As a teacher in China you want to be able to access any website you want. This ensures you’ve got the best teaching material for your classes and you can stay connected with people and events back home.
However, with the Great Firewall of China dictating what you can and can’t access, your best bet is to get a virtual private network, or VPN, before you arrive.
If you don’t, you can kiss goodbye to some of your favorite sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, as well as all of Google’s services including its search engine, Gmail and YouTube.
So what’s the best VPN for China? We asked tech comparison website Comparitech to answer this question for us.
Comparitech’s main considerations when curating their list include factors they believe are of the utmost importance to VPN users in China. These are reliability, customer support, speed, and range of servers.
ExpressVPN is possibly the most popular VPN in China. It’s not the cheapest VPN on this list, but it remains popular among teachers in China for good reason.
It has a huge range of server locations, excellent and consistent speeds, allows three simultaneous connections, offers 24/7 live chat support and claims 99.9% uptime.
The ExpressVPN app works across all major desktop and mobile platforms and is very simple to use. That includes Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux (command line), and compatible routers.
Torrenting is allowed on all servers, and ExpressVPN usually has a handful of servers that work with Netflix.
ExpressVPN is a good choice for ESL teachers wanting to access Google while working in China.
NordVPN recently announced it now works from China. This is good news especially for ESL teachers in Beijing and Shanghai who want unfettered internet access for a low price.
NordVPN offers great bang for your buck, offering six simultaneous connections on one inexpensive subscription. It can also unblock streaming sites like Netflix US and Hulu, which block most other VPN connections.
Torrenting is tolerated, and servers are available in more than 60 countries. NordVPN keeps zero logs of user activity and maintains strong encryption standards.
Both desktop apps – Windows and MacOS – work in China. Android users should opt for the beta version of the newest app.
Unfortunately, NordVPN’s iOS app cannot evade the Great Firewall at this time.
StrongVPN is another long-time favorite among teachers in China. It offers over a dozen server locations in the United States alone, although other countries are more limited.
The desktop app is average and there’s no OpenVPN option, but the L2TP and SSTP protocols work well enough.
Speed and uptime are reliable and the company is small enough to sometimes be overlooked by censors while the bigger companies get hammered.
The support team is available 24/7 every day of the year but can only be reached via an online form. Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.
Get a VPN if you want to access Facebook while teaching in China.
VyprVPN is one of the few tier-1 VPN networks with support for users in China, meaning it owns all of its own servers and doesn’t rent them. That equates to fast, consistent speeds and excellent uptime.
The Pro version includes a proprietary ‘Chameleon’ protocol that masks VPN traffic to make it less susceptible to the Great Firewall’s deep-packet inspection technology.
It’s on the expensive side, but ESL teachers in China will be happy to know the company accepts payments from Alipay, a popular payment gateway similar to PayPal.
VyprVPN offers a decent number of locations. Live chat support is available. The only complaint is with some of VyprVPN’s less-than-private logging policies, so frequent torrenters might want to look elsewhere.
Apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS and Android.
Hungary-based Buffered offers a super simple app for Windows and MacOS that the company claims can get past the Great Firewall. Unfortunately, no mobile apps are available yet, but iOS and Android devices can still be set up manually using an OpenVPN app.
Up to five devices can be connected simultaneously on a single account, making Buffered a solid option for a group of housemates. Speed is reliable and connections rarely drop.
The company operates servers in 37 countries, including several in the Asia Pacific region. Apps are available for Windows and MacOS.
VPNs to avoid in China
Previously a darling of the VPN world, Astrill is no longer recommended by Comparitech. It’s had reports that it no longer offers consistent access throughout China.
PIA and HideMyAss should also be avoided as they have dodgy connections, and VPN Gate has stopped working altogether.
What VPN do you use in China? Share your insight with other fellow teachers below.