It doesn’t matter whether you’re here traveling for a short amount of time, if you’ve just arrived and are planning to teach English for a year, or if you’ve married a local and are preparing for your first kid – you need a VPN for China.
As the Chinese government gains more control over the Internet, and blocks more and more sites, it’s no longer just Wikipedia pages about Tibet that are blocked. Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are pretty obvious ones, but again, everyone expect that. What people are needing a VPN in China for now is those small sites you’d never expect were blocked. Not just political, international news, social networking sites, and anti-China sites are banned now. Cooking, technology, home decoration, and tons other personal blogs and business websites are wiped off of the Internet for reasons we can’t understand.
And with web 2.0 and the integration of interactive media within normal web pages, every time you run across a video in blog post, regardless of whether it’s from YouTube of Vimeo, it’s blocked. Lots of image hosting sites like Flikr and Picasa are blocked, which means without a VPN for the Internet in China, you’re going to be missing about 20% of pics and other media for just general browsing. Even some software (like tracking software for my websites) doesn’t work properly with a Chinese IP address.
And that’s just what a VPN for China fixes. By rerouting your traffic and assigning you a non-Chinese IP address, you can bypass The Great Firewall of China and access any blocked site.
What about Proxies?
Proxies are good. Not many work in China, but some do. If proxies are your think then you can head over to www.proxyforchina.com to read more about them. But the thing about VPNs is that you can connect to a VPN and then forget about it. Your entire device will use your non-Chinese IP (Probably American or British), meaning software and apps you run will also be receive the benefits of an encrypted and tunneled Internet connection. A VPN for China isn’t just about protecting your browsing activity.
Although it’s generally not a problem, a VPN for China will also keep you more secure. Let’s admit it, we’re not trying to take down the government with our Facebook fan pages and YouTube videos. Security is not really a big issue. However, the reliability of the connection counts, and if you use the Internet in a dorm or any kind of shared network, it’s not China you should be protecting yourself from – it’s the guy next door who might be spying on you. But I’m a bit suspicious about that stuff.
Are PPTP and L2TP VPN Blocked in China?
Yes and No. It kind of depends on where you are. Lots of companies have reported that since March 2011 none of their PPTP and L2TP VPN protocols are working properly. Some say that it’s only because some ISPs don’t support these VPN protocols that they don’t work in China. Some say that there isn’t any issue at all, and it was just a period of a week that they experienced connectivity issues.
In case you have no idea what PPTP and L2TP are, they’re the VPNs you use for iPhone, iPad, and Android devices in China.
The trend is now that many VPN services have developed special VPN settings for China. I don’t know what these settings are, or how they work, but they do. I’ve connected to a PPTP VPN in China as recently as October 2011. So yes, you can get a VPN for your iPhone and Android.
What’s the best VPN for China?
This is a matter of opinion, but to be honest my opinion is generally more informed that other sites. First and foremost, I live in China. Tons of companies and bloggers write on this subject, but they learn their stuff second hand. They read something in the news, or follow Tweets of some VPN services. I experience this stuff first hand.
Second, I use the Internet every day, for several hours a day – usually all day. I own a couple websites, and do a lot of blogging. I know which sites are blocked, when Gmail isn’t connecting properly, and if there’s any developments regarding China trying to block VPN sites.
Third, I actually use these VPNs. Sure, there are quite a few VPN review sites out there, but very few have actually tested whether these VPNs for China actually work. I’ve seen at least two “Top 5″ lists that have Hide My Ass included, despite their main domain being blocked in China for more than a year. It’s bad research and an uninformed site owner
About the best VPNs for China
Here are some short reviews of the best VPNs I’ve used in China. As of the writing of this post, none of these sites are blocked, and I’m able to connect to their VPN servers. They all provide great support, fast/reliable connection speeds, and are decently priced. You could blindly pick one of these VPNs for China and be happy. But read about some of the features and find something you like. They’re listed in no particular order.
This is kind of a funny VPN service, but don’t be fooled by their mouse-eared-panda-fighting-ninja-girl logo. This is by far the easiest VPN to set up and connect to. They’ve simplified everything so that even my grandma could set up and connect to a VPN. They’re pretty new, but I was impressed when I tried out their VPN for a couple weeks. Great customer service, fast connection speeds, and servers in The US, UK, and Europe. Plans range from $7-$9 USD depending on the length of your subscription.
Go To Pandapow for China
This is the VPN I’ve used longest in China. They’re stationed in HK, which means they’re close to the action, and know what’s going on in China. For a list of 10 US VPN servers you pay only $79 per year, which is just about the cheapest you’re going to get a VPN subscription for ($6.5 / month). They’ve got a great custom VPN for iPhone and Android users in China, so if you’re looking for a VPN for your phone or tablet, this is the company for you. Their simple site design may turn off some users, as it seems like they have less options, but they actually have more than your average VPN service – you just have to investigate in their “Features” section.
You can upgrade to World VPN which will give you more IP locations around the world, including The UK, Japan, Canada, and more. Both packages come with unlimited bandwidth.
Go To 12VPN for China (the URL will be ‘get setup file’ because it’s their secret domain for users in China.
This is another strong choice for users in China. Though many VPN services experienced issues this year, PureVPN was untouched. The offer very competitive plans, and reliable connections. Some users may not like the idea of being limited to 30GB bandwidth for their standard plan, but the truth is that your standard user simply won’t use that much in a month. They’ve got great custom settings for China, so if you’re looking for a *PPTP or L2TP connection, this is the place to go. They’ve also go dedicated IP addresses (for gamers and businesses), an unlimited bandwidth option, and SSTP VPN for Vista and Win 7 users.
Their standard price plan is the cheapest here at $74 for the year, with an unlimited bandwidth account going for $160 per year. All plans include servers in several locations around the world and free server switching.
*Part of the appeal of PPTP/L2TP VPN is that it’s generally faster than OpenVPN, which is the standard VPN for China. However, using PPTP/L2TP means you run the risk of it being blocked in the future. For now, this is not an issue with PureVPN, considering they’ve got the hook-up with custom settings for China.
Go To http://purevpn.com
There are some definite limitations to their service, but they still provide a reliable and fast VPN connection, even in China. You’ll pay $6 to $10 per month depending on the package you choose. They’ve got servers in several locations, and PPTP/OpenVPN options.
Go To http://switchvpn.net
Updated Nov 2013