A Virtual Private Network, or VPN, not only helps keep the details of your online sessions hidden from prying eyes, but is also vital in bypassing sophisticated content filters such as the infamous Great Firewall of China. VPNs work by establishing an encrypted connection between your device and a VPN provider’s secure server. This connection, or tunnel, helps hide your location, personal information and details of your browsing session.
If you plan to visit China, you will need to use a VPN service to maintain access to your favorite online applications including Youtube, Facebook, Instagram, Tinder, uncensored news, Netflix, Gmail and more.
China takes censorship seriously and blocks nearly every international website from its citizens. In fact, China maintains an army of censors which monitor your every keystroke and block access to information. They accomplish this censorship by blocking specific URLs and IP addresses as well as filtering out keywords from online searches.
Why so much scrutiny of your online activity? While the Chinese government understands that the Internet is a valuable tool for marketing and other financial services, it is also a forum for people to share ideas and, more importantly, political opinions. The Great Firewall of China puts a halt on this forum for political dissent and ensures online interactions conform to established Chinese values and ideologies.
Fortunately for Chinese citizens and visitors, some VPN services are accessible from within China and can tunnel under the Great Firewall to provide uninhibited access to your favorite applications and services. However, with so many VPN options on the market today, how do you determine which is best for your specific needs?
How to Choose the Best VPN Service for China
To begin with, it is important to note that not all VPNs are equal, and they do not all work in China. When shopping for the perfect VPN service, you need to compare them by examining such factors such:
- Price of the service and ability to obtain a free trial period
- Encryption strength
- Reliability of the connection
- Level of customer support they provide
- Money-back guarantees if you are not satisfied
- Number of devices you can connect simultaneously
- Connection speeds
Regardless of the VPN you choose, please make sure you sign up and set up services before your trip, as most VPN sites themselves are blocked from inside the Chinese border.
So which VPN is best to check your email or post a Facebook update from behind the Great Firewall?
Top 5 VPN Providers to Access Blocked Content in China
ExpressVPN is an industry-leading and hugely popular VPN in China. One of the primary reasons why it is the go-to choice for many netizens is that it offers superior customer service and a round-the-clock live chat support network. Additionally, ExpressVPN gives customers a hassle-free 30-day money-back guarantee if they are not entirely satisfied with the service.
Factors to consider:
- Up to 3 simultaneous connections
- Maximum network uptime (99.9%)
- Intuitive, easy-to-use interface
- Designed to work on all mobile and desktop platforms (Windows, iOS, Android, Fire TV and more)
- Geographically diverse service locations spread across 94 countries
Despite its numerous benefits, ExpressVPN is among the most expensive VPN services on the market. However, if you are looking for uninterrupted and secure access to content blocked out by the Great Firewall, this may be the right choice for you.
TunnelBear is another highly reliable VPN service that works in China. It is based in Canada and delivers users access to servers spread out over 20 countries. One of the major advantages of TunnelBear is a free trial period where users can access up to 500MB of data. After users exhaust this access, they can sign up for the service at a cost of around $10 per month.
TunnelBear is also known as one of the best VPN services on the market for avid Netflix users and, like ExpressVPN, has a user-friendly and attractive graphic interface. It also offers advantages such as:
- Powerful encryption to keep your online session secure
- Good privacy with minimized logs of your connections
- Good speeds to stream content on your mobile devices
Next on the list is another crowd-favorite that works well from within Chinese borders. NordVPN is the go-to provider for users who plan to connect multiple devices simultaneously (up to six separate devices). This is valuable for users with families or those who access blocked content via a laptop, desktop, mobile device, smart TV, etc. Also, much like TunnelBear, NordVPN can punch through VPN blocking software from online streaming services such as Hulu and Netflix. Best of all, it conducts no logging whatsoever of your online activities.
Factors to consider:
- Lower price than other comparable options
- Geographically separated servers maintained in over 60 countries
- No logging of your online activity
- Good encryption for secure browsing
- Based in Panama to help maintain users’ privacy
- Some servers possess high-speed upgrades
While NordVPN helps users in China access blocked content on Windows, Mac and Android platforms, iOS services are unable to penetrate the Great Firewall at this time.
Both desktop apps – Windows and MacOS – will work in China. Android users should opt for the beta version of the newest app. Unfortunately, the iOS app cannot currently evade the Great Firewall using NordVPN.
Next on the list of top VPNs that work in China to access blocked content, is VyprVPN. VyprVPN offers exceptionally fast access speeds combined with enhanced security features. Also, like ExpressVPN, users experience great customer service and a 30-day money-back guarantee. However, it does not support torrenting at this time. To access its services in China, users require access to the 256-bit protocol known as “Chameleon.”
Factors to consider:
- User-friendly graphic interface
- Ability to rapidly change servers to optimize your connection
- Users can connect up to two devices simultaneously
- Fast connection speeds
- Astrill VPN
Last – but certainly not least – is Astril VPN. Astril is a well-known VPN in China and offers responsive and secure online browsing via Safari, Chrome, Internet Explorer and more. Recent upgrades to Astril VPN’s service has improved mobile access, which many users felt was slow and unresponsive in the past. Unfortunately, users who need to connect multiple devices simultaneously will need to look elsewhere, as Astril VPN connects only one device at a time.
Factors to consider:
- Intermittent reliability
- Users can connect only one device at a time
- Unlimited bandwidth
- Well-suited for web browsers
- Good speed and connectivity
- Limited to no support for torrenting, Twitter or Instagram
Finding the right VPN service for your specific needs is vital if you plan to access blocked content while behind the Great Firewall of China.