I was directed here from lifehacks SE. Basically I am a student who would need access to gmail, Google in China (mainland).

From my past experience, Gmail is not blocked sometimes, blocked sometimes, but I would like something more reliable.

I am using MacBook Air. Does anyone know a reliable VPN that suits this purpose? I am just looking at mail/googling normal academic (English) websites on Mathematics, not searching for sensitive/prohibited content.

  • 4
    Do you have a pc that is turned on all the time back at your home country (a family pc for example)? or can be turned on whenever you wish? I can give you simple steps to make a personal vpn that will work in China, that's what I use when I visit China and it always worked for me. Nov 30, 2015 at 9:05
  • 2
    Do you have a friend who could set up a personal VPN back in your home country or any other country outside China? That's what I use when I visit China and it worked most of the time for me, though in some places they somehow managed to block even that! (Typically it would work when I arrived in a new place but be blocked when I woke up and tried to connect in the morning.) Dec 1, 2015 at 0:25
  • 1
    @hippietrail thanks for this idea, I think I can try that
    – yoyostein
    Dec 1, 2015 at 1:16
  • 2
    two tips: a personal vpn is most likely to work, and Bing (and other Microsoft stuff such as Hotmail) is far less blocked. Bandwidth through vpns is generally slow so doing what you can without it can really help. Dec 1, 2015 at 1:52
  • 1
    I wonder how recently the people saying personal VPNs work have tried it? I did the same thing myself earlier this year, setting up a personal VPN network with multiple servers and traffic obfuscation, and it was blocked and my servers blacklisted within a week or so. From what I've heard and experienced, China uses deep packet inspection and traffic analysis to identify any method people are using to bypass content filtering, and the only effective way around it is to rotate through a very large network of generic-looking servers ("large" = hundreds or thousands).
    – David Z
    Dec 1, 2015 at 8:00

3 Answers 3


A bit of advice to choose and use a good VPN in China:

  • Don't pick the most famous VPN services, since they get blocked more often
  • Choose one that offers different protocols to switch between.
  • Register to the VPN before going to China.
  • If it is free, the bandwidth probably won't be very good and might be unstable. So yes, it is worth paying for it.

Personally, I have been using PureVPN for a few years in China, and I must say I've had a good experience and they have rarely been blocked. Also I was able to use Netflix and stream very smoothly.

Also note that your experience may differ depending on which Chinese city you live in.

  • Recent experience in and around Shanghai and at both Fudan and Shanghai Jiao Tong Universities suggests to ensure to have a set of protocols available (see e.g. here) as well as finding a provider using non-standard configurations/ports. In addition it might be worth to note that the only option I found to always be available was an SSH tunnel on a non-standard port.
    – greyshade
    Dec 1, 2015 at 21:41
  • @greyshade I was in PEK in August, there my SSH tunnel to a non-standard port was gradually throttled down to zero KB/s whenever I put any bandwidth through it. It would start okay and be fine for web browsing, but whenever I tried to download anything that maxed out the speed, it would basically be disconnected after about fifteen minutes. Happened in a couple of hotels and one airport lounge. There is some really intelligent deep packet inspection in the Great Firewall.
    – Calchas
    Dec 2, 2015 at 23:35
  • @Calchas interesting to hear - guess that just stresses the fact that having a bunch of options at hand is paramount..
    – greyshade
    Dec 3, 2015 at 21:01

Check with your ISP, as they may have a VPN service you can use. Also, some smaller providers such as Boingo offer VPN services worldwide for use with any access network.

By the way, in general, it's best to not bring any of one's regular devices into China. It's better to bring loaner/burner devices that are wiped before and after the trip.

  • Could you elaborate on the reason for the last paragraph? It made me curious.
    – Fiksdal
    Oct 13, 2016 at 14:10
  • 1
    China is known as a hotspot of industrial espionage where devices can be secretly accessed (e.g., from hotel room safes when people are out, or a device left unattended even briefly). Data on the devices can be copied, and various malware can be planted in the device to allow future access. A number of corporations have internal policies prohibiting employees from bringing any devices that might contain any company data or that can be used to access corp networks (e.g., be plugged in to company Ethernet or acces Wi-Fi, or via VPN) into China, both mainland and Hong Kong.
    – jetset
    Nov 21, 2016 at 2:23

If you're a bit tech-savvy and willing to invest in a private server (whether a regular shared hosting or a cloud instance), have a look at a great blog post detailing how to evade China's VPN filter. There are also several open-source projects that can help:

  • Streisand - automatically sets up an obfuscated VPN server and other helpful tools on any machine

  • SoftEther VPN - another obfuscated VPN software project

  • Obfsproxy an obfuscating wrapper over any OpenVPN

Overall it seems that it's best to have 2-3 private VPN servers set-up and tested before you travel to China in order to guarantee a stable VPN connection.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .