If you are planning to travel to China, you might want to know that Youtube and many other apps and websites are blocked in the country. Thankfully, there are a number of tricks you can use to bypass the Chinese internet censorship.

Some of these methods are free, some aren’t. If you are planning on staying in China for more than a couple of days, we highly recommend paying for a good VPN app to make your life easier.

Here are 5 ways you can watch Youtube in China:

5 ways to watch Youtube in China

  1. Get a free VPN (virtual private network) app such as Tunnelbear or Lantern.
  2. Use a free VPN app trial. If you plan on staying in China for more than a couple days perhaps consider buying a subscription.
  3. International data roaming. Get a Hong Kong SIM card with China data roaming or use Project Fi by Google. (mobile only)
  4. Use Youku to find Youtube reposts. Popular videos on Youtube often get re-uploaded to Youku, the Chinese equivalent of Youtube.
  5. Create your own DIY VPN on a server with Outline (by Google)

How to watch Youtube in China (with a free VPN)

A VPN (virtual private network) app acts as a secure middleman to route your traffic around the internet blocker in China. The best VPNs require a monthly or yearly subscription ($) but there are a number of small free VPNs you can download.

Free VPN apps usually have monthly bandwidth limits (~500 MB), which probably won’t be enough if you plan on staying in China for more than a couple of days. If you are streaming Youtube or other videos, 500MB might only last you half an hour at most, depending on what video quality you select.

Furthermore, not all VPNs work in China! In fact, most VPNs are blocked in China, only a handful actually work.

Remember to install and setup your VPN before arriving in China since most VPN websites and the Google play store are blocked.

Free VPN Method Overview


  • Unblock websites and apps for free! Watch Youtube in China.


  • Limited bandwidth (usually only 500MB, ~ 15 minutes of streaming @720p).
  • Not recommended for visitors to China staying more than a couple days.
  • Free VPNs can be slow.
  • Some free VPNs are dangerous (malware, steal data)! Be careful what you download. Look for trusted companies.

Here’s how to watch Youtube in China with a free VPN:

  1. Download Lantern: Lantern is a free VPN / proxy for Windows, Android, and Mac. It is not available for iOS. We recommend Tunnelbear for iOS users looking for a free VPN for China.
  2. Install Lantern on your device: On desktop devices, you will need to allow Lantern to change your system proxy settings.
  3. Launch the Lantern app: On desktop devices, it will launch a browser that will show all the app details. Because this is the free version, you will not be able to change the server location. You will also only be able to use 500MB of bandwidth per month.
  4.  Use your VPN: Try to use Google. Youtube, Instagram, or any other blocked app to see if your VPN is working. If you have not arrived in China yet, you can test your IP location with your VPN on here. The location should be the same as the VPN server location.

How to watch Youtube in China (with a free VPN trial)

The best VPNs for China are paid VPNs — you really get what you pay for. Effective China VPN companies need to spend significant resources to outsmart frequent VPN blocking and crackdowns by the government. Paying for a good China VPN will definitely take the stress out of your trip, letting you use the web freely as if you were at home.

Thankfully you can get all of the benefits of a premium paid VPN by taking advantage of a free trial.

Many premium (paid) VPN apps will allow you to:

  • test out their app for free for a limited period time
  • or cancel your VPN app subscription with a full refund before some deadline (usually 30 days).

Remember that not all VPN apps work in China. Most are blocked due to VPN crackdowns in China. Check out our guide for a complete list of the Best VPNs for China.

Free VPN Trial Method Overview


  • Unblock websites and apps with fast performance (important for streaming)
  • No data caps! Unlimited bandwidth
  • More trustworthy than free apps.
  • Will work on the majority of devices.


  • Need to charge to your credit card first before you cancel
  • If you forget to cancel you will charged for the subscription.
  • Check the terms of the refund. Some VPNs will not let you cancel if you go over some usage limit.

Here’s how to use Instagram in China (with a free VPN trial):

  1. Sign up for an ExpressVPN account. ExpressVPN is one of the best and most popular premium VPN apps used in China to bypass blocked apps. They offer a 30-day money-back guarantee, so as long as you cancel before the 30-day period you can get a full refund. Good VPNs that work in China and also offer either a trial / refund period include: ExpressVPN, VyprVPN, and Astrill. 
  2. Install ExpressVPN. Either download the desktop app for your computer (Windows, Mac, Linux, or Chrome Extension) or download the mobile app from the Google Play store or Apple App store.
  3. Launch the app and login. ExpressVPN uses a activation key which can be found in your account area on their website when you login
  4. Select your server location. For ExpressVPN users in China, the best servers for speed are Los Angeles 2, 4, 5 and Hong Kong 4, 5.
  5. Turn on your VPN and browse the web unblocked! Test that your VPN works by trying to use Google, Gmail, Facebook, Youtube, or any other blocked website / app.

Remember to cancel your VPN subscription before your trial or refund period ends if you don’t want to keep it.

Aside from unblocking Youtube in China, VPN apps are actually very useful for things like

  • internet privacy,
  • security (protect your connection when using public wifi)
  • and accessing other geo-restricted content (Netflix libraries from other countries, BBC player, World Cup of Soccer 2018 live streams, Comedy Central, etc).

You might want to consider keeping your VPN subscription for these benefits or for future trips to places where the internet is also censored (Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea, Iran, etc).

How to access Youtube in China (with data roaming)

Tourists passing through Hong Kong before going to China can unblock mobile apps in China by getting a Hong Kong SIM card. Just make sure you buy a Hong Kong SIM card with China data roaming. China Mobile is one of the providers in Hong Kong that offers SIM cards for travellers that include China data.

This SIM card trick works because data roaming routes your internet traffic through your SIM card’s home carrier (in this case the Hong Kong carrier). Since the internet is not blocked in Hong Kong, you can sue the web freely.

The same SIM card trick can be used with Google’s Project Fi. At this time Project Fi is only available to US residents.

Data Roaming Method Overview


  • Unblock websites and apps with good performance
  • No need for other apps


  • Data roaming is more expensive than using a local China SIM card.
  • Only works for mobile devices that use a SIM card. Probably too expensive to tether a laptop.
  • Must go to Hong Kong to get the SIM card

Check Youku for Youtube video reposts

Many popular videos from Youtube will get reposted onto Youku, which is the Chinese equivalent of Youtube. You can search in English or you can try to translate your search into Chinese if that doesn’t work.

How to use a DIY VPN on your own server

Outline by Jigsaw let's you easily setup your own VPN

If you are more technically savvy, you can try deploying your own VPN on a VPS server using Google’s Outline open source software. It basically uses the Shadowsocks SOCKS5 protocol to encrypt and route traffic. It is pretty effective against detection from the Great Firewall. For more information, check out our Outline VPN guide.

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