Can you use Skype, WhatsApp or FaceTime in China?

Choosing to go to China is a life-changing experience, all for the better. However, it also requires some changes and shifts, as you could probably expect when it comes to travelling so far away from home. 

More than just the culture and language, however, is the change in the use of some of our favourite phone apps. You won’t be able to use several of your favourite apps simply because they are blocked by a firewall in China.  Since communicating with your loved ones is important, especially as an expat for your targeted amount of time away, you’re going to want to take the time to figure out these changes in communication sooner rather than later.

Does Skype work in China?

does Skype work in China

Considered to be “old” as far as technology goes, Skype is still a favourite for communicating with loved ones via video chat. Can you use Skype in China?  Yes, absolutely. This is a popular app for travellers of all ages and preferences and works well in terms of audio and video quality. You can log in to Skype using your phone or tablet as normal, and enjoy catching up with loved ones on the go.

Does WhatsApp work in China?

does whatsapp work in China

Unfortunately, WhatsApp does not work in China at all. This is because you need to use a VPN which is often not something that travellers want to be dealing with.  When it comes to communicating in China, it’s best to find options that don’t require a VPN, like Skype does.

Does FaceTime work in China?

does facetime work in China

You will find that FaceTime, the other popular video chatting app, works in China.  This is because it requires the Apple ID information to work, but doesn’t actually need a VPN in order to be used.  Much like Skype, you’ll just need to log in and you can use it as normal.  You may find that the video quality differs than when you were back home, but it is still possible to communicate using FaceTime.

Other apps that don’t work in China

Other than WhatsApp, it’s important to note that there are quite a few apps that don’t work in China.  While it isn’t the end of the world to have these apps blocked, it’s probably something that you want to be familiar with before you go, just so that you aren’t relying on them when you do arrive there.  Some of the biggest ones to think about on the blocked apps list include: Snapchat, Facebook Messenger, Google, Netflix, YouTube, Gmail, Quora, Tinder and Twitter.

This is not a full list, of course, but this does offer you some of the biggest names that you are going have to adjust to not having on hand.  It seems strange to be going somewhere that doesn’t allow you to access Google, but this is the case in China.

Best apps to use in China to make video calls

best apps in China to make video calls

The good news, however, is that there are plenty of great resources to look at when you want to make sure that you can make video calls when you are enjoying your time in China.  Here are the top options specifically for video calls:


This is by far one of the most popular video call apps in China.  Both the video and the audio quality are exceptional and it is often preferred for this reason.  WeChat is sort of like WhatsApp meets Facebook as far as its functionality.  You’ll be able to connect with loved ones and communicate easily with them.  It’s great for both audio and video calls, but most people enjoy the video calls simply because the video quality itself is pretty incredible.

Skype or Skype for Business:

Since FaceTime in China doesn’t work as well as you’re used to back home, you may find that you prefer Skype or Skype for Business instead.  If you really don’t want to have to download a new app specifically for video chatting, this is an especially useful idea.  Both of these work well and the video and audio quality tend to be pretty good for the most part.  


Lastly, you’ll want to consider Pinggle. This is sort of like Skype, but it is designed specifically for communication within China.  When you want a video or audio chatting app that is designed to work within the censorship of China on both sides of the conversation, this is probably the more streamlined option.  

Use a Chinese SIM card for international calls

Can you use Skype, WhatsApp or FaceTime in China? use Chinese sim card for international calls

When it comes to making calls within China, you’ll want to consider getting a Chinese SIM card specifically for those international calls themselves. Not only will this allow you the freedom to call via a mobile network instead of being reliant on WiFi, you’ll also be able to call people without having ot use apps that need to be working properly on both ends.

You can find a series of options for SIM cards, and you’ll want to put some effort into making sure that you are getting a SIM card for the zone in which you re looking to stay in.  This will keep the rates very low and you’ll have all of the conveniences of a full SIM card like you would anywhere else.  If you are travelling a lot in China itself, you’ll notice that the rates for placing your calls may go up.  Again, it’s not a significant amount, but it is something to think about.

>> 10 must-have apps for living in China


When you go to China to enjoy a brand new life experience, it’s all about keeping things light and fun. However, being able to communicate with your loved ones while you’re abroad is important for a lot of reasons. 

Make sure you do your research before going and be ready to take on any challenges that may arise when you get to China, especially when it comes to your phone.  This will keep your experience as positive and productive as possible.

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