WhatsApp is Blocked in China — How to Use It for Free (in 2024)

Deep Shikha
Last Updated by Deep Shikha on May 29, 2024

The Chinese government has banned WhatsApp. So, if you’re visiting China, you won’t be able to join your private and family chats on the messaging app. Luckily, a VPN can assign you a new IP address from another country, allowing you to regain access to your account.

Very few VPNs work in China because the government restricts VPN usage. I tested 20+ free and premium VPNs. Unfortunately, no free VPN works reliably in China. But I found 3 premium VPNs that consistently access WhatsApp in China while keeping you safe.

ExpressVPN is my #1 pick to access WhatsApp in China. Its TrustedServer Technology, obfuscated servers, and military-grade encryption keep your VPN usage and WhatsApp activity private from the Chinese government. Plus, it’s risk-free since it comes with a 30-days money-back guarantee. I verified this guarantee and got my refund in 3 days.  Editors’ Note: ExpressVPN and this site are in the same ownership group.

Use WhatsApp in China with ExpressVPN

Quick Guide: Access WhatsApp in China in 3 Easy Steps

  1. Get a VPN. ExpressVPN is the fastest and safest way to access WhatsApp in China. Be sure to install ExpressVPN before you go to China.
  2. Connect to a server. Select a server in a country where WhatsApp is available. For faster speeds, pick a server location close to China.
  3. Start using WhatsApp. Open WhatsApp and enjoy making calls, video chats, and sending messages to your contacts.

Why You Need a VPN to Access WhatsApp in China

The Chinese government employs deep packet inspection as a means to enforce rigorous censorship and internet controls, famously known as The Great Firewall of China. This extensive system restricts the functionality of numerous applications within the country, with WhatsApp being one of the notable examples.

A VPN is the safest and most reliable solution for travelers to access WhatsApp in China and stay in touch with friends and family. It gives you an IP address from a country where WhatsApp is available. This lets you use WhatsApp from anywhere, including China.

But there’s a catch — along with WhatsApp, the Chinese government controls and regulates the use of VPNs. Therefore, most VPNs fail to even launch from within the country. Only a VPN with obfuscated servers and strong encryption can work in China. Encryption makes your traffic unreadable, while obfuscation hides the fact that you’re using a VPN.

Editor’s note: While China bans non-government-approved VPNs, there have been no reported cases of penalizing foreigners for using them. I recommend downloading a VPN before you reach China, so you won’t face issues downloading it from within the country. Also, my team and I do not condone illegal VPN usage, so make sure you’re abiding by the law.

The Best VPNs for WhatsApp in China (Tested 2024)

1. ExpressVPN — #1 VPN for WhatsApp in China With Obfuscation and TrustedServer Technology for Extra Protection

Key Features:

  • 3,000+ servers in 105 countries
  • Protects you from government surveillance with TrustedServer technology, military-grade encryption, Network Lock kill switch, and a no-logs policy
  • Ultra-fast speeds for uninterrupted video chats and voice calls
  • Works with Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, and more
  • Customer support through 24/7 live chat, email support, and online knowledgebase
  • 30-days money-back guarantee

ExpressVPN is the most reliable VPN to safely access WhatsApp in China. It has TrustedServer technology that uses RAM-only servers, meaning none of your WhatsApp activity is ever written on the hard disk. This ensures that no one, including the Chinese government and your ISP, will know that you’re using WhatsApp.

During multiple leak tests over several server locations, ExpressVPN never revealed my actual IP and DNS data. Network Lock also worked perfectly by shutting my internet down altogether while I was switching between servers. This prevents prying eyes from seeing your real information during the switch.

Screenshot of ExpressVPN IP/DNS leak test results while connected to its server in the Netherlands

ExpressVPN passed every leak test I performed and never revealed my true location

In addition, ExpressVPN offers many other security features to keep your WhatsApp usage confidential. These include:

  • Obfuscated servers: ExpressVPN automatically uses obfuscation on highly censored networks to disguise VPN traffic as normal internet traffic.
  • Lightway protocol: Provides strong encryption with optimized speeds for smooth video calls on WhatsApp.
  • Split tunneling (Windows and Android): This lets you use a VPN just for WhatsApp while you access other local apps with your regular IP.
  • Leak protection: This doesn’t leak your IP/DNS/WebRTC data, so your activity can’t be traced back to you.
  • No-logs policy audited by KPMG and Cure53: It’s confirmed that ExpressVPN never logs any of your identifying information and online activity.
  • AES 256-bit encryption: Sends all your data through an encrypted tunnel so your WhatsApp activity can’t be intercepted by the government or other prying eyes.
  • Based in the British Virgin Islands: ExpressVPN operates independently of data retention laws, which means it does not have to comply with any requests for user data from law enforcement agencies.

Thanks to ExpressVPN’s lightning-fast speeds, you’re unlikely to get any interruptions during your WhatsApp video calls. I tested ExpressVPN’s servers in the US, the UK, Australia, and Japan. My speeds averaged around 94 Mbps, which was only 6% slower than my usual connection.

With friendly apps for smartphones and PCs, ExpressVPN makes it easy to access WhatsApp mobile and WhatsApp Web. I suggest that you download the app on your preferred device before you reach China because its official website is blocked there. If you’re already in China, you can use ExpressVPN’s mirror site to download the app.

Even though the monthly plans are pricey, you can save 49% on its 1-year + 3 months plan. It will cost you $6.67/month. You can also sign up using a disposable email and pay with cryptocurrency to make an anonymous purchase.

There’s a 30-day money-back guarantee backing all plans. This lets you try ExpressVPN to access WhatsApp in China with no risk. To verify the policy, I asked a customer rep for a refund over the live chat. The agent didn’t ask a single question and processed my request right away. I had all my money back 3 days later.

ExpressVPN works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Chromebook, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Edge, routers, and more.

Editors' Note: ExpressVPN and this site are in the same ownership group.

2024 Update! ExpressVPN has dropped prices for a limited time to a crazy $6.67 per month for the 1-year plan + 3 months free (you can save up to 49%)! This is a limited offer so be sure to grab it now before it's gone. See more information on this offer here.

2. PrivateVPN — Uses a Stealth VPN Feature to Obfuscate VPN Traffic in China

Key Features:

  • 200+ servers in 63 countries
  • Stealth VPN obfuscates your VPN traffic so no one can know you’re using a VPN
  • Military-grade encryption, a dedicated IP address, a kill switch, and a strict no-logs policy
  • Works with all major smartphones and PCs to access WhatsApp mobile app and WhatsApp Web
  • Provide customer support through live chat, email, and online FAQs
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

The StealthVPN feature by PrivateVPN disguises your VPN traffic as normal internet traffic. This means PrivateVPN can hide the fact that you’re using a VPN while you chat on WhatsApp. This is important because VPNs not approved by the government are banned in China, and PrivateVPN is one of them.

Screenshot of PrivateVPN's Windows app showing Stealth VPN and other security features turned on

StealthVPN disguises your VPN traffic while you use WhatsApp safely

PrivateVPN employs plenty of other security features, so governments and other prying eyes can’t track your online activities, including WhatsApp usage. These include:

  • Leak protection: Safeguards against any potential leaks of your personal information, ensuring your privacy while using WhatsApp.
  • Military-grade encryption: Ensures that your online activities, including WhatsApp conversations, are encrypted, making them unreadable to third parties.
  • A kill switch: Automatically cuts off your internet if the VPN connection drops unexpectedly. This prevents any unencrypted data from being exposed.
  • A strict no-logs policy: PrivateVPN doesn’t log or collect any user data, maintaining complete anonymity.
  • Dedicated IP: You can get it for an extra fee to secure your WhatsApp usage and other private activities like financial transactions.

On nearby locations, PrivateVPN’s average speeds were around 67 Mbps — a 33% drop from my baseline speeds. While it’s not as fast as ExpressVPN, it still gave me uninterrupted video chats on WhatsApp. PrivateVPN’s distant connections are even slower, so I recommend connecting to the server nearest to your location for the best speeds.

You should download PrivateVPN apps on your smartphone and PC before you reach China because the PrivateVPN website won’t be accessible there. It supports all major platforms, including Android, iOS, Windows, macOS, Linux, and more. The setup is fast and easy, and I had no trouble getting it up and running on all my devices.

One concern is that PrivateVPN is headquartered in Sweden, which falls under the 14 Eyes jurisdiction. Although it has a strict no-logs policy, it’s not verified by any independent audit. However, there’s never been a case where PrivateVPN has handed over any of its user data to the government or any other investigation agency.

PrivateVPN has one of the most affordable monthly VPN deals and offers a 3-year subscription for just $2.00/month. Plus, there’s an array of payment options, including Bitcoin, for an anonymous purchase. I recommend using a throwaway email to sign up if you don’t want to reveal your identity.

Since it’s backed by a 30-day money-back guarantee, you can try PrivateVPN with WhatsApp totally free. After 2 weeks of testing, I emailed customer support for a refund and received a reply within 7 hours stating that my request had been accepted. I only had to wait 5 working days for the money to be returned to my account.

PrivateVPN works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Raspberry Pi, Chrome, Firefox, routers, and more.

3. VyprVPN — Chameleon Protocol With Smart IP Changes IP Addresses to Hide WhatsApp Use in China

Key Features:

  • 700+ servers in 63 countries, all managed in-house
  • Proprietary anti-censorship protocol called Chameleon to get around China’s Great Firewall and access WhatsApp
  • Military-grade encryption, a kill switch, leak protection
  • Compatible with iOS, Android, Windows, macOS, Linux, and more
  • Live support, email support, and online knowledgebase
  • 30-day money-back guarantee

Chameleon protocol by VyprVPN reliably accesses WhatsApp and other blocked apps in China by getting through China’s Great Firewall. It uses the Smart IP technique to change your IP address periodically, making it easy to get around firewalls. You won’t even notice changing IPs while using WhatsApp.

Alt Text: Screenshot of VyprVPN with Chameleon protocol selected and kill switch turned on

VyprVPN’s kill switch and Chameleon protocol offer extra protection for China

There are plenty of additional security features to protect your WhatsApp activity in China, including:

  • Split tunneling: This enables you to access WhatsApp securely with a VPN while enjoying apps and sites with a local connection.
  • Leak protection: Your personal information remains protected from any potential data leaks.
  • No-logs policy (audited by Leviathan Security): This means your online activities are not logged or recorded.
  • Kill switch: If the VPN connection drops unexpectedly, your internet connection is immediately cut off, preventing any data leaks.
  • AES 256-bit encryption: Employs top-level AES 256-bit encryption, providing robust security for your WhatsApp communications in China.
  • Based in Switzerland: The Swiss constitution respects the user’s right to privacy and doesn’t request or demand the records of your personal information.

Also, VyprVPN owns and maintains all its servers and networks. This means your private data isn’t managed by any external parties, even for basic operations.

When I connected to VyprVPN’s US server, my baseline speeds dropped by almost 37% compared to ExpressVPN’s 6% and PrivateVPN’s 33%. My speeds were around 63 Mbps — fast enough for steady video calls. But if you have slow speeds to begin with, you may need to choose a faster VPN.

VyprVPN has user-friendly apps for iPhones, Android smartphones, Windows PC, macOS, and other major platforms. You can get the VyprVPN app directly from the website before you leave for China. If you’re already in the country, you can use VyprVPN’s detailed guides to download it on your preferred device.

Unfortunately, VyprVPN doesn’t accept cryptocurrencies as payment methods like ExpressVPN and PrivateVPN do. You can only pay via PayPal, credit cards, or the payment methods linked to your Google Play and App Store. I recommend subscribing to its 2-year plan since it provides the best value, costing $3.00/month.

Best of all, VyprVPN has a 30-day money-back guarantee. TThis means you can try VyprVPN for free with WhatsApp in China or get a full refund if you’ve paid and are not satisfied. I tested the guarantee through live chat and got my refund in 7 days.

VyprVPN works with: Windows, macOS, Linux, Android, iOS, Chrome, Firefox, Opera, routers, and more.

Editors’ Note: ExpressVPN and this site are in the same ownership group.

Step-By-Step Guide: How to Safely Download and Use WhatsApp in China in 2024

  1. Get a VPN before heading to China. This is because most VPN websites are blocked in China. ExpressVPN is the most reliable option to access WhatsApp in China. It even has a mirror website for downloading its apps within the country.
  2. Activate all security features. Make sure your VPN is using the highest level of encryption, and turn on the kill switch, leak protection, and obfuscation if it’s not always on.
  3. Connect to a server. I recommend choosing the server nearest to your location for minimal speed loss. Also, ExpressVPN recommends the best servers based on your location.
  4. Launch WhatsApp. Once your connection is established, you’ll be able to use WhatsApp in China safely.

FAQs About Using WhatsApp in China With a VPN

Is it legal to use WhatsApp in China with a VPN?

It’s complicated. While using a VPN to access WhatsApp in China is possible, the legal situation surrounding VPN usage in the country is restrictive and ever-changing. There has never been a case where a tourist or a visitor in China has faced legal charges for using a VPN to access WhatsApp.

My team and I do not recommend using a VPN for illegal activities. Plus, you should always exercise caution when accessing blocked services in China and be mindful of the country’s laws.

Why is the internet censored in China?

The internet is censored in China for a variety of reasons, primarily driven by the government’s desire to control the flow of information and maintain social stability. Using a premium VPN in China can help you stay safe and private by encrypting your traffic and bypassing the imposed restrictions.

The main reasons behind this censorship are to:

  • exercise social control by limiting freedom of speech
  • prevent campaigns that could lead to protests against the government
  • filter sensitive content to control information about the Chinese government and ensure a specific narrative is presented to the public
  • restricting access to foreign internet services to support the development of its own technology sector

This censorship also serves national security concerns and economic protection by safeguarding the country’s stability, promoting domestic businesses, and preserving cultural values.

Is there a way to access WhatsApp in China without using a VPN?

There are other ways, but a VPN is the best way to stay safe in China.

1. Open Proxies:

Using open proxies as an alternative to access WhatsApp in China may not be reliable or secure. The Chinese government actively monitors and blocks many open proxies, making them challenging to use safely.

2. Tor (The Onion Router):

While Tor can provide anonymity, it is likely to be much slower than a VPN and may not effectively unblock WhatsApp in China. Additionally, some services recognize and block Tor exit nodes, limiting their accessibility.

Which websites and services are blocked in China?

China’s internet restrictions are constantly changing, making it difficult to have a complete list of blocked websites. When you connect to a quality VPN, you can access approximately 10,000 domains and services estimated to be inaccessible in China. Some examples of blocked platforms in China include:
Messaging WhatsApp, Telegram, Viber, Messenger, Signal, and more
Social Media Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and more
News & Broadcasting BBC, The New York Times, The Guardian, HuffPost, and more
Streaming Services Netflix, YouTube, Twitch, Spotify, and more
Search Engines Google, Bing, DuckDuckGo, Technorati, and more
Cloud Storage Google Drive, Dropbox, One Drive, and more
Gaming Battlefield 4, GTA 5, Alliance of Valiant Arms, and more
Information Hubs Wikipedia, Quora, and more
Privacy Blogs & VPN Websites Comparitech, OpenVPN, ExpressVPN, and more

Please keep in mind that this is not an exhaustive list, and the number of blocked websites in China can fluctuate due to ongoing updates in internet censorship policies.

Is WhatsApp secure?

WhatsApp is secured with end-to-end encryption (E2EE). However, you should use a VPN with top-tier security features every time you access it to ensure your privacy, particularly in restrictive countries such as China.

WhatsApp claims that messages and calls are encrypted and can only be accessed by the sender and receiver. However, WhatsApp is owned by Meta (formerly Facebook), leading to privacy concerns surrounding the company’s data practices.

A VPN encrypts your internet traffic, protecting your WhatsApp communications from potential eavesdropping or surveillance by third parties, including your ISP or even the government.

Is there an alternative to WhatsApp in China?

Yes, WeChat is a government-approved messaging app in China. This means it’s likely to be monitored. So, it’s better to use a tried-and-tested VPN like ExpressVPN or any other mentioned in the article to securely use WhatsApp in China.

If you use WhatsApp for your regular chats, switching to WeChat would mean starting new conversations and potentially losing access to your existing chat history. You don’t have to make the switch if you’re traveling in China. Simply use a VPN to regain access to your usual WhatsApp chat threads.

Can I use a free VPN to access WhatsApp in China?

While it’s technically possible, I don’t recommend it. Most free VPNs don’t work in China, so I recommend you download a premium VPN for safe access to WhatsApp. Free VPNs lack the necessary resources to provide good speeds and reliable security measures.

Also, using a free VPN may expose your data to potential risks, such as data logging, selling user information to third parties, and limited server locations. In some cases, free VPNs may even share your data with advertisers or other entities, compromising your privacy. This could be extremely dangerous in a restricted location, such as China.

If you still want to consider a free VPN, these are the best free VPNs that I’ve tested. Another alternative is to take advantage of VyprVPN’s 7-day free trial, allowing you to test the service without commitment.

Final Thoughts on Using WhatsApp in China

Accessing WhatsApp in China can be challenging due to the country’s strict internet censorship and restrictions. A VPN can help by masking your actual location, allowing you to use your regular apps and websites securely from China.

In my extensive tests of various VPNs, ExpressVPN proved to be the best choice for WhatsApp in China. Its superfast servers, reliable connections, and strong security features consistently worked with WhatsApp. While it’s not free, it’s well worth it since it won’t put your privacy at risk in China.

Even better, it has a 30-day money-back guarantee. This means you can try ExpressVPN to access WhatsApp in China completely risk-free. You can easily get a refund by asking for it over a live chat. When I tested the refund policy, my money was returned just 3 days later.

Summary: Best VPNs for WhatsApp in 2024

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