China plays host to the largest internet censorship regime the world has ever seen and completely blocks access to many of the planet's best websites. Facebook, Twitter, Google, YouTube, Instagram, Whatsapp, Gmail, Wikipedia, Pinterest, Pornhub, The New York Times, Slack, Dropbox... you name it, they're all blocked in China.
The reasons are pretty obvious - the ruling Communist Party's iron grip on power in China is in part based on suppressing dissent and obsessively censoring its citizens' access to outside influences. And sadly for you that applies to visitors too.
VPN services are encrypted, of course, so if you use a VPN in China to browse the internet or sign into a service it's impossible for the Chinese government to control what you're seeing, hearing or saying = bad if you're an oppressive regime without any interest in promoting real democracy.
The practical upshot is twofold - firstly it means that a VPN is more useful in China than pretty much anywhere else on Earth, and secondly it explains why the Chinese government is absolutely dead against them.
In March of this year in fact, as part of a long-planned crackdown on VPN use, the Chinese government enacted its dastardly plan to completely block access to VPN websites in order to make them harder to sign up to. So it's now much harder to get access to some VPN services then, but if you're already signed up and have the apps installed you can still to use it without any issues.
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How to use a VPN in China:
For regular folk visiting China on holiday or going there to live, mass censorship is a major pain in the butt. You won't be able to use Whatsapp to message and call loved ones back home. You won't be able to post pictures of the Great Wall on your Instagram. And you won't be able to look up the definition of totalitarianism on Wikipedia.
And so you really need to get that butt of yours in gear and sign up for a VPN service before you fly. So how do you choose the best VPN to use in China?
Well when choosing you really must choose a service with excellent customer support. Sure, you could opt for one of the dirt cheap options, but that won't do you much good when your service is experiencing downtime and you're not sure how to get up and running.
Choosing one of the big boys will not only ensure your uptime in China is maximised but will also ensure you have 24/7 customer support to help you when things aren't working. We've chosen a small selection of the very best VPN services here that we recommend for use in China - remember, sign up and install before you go!
Express VPN is perfect for use in China - it's a premium service that won't let you down
Reasons to buy
ExpressVPN is T3's favourite VPN service and we reckon it's the best VPN for use in China as well. This service's huge number of server destinations means you can hop around the globe as you wish, making it look like your computer, laptop, phone or tablet is located in any one of 94 different countries. The service is known for its excellent uptime and its apps are extremely easy to use. Don't worry if you're not sure how VPNs work or how to use them - just sign up and install the service and you'll see it's all extremely straight forward even for those who consider themselves technophobes. ExpressVPN also has excellent 24/7 customer support - so at any point you can get help and they'll sort you right out. For China specifically, Express uses a lot of its resources to stay one step ahead of the censors so attempts to block VPN connections are thwarted.
- [$6.67 a month], save 49%, 15-months - $99.95
- [$9.99 a month] 6-months - $59.95
- [$12.95 a month] 1-month - $12.95
Another great VPN option for China - secure and fast!
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
VyprVPN is another great option for a VPN in China. It's a tier-1 VPN network, so it owns all of its servers and can guarantee uptime and speeds - 14 of the servers are in Asia so speeds in China should be as good as they can be. It also has a super nifty "Chameleon" security protocol which it uses to keep your identity super secret. Vypr has loads of cool features and the basic plan allows you to connect with 3 devices at a time - while the more expensive option gets you 5 devices and that Chameleon super security. There's also a kill switch which means there is zero chance you IP address will leak out accidentally when connecting between networks.
- [$5 a month] Basic plan, 1-year - $60
- [$9.95 a month] Basic plan, 1-month - $9.95
- [$6.67 a month] Premium plan, 1-year - $80.04
- [$12.95 a month] Premium plan, 1-month - $12.95
A super reliable VPN for China with good customer service
Reasons to buy
Reasons to avoid
StrongVPN is one of the best VPNs for China and one of the more popular options out there. It provides apps for all of the most popular platforms and operating systems out there and provides instructions if you're on a really old or niche system so you can still get up and running. It uses a bespoke system called StrongDNS to protect you against DNS leaks and has loads of server connections so wherever you want to appear to be dialing in from it's not usually a problem. StrongVPN also ticks that box we mentioned above by offering excellent 24/7 customer support which is important if you're stranded in China and not sure how to get online. There's also a money back guarantee so you can try the service for a week and get a refund if you're not happy. We'd probably go with one of the options above but Strong will do the job if you fancy giving it a try!
How to use Whatsapp, Facebook, Wikepedia and other internet services in China:
As mentioned above, most global platforms, services, and social networks are blocked in China. In practise this means that if you try to access them you will be denied access.
A VPN is the answer to this problem. By logging into your chosen VPN service, all your internet traffic is automatically encrypted which means the Chinese censors have no way to tell what you are or are not looking at. This means using a VPN on your phone you'll be able to use Whatsapp or Facebook.