Asia encompasses a lot of repressive governments. The Freedom House Freedom on the Net 2017 report lists 20 Asian nations among the 30 most repressive regimes for internet access. The only Asian nations that make it onto the list of the top 20 countries with the freest internet access are Japan and Armenia.
So, in many countries of Asia, you will face difficulty getting to your favorite websites. In a lot of places, you may find that video streaming sites, news outlets, and social networks are either blocked or contain very heavily edited content.
You can get around government restrictions on web access by making it appear that you are connecting to some other website that isn’t on their blacklist. You can also get into blocked websites and apps from abroad even if local ISPs don’t allow overseas access.
In order to perform this online relocation, you need to subscribe to a VPN service. A VPN will make it appear that you are in a different place and will hide all of the traffic between your computer and its server location.
In order to find the best VPNs for Asia, we looked for excellence in the following areas:
- Good speeds for streaming video to anywhere in Asia
- A large server network with a presence in major Asian countries
- Strong encryption
- Work with a wide range of popular device
Best VPNs for Asia:
ExpressVPN is probably the best VPN in the world right now and is certainly a good choice for use in Asia. The server locations of this VPN are spread across 94 countries and include major Asian nations such as Japan, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Hong Kong, and Macau. Those last two locations offer excellent service for customers in China. ExpressVPN is one of the few VPNs that works well in the People’s Republic. The service’s ability to evade detection is great for those in China who want to watch foreign movies or connect to Facebook.
The ease with which ExpressVPN dodges the Great Firewall of China shows how adept this service is at fooling even the strictest proxy detection systems. In the world of video streaming, one of the hardest sites to crack is Netflix. ExpressVPN can unblock Netflix USA, Canada, and Germany from anywhere in Asia.
Ironically, the ExpressVPN website is blocked in China. However, the company gives its customers a second web address to access the site that works in China. The help team can be reached around the clock on the website via a live chat facility. However, if you’re heading for China, it is simpler to sign up for the service before you go.
RISK FREE – All subscriptions benefit from a 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee.
ExpressVPN apps are available for Windows, MacOS, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire TV Stick, Amazon Fire TV, Kindle Fire tablets, and certain wifi routers.
Read our full review of ExpressVPN.
NordVPN has a presence in fewer countries than ExpressVPN. However, it has more than twice as many servers and it is equally capable of evading detection and this service is a lot cheaper than ExpressVPN. If you are prepared to sign up for the three-year plan, you will get a particularly low price. Although such a long-term commitment seems daunting, the company offers a 30-day money-back guarantee, so you can really test out the VPN before you are completely locked in.
With NordVPN, you are allowed to connect six devices to the service at once. That’s double the simultaneous connection allowance of ExpressVPN. NordVPN works in China and it can also get you into Netflix for the USA, Canada, France, and India.
The server locations of NordVPN include Hong Kong, Indonesia, Singapore, Japan, and South Korea. This is a particularly good service for getting into regionally restricted services in India when you are out of the country in another part of the world.
NordVPN is fine with its customers using P2P networks for downloading and it has specialized servers for that activity. You can choose to add on extra security measures when you select a server for your connection. These options include a double-hop connection, which passes through two VPN servers and includes double encryption.
This service has apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, and iOS. The VPN can be set up on routers and there is also a NordVPN browser extension for Chrome and Firefox.
Read our full review of NordVPN.
Cyberghost has a total of 1290 servers around the world spread across 57 countries. There are VPN servers in ten Asia countries including Hong Kong, India, Japan, South Korea, and Malaysia. This is one of the few VPN services in the world that has servers in Pakistan, so if you are living and working in some other part of Asia and you want to be able to get into Pakistani sites, apps, and video services, Cyberghost would be your best bet.
The app for Cyberghost is really well designed, with a friendly ghost theme running through all of its screens. When you open the app you first get to define what activity you will be pursuing and then the app reconfigures itself accordingly. One of those options is to download with torrents, so the company is fine with you using its services to connect to P2P networks anonymously.
The company also offers its customers extra security measures for free, such as an immunizer against ransomware attack. You can connect to the service five times simultaneously and there are apps for Windows, macOS, iOS, and Android.
You can pay for the service with Bitcoin. Cyberghost offers total account anonymity because your payments are processed by a separate company and you are only identified on the Cyberghost system by an account number.
Cyberghost provides apps for Windows, macOS, Android, and iOS. The VPN website contains instructions for setting up the VPN on Linux and routers.
Read our full Cyberghost review.
IPVanish is based in the United States. For some people that would be a problem because the NSA and copyright lawyers are notoriously adept at leaning on businesses in the USA, which could force them to hand over records of customer activities. However, IPVanish is prepared for that eventuality — they don’t keep any connection or activity logs. So, there is no information that could be forced out of them.
The company has servers in 60 countries and is particularly strong in the United States. If you want to access US games and video services, then you will benefit from great speeds with IPVanish. The company operates VPN servers in 10 Asian nations. These include three different locations in Turkey and they also have a presence in India, South Korea, Japan, and Malaysia. There are a total of 16 servers in Hong Kong to help customers in China.
IPVanish allows each customer to connect five devices to the network simultaneously. You get a seven-day refund period when you sign up. The service is offered on one month, three month, or one year plans, with longer subscriptions working out cheaper per month.
You can install IPVanish’s app on Windows, macOS, Android, iOS, and Amazon Fire. It is also possible to set up the VPN on routers.
Read our full review of IPVanish.
PrivateVPN is based in Sweden and the company is particularly enthusiastic about serving customers who want to download with torrents. The service has locations in 56 countries, including 12 nations in Asia. Those Asian locations include Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, India, Indonesia, and Turkey. This is another VPN that can get you into Netflix USA from abroad.
Being very interested in torrenting, the company is scrupulous about not keeping any activity or traffic logs. You get an allowance of six simultaneous connections with PrivateVPN, so you can have several gadgets protected in your home and outdoors.
Although the company is located in Sweden, all of its staff speaks excellent English and the support team is available on the website through a live chat facility during Swedish business hours. The technicians are able to take control of your device remotely and fix any problems that you are having, if you find it difficult to follow technical instructions.
The PrivateVPN custom app is available for Mac, Windows, iOS, Android, Linux, Amazon Fire, and routers.
PrivateVPN offers new customers a 30-day refund period so you can try the service risk free.
Read our full review of PrivateVPN.
Free VPNs for Asia
Don’t be tempted by free VPNs. Some of them are great for quick access to restricted sites however, most free VPN have very limited capabilities. When you are looking for a VPN for Asia, you need to be sure of top-level encryption to keep your connections private — free VPNs don’t offer that.
The free versions of reputable VPNs are often good as a trial. However, they usually come with data throughput limits. Activities such as online gaming, torrenting, and streaming video chew through those data allowances very quickly.
Internet restrictions in Asia
The controls on internet access vary from country to country, but Asia includes the countries that operate the tightest web restrictions. Freedom House gives China the top spot for internet repression, but Iran, Syria, Vietnam, Saudi Arabia, Uzbekistan, and Pakistan are not far behind.
North Korea may possibly be worse than China. However, conditions are so bad there that Freedom House isn’t able to fairly monitor internet restrictions in that country and so leaves it out of its Freedom on the Net report. Even relatively liberal countries in Asia, such as Bahrain and the UAE make it into the Freedom House list of restrictive states — taking position 9 and 11 respectively.
All search engines in China are severely restricted. Although you can access Google in China, you won’t be able to get to the North American or European versions of the service. Instead, you will be redirected to the Hong Kong service.
Most Google brands, including YouTube, Google Drive, and Gmail are banned in China. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are all banned in China, as are overseas video streaming services, such as Netflix.
Governments across Asia heavily censor international entertainment. The temptation to access overseas video streaming services, such as Netflix, Amazon Prime, or the websites of US or European TV stations is very strong. However, accessing uncensored entertainment in many Asian countries can be illegal. Not only that, most TV streaming websites won’t let you access their videos from abroad. VPNs get around both of these hurdles to access entertainment from other continents when you are in Asia.
Muslim countries are particularly hard on pornography and dating sites. Also, as a lot of countries in the Middle East are autocratic, any political dissent gets a website banned in those places. Surprisingly, gambling sites are banned in a lot of South Asian countries, including India and Bangladesh. In South Korea, online gambling can get you a jail sentence of three years.
Websites covering issues of homosexuality are completely banned throughout the Middle East and also in Pakistan, Bangladesh, and Indonesia. A long list of Asian locations ban dating sites. Again, all of the Middle East is on that list, plus India, Indonesia, Pakistan, Myanmar, and China.
Religious controversy is strongly punished in large areas of Asia and many countries have very severe penalties for people who even joke about the state’s main religion.
In Pakistan, the Prevention of Electronic Crimes Bill gives the government the right to prosecute Pakistani passport holders for accessing banned sites even if they are outside of the country when they committed the transgression and even if they were born abroad and have never actually visited Pakistan. The advent of internet access on flights means that you can be prosecuted by the Pakistani government for accessing a banned website while flying over the country — even if your plane doesn’t touch down there.
The situation of internet freedom in Asia is not universally gloomy. Japan has one of the freest web systems in the world and is ranked as the seventh freest country in the world for internet access by Freedom House. Armenia comes in 17 place in Freedom House’s openness rankings. Despite being ruled over by China, Hong Kong manages to keep general freedoms for its citizens making it much freer than Mainland China.
VPNs for Asia: Conclusions
The legal landscape over internet and web access in many Asian countries has become messy. The definition of what is and isn’t illegal is left intentionally blurred and that means that many governments can arrest people on a whim whether or not the sites that they visited where on a blacklist.
Overall, it is just better to conceal your identity and use a VPN at all times whenever you access the internet anywhere in Asia. The five services in our list of the best VPNs for Asia will keep your identity a secret and prevent you from being prosecuted for unintentionally breaking the law. If you travel to Asia or move there from other continents, you will probably want to access TV shows and movies from home. Most of those sites will prevent you from seeing their content from abroad. However, VPNs can get around those self-imposed regional restrictions.
Do you live in Asia? Do you already use a VPN? Have you used any of the VPNs in our list? Get involved in the discussion by writing your views and experience in the Comments section below.
Image: UN Regions of Asia by E Pluribus Anthony, Public Domain