The Best VPN For China (Updated September 2014)

Best VPN For China

In A Nutshell

As of July 2014, a new round of blocking was activated in China, and all Google services have been blocked. We currently recommend these providers as the best VPNs for China:

  • ExpressVPN: Servers in Hong Kong and the US West Coast. Many apps available. They have a 30 days “no quibble” money-back offer.
  • VPN.AC: They have many optimization for Chinese users, and they have three servers in Hong Kong, one in Singapore and three on the US West Coast, with peering with China Telecom and China Unicom.
  • Private Internet Access: Servers in Hong Kong and US West Coast — focus on privacy — our top choice for a VPN provider overall.
  • 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.

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  a 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 current it works quite well
  • PPTP: Use only if L2TP doesn’t work for you — slower and less reliable than L2TP
  • SSTP: Establishes a connection over secure HTTPS (Port 443) — this allows clients to securely access networks behind NAT routers, firewalls and web proxies, without the concern for typical port blocking issues

For a more details on hiding your VPN connections from Deep Packet Inspection, see my article How To Hide Your VPN Connections In China, Iran, United Arab Emerites, Oman and Pakistan.

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

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.

Private Internet Access

Private Internet Access is a VPN service that is highly regarded by privacy advocates. The company has servers in Hong Kong. They remain our top choice for a privacy-oriented VPN service, and they received a PC Magazine Editor’s Choice Award for VPN services. The service costs $6.95 per month, or $40 per year. They accept Credit cards, Bitcoin, Paypal, Unionpay, Alipay, Webmoney, Paysafecard, CashU, OKPay, Amazon and Ripple.

Link: Private Internet Access

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. They accept Credit cards, Bitcoin, Paypal, CashU, AliPay, PerfectMoney, Skrill.

Update: The Chinese DNS is now blocking the domain name “12vpn.net”, if you are in China you can use “twelve.today” instead.

VPN.AC

VPN.AC has three servers in Hong Kong, one in Singapore and three on the US West Coast, with peering with China Telecom and China Unicom. They have many other optimization for China — the detail are sent via email when you sign up . VPN.AC is owned by Netsec Interactive Solutions – a company with ten years of experience in internet security. They accept Chinese-friendly payments such as Alipay and Unionpay. They also accept Paypal, BitCoin, CashU, Paysafecard and UKash.

Link: VPN.AC

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.

Websites That Currently Blocked

Website Name Block Status Website Address
Google Docs BLOCKED docs.google.com
Google Drive BLOCKED drive.google.com
Google+ BLOCKED plus.google.com
Facebook BLOCKED www.facebook.com
YouTube BLOCKED www.youtube.com
Twitter BLOCKED twitter.com
Blogspot BLOCKED blogspot.com
WordPress BLOCKED wordpress.com
Internet Movie Database BLOCKED www.imdb.com
Vimeo BLOCKED www.vimeo.com
Archive.org BLOCKED www.archive.org
Scribd BLOCKED scribd.com
Technorati BLOCKED www.technorati.com
Wikileaks BLOCKED wikileaks.org
OpenVPN BLOCKED www.openvpn.net
Amnesty International BLOCKED amnesty.org
Reporters Without Borders BLOCKED www.rsf.org
Falun Dafa BLOCKED www.falundafa.org

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. ExpressVPN 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.

    • Kristin says

      HI Ron , can you tell what exact r you using cause i have tryed a lot of VPNs and no of them can open normaly page and watching video

    • Rick says

      Astrill has a very long history of planting comments as well. Check other reviews of astrill and the second something is mentioned, some guy pops up with semi-fluent English talking about how awesome and fast it is. I’m sure they have Google alerts set up to do this.

  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?

    • chowder says

      I have been using Astrill for 2 years now, just recently having issues with connection from China as well. I am also wondering which server do you guys connect to to get an ideal speed. I have tried LA 1~4, denver, Dallas1, even tried HK / Japan servers but they are all slow…

      I live in Shanghai.

  8. Morgan says

    I’m using ExpressVPN from Beijing… and I’ve found that connecting to their Japan server is way faster than their HK and LA servers! Just a tip to anyone in Beijing muddling about :)

  9. says

    I am currently living in Shanghai for 2 years. The VPN i am curently using Strongvpn. It works quite well but the connectivity not as fast like before. You could use sf77 which works more stabilized recently. Thus, i also found another VPN called VYPR VPN, they found a new protocol “Chameleon” which would have higher security to hide most of your online traffic while using this connection.

    • says

      Thanks for posting the info.

      I left out VyprVPN because they ask for your bank info during registration. I also did not enjoy my interactions with their customer service representatives. They declined comments about privacy. They also lock your account immediately if you get a DMCA notice.

  10. says

    I’ve had quite a few problems personally with Astrill and I know many others who have as well. They have a good thing going, but their customer service has been terrible.

    ExpressVPN and 12VPN have worked beautifully for me. I actually did video reviews of each of these that I think you and those reading this might find useful – adds a visual element to what you read here:

    http://www.travelchinacheaper.com/best-vpn-2014-options

    Hope that helps. Great to read some honest reviews here. Thanks Greyone!

  11. Eric says

    I’ve bounced back and forth between Astril, Express, and Strong VPN, and recently came back to Express. Except during heavy internet lock down periods, I find it to be reliable and fast. But, they could really stand to add more bandwidth in HK (the fastest for me when its not over loaded, but unusable during peak times).

    • says

      I’m not impressed by VPNinja. When I clicked to sign up, it told me I had nothing in my shopping cart. I assume because I’m blocking cookies. Cookies should only be required to login. Also, your website has errors on it like this:

      strict warning: Non-static method view::load() should not be called statically in /home/vpninja/drupal_home/sites/all/modules/views/views.module on line 906.
      strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_validate() should be compatible with views_handler::options_validate($form, &$form_state) in /home/vpninja/drupal_home/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 607.
      strict warning: Declaration of views_handler_filter::options_submit() should be compatible with views_handler::options_submit($form, &$form_state) in /home/vpninja/drupal_home/sites/all/modules/views/handlers/views_handler_filter.inc on line 607.

      • Tony Luce says

        Sounds like you had a bad experience with VPNinja – which is rare. Great customer support and an office in Shanghai.

  12. Derik says

    i just arrived china 5days ago and found out i cant access to many websites not even to Google. its kinda weird. so i want to know which is the best vpn that i can use for free when i am here in china.

  13. Eddie says

    Funny. ExpressVPN isn’t working for me AT ALL. Unable to connect to any of their servers. I’d call this article a big lie. I’m still waiting for their refund. Will update on that in a couple of days.

      • Anonymous says

        Funny (again). That’s exactly what I did and the solution they offered? Refund, as they cannot figure out a way to make it work.

        • says

          I sorry the VPN did not work out for your configuration. I’m glad they gave you full refund, as per their policy.

          However, calling my article a lie is misguided, because ExpressVPN has many happy customers using the service in China.

        • Amelia says

          I use ExpressVPN and have been really happy with it. I initially had problems connecting via UDP/TCP (i.e. I couldn’t connect to ANY of their servers, or, when I did connect, I couldn’t load any sites). So I would stick to L2TP and PPTP which was kinda slow.

          When I’d finally had enough, I got in touch w/ customer service on livechat, they walked me through how to update my computer’s DNS servers (from my ISP’s to Google’s + OpenVPN) and now I can use TCP/UDP just fine :D :D :D

          Anyway I’m interested in hearing what your issue was!! That sucks that it happened to you. But at the same time, I just wanted to weigh in and let people know that, as someone in Beijing, I’ve had a great experience w/ them.

          And like Morgan said on 4/23, the Japan server is the fastest! (Though they recently added a Taiwan one, which also gives me really good speeds).

  14. L.Poulin says

    I am very unhappy today to be honest, I am very upset.

    I decided to try Astrill as a VPN and I thought that it would be easy to install and use even though I am not technically incline.

    I had some issue with the installation therefore I contacted the online support. I spoke with Anna, Eva and Ted.

    Due to the issue with the installation, a support personnel took over my computer using a remote control.

    Upon resolving my issue with Astrill another issue arose and they did not want to take responsibility.

    I was left to deal with it on my own without any assistance. The issue was that they changed my desktop image. It was no longer there and my desktop went black. A friend installed when I live in Canada because I am not technically incline.

    I kept asking them to return my setting to the original one but they refused telling me that it was not them who did it.

    Who could have change my setting? I was not in control when they used the remote control. They were in control. I just sat and watch.

    They kept asking me many technical questions to which I was not able to answer and when I asked for the name of their supervisor, I was getting no answer, I got no where or all of a sudden they could no longer help me.

    Who change my original setting? Who?

    There were only two people involved here, Astrill and myself. I did not touch the computer because they needed access. Therefore who changed my setting?

    I am extremely displease and upset with the way Aprill dealt with me.

    I asked several times Anna (over 20 times) for her superior and got no where. She made up excuses and even terminated our conversation with chat.

    This is not right, you do not go around and change the configuration of people’s computer while assisting them.

    At no point, was an effort made to resolve this second issue created by Astrill.

    I am extremely disappointed in the way this was handle, very unprofessional upon their part and I was the one to be blame for their error.

  15. nick says

    Based on reading the comments it sounds like ExpressVPN is the way to go in Beijing? The wife and I are headed to China, and she’ll be living there for 5 months. She’s running Max OSX Mountain Lion, any issues? If we have issues will their support help us resolve them. Can I access their and other VPN sites while in China, or is it something I should try and purchase before we come? Thanks so much for the great article and discussion all!!

    • John says

      @nick, I use ExpressVPN on my Mac, Android tablet, and iPhone. It’s a lot easier if you buy it before coming, as most VPN’s primary domains seem to be blocked here (i.e. pandapow.com is blocked but I can go to .co, and expressvpn.com is blocked but I can access .ws etc.).

      Their Mac app is really easy to use and live chat is helpful. There seems to always be someone online and I’ve never had to wait longer than 1 min for help. Connectivity in China can be really finicky, VPNed or not, but I’m pretty happy with my subscription after having tried numerous others.

  16. says

    Hi All –

    We run a VPN service, basically trying to make a decent service that users can have some control over what they get, we’re all about support and feedback to improve.

    Anyways theres a 3 day free trial if you want to give us a go.

    http://molevpn.com

    This comment will probably be deleted for advertising but I’m not going to do what everyone else does and pretend to be a user saying my service is great – it is though :-)

    Enjoy!

  17. asajji says

    I tested Seed4.me and VPN.ac whilst in China last week and they both worked great!

    VPNArea is disappointing …

    Hope this info will help anyone going to China soon.

    Please get your vpn before you go there.

  18. Michael says

    Greetings all —

    As a long term China resident, I’ve been through the ringer with various VPNs. Express failed in December 2012 (seems they may have recovered), Strong started having issues in late 2013 (connections compromised, it seems), and now it appears that Astill is suffering from a similar fate. I’m guessing that DPI is root cause here — and would like to know whether there may be a reliable VPN service out there that addresses the DPI capability underlying the Great Fire Wall.

    For specifics, I keep getting “sub route” notes in my log file for my current VPN, and the extended DNS test does show, among many, a Shanghai Telecom server.

    All thoughts and comments welcome!

  19. Philipp K says

    Hi all,
    thank you for the review and thanks to all that have spent time and effort on comments – very helpfull to get a qualitative picture.

    However I have no clue what to do with someone writing “works well” or “great connection”. For people using their internet connection on forums and websites such as this one an up/download speed of 200/200 kbps may be considered “great” but for a techie like myself, who had the fastest possible internet connection money can buy at home its painfully slow.

    Never state a problem without a solution. So here is mine: To make all these quantitative comments a little more usefull. do the following:

    1. go to the VPN you currently use and go to this website http://www.speedtest.net
    2. VERY important to level the playing field – DO NOT use the automatically chosen server for the test, but this one: US, San Francisco server, Hosted by Monkey Brains.
    3. post your result like this: YOUR ISP – TESTED VPN: PING/DOWNLOAD SPEED/UPLOAD SPEED

    This test will show how well your connection ACTUALLY performs.

    Here my result:
    Unicom – VyprVPN: 177ms/0.39Mbps/5.02Mbps

  20. says

    Hi everyone.
    I travel to Shanghai every year for a month.
    In the past, I could just use any HK VPN to avoid the Golden Shield (Great Firewall of China).
    By 2013 it was already quite difficult to keep a VPN on. The connection would drop often.
    Right now, September-2014 all VPN services I’ve tried get randomly unstable and disconnect, sometimes after a while, sometimes often. From 4pm to midnight the latency doubles, and the bandwidth goes sometimes to dialup speeds.
    I own a web hosting company in Argentina, and I need to be connected to my business.
    My workaround was to use a VPS* in Los Angeles, USA and get a PPTP server configured there.
    In this way I make sure my VPN is used only by me, and won’t slow down by other users as it would happen if it was a popular VPN service.
    I didn’t use just any VPS, I picked one that has “Asia optimized”.
    All this while local chinese internet is as fast as if it was in my own computer.
    If you need help with all this, I can give you a hand. Just drop me an email.

  21. Jhon Mere says

    Thanks for publishing this article, Recently I will be traveling in china for few months . I cant able to access Google and youtube , then I have gone though this article and get to know if I use VPN , they I can access all of the sites . Now I am using expressvpn but still facing many issues as a new user. Should I switch to switchvpn.asia, have seen good reviews .Admin please help me

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