How to Download a VPN in China (7 Tested Methods for 2023)

Caroline Webster
Last Updated by Caroline Webster on March 01, 2023

If you’re traveling to China, you’ll be aware that the internet is heavily censored. There may be times when it’s necessary to access the online accounts you use on a daily basis, and it’s essential you get the security and privacy you have at home.

Once you’re in China, all the websites you usually use will be blocked. There are ways to use a VPN in China, but not all VPNs work there. I’ve tested 30+ VPNs and found a premium China VPN that will protect you every time you go online.

My favorite VPN for China is ExpressVPN. It works consistently there and keeps your internet activities completely private. You can try ExpressVPN without any risk. It comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you don’t like it, simply ask for a refund.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free

Why Do You Need a VPN in China?

The Chinese government censors and monitors everything that happens on the internet within the country. All Google services, the Google browser, WhatsApp, Facebook, Wikipedia, Twitter, and more are blocked. You’ll have no way of getting email if all you have is a Gmail account, and all of the other ways of contacting family at home are blocked or heavily monitored.

A VPN will allow you to access your pre-paid libraries as you do at home. It provides you with privacy, so you are safe from hackers who might want to steal your personal information. VPNs grant you the internet freedom so sought after in China.

My recommended VPN for use in China is ExpressVPN. It has global servers that easily unblock content, giving you access to your favorite websites back home. You can try it risk-free as it comes with a 30-day money-back guarantee. If you don’t like it, just claim your money back.

WARNING — Using VPNs not approved by the government in China is illegal. Even if you’re protected by a VPN, it does not give you the right to commit illegal acts. There are no cases of the Chinese government coming after tourists, but it is important to use a basic level of caution when using a VPN in China.

Stay protected with ExpressVPN

How to Download and Use a VPN in China — 7 Working Methods

1. Use the Hotels

The major tourist hotels in China don’t censor their internet too heavily, and you’ll have access to the WiFi if you stay there. WiFi provided to customer rooms usually already has VPN service, so it’s possible to use the internet with some freedom.

Not all the hotels offer this, but popular ones such as The Mariott, Hilton, Shangri-La, Wyndham, Starwood, Crowne Plaza, and Intercontinental do. Check with your hotel to see if they offer VPN service.

2. Use a SIM Card from Your Home Country

Using a SIM card from home makes it possible to download a VPN. Your mobile must be set to roam and, while this can be expensive, it will help you successfully download a VPN from within the country. Once installed, the switch can be made to a China SIM card.

3. Talk to a Friend

Often, people already in China already have a VPN or are willing to download files. If a friend has access to private internet, they may be able to download and install files and email them to you. Just remember, you’ll need an email account other than Gmail. Outlook should work well.

4. Visit Hong Kong

Restrictions are more relaxed in Hong Kong, so taking a trip there is another solution. Hong Kong has its issues with China’s surveillance and censorship, but it has more freedom at this point. Most travelers have plans to visit the city anyway and can pick up a VPN while there.

5. Download a .APK VPN File

China blocks VPN websites, but it’s possible to access .apk mirror sites. These files work with all Android devices. I searched for a .apk mirror site, downloaded the most up-to-date version, and installed it. The VPN worked perfectly.

6. Install a VPN Before You Arrive in China

The best option is to install and set up a VPN account before leaving for China. You just need to go to the VPN’s website, set up an account, and download the most up-to-date software directly from the comfort of home. That way, there’s no struggle to download a file while traveling.

7. Go For a VPN That Works in China

Only specific VPNs work in China, so it’s vital to choose the right one. ExpressVPN is one of the best VPNs I’ve found for China. It even offers a 30-day money-back guarantee so you can buy ExpressVPN in confidence. If you find you don’t want to keep it, you’ll get a full refund.

Try ExpressVPN for China

The Best VPNs for China in March 2023

1. ExpressVPN — Offers a Fast Connection to Stream Shows From Home While You’re in China

Key Features:

  • Offers 3000+ servers in 94 locations with servers in Hong Kong and Macau
  • Lightning-fast so you can stream programs from home in China without lag
  • Gives you 5 device connections at once so you can protect all of your devices
  • Features 24/7 live chat and email support with an extensive knowledge base to give you the answers you need
  • Has a 30-day money-back guarantee, so it’s entirely risk-free for you to try

ExpressVPN has blazing-fast speeds, so there wasn’t any irritating lag to interrupt my viewing experience. When I switched to ExpressVPN’s proprietary Lightway Protocol, I was impressed with speeds up to 102 Mbps. It is fast, but it also uses fewer resources on my computer. I thoroughly tested ExpressVPN while browsing, gaming, downloading, and streaming and found myself impressed by its speeds. If you want to watch your Netflix US library on the subscription you’ve already paid for, it’s great at bypassing the blocks and getting you straight into your account.

Screenshots of Ookla speed test results with ExpressVPN connected to servers in France, Germany, the US, and Australia.
I had lightning-fast speeds with ExpressVPN when I tested it from home

Privacy is essential, and ExpressVPN runs its own encrypted DNS on each server. It keeps you safe from DNS leaks, and no one can see what you’re doing when you’re browsing. Your information stays private because ExpressVPN is the only one reading your DNS requests, and each server is wiped clean every night so governments or other entities can’t get a hold of your data.

With a network lock kill switch, ExpressVPN shuts down my internet connection if the VPN disconnects. This way, none of my identifiable information gets out to the web. Governments and my ISP can’t see my IP address and track me down. If I get disconnected in China, I won’t be blocked from starting up the VPN again as the authorities won’t be aware I was ever connected to one in the first place.

ExpressVPN may seem expensive if you look at the monthly plan, but I found a 49% discount where you can get a 1-year + 3 months year plan for $6.67 a month. ExpressVPN’s longer-term plans are affordable and keep you protected.

The premium features of ExpressVPN make it the top VPN you can choose. You can try out ExpressVPN totally risk-free as it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee — if you don’t like it, just ask for a refund. I tried it, and it was easy. The support engineer put my refund through immediately, and I had the money back in 3 days.

It was no trouble to get a no-questions-asked refund with ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN works with: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Routers, Chrome, Kindle, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Nintendo Switch, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Smart TVs.

ExpressVPN unblocks: Netflix, Disney+, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, YouTube TV, ESPN, and more.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free in China

March 2023 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan (you can save up to 49%) + 3 months free! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.

2. PrivateVPN — Perfect Forward Secrecy to Keep Your Activities in China Private

Key Features:

  • Has 200+ servers in 63 countries with servers in Hong Kong to get a local connection anytime
  • Has very fast speeds for streaming your favorite shows without annoying buffering
  • Features 10 simultaneous device connections so you can protect some of your devices while you are traveling
  • Offers live chat and email support with a comprehensive knowledge base to answer all your questions
  • Has a 30-day money-back guarantee so there’s no risk to try it out

PrivateVPN uses Stealth VPN technology that can get past VPN blocks, making it seem as though you’re using a normal server. This is helpful when I’m traveling in China and dealing with sites that have anti-VPN technology.

Perfect Forward Secrecy is a security feature that changes the encryption keys on PrivateVPN’s servers regularly, so no one can see what you’re doing online. This makes it virtually impossible for a computer to hack into my activities while I’m traveling. It’s especially helpful on public WiFi, where there’s no protection. I tested PrivateVPN fully to see how good its protection was, and found no DNS or data leaks on any of its servers.

Screenshot of PrivateVPN's settings menu in Android showing the Stealth VPN option activated

With Stealth VPN, anti-VPN technology doesn’t give me any problems at all

If it’s the speed you want, the HQN (or high-quality Network) servers that it manages in-house are designed to boost speeds. With this superior connection, you have better video and audio streaming. That also means lower latency, which is the amount of time a packet of data travels from your device to the server, preventing lag and other slowdowns while you catch up on your favorite shows in China.

PrivateVPN is fast and one of the cheapest monthly VPNs, but it doesn’t have malware protection or split tunneling abilities. You can get it for $2.00/month on a 3-year-year plan.

PrivateVPN still has many features going for it, and it works in China. You can try PrivateVPN with its 30-day money-back guarantee with no risk to you. If it doesn’t work, you can ask for a refund on its support chat. I did, and the support engineer processed my refund quickly. The money was back in my account in a matter of days.

PrivateVPN works with: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Routers, Chrome, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Smart TVs.

PrivateVPN unblocks: Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube TV, and more.

Try PrivateVPN risk-free in China

March 2023 Update! PrivateVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $2 per month with the 3-year plan (you can save up to 85%)! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it’s gone. See more information on this offer here.

3. VyprVPN — Chameleon Protocol Keeps the Internet Free and Open While You Travel in China

Key Features:

  • Features 700+ servers in 80 locations with servers in Hong Kong and Macau
  • Superfast servers on its own network so you can stream with no interruptions when you’re in China
  • Connect 30 devices at once and protect yourself and a family member while you’re traveling
  • Has live chat and email support with a comprehensive knowledge base for all the questions you have
  • Offers a 30-day money-back guarantee. You can try it with no risk.

VyprVPN’s proprietary Chameleon protocol easily gives access to your usual online services from China. Its server tunnel technology is based on the OpenVPN protocol but prevents deep-packet inspection by governments, corporate entities, or ISPs. Chameleon helps you stream, access websites, and social media while you’re in China — without sacrificing security.

The VPN owns its servers and hardware, so no third party will ever see your data. Like ExpressVPN, it also has a no-logs policy, so it doesn’t share your information with governments or businesses. It’s also based in Switzerland, which has favorable privacy laws. When I examined its servers thoroughly to find out about its security and other abilities, VyprVPN produced great results in all areas of testing.

It’s a blazing-fast VPN, and you can watch your usual shows from your home country while you travel in China. VyprVPN has local servers in Hong Kong, so if you were using it in China, there is a connection close by so your data wouldn’t have to travel too far, preventing stuttering. Its upgraded server network gave me speeds of around 30 Mbps, so you should be able to enjoy streaming in China without buffering.

Screenshot of VyprVPN's speed test results from France, Germany, the US, and Australia.

VyprVPN’s speeds were fast enough for streaming with no buffering of lag when I tested it from home

One problem with VyprVPN is that you can’t pay with cryptocurrency, so you’re not totally anonymous when you use it. If you want complete anonymity, you can go for ExpressVPN as it offers a cryptocurrency payment option to keep your payment details anonymous. With VyprVPN, you can pay with credit cards, PayPal, and Amazon Pay, all of which are very convenient and fast, so you’ll have a VPN running quickly. Plans start at just $5.00/month on a 1-year-year plan, so you can protect yourself in China without breaking the bank.

You can try VyprVPN completely risk-free with its 30 money-back guarantee. If it doesn’t work out for you, you can ask for a refund through support. The support agent was friendly and helpful. After I explained I no longer needed the VPN, I got a full refund in 4 days.

VyprVPN works with: Windows, Android, macOS, iOS, Linux, Routers, Chrome, Firefox, PlayStation, Xbox, Apple TV, Amazon Fire TV, and Smart TVs.

VyprVPN unblocks: Netflix, Vudu, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, YouTube TV, and more.

Try VyprVPN risk-free in China

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 $3.29 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 $2.30. 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

Quick Guide: 3 Easy Steps to Use a VPN in China

  1. Download a VPN. ExpressVPN works in China and is private. You can test ExpressVPN out risk-free, as it has a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  2. Connect to a server in China. ExpressVPN has servers in Hong Kong and Macau, so there’s a local connection for you at any time.
  3. Start browsing the internet. The whole process takes only 5 minutes with ExpressVPN on any supported device.

Try ExpressVPN risk-free

How to Choose the Top VPN for China

My choice of VPN for China is based on criteria like nearby servers, no-log policies, and encryption. I thoroughly examined over a dozen VPNs to find the best, and each of the VPNs in my list have all of these strengths:

  • VPN global servers network — For use in China, your VPN needs a server nearby to get a connection. All of these VPNs have Hong Kong servers, plus a vast global network so you can connect to your favorite websites back home.
  • Fast Speeds — To stream video without annoying interruptions, a VPN must have a high-speed network. I checked all three VPNs and confirmed fast speeds. While being in China will slow you down some, it will be minimal.
  • Strong security — In China, you will need the tightest security to keep you safe. Each of these VPNs features military-grade AES 256-bit encryption and an auto-kill switch in case your VPN drops its connection. You’re also covered by DNS leak protection, so none of your information can be seen by prying eyes.
  • Strict no-logs policy — No VPN should ever keep a record of your activities or connection online. The VPNs in this article have nothing to turn over to any government or entity should they come looking for information on you.
  • Money-back guarantee — You should be able to try your VPN without risk, and then if it’s not right for you, get a refund. Every VPN listed here has a money-back guarantee.

Try ExpressVPN for China

Warning: These Popular VPNs Don’t Work in China Anymore (Tested 2023)

My team and I have tested the following VPNs, and they don’t work in China:

  • NordVPN
  • SurfShark VPN
  • TunnelBear VPN
  • Windscribe

If you mistakenly downloaded one thinking it would work for you, I suggest you try ExpressVPN totally risk-free with its 30-day money-back guarantee, as it’s proven to work in China. If you don’t like it, you can always get your money back.

FAQs on Using a VPN in China

Is it legal to use a VPN when in China?

It’s complicated. VPNs approved by the Chinese government are legal to use in China but are heavily monitored. The Best VPNs for China are not on that list as the authority can’t monitor your data due to the excellent data security provided. Please note that VPNs not approved by the government are illegal. However, there aren’t any public cases of tourists being penalized by the Chinese government, but please remember the protection of a VPN does not give you a license to commit illegal actions. Be sure to use a basic level of caution when using a VPN in China.

What should I do if my VPN stops working while I’m in China?

If a server stops working in China there are a few potential solutions. If your VPN is one of the best VPNs for China, and you know it usually works, here are a few things you can try until it gets that server up and running again:

  • Connect to a different server
  • Choose a different protocol in the VPN settings
  • Use port 433 in the VPN settings
  • Update the VPN software
  • Contact support through email (Not Gmail)

Is social media monitored inside China?

Western social media, such as Facebook, is blocked inside China, but the government monitors Chinese social media networks like QZone and RenRen. There are reasons you might need a VPN in China. The Chinese government monitors and censors all of the internet inside China.

Can I use a free VPN in China?

It’s generally not a good idea to use a free VPN for anything, especially in restricted countries such as China. With one of the best VPNs for China, your personal data is secure, and you have access to helpful premium features. Most free VPNs don’t even work in China.

Even the best totally free VPNs often log data and sell it to governments, advertisers, and corporations. Unlike freemium VPNs, completely free VPNs aren’t secure. Malicious entities can steal your identity and cause you financial and legal problems. You’re better off sticking to a quality VPN that protects your privacy.

Stay safe from hackers with ExpressVPN

Choose the Right VPN for China

When using a VPN in China, it’s best to choose one with premium security, privacy, and speed. That way, if you want to stream TV or just connect with friends, you’re covered on all sides. It’s important not to break the law and make sure you’re always protected, just in case.

ExpressVPN is the best option for travelers who want to access the internet while they travel to China. With its top-tier encryption and blazing-fast speeds, you’ll be able to access content from your home country in no time. You can even try out ExpressVPN for yourself risk-free. If it doesn’t work out for you, you can ask for a refund in the 30-day money-back guarantee period. It only takes a quick visit to ExpressVPN’s live support chat to process your refund. I had my money back in just 3 days.

Summary — Get a China IP Address With These VPNs (Updated 2023)

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