5 Best VPNs for Hong Kong and some to avoid

Published by on December 1, 2017 in VPN & Privacy

Hong Kong’s status as an open and autonomous region is increasingly under threat with growing interference from Beijing. Its internet freedom status has now slipped to a “partly free” ranking by advocacy body Freedom House. We take a look at the best VPNs for Hong Kong, whether you want to protect your privacy or access blocked content such as US Netflix or BBC iPlayer we have you covered.

If you don’t want to read through the rest of this article, here’s our list of the best VPNs for Hong Kong:

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. IPVanish
  3. NordVPN
  4. Cyberghost Pro
  5. VyprVPN

Residents of Hong Kong don’t have the same kind of walled-off internet that’s prevalent in mainland China, but that doesn’t mean the Communist Party isn’t watching your every move. A number of people were arrested last year for holding views that advocated independence from China as well as being critical of the Chinese leadership.

For these reasons, we recommend you use a VPN while browsing the web in Hong Kong. Short for Virtual Private Network, a VPN encrypts all the internet traffic flowing to and from your device by routing it via an intermediary server. It helps maintain privacy and anonymity on the internet and makes it difficult for hackers and government agencies to spy on your activity.

A VPN is also an excellent choice for foreign expatriates living in Hong Kong as well as local residents traveling abroad as it allows them to unlock content such as BBC iPlayer, Netflix, HuluESPNBeIN Sports, and others.

Our ranking of the best VPNs for Hong Kong is based on the following factors:

  • Speed and reliability of service
  • Strong encryption parameters
  • No usage logs
  • Large number of global servers
  • Unblocks geo-restricted content with ease
  • Servers in Hong Kong for local residents traveling abroad
  • Number of simultaneous connections
  • Apps for Android and iOS, software for Windows and MacOS

1. ExpressVPN

ExpressVPN pricing

ExpressVPN is regularly cited by users as one of the best VPNs they’ve used. It offers fast speeds combined with military-grade encryption protocols and a pleasant design. It’s easy to setup and simple enough for even newcomers to the VPN world to figure out.

The company operates over 1,500 servers spread across 94 countries. Hong Kong is included in the list. Local residents can use this choice of server location to access local content and information services.

ExpressVPN doesn’t store any detailed user logs. The only information recorded is the metadata of the “date (not time) of connection, choice of server location, and total bandwidth used”. Your individual IP address will never be logged. This should ease privacy concerns.

Encryption parameters are hardy. ExpressVPN uses 256-bit AES-CBC protocols as well as HMAC authentication and perfect forward secrecy. There’s an internet kill switch included, which the company calls a ‘network lock’. This feature means all web traffic will be temporarily halted if the connection drops unexpectedly.

ExpressVPN is able to circumvent the Netflix VPN ban. It’s also compatible with both Hulu and BBC iPlayer and supports torrenting. The provider allows three simultaneous connections—which isn’t huge—but the service makes up for it.

Included are apps for Android and iOS as well as desktop clients for Windows, MacOS, and Linux.

Here’s our in-depth review of ExpressVPN.

3 MONTHS FREE: Get 3 months free with the ExpressVPN annual plan. The deal includes its 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee so you’ll receive a full refund if unsatisfied. The offer represents 49% savings over the monthly plan.

2. IPVanish

IPVanish discounted plans

IPVanish is another feature-rich VPN service that prioritizes strong encryption, stringent privacy, and fast speeds. It’s a completely logless VPN which means there’s absolutely no data retention of any kind.

To secure web traffic, IPVanish uses 256-bit encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default, SHA512 authentication, and a DHE-RSA 2,048-bit key exchange with perfect forward secrecy. The lattermost feature means that your past data will remain encrypted, even if there’s a breach.

The company allows five devices to simultaneously connect on one account.

Servers are spread out all over the world with an option to connect to over 850 possible choices, including several in Hong Kong.

IPVanish works well with BBC iPlayer.

Apps for both iOS and Android are available as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS.

Read our full review of IPVanish.

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3. NordVPN

NordVPN is well-known in the VPN business because it’s been around for over a decade and has built a winning product. It’s fast, doesn’t store any user data, allows multiple connections, and has an excellent network of servers.

NordVPN retains no metadata about browsing habits, timestamps, or choice of servers. The policy has thwarted attempts by authorities to obtain user information; there simply wasn’t anything available on its servers. The company is also based in Panama, which means there aren’t any mandatory data retention laws to comply with.

NordVPN has over 1100 servers in 61 countries – with options to connect depending on your specific requirement. There are 14 servers in Hong Kong.

The service works with Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer without breaking a sweat. A total of six devices can connect with a paid subscription.

All internet traffic is secured by 256-bit AES encryption, which comes as standard. It’s coupled with 2,048-bit SSL keys and DNS leak protection.

iOS and Android apps are available as well as desktop software for Windows and MacOS.

Here’s our full review of NordVPN.

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4. Cyberghost Pro

cyberghost banner

Cyberghost Pro is a good option for beginner users because it’s inexpensive, fast, incorporates strong encryption protocols, and is easy to set up.

The company is headquartered in Romania which means there aren’t any mandatory data retention laws to comply with. It also has a stated policy of not storing any user data. This should ease privacy concerns.

Cyberghost Pro has been adding new server locations at a breakneck speed. Right now there are 1148 servers spread across 49 countries. Four servers are in Hong Kong. Just a few weeks ago there were only about 1,000 servers online so we expect this number to keep going up.

Cyberghost Pro unblocks both Netflix and BBC iPlayer.

Encryption standards are robust – the company deploys 256-bit AES encryption on the OpenVPN protocol by default along with 2,048-bit RSA keys and SHA256 authentication. These are considered to be top-tier. An internet kill switch is also included.

Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as a desktop client for Windows and MacOS. One paid account allows for five devices to connect at a single time.

Read our full review of Cyberghost Pro.

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5. VyprVPN

vyprvpn website

VyprVPN has some of the toughest encryption protocols and remains popular with users. It also offers a large network of servers, an initial free trial, and excellent speeds.

VyprVPN’s proprietary tech uses the OpenVPN protocol by default, 256-bit AES encryption, 2,048-bit RSA keys without perfect forward secrecy, and SHA256 authentication. There’s also an option of paying extra to access the Chameleon ™ protocol, which scrambles OpenVPN metadata so deep packet inspection cannot recognize it. An internet kill switch is included with all packages.

VyprVPN is one of the few companies that’s able to bypass China’s Great Firewall.

The company also owns and manages entire data centers – as opposed to other services that choose to rent or outsource. The policy means it’s in total control of all web traffic, which helps it guard against attacks and ensures minimal downtime.

There is a bit of a data retention policy – specifically “the user’s source IP address, the VyprVPN IP address used by the user, connection start and stop time, and total number of bytes used.”

But it adds that all such data is only kept on servers for 30 days and is used for improving service quality. There’s no way of determining exact details of web traffic.

There are over 700 servers spread across the world including a few in Hong Kong.

Apps are available for both Android and iOS as well as desktop support for Windows and MacOS. Premium subscribers can connect up to five devices at a time.

VyprVPN can unlock content on US Netflix, Hulu, and BBC iPlayer.

Read our full review of VyprVPN.

VALUE OFFER: Comparitech readers can get 50% off the first month at signup.

Should I use a free VPN?

Some cash-strapped users tend to opt for a free VPN service. But it’s better if you know the full picture before diving into something you might regret.

Many free VPN providers have been caught mining and selling user data. Even if that doesn’t happen to you, there’s definitely going to be things like download caps, bandwidth throttling, and an extremely poor selection of servers. Such services aren’t built to relentlessly guard your privacy either, so don’t expect world-class service.

Free VPN companies have to make money, too. You’ll definitely be bombarded with invasive advertisements and migraine-inducing popup windows. Our recommendation is to stay safe on the internet and cough up a few dollars each month. Free VPNs just aren’t worth the additional risk you take.

Some VPNs to avoid in Hong Kong

One of the major factors of opting to use a VPN to browse the web is the reassurance that your privacy and anonymity will be respected. After all, that’s why they were conceptualized in the first place. The VPNs we’ve recommended in this list have no documented cases of handing over customer data but there are a few out there that aren’t so forthcoming. We recommend you avoid them.

Here are three such cases:

1. HolaVPN

Israel-based Hola once had a massive user base of almost 50 million – people were attracted to its free VPN extension for Chrome.Unfortunately, it chose to undo all the good work and turned the community into a huge botnet army.

A part of individual bandwidth was put aside for attacks on other websites, distribution of pornography, and other notorious activities. And that’s with users completely in the dark.

2. Hotspot Shield

Hotspot Shield is a well-known name in the VPN industry due to its freemium product that’s been around for a while. But it seems like it wasn’t able to stay clear of controversy either.

In August, a privacy advocacy group filed a complaint against the company, maintaining that it forcefully inserted tracking cookies in users’ browsers and sold the data to advertisers. The complaint added that Hotspot Shield redirected ecommerce traffic to affiliate sites. Legitimate HTTP requests were navigated to other domains instead so the company could earn profits if a sale went through.

A decision on the matter hasn’t been reached yet, but the case does follow a familiar trend. We think you should avoid using the service until it’s able to prove its innocence.

3. PureVPN

Reports in the media a few weeks ago claimed that well-known VPN company PureVPN allegedly collaborated with the FBI to identify Massachusetts resident Ryan Lin, believed to be stalking an unnamed 24-year-old woman.

Ryan had apparently used PureVPN to hide his digital footprint while attempting to blackmail the woman. The FBI got involved after a complaint was lodged.

PureVPN insists that it didn’t record the content of Ryan’s communications and only traced the activity back to him, but it had boasted of a ‘no-logs’ policy prior to this episode. The company could have been more transparent.

At Comparitech we don’t condone using VPNs to openly flout laws and commit illegal acts. But providers do need to be completely open and transparent about logging policies – when that’s not followed we believe it’s a massive red flag.

How do I use a VPN in Hong Kong?

In this section, we’ll take you through two use cases. Follow these steps if you’re a foreign expatriate and would like to obtain an IP address from outside of Hong Kong while physically located in the country:

  1. Browse through our recommended list of VPN services and decide on a plan that works for you (select either a monthly or annual plan)
  2. Register and pay for the service Once that’s done, download the companion apps (for your phone) or software (for PC or MacOS)
  3. Clear your cookies and cache in all web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer, UC Web) to remove old location identifiers
  4. Restart your device
  5. Open the VPN companion software and log in
  6. Select a server from the country you’re trying to obtain an IP address – such as the US or UK
  7. Allow a few seconds for the connection to be established. Once that’s done there should be a green notification icon in the taskbar
  8. Browse the web like you normally would. You’ll notice that host websites will assume your location is in the country you’re currently connected to. This will open up things like streaming media content and local online banking services

The other scenario is for residents of Hong Kong that are traveling abroad and need a local IP address. This could be for streaming content, accessing online banking, or any other requirement. Follow these steps:

  1. Browse through our recommendations and settle for an option that works for you
  2. Register and pay for the service – select either a monthly or annual plan depending on how much you would like to spend initially
  3. Once that’s done, download the companion apps (for your phone) or software (for PC or MacOS)
  4. Clear your cookies in all web browsers (Firefox, Chrome, Internet Explorer) to remove old location identifiers
  5. Restart your device
  6. Open the VPN companion software and log in
  7. Select a server in Hong Kong and click connect
  8. Allow a few seconds for the connection to be established. Once that’s done there should be a green notification icon in the taskbar
  9. Browse the web like you normally would. You’ll notice that host websites will assume you’re now physically located in Hong Kong

See also: The best VPNs for China

Hong Kong” by Phil Wiffen licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0

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