Go back

Can you use WhatsApp in China?

WhatsApp is blocked, but there are ways you can still use it.

· 3 min read

In an age of global connectivity, internet-based messaging apps like WhatsApp have largely replaced the traditional SMS messaging. If you typically use WhatsApp to keep in touch with your friends and family in your everyday lives, you might be wondering if you will still be able to use the same app when you are traveling to China, given its strict internet regulations.


WhatsApp and the Great Firewall

You might probably have heard of China's "Great Firewall" and how access to many foreign websites and services are blocked and unaccessible from within China. Some of these services include popular social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, and even Google. Unfortunately for users of WhatsApp, this messaging app falls under the same restrictions - which means WhatsApp is technically unusable from within China.

But, with the right tools, you can still use WhatsApp.

How you can still use WhatsApp in China

The good news is that although China’s Great Firewall blocks WhatsApp, there are still ways for you to be use WhatsApp to keep in touch with your friends and family back at home.

The restrictions that are in place for the foreign apps are there only when you are using a Chinese network to connect to the internet. That means, if you got a local SIM card to help you stay connected during your trip, or if you are connected to a local WiFi network (like your hotel’s network), you will not be able to use WhatsApp.

But, if you have also gotten a VPN and are routing your traffic through servers in other countries, then you will be able to use WhatsApp without issues. The issue with VPNs is that they do not always reliably work from within China as the Chinese government cracks down on them rather frequently. If you are planning to get a VPN, check for most recent reviews to confirm that they would work.

Alternatively, if you were using data roaming to help you stay connected, that would work too since the firewall rules in that case depends on your home network’s restrictions. Using a travel eSIM to help you stay connected would also be a good way for you to continue using WhatsApp, as the travel eSIM also routes the connectivity through servers that are outside of Mainland China.

Staying connected in China: get a travel eSIM on top of using a local SIM card in China

Perhaps, most people traveling to China would be inclined to getting a local SIM card that comes with a phone number. This is especially so because many local apps would require you to have a local phone number; and if you are connecting to the local WiFi hotspots, most of the time, you would also need a local phone number.

But if you were to solely rely on the local Chinese SIM card to stay connected when you are traveling, it means that you will be subjected to the firewall restrictions and blocks, meaning you wouldn’t be able to use your apps like WhatsApp.

A good way to circumvent this would be to complement your local SIM card with a data-only travel eSIM. This way, you will be able to rely on your travel eSIM for your data needs and you can surf the internet and use your apps without worries; but at the same time, still have your local number.

Getting a travel eSIM would more often than not be more cost-effective than if you were to turn on roaming; and as opposed to getting a VPN, a travel eSIM does not drain your battery nor data allowance.

WeChat as an alternative to WhatsApp

Of course, if you are open to not using WhatsApp and using other ways to stay connected with your friends back at home, there are options.

One of the most widely used option in China is WeChat. WeChat works in a similar way to WhatsApp, except that it has much more features than simply messaging. It is more of a lifestyle app that offers many different mini-apps that could be useful during your trip.

If you wanted to use WeChat to keep in touch with your friends back at home, they will also need to install and register for an account on WeChat. Note that as part of the security measures, WeChat may require additional verification for account creation.

Get a Nomad travel eSIM for China to stay in touch with your loved ones

Nomad offers various data plans in China at very affordable rates from as low as $1.50 / GB. If you are not sure how much data you will need, Nomad also offers day plans where you can customise the length of your plan and the amount of high-speed data you need per day during your trip!

With a Nomad travel eSIM for China, you can keep in touch with your loved ones back at home and travel without worries!

And if you will be traveling across multiple Asian countries, there are also regional plans available so you can stay seamlessly connected as you hop between countries. Data plans are available from as low as $1.10/GB.