China has a unique situation with websites’ accessibility. The great firewall, which is a set of actions used to block some foreign websites, is getting more sophisticated by the day. At this point, if you want to accomplish something as simple as staying in touch with your friends and family, or keeping up with your favorite shows, you need some kind of workaround. This is true both for tourists and locals. Unless you’ve installed a high-quality VPN before landing in the Middle Kingdom, even search engines like Google that are essential to many of us, become out of reach. Not to mention higher-regulated activities like gambling, which are completely illegal under Chinese law are unavailable. In our review, we’ve shortlisted VPNs that have proved to bypass regulations, secure your anonymity online, and provide Chinese IP addresses for those who look to access Chinese content.
The best VPNs for China to Bypass The Great Firewall
Due to the COVID-19 situation, China got even more relentless in taking down VPNs that allow you to get through the censorship, watch your favorite shows, and use social media and your mailbox. So the general recommendation is to have backup software to overcome the China VPN ban. Here are some of the best VPNs to use in China in 2021:
ExpressVPN takes the leadership position for a good reason. It’s one of the providers that can actually bypass the great firewall and unblock popular websites. Its bandwidth is unlimited. On top of that, the provider has enough resources to adapt to everchanging anti-VPN tools networks like Netflix implement continuously. It also offers a kill switch to ensure that your IP address and other data remain private if your connection is interrupted.
NordVPN is another solid option that uses obfuscated servers in order to bypass the strict government restrictions. With more than 5200 servers in 60 countries, you can choose a server closest to your actual location to get the best speed. Advanced encryption that you can never get with a free VPN option. A 30-day free trial is available.
Surfshark’s distinctive feature is an unlimited number of devices connected to the server without losing speed. It provides a high level of unlocking. Surfshark offers around 800 servers in 50 countries. According to the local laws of the British Virgin Islands, where Surfshark is headquartered, data storage isn’t required, which provides an additional level of privacy for its users.
How do I make sure VPN works in China?
First of all, while choosing a VPN for China, you need to make sure that the selected provider dedicates significant resources to support traffic in this particular country. The number of people trying to connect through the VPN makes it extremely difficult to go through. Another great idea is to contact the customer support of the chosen provider and ask them to talk you through their services in China and ask about specific websites/platforms that you are going to use while in China.
Bear in mind that applications (better more than one) should be installed BEFORE coming to China.
Is it legal to use a VPN in China?
The technology itself is not illegal in China. But it is a little bit more complicated than a simple yes or no question. Even though no law prohibits VPN usage and (as far as we know) no one has been arrested for VPN usage per se, authorities do what they can to block VPNs in China. For instance, they remove VPN apps from the Chinese version of AppStore. It only means that you need to download several (including plan B) VPN applications in advance.
To sum up the legal situation, the Chinese government gives a hard time to the local VPN providers, but international companies do not fall under their jurisdiction, so there is only so much that they can do. If you’re using one of the VPNs from our list, there’s no way of them even knowing that a VPN is being used.
How to unblock Facebook, YouTube, and Google Play in China?
Something as trivial as YouTube is blocked in China. And yes, a VPN for China is your only way to watch your favorite YouTube Videos as well as reach platforms like Facebook and Google Play. VPN in China will unblock your favorite website by connecting to it through a remote server somewhere in Europe or the Americas, where those platforms are not blocked.
Here’s how to unblock YouTube in China with a VPN:
- Sign up for a VPN that works in China. (Remember to download the app in advance)
- Open the app and sign in
- Select the location where YouTube isn’t blocked. (Try to choose nearby countries to ensure good connectivity speed)
- Hit the connect button
- Open YouTube in its app or a browser, and you should be good to go.
Which VPN protocol to use
So far, OpenVPN UDP tends to be the best protocol for China. Make sure that the VPN you choose offers this protocol. However, as we have mentioned before, sometimes you might need to play with different protocols to get around new restrictions. So the more versatile set of protocols your provider offers – the better.
Is there a free VPN for China that unblocks Gmail?
There are a couple of free options that can provide you with a short-time solution. But keep in mind that most providers offering free services have to make money somehow. Usually, it means selling their users’ data to the highest bidder or overwhelming them with an absurd amount of ads. Most of the great providers offer a month of VPN usage for free, so if you’re only traveling to China short-term, it should be your first pick. However, if you’re dead set on getting a free product, we recommend going for one of these options, since they have the ability to unblock some of the websites while in China.
Hotspot Shield is, probably, the best free option you can go with. It offers 500 MB of data daily. The downsides are that Hotspot Shield has a speed limit of 2 Mbps and they only offer US-based servers.
TunnelBear gives you 500 MB of data per month, provides 20 server locations. Even though it doesn’t unblock Netflix, you can be sure that your data is safe with them. Obviously, with the data limitations, it only works if you’re there for a short trip.
VPN is not connecting in China – What to do?
Regardless of the chosen provider, there are several steps you can follow to stay connected at all times:
- Make sure that your app is updated. VPNs that work for the Chinese market regularly post tweaks that allow getting around the great China firewall.
- Check the China server Status. If your provider works closely with the China VPN ban, it will provide timely updates on the connectivity issues, possible fixes, and ways to reach your favorite websites.
- Frequently change your connection protocols and locations.
If you plan to use VPN in China for more than one day, ensure that you use all your providers’ perks. The majority of suitable VPNs for China will allow you to switch between various protocols and locations. Do that as often as possible! If you can’t reach some servers, play with those parameters. Sometimes you will need to change them 10-15 times to get things done. And don’t be surprised if the connection is slow, millions of people use VPNs out of China every minute!
Even if you reach the desired website, the connection might be weak and the traffic slow. Don’t be upset. It is China, after all.