In this article, we will review six different VPNs and discover the best VPN for China in 2021.

Having lived in China for over six years, I have needed a VPN to keep in contact with people via social media, read the news back home and do research for this blog. In this article, we will explain everything you need to know about VPNs in China.

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A quick overview of the best VPN for China

AstrillVPNThe best VPN for China – Seamless service, fast speeds, tight security
Surfshark – Excellent price for the service + unlimited devices
ExpressVPN – Largest number of servers around the world
NordVPN – Trusted and reliable VPN
PandaVPN – Good budget option
VyprVPN – Fast speeds for streaming


If you already know what a VPN is and why you need one in China, you can skip straight to the review section.

What is a VPN?

A VPN is a Virtual Private Network, which allows you to mask your IP address by linking to different proxy servers around the world in order to access websites banned in certain countries. HowtoGeek explain in more detail in their article “What is a VPN and Why Would I Need One?”


Why do I need a VPN for China?

If you are travelling to China or any other country where the internet is tightly controlled (like Iran or Saudi Arabia), you will require a VPN to access sites such as Google, Facebook, Wikipedia, news sites and more. For example, if you have a Gmail account and need to access your mail while travelling, you will need a VPN.

If you can live without the blocked sites then great, however, be aware that the list of banned sites is ever-changing (BBC news and Wikipedia were banned since I came to China for example) so while you may be able to access your favourite website one day, you may not be able to the next.

Finally, a VPN is useful in and of itself for privacy and security. If you access things like personal banking online, then it gives you a better layer of protection as it makes it harder for hackers to access your information.

So, now you’ve discovered that you need a VPN, let’s have a look at the best VPNs in China below.


How do VPNs work?

VPN Server Map
VPN Server Map

A VPN works by allowing you access to servers around the world. If you are in China and can’t access Google, you can fool the “great firewall” by linking to a server in the USA or elsewhere so you can then access the site. All reputable VPN providers have a large list of servers to connect to, so if you have problems with one, you can switch to another.


Are VPNs illegal in China?

Good question and this is something of a grey area. No one has ever been prosecuted for using a VPN and the Chinese authorities tend to turn a blind eye to their use. Why? Because China realizes that international companies need a VPN to operate (Gmail being a prime example). If China shut down VPNs then it would lose a lot of business.


Can I stream/download with a VPN?

Yes, streaming, downloading and even gaming online are all possible through a VPN. You will need to find a location with the right bandwidth for optimum performance.


Are VPNs free?

It’s possible to find free VPNs (such as Lantern) but from past experience, these don’t work very well and severely limit bandwidth. The best VPNs cost a small fee usually between $10 and $20 per month. This fee is reduced if you take out a longer subscription (from 6 to 36 months).


Important Note

It is much easier to sign up and download the VPN before you arrive in China. Once you are here it becomes more difficult as the sites are blocked. Make sure you sign up before you set off on your trip!

China VPN APK

If you have not downloaded the software before arriving, then you will need to download a VPN China APK (an alternative download that is not blocked). There isn’t much point in including a list of current APK downloads as they change frequently to get around the censors.


Glossary of Terms related to VPNs

  • VPN – Virtual Private Network
  • Device – phone, tablet, laptop, PC etc
  • DNS Leak – A security flaw allowing internet service providers to see what websites you are visiting
  • Automatic Kill Switch – If the VPN is disconnected, all internet traffic will be temporarily stopped until the VPN is reconnected or you switch it off.
  • IP Address – Internet Protocol Address; a unique number assigned to the device you use and can be used to track your online presence.
  • Masking – Hiding your IP address
  • Mbps – Megabytes per second (download speed)
  • Server – A piece of computer hardware that provides functionality for other computers or devices

Please Note: All the VPNs on this list have the following as a minimum requirement:

  • global server network (vpn servers in multiple locations)
  • no logs policy
  • DNS leak protection
  • multiple simultaneous connections
  • multiple payment methods
  • money-back guarantee

What is the best VPN for China in 2021?

Best VPN for China
Best VPN for China

AstrillVPN (the best VPN for China in 2021)

  • Uninterrupted service
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Fast speeds for downloading/streaming/gaming
  • Can unblock Netflix and Disney+
  • Servers in 57 countries
  • 5 simultaneous connections on different devices
  • 24/7 Live chat support
  • Accepts cryptocurrency for full anonymity
Monthly Cost6 Months CostAnnual CostSimultaneous DevicesReliability
$20$90$120510/10

Summary: I have been using Atrill since the start of 2020 and have found their service to be the best in China. When colleagues are experiencing interruptions with Express, Astrill works fine. It’s more expensive than Express (double in fact), but it allows me to work uninterrupted, and that’s why it’s definitely the best VPN for China.

How to Download and Install AstrillVPN

  1. Go to astrill.com and enter your email address.
  2. Select which plan you want (1, 6 or 12 months).
  3. Create an account by inputting your name, email address and choosing a password.
  4. Input payment details (debit/credit card, Paypal, Bitcoin, Monero or Webmoney).
  5. Download the Astrill app/program.
  6. Open the app/program and hit “connect”!
Astrill VPN Home Screen
Best VPN for Malaysia in 2021

Surfshark

  • Lowest Price (for 24 month subscription)
  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Fast speeds for downloading/streaming/gaming
  • Can unblock Amazon Prime Video, Netflix and Disney+
  • Servers in 60 countries
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections
  • 24/7 Live chat support
  • Accepts cryptocurrency for full anonymity
Monthly Cost6 Months Cost24 Months CostSimultaneous DevicesReliability
$12.95$38.94$59.76Unlimited8/10

Summary: Surfshark are relatively new players on the VPN market but have fast gained popularity for their award-winning privacy and fast speeds. With a cost of just $2.49 per month if you opt for the twenty-four-month subscription, they are the best value of the top VPN providers.

How to Download and Install Surfshark

  1. Go to surfshark.com and enter your email address.
  2. Select which plan you want (1, 6 or 24 months).
  3. Create an account by inputting your name, email address and choosing a password.
  4. Input payment details (debit/credit card, Paypal, Bitcoin).
  5. Download the Surfshark app/program.
  6. Open the app/program and hit “connect”!
Surfshark Signup Page
Surfshark VPN Plans

ExpressVPN

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Fast speeds for downloading/streaming/gaming
  • Can unlock Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Sky Sports
  • Servers in 60 countries
  • 3 simultaneous connections on different devices
  • 24/7 Live chat support
  • Accepts cryptocurrency for full anonymity
Monthly Cost6 Months CostAnnual CostSimultaneous DevicesReliability
$12.95$59.95$99.9537/10

Summary: ExpressVPN is undoubtedly the most popular VPN in China and the one you will see advertised the most. It’s reasonably priced, the setup is straightforward and the app is very easy to use. Express has a high number of servers, but it does suffer outages, usually during important or controversial events happening and the Chinese government is clamping down.

How to Download and Install ExpressVPN

  1. Go to expressvpn.com and click “Get started” or Get ExpressVPN”.
  2. Select which plan you want (1, 6 or 12 months).
  3. Create an account by inputting your name, email address and choosing a password.
  4. Input payment details (debit/credit card, Paypal, Bitcoin, Unionpay, Alipay, WeChat Pay and more).
  5. You will receive an email with your activation code. Copy the code.
  6. Download the Express app/program.
  7. Open the app/program and insert the activation code!
  8. Choose the server you want to connect to*
  9. Hit “connect”

*Users can run a speed test to find the best VPN servers. These will usually be the closest geographically, so for China, the best servers are Hong Kong, Taiwan and Japan.

Express Plans

Nord VPN China

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Fast speeds for downloading/streaming/gaming
  • Can unlock Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Sky Sports
  • Servers in 60 countries
  • 6 simultaneous connections on different devices
  • Accepts cryptocurrency for full anonymity
Monthly CostAnnual Cost2 Year CostSimultaneous DevicesReliability
$11.95$59.00$89.0068/10

Summary: I recently purchased a NordVPN China subscription to see how it fares against Express and Astrill. The signup process was very quick and easy, however the setup was more complicated due to being in China. The App download doesn’t work so you must follow these steps to download the server list that works here. No problems with getting connected.

How to Download and Install NordVPN

  1. Go to nordvpn.com and click “Get the Deal”
  2. Select which plan you want (1, 12 or 24 months).
  3. Create an account by inputting your name, email address and choosing a password.
  4. Input payment details (debit/credit card, Paypal, Bitcoin, Unionpay, Alipay, WeChat Pay and more).
  5. Download the Nord app/program.
  6. Launch the app
  7. Go to “Advanced Settings”.
  8. Toggle “Obfuscated Servers” to the on position.
  9. Connect to one of the 450 obfuscated servers!
Nord
VPN Malaysia

Panda VPN China

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • Fast speeds for downloading/streaming/gaming
  • Can unlock Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Sky Sports
  • Servers in 73 countries
  • Unlimited simultaneous connections on different devices
Monthly Cost3 Month Cost6 Month Cost12 Month CostReliability
$9.99$6.99$3.99$2.498/10

Summary: Panda VPN China offers privacy, speed and unblocking of geo-restricted sites for very reasonable prices.

How to Download and Install Panda China VPN

  1. Go to pandavpnpro.com and click “Get PandaVPN”
  2. Select which plan you want (1, 3, 6 or 12 months).
  3. Create an account by inputting your name, email address and choosing a password.
  4. Input payment details (debit/credit card, Paypal, Bitcoin, Unionpay and more).
  5. Download the Panda app/program.
  6. Launch the app and connect to one of the VPN servers.
Panda VPN China
Panda VPN China

VyprVPN

VyprVPN is favoured for its above-average streaming speeds, so a good option for those that like to catch up on their favourite shows.

A subscription enables you to keep up to six simultaneous connections on different devices at any one time.

Unlike most of the other service providers, Vypr offer subscriptions for two, 18 and 36 months.

  • Unlimited bandwidth
  • High speeds for downloading/streaming/gaming
  • Can unlock Amazon Prime Video, BBC iPlayer, Netflix and Sky Sports
  • Six simultaneous connections on different devices
  • Money back guarantee
2 Month Cost18 Month Cost36 Month CostReliability
$12.95$45.00$60.006/10

How to Download and Install VyprVPN

  1. Go to vyprvpn.com and click “Get Deal”
  2. Select which plan you want (2, 18 or 36 months).
  3. Create an account by inputting your name, email address and choosing a password.
  4. Input payment details (debit/credit card, Paypal, Bitcoin, Unionpay and more).
  5. Download the Vypr app/program.
  6. Launch the app and connect to one of the VPN servers.
VyprVPN Home Screen
VyprVPN Packages

There are some Chinese VPN services such as Sky999 which I occasionally use, but you need to be able to read Chinese (or know someone who does and can set it up for you). The cost is very cheap (around $3 per month), but there are concerns around privacy.

Looking for more useful tips on a trip to China? Check out my guide to buying train tickets in China for information on buying tickets and using the railway network here, or check out my China Page to discover some of the best sights in the Middle Kingdom!


Steve Rohan

About the author: Steve Rohan, originally from England, has lived in China for over six years. He has lived in the frozen city of Harbin, the ancient capital of Luoyang and now resides in the tropical paradise of Sanya on Hainan Island.

He has travelled extensively across Europe and Asia, mostly by train, and has written about his travels for this blog as well as self-publishing his first book, Siberian Odyssey.