Best VPN for Hong Kong: Surf freely and safely while you’re in Hong Kong
As a Special Administrative Region, Hong Kong doesn’t suffer from the same Internet censorship and blocking as mainland China, but that doesn’t mean Internet freedom or privacy can be taken for granted. Many Hong Kong Internet users have valid concerns about state surveillance, while corporate snooping and security issues are as relevant to Hong Kong as they are to the rest of the world. In each case, a VPN can help. By connecting to the Internet through a secure VPN link, you can hide your Internet activities and win back some degree of anonymity. What’s more, as the VPN enables you to appear as if you’re going online from another country, you can access region-specific services that might otherwise be blocked.
Choosing the best VPN for Hong Kong
While the ‘Great Firewall’ blocks access to many social media services and websites from China, Hong Kong doesn’t suffer from the same restrictions. You can use Facebook, Twitter and leading VoIP within the region just as you can elsewhere in the world. That said, many democratic activists have fears about government monitoring of email, social media and Internet usage, making use of a VPN a sensible precaution.
This isn’t the only reason why you might want to use a VPN in Hong Kong. As elsewhere, the growth of public wireless networks is matched by the growth of identity theft and financial fraud. Here, using a VPN gives you an extra layer of protection. Meanwhile, users in Hong Kong might want to access content or streaming services that might be blocked to those outside the US or UK. If you want to watch, say, the BBC iPlayer or US Netflix from Hong Kong, a VPN is the most reliable way to do so.
What should you look for, then, in a VPN for Hong Kong? Beyond basic VPN features, look for features that give added protection for privacy and anonymity, such as DNS-leak prevention, obfuscation features, dual-hop and encryption options and a killswitch to prevent your real IP address from going visible should the VPN connection suddenly fail. Check out what, if anything, the provider logs, as the less information they capture and store about you or your online activities, the less they could potentially pass on. Having an anonymous means of payment, such as Bitcoin, can also be an asset if you want to make sure you don’t leave much of a trail. Beyond this, look for a service that can work around the blocks put in place by UK and US streaming services, and a network that delivers good performance for a reasonable price.
1. Nord VPN: The best all-round VPN
Price: $11.95 (£9.13) per month, $5.75 (£4.39) per month with annual contract
Nord VPN is a great VPN for Hong Kong, with an impressive mix of features, good performance and strong protection. The provider has 10 standard servers based in the Special Administrative Region, plus an extra server designed for double hops. The interface hits a balance between ease-of-use and real control, giving you some powerful options such as double encryption and the option to route traffic via the TOR network using an Onion over VPN server. There’s also an Obfuscated Server option for use in heavily restricted countries, which could help you access normally blocked websites and services if you venture into mainland China. Nord VPN’s killswitch can also be set to close specific apps immediately should your VPN disconnect.
Nord VPN doesn’t lead the way for connection speeds, but both short hop and long hot VPNs are more than acceptable, and Nord VPN actually beat many rivals on a long-haul UK to Singapore connection, with download speeds in excess of 10Mbps. It’s based in Panama, which isn’t part of the fourteen eyes network and has no mandatory data retention laws, and the company has a strict no-logging policy. It’s not that expensive but it feels like a premium VPN.
2. IPVanish: The best VPN for expert users with multiple devices
Price: $7.50 (£5.73) per month, $4.87 (£3.72) per month with annual contract
IPVanish has a good local presence in Hong Kong, with 18 servers in the territory of a total of 850 based in over 60 countries worldwide. While there’s an optional, simplified interface for less-expert users, the service’s big selling point is control. The big, map-based interface is great for quickly choosing a location, though you can just pick a country and let the app choose the optimal server. If you want to go in-depth, IPVanish has the technical options and diagnostic tools you’re looking for.
It’s a good service for privacy as well. It’s based in the US, so not ideal if you’re keen to avoid a service based in one of the five core five eyes countries, but the company claims to have a strict no-logging policy, while you can use Bitcoin to avoid leaving a credit card trail. Your traffic is protected by 256-bit AES encryption, and there’s a killswitch to drop all connections immediately if the VPN drops. You can also set IPVanish to switch IP addresses every 45 minutes for further obfuscation. Long-distance connections are slower than with some other providers, but otherwise this is a great VPN.
3. Buffered VPN: The best easy-to-use VPN
Price: $12.99 (£9.92) per month, $6.60 (£5.00) per month with annual contract
Buffered VPN offers servers in Hong Kong along with over 40 other destinations around the globe. It’s not the most feature-packed service, but it offers simple, strong protection, with a simple interface that can have you starting up your last VPN in seconds, or finding a new location with just a couple of clicks. It copes well with blocks on US and UK streaming services, and in tests we couldn’t trip it up for concealing your location; it also passed DNSLeak tests without a fault. Speeds are, however, on the average side, with Buffered faster than some for long-haul connections like the UK to the US or Singapore, but falling behind the likes of TunnelBear and VyprVPN.
Buffered’s biggest failing it its lack of a killswitch feature, potentially leaving your IP address visible should you accidentally disconnect. On the plus side, the company is located in Hungary, putting it outside the immediate reach of the fourteen eyes network and the Chinese authorities, while Buffered maintains no logs. The lack of a killswitch and any means of anonymous payment means that Buffered VPN isn’t ideal for privacy or anonymous communications, but otherwise it’s a strong, easy-to-use VPN.
4. Hide My Ass: The best VPN for speed
Price: £7.99 per month, £4.99 per month with annual contract
For Hong Kong-based users, Hide My Ass has more going for it than a clever name and slick donkey-themed visuals. For a start, it has 6 servers and 18 exit nodes based within the territory, along with servers in 280 locations and 190 countries worldwide. It also has a special Freedom mode that connects you automatically to the nearest server in a country that supports free speech. If you don’t use that or the Instant mode, which simply opens up a local VPN, you can still pick your favoured country and location, giving you options all over the world.
Hide My Ass also scores when it comes to speed. Whether we’re talking short hops or lengthy Asia to Europe or America links, Hide My Ass is consistently at the top or near the top of the charts, with only a 36% drop in speed when connected to a US server from the UK, and 75% when connected to Singapore, against the average of 83%. It has the all-important killswitch and a double-hop option, disguising your location twice, and the only concerns are that HMA is based in the UK – in the core five eyes network – and that it keeps logs, though HMA claims it doesn’t store or monitor details of your Internet activity. If that worries you, look elsewhere, but this is otherwise a brilliant VPN.
5. PureVPN: The best VPN for local VPN connections
Price: $11.95 (£9.13) per month, $10.95 (£8.36) per month with annual contract
Actually based in Hong Kong, PureVPN is an obvious choice for users in the region, with 8 servers in Hong Kong itself and over 500 more spread around 121 countries, giving you an exit practically anywhere you want. We’ve consistently been impressed by PureVPN’s speeds, and it’s right up there with the fastest, speeds only dropping by 18% for UK to UK VPN links and 60% for US to UK connections – well above the average.
Pure’s purpose-based approach, where you can ask for the optimal configuration for streaming popular US video services, file-sharing or circumventing the Great Firewall of China, make it an easy VPN to work with, and the PC app is intuitive and crammed with features. Pure has a Killswitch and supports split tunnelling, so that you can set which applications use the VPN and which can work outside it. Pure also wins points for building and running its own networks, servers and app. While PureVPN claims it doesn’t log activities, there are legitimate concerns about trusting a VPN provider based in Hong Kong, and subject to pressure from the Chinese authorities. However, providing your needs aren’t so politically sensitive, it’s an excellent choice.