The best China VPN: working services in 2024

Chinese flag superimposed on a laptop keyboard
(Image credit: Shutterstock)

China of course has some of the most restrictive internet censorship in the world. Dubbed The Great Firewall, it's a very tricky system to get round if you're looking to use the internet privately. 

If you're a local, tourist or in town on business, you'll need one of the best VPNs to access some of the world's biggest websites like YouTube, Facebook, Netflix and Wikipedia. Many sub-standard VPNs just won't cut it. 

When choosing a China VPN, you should prioritize a feature called "obfuscated servers." Essentially this means that the VPN app can hide the fact you're using a VPN at all. This gives you the best chance of evading the Great Firewall, and should give you access to a free and open internet.

Here at Tom's Guide, we've tested dozens of VPNs and below are those that we've tested and are the top choices for China. Pick from our top three choices or take an in-depth look at all of the contenders. 

Top 3 best China VPNs at a glance

1.NordVPN – the best China VPN overall

1. NordVPN – the best China VPN overall
NordVPN is my #1 VPN overall, with class-leading speeds great privacy, and excellent unblocking functionalities. It offers obfuscated servers which help evade Chinese censorship, and it's well-known for performing well behind the Great Firewall. It’s also excellent for streaming, unblocking pretty much every major service. Prices start at around $3.50 and it has a 30-day money-back guarantee too.

2. ExpressVPN – the easiest China VPN to use

2. ExpressVPN – the easiest China VPN to use
ExpressVPN is a great choice if you're looking for a super simple VPN experience in China. It boasts obfuscated servers to hide your VPN use, plus great privacy and streaming performance. It’s worth noting that while ExpressVPN is a much better service than AstrillVPN for the general user, there have been some reports of issues in China – like almost all other providers. If this is the case for you, there’s a 30-day money-back guarantee protecting you.

3. Astrill VPN – very reliable, but very expensive

3. Astrill VPN – very reliable, but very expensive
Definitely not for everyone, Astrill is a niche choice that has for a while been one of the most reliable options for China VPN users. It's poor when it comes to streaming and expensive, but it's also great at getting around Chinese government restrictions. Using the obfuscated Stealth VPN protocol along with features like Smart Mode and Double VPN, its privacy is rock solid too. Try it for free for 7 days to check it's right for you, 

Recent updates

NordVPN taking the number-one spot away from ExpressVPN is the most recent significant change here, and all providers appear to be working as expected in China. Elsewhere, I've simplified the page to make it easier to find what you need, and ensured all the facts and figures are correct.

My list of the very best China VPNs of 2024

Why you can trust Tom's Guide Our writers and editors spend hours analyzing and reviewing products, services, and apps to help find what's best for you. Find out more about how we test, analyze, and rate.

All the VPNs below have a track record of being effective at evading Chinese censorship. Out of the many VPNs I've reviewed, these are the providers that I'm trust the most to get access to content, but when it comes to China specifically, there are no guarantees. However, one way to improve your luck is to install your VPN on your devices before you leave home. Some VPN websites are blocked by Chinese authorities, so having them up and running before you leave is essential.

NordVPN: the best China VPN

The best China VPN NordVPN on a range of devices

(Image credit: NordVPN)

1. NordVPN

The best China VPN overall

Works in China: Yes | Servers / locations: 6,000+ / 110+ | Closest server to China: Taiwan | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer | Simultaneous connections: 10 | 24/7 support: Yes

Great security features
Reliable performance
Works on all your devices
Plenty of extras on higher plans
Mobile apps aren't incredibly intuitive
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want easy access to VPN servers in China: Setting up NordVPN in China is just as easy as setting it up anywhere else, especially with its super friendly customer support.

✔️ You want a strong privacy suite: NordVPN doesn’t hold back in terms of privacy, with superior ad blocking, malware protection and a built-in antivirus at no extra cost.

✔️ You want to access Netflix everywhere: As the best Netflix VPN, Nord unblocks all Netflix libraries, even more niche locations like Japan, in every country. 

Avoid if:

❌ You're a big torrenter: NordVPN is perfectly capable of protecting P2P traffic, but other VPNs do provide a better experience.

You want a simple mobile interface: Nord’s map-style interface might be fun to look at, but it's certainly not the easiest to use, especially on Android and iOS devices.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

NordVPN is my #1 VPN overall, and as a China VPN it's also unbeatable. With a new-generation VPN protocol like NordLynx, a guide on setting up your VPN manually – if it comes to that – and superior unblocking capabilities, NordVPN is a great choice.

In my expert NordVPN review, I explored the service’s powerful DNS leak protection, two kill switches, and incredible connection speeds via the secure NordLynx protocol. What's more, for those traveling to or living China, it's the very best option for evading surveillance and censorship.

Obfuscated servers and fully automated protocol selection means that Nord takes the hard work out of setting up your VPN. If you're in China, it'll detect it and apply settings that are best suited to getting you online. 

You'll be able to watch the full gamut of streaming media, from Netflix, BBC iPlayer, and Prime Video, to Disney Plus, Hulu, and YouTube. Nord’s 5,000+ servers will ensure you'll be able to connect to one that's fairly close to wherever you are in China.

Peaking at over 950 Mbps, Nord is one of the fastest VPNs I've ever tested. However, given that you really only need 20 Mbps for streaming content in HD and that the average internet speed in China is around 90 Mbps, this won't make the biggest difference – but it's nice to know you've got serious speed backing you up.

Something I noticed in my last round of testing is the fact that Nord's increased its server network considerably. While it used to lag behind the competition with only around 60 countries serviced, there are now 110 countries with server locations available. This is now on par with ExpressVPN and Surfshark, and gives me one less thing to complain about.

The Meshnet feature functions like a LAN network and allows you to safely connect up to 60 devices directly. This makes file sharing, multiplayer gaming, and collaborating with your work buddies more secure while the new Threat Protection Pro tool adds new levels of antivirus-style protection with automatic filtering of suspicious URLs, malware and phishing scams. 

There’s also a rich database of guides and tutorials available on the website that should be more than enough to troubleshoot most problems. For more help, the 24/7 live and email support should come through nicely.

NordVPN offers 10 simultaneous connections, which is OK if you compare it to big China VPN rival Astrill's 5. If you want a VPN that covers an unlimited number of devices on a single plan, though, it’s worth looking at Surfshark. However, if you're after a VPN for China with tons of additional features for a reasonable price, NordVPN is your best bet – and as you’d expect, there's a 30-day guarantee in case you're not a fan.

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NordVPN test results
DesignA fun and interactive design but isn't the most clutter-free⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useThe map-like interface is too much to wrap your head around, but apart from the mobile apps, it’s smooth sailing⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceThe fastest VPN I've ever tested⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingPerfect for Netflix everywhere but is equally capable for every other streaming platform, but not 100% in China⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyOn par with ExpressVPN with AES 256-bit encryption and a no-logs policy⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer support24/7 friendly support with help guides available⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceExcellent value for money but cheaper options available⭐⭐⭐⭐

ExpressVPN: the best China VPN for beginners

ExpressVPN on a range of devices

(Image credit: ExpressVPN)

2. ExpressVPN

The premium provider is great in China

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 160 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, HBO Max, Hulu | Simultaneous connections: 8 | 24/7 support: Yes

Excellent connection speeds
Great 24/7 support service
Excellent streaming performance
Some reports of disrupted service in China
Somewhat expensive
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a secure VPN: With regular audits and a proven no-logs policy, ExpressVPN is easily the best security money can buy and that’s why it’s our #1 pick overall.

✔️ You want a VPN you don’t have to monitor: ExpressVPN’s auto-connect feature means you just have to connect to the VPN once.

✔️ You want global access: Unlike NordVPN, ExpressVPN has servers in 160 locations in 105 countries, including Hong Kong, India, Pakistan and Taiwan, meaning there’s always a server nearby whether you’re in China or someplace else. 

Avoid if:

❌ You’re on a tight budget: ExpressVPN certainly isn't cheap, and it's almost three times as expensive as Surfshark, my best budget VPN.

You want a built-in antivirus: ExpressVPN is highly secure and even offers a password manager for free but for a native antivirus solution, go for Nord.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

ExpressVPN  is easy-to-use for those trying out a VPN for the first time but comes with plenty for experts too. It’s fast, great at unblocking content, and there are few better options out there for security. For holidaymakers looking to access the web they know back home, it's a great choice.

In my hands-on ExpressVPN review, I found it to be one of the best providers I'd tested overall – and it's known to work in China too. 

The fact that no servers are run by ExpressVPN in mainland China means the service isn't subject to the data-handling laws domestic companies are, and as such, it can also guarantee that it stores no information that can identify you – excellent if you want to be sure your activity is kept totally private.

Express does have servers in a wide range of locations (160), including Hong Kong, Korea, Taiwan, Japan, and Mongolia – countries that are neighbors to China. Wherever you are in China, you’ll easily find a nearby server for the best performance. 

Unlike big rival Astrill, which I'll get to next, ExpressVPN excels at streaming, easily unblocking all platforms I put in front of it – international Netflix catalogs, Amazon Prime Video, Disney Plus, BBC iPlayer, you name it. However, NordVPN does do the same for a little less cost.

You don’t have to worry about accidental data leaks thanks to ExpressVPN’s powerful kill switch. It’ll keep your internet activity private even if your VPN connection is interrupted. 

Threat Manager provides even more assurance of safety and anonymity by blocking any apps or websites on your device from tracking your activity, let alone sharing it with third-party companies.

All ExpressVPN apps, whether on Android or macOS, are beginner-friendly, with the interfaces being straightforward and easy to use. A simple tap on the home screen of the app will establish a connection, and an auto-connect feature allows you to set the VPN and forget – you’ll always be connected to a secure ExpressVPN server.

Overall, ExpressVPN is one of the most secure VPNs for users in China, with special add-ons alongside the essentials like AES 256-bit encryption, RAM-only servers, and an audited no-logs policy. 

While it’s pricier than NordVPN or Surfshark, it’s almost half the price of Astrill, and is a top performer anywhere in the world. If you're looking for a super simple way to evade Chinese censorship, ExpressVPN is a great choice.

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ExpressVPN test results
DesignSimple and easily navigable interface with all options clearly visible⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useServes both beginners and tech-savvy people that want more customizability⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceFast enough for just about everything but Surfshark and NordVPN are faster⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingUnblocks just about every streaming platform there is, but has had some rare hiccups in China⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyHighly secure protocols for complete peace of mind ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer support24/7 live chat and email support along with a rich knowledge center of blogs and guides⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceWorth every penny but more expensive than its competitors⭐⭐⭐

AstrillVPN: highly regarded and effective in China

Astrill VPN on a range of devices

(Image credit: Astrill VPN)

3. Astrill VPN

Expensive, but the most reliable China VPN

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 300+ | Server locations: 57+ | Streaming sites unblocked: US Netflix | Simultaneous connections: 5 | 24/7 support: Yes

The most reliable VPN for China 
Stealth VPN designed for China access
Very configurable apps
Lots of testimonials online
Very expensive
No good for streaming
No money-back guarantee
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want a dedicated VPN for China: Astrill VPN has tons of features for privacy and anonymity in China that will keep you hidden from the various blocks put in place by the Chinese government.

✔️ You want better security: Astrill VPN comes with two kill switches and a custom Smart Mode/Stealth VPN to get online in China. There’s also port forwarding and multi-hop VPN.

✔️ You want a configurable VPN: Astrill’s desktop app is highly configurable, and technical users can spend a lot of time happily exploring the various options and settings.

Avoid if:

You want a budget VPN: Astrill is one of the most expensive VPNs I’ve ever reviewed – make sure you can afford it. 

You want to stream content: Astill doesn't unblock anything – simple as that. If this is a priority for you, go for NordVPN or ExpressVPN.

You want a money-back guarantee: Astrill does not come with a money-back guarantee, and only offers a 7-day free trial.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Astrill VPN is an expensive yet popular China VPN known for upholding privacy in this restrictive country through its in-house obfuscation technology – and this is its main selling point. If you're looking to access global streaming sites you're out of luck, but for the most reliable protection in China, it's a very good choice.

Astrill VPN is one of the costliest providers I’ve ever reviewed, but when it comes to bypassing Chinese restrictions, it’s easily one of the most reliable and consistent VPNs around.

Astrill VPN has a proprietary protocol in Stealth VPN that specializes in evading the two most powerful censorship methods by The Great Firewall – deep packet inspection (DPI) and firewall blocks. Stealth VPN is seemingly more reliable at evading detection than the more common OpenVPN and WireGuard protocols. 

Deep packet inspection involves scrutinizing data packets as and when they pass through a checkpoint on the network and is one of the most efficient ways of detecting VPN use, so Astrill’s ability to evade it is commendable.

Another feature that makes Astrill VPN a good fit for users in China is its Smart Mode. Instead of assigning you a foreign IP address which is very easy for governments to block, the Smart Mode assigns you a regional IP address. This helps you in two ways: you get the fastest speeds possible which wouldn’t be the case with a foreign IP, and two, you can easily stream local TV and news channels in China.

Now, you may want more security for yourself – this is where Astrill’s multi-hop feature comes into play. This routes your traffic through an additional VPN server so that anyone trying to trace your activities loses the trail – and while it’s probably overkill in most situations, it does offer extra peace of mind.

There are, however, quite a few downsides. First of all, Astrill VPN is poor as a streaming VPN – in my hands-on Astrill VPN review, I could only get access to US Netflix, while services like BBC iPlayer, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ were totally blocked. Not great, considering rivals such as NordVPN and Surfshark can unblock just about everything under the sun. Both of those providers are also much cheaper than Astrill VPN.

Astrill also has relatively few servers – around 300 – which means at busy times you may find yourself suffering from slower connections.

However, for those who will be truly relying on their China VPN to blend in with the local IP addresses and evade all types of blocks used by the Chinese government, it's probably the most effective VPN for the job, and is widely recommended on forums and Reddit, which can only be a good thing. Just make sure you can afford it. 

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Astrill VPN test results
DesignSimple and navigable design but visually it's quite dated⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useEasy to use with enough customization options for all kinds of users⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceNot the fastest but definitely stable, much like PIA or ExpressVPN⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingA mixed bag – great for unblocking the wider web in China, terrible for streaming global content⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyStealth VPN comes with unique features to evade The Great Firewall⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportYou get live support, tutorials, FAQs, and a contact form⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceIt’s expensive, but few rivals perform as well as it does in this niche⭐⭐

Surfshark: top-quality cheap China VPN

Surfshark on a range of devices

(Image credit: Surfshark)

4. Surfshark

Swift as a shark – and as hidden as one, too

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 3,200+ | Server locations: 143 | Streaming sites unblocked: Netflix, Amazon, Disney, BBC iPlayer, Hulu | Simultaneous connections: Unlimited | 24/7 support: Yes

Bargain price
Excellent connection speeds
Great streaming capabilities
Camouflage mode helps avoid blocks
Not as configurable as others
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want unlimited connections: You can secure any number of devices you want, including your friends and family, with just one Surfshark account. 

✔️ You want a fast VPN: With average speeds of over 950 Mbps, Surfshark shines through as one of the fastest providers in my recent round of testing.

✔️ You want the best budget VPN: Surfshark is hands down the best bargain pick right now. Enjoy unlimited connections, servers in 100+ countries, and the fastest speeds in the industry at just a fraction of the price of other VPNs.  

Avoid if:

❌ You want foolproof security: Although decent, there are potential issues with Surfshark’s kill switch, including leaking under extreme pressure, so if you’re a privacy purist, go for NordVPN or ExpressVPN.

You want a VPN for torrenting: While Surfshark supports torrenting, it’s not as good as the likes of ExpressVPN or PIA. 

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐⭐

Surfshark is your best option for a China VPN if you’re on a budget. It’s incredibly fast, allows unlimited simultaneous connections, and unblocks content with ease. The kill switch is a case of hit-and-miss but still decent. You can get started for less than $2.50 per month, along with a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Netherlands-based Surfshark is my favorite cheap VPN, and it’s also a good choice for those traveling to China. With charmingly simple interfaces, its desktop and mobile apps ranked highly in my expert Surfshark review, are incredibly easy to use and deliver excellent performance.

That doesn't mean that it lacks power, though. While not quite as configurable as ExpressVPN, Surfshark offers great security through strong encryption, a number of different protocols, a useful kill switch, and split tunneling. There's also double-hop, and the NoBorders feature combined with Camouflage Mode is what allows it to unblock content within China.

The Camouflage Mode makes your VPN traffic look like a regular internet connection by removing any VPN traces. This makes bypassing content restrictions easier, as the Chinese government won’t be able to monitor your activities. 

The unique NoBorders mode is specially designed to increase maneuverability in highly restricted areas like China, and is analogous to what other providers call 'obfuscation'. If and when the Surfshark app on your device senses any kind of restrictions on your current connection, it’ll switch the NoBorders mode on – it’ll give you a list of servers capable of bypassing those restrictions, ensuring you always enjoy a smooth-sailing VPN connection.

I tested the kill switch on all supported devices, and it performed just as I’d expected on most of them. However, when pushed to the limit, the Windows kill switch did leak – but this was in a situation that’s very unlikely to happen in the real world.

Surfshark is also a very fast bit of kit, and with its unlimited simultaneous connections policy, you can cover absolutely every device you own – whether, for some inexplicable reason, you've taken a dozen phones on holiday to China, or you want to cover every device in your household behind the Great Firewall. Plenty for your money, then.

As one of the most budget-friendly China VPNs, Surfshark offers tremendous value for the price, and if you’re willing to overlook the absence of a few advanced features found in Nord or Express, there’s no beating the speeds, unblocking, and super-friendly customer support of Surfshark. There’s also a month-long money-back guarantee, so you can try it before you commit to it.

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Surfshark test results
DesignFun and intuitive, with all the options well-labeled and easy to navigate⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useOne of the best VPNs for beginners⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceOne of the very fastest providers I've tried⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingDoesn’t get past everything but still better than most⭐⭐⭐⭐
Security and privacyThe kill switch is questionable but kudos to a built-in ad blocker and breach-monitoring feature⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportPlenty of help articles, expert support available over chat and email.⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceThe best budget VPN on the market⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

TorGuard: speedy and effective, but poor for streaming

TorGuard on a range of devices

(Image credit: TorGuard)

5. TorGuard

Smaller provider's stealth VPN tech is effective in China

Works in China: Yes | Number of servers: 3,000+ | Server locations: 55 | Streaming sites unblocked: BBC iPlayer, ITV Player, YouTube | Simultaneous connections: 8 | 24/7 support: Yes

Pretty fast when using WireGuard
Tons of configuration
8 simultaneous connections
Desktop client design is unintuitive
Can't unblock Netflix, iPlayer etc
Subscribe if:

✔️ You want dedicated servers for China: TorGuard has “Asia Optimized” servers for those in China. Superior Stealth VPN technology keeps your VPN traffic hidden from governments and hackers.

✔️ You need a highly configurable VPN: TorGuard has lots of customizable options and you can set up your VPN connection exactly the way you want it to be.  

Avoid if:

❌ You want a VPN that’s easy to use: Plenty of configuration is good for some, but may be too much for newbies.

You want a VPN for streaming: TorGuard is very poor when it comes to getting past geo-blocking on streaming platforms.

You want a cheap VPN: TorGuard is expensive when you consider the features it offers, and I’d recommend most go for Surfshark or NordVPN.

Bottom line: ⭐⭐⭐

TorGuard does a fantastic job when it comes to keeping your VPN connection untraceable in China, but it suffers when it comes to streaming, and isn’t ideal for beginners, either. It’s available in only 50 countries, and its premium pricing makes it a difficult choice compared to options like Surfshark and NordVPN. 

Much like Astrill, you won’t often see TorGuard on my other guides, but it’s an excellent option when it comes to acting as a China VPN. It uses similar Stealth VPN technology as Astrill to disguise your VPN traffic as regular web traffic and give you unrestricted internet access when in China. 

You can choose one of its many Stealth VPN servers from the app. I recommend “Asia Optimized” for the best experience, as these servers can reach all popular ISPs, such as ChinaTelecom, ChinaUnicom, and Taiwan’s HiNet. It appears that the provider also frequently updates its apps to maintain China VPN support – and this can only be a good thing.

While the 3,000+ servers are more than decent and almost at par with ExpressVPN and Surfshark, TorGuard is present in an underwhelming 50 or so countries, making it the least expansive VPN on the list.

For day-to-day usage, TorGuard's pretty good too. In my TorGuard review, it actually matched Surfshark in terms of connection speeds, at 950 Mbps when using WireGuard. 

However, if you're looking for a VPN to unblock streaming content with, TorGuard is not the right choice – I couldn't access any premium streaming site barring BBC iPlayer, when connected. 

That said, TorGuard has a paid add-on that works better for streaming but for its standard price, I expected better – ExpressVPN and NordVPN remain my top choices for streaming.

It’s worth noting that to reliably evade the Firewall, you’ll need to configure TorGuard to suit your needs. 

While this sort of setup is a bonus for techies, those new to VPN may well have issues. The interface is quite chaotic and clunky, too – certainly not convenient for beginners. 

Overall though, TorGuard is a very usable VPN that's dedicated to unblocking the web in China. Its 7-day money-back guarantee isn't as generous as others, but at least you'll still be able to test it out before you commit.

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TorGuard test results
DesignClunky and chaotic, but it gets the job done⭐⭐⭐
Ease of useIdeal for technical experts with lots of customization options but poor for beginners⭐⭐⭐
PerformanceRight beside Surfshark as the fastest VPN in my testing⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
UnblockingStruggles to unblock any popular streaming site, let alone the more elusive ones⭐⭐
Security and privacyDecent security features, such as the Stealth VPN⭐⭐⭐⭐
Customer supportUseful FAQs, dedicated knowledge base, live chat and email support available ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐
PriceOne of the costlier VPNs⭐⭐⭐

How to choose a China VPN

Since many VPNs won't work in China, simply being able to get online as a China VPN is a useful first step.

The Great Firewall of China is constantly evolving—and that means it just gets better and better at spotting, and banning, VPNs. In addition, China's government imposes strict measures to keep folks away from certain sites, services, and platforms.

I'd recommend opting for a VPN with obfuscation (cloaking) technology that'll help you evade this censorship. Obfuscation disguises the fact that you're using a VPN at all so, to any snoopers, your encrypted connection will look like normal traffic.

DNS leak protection and a reliable kill switch are must-haves, too. If you're relying on your VPN to keep your digital footprint confidential, you won't want to be unknowingly leaking personal information. DNS leak protection makes sure that you're not leaving an identifiable trail across the web—and a kill switch will leap into action and cut your internet connection if the VPN drops, preventing your original IP address from leaking.

Then, I'd highly recommend seeking a service with 24/7 live-chat support. If you run into any issues with your China VPN, you'll be able to contact your provider and they should be able to remedy your problem. A money-back guarantee is also well worth finding, since no VPN can guarantee a 100% success rate in the country. If it fails, at least you'll get your money back.

When reviewing ExpressVPN, the provider ticked all these boxes, which is why it features here. For many, though, the best China VPN will be Astrill VPN. While its apps lacks the polish of bigger names, it's highly regarded and widely recommended as one of the best for getting online in China.

NB: I highly recommend signing up to and installing VPN before you step on the plane to China. Once you're there, you may find your provider's website is blocked and that the app has disappeared from your app store.

What servers should I use in China?

When it comes to picking a server, you'll want to choose one that's located as close to your real-life position as possible. Doing so means that your data doesn't have as far to travel, and ensures that you're getting the best speeds possible and a reliable connection.

If you're in China, however, this can be a tough task. The country is massive and, as a result, sometimes your closest server will be across the border.

For example, if you're looking for a Hong Kong VPN, ExpressVPN has local servers that'll suit you down to the ground. For anyone miles away in Xinjiang, however, you'll be better off joining a server in India, Pakistan, or Mongolia, as they'll be nearer, more stable, and offer better speeds.

How I test the best VPN services

When it comes to recommending a product that users will entrust with quite possibly every byte of their online life, I have to be absolutely sure that my choices are correct, and thoroughly tested.

Unlike some sites, we don't simply reel off a spec sheet and declare the provider with most impressive claims the winner. Instead, we have a dedicated team in-house that gets hands-on with all the providers listed (and more). 

Every 6 months, after scouring the website for new claimed features or changes in policy, we sign up to a plan and install it on a range of devices. The Windows app sees the most rigorous testing, and it's here that we'll try to break the kill switch, ensure any leak protection is working correctly, and measure connection speeds.

The other apps, including the Mac VPN, iPhone VPN, and Android VPN also see comprehensive testing, and we'll check every available setting in every app to make sure it's functioning as promised by the provider.

As we use the apps, if anything appears to be behaving strangely we'll investigate that. We might dig into the source code, or view the contents of its RAM. This general usage stage is also how we make decisions on aesthetics and ease of use – although these are admittedly more subjective.

Then comes the streaming testing. We'll test each VPN with all the big streaming sites from a number of locations to ensure it's working as claimed. As Netflix is still hugely popular and somewhat troublesome when it comes to VPNs, we test the biggest providers every month to make sure my recommendations are still relevant. 

To find out more, I've outlined exactly how we test VPNs.

Best China VPN FAQ

Do China VPNs still work?

The short answer is yes – if you pick the right provider. In recent months the Chinese government appears to have had a serious crackdown on VPNs, and some old favorites like ExpressVPN and NordVPN have begun to have problems. 

We've kept these providers on this list for now, and we're monitoring performance. However, we'd recommend our top provider Astrill VPN if you want to be sure.

Why do I need a China VPN?

Censorship, blocked content, and harsh restrictions are the scourge of the digital world—and in China, they're commonplace practices. The Chinese government has infamously restricted access to a tonne of popular sites, ranging from social media services, news outlets, and even communication platforms. As a result, it's much harder to keep in touch with loved ones living overseas and stay up to date with the latest news stories.

China's government also employs invasive surveillance tactics to spot VPN traffic—like deep packet inspection (DPI).

Luckily, a VPN can put a stop to this snooping and beat censorship, helping you access a web free from restrictions. Connecting to a VPN server encrypts your traffic and gives you a new, temporary, IP address, so you'll look like you're living somewhere else entirely. As a result, governments, ISPs, and hackers won't be able to see what you're getting up to online.

Can I get a free China VPN?

There are free VPN services on the market – like Hotspot Shield – but while they are great for infrequent, casual use, all of them have some restrictions.

Nearly all have a daily or monthly data limit, which will cut your connection when you've run out. Some throttle speeds, while others inject adverts and perhaps even sell you data – contradicting the main reason why people get VPNs in the first place.

If you're going to be relying on your VPN for more than a few minutes a day, we'd strongly recommend you go for a paid version. When you can get unlimited service from a provider like Surfshark for less than $2.50 a month, there's little reason to hold yourself back with a free version.

Are VPNs legal in China?

China has banned VPNs, having already removed all VPN apps from China's Apple Store – yet it still needs them. For businesses to share information securely outside of China, VPNs are commonly used, and since China doesn't want to stunt international business and growth, making VPNs entirely illegal wouldn't make sense. 

Instead, the country has said telecom and internet companies must get government approval before using VPNs for cross-border approval. 

A private VPN user was fined 1,000 yuan ($145) in January 2019. While this certainly sets an example, it can't realistically work nationwide, so use a China VPN at your own discretion as there's a minimal but real risk involved.

What popular sites are banned in China?

If you're not from China, there are more than a few sites that you probably use daily that are blocked.

The list of banned sites is incredibly long, and includes: Google, YouTube, Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, Instagram, Gmail, Twitch, BBC, NY Times, Dropbox, Slack, Etsy, and Steam. Plus, just about any adult site you can think of is blocked, too.


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.

Mo Harber-Lamond
VPN Editor

Mo is VPN Editor at Tom's Guide. Day-to-day he oversees VPN, privacy, and cybersecurity content, and also undertakes independent testing of VPN services to ensure his recommendations are accurate and up to date. When he's not getting stuck into the nitty-gritty settings of a VPN you've never heard of, you'll find him working on his Peugeot 205 GTi or watching Peep Show instead of finally putting up those shelves.