Using WhatsApp in China

I remember my first trip to China and how I was surprised when I noticed that the majority of my favorite apps and websites did not work – at all. I knew that Google is banned so I could forget about Gmail, YouTube, Google Keep and unfortunately Google Translate (pretty good for the Chinese language). But also Facebook and Dropbox did not work. The worst news is that recently also using WhatsApp in China became banned. That was new for me…

I can handle without Facebook and Google for a while but WhatsApp is must have app for me during each business trip. This is the cheapest way to stay in touch with my family while I’m far, far away from home. I had to sort it out somehow.

Great Firewall

Great Wall is the most recognizable Chinese building in the world – it was built to protect China from the invasion of enemies. To limit the access of Chinese people to the source of information from the outside of China and to regulate the domestic internet traffic, the government created the Great Firewall.  This firewall is responsible for all the blockages of my favorite apps. It does not block everything, but slows the connection significantly and blocks a lot of sites from the whole world. Below you will find the list of sites and apps which are blocked in China (for May 2018)

Social media websites and apps blocked in China

All Google apps and sites Pinterest
Blogspot Reuters
Bloomberg Slack
CNN Snapchat
Dailymotion The Economist
Dropbox The Guardian
Facebook Tinder
Facebook Messenger Twitch
Flickr Twitter
Instagram Vimeo
KaKao Talk Wall Street Journal
Le Monde Whatsapp
Netflix Wikipedia (English)
New York Times Youtube

I was really surprised, that it is really not difficult to find the solution on how to bypass the Great Firewall. After my comeback to Europe first few searches in Google shows the answer. I learned that VPN is something which will bring me back the possibility of using WhatsApp in China.

What is VPN and how it can help

VPN is an app for your smartphone or tablet which creates a “tunnel” under the Great Firewall. You do not connect directly to the banned site. Instead of that,  you use the “tunnel” called proxy – it’s a VPN server which connects with a banned site. In the end, you get what you want – you are online with your favorite apps and sites. So, VPN app is definitely the thing you should take into consideration on each business trip to China. You should add this to your packing list – read more about it in my guide on How to pack for a business trip.

Which one to pick for using WhatsApp in China

What I can recommend is that you should be equipped with more than one such application. Try with different ones and keep them installed and ready to use. It’s because sometimes I have a feeling that Great Firewall realizes that you are using VPN and it’s almost impossible to connect. So, coming back to apps. I recommend six different VPN apps which I’m using since last two years and these ones were enough to keep me online during business trips and enabled me using WhatsApp in China. Try to install some of them. Some are free to use and enables the in-app purchase to increase the performance of connection and some have only 7 days trial version:

  • ExpressVPN – It has 7 days free trial period, is easy to use (see below example on how to handle with it), popular and is available for all the platforms (PC, Android, and iOS)
  • NordVPN – Also with a free trial with a quick connection feature
  • PureVPN – Free VPN with 12 million global downloads and rated 9,4 / 10 by
  • ZenMate – Another one with 7 days trial
  • Opera VPN – It’s free, easy to use and available for all the platforms (PC, Android, and iOS).
  • Turbo VPN – Also free and easy to use. Available for Android and iOS

Next, I’m going to show you how to go set up the VPN connection for the first time base on a free trial example from ExpressVPN.

If you have your favorite VPN apps, please share in comments.

Connecting with ExpressVPN for the first time

First, download the ExpressVPN app from Play Store and launch it.

Select “Start free trial” ExpressVPN to sign in:


ExpressVPN Sign in

Enter your e-mail address and confirm with “Start free trial” button

ExpressVPN Free trial sign up

Go with VPN configuration – you will have to allow VPN connection for ExpressVPN:

ExpressVPN VPN configuration

You can decide to allow or not sending the messages about different performance data to the developers of ExpressVPN:

ExpressVPN allow

Tap the on/off button to get connected:

ExpressVPN connect

And that’s it – you are online:

ExpressVPN on line

You can start using WhatsApp in China 🙂

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