5 Best Free VPNs for China in 2024 — Reliable & Secure

Updated on: May 31, 2024
Fact Checked by Hazel Shaw
Kristel van Hoof Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: May 31, 2024 Writer

Short on time? Here’s the best free VPN for China in 2024:

  • 🥇 ExpressVPN : Not 100% free, but it’s the best VPN for China. You can try it risk-free for 30 days with its money-back guarantee. It has obfuscation on all servers, advanced security features, the fastest speeds in the industry, an extensive server network that can access 100+ streaming sites, unlimited data, and affordable plans.

It’s difficult to find a free VPN that works reliably in China. The Chinese government has implemented strict internet regulations and censorship laws, which collectively are known as the Great Firewall of China. In addition, it actively blocks access to many popular VPN services.

Plus, many free VPNs lack necessary security features, such as strong encryption protocols or a strict no-logs policy, that can leave your online activities vulnerable to surveillance or hacking. Additionally, most free VPNs come with data caps and small server networks that can give you slower speeds and connection drops.

Even free plans from top VPN brands have many limitations. For example, they usually don’t provide streaming or torrenting support, allow only one device connection at a time, don’t include access to all support channels (like live chat), and may even hide some features behind a paywall.

Instead, it’s best to use an affordable premium VPN for China (like ExpressVPN). Paid VPNs usually come with obfuscated servers that hide the fact that you’re using a VPN, advanced security features, unlimited data, and high-speed global networks.

I tested more than 20 free VPNs to find the best ones for China. All of the free VPNs listed here work in China, but keep in mind that they come with limitations like data caps and small server networks. Editors' Note: ExpressVPN and this site are in the same ownership group.

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Quick summary of the best free VPNs for China in 2024:

  • 1. 🥇ExpressVPN — Best overall VPN for China in 2024 with secure apps and a 30-day money-back guarantee.
  • 2. 🥈Private Internet Access — Great VPN for China with strong security, fast speeds, and user-friendly apps.
  • 3. 🥉Hotspot Shield — Fast & free VPN for browsing in China with unlimited bandwidth (ad-supported).
  • 4. Windscribe — User-friendly free VPN that’s great for beginners but has a 10 GB data cap.
  • 5. hide.me — Secure free VPN with strong obfuscation (but isn’t good for streaming).

Using a VPN in China could be against the law. Chinese laws regarding VPNs are very strict, especially with companies and institutions, and they affect both residents and visitors. While there are no known cases of the government penalizing foreigners or residents for VPN use, it’s wise to exercise caution. I neither promote nor condone the use of VPNs for illicit purposes, including copyright infringement, and I recommend doing proper research and complying with all local rules and guidelines.

Editors' Note: Intego, Private Internet Access, CyberGhost and ExpressVPN are owned by Kape Technologies, our parent company

🥇 1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for China

🥇 1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for China

ExpressVPN is my favorite VPN for China in 2024. It offers robust security features like obfuscated servers that hide the fact you’re using a VPN, the fastest speeds in the industry, and unlimited data. The VPN isn’t completely free, but it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can test it risk-free.

I like how all of its servers automatically obfuscate your VPN traffic (free VPNs like Hotspot Shield make you select obfuscated servers manually). The Great Firewall uses deep packet inspection (DPI) to detect and block VPNs that it doesn’t approve of, but obfuscation scrambles your VPN data so that it looks like normal internet traffic. This makes it much more difficult for the Chinese government to detect and block your VPN connection.

ExpressVPN takes your online privacy seriously. It has a verified no-logs policy, meaning that the VPN doesn’t collect any information about your online activity. I also feel extra safe knowing that it uses TrustedServer technology, which means that all of ExpressVPN’s servers are RAM-only. Each time a server is rebooted, all of your data is wiped away. This is particularly important when you’re in China because it minimizes the risk of the Chinese government accessing your data and information.

🥇 1. ExpressVPN — Best Overall VPN for China

I also like ExpressVPN’s own Lightway protocol, which offers lightning-fast connections without sacrificing your security or privacy. In addition, Lightway is designed to work with obfuscation technology.

ExpressVPN allows you to securely stream from China. It works with 100+ streaming sites and can access different Netflix, Amazon Prime, and Disney+ libraries, as well as sites like Hulu and BBC iPlayer.

ExpressVPN keeps you safe online with other great security features. Its Threat Manager feature blocks apps and sites from communicating with trackers and protects you from shady websites. What’s more, ExpressVPN comes with full leak protection — when I tested 10 different servers, I didn’t find any DNS, IPv6, or WebRTC leaks.

I like that the VPN offers APK files for users who need to install the VPN on their Android devices in China, where Google Play is not available. In addition, you can contact the provider’s email support to get access to mirror URLs that allow you to download the VPN’s apps in China

ExpressVPN’s plans start at $6.67 / month. The VPN also often offers special discounts with extra months for free.

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Bottom Line:

ExpressVPN is the best VPN for China in 2024 — it has obfuscation on all servers, maintains blazing-fast speeds, can access 100+ streaming sites, and offers robust privacy features. Plus, it offers APK files and mirror URLs so you can download ExpressVPN while you’re in China. It’s not totally free, but it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for all plans, so you can try it without risk.

Read the full ExpressVPN review

🥈2. Private Internet Access — Great Security & Highly Customizable Apps

🥈2. Private Internet Access — Great Security & Highly Customizable Apps

Private Internet Access (PIA) is an excellent choice if you’re in China. It comes with strong security and privacy features, has easy-to-use apps with lots of customization options, and maintains fast speeds. PIA isn’t 100% free, but it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, which is plenty of time to fully test the service.

PIA offers advanced security and privacy features, including an ad and malware blocker called PIA MACE, which is the best on the market. Next to that, it comes with full leak protection to ensure that accidental leaks won’t give away your data. Plus, you can use its Shadowsocks obfuscation protocol to make your VPN traffic look like regular traffic.

PIA has a strict no-logs policy that has been verified by independent security audits and has also been proven true in multiple court cases. The VPN provider also releases regular transparency reports where it proves that it doesn’t keep logs of your online activity. This gives me extra confidence that PIA won’t have any data to turn over to the Chinese government. In addition, I like that PIA’s apps are open-source, meaning that anyone can check the code to see if it’s secure.

🥈2. Private Internet Access — Great Security & Highly Customizable Apps

I particularly like that you can customize PIA’s apps completely to your liking. You can switch between 128-bit AES (secure but faster) and 256-bit AES (higher security but slightly slower speeds) encryption, split-tunnel IPs and apps, change local port connections, and more. The VPN offers apps for Windows, Android, iOS, and macOS and allows unlimited simultaneous device connections (hide.me only allows 1 device connection at a time).

PIA can access top streaming platforms like Netflix and Amazon Prime, but ExpressVPN works with many more.

Private Internet Access has plans starting at $2.03 / month. The longest plan provides the best value and also sometimes includes extra months of service for free.

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Bottom Line:

Private Internet Access is an excellent VPN that consistently works in China. It offers strong security and privacy features, fast speeds, customizable apps that work with a wide range of devices, and obfuscation technology. It’s not completely free, but it offers a 30-day money-back guarantee for all plans, so you can try it risk-free.

Read the full Private Internet Access review

Editors' Note: Private Internet Access and this site are in the same ownership group.

🥉3. Hotspot Shield — Fast Free VPN to Browse the Web in China

🥉3. Hotspot Shield — Fast Free VPN to Browse the Web in China

Hotspot Shield maintains fast speeds, which allows you to browse the internet from China without annoying slowdowns. The provider claims the free plan limits speeds, but my speeds were still fast enough to stream in HD. In addition, the free version comes with unlimited bandwidth, but keep in mind you can only use servers in 3 countries, including the US, the UK, and Singapore, and have to watch ads every 15 minutes.

The VPN also has Hydra, a proprietary protocol that provides obfuscation. The provider’s reps told me they can’t guarantee the free VPN plan will always work in China, but it should most of the time. If you’re looking for more consistent access to the web in China, try ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access.

🥉3. Hotspot Shield — Fast Free VPN to Browse the Web in China

Hotspot Shield keeps your online experience secure with advanced features. For example, it comes with perfect forward secrecy, which changes your encryption keys with each VPN session. You also get DNS leak protection, but there’s no streaming and torrenting support on the free plan.

I like that you can use Hotspot Shield’s free version without signing up. This creates an extra layer of privacy because you don’t have to provide any personal information. And the provider’s apps are also easy to use. The interface is simple to navigate, and there are helpful explanations for pretty much all settings and features.

Hotspot Shield’s paid plans start at $2.99 / month, and they provide access to all server locations and streaming and torrenting support. In addition, all plans come with a generous 45-day money-back guarantee.

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Bottom Line:

Hotspot Shield has a very fast free VPN that works in China. It comes with advanced security features, including its proprietary Hydra protocol that obfuscates your traffic, as well as unlimited data. However, it offers only 3 server locations. Upgrading to the premium plan gives you access to Hotspot Shield’s extensive server network and streaming and torrenting support.

Read the full Hotspot Shield review

4. Windscribe — Easy-to-Use Free VPN That’s Great for Beginners

4. Windscribe — Easy-to-Use Free VPN That’s Great for Beginners

Windscribe’s user-friendly interface makes it easy to navigate and perfect for beginners. It comes with a quick-connect button that connects you to the fastest server location in just one click. In addition, I like that it offers 10+ free server locations and that I could add servers to my favorites by clicking on the heart icon next to them. And, I like how the VPN allows unlimited connections.

The VPN comes with robust security and privacy features, including perfect forward secrecy, RAM-only servers, and full leak protection. It also has R.O.B.E.R.T, a pretty good ad blocker, but it’s rather limited with the free plan. But I like that Windscribe can access top sites like Netflix and Amazon Prime on its free servers.

4. Windscribe — Easy-to-Use Free VPN That’s Great for Beginners

You can obfuscate your traffic by connecting to the Stealth or WStunnel protocol in Windscribe’s app. The Stealth protocol hides your OpenVPN traffic in a secure tunnel (TLS tunnel). and the WStunnel protocol encapsulates your traffic using WebSocket, making it look like regular internet traffic. The support reps told me Windscribe’s free plan might work in China, but they can’t guarantee it — if that’s a dealbreaker for you, again, consider getting ExpressVPN or Private Internet Access.

Keep in mind that the free plan comes with a data cap of 2 GB per month, which is about enough to stream for an hour in HD. You can increase the data cap by 10 GB per month if you provide your email address, and you can get an extra 5 GB per month if you tweet about Windscribe.

Windscribe also has premium plans starting at $3.00 / month, giving you access to all of its servers in more than 68 countries and unlimited data. There’s only a 3-day refund for all plans.

Bottom Line:

Windscribe is a user-friendly VPN with a free plan that might work in China. It has an intuitive interface, maintains good speeds, and allows unlimited device connections. Unfortunately, it comes with a data cap that starts at 2 GB. Upgrading to its premium plan gives you access to unlimited data and Windscribe’s full server network, including locations in Hong Kong and Singapore.

Read the full Windscribe review

5. hide.me — Good Security Features for Browsing the Web in China

5. hide.me — Good Security Features for Browsing the Web in China

hide.me offers obfuscation when using the OpenVPN protocol. This is great because it helps you avoid DPI blocks. You also get other strong security features like full leak protection, perfect forward secrecy, and RAM-only servers. hide.me’s reps told me the free plan works well in China, but they can’t guarantee 100% uptime — with ExpressVPN and Private Internet Access, that’s not an issue.

I was a bit disappointed with hide.me’s long-distance speeds during my tests. Although I had good speeds on nearby servers, I experienced a significant drop in speeds on long-distance ones. However, it has unlimited data, so you can browse and download as much as you want.

5. hide.me — Good Security Features for Browsing the Web in China

The VPN has user-friendly apps. I particularly like that you can filter its 5+ free server locations by ping, which allows you to pick the fastest server location available. A downside, however, is that the free plan allows only 1 device connection at a time, and there’s no streaming support.

hide.me’s paid plans start at $2.22 / month, and they provide unlimited data and access to the provider’s full server network. All of hide.me’s plans are backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Bottom Line:

hide.me provides strong security features that keep you safe on the web in China. In addition, it maintains good speeds on nearby servers, has 5+ free server locations, and offers unlimited data. Unfortunately, it has slow speeds on long-distance servers, and there’s no streaming support. Upgrading to its paid version gives you access to a full server network and perks like streaming support.

Read the full hide.me review

Quick Comparison Table

VPN Starting Price Data Limit Number of Countries Obfuscation Number of Devices Money-Back Guarantee
🥇1. ExpressVPN $6.67 / month Unlimited 105 8 30 days
🥈2. Private Internet Access $2.03 / month Unlimited 91 Unlimited 30 days
🥉3. Hotspot Shield $2.99 / month Unlimited (with ads) 3 1 45 days
4. Windscribe $3.00 / month 10 GB per month 10+ Unlimited 3 days
5. hide.me $2.22 / month Unlimited 5+ 1 30 days

Editors' Note: Intego, Private Internet Access, CyberGhost and ExpressVPN are owned by Kape Technologies, our parent company

Testing Methodology: Comparison & Ranking Criteria

To find the best free VPNs for China, I used our proven testing methodology to determine each VPN’s ease of use, speeds, security and privacy, user-friendliness, and overall value. Here’s what I tested for this list:

  • I ensured that the VPN works in China. All of my VPN recommendations can bypass China’s firewall without detection. I prefer using ExpressVPN because it’s the most reliable when it comes to letting you use a VPN in China. It even has mirror URLs so you can download the VPN within China.
  • I looked for a VPN with strong security. A VPN should keep your data safe while online in China. All VPNs listed here come with industry-standard security features like 256-bit AES encryption, DNS leak protection, and a kill switch that disables your internet connection should your VPN connection ever drop.Testing Methodology: Comparison & Ranking Criteria
  • I made sure the VPN offers enough data. Free VPNs often come with data caps that are just enough for a few hours of browsing. If you want to use the VPN for streaming, gaming, or video calls, make sure you choose a free plan that has at least 5 GB per month.
  • I tested each VPN’s speeds for reliable and fast connections. Many VPNs that do work in China have slow connections. ExpressVPN had the fastest speeds and most stable connections during my tests.Testing Methodology: Comparison & Ranking Criteria
  • I only recommend VPNs that provide good value. I only recommend VPNs that have affordable paid plans that provide access to more extra security features, better speeds, and larger server networks. Also, the paid plans should be covered by a money-back guarantee.

Risks & Disadvantages of Using a Free VPN

  • Limited security. Free VPNs often lack the advanced security features that paid VPNs offer, such as an ad and malware blocker, full leak protection, and obfuscation. This makes them more vulnerable and less likely to work with the Great Firewall of China. Luckily, all of the VPNs I mentioned in this article work in China.
  • Privacy issues. Free VPNs might gather and trade your information to sell to advertisers as a means of profit. This undermines one of the primary reasons for using a VPN — to safeguard your internet privacy.
  • Limited server options. Free VPNs have a small server network. This can greatly compromise your speed, as you could be forced to connect to a distant or overcrowded server.
  • Data restrictions. Free VPNs limit how much data you use on a daily and monthly basis, which means you may only have a couple of hours of browsing or streaming.
  • Slow speeds. VPN providers often throttle speeds on free plans. This can result in slow speeds and annoying interruptions. Fortunately, most of the VPNs I mention here don’t limit your speeds.

Free vs. Paid VPNs for China

It’s important that the VPN you use in China protects your data and privacy. Every VPN on my list has advanced security features including a kill switch, 256-bit AES encryption, and a strict no-logs policy. Some also include extra features like RAM-only servers and perfect forward secrecy for enhanced privacy.

The majority of free VPNs lack other important features, though, such as large server networks, unlimited data and speeds, and multiple device connections. There’s also usually a lack of streaming and torrenting support.

Here are some examples: hide.me has unlimited data and P2P support but doesn’t have streaming support or multiple device connections. Windscribe only allows 10 GB of data per month but has decent streaming support and unlimited connections.

In comparison, premium VPN plans have a lot more to offer, including unlimited data, server networks with dozens or hundreds of locations, can access top streaming services, allow torrenting, offer unlimited speeds, and more. Plus, these plans almost always have money-back guarantees.

All things considered, there are some good free VPNs (like the ones on my list), but paid plans are much better overall.

Features Free VPNs Paid VPNs
Privacy

(many free VPNs collect your data and may even share it with third-parties)

Fast speeds
Unlimited data
Access to all servers

(free VPNs limit you to a handful of servers instead of the entire network)

Streaming support
Torrenting support

(only some free VPNs allow torrenting)

24/7 customer support
Ad/tracker/malware blocker
Multiple simultaneous connections

(free VPNs usually only allow 1 device connection at a time)

Free VPNs to Avoid

  • SuperVPN. SuperVPN is dangerous to use because it logs your personal details like your browser type, IP address, and more. Plus, it lacks many important security features and has suffered a large data breach in the past.
  • Hola VPN. Hola VPN also isn’t very safe. It’s a P2P VPN, which means you get someone else’s IP address when you connect to a server (and someone else can use yours). This means other people can conduct unethical or illegal behavior using your IP address, which puts you at risk. It also has a poor history with user privacy.
  • Phone Guardian. Phone Guardian is really limited, as it only encrypts your data. It doesn’t have any other features that a normal VPN does, like changing your location and IP address, so it’s not very useful.
  • Hoxx VPN. Hoxx VPN isn’t good for protecting your privacy, as it logs your information (including your IP address and online activities). Plus, it “may” hold onto this information even after you stop using the VPN.
  • TouchVPN. TouchVPN has a really large server network for a VPN (80+ locations), which is impressive, but it logs your IP address and your browsing history.
  • TuxlerVPN. TuxlerVPN has shady privacy policies that state it keeps your browser information, contact info, and website activities. It also shares this information with third-parties.
  • AceVPN. AceVPN lacks essential security features like a kill switch, doesn’t have any device apps (which means you have to manually configure it), and has only a few server locations to choose from.

Top Brands That Didn’t Make the Cut

  • IPVanish. This is a premium VPN that offers unlimited connections and good speeds for torrenting and gaming, but unfortunately, it doesn’t work in China.
  • NordVPN. NordVPN is a user-friendly VPN with advanced security features and a strict no-logs policy. However, it doesn’t work in China.
  • Proton VPN. A free VPN with unlimited data and very good security and privacy features. However, it doesn’t work in China.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is it legal to use a VPN in China?

Only government-approved VPNs are legal in China. This means that VPN providers have to obtain a license to operate within the country. However, a VPN that has been approved by the Chinese government still doesn’t offer online freedom because it would have to log and share your data with the authorities.

Theoretically, it’s possible to use a non-approved VPN in China. That said, you could get fined for using a non-approved VPN. That said, there have been no reports of any foreigners in China being punished for the use of non-approved VPNs.

What if my VPN stops working in China?

If you use any of the VPNs on my list, this shouldn’t happen. I recommend using ExpressVPN because it has obfuscation on all its servers and advanced security features, and it’s been verified to work in China.

That said, if you are experiencing issues, here’s what you can try:

  • Change server locations. Sometimes certain server locations might not work in China, so switching to a different one may resolve the issue.
  • Switch protocols. Most VPNs offer multiple protocols like OpenVPN, WireGuard, L2TP/IPSec, or IKEv2/IPSec, and some may work better than others in China. Try changing protocols in the VPN app’s settings until you find one that works in China.
  • Ensure that you’re using a VPN with obfuscation. Using the VPN’s server locations or protocols that have obfuscation can help you bypass censorship by making your VPN traffic look like regular internet traffic.

How do I set up a free VPN on my device in China?

Just download and install the VPN app from the provider’s site or the app store. Follow the setup instructions, connect to a server location, and enjoy being able to use the internet with a VPN.

However, keep in mind that the Google Play Store is blocked in China. This means that it’s important to download your VPN before traveling to China. If you forget to do that, I made sure that every VPN on this list offers an APK file link, so that you can manually download and install the VPN on your Android phone in China. And some VPNs, including ExpressVPN, also have mirrored URLs for an alternative way to sign up and download.

Can I use a free VPN for streaming in China?

Maybe, but it’s unlikely to work well. Free VPNs don’t usually work well in China or with streaming sites — the free VPNs I recommend say their free plans work in China, but they can’t guarantee 100% uptime.

Instead, I recommend getting an affordable paid VPN like ExpressVPN, which can access 100+ streaming platforms, including Netflix, Disney+, Amazon Prime, iQIYI and Youku, and works in China without issues.

Quick Overview of My Top Recommendations:

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9.8
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9.6
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3
7.8
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7.8
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5
7.8
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About the Author
Kristel van Hoof
Updated on: May 31, 2024

About the Author

Kristel van Hoof is a former tech researcher and writer for SafetyDetectives with a keen interest in online privacy and cybersecurity. For more than 3 years now, she has been testing and reviewing VPNs and other products for online data protection. When she’s not writing for Safety Detectives, she's dancing with her kids, traveling around the world, and cooking her favorite dishes.