China is an authoritarian state that heavily censors internet usage in a bid to prevent certain ideas opinions on the Chinese policies and culture. This move prevents interfering with the government and influencing Chinese citizens.
For a long time, many Chinese citizens managed to circumvent this censorship by using a VPN. The state, however, has started to wise up to this and has begun blocking VPNs in China.
With this country-wide blocking, it is getting harder to find a reliable VPN. Luckily, though, NordVPN has obfuscated servers that can be used to get around this block. It’s not as simple as downloading NordVPN and getting to it, though—there are some steps that need to be taken first.
Making NordVPN Work in China
Looking through NordVPN’s list of servers and locations, you may notice that China isn’t there. This doesn’t mean that it doesn’t work in China, though. This is simply a method being used by NordVPN to remain off the Chinese government’s radar and avoid being spotted and blocked.
You may be thinking “But Hong Kong is there, that’s in China” and while this is correct, there is very little internet censorship in Hong Kong. This is because Hong Kong is a Chinese “special administrative region” and not strictly part of China itself. It was, for many years, under British rule and has been heavily influenced by the West.
How to Use NordVPN in China
One crucial advice you need to follow: if you want to use NordVPN in China it is important that you download, install, and configure it before you get there.
NordVPN’s website is blocked in the country and downloading it can be very difficult while you are there. Also, by doing this you reduce the chance of being caught by the Chinese authorities trying to download a VPN. Remember, the internet in China is not only heavily censored, but heavily, heavily monitored.
Alternatively, you can load the NordVPN installation files onto a USB stick, external drive, or your device itself before getting there.
Once you have downloaded NordVPN (before arriving in the country, if possible) it is very easy to configure NordVPN so that it can be used seamlessly in China and bypass censorship.
All you need to do is set up NordVPN so that it uses their obfuscated servers that are optimized for usage in China. These only work on Windows, Android, and macOS devices, though. If you are an iOS user, you will need to manually configure OpenVPN and be aware that NordVPN has said that there can be authentication issues for macOS users.
Some users have reported this method doesn’t work – but they have found that NordVPN support has another way of configuring the services for China. Make sure you contact NordVPN before going to China. Take a look at our comments section for more context. Regardless, contact NordVPN support before going so they can deliver on their promises!
Setting Up NordVPN’s Obfuscated Servers
It is very easy to do this—user friendliness is one of the many things that makes NordVPN such a great service.
1. Open up NordVPN and head to Settings in the top-left
You will be met by this impressively long list of configuration options.
2. Scroll down to “show advanced settings” and click on it
NordVPN might ask if you are sure you want to continue, just click on “Proceed”.
3. Find “Obfuscated Servers” and toggle it from Off to On
4. Exit out of settings by clicking “Servers” and then press “Obfuscated Servers” on the left
5. You can then either let NordVPN choose a server for you, or select from the drop-downs
Some users have trouble connecting to NordVPN’s obfuscated servers. Personally, we had no trouble on multiple devices…
Before you run into problems, we recommend contacting NordVPN’s customer support team. There are lots of different support channels available and responses are quick and informative!
All NordVPN’s obfuscated servers work in other sketchy countries such as Russia and the UAE, however, it is worth keeping in mind that they are designed and optimized for use in China.
Try Out NordVPN for Yourself
Heading to China soon or just want a VPN on your side that works and is trustworthy?
You can try out NordVPN for yourself completely free.
NordVPN offers a 30-day money-back guarantee (no questions asked), giving you an entire month to try out NordVPN and decide whether it’s right for you without losing any money.
It may be time to check this again and to provide an update. NordVPN worked, albeit slowly and spottily, while I was in China last October. I’m again in China and can tell you that there’s no setting or other trick which allows it to connect with any worldwide server. It makes no difference if they are obfuscated or onions. This is the case on both my MacBook Pro and iPhone. China seems to have cracked Nord’s code.
I should add that (as expected), Nord’s customer service cannot be accessed through their website, which is of course blocked.
Jamie Cambell says
We’ve seen these types of user feedback before.
Solution #1: disable obfuscated server feature and use the standard server. They recommend (at the time of writing) Singapore #199 and Canada #533-534.
Solution #2: re-log into your NordVPN account.
In terms of losing speed, that seems to be the general consensus with using any VPN in China. There’s no “fix” for it at the moment!
Murky Murk says
I’ve been in China a few days, failed to get any Shadowsocks stuff to work.
I tried the advice above and no joy.
A mate at home in UK sent me this list today off the Nord help site
so far 3 of these have connected me (google and bbc iplayer working, IP masked)
all are obfuscated – this is working on my Win10 laptop.
Will try an ipad later on 😉
Netherlands # 255
Japan #166 167 174 212-215 228 229 232 237 238 253
Canada # 347-349 351 352 355 356 359 360 362 364 365
Singapore # 158 159 162 163 167 214 238
Jamie Cambell says
Yes, it’s getting tougher to use any VPN in China. Thankfully NordVPN still works (mostly) 🙂
Currently, I am in China and when I try to connect to the servers it is not allowing me and gives me this prompt on windows saying “connection timed out” and on IOS(iPhone 6) “the VPN server did not respond”. I can’t contact the nordVPN support staff because im in China so I am stuck with no VPN. I have tried to connect to every type of server but I still can’t connect.
Jamie Cambell says
It’s entirely possible you did something wrong or missed a step. If all else fails, contact support via email at [email protected]
welp, Im currently in China, for my version of NordVPN IKE(4.14.3) downloaded from US App Store on MacOS Mojave 10.14.5, there is no advanced setting option in the system preference. the VPN never did connect.
Interestingly, it is working perfectly on Android, didn’t need to change any of the settings at all.
Same problem here; I downloaded about a week ago and there is no settings tab on my version of the app. I’m going to email them to try and figure it out. Wish I’d researched this better before flying out but I’m already back in China now and worried I won’t be able to connect, since I can’t access their website to mess with my account settings.
Update: I emailed them at [email protected] and their staff member sent me a list of instructions and download links to get my devices connected. It is a bit more complex of a process, especially for iOS; you can’t just use the regular app from the app store and have to manually configure things through your phone settings. It is working well now that I’m connected. I suggest emailing Nord support if you have this issue and they will get you set up.
Jamie Cambell says
Thank you for updating us, Lucas! I’ve updated the article to make sure everyone signs up and then contacts NordVPN support BEFORE going to China!