So you’ve landed in China and realized that you want to use a Virtual Private Network, or VPN for short. Unfortunately, all the VPN websites that are supposed to help you bypass censorship are, well…censored. So what do you do? How can you install a VPN from within China?
Don’t worry, you’re not alone. Getting stuck in China without a VPN is a common problem that many people face. I get emails about this all the time 🙂 It’s usually the case that people land in China and didn’t realize that a specific app or website was blocked in China. Panic ensues.
The short answer to your question about how to install a VPN from within China is one of two methods (I’ll go into more detail on each method further down):
- Use These Dynamic VPN Links: Some VPN companies actively mirror their website to multiple locations to avoid censorship. By using links like this one for ExpressVPN or even this one for NordVPN, your traffic from within China will (hopefully) be routed to an unblocked version of their website.
- Tether onto a VPN-Enabled Device: If the dynamic links for some reason don’t work, the next best method to install a VPN from within China is to tether onto a VPN-enabled device. In this way, you’re using the VPN services of another device in order to set up a VPN on your own. I’ll explain this method in detail below.
So that’s a short description of how to install a VPN from within China. If you need more details or want a step-by-step explanation, continue reading below.
Note: Some of the links in this article are affiliate links, which means that at no extra cost to you, I may be compensated if you choose to use any of the services listed here. I only recommend what I personally use, however, and I appreciate your support of my work!
Method 1: Dynamic Links to Install a VPN from Within China
There are a number of definitions for dynamic links, but in this case, dynamic links refer to links which automatically route you to an available and unblocked website.
In other words, when you click on a dynamic VPN link, there is a process happening behind the scenes that checks to see which of the many mirror sites have been blocked. Once an available version of the site has been located, your browser will be automatically forwarded there.
This all happens in a matter of seconds and there’s nothing you as a user have to do, but it’s an important process.
Not every VPN offers these kind of links and it’s one of many indications that a VPN serves the China market (since they always have to play a game of cat-and-mouse with the Chinese censors).
I recommend a number of great VPNs for China and this is an important rating factor. Below are a few VPN services making use of dynamic links that should work to allow you to install a VPN from within China.
ExpressVPN has been one of the most reliable VPNs for those in China and they’re one of the best when it comes to dynamic links to avoid censorship.
There’s a good chance that you’ll be able to sign up for this VPN from within China using this link.
If you read a lot of my content, you’ll know that I almost always recommend a backup VPN. For me, that’s NordVPN, in part because it truly is a quality VPN.
They also just so happen to utilize dynamic links to avoid censorship in China. Give it a try with this link:
Finally, if the first two don’t work, one final option to try would be this link from VyprVPN, another excellent VPN option for China.
VyprVPN has a long history of business here in China, so they know what it takes to stay available for those the China market.
If, for some reason, these dynamic links don’t work to allow you to install a VPN from within China, not all hope is lost. There is still one more method to try.
Method 2: Tether onto a VPN-Enabled Device
The tethering method of installing a VPN from within China is slightly more complicated but has a higher probability of success.
I’m going to walk you through step-by-step how to do this, but the gist of the process is that you’re piggy-backing off of a current VPN to set up a new VPN. It works like this:
Step 1: Find a VPN-Enabled Device (i.e. a friend or colleague)
The first and most important thing you need to find is a friend or colleague who has a phone that is already set up with a VPN. This should only take a few minutes of their time, so hopefully they won’t mind.
You should probably warn your friend that you’ll be using a bit of their data but it shouldn’t be much. It is possible to download a VPN app through your phone’s app store without a VPN, but you won’t be able to sign up for the service on your own.
If you set up your own phone with a VPN first, then you can repeat this same process with your computer connecting to your own phone.
Step 2: Enable the VPN Service on Your Friend’s Phone
This next part is a bit technical if you’ve never done it before, but it’s not hard. Ask your friend to turn on their VPN (it doesn’t matter which VPN they use, as long as they already have it installed and set up).
In the settings of the VPN-enabled phone, find the section dealing with “Personal Hotspot”. I’ve included a screenshot below of what that would look like on an Apple iPhone, but it can also be done on Android.
Make note of the WiFi password that you see on the Personal Hotspot settings page. You’ll need this for Step 3.
Step 3: Tether onto Your Friend’s Phone
Once the VPN-enabled phone is set up with a personal hotspot, open the WiFi settings on your own phone, tablet or computer. You should see the option for “[Friend]’s Phone” or whatever name they’ve given their device.
Click on that option and input the password from step 2 above.
When your device is connected, for Apple devices you’ll see a link symbol where you would usually find the WiFi symbol.
Note: For many devices, you’ll need to have both WiFi and Bluetooth enabled in order to tether onto another device. If you’re having trouble connecting, make sure you have both settings enabled.
Step 4: Purchase, Install & Set Up Your Own VPN
Now that you’re connected to your friend’s phone, which should already be connected to a VPN server, you should have an uncensored internet experience. It will probably be a slow connection, but at least you can do what you need to do.
From here, jump on to ExpressVPN or NordVPN, purchase a subscription to one of their services, and get all the login information you’ll need. For the phone, you can download the app on a regular WiFi network (so you don’t eat up too much mobile data) and then use your login information to connect. Unfortunately, this initial connection might also require you to be tethered to a VPN-enabled phone.
Unfortunately, for a computer, you’ll probably need to remain on the tethered connection to download the app from the VPN website.
Pro Tip: If you’re tech-savvy, you don’t have to download the app to install a VPN from within China. You can sign up for VPN service and then manually install the VPN on all of your devices. Instructions for manual installation can be found in the tutorial pages for each VPN service.
Final Thoughts | Set Up a VPN Inside China
If at all possible, the easiest method to install a VPN from within China is obviously to try using dynamic links from the providers I’ve mentioned above. In most cases, these have worked for me and hundreds of other users I’ve worked with over the past year.
However, the Chinese internet doesn’t work the same throughout the entire country, so if you’re in a place that just won’t connect to a VPN website, the second method will be your best option. Find a friend who has a VPN already working on their phone and ask if you can spend a few minutes tethering off of their device.
The good news? Once you install a VPN from within China, you shouldn’t have to do this process again! And, thankfully, you’ll have uncensored access to the internet in China to do what you need.
Did this process work for you? Do you have any other suggestions that might help people in the future? Leave a comment below!