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Can Tourists Use Social Media in China?

There are ways for you to access the blocked platforms!

· 3 min read

China's booming tourism industry is attracting visitors from all over the world, eager to explore its rich history, vibrant culture, and stunning landscapes. However, with China's strict internet regulations and the well-known Great Firewall of China, you might be wondering if it is possible for you to access your social media platforms as a tourist.


Understanding China's Internet Regulations

China has a unique internet infrastructure that is heavily regulated by the government. The Great Firewall of China is a term often used to describe the sophisticated system of online censorship and surveillance implemented by the Chinese authorities. Its primary purpose is to control and monitor the flow of information within the country, ensuring that certain content remains inaccessible to the Chinese population.

The Great Firewall operates by blocking access to popular international websites and social media platforms that are widely used in other parts of the world. Websites like Google, Facebook, X (or more commonly known as Twitter), and YouTube are among those that face restrictions.

This means that so long as your network has to go through the Great Firewall, you will not have access to these platforms. Conversely, that also implies that if your network can bypass the Great Firewall, you can bypass these blocks.

Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp in China: A No-Go?

Since 2009, Facebook has been blocked in China. The Chinese government perceives Facebook as a platform that has the potential to spread political dissent and undermine social stability. As a result, accessing Facebook within mainland China has become an arduous task. The same applies to all the other apps under the Meta umbrella, including Instagram and WhatsApp. These platforms are essentially banned in China, and network traffic to these websites and platforms are not allowed.

It is important to note that the block does not apply only to Meta platforms, but also extends to other services including Snapchat, X, Discord, and Reddit, Google's suite of services are also blocked, and that includes including YouTube.

As for Disney+, Netflix, and Amazon Prime they aren't actually blocked! But these services have never been launched in China - so even if you can access these platforms, there isn't a library of content available for you. If you're looking for a streaming service in China, your best bet would be to use Bilibili.

How to Access Your Social Media Platforms in China?

China has its own social media landscape, consisting of platforms like WeChat, Sina Weibo, Xiaohongshu, and Douyin. You could consider exploring and checking out these platforms to complete your travel experience and check out what the locals are talking about!

But, for many tourists, these are unlikely to be the platforms that you use daily, or the ones that you use to connect with your friends and family back at home. But not to worry- as we mentioned earlier, there are ways that you can still access these platforms: so long your network traffic doesn't pass through the Great Firewall.

Get a Virtual Private Network (VPN)

Virtual Private Networks (VPNs) can be a temporary solution for tourists seeking access to restricted websites and social media platforms in China. Getting a VPN service would be very important for you if you are planning to get a local tourist SIM card.

A VPN creates a secure and encrypted connection between your device and a server located outside of China. By routing your internet traffic through this server, you can bypass the restrictions imposed by the Great Firewall. This allows you to access blocked websites and social media platforms that are otherwise unavailable in China.

However, it is important to be aware that the Chinese government has also been cracking down on VPNs, and not all VPN providers are able to provide a stable connection in China. When choosing a VPN provider, be sure to check its service coverage and latest updates to ensure that you can still use it in China. Some of the VPN providers that we recommend include ExpressVPN and NordVPN.

It is essential that you download your VPN in advance before you enter China!

Activate International Roaming

Another option that you have would be to activate international roaming. When you turn on international roaming, you will not be subject to the rules of the Great Firewall. Instead, your access to the internet will be subject to terms of your home carrier. That simply means that with international roaming turned on, you will be able to access the same apps that you are able to access back at home!

However, it is important to note that international roaming could be expensive. Social media - especially if you consume a lot of video content - can be rather data-heavy, and it is very easy to chalk up your bills.

Get a Travel eSIM with VPN

Providers of travel eSIMs often offer data plans in many countries globally. While there are many eSIM providers that provide eSIMs for China, you might want to note that not all of them will be able to bypass the Great Firewall. In such cases, you would likely still need to purchase a separate VPN service to access the blocked websites and social media platforms. Double check with your eSIM provider to confirm that their service will be able to provide you with access to your favourite social media platforms!

But not to worry — Nomad's China eSIM has got you covered! With Nomad's China eSIM, not only will you be able to access the restricted sites and services without having to purchase a separate VPN service, prices are also very affordable from as low as $1.70/GB! Nomad has many plans available, each with varying amounts of data, so you will be able to find one that is suitable for your travel needs.