my cell phone and I have to pay for only single account. The router has remote access feature which allows the VPN account to be shared when you are away from home, even in different city. Another problem you will face when using VPN in China is that the VPN servers will go slow periodically. i.e the same server working good when you connected, runs slow after an hour. Punchvpn router has this cool feature that it can track the speed of vpn servers using latency and bandwidth measurements. If a server goes slow, the router will auto switch to next best server. This is specially useful feature when you are away from home using cell phone. The router takes care of finding the best server so I can stream videos over youtube without lags. My last test using Astrill and Unicom 20/20 was awesome. I got 20/20 speed with one of the astrill servers. Which means I can watch 1080p videos without buffering problems.

    • says

      I don’t recommend Astril because their service is unreliable, especially recently. Slow customer support, and they require a phone number during registration. IPVanish is better for example.

      All that Astril has going for them is that they are one of the oldest private VPN providers.

  6. Ron says

    I am sitting in China right now and using Unicom with Astrill and I can watch Full HD1080p video on youtube without lags. I dont know of any other VPN provider who is offering this kind of speed in China. Most of them just try to make you happy with 3 Mbps download speeds. 1080p requires download speed close to 10 Mbps.

    • says

      I’m glad you are getting good throughput from Astrill. I asked them to fix a simple issue on my test account last month, and they never provided an answer or closed the ticket. I can’t recommend a VPN provider with such poor customer support. I’m sure the other VPN providers mention in the article can match Astrill’s speed.

  7. masgarro says

    Can I ask Ron and the others, what server are you using on Astrill?
    I’m trying different ones, but seems I can’t find the ideal one
    USA (Denver) or Hong Kong?

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