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Best VPNs for China in 2023 – Only 3 Work Well! (Tested Daily)

Kate Hawkins
Last Updated by Kate Hawkins on February 01, 2023

China’s firewall restrictions have increased since the beginning of the pandemic, making it even harder to access your favorite content when visiting the country. To avoid being cut off from sites and apps like Google, WhatsApp, and Facebook, it’s important to get a VPN. As many VPN websites are blocked, you must download a VPN before you arrive in China. Plus, you want a secure VPN that has been tested and proven to work in China — downloading a government-approved VPN in China puts your privacy and security at risk.

With the help of my colleagues in China, I tested more than 30 services to shortlist the only VPNs that can bypass China’s firewalls. ExpressVPN proved to be the best choice, with fast speeds and top-tier security that masks your VPN traffic to avoid proxy detection. You can try ExpressVPN with no risk as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee — if you change your mind, you can get a full refund.

Use ExpressVPN in China

Quick Guide: Best VPNs That Still Work in China in 2023

  1. ExpressVPN — The #1 VPN for China that works consistently to access the free internet with fast speeds, strong security, and a zero-log privacy policy. Try ExpressVPN for yourself today!
  2. PrivateVPN — Works in China and has a 30-day money-back guarantee, but the streaming quality is inconsistent.
  3. VyprVPN — Has reliable apps but can’t access some popular websites.
  4. NordVPN —  Works in China and other censored regions, but it can’t access every streaming service
  5. Surfshark — NoBorders servers grants access in China, but its server network is more limited that other options in this list

What You Should Know About Using a VPN in China

Using a VPN in China is the only way you’ll be able to access the sites and services you regularly use at home. However, getting a VPN is not all you should consider before you visit China:

  • Where you stay may affect the online resources you can access — China is divided into different provinces, and your online resources may be different depending on where you are — some locations may completely block a site that is available elsewhere. Some even restrict your access to the internet to just a couple of hours per day.
  • Consider getting a Chinese SIM card — Check that your smartphone works in China, and pick a local SIM card to avoid roaming fees from your regular service provider.
  • Choose a reliable internet service provider (ISP) — Generally, China Telecom is the most reliable option for south China, with the fastest speeds. China Unicom is best for north China, and China Mobile is a good choice for central China. All of these ISPs are known to block non-government-approved VPNs.
  • Get a VPN before you arrive in China — Government restrictions block access to VPN websites, so you’ll find it difficult to download a VPN app once you’re inside the country. Make sure you download and set up your VPN before arriving so you won’t be stuck without one.

Bear in mind that even the top VPNs don’t always work 100% of the time in China, as the government is constantly searching for and blocking VPN IP addresses. Fortunately, the best VPNs for China (like ExpressVPN) regularly refresh their IPs, so even if you do experience some downtime, it won’t be for long.

3 Easy Steps: How to Use a VPN in China

  1. Subscribe to a VPN proven to work in China and download the app to your devices. I recommend ExpressVPN for its reliable connections and fast speeds.
  2. Connect to a server recommended for users in China. Not all servers will work, so check with customer support before heading to China to find out which servers are the best choice.
  3. Start browsing freely! You can now access your favorite websites in China.

Important: The protection of a VPN doesn’t give you a license to commit illegal acts, so exercise caution when using a VPN in China. Non-government-approved VPNs are illegal in the country, but there have been no public cases of tourists being penalized by the Chinese government.

Browse freely in China with ExpressVPN

How To Choose the Best VPNs for China

If you arrive in China with a VPN that doesn’t work, there’s not much you can do to access your online accounts and popular sites. So choose your VPN carefully. Here’s what you should look for when deciding which VPN to use in China:

  • Proven ability to access the free internet in China — The large majority of VPNs don’t work well in China. My team and I use the recommended VPNs regularly, so I’ll update this page if any of these services stop working.
  • Servers close to China — Speed often depends on the distance between you and the VPN’s server. That’s why you’ll get the fastest and most reliable connections from servers in neighboring countries, like Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and South Korea.
  • Fast speeds — China’s internet speeds can be slow, so it’s essential that your VPN can mitigate further slowdown due to encryption — ExpressVPN has the fastest speeds of any service I’ve tested.
  • Strong security — Military-grade encryption and advanced protocols (like OpenVPN and WireGuard) are the best for accessing the internet in China. Your VPN should have a kill switch to ensure your data is secure if the encrypted connection is interrupted. As a bonus, your VPN could offer server obfuscation to make your VPN traffic look like regular traffic, reducing the chance of detection.
  • Zero-log privacy policy — China’s online surveillance is intensive, so your VPN should adhere to a strict zero-log policy. This ensures your data and online activity are secure and anonymous while connected to the VPN’s servers.
  • Supports streaming and torrenting — My team and I tested each VPN to check if it can access sites like Netflix, Disney+, and Amazon Prime Video. Plus, your chosen VPN should have P2P-friendly servers for file-sharing and downloads.
  • Good reputation — Check that your VPN hasn’t had any past privacy or security scandals that could jeopardize your data when in China. All of the recommended VPNs have good reputations as reliable, safe services.
  • 24/7 technical support — You want to be able to solve any connection problems in a few minutes.
  • Value for money — The top VPN services are available at a good price, with different subscription options depending on your needs — whether you’re traveling to China for a few weeks or moving there long-term.
  • Money-back guarantee — Even proven VPNs sometimes struggle due to China’s constant updates. That’s why it’s worth having at least 1 backup VPN. I suggest signing up for multiple VPNs and using the money-back guarantee to get refunds later.

Quick Tip: Make sure you download a VPN before arriving in China. It’s tricky to install a VPN once you’re already in China because most VPN websites are blocked (along with the Google Play Store). You’ll need to download a VPN through mirror links, which aren’t easy to find and don’t always work.

The VPNs That Still Work in China — Don’t Waste Time With Others

1. ExpressVPN — #1 VPN for China With the Fastest and Most Reliable Server Network

Key Features:

  • Works consistently in China — servers in Hong Kong, India, Japan, UK, US, and more
  • Obfuscation on every server — access to Netflix, Instagram, Google, WhatsApp, and more
  • Top-tier security and privacy keep your activity safe and anonymous
  • Connect up to 5 devices at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

ExpressVPN is the top VPN on the market and the most reliable for connecting in China. Its success relies on high-level security and privacy features, including:

  • Military-grade encryption: Protects your traffic within an unbreakable encrypted tunnel, so no prying eyes can see your location or online activity.
  • Data leak protection: Stops data from leaking — DNS, IPv4, IPv6, and WebRTC data are all protected.
  • Kill switch: Secures your data in the event the VPN connection is interrupted.
  • Server obfuscation: VPN traffic is disguised as regular HTTPS traffic, avoiding detection by China’s Great Firewall.
  • Zero-log policy: Strict policy confirmed by an independent audit and real-world scenario — servers seized in Turkey were found to contain zero user data.
  • TrustedServer technology: RAM-based servers wipe all data with every scheduled reboot — no user data is ever logged or stored.

With obfuscation on every server, ExpressVPN ensures your VPN traffic can avoid detection by China’s firewall. You can rest assured that every ExpressVPN connection protects your traffic this way. During tests, my team and I tried multiple servers from China, and they all made successful connections — the best options being Hong Kong, Japan, and the US (New York).

ExpressVPN can keep speeds fast across its global network. In my tests, speed loss was minimal — just 18% on average from my regular internet speeds. A colleague in China had an even smaller slowdown and could use the internet as though ExpressVPN wasn’t connected.

Screenshot of 2 Ookla speed tests, one without a VPN connection and one with ExpressVPN connected to a Hong Kong server.
ExpressVPN keeps speed loss to a minimum

These fast speeds are due in part to ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway protocol. This lightweight protocol is designed for top speeds and security, and I found Lightway gave me the best speeds in my tests. It’s the default protocol and is available for use in China. ExpressVPN also features the OpenVPN protocol, which you can switch to in the Protocol menu.

With solid speeds, my team and I could stream and torrent with minimal lag or interruption. From China, ExpressVPN can access the following services:

Reddit Twitter Facebook WhatsApp New York Times
Netflix Disney+ Amazon Prime Video Hulu HBO Max
YouTube Skype BBC Wikipedia …and more!

There were also no issues with connecting to file-sharing services like Dropbox or Google Drive. However, I experienced lag when online gaming due to high ping (or latency), which is usually not an issue for ExpressVPN. This high ping is likely because of the ISP rather than the VPN — just be aware that when gaming in China, you may have to connect to several servers to find one with low ping rates.

I found ExpressVPN’s apps quick to download and easy to use, with an intuitive interface that is identical across platforms. This made switching between my Windows PC and iPhone simple. When I wanted to ask a question about the Lightway protocol, ExpressVPN’s email support responded to me in less than 30 minutes — the address is support@expressvpn.zendesk.com. As you can’t access ExpressVPN’s website in China, I was pleased that email support was so quick and detailed.

Screenshot of email conversation with ExpressVPN's customer support team about the LightWay protocol
ExpressVPN’s prompt and detailed email support is ideal for China

ExpressVPN is a little more expensive, but it’s worth the cost for a VPN that consistently provides reliable connections in China. Subscriptions start at $6.67 a month for a 1-year + 3 months term, and every plan is backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. Plus, you can pay with a credit card, PayPal, Bitcoin, and other anonymous methods like Mint.

You can try ExpressVPN in China risk-free and get a full refund if you change your mind. Simply contact customer support (through live chat or email) and ask for a refund — it took a couple of minutes to request my money back, and it was in my account in less than 5 days.

ExpressVPN works on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Chromebook, Amazon Fire TV, Amazon Fire Stick, Kindle Fire, Roku, routers, and more.

Try ExpressVPN in China risk-free

2. PrivateVPN — Stealth VPN Feature Keeps Your Data Safe in China

Key Features:

  • Works well in China — best servers in Canada, Japan, and Taiwan
  • Stealth VPN uses server obfuscation to mask VPN traffic
  • Military-grade encryption and zero-log policy secure your data
  • 10 simultaneous connections
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

PrivateVPN is a small but powerful VPN for ensuring your online privacy in China. Its Stealth VPN feature provides server obfuscation, masking your VPN traffic to look like regular traffic. This helps PrivateVPN keep your online activity hidden from China’s Great Firewall — just remember to switch it on before you connect to a server.

Screenshot of PrivateVPN's Windows app highlighting the Stealth VPN feature.
Make sure Stealth VPN is active to ensure a connection from China

PrivateVPN also uses the following features to secure your connection:

  • AES-256-bit encryption: Top-tier encryption keeps all data within the secure tunnel.
  • Kill switch: Blocks access to the internet if the VPN is interrupted, preventing your data from leaking.
  • Leak protection: Stops DNS and IPv6 data from leaking to protect your location and activity data.
  • Zero-log policy: Strict privacy policy ensures PrivateVPN won’t log or store your data when connected to the VPN servers.

PrivateVPN is headquartered in Sweden, a country that is part of the 14 Eyes Alliance. I was initially skeptical about this until I read PrivateVPN’s privacy policy, which confirms the VPN won’t log or store any of your data. Plus, Sweden exempts VPNs from collecting data, so you can rest assured your information is safe. However, PrivateVPN has yet to undergo an independent audit to confirm its zero-log policy.

You can choose from PrivateVPN’s small but solid selection of 200+ servers, some of which are located in countries close to China (like Taiwan and Japan). Local servers provide better speeds, but you can also connect to servers in further locations — my research team found servers in Canada worked well to unblock sites like:

Netflix Disney+ Amazon Prime Video Hulu
YouTube Twitter WhatsApp …and more!

I suggest contacting customer support to find out which servers have the most reliable connections from China — you can get in touch by email at support@privatevpn.com and expect a response in less than 90 minutes.

Unfortunately, PrivateVPN’s speeds were quite slow. My team and I ran multiple speed tests and found our speeds were around 60% slower on average. This caused lags and buffering when trying to stream, but after loading, streaming was smooth. Slower speeds are caused by the Stealth VPN obfuscation, but waiting a few seconds for content to load is worth it for top-tier security. If you’re looking for a VPN mainly for streaming in China, you should try ExpressVPN instead. Its speeds are consistently fast, so you’ll have the best chances of getting good streaming quality.

PrivateVPN’s apps are almost identical across platforms, making them easy to navigate on all of your devices. I found downloading and setting up the VPN was quick — I was ready to connect in about 5 minutes.

Of all the recommended VPNs for China, PrivateVPN is the most affordable at just $2.00/month for its 3-year plan — it’s one of the top choice monthly VPNs if you only need a VPN for a short time, and you can pay with a credit card, PayPal, and Bitcoin. Plus, you can try PrivateVPN in China risk-free as every plan has a 30-day money-back guarantee. You have to give a reason for canceling — I said I no longer needed the service — and had my money back in 5 days.

PrivateVPN works on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Linux, Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, routers, and more.

Get PrivateVPN risk-free today

3. VyprVPN — Proprietary Chameleon Technology Easily Gets Around China’s Firewall

Key Features:

  • Works well in China — recommended servers in Hong Kong
  • Chameleon technology masks data from DPI inspection and uses Smart IP to regularly switch IP addresses
  • Military-grade security, kill switch, leak protection, and audited zero-log policy
  • Supports 30 devices at the same time
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

VyprVPN’s Chameleon technology is ideal for China, with multiple layers of security that easily get around the Great Firewall. Running on the secure protocol OpenVPN, Chameleon scrambles the data packet metadata of your online traffic, ensuring the VPN is undetectable through DPI. Plus, Chameleon automatically enables Smart IP — this regularly changes your IP address without interrupting your connection, making it impossible to trace you.

Screenshots of VyprVPN's Windows app, showing how to find and change the connection protocol to Chameleon.
Make sure you switch to Chameleon protocol when in China

VyprVPN also has the following security and privacy features:

  • Military-grade encryption: All traffic is secured within an encrypted tunnel, away from prying eyes, hackers, and your ISP.
  • Data leak protection: Stops DNS, IPv6, and WebRTC data from leaking and exposing your identity and location.
  • Audited zero-log policy: Independent audit confirms VyprVPN’s no-log policy is accurate.
  • Owns and operates the entire server network: Reduces the chance of third-party interference or vulnerabilities.

Aside from Chameleon, VyprVPN also supports other protocols, including PPTP, L2TP/IPsec, IKEv2, OpenVPN, and WireGuard. However, when in China, I recommend only using Chameleon so you can access sites and apps that aren’t available in the country.

With headquarters in Switzerland, VyprVPN is located in a country with robust data security outside the Eyes Alliance networks. Switzerland occasionally engages in intelligence-sharing but does not force VPNs to store your data at all — you don’t have to worry about VyprVPN sharing your data.

My team found working servers in Hong Kong, Japan, and Taiwan — you’ll also have other options in VyprVPN’s network in 80+ locations in North America, South America, Asia, Europe, and Oceania. Speeds were also solid during tests, with 15 locations averaging 50-60Mbps. VyprVPN wasn’t as fast as ExpressVPN, but still respectable. During testing, all of VyprVPN’s servers were fast enough for 4K streaming.

To watch movies and connect with friends online, VyprVPN can access:

Netflix Disney+ HBO Max
YouTube Twitter …and more!

VyprVPN is also a good choice for P2P file-sharing, with a built-in malware blocker on Mac and iOS to protect against malicious downloads. I’d like to see this extended to the Windows and Android apps, too. However, all apps have a split tunneling feature — I configured this with uTorrent to securely download public domain content.

There are VyprVPN apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and other platforms, and they all worked well in China during testing. Servers stayed connected reliably with no drop-outs, and its apps never crashed or displayed annoying error messages even on a maximum of 30 devices. However, VyprVPN is missing some key features, like multi-hop, Tor compatibility, and a SOCKS5 proxy.

VyprVPN starts at $5.00/month for a 1-year plan, which I think is a reasonable price for high-quality security that works in China — you can pay with a credit card or PayPal. If you’d like to try VyprVPN in China before you commit to a subscription, you can test the service risk-free with its money-back guarantee. If you change your mind (or only need a VPN for a short time), you can claim a refund within 30 days.

VyprVPN works on: Android, iOS, Windows, Mac, Blackphone, Amazon Fire Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Android TV, routers, and more.

Try VyprVPN in China without risk

4. NordVPN — Premium VPN With Cheap Prices on Long-Term Plans

Key Features:

  • Short and long-term subscriptions available
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 5456+ global servers in 60 countries
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Protect up to 6 devices at once

NordVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market — and you can get super cheap prices when you sign up for a long-term subscription. One thing to note, however, is that when it’s time to renew your subscription, prices do increase quite significantly.

I was particularly impressed with the high performance of every server I tested. Just because a VPN has thousands of servers doesn’t mean they all work. Servers can still struggle to unblock local sites — and some can even fail to connect completely. However, I easily unblocked Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, and HBO Max on multiple servers in the US and UK.

I did, however, have issues with using NordVPN’s native Fire TV app. Although it worked and unblocked some streaming services, it sometimes had issues unblocking Netflix US and kept crashing. I also found that NordVPN’s user interface for desktop devices was less user-friendly than ExpressVPN and CyberGhost.

NordVPN has the following security and privacy features:

  • AES 256-bit encryption
  • A kill switch that cuts your internet access if your connection to a VPN server drops suddenly
  • Built-in ad and malware blocker, so you don’t need a third-party ad blocker
  • Fully audited no-logs policy (audited by PwC) – NordVPN doesn’t store any personal or identifying data while you’re connected to the VPN

In addition, NordVPN includes Threat Protection that protects you from viruses, infected websites, and trackers – and it works whenever you have the NordVPN app open, even if you’re not connected to a VPN server.

NordVPN's threat protection keeps you fully protected at all times

NordVPN protects you from online threats 24/7

With plans that cost as little as $3.49 per month, it's easy to find a NordVPN subscription plan that suits your needs. You can also stream, torrent, and browse for free for up to 30 days with its money-back guarantee. I tested this to ensure that you’ll really get your money back. At first, the support team tried to give me an extended trial period — but they initiated my refund right away after I told them I wasn’t interested in the extension. I got my money back in 6 business days.

NordVPN unblocks: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Hulu, Disney+, SkyTV, HBO Max, SHOWTIME, DAZN, ESPN, YouTube TV, and more

NordVPN works on: Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, Windows Phone, Chromebook, Linux, Chrome, Firefox, Fire Stick, and Android TV

Get NordVPN today

5. Surfshark — Best Value for Money with Unlimited Device Connections and Fast Speeds

Key Features:

  • Short and long-term plans available
  • 30-day money-back guarantee
  • 3200+ global servers in 99 countries
  • No bandwidth restrictions
  • Connect unlimited devices at once

Surfshark offers the best value for money out of every premium VPN on the market. You can connect an unlimited number of devices with a single subscription, which means you can use Surfshark on all your devices without getting logged out.

I tested Surfshark’s simultaneous connections on 2 PCs, 2 phones, a Fire Stick 4K, and an iPad. My connection remained reliable on all 6 devices. Even while I was actively streaming on all my devices, my average speed was 112 Mbps — fast enough for UHD quality.

When I saw the price of this service, I thought it couldn’t possibly have top-grade security features for such a low price, but I was pleasantly surprised.

Surfshark has the following security and privacy features:

  • AES 256-bit encryption on all devices, with ChaCha encryption available for Android users
  • Wireguard VPN protocol enabled by default
  • Diskless, RAM-only servers to protect your privacy (no data can be physically extracted from any servers)
  • Kill switch (although this isn’t enabled by default)
  • IP and DNS leak protection

Surfshark offers two-factor authentication (2FA) on your account. This feature requires you to enter an extra code before you can log in to ensure that only you can access your account.

While Surfshark does have slightly fewer global servers than rivals such as CyberGhost and PIA, I didn’t experience any issues during my tests. I easily connected fast working servers every time, and I had excellent speeds for streaming Netflix in UHD, downloading torrents, and browsing the internet.

You can try Surfshark for yourself with the 30-day money-back guarantee. It has plans that cost as little as $2.49. Requesting a refund is easy with Surfshark’s live chat feature. Although the support team asked why I wanted to cancel my subscription, I had no problem getting my money back (and it only took 4 days!).

Surfshark unblocks: Netflix, Amazon Prime Video, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Sling TV, Hotstar, HBO Max, DAZN, and more

Surfshark works on: Windows, Mac OS, Android, iOS, Linux, Fire Stick, Samsung Smart TVs, LG Smart TVs, Android TV, Kodi, and selected routers

Get Surfshark today

Comparison Table: 2023’s Best VPNs for China

ExpressVPN PrivateVPN VyprVPN
Server Obfuscation
Servers Close to China Hong Kong, India, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan Hong Kong, India, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan Hong Kong, India, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan
Zero-Log Policy
Audited

Not Audited

Audited
Protocols for China Lightway or WireGuard L2TP Chameleon
Access to Streaming Services Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Spotify, YouTube, and more Netflix, Disney+, BBC iPlayer, Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more Netflix, Disney+, Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, and more
Lowest Price $6.67/month $2.00/month $5.00/month
Money-Back Guarantee 30 days 30 days 30 days
Top Tip for China Connect to servers in Japan Switch on Stealth VPN feature Use the Chameleon protocol

How I Tested and Ranked the Best VPNs for China

To make sure you get the best VPN in 2023 for China, I tested more than 30 VPNs with the help of my colleagues. I then ranked the VPNs using the following criteria:

  • Reliably works in China — My team and I tested multiple servers to ensure the VPN could make a reliable, secure connection from inside China that avoids The Great Firewall’s restrictions.
  • Servers — A global server network with connections near China (in Hong Kong, Japan, Singapore, and more) that provides more reliable service and improves speeds by keeping user congestion low.
  • Speed — I ran multiple speed tests on various global servers to check for consistently fast speeds with low latency — the best VPNs can keep speed loss to a minimum.
  • Security features — I checked each VPN for military-grade encryption, data leak protection, a kill switch, and server obfuscation. These keep your data secure and help avoid detection by China’s internet restrictions.
  • Privacy policy — I read each VPN’s privacy policy to ensure it won’t keep any identifying logs when you’re connected to its servers. Some top VPNs have undergone independent audits to prove they won’t log or store data.
  • Access to popular sites — My team and I visited popular sites and services, like Netflix, Google, Facebook, and YouTube, to ensure the VPN could access them from inside China. Plus, I looked at whether content streaming was smooth and lag-free and if I could P2P file-share using the VPN connections.
  • Device connections — I checked that the VPNs are compatible with popular platforms like Windows, Mac, iOS, and Android and that they support connections on several devices at the same time.
  • Customer support — As live chat won’t be accessible in China, I tested each VPN’s alternative support methods, like email ticketing. I looked for detailed answers to technical questions and prompt responses in less than 4 hours.

The Great Firewall of China and How to Get Around It

China’s Great Firewall is an integral part of the Chinese internet, with multiple methods of internet filtering and restriction technologies designed to censor specific content. There are 5 different methods the Great Firewall uses:

  1. IP Filtering: Detects and blocks IP addresses linked to specific websites.
  2. DNS Spoofing: Diverts your online traffic away from your intended destination to another website, essentially blocking access.
  3. URL and Keyword Filtering: Detects and blocks specific URLs and keywords found on websites.
  4. Deep Packet Inspection (DPI): Examines the headers within data packets to detect the IP address and block access if the website is restricted.
  5. Manual Censorship: Thousands of Chinese workers manually search for, check, and block websites and content.

These internet restriction methods make China’s Great Firewall extremely difficult to get around. Fortunately, there are a few top-tier VPNs that have the technology to avoid detection.

How the Best VPNs for China Get Around the Great Firewall

The top VPNs for China use a combination of factors to get around the Great Firewall — top-tier encryption and server obfuscation.

By encrypting your traffic within a secure tunnel, a VPN stops the Great Firewall from seeing where you’re located or what you’re doing online. Your traffic travels from your device to the VPN’s server in a different location (like Hong Kong or South Korea), letting you avoid China’s restrictions. This also stops the Great Firewall from detecting your online destination, so it won’t block access.

However, China’s detection technology is sophisticated and can often detect VPN connections; DPI, for example, can expose some VPN behaviors and lead to the connection being blocked. As such, the most reliable VPNs for China use server obfuscation to hide VPN traffic behavior. Instead, your traffic is masked as regular HTTPS internet traffic, which can travel without inspection.

Avoid China’s firewall with ExpressVPN

VPN Not Connecting in China? Try These Troubleshooting Tips

Even the best VPN services will struggle from time to time since China often implements new methods of VPN detection. Below are some easy fixes to help you re-establish a working connection (if you’re using ExpressVPN, here’s a step-by-step troubleshooting guide).

  • Update the VPN software — Before arriving in China, make sure you’ve got the latest version of the VPN app. New updates could prevent any issues you might be having with your VPN.
  • Connect to a new server — It’s possible the server you’re using is blocked, but others in the same location aren’t. Head to the server list and pick a different server to see if it works.
  • Change the VPN protocol — In your VPN settings, you should find a section for “Protocol” and be able to choose a different one for your connection. Be aware that some VPNs, like PrivateVPN, only support 1 protocol for connections from China.
  • Port forward to port 433 — Port 433 is most often used for encrypted communication, so this could get you connected again.
  • Email customer service — If your regular email service isn’t blocked, you can contact your VPN’s customer support team for assistance.

Here’s a tip: Before you go to China, ask your VPN for a list of recommended servers to use in China and note down the customer support email address. Once you’re in China, the VPN’s website will be blocked, so you won’t have access anymore.

Popular VPNs That Don’t Work in China (Tested July 2022)

After rigorous and regular testing, I can confirm that none of these VPNs consistently work in China:

CyberGhost PIA IPVanish Proton VPN
NordVPN Surfshark TunnelBear Windscribe

China’s blocking and firewall technology is constantly improving, and not even the best VPNs always stay ahead of the restrictions.

ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, and VyprVPN are the most reliable and consistent VPNs in China. Not only will you be able to securely access the internet in China, but they’re also fast, so you won’t waste time waiting for sites to load. On the odd occasion when these VPNs can’t connect, the providers will quickly add new servers for you to use.

Hidden Dangers of Using Free VPNs in China

There are some free VPNs that work in China, but you always have to compromise when you’re not paying for a service. This includes small inconveniences, like limited data allowances, slower speeds, and no streaming or torrenting support.

However, there’s a chance you could encounter serious security and privacy risks. Unlimited free VPNs are notoriously shady, often logging and selling user data to make a profit, and some even contain malware — it’s not worth the threat to your personal data to use them.

If you’re in China and see a VPN service advertised, that means it’s government-approved. I would caution you not to use them — it’s almost guaranteed that the VPN is sharing your browsing history and personal information with the local authorities. In China, using a government-approved VPN for restricted activities is dangerous — you could face prosecution or jail time for accessing censored sites.

A recent example is the Shadowrocket VPN app. A Chinese citizen was caught using Shadowrocket to illegally watch adult content (pornography is blocked in China). While it’s unclear how this happened, it’s very likely that government-approved Shadowrocket VPN was leaking private user data to the local police. A quick online search confirms Shadowrocket’s shady background — there’s no official website, but I found many questionable websites with free download links to the app.

Free is always tempting, but it’s not worth risking your safety in China. If you don’t want to commit to paying for a VPN right away, try a VPN with a money-back guarantee. You can test PrivateVPN risk-free in China for up to 30 days — if you don’t feel it’s right for you, you can get a full refund within the money-back guarantee period.

PrivateVPN makes it easy to get a full refund

Try PrivateVPN in China risk-free!

FAQs on VPNs in China

What are the best VPNs for China?

The best VPNs for China in 2023 are ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, and VyprVPN. After rigorous and continued testing, these are the top services that reliably work in China, providing top-tier security and privacy to help you access your favorite sites and services.

Can I download VPNs when I’m already in China?

Yes, you can still download a VPN if you’re in China. However, it isn’t easy — nearly all VPN websites are blocked, and the Google Play store and Amazon Appstore aren’t available. Even though the Apple App Store still works, all the VPNs offered for iOS and Mac are heavily monitored by authorities.

You can download a government-approved VPN, but I strongly advise against this if you value your privacy and safety. All local VPNs must comply with Chinese laws and regulations, and your personal information could be shared with the government.

I highly recommend that you download a trustworthy VPN before you arrive. ExpressVPN is a reliable VPN that’s been proven to work in China — and you can install it beforehand, so you’re prepared once you’re inside the country.

Note: If you must download ExpressVPN when you’re already in China, you can use the Tor browser if it’s already installed on your device. ExpressVPN has its own .onion site (http://expressobutiolem.onion/) you can use to get the app. However, I don’t recommend doing this — Tor is illegal in China, and you can face legal percussions if you’re caught using the service.

Are VPNs legal in China?

Yes, government-approved VPNs are legal but heavily monitored, but this obviously isn’t ideal for privacy reasons. The government bans all non-approved VPNs, which are actually the best VPNs to use in China, as your data will be kept safe from the authorities.

According to my research, most foreigners arrive in China with a non-approved VPN, and there haven’t been any records of government action. The ban seems to apply more to Chinese nationals than foreigners, although it’s widely known that many Chinese businesses use VPNs to network securely. Ultimately, you should be cautious when using a VPN in China and make sure you’re aware of local regulations before you connect.

Can you get in trouble for using a VPN in China?

It’s unlikely that you’ll get into legal trouble if you’re a foreigner using a VPN, even non-government-approved VPNs like the top choices listed here. Legal issues and repercussions are targeted more toward citizens, and it’s much riskier for locals to use banned VPNs, especially in politically-sensitive areas like Xinjiang or Tibet.

It’s important to note that using a VPN doesn’t give you the right to perform any acts that are illegal in China, like sharing copyrighted content or online gambling. My team and I don’t condone any illegal activity and recommend being aware of local laws before using a VPN in China.

Why do I need a VPN for China?

With the right VPN, you can access the sites you would usually have access to at home. The Chinese government heavily censors the internet, so you’ll find most of the accounts you subscribe to at home are banned or simply won’t load.

A quality VPN also keeps your online activities safe from third-party surveillance. If you take your privacy seriously, then a VPN is essential for securing your personal data while in China.

What is “The Great Firewall of China”?

The “Great Firewall” is the nickname for a group of laws, regulations, and technology used by the Chinese government to regulate internet usage in China. Some techniques used include:

  • Blocking VPNs and VPN websites — Any VPN that isn’t government-approved is restricted from use, including access to the VPN website. This makes it harder to download VPNs, so make sure you’ve downloaded your VPN before arriving in China.
  • Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) — Identifying data packets with VPN encryption and blocking them from accessing the internet.
  • URL Filtering — Restricts specific URLs and blocks websites that contain specific unapproved keywords.
  • DNS Tampering — Intercepting DNS requests for specific websites and blocking them.

These regulations stop users in China from accessing certain external sites and applications, like Snapchat, YouTube, Twitter, and WhatsApp. Even for foreign websites that aren’t blocked, internet speeds can be significantly throttled.

Do VPNs work 100% in China?

Based on tests, ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, and VyprVPN are the most reliable options in China. However, it’s difficult to guarantee that even the best VPNs will work 100% of the time. The government conducts periodic crackdowns on VPN services, which means that you might find some servers are suddenly blocked. However, the VPNs on this list refresh their server networks regularly, so you’ll never have to wait too long for a working connection.

Which VPN country should I use when in China?

Ideally, you want to connect to VPN servers in countries close to China — Hong Kong, India, Japan, Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, and Taiwan are all good choices. Connecting to a nearby country means you get a faster, more reliable connection. However, if you want to access your local Netflix US account or stream on BBC iPlayer, you’ll have to pick a server in your home country — just be prepared for slower speeds.

All the top VPNs for China have servers in these countries, so you’ll find you can quickly connect and start browsing the internet freely.

What VPN protocol should I use in China?

Always ensure you use a secure protocol, like OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2, or LT2P, when connecting to a VPN in China. These protocols are well-established and known for their top-tier security and reliable speeds. If you find one protocol isn’t making a connection, you can switch protocols in your VPN app and try connecting again.

I also recommend using your VPN’s server obfuscation features, as these can help you avoid VPN detection by the Great Firewall. Server obfuscation disguises your VPN traffic to look like regular HTTPS traffic, so it won’t be inspected. Every ExpressVPN server is already obfuscated for ease of use and both PrivateVPN and VyprVPN offer obfuscation as Stealth VPN and the Chameleon protocol, respectively.

Can I bypass the Great Firewall of China without a VPN?

You can, but other methods to get around the Great Firewall aren’t as secure and don’t always work. If you can’t get a top-tier VPN for China and need to bypass the Great Firewall, here are a few options you can try:

  1. Proxies (Shadowsocks): Proxies disguise your IP address but don’t encrypt your connection — you can access restricted sites, but the Great Firewall will see what you’re doing. For greater overall security, you should use Shadowsocks, which operates with the SOCKS5 protocol.
  2. Lantern: This is open-source P2P software that lets volunteer users in unrestricted countries share bandwidth with users in countries like China. However, Lantern provides no anonymity or encryption.
  3. Mirror Sites: The website you want to access may have a “mirror” site or copy of the original site using a different URL. You can still visit the site if the URL isn’t blocked by China’s firewall.
  4. FreeBrowser: Only for Android — A free web browser designed to navigate around online restrictions. However, it’s only a web browser, so your other activity (using apps, messaging, and more) will be restricted or blocked.
  5. Tor: A free browser that provides a level of anonymity by routing your connection through a network of volunteer devices (or “nodes”). However, since it doesn’t offer encryption and is illegal in China, I don’t recommend using the Tor browser.

Ultimately, none of these options provide the reliable, secure, and anonymous connections of a VPN.

Why is my VPN slow in China?

Using a VPN connection in China will inevitably slow your speeds, but only a small amount. To get around China’s strict internet regulations, your VPN needs to use a high level of encryption and obfuscate its servers — this slows your connection as your traffic has to travel further. The best VPNs can mitigate this slowdown, so you only experience a small speed reduction.

You may notice more of an impact as China’s existing internet speeds can be very slow, depending on where you are in the country and which ISP you’re using. To keep your speed loss at a minimum, connect to servers in nearby countries and choose a VPN with consistently fast speeds, like ExpressVPN.

Why does China block most VPNs?

China’s government blocks non-approved VPNs to maintain a high level of online restriction for its citizens. The Chinese government considers a lot of online content, like pornography and gambling, to be detrimental to the well-being of the country. China’s regime also prohibits access to content that speaks poorly about the government and the country, which a VPN would allow access to. This means using one of the VPNs listed above is prohibited in China.

China only allows government-approved VPNs, as these record the online activity of the VPN users and send it to the government for monitoring purposes. Foreigners entering the country with VPNs may find servers are blocked but are unlikely to face any legal repercussions.

Which sites and apps are blocked in China?

There are many blocked websites and apps in China, and new sites are being restricted every day. Here are just some that you can’t access without a secure and private VPN service:

Streaming Sites

YouTube, Twitch, Vimeo, Hulu, HBO, Vevo, Dailymotion, Spotify, and more. Some sites, like Netflix and Disney+, aren’t blocked but won’t display any content when you log in as they are unavailable to locals.

Social Networks and Messaging

Facebook, Reddit, Instagram, Snapchat, Skype, WhatsApp, Twitter, Tinder, LinkedIn, Tumblr, and Pinterest are all blocked in China.

Search Engines

Google, Yahoo, and DuckDuckGO are unavailable in China.

VPN, Proxy, and Other Restriction-Bypassing Sites

ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, VyprVPN, DNS proxies, and other sites and apps that circumnavigate online restrictions are all blocked.

File-Sharing Sites

Imgur, Dropbox, Google Drive, and all torrent sites are blocked.

News and Information Sites

The New York Times, Washington Post, BBC, WordPress, The Guardian, Wikipedia, and more are inaccessible in China.

Site and app blocking isn’t always consistent across China. Some blocked content may be available in other provinces, or the block may be temporary during a particular time, like protests or political events. In Hong Kong, restrictions are much less tight, but Chinese law still applies there — many VPN providers shut down servers in Hong Kong to protect users from changes to the law in 2019.

Will I be able to access the Google Play and Apple App Store in China?

You can access the Apple App Store in China, but not Google Play. Like all other Google services, the Google Play Store is blocked when in China. This means you won’t be able to access your VPN provider’s app when you’re in the country, so make sure you download your VPN before you arrive in China.

Apple’s App Store is available in China, but it’s heavily restricted and monitored by the Chinese government. Many popular apps like Youtube, WhatsApp, and Facebook aren’t available there as only government-approved apps are allowed. You won’t find your VPN app there either — in 2017, services like ExpressVPN and VyprVPN were removed following an order to remove VPNs from app stores.

Can I watch Netflix in China?

Yes, Netflix is accessible from China if you have ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, or VyprVPN. You won’t be able to stream using your Netflix account without a VPN, as Netflix isn’t present in China — you can log in and view the site, but no content will be available.

Fortunately, streaming on Netflix in China is easy and can be done in just a few steps:

  1. Launch your VPN.
  2. Choose a server located in the country where you subscribed to Netflix.
  3. Start streaming your favorite content!

Do I need a VPN in Hong Kong and Taiwan?

You should definitely use a VPN in Hong Kong and Taiwan. China still controls Taiwan, but internet censorship is far less intense. Popular sites can be accessed without a VPN, but it’s still in your best interest to use one for data security.

In Hong Kong, internet regulations are much freer. Still, after the 2019 protests, there’s a chance that internet freedom could be restricted in the future — multiple VPN providers disabled their Hong Kong servers to protect their users from new security laws. I suggest using a VPN to keep your internet unrestricted.

Do any free VPNs work in China?

I’ve tested dozens of free VPNs for China and found that Hide.me is decent enough for a free VPN. It keeps you safe in China with its strict no-logs policy, military-grade encryption, kill switch, and leak protection. However, unlike the premium VPNs I tested, free services come with frustrating limitations — Hide.me only provides 10GB of free data each month and 5 server locations.

If you don’t want to deal with the hassle, you’re better off using a premium VPN. Based on rigorous tests, my team and I found ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs on the market (and for China). It’s a premium VPN but comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test the service risk-free to make sure it’s right for you. If not, you can claim a full refund, no questions asked.

Get ExpressVPN for China risk-free

Be Careful! Not Every VPN Is Safe or Works in China

It’s essential to find a reliable and trustworthy VPN to use in China — but it’s not easy. Many safe VPNs struggle to access the free internet in China. Local VPNs that do work in China are government-approved and share your online activity with the authorities.

Based on my tests, I can confirm that ExpressVPN, PrivateVPN, and VyprVPN are trustworthy and work well in China. You’ll enjoy secure and unlimited access to popular sites.

For long-term residents in China, I recommend ExpressVPN, as every server works inside the country. You can try ExpressVPN completely risk-free since it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you’re not satisfied, you can always get a full refund.


Summary: These Are the Best VPNs 100% Working In China (2023)

Top Choice
ExpressVPN
$6.67 / month Save 49%
PrivateVPN
$2.00 / month Save 83%
VyprVPN
$5.00 / year Save 50%
NordVPN
$3.49 / month Save 71%
Surfshark
$2.30 / month Save 82%
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