ExpressVPN

5 Best VPNs for Vietnam

With a censorship system often referred to as the ‘Bamboo Firewall’ (in reference to old Cold War terminology), Vietnam has been labeled an ‘internet enemy’ by Reporters Without Borders (RWF), with the OpenNet Initiative summarizing the situation as,

“The Vietnamese state has taken steps to control Internet use through legal and regulatory frameworks, and by filtering content that it deems threatening to the regime, state unity, or national security. With the rise of social networking and blogging as tools to express dissent, the Internet has become a contested space in Vietnam: the government attempts to rival social networking sites such as Facebook through the development of a state-run social networking site on the one hand, while patriotic hackers launch cyber attacks on dissident Web sites on the other.”

We will look in some detail what at this means in practice for netizens either visiting or residing in Vietnam towards the end of this article, but will start with a quote from the RWF report that notes,

‘In order to protect their anonymity in a country where the network infrastructure does not allow interception of encrypted communications (meaning no Deep Packet Inspection), Vietnamese bloggers have every reason to use encryption. Consequently, VPN is a better option than proxies. The latter enable bypassing of access blockage, but – unlike VPN – do not encrypt.’

Please bear in mind that we are not based in Vietnam, that the censorship situation is not always clear, and that the Government participates in an ongoing mission to block access to censorship evasion tools such as VPN. Therefore, while this list is as accurate as we can make it, you may find the situation somewhat different on the ground. If you do have problems using the services listed here, then please let us know so that we can update our information.


Summary

Rank Provider Starting Price Grade Link

1

ExpressVPN_Logo $8.32/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

2

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

3

logo $11.52/month Read Review > Visit Site >

4

logo $9.95/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

5

$10.50/mo Read Review > Visit Site >
Winner

ExpressVPN

4,9/5

  • PROS
  • Fast speed
  • Servers in 78 countries (including Hong Kong & US West Coast)
  • Works on all devices
  • Multiple VPN protocols
  • Highly secure
  • No logging
  • 30 day money back guarantee
  • CONS
  • Pricing is a bit high (though worth the extra cost)

ExpressVPN has servers in Hong Kong and Singapore (ideal for users in Vietnam), and boasts some great speedtest.net results. It offers a 30 day free trial and keeps no usage logs. It also has some great software, including a nifty Android and iOS auto-configuration setup script app for secure surfing on the move.

Try Out the Best VPN for Vietnam Today!

Visit ExpressVPN »

30 day moneyback guarantee

2nd place

VyprVPN

  • PROS
  • Fast
  • 160-Bit and 256-bit OpenVPN encryption (Pro only)
  • Android app
  • IOS app
  • Servers in Hong Kong
  • 7 day money back guarantee
  • Up to 3 simultaneous connections
  • No usage logs
  • CONS
  • P2P:no
  • Expensive

Note that it is the Pro version of VyprVPN we recommend, rather that the PPTP-only Standard package. This provides access to servers in Hong Kong, up to 265-bit OpenVPN encryption, and a 7 day money back guarantee. VyprVPN also gets a big thumbs-up for keeping no usage logs (although some connection logs are kept), allowing P2P downloading, and letting you connect up to 3 devices at once. Throw in Android and iOS apps, and VyprVPN makes a great choice for users in Vietnam.

» Visit VyprVPN


3rd place

Hide My Ass

  • PROS
  • Servers in Hong Kong
  • Singapore
  • Philippines
  • Indonesia and Taiwan
  • Great VPN client makes changing servers very easy
  • Lots of other freebies on-site to help maintain anonymity on the internet
  • CONS
  • Logs and has a history of collaboration with the authorities
  • A bit pricey

HMA is a very large and high profile VPN provider with a large presence in South East Asia (it has literally hundreds of servers, including some located in Hong Kong, Singapore, Philippines, Indonesia and Taiwan). The service is fast, and the Windows and OSX client software is very fully featured. A UK company, HMA keeps logs, but this is unlikely to be an issue for users in Vietnam.

» Visit HideMyAss


4th place

PureVPN

  • PROS
  • P2P: yes (on some servers)
  • ‘Up to’ 256-bit SSTP and OpenVPN encryption
  • 2 Simultaneous connections
  • IOS app
  • Android app
  • 3 days money back guarantee
  • Servers in Singapore and Malaysia
  • CONS
  • Keeps logs (but based in Hong Kong)

Despite being a Hong Kong based provider, PureVPN does keep logs, but being a Hong Kong based provider means that attempts to obtain them are almost doomed to failure! Not that this should matter to users trying to evade censorship and surveillance in Vietnam, who should be more interested in the servers in Singapore and Malaysia, ‘up to’ 256-bit OpenVPN encryption, and support for the SSTP VPN protocol which uses the same port (445) as SSL, making it much more difficult for the Vietnam government censors to block. PureVPN also has 3 day money back guarantee, lets you connect up to 2 devices simultaneously, and has some very nice iOS and Android apps.

» Visit PureVPN


5th place

BolehVPN

StrongVPN

  • PROS
  • No logs
  • Fast
  • Great OSX and Windows software
  • Dedicated ‘CloakRouted servers’ for China (but which should also be effective should Vietnam try to ban VPNs)
  • P2P: yes
  • CONS
  • None

Based offshore somewhere in Malaysia, BolehVPN is one of SE Asia’s most popular VPN providers. It keeps no logs and has an excellent OSX and Windows VPN client, which while having a bit of steep learning curve, has a wealth of connection options, including the option tom connect to ‘cloaked routers’ in Hong Kong and the US East Coast. These cloaked routers should be able to bypass the Vietnamese government’s best efforts to block them, as they work just fine for users in China. Boleh also turned in some great speedtest.net results, and allows P2P downloading.

» Visit BolehVPN


Internet Censorship in Vietnam

Why is the internet censored?

In a situation comparable to that of China, Vietnam is making the transition from being an economically communist state (with a planned economy) to more Western style free-market capitalist economy. Unlike Western capitalist States however, Vietnam is still run by the Communist Party of Vietnam, which while lacking the ideological convictions of its past, remains keen on maintaining its grip on power, and sees the internet, with its free flow of information and ideas, as introducing dangerous social instability to Vietnamese society, and therefore threatening its position of power.

Surveillance

In addition to blocking access to websites, the Vietnamese government stringently monitors ‘objectionable’ internet activities. This is overseen by an Internet surveillance unit under the Ministry of Public Security, also assisted by a secret and unofficial ‘cyber-army’ of volunteer ‘public opinion shapers’ who are deemed patriotic, and are dedicated to stamping out anti-patriotic and reactionary opinions.

In addition to this, domain servers in Hanoi, which supply the backbone of Vietnams internet infrastructure, are required to install and run ‘Internet Service Retailers Management Software’ to help keep an eye of internet traffic.

It is believed that some 35 bloggers are currently in jail, serving sentences of up to 13 years for the ‘crime’ of criticizing the Vietnamese government.

What is censored?

Although the government (as is typical of governments across the world) is keen to emphasize that it is safeguarding the country against ‘obscene’ material, and defending the interests of copyright holders against piracy, in practice a wide range of material is censored

Subversive content

The majority of websites blocked in Vietnam relate to overseas political opposition to the one-party government, criticism over censorship itself, to human rights issues and abuses, and to religious topics. It should be noted that these blocks are almost all aimed at sites written in Vietnamese, about issues relating to Vietnamese, and aimed at Vietnamese audiences. Sites written in English or not connected to Vietnamese issues are not usually censored. However, the website for Human Right Watch is reported blocked, as is the website for the BBC.

Blogging & Social Networks

At the beginning of this month (September 2013) Vietnam drew international condemnation when Degree 72 came into effect. This legislation states that Facebook and Twitter posts should only be used ‘to provide and exchange personal information’, and that any blogging material which ‘incite[s] hostility to the government’, ‘undermin[es] the fine customs and traditions of the nation’ or ‘harms national security’ is prohibited.

Although in 2009 the government officially denied that it was banning Facebook, each ISP can choose to block content individually, which VNPT, FPT Telecom and Viettel are known to do.

Censorship circumvention tools

The OpenNet Initiative published a 2012 list of its finding on which websites were blocked, and in addition to many Vietnamese language sites, found that many web proxy sites and other internet circumvention tools have been blocked.

‘In the Internet tools category, [FPT Telecom and Viettel] blocked Facebook (http://facebook.com). Both ISPs also targeted circumvention Web sites for filtering but differed in the specific sites they were blocking. For instance, Viettel filtered http://anonymizer.com, http://the-cloak.com, http://anonymouse.org/, https://megaproxy.com, http://proxyweb.net/, and http://inetprivacy.com, while FPT filtered only http://inetprivacy.com.’

Using VPN to evade censorship and surveillance in Vietnam

As noted in the RWF quote at the beginning of this article, VPN is one of the safest and most reliable ways to evade censorship and surveillance (the Tor network being another good way). To our knowledge all the major international VPN providers’ services are currently available from within in Vietnam (although this could change without notice).

Conclusion

Although heavily censored and monitored, Vietnam has as yet no effective answer to the use of encrypted VPN to bypass these restrictions. Simply evading the censorship measures is unlikely to get you into trouble with the authorities, but you should be very careful about you post online unless you take robust precautions to ensure your anonymity (e.g. use a VPN service to access the social network or blogging platform, use a pseudonym, and be VERY careful not to give away personally identifiable information).

Additional precautions should include the use of anonymous and secure email services (such as those which use PGP), and using encrypted chat services (such as Pigeon + OTR). For more information on these, plus other things you can do to ensure your anonymity, please see our Ultimate Privacy Guide.

Summary

Rank Provider Starting Price Grade Link

1

ExpressVPN_Logo $8.32/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

2

vyprvpn_logo $6.67/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

3

logo $11.52/month Read Review > Visit Site >

4

logo $9.95/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

5

$10.50/mo Read Review > Visit Site >

Douglas Crawford I am a freelance writer, technology enthusiast, and lover of life who enjoys spinning words and sharing knowledge for a living. Find me on Google+

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