Shanghai Blog

VPN providers

During my stay in China I have tried out different VPN providers, so I thought I should summarise my experience so far. In the past I used GoAgent that worked really well for a long time until Google shut down it’s servers in Mainland China. It was a setup using Google App Engine tunneling web traffic through Google’s server. I also used a plain SSH tunnel to a server in Sweden, but that usually had pretty poor performance. The first VPN I paid money for was PureVPN that worked very good for a month or so but then steadily went downhill. I had very poor performance with it in the end (1 year subscription). PureVPN didn’t have a Mac OS client so switching between servers was quite a hassle. I wouldn’t recommend getting PureVPN.
I then tried Astrill VPN which has had very mixed performance. Many friends here in Shanghai used it and have in general been very happy with it. For me it has worked good for maybe 2/3 of the time, but for quite a few months after Chinese New Year 2016 it was not really working at all. Astrill customer service was really terrible during this time and I am sure they lost a lot of business because of that (I had a screenshot of it in another post – Astrill customer service just lost it and accused their customers in public for being too stupid!). It also has an upgrade option – StealthVPN – which supposedly is more stable than their normal VPN service. I got it for free for 1 month after CNY but didn’t really use it too much, took a very long time to connect or timeout. I also don’t like that they charge extra for that, I think they should include it in their normal package instead (the VPN service should really just work). Astrill has good software clients for both Windows and Mac.
I have now switched to using VPN.AC but it’s still too early to say anything about it. It has client software for both Windows and Mac that works well.
I have also written some blog posts about how to set up Shadowsocks, which has also been working pretty good most of the time, but requires more technical knowledge.
An other VPN provider to mention would be ExpressVPN, that seems to be the best / most stable VPN provider for China but also quite expensive, so I’m not sure if it’s really worth it. I haven’t tried it yet but maybe I will consider it in the future. ExpressVPN also have a great feature that allows you to cancel your service at any time.
I think it’s a good practice to not pay for more than 6 months of a VPN as China internet is changing all the time and there’s no guarantee the VPN service will continue to work well in the future.

Finally I wanna mention the “Tips for China” website that has a lot of good information about VPN providers and run monthly performance tests to compare them, check it out at
http://www.tipsforchina.com/
It also has some discount codes for signing up to different VPN providers. Overall a great source of information when researching VPN providers in China.


Posted: 18 Aug 2016