So you’re planning a trip to China. . . congratulations! You’re going to have an incredible experience visiting majestic sites, learning about China’s incredible history and delving into China’s amazing culture. Of course no vacation experience is complete in this age without sharing your experiences in real-time via social media. As someone who spends much of his time at the intersection between health care and social media, I was particularly interested in learning more about how American social media and tech apps would work in China. As I am sure you have learned when researching your trip, China blocks several social media sites. Plus, many things that we take for granted, like paying with a credit card are things that we may not be able to do in China.
During a recent trip to China, I wanted to look at exactly how social media and technology apps that are ubiquitous to life in the U.S. would work in China. I’ve compiled my findings into this quick and to-the-point guide. If your findings are different, or if you have questions, please let me know.
Does Facebook work in China?
–The facebook app can opened and old posts can be viewed.
–Timeline will not update and new posts can not be uploaded.
–Facebook Messenger will not work for chat, audio or video calls.
Verdict: Facebook has almost no functionality in China. Your timeline can be viewed but is essentially frozen from the moment you enter China.
Does Instagram work in China?
–Similar to Facebook, the app will open and display old posts, but will not update.
–You can not post new content to Instagram.
Verdict: Like Facebook, Instagram has almost no functionality in China.
Does WhatsApp work in China?
–WhatsApp app will open, new posts can be viewed and updates can be posted.
–WhatsApp messaging, audio and video calls will work in China.
Verdict: Surprisingly, and despite what many sites on the internet will tell you, WhatsApp maintains excellent functionality in China.
Does LinkedIn work in China?
–The LinkedIn app will open, but will generate an error message. Old posts can not be viewed.
–You can not post to LinkedIn when in China. You can not communicate with contacts.
Verdict: LinkedIn has no functionality in China.
Should I download WeChat for my trip to China?
–Most Chinese tourists companies use WeChat to communicate with their customers.
–WeChat’s interface works similarly to WhatsApp or Facebook Messenger. Like those apps, it supports instant messaging and web calling.
Verdict: WeChat is an indispensable tool for tourists travelling to China, and the best way to keep in touch with your tour agency.
Does email work in China? Does Gmail work in China?
–Email including Gmail, Hotmail, Yahoo mail work in China. Gmail attachments can be problematic to download.
Verdict: Despite China’s block on Google search, Gmail works in China, though Gmail attachments were difficult to access. I do not know if this was a network issue or something to do with how China blocks Google.
Do credit cards work in China?
–U.S. credit cards will work in places that accept credit cards, which unfortunately are very few.
–Hotels and some restaurants at tourist sites will accept credit cards, but hardly anybody else does. This includes even “American” places like McDonalds and KFC. Most people in China pay with phone based apps like Alipay or Wepay.
–You can download the Alipay app, but will need a Chinese bank account to link it to. Alipay offers a way to link to a credit card, but a websearch shows that most American tourists who try this are unsuccessful, and I was no exception.
Verdict: Cash is king. You should assume that most places you go in China will not accept your credit card.
Will Apple Pay work in China?
–U.S. based payment apps like Apple Pay, G Pay, Samsung Pay do not work in China.
Verdict: Again Cash is king for American tourists and you should not rely on electronic payment when travelling in China.
Does Google work in China?
–Google search will not work in China.
–Other google services including Google Pay, Google Maps are similarly non-functional.
–Google Chrome works well in China. Searches through Chrome are diverted to a local Chinese search engine. Many of the results are in (I assume) Mandarin, hence not very helpful unless you can read Mandarin.
–Google Maps will not work in China, nor will google reviews or any app which uses Google Maps.
–Some Google services will work, including the Play Store, Google Drive, Google Photos.
Verdict: Google’s most useful services, Google Maps, search, G Pay, and Reviews will not work in China. Google’s storage services (Drive, Photos) will still work and can be used to free up storage on your device.