At Tips for China you will always find the best VPN recommendations and the best promos / coupon codes. No other website comes even close to the amount of actual VPN tests done in China. The below 5 VPNs have been carefully selected as the top recommendations based on VPN performance, customer support, ease of use, reliability, and quality of Apps. I personally test and use all 5 of these VPNs regularly.
My reviews and recommendations are based on my experience using these VPNs with a China Telecom 100M Fibre connection and a China Unicom mobile data connection in Zhuhai, China. Your results might be different from mine. All of the VPNs listed here are available with either a free trial or a money back guarantee so you can try all of them risk-free.
| Monthly price|
- paid annually
| Monthly price|
- paid monthly
|$10||No monthly plan, 3 months and 6 months available|| |
|Recommended for torrenting (BitTorrent)|
|Simultaneous connections allowed||3||6|| 2||No specific limit||3|
|Easy to set up and use|
|Quality of Apps|
| Speed, latency, and reliability*|
(based on testing with China Telecom)
(With Hong Kong 3)
(without Hong Kong 3)
- Hong Kong 3
- Taiwan 1
- Los Angeles
- Hong Kong 2
- Germany (CN2)
- US China Telecom Optimized
- CN Hong Kong
- Los Angeles
- San Francisco
Asian servers have very poor routing to China Telecom but Singapore location works well with China Unicom and China Mobile ISP.
|Money back guarantee|| || |
* This page is written for a general audience. If you are an advanced VPN user and care more about VPN server performance than fancy apps or customer support then I highly recommend you check out my VPN blog page. I talk in much greater detail about server performance and give tips for advanced users there.
Hong Kong 3. This server is by far the absolute best VPN server for mainland China that you will find anywhere. No other VPN server offered by any VPN company comes close to the speed, latency and reliability of ExpressVPN Hong Kong 3. It's one of the few servers that I rely on in China for fast connections even during peak bandwidth hours at night.
The apps. ExpressVPN is the absolute leader when it comes to app development. Dedicated apps are available for Windows, Mac, iOS, Android, Linux, and Routers. All the apps I have used personally (Windows, Android, iOS, and Router) are extremely good and updated often. The ExpressVPN iOS app is the only iOS dedicated app I have ever seen that supports the OpenVPN protocol in addition to the Cisco IPSec protocol. Previously I believed that OpenVPN connections were only possible on iOS by using the OpenVPN Connect app. However ExpressVPN has managed to make OpenVPN available in the latest versions of their app sfor iOS 9 and above. If you need to use a VPN on your iPhone or iPad in China then ExpressVPN is significantly better than anything else available.
The ease of use. ExpressVPN is what I like to call an idiot-proof VPN. If you are an idiot when it comes to technology then ExpressVPN is the best choice for you. It's the one and only VPN that I would recommend to people who have never used a VPN and are not good with computers. Everything from signing up to downloading and using the apps is extremely easy. The ExpressVPN website it not blocked in China, you can sign up as well as download and use all the apps from China without any problems. After making the payment you will immediately see a setup page as shown below, you don't even need to wait for a confirmation email! Downloading and setting up a VPN doesn't get any easier than this!
The MediaStreamer DNS. You can watch USA Netflix on your PS4, Apple TV, etc in China without using a VPN. Here is a video I put on YouTube showing how to do this on a PS4.
The Router App. ExpressVPN has a very nice Router App available the following Linksys routers - WRT1200AC, WRT1900AC V1, WRT1900AC V2, WRT1900ACS, and WRT3200ACM. These routers are expensive but well worth it if you want the best of the best. I am currently using the ExpressVPN router app with the Hong Kong 3 server on my Linksys WRT1900AC v2. The speed and reliability are amazing.
The Support. Online chat is available 24/7. No need to wait for an email or start a support ticket, their knowledgeable staff can help you immediately. Even if you are not a customer you can still visit the ExpressVPN website and use the online chat to ask them any questions you have before signing up. Just click the icon shown below on the bottom right hand corner of the website.
The logging and torrenting policies. No activity logging, torrents allowed on all servers, and shared IP addresses make ExpressVPN a great choice for downloading torrents or other activities that demand a high level of anonymity.
The money-back guarantee. The 30 day money back guarantee from ExpressVPN is hassle-free and unconditional. Unlike some VPN providers who have complicated terms and conditions you can always get a 100% refund for ExpressVPN within the first 30 days no matter how many connections you have made, how much bandwidth you have used, or what payment method you used to pay. As the money back guarantee is available for all plans, I highly recommend signing up for 1 year to get the best savings. If you are not 100% satisfied within 30 days then you will get a 100% full refund.
Hong Kong 3. Yes, that's right. Hong Kong 3 is both the best and worst thing about ExpressVPN. Due to the fact that this server is resource constrained and there are limitations from the hosting provider this server is not available for all customers, not available for PPTP connections, and not available for third party OpenVPN connections. It is, however, available for OpenVPN connections using the ExpressVPN apps for most customers these days (as of April 2017). Check the ExpressVPN review page for some tips if you find this server missing from your account.
Server and protocol discrimination. In addition to Hong Kong 3, some other good server locations are also not available when connecting by PPTP/L2TP/SSTP or by a third party OpenVPN client. The 3 best servers (Hong Kong 3, Taiwan 1, and Los Angeles 3) are only available when using the ExpressVPN apps. This is fine as long as you are using those apps. If you plan on running a VPN on a router with dd-wrt, Tomato, etc firmware in China then you will be disappointed with selection of servers. If you want access to the best ExpressVPN servers then you need to use one of those few expensive models of Linksys routers that work with the ExpressVPN router app. For running a VPN on dd-wrt, Tomato, etc in China then I would recommend VPN.ac (25% lifetime recurring discount here) or StrongVPN (15% discount on annual plan here) over ExpressVPN.
The price. Compared to the competition ExpressVPN is priced significantly higher. For me personally having the Hong Kong 3 server is enough to justify the price and I would even pay double for access to this very special server. If you demand high speed, low latency, and the best apps then you will not consider ExpressVPN to be expensive. However if you only need a VPN for simple web browsing and don't care too much about performance then ExpressVPN may be overpriced for your needs.
The price. VPN.ac offers great value for money. While priced at only at only
$58 per year ($43.50 after 25% lifetime recurring discount with the Tips for China exclusive promo code found here), the VPN works quite well in China.
Hong Kong 1. This server is comparable to ExpressVPN Hong Kong 3 most of the time. Unfortunately, this server is not very stable and internet connectivity can be lost randomly while connected to it. It's caused by a problem with the hosting provider and there is not much that VPN.ac can do about it. Hong Kong 2 and Tokyo 2 are also decent and stable but the speed and latency is not as good as Hong Kong 1. I still use Hong Kong 1 sometimes even though it's not stable.
The simultaneous connections. VPN.ac allows up to 6 simultaneous connections without any restrictions on what devices may be connected at the same time. You can use it on 3 phones and 2 computers and 1 router all at the same time if you want.
The Secure.Proxy browser add-on. VPN.ac also offers a proxy service in addition to the VPN for no extra charge. You can think of this as a "VPN within your browser". The browser add-on is available for Chrome, Firefox, and Opera. The Tokyo 1 to Tokyo 5 servers work very well. These are hosted on a different hosting provider (better one) than the Tokyo 1 and Tokyo 2 VPN servers. I hope that VPN.ac sets up a VPN server on this same hosting provider soon.
The video streaming. Another great feature of VPN.ac is an unofficial and unadvertised feature that I stumbled upon. I don't know how it works exactly but I can watch any geo-restricted content (except for Netflix) no matter which server location I connected to. I can connect to Hong Kong 1 for example and still watch BBC iPlayer (UK), Channel 4 (UK), Hulu (US), etc. There is no need to change servers to match the country of the service you want to watch. Everything (except Netflix) just works all the time. For Netflix in China the best options are ExpressVPN and VyprVPN.
Privacy, security, and torrenting. If you are concerned about security and privacy then VPN.ac is a very good choice. Their DNS servers are private and secure, all DNS queries are sent to their private revolvers and encrypted with AES 128-bit encryption. They don't keep any traffic logs and they allow torrents on all servers. They even have some special servers optimized for P2P. VPN.ac is offered by a company called Netsec Interactive Solutions based in Romania. This company has been in the business of online security and privacy since 2009. You may wonder how a company based in the EU can get away with not keeping logs of their VPN users. The answer is that the EU Data Retention Directive was declared unconstitutional by the Romanian Constitutional Court in July, 2014.
The support. Although the support is not available 24/7, the quality of support is very good. With VPN.ac you talk directly the the people who built the VPN network when you submit a support ticket. No copy and paste answers. You may not get a fast answer but you will get a good answer.
The 25% lifetime recurring discount. Unlike most of the special offers on this website, the 25% discount for VPN.ac is available for the life of your account. You will keep getting the discount on each renewal.
The apps (or lack thereof). The Windows and Android apps have a few bugs and are not updated as often as the apps of ExpressVPN. In the Windows app there is a problem connecting to PPTP or L2TP whereby you need to exit the app and restart it after the first failed connection to PPTP or L2TP. Otherwise each subsequent attempt to connect with PPTP or L2TP will fail with a weird error as shown below.
Many people think that VPN.ac PPTP servers don't work in China because of this problem. Not every server works with PPTP but most of them do and PPTP actually works quite well in China (although it's considered by security experts to be an insecure protocol). If you want to use VPN.ac PPTP on Windows I would suggest setting it up manually through the Windows settings instead of using the VPN.ac Windows app. Otherwise, just exit the app and restart it to try again after a failed connection attempt.
On the Android app it shows the connection as successful prematurely. You need to pull down the status bar to see the actual status. As you can see in the below screenshot it looks like VPN is connected but in fact it is still in the authentication phase. Sometimes the connection might fail but the app still shows that the VPN is connected.
Despite these bugs in the Windows and Android apps there is some things I like about the apps too. I especially like being able to change the protocol and port from the main screen. Most other VPN apps require you to open another settings window to change this.
January 2017 Update - VPN.ac now has an iOS app but I haven't tried it yet. I will write a full review after I have tried it.
Hong Kong 1. Like the ExpressVPN Hong Kong 3 server the VPN.ac Hong Kong 1 server is both good and bad. When it works it works great but it can be annoying when the connectivity is randomly lost. Some days it works perfectly and other days it seems to cut off every 10 minutes.
The speed of support. As mentioned above, VPN.ac support is not available 24/7. The support staff is based in Romania so you will likely not get an answer until the early afternoon if you submit a support ticket in the morning in China. All of my support tickets have always been answered within 24 hours and I have always been completely satisfied with the answers.
Hong Kong HKG301/HKG302. The StrongVPN Hong Kong OpenVPN servers are hosted on Tele Asia with a direct connection to China Telecom. Once you get this server configured properly it works extremely well with China Telecom, very low latency and high speed. For China Unicom this server does not have a direct connection but there is another server with a direct connection to China Unicom. For China Unicom, try the Singapore OpenVPN or PPTP server locations. Basically there is 1 good server location for China Telecom (Hong Kong OpenVPN) and 1 good server location for China Unicom (Singapore OpenVPN or PPTP).
The server speed test page. StrongVPN has a server speed test page where you can test your speed and latency to any of their servers. The best part about this speed test is that anybody can use it, you don't need to be a customer. Go to try it now and check the speed and latency to their servers (remember to turn off any existing VPN or proxy connections). Try the servers mentioned above depending on whether you are using China Telecom or China Unicom. If you like what you see, don't forget to sign up here for an additional 15% savings on the annual plan.
The price. StrongVPN has very reasonable prices considering the performance of the above mentioned servers. StrongVPN is only $10/month or $69.99/year. Use this link and save an additional 15% on the annual plan, that's only $59.49 for 1 year ($5/month).
Torrenting. StrongVPN is the only USA-based VPN that I recommend if you are downloading torrents. Not only do they allow torrents but their service had the fastest torrent download speed in my torrent download test. Unlike most other USA-based VPN companies, StrongVPN does keep logs.
All the other servers except the good ones. Except for the above mentioned good servers, all the others are terrible. StrongVPN is good for 1 server location only (Hong Kong OpenVPN for China Telecom and Singapore OpenVPN or PPTP for China Unicom). The USA servers perform so poorly that I need to connect through my VPN router running ExpressVPN Hong Kong 3 when I update the Best VPN for Netflix page. Some of the Canadian servers work good for torrenting but the latency is too high for general use.
The server switching. StrongVPN has a very strange way of changing servers. You need to assign a specific server to your account. Each server has a limited number of slots available so you can only change to a server if there are slots available. The good server for China Telecom (HKG301) was getting too popular and was sometimes difficult to get a slot. Fortunately, StrongVPN added an additional server (HKG302) in the same data center. Although StrongVPN allows 2 simultaneous connections, both connections must be on the same server. I used to have the StrongVPN HKG301 server running on my VPN router at home but when I changed the server to Singapore using the android app (my mobile data is from China Unicom) then my router connection would stop working. I would then need to change the server back to Hong Kong and run the installer script for the router again when I got home. I found this very annoying and eventually started using ExpressVPN Hong Kong 3 on my router instead.
Believe it or not, the server switching used to be much worse than it is now. Before you could only switch servers a limited number of times depending on your subscription level. StrongVPN recently made many improvements to their service including unlimited server switching, no activity logging, lower prices, and simplified plans. Hopefully they continue to improve, there is still a long way to go.
The software. The Windows software feels more like a beta version than a finished product. By far the worst VPN software program for Windows that I have ever seen. Server switching from the software often doesn't work because it shows all servers including the ones that are full (no slots available). If you try to change to a full server then you will get an error message saying that the switch was unsuccessful but not telling you why. On the main screen if you change the drop-down menu between TCP and UDP it will not actually change anything. You can change between TCP and UDP in the advanced settings only. Most of the other options in the advanced settings such as enabling scramble (aka stealth mode) do not work. I highly recommend logging into your account on the website to change servers and change configurations there. Once you do this you will need to log out and log back into the Windows software (it's not enough to only exit and restart the software, you must log out and log back in). I am going to make a special page soon just to explain how to properly setup and use StrongVPN. In the meantime, check this entry on my VPN blog.
The StrongVPN android app is better but still has some bugs. For example, sometimes it gets stuck trying to connect and the only way to cancel is to log out or restart the phone. Server switching has the same problem as the Windows software with trying to switch to a full server, although setting the scramble option does work.
Setting up StrongVPN on a dd-wrt or Tomato router is surprisingly very easy. You can simply get an installer script from the customer area of the website, run the script, and everything is set up automatically.
Other VPN Options
The above 3 are my personal favorites and the ones I use from day to day. What I consider to be the best may not be the same for you. Here are some more options to consider.
Based in Hong Kong this VPN company knows the China market very well. They seem to have support staff located in mainland China so they know very well what is working and what is not. Their customer service is excellent too, I usually get my emails answered within 1 hour by competent people who know what they are talking about.
The reason I don't personally use their service is because they don't allow torrents and their service is more geared towards proxy rather than VPN. They have VPN as well but no dedicated software for it, not even for Windows. You can only connect to PPTP or L2TP using the built in Windows client and OpenVPN using third party software such as OpenConnect or Viscosity. The OpenConnect client was interfering with ExpressVPN so I had to uninstall one (I choose to keep ExpressVPN). The Viscosity software is another option but it's difficult to find because all the links on their website have been removed. However, you can still download it here. In addition to not having conflicts with other VPN software I find the Viscosity better than OpenConnect. For example with OpenConnect you need to re-enter your password every time you connect to a different VPN but with Viscosity you can save the password.
Personally, I prefer VPNs over proxies but if you only need to unblock sites like YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc and you don't download torrents then 12VPN is worth checking out. Their proxy service works extremely well, even faster than VPN.ac proxy last time I checked. Proxy is available with their VPNGUI software (the name is misleading, the software is only for proxy, not VPN) or with their browser extensions available for Google Chrome and Firefox. If you prefer a full VPN then you are better off looking at providers that offer dedicated VPN software for your devices (Windows, Mac, Linux, Android, and iOS) which offer better features than third party clients.
They have 3 different plans catering to different levels of usage and bandwidth.
Use the promo code TIPS25 for 25% off any 12 Unlimited Plan. Use this code and pay only
$38.85 $29.14 / 3 months, $59.94 $44.96 / 6 months, or $99 $75.25 / year.
I don't personally recommend Astrill because of their poor customer service and unstable VPN. For their customers outside of China they offer a free 7 day trial. For their customers in China they offer neither a free trial or a money back guarantee. Any time there is a sensitive political event in China they are the first to be blocked. You have been warned. Just search for the word Astrill on Twitter and you will find hundreds of unresolved customer complaints. Don't come back here crying if Astrill doesn't work very well and you can't get your money back.
Having warned you about the risks of using Astrill I should say that it does have its advantages. If you are using Astrill in China you absolutely need the paid add-on for the StealthVPN protocol (and RouterPro if you are using it on a router). The StealthVPN China optimised servers work extremely well (most of the time). Their proxy service called OpenWEB is also very fast (when it's working).
If you understand the risks of Astrill and still want to try it then...
The good servers on VyprVPN with low latency to China (Hong Kong and Taiwan) do not work for me using China Telecom. The connection is successful but I can't load any web pages. Other locations such as Los Angeles are working fine. Hong Kong and Taiwan locations are working on China Unicom but not China Telecom (the biggest ISP in China). The support staff is looking into this and I will update this page when there is a solution. If you need to use USA locations then you can consider trying VyprVPN now. If you are like me and you like to use low latency Asian servers then I don't recommend you try it yet unless your ISP is China Unicom.
If you are looking for a VPN to watch USA Netflix the USA servers work extremely well for this purpose. VyprVPN is currently ranked #1 on my best VPN for Netflix page. It's a shame they can't fix the problem with their Asian servers otherwise I would rank it near the top of this page.
If you want to try VyprVPN for yourself I have a few different promos available.
VyprVPN Promo #1 - 50% off your first month for any monthly plan. Available with your choice of a 3 day free trial or a 30 day money back guarantee.
VyprVPN Promo #2 - 40% off 1 year VyprVPN Pro account. Available with your choice of a 3 day free trial or a 30 day money back guarantee.
More YouTube videos available on the Tips for China YouTube channel.