Those of you who've travelled to China in the past have more than likely experienced the effects of the Great Firewall – a controlled censoring of the internet which blocks a number of websites and services popular in the western world. The best VPN (Virtual Private Network) services can help you with this.
Whether you're there on business or vacation, having the likes of Instagram, Facebook, Skype and WhatsApp blocked means you won't be able to keep in touch with family and friends back home. With streaming services like Netflix blocked too, you may find yourself more than a little bored in your hotel room.
With this in mind, setting up a virtual private network (VPN) is a no-brainer for those travelling to China, as it'll unblock all the sites you need to get your fix. The use of a VPN is, as expected, not exactly kosher, so we're not condoning it ourselves. We have, however, rounded up five of the best options, if you decide to explore your choices.
How does a China VPN get me access?
A VPN diverts your signal through another server, often in another country, using a different IP address. This means that you can appear to be anywhere else in the world, anonymously, helping protect your identity while unblocking content that's not allowed in your physical location.
In practical terms, this means that you can access services such as Netflix and Twitter in China, without any pesky error pages getting in the way.
Here are five of the best VPN services recommended for use in China.
Best VPN for China
Works in China: Yes | Unblocks Netflix: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money back guarantee: 30 days | Also unlocks: Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Streaming devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox | Maximum devices supported: 5
- Lots of China-suitable servers
- Unblocked live chat and support
- Works across all devices
- More expensive
ExpressVPN is our top pick for the best VPN for China, as it actively monitors its network to ensure that it keeps ahead of the Great Firewall's efforts, using a mixture of fancy protocols and other tech to ensure that services remain unblocked.
Its server locations are another key benefit, with locations including Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan, for increased speed and stability. Topping this all off is the company's 24/7 live chat service which, thankfully, isn't blocked by default, allowing you to iron out any niggling setup problems with ease.
While it's one of the more expensive options available, you get what you pay for – and a 30-day money back guarantee doesn't hurt either.
It may not be the cheapest VPN on offer, but it'll seem worth it when in China, for sure.
This is our top pick for anyone looking to get started with a VPN. It offers a great mix of speed, reliability, outstanding customer service, and affordability. There is a 30-day money-back guarantee, so give it a shot today.
A quality VPN that won't hit your wallet
Works in China: Yes | Unblocks Netflix: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money back guarantee: 30 days | Also unlocks: BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Streaming devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox | Maximum devices supported: Unlimited
- Easy to use
- Reliable unblocking
- Fewer servers than other rivals
Surfshark has its fair share of fans, due to its extremely wallet-friendly price. One of the cheapest VPN offerings currently available, its 1,500+ roster of servers make spoofing your location a breeze.
You can use the service on unlimited devices, including Windows, iOS, Mac, Android and even Linux, which is particularly handy if you're travelling with multiple devices and want to keep work and play separate.
Throw in advanced security protocols, AES-256 encryption and a kill switch in case your connection fails, and you've got a solid Firewall-busting VPN that works out to less than $2 a month. What's not to love?
You can connect as many devices as your heart desires at the same time and never worry about any of them being logged. Surfshark also offers a 30-day guarantee that you'll like the product, or it will give you your money back.
Best for the dedicated unblocking team
Works in China: Yes | Unblocks Netflix: Yes | 24/7 customer support: Yes | Money back guarantee: 30 days | Also unlocks: Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, YouTube, Hulu | Streaming devices: Android, iOS, Amazon Fire, Apple TV, Chromecast, Roku, PlayStation, Xbox | Maximum devices supported: 6
- Quick steaming access
- Plenty of locations
- Slick performance
- Mobile app needs improvement
NordVPN is probably the most recognized name on this list, due to the massive amounts of cash the company has thrown at online ads. Don't let them put you off though, because it's one of the best VPN options for unlocking the internet in China.
For starters, it has an entire team dedicated to unblocking content in stricter countries like China, Iran and Saudi Arabia, which actively keeps on top of connections and bypasses any new blockage attempts.
Nearby servers in Japan and Hong Kong dish out the bonus of faster, more stable connections too, while 2,048-bit encryption, two kill switches and DNS leak protection provide even more peace of mind.
Throw in live chat, a 30-day money back guarantee, and the ability to pay anonymously by Bitcoin, and you've got one of the most private ways to remain anonymous during your visit.
NordVPN is one of the most common and biggest names in the VPN space, and it also happens to be one of the best. It offers amongst the largest number of server options and some high-quality app experiences.
Superb all-rounder for China
Works on China: Yes | Number of servers: 700+ | Server locations: 70+ | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat support: Yes
- Chameleon security protocol
- Fast online support
- Consistent unblocking
- Speeds aren't as good
Chameleon's are adorable bulgy-eyed lizards that are capable of changing the colour of their skin to better blend in with their surroundings – not to be confused with the Chameleon protocol, which is the main selling point of VyprVPN.
The tech helps bypass China's VPN blocks by scrambling OpenVPN packet metadata to protect it from more substantial levels of inspection.
With 14 servers located in Asia, you can bet on solid connections and nippy speeds too, with 24/7 live chat for sorting out any issues.
The basic plan doesn't include the fancy Chameleon protocol, and only offers three simultaneous connections. We'd recommend forking out the extra cash for the annual premium plan, which includes the Chameleon protocol. If you'd rather not pay extra, then you're better off with a cheaper, chameleon-less service.
VyprVPN is another great option for those looking at affordable VPN options to use in China for access to great services. There are 14 servers located in Asia, allowing for great connection speeds and ensuring it remains reliable.
5. Hotspot Shield
Best for super-fast performances
Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 80+ | Maximum devices supported: 5 | 24/7 live chat support: Yes
- Rapid access
- Plenty of servers
- Easy to use
- Lack of flexibility
Chameleon protocol too cute and cuddly for your VPN needs? How about Catapult Hydra – Hotspot Shield's stand-out protocol which delivers exceptional speeds, even using far away server locations, making it an ideal choice for visitors from the US looking to connect back home.
Unlimited HD streaming means there's no limit to your activities, while built-in malware, phishing and identity protection offer extra security too.
The main downside is that you can only connect up to five devices per subscription, but that should be more than enough for all but the most harcrode of road warriors.
This is our top recommendation for those looking for a free VPN. You do need to enter your credit card number, but the company won't charge you and you can use the service for free beyond the 7-day trial.
We test and review VPN services in the context of legal recreational uses. For example:
1. Accessing a service from another country (subject to the terms and conditions of that service).
2. Protecting your online security and strengthening your online privacy when abroad.
We do not support or condone the illegal or malicious use of VPN services. Consuming pirated content that is paid-for is neither endorsed nor approved by Future Publishing.
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