Gmail is blocked in China. Again. Along with other Google services, many websites and products taken for granted in the West, like Dropbox. So what can you do? The answer is simple: Use a VPN service.
With the great firewall of China, having a reliable VPN in China as a foreigner is crucial to stay connected and informed. I wrote earlier about why you need VPN in China and how it works.
I recently received an invitation from VyprVPN to test their VPN service for free for 2 months to see if I like it and if I would recommend it to my readers. While I am very happy with the VPN service I am currently using and have used for the past 3 years, I believe in choice. Having more than one good option available is a good thing, so I agreed to the offer.
I’m glad I did. I liked them so much that I signed up as an affiliate, meaning that I will earn a small commission if you buy their service through a link on my website, at no extra cost to you.
Here’s my experience with VyprVPN (affiliate link: I earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. On the contrary, with my link, you have access to a 25% discount for the first year.) This link should even work in China, which bans access to VPN providers websites, but the smart folks at Vypr know a way around that.
I received a link per email to activate my account. Because I was using Gmail, which can be inaccessible in China at times, I had to use VPN to load that invitation email. This was my bad. Use Yahoo, Hotmail or other email services and you should be fine.
I made a point then to get out of VPN in order to start the account activation process from within China. The VyprVPN website loaded somewhat slowly, like almost all foreign websites do in China, but it wasn’t blocked.
All I had to do is enter and confirm a password and accept the terms. I promptly received a welcome email with more info about their services and a big “Get Started” button to download the software for Windows, Mac or mobile devices.
I use Windows on my laptop, so I downloaded the 4.2 MB file for Windows without problems. The Setup recommended to close all other applications first, which I did except for my internet browser. Installation took a couple minutes and required one confirmation click along the way.
Once I logged in, I was asked to connect to a server. Suggested was the fastest server available, which happened to be in South Korea. I opted for a server in San Francisco instead. It was listed as a tiny bit slower, but it is the same location as my current VPN server.
To easily connect to VPN before opening a web browser I pinned VyprVPN to my start menu.
Next up iPad. I navigated to the VyprVPN website, which loaded in Chinese, since I was accessing it from a Chinese IP address. Luckily, you can change the language setting to English. If just my internet were faster …
The VyprVPN page for the iOS app directed me to the AppStore. That product page already impressed me with the design and promised ease of use. However, I hit a little snag there. Without VPN, the redirect to the AppStore didn’t work. So I had to use my existing StrongVPN to download the VyprVPN app to my iPad. To VyprVPN’s defense, it would have been surprising if China lets you download a VPN app. Maybe it needs to be disguised better, just like the website URL. I still needed to use VPN to complete the set-up.
The set-up itself was easy. Again, it defaulted to the fastest server, South Korea, but I could easily switch to California by clicking on a map. I love their simple and intuitive user interface.
It adds the VyprVPN iOS configuration to the iPad settings under VPN settings. It also gives you options to connect automatically versus manually.
Easy set-up and account navigation
I was set up with a Premier account, which costs $12.95/month or $80/year regularly. Using my link here gives you access to a 25% discount on the annual subscription, so it is only $60 per year.
The premium account includes 5 connections, unlimited data, VyprVPN cloud, and most importantly for China the Chameleon protocol. Running VPN simultaneously on multiple devices works flawlessly.
The account allows for a variety of protocols: PPTP, OpenVPN, L2TP/IPsec and their proprietary Chameleon protocol. I use the Chameleon protocol when I’m in China and sometimes switch to the default Open VPN protocol outside of China.
Dashboard and Control Panel are very intuitive in my opinion (I have tested at least 3 or 4 VPN’s). It is super easy to switch between servers right there when connecting, and to see the up- and download speed.
Real-life test passed with ease
First I opened my own website, which loaded reasonably fast, given my crappy local internet connection at home.
Next on to Facebook. Since I was coming from a new IP address (from the Vypr server) Facebook asked a security question. LinkedIn also had another security question, this time I needed to type a text from a picture to verify I’m not a robot. Easy. So be prepared that some of your accounts will double-check when you are accessing them from a new IP address.
My first test on the iPad was to update the New York Times app, which is blocked in China. VyprVPN also passed this test with ease.
The most important factor for VPN in China – Reliability
Fast forward to having used VyprVPN in China for a few
Overall, I’m very happy with the VPN service. I had a couple instances were I couldn’t connect. But my other VPN service usually couldn’t connect then either, so the issue was likely not with VyprVPN but more general. As I mentioned in my post here, the great firewall of China keeps getting stronger and tries to shut down foreign VPNs.
VyprVPN does a great job in keeping you connected to the worldwide web even with the increasing controls in China. Try it out yourself with a 3 day free trial and get 25% off the first link here.