It’s hard to spend any amount of time –online or in person - with a group of foreigners who live in China without the topic of VPNs coming up. Virtual Private Networks, or VPNS, redirects your connection to the Internet via a remote server run by a VPN provider. This way, the VPN server becomes a secure launching pad for you before you access various websites.
The use of VPNs in China tends to be a cat-and-mouse game with services being blocked or shut down and new ones popping up constantly. Here is a current list of the top ten VPNs (some paid, some free) for use in China. Note that access the software itself for some of these is blocked, leaving you as the potential client with the ironic situation of needing to use a VPN to download another VPN.
A popular choice among Netflix users, NordVPN recently won PCMag’s Editor’s Choice Award, beating out a stacked field of competitors. NordVPN won points for speed, reliability, and server location options. They currently have more than 1600 servers, hundreds more than their nearest competitor. No surprise that NordVPNs is widely regarded as the world’s best VPN. And added bonus (and likely a nod to part of their target market) NordVPN has an AliPay option on their payment page.
Free 30-Day Trial
$3.29/month 2-Year Plan
$7.00/month 6-Month Plan
$11.95/month 1-Month Plan
One of the main advantages of VyprVPN is its proprietary Chameleo n security protocol which can help bypass VPN blocking, scrambling OpenVPN packet metadata to ensure it’s safe from the tendrils of deep packet inspection. However, note that there is some logging with regards to connection times and IP addresses. Note that Apple recently banned VyprVPN from their App Store, so if you’re looking to get it, you will need to look elsewhere online.
$9.95/month 1-Month Plan
$3.75/month 1-Year Basic Plan
$6.67/month 1-Year Premium Plan
ExpressVPN is one of the most popular VPNs in China, and it’s a go-to provider for many because it deftly navigates around the Great Firewall. The service’s wide array of server locations is a big plus, with Hong Kong and Singapore-based servers being especially relevant in this case. ExpressVPN offers a consistent performance, with neat dedicated apps for the mobile experience. For any trouble that might occur, there’s round-the-clock live chat and email support available from China (the website is not blocked). The downside? It’s not cheap and there’s no free trial.
$12.95/month 1-Month Plan
$9.99/Month 6-Month Plan
$6.66/month 15-Month Plan
As the name suggests, Buffered is most popular for people who use streaming services like Netflix, Hulu and HBOGo. There are several servers in Asia which make for reliable and speedy performance, and you get round-the-clock technical support. One of the more interesting features is the refund policy, which is valid for up to 10 hours, 100 sessions or 10GB of bandwidth. Also handy is the Test Firewall element found in the Windows client. This function allows running a port discovery, which will show all of the available ports on the network a user is connecting through.
$12.99/month 1-Month Plan
$9.99/month 6-Month Plan
$8.25/month 12-Month Plan
AirVPN is a very up-front service with an engaging forum community. That’s not surprising when you find out that it’s operated by ‘activists and hacktivists’ in defense of net neutrality and other online freedoms. The website lists all the available servers and their current load. The number of server locations is low, admittedly, although seven are located in Asia. Nevertheless, the provider has no problems maneuvering around geolocation restrictions and China is no exception. The service offers solid and reliable performance, even if signing up and getting going is a bit of a hassle.
$7.65/month 1-Month Plan
$5.45/month 6-Month Plan
$4.90/month 12-Month Plan
StrongVPN is one of the favorites among visitors and expats in China. It supports the most popular platforms with detailed manual setup instructions for others. This VPN features a decent number of server locations, and has no problems navigating around the Great Firewall, with connections proving reliable and pretty fast. StrongVPN also offers 24/7 live support which is a nice touch when you can’t remember how to get things set up and operational.
$10.00/month 1-Month Plan
$8.00/month 6-Month Plan
$5.83/month 12-Month Plan
PureVPN is a famous VPN provider. For China VPN users, it has two advantages: it’s price is lower than many other VPN providers but it offers rich VPN features and PureVPN also has VPN servers in China and can be used for VPN users outside of China to get a China IP in order to access China-only contents. When using PureVPN in China, you can choose its “Optimized for China” mode to access VPN servers optimized for China VPN users.
$8.25/month 1-Month Plan
$5.15/month 6-Month Plan
$3.25/month 12-Month Plan
BolehVPN keeps no logs at all. Much like AirVPN, it provides a service that emphasizes privacy and technical know-how over customer care. Its Windows and OSX software is excellent, and features a VPN kill switch and DNS leak protection. Also like AirVPN, it offers VPN through Tor for true anonymity. On paper, this Malaysian VPN provider has now moved to the Seychelles, but in reality it remains based in Malaysia. This is no bad thing, as BolehVPN is one of East Asia’s most popular VPN providers. For users in China, it operates “xCloak” servers in Hong Kong, as well as servers on the West Coast of the US.
$11.50/month 1-Month Plan
$8.43/month 6-Month Plan
$6.67/month 12-Month Plan
Sources: PCMag, TechRadar, VPNDada