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Traveling to China, what VPN service to use?


Very simple question. I’m traveling to China tomorrow and need suggestions for the best VPN? I’m currently subscribed to Mullvad, which I use on a daily basis, however, I’m unsure if it works in China. After reading a bit, it seems that expressVPN is the best bet… Does anyone have experience with expressVPN and perhaps used a VPN in China?

Thank you for the help in advance!

Virtual Private Networks and China’s Great Firewall are a pain in the arse.

tldr; Use expressVPN, but don’t be surprised if your connection is terminated at any moment. Make sure that your VPN software is properly configured.

Most VPNs are not allowed in China and are blocked by the Great Firewall. Historically China has been known to block access for a ton of sites and services at any moment for any reason.

You could give expressVPN a shot, make sure that you try the 30 day money back trial in the event that it isn’t to your liking.

Not trying to spook you, but I also want you to be aware of the following as well.

The Great Firewall and China’s government owned ISP’s are really good at detecting VPN and TOR traffic. They are constantly running probes across the network to determine what you are up too.

Let me know if you have other concerns or questions. :smiley:

I also forgot to include some additional protections that you could take to protect yourself while traveling in no particular order. Some of these are practical, and some of these are in paranoid tin foil hat territory.

puts on tin foil hat

  1. If you are traveling for work, ensure that they give you a loaner cellular phone and laptop that can be wiped once you get back, ensure that they are properly configured and don’t have sensitive information that could be potentially compromised. Ensure that both devices are encrypted as well.

  2. If you are traveling for personal reasons, leave your expensive phone and laptop at home. I mention this because the moment you connect to their network they will start poking around (service scans) and may attempt to compromise that device.

  3. If you absolutely must take a phone with you, get a pre-paid phone that you wouldn’t mind throwing away. Ensure that you have both your VPN and encryption setup properly. Use the minimum amount of non-google based android apps, remember that Google products and services are banned in China. So you may need to find alternatives.

  4. If you absolutely must take a laptop with you, follow the same advice listed above. Once you get back home, keep it disconnected from the network and run a couple rounds of DBAN (Boot and Nuke) to make sure nothing on the media remains.

Thank you for the reply. I will give ExpressVPN a try. The purpose of the trip is work related (a conference). I will bring and old laptop with a fresh install and no real compromising information. The idea is mainly to have access to facebook messenger to contact family and friends…

Do you have a static IP, spare computer, and a decent home internet connections?

You could set up your own OpenVPN server on your home network and connect to that. Less likely to drop out plus you know where your data is going. Not ideal last minute to setup but next time might be worth looking into.

I did look into that, I have a small plex server running. However, I don’t have a static IP at the moment and don’t have time to set it up. But, it will be something I will into when I return :slight_smile:

DuckDNS can solve the static IP issue as long as you’re not behind an ISP NAT.

Might want to check with the government instead of asking a load of people that have probably never been. I read people getting arrested for using unapproved software.

Don’t just reference this article, ask someone in the U.S. Embassy or something. Just pointing out that the question isn’t “What VPN should I use?”

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So, I will most likely not use it much and if I use it will only be for some brief messaging. But I am aware that VPN’s has become semi-illegal in China.

I would use Tor instead.

Hi, I travel to China all the time and have relatives that live there as well. We’ve been using Astrill VPN for years now with no problem.

I know for a fact that many VPN services doesn’t work in China. We’ve tried a couple (few years back) and Astrill just works. Hope this helps you.

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Just about to take off in the plane. I’m going with express vpn… If that doesn’t work I’ll just leave it. Should also spend my time exploring Beijing :wink:
But thanks for all the help guys!

Just as a follow up, just return from China… Both expressVPN and mullvad ended up work fine :slight_smile:


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