5 Best free VPNs for China (That Still Work in 2023)
If there was ever a country where a VPN would be most useful to you, China is that country. China is famous for its Great Firewall that blocks out a lot of websites. The Asian country also censors social media platforms such as Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram. If you are planning a trip to China or are already there and having issues because of the censorship, a VPN can make everything relatively easier.
A VPN (Virtual Private Network) connects you with a server in any country of choice. Thus, while in China, the VPN masks your IP address, making it seem like you were in a different country. That way, you will be able to access all the restricted sites in China.
Additionally, a VPN serves other purposes. For instance, it helps secure your network. Also, you will be able to access geo-blocked content on platforms such as Netflix, Hulu, iPlayer, etc. Hence, while in China, you can stream content from Netflix in other countries with no issues. You will access all of these benefits once you settle for a VPN.
Below, you will find a review of some of the best free VPNs for China.
Best Risk-Free VPN Services for China
Security and speed are undoubtedly the two most important factors while using a VPN. The Great Firewall has one of the most sophisticated censorship systems in the world. You need a VPN with strong security features to be able to bypass it. Also, your VPN of choice should have high browsing and streaming speeds. Thus, even when you gain access to restricted content, you will not experience lags.
Risk-free VPNs offer these two factors and give you the option to get your money back if you don’t like their services. They do this using a refund policy that specifies the risk-free period. However, once the risk-free period is over, you cannot get your money back. Let’s look at a couple of the best risk-free VPNs for China.
Overall best in our tests
- Super-fast servers
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Supports private protocol, Lightway
- Money-back guarantee
ExpressVPN is the best risk-free provider you can find in China. It has a range of servers – over 3000, to be exact. Some of these servers are in the neighboring countries of Taiwan, Japan, and Hong Kong. These servers’ proximity will make sure you stream and surf at an excellent speed.
ExpressVPN gets around Chinese virtual blocks easily. At the same time, it makes sure that no one compromises your data through its military-grade encryption. Its kill switch also protects your information if your connection becomes compromised or unstable. It also has a DNS leak feature that ensures essential data does not get leaked while you make use of the VPN.
ExpressVPN is easy to use and set up. While in China, it would only take only a few clicks to set up an account. It even allows you to connect five devices simultaneously. ExpressVPN grants you a 30-day money-back guarantee. This simply means that within the 30-day window, you can request a refund if you are unsatisfied with the quality of service it provides. You would have to set up an account first and get on a subscription plan. However, the process for requesting a refund is smooth and seamless; hence you need not worry.
Best offer: $6.67/month (Save 49% + 3 months free)
Definitely the fastest in our tests
- Incredibly fast servers
- Great security features
- Verified no-logs policy
- Unblocks streaming platforms
NordVPN is another provider you ought to give serious consideration to in your search for a VPN to use in China. NordVPN has more than 5000 servers, easily one of the highest you could find. These servers are optimized for speed and located in neighboring countries like Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, etc. You will never have to struggle to find a VPN to connect to while in China.
Additionally, NordVPN designed these servers to get around all sorts of restrictions while keeping your security in mind. The servers have unlimited bandwidth, so there will be no cap on how much data you can use. If you want to use the VPN to stream geo-blocked content from platforms like Netflix and Hulu, NordVPN makes that possible. Its 256-bit AES encryption makes you virtually undetectable as you use the internet. It also maintains a strict no-logs policy.
You can install and run NordVPN on six devices simultaneously with one subscription. You will get the same level of premium service on all of those devices. If you have any challenges, NordVPN’s 24/7 support staff will be willing to guide you properly.
Best offer: $2.93/month (Save 64% + 3 months for free)
Best Completely Free VPN Services for China
Completely free VPN services do not have a risk-free period; they are free until you stop using them. However, they have their limitations which we will discuss below. Let’s look at the best free VPN services you can use to bypass internet censorship in China.
Best VPN with a free version
- Free version available
- Strong security features
- Reliable no-logs policy
- Allows Perfect Forward Secrecy
ProtonVPN is a privacy-focused VPN service that was developed by the same team that developed ProtonMail. While this VPN service provider does not have servers in China, its servers in Hong Kong will give you access to country-specific Chinese content. Apart from China and Hong Kong, ProtonVPN has servers in 53 other nations. This allows its users in China to have several options if they need to bypass heavy internet censorship.
However, ProtonVPN’s free subscribers can only use servers in three countries: Japan, Holland, and the USA. These countries have a lot of country-specific content free subscribers can unblock. Otherwise, they would need to take advantage of ProtonVPN’s 30-day money-back guarantee to get full access to the service.
With ProtonVPN, you can rest assured that your privacy is intact as it operates using an air-tight no-log policy. In addition, its base in Geneva, Switzerland, is a privacy-friendly environment for VPN service providers. Furthermore, ProtonVPN’s security features are world-class. You have 256-bit encryption, leak prevention, perfect forward secrecy, Double VPN, malware/ad protection, a kill switch, and Tor over VPN.
Overall, ProtonVPN does a great job at ensuring its users have best-in-class protection from malicious entities. Additionally, its software applications are open source, and SEC Consult has audited them to ensure there are no vulnerabilities. It is also cross-platform compatible as it is available for use on different devices. However, using its free plan, you can only protect your connection on one device at a time.
Best offer: €8/month (Save 25% + A Free Option)
Arguably the cheapest VPN provider
- Advanced IP Leak protection available
- 1800+ servers in 72 countries
- AES 256-bit encryption
- Offers a completely free version
Due to China’s heavy internet restrictions, there are very few VPN service providers with servers there. However, Hong Kong is an alternative server location that can do most of what a server in China can do, including reaching sites only available in China. Malaysia-based Hide.me is one of the VPN services with at least a server location in Hong Kong. Its server fleet consists of more than 1800 servers resident in 72 locations.
Unfortunately for people that want to connect to servers in Hong Kong, Hide.me’s free package only includes server locations in Germany, Holland, Canada, and the US. For most people living in China, the free package will meet their needs if the purpose of using Hide.me is to get past internet censorship.
Hide.me keeps you away from bad actors using AES-256 encryption to protect your internet connection. In addition, you have an array of VPN protocols available, including OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2/IPSec, SSTP, and Softether. Furthermore, Hide.me is a privacy-friendly service provider.
It does not store personal data or data that third parties can use to identify its users. Also, it keeps no logs of your internet connection history. Besides, Malaysian law does not require Hide.me to keep your data. With a free Hide.me account, you cannot use more than 10GB in a month and can only connect to a device as it does not allow simultaneous connections.
Best offer: €4.99/month (Save 61%)
Best free version in our tests
- Offers a totally free version
- Available in 26 countries
- AES 256-bit encryption available
- Relatively reliable speed
TunnelBear has servers in over 40 countries globally. Like most VPN services, it does not have servers in China. Sadly, it doesn’t have servers in Hong Kong too. So, you might need to look for another VPN service if the primary purpose of using this VPN application is to access Chinese sites and media. However, people living in China can connect to TunnelBear’s entire server fleet as its free version does not restrict access to any of its servers.
Also, you can download and upload torrent files as it does block P2P traffic. While TunnelBear is fast and reliable, it has a significant drawback: its free package limits your data usage to 500MB per month. There are a few things you can do to increase it to 1.5GB. For example, you can tweet about the VPN service provider. However, the data limit will not appeal to people that consume a lot of data, such as avid gamers or video content creators.
TunnelBear is safe to use as it utilizes 256-bit encryption combined with robust VPN protocols such as OpenVPN, IPSec, and IKEv2, to ensure a secure internet connection. In addition, a security firm known as Cure53 annually audits TunnelBear’s infrastructure to ensure it does not have any security issues that can leave it vulnerable to attacks. Furthermore, it abides by a watertight zero-log policy.
With native applications and instructional guides, TunnelBear is cross-platform compatible. Finally, you can have up to five concurrent VPN connections with a user account.
Best offer: $3.33/month (Save 67% + TunnelBear apps & priority customer support)
VPN with the best servers
- Super-fast server speed
- Remarkable unblocking ability
- Intuitive user interface
Hotspot Shield is the only VPN service provider on this list that has servers in China. It also has servers in other Asian countries, including Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Vietnam. Overall, you have access to over 1800 servers in at least 80 countries. However, its free users only have access to servers in the US. This means you would have to subscribe to connect to servers in China.
Fortunately, Hotspot Shield’s 45-day money-back guarantee gives users the opportunity to use its premium services risk-free for 45 days. People using the free plan will discover a bandwidth limit that prevents them from having a connection faster than 2MBps and a 500MB daily data usage limit. Hotspot Shield does not keep any logs of your internet activities. This ensures that even when government agencies have jurisdiction to collect data, there will be nothing to give up.
Hotspot Shield is an excellent provider that places a lot of emphasis on security. It even has its unique protocol known as Catapult Hydra as well as other protocols, including OpenVPN, WireGuard, and IPSec. In addition, Hotspot Shield makes use of an advanced encryption algorithm to keep internet connections impenetrable. Furthermore, it uses in-built malware protection that protects you from malware and unwanted ads.
Hotspot Shield allows you to connect up to 5 devices at the same time. However, its free users cannot use it on more than a single device. Hotspot Shield is cross-platform compatible and has a 24/7 customer care support team to attend to your needs.
Best offer: $7.99/month (Save 38% + Free)
Best VPN with a free version
- Offers dedicated IP addresses
- Allows torrenting and P2P file sharing
- Great pricing
- Free version available
Trust.Zone is one service provider you can trust. It does not have servers in China, but its reliable server network in Hong Kong gives users easy access to Chinese content. Apart from these two locations, Trust.Zone has servers in more than 30 countries. These servers have top streaming and browsing speed.
In addition, specific servers are available for specific streaming platforms. For instance, there are servers for Netflix, the BBC, etc., which enhance the ease of connecting and stream content from these platforms. However, its free version is only available for three days and prevents you from using more than 1GB of data for that period.
Trust.Zone is emphatic about its no-log policy; it does not keep track of your internet activities. Additionally, it wipes off your internet presence, ensuring that no one gets access to them, even the government. This is especially important for China as the government uses ISPs to monitor residents’ internet activities. It also makes use of a robust encryption algorithm, perfect forward secrecy, an automatic kill switch, in-built leak protection, and strong VPN protocols such as OpenVPN, WireGuard, IKEv2, and L2TP/IPSec.
With a warrant canary, Trust.Zone can inform its users of any government interference in its daily operations. It doesn’t matter what device you own; you can trust this VPN service provider to have installation guides you can follow. One device per user is the policy when it comes to Trust.Zone’s free package.
Best offer: €3/month (Save 67%)
Is it Legal to Use a free VPN in China?
There is no straightforward answer to this question. Some people consider it illegal because China has banned many popular VPN service providers from operating in the country and removed their applications from its country-specific Apple and Android application stores. However, there are other VPN services that operate in China as companies, especially international corporations, need VPNs to communicate with the rest of the world.
China is trying to regulate its VPN industry by allowing only those approved by its agencies to operate. This means that before a business can use a VPN in China, it has to get approval from the government. However, this does not apply to individuals. You are likely not to go to jail if the Chinese government finds out you’re using a VPN, especially if you’re a foreigner living in China.
However, the Chinese government can decide to make life miserable for you if they discover you’re using a VPN. One way they can do that is by blocking your cell service, preventing you from calling or texting, as well as connecting to the internet. To get your cell service back on, you will need to delete all banned applications, including VPN applications. So, while using a free VPN in China, ensure you’re using one that is hard to detect.
Tips for Using a Free VPN in China
Due to the fact that China is not a VPN-friendly location, you might need to be extra careful when using a free VPN there. Below, we have compiled important tips you need to consider when using a free VPN in China.
1. Install Before Traveling
If you are traveling to China, you will do well to install the VPN before your plane lands. This is because it is a lot harder to get access to a VPN while in China. Google Play Store and Apple AppStore are all blocked in China. Furthermore, the websites of most VPNs are blocked, too, so you wouldn’t be able to download VPN apps from there.
However, if you live in China, getting access to VPN apps might be a bit dicey. There are a number of friendly hotels around. They have VPNs integrated with their WiFi networks. You can make use of their network to download your app. Alternatively, you can download the Apk versions of the VPN apps. You can download them using Yahoo’s search engine because China banned Google.
2. Carefully Consider All Your Options
You have to consider your options carefully before deciding on a free VPN. The first criteria you need to consider is whether the provider has servers in China or countries nearby. Next, you have to look at the browsing speed as well as the stability of the connection of these servers. Finally, the protocols and servers should have features that are up to date. That is the only way they can get around the Great Firewall.
3. Connect to the Closest Servers
The closer a server’s location is, the higher the speed of the server. Hence, while using a VPN in China, do well to connect to servers in neighboring countries. Countries such as Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong are ideal for this. However, if you want to access geo-restricted content, you will have to connect to a server in the country it is available. For instance, to access Netflix US, you will need to connect to a server in the United States.
4. Consider Having a Backup VPN
Most of the VPNs discussed above are reliable. However, the Chinese government is not. The Chinese government is notorious for censorship, especially with the government in power at the moment. The crackdown on VPNs has escalated in recent years. VPNs are being targeted and taken down regularly. Some providers routinely suspend providing services for a while before coming back up. In the case where your provider is either targeted or goes offline of its own accord, you will need to have an alternative. If you are going to spend a lot of time in China or live there, you need to have a backup free VPN.
What to Look Out For in a Free VPN for China
Choosing a VPN is hard enough with the many available options. However, selecting a VPN for China is more challenging. It’s even worse when you’re opting for a free VPN. Here, we outline what to look out for in a free VPN for China.
- Number of Servers: An excellent VPN for any country must have multiple servers in different locations. This is because a large server count ensures that you wouldn’t experience overcrowded servers and slow connection speeds. A VPN for China likewise must have servers stationed in the country. However, it is difficult to find a VPN with servers in China. So, you can look for a provider with servers in neighboring countries like Singapore, Japan, Korea, and Hong Kong.
- Strict No Log Policy: Internet service providers (ISP) track you through your internet connection logs. The Chinese government can access such records. Therefore, when choosing a VPN, you must select one that doesn’t store or share users’ internet logs. This way, the government can’t track your internet activity.
- Reliable Encryption: Encryption prevents third parties from accessing your data. This means that an excellent free VPN for China must have military-grade encryption. You can also ensure you pick a VPN with end-to-end encryption. Finally, you can be safe from the government, hackers, and data snoops with such an encryption level.
- Internet Kill Switch: When your internet connection drops, it affects your VPN connection. When this happens, your real IP address may leak. That’s why an internet kill switch is essential for a Chinese VPN. A kill switch automatically disconnects your internet connection when your VPN connection drops. Consequently, your IP address wouldn’t leak.
Cross-Platform Support: Chinese residents use many gadgets and operating systems. Therefore, a VPN for China must have apps that are compatible with most of these platforms. Furthermore, a VPN that allows multiple simultaneous connections on one subscription is also a great choice.
Frequently Asked Questions on VPNs for China
How can I use a free VPN to get past internet censorship in China?
After deciding the free VPN service you want to use, you need to download and install the application on your device. Many free VPNs have manual installation instructions if you cannot get their apps on the Chinese Playstore and App store. Next, create an account if the free VPN service requires you to do so. Otherwise, connect to a server located outside China.
Should I use a free VPN to bypass internet censorship in China?
No. We do not recommend using free VPN services to bypass internet censorship in China. This is because free VPNs usually do not have the sophistication needed to bypass China’s great firewall undetected. Even premium VPNs have a hard time getting past it. We recommend you get in touch with your VPN service provider if you need to use their services in China. Unfortunately, some free VPN services don’t have a reliable customer support structure.
Which sites and VPN applications are banned in China?
China has banned several social media, news, and entertainment sites. Notable mentions include Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Netflix, Google, Yahoo, Whatsapp, Signal, Telegram, BBC, CNN, Slack, YouTube, Spotify, Blogspot, etc. In addition, you will not find popular VPN applications such as NordVPN, ExpressVPN, ProtonVPN, Hotspot Shield, and TunnelBear on the Chinese Playstore or App store.
The heavy internet restriction in China is saddening. However, with a VPN, you can still conduct your normal internet activities unhindered. You just need to pay attention to make sure that the VPN you choose can get around the Great Chinese Firewall. You can be sure of this with the VPNs above.