Best VPNs for Hong Kong

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.

We’ll cover the VPNs we recommend for Hong Kong in detail, but here’s a quick preview of the best VPNs for Hong Kong:

  1. ExpressVPN Our top pick for Hong Kong. Well-designed apps that provide strong privacy and security, fast speeds, and the ability to unblock tons of restricted overseas content. Includes 30-day money back guarantee.
  2. NordVPN Budget veteran provider that doesn’t compromise on speed. Good at unblocking popular streaming content. Strong privacy and security. Strict no-logs policy.
  3. CyberGhost Budget alternative that caters to those who want privacy and the ability to unblock Netflix.
  4. IPVanish Torrent-friendly VPN service with good speeds, no logs, and strong encryption.
  5. VyprVPN Strong security and privacy, good speeds, and can unblock US Netflix. Owns its own data centers.

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

The Best VPNs for Hong Kong

Here is our list of the best VPNs for Hong Kong:

1. ExpressVPN

Express VPNMay 2019

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.

Pros:

  • Fast and reliable choice, works flawlessly for Hong Kong
  • Can unblock most geo-restricted content at HD speeds
  • Apps for Windows, MacOS, Android, iOS, and Linux
  • High-grade security features and no logs policy protects your privacy
  • Strict zero-logs policy and solid security on apps
  • Live chat support 24/7

Cons:

  • Power user would prefer more advanced configuration options

BEST VPN FOR HONG KONG:ExpressVPN is our #1 Choice. Optimized for high-speed connections. Scores high above its rivals for unblocking Netflix and other streaming sites. The one to beat on privacy and security. There is a 30-day no-quibbles money-back guarantee so you can try it risk-free.

Here’s our in-depth review of ExpressVPN.

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2. 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 5,400 servers in 63 countries – with options to connect depending on your specific requirement. There are 56 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.

Pros:

  • Operates over 50 servers in Hong Kong
  • Fast enough speeds to stream HD content without interruptions
  • Unblocks all major streaming platforms, e.g. Netflix and Amazon Prime Video
  • Top-notch security and privacy protection

Cons:

  • Isn’t primed for novice users

BEST BUDGET VPN:NordVPN is a great value choice. A good all-rounder that also works well in Hoing Kong and even mainland China. Strong security features and accommodates up to 6 devices. Includes a 30-day money back guarantee.

Here’s our full review of NordVPN.

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3. CyberGhost

CyberGhost 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 has been adding new server locations at a breakneck speed. Right now there are 3,600 servers spread across 57 countries. 24 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 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.

Pros:

  • Operates 24 fast servers in Hong Kong
  • Low server to user ratio ensures good access to bandwidth and speeds
  • Scores highly in terms of security and privacy
  • Apps are great for beginners

Cons:

  • Can struggle to unblock some streaming sites

BEGINNERS' CHOICE:CyberGhost has a simple set up. Works well in Hong Kong. Good option if you are looking for a fast, reliable connection and an easy-to-use interface. Can struggle with unblocking some popular streaming sites. 45-day money back guarantee.

Read our full review of CyberGhost.

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4. IPVanish

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.

Pros:

  • Hong Kong servers have good speeds for downloading and streaming
  • Unblocks Netflix US
  • Keeps no logs whatsoever
  • Owns rather than rents its servers

Cons:

  • Apps didn’t work in China during our testing
  • Customer support can be a little slow

LARGE NETWORK:IPVanish can connect up to 10 devices. Uncongested network with good speeds, privacy and security. A favourite for Kodi and Amazon Fire Stick. Works well in Hong Kong but won’t work in China. 7-day Money back guarantee.

Read our full review of IPVanish.

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5. VyprVPN

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.

Pros:

  • Fast speeds are great for streaming and downloading
  • Strong security and privacy credentials
  • Keeps no logs

Cons:

  • A bit pricey
  • Could have more options for advanced configuration
  • No Bitcoin or other cryptocurrency payment method

INDEPENDENT NETWORK:VyprVPN is user friendly. Speeds were surprisingly good for the cheaper end of the market. Privacy and security are solid. Could do with having more servers and lacks 24/7 support. 30-day money back guarantee.

Read our full review of VyprVPN.

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Why do you need a VPN in Hong Kong?

Hong Kong residents have free and open access to the internet with very few restrictions. It’s a complete about-face from the strict censorship applied by the government across the border in mainland China.

But even though no websites are censored, democratic activists in Hong Kong attest that Chinese authorities are monitoring residents’ web activity, emails, and online communications. A VPN encrypts all of this information so that anyone snooping on your connection won’t be able to decipher its contents or what you do online.

Furthermore, a VPN can unblock a wide range of content and services from abroad. These include geo-blocked streaming sites like Hulu, Amazon Prime, BBC iPlayer, and other countries’ Netflix libraries.

Finally, a VPN protects you from a variety of online threats including malware, man-in-the-middle attacks, and denial-of-service attacks. This is especially important for people visiting Hong Kong for business or leisure travel and plan to use public and/or unsecured wi-fi networks at hotels, restaurants, airports, and cafes.

In 2018, Hong Kong authorities reported the number of data breaches in their jurisdiction reached an all time high, highlighting the need to prioritize online security.

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