Calling from China: Can I Use Skype, Zoom, or Facetime?

Using Skype or Zoom in China

One of the most common questions that people traveling to China have is how to communicate with people outside of the country. The purpose of this article is to present and analyze each of the options available for making calls and video calls from China.

As you may already know, many apps and websites are not easily accessible in China, and you will need a VPN or an alternative system to bypass the Great Firewall of China.

Using Skype and Microsoft Teams in China

Despite the fact that some inaccurate news is still circulating online, Skype is NOT blocked in China.

However, if you try to download the Skype app on the iOS app market or one of the Android markets (Google Play is blocked) once you’re in China, you won’t find it. In addition, if you want to access the Skype webpage, you will be redirected to a Chinese webpage ( where you will download a modified version of Skype that complies with Chinese regulations. Complying with Chinese regulations means that communications are redirected (and monitored) via 21vianet the Microsoft local partner in China.

If you want to use Skype in China, I recommend that you download it to all of your devices before going, or if you’re already in China, that you download it with a VPN active directly from the official website and not from the Chinese version.

The quality of calls and video calls with Skype from China is a bit lacking and it’s a good idea to use a good VPN to improve the quality, although it isn’t always enough.

Regarding Microsoft Teams, the situation is similar to Skype. You will need to use the local version provided by 21Vianet, which complies with Chinese regulations.

Using Zoom in China

Zoom saw tremendous growth during the COVID-19 pandemic and became the go-to software to enable communication among users.

Unfortunately, Zoom is partially blocked in China: Since August 2020, just like Skype, a local version exists for Chinese users, allowing individual users to join video calls but not to organize them. Premium users must register through a local business partner in order to create video calls.

The international version of Zoom is completely blocked, so if you don’t want to use the local version, you will have to activate your VPN in order to use it.

Using FaceTime in China

As of today, FaceTime continues to work in China without the need to use a VPN. So, if you have an iOS device, FaceTime is a good option for making calls from China.

Despite the fact that the quality of video calls with FaceTime tends to vary somewhat, in general, it tends to be quite decent.

Using WhatsApp in China

Since 2017, WhatsApp has been completely blocked in China. If you want to use WhatsApp in China, you will need a VPN active on your phone.

Using WhatsApp with a VPN to make calls is possible and its quality greatly depends on the quality of the VPN that you use. So, make sure that you choose a VPN that works well in China.

Using Facebook Messenger in China

Since 2009, Facebook and all its services have been blocked in China. If you want to use Facebook Messenger in China, you need to use a VPN or other system to bypass the internet restrictions.

The quality of video calls while using Facebook Messenger in China will depend on the stability and speed of your VPN. If you want to use this service, make sure to choose a reliable VPN provider.

Calling with WeChat

WeChat is a very popular application in China and is a mix between a messaging app (similar to WhatsApp) and a social media platform (similar to Facebook). In addition, it has many other functionalities, such as payments at businesses, booking taxis or a blogging platform. You can read our complete guide about Wechat, to learn more about this app.

WeChat lets you make video calls in a way that’s practically identical to WhatsApp, with the advantage of the fact that because it’s a Chinese app, it isn’t blocked and you won’t need to have a VPN active to use it.

In our experience, WeChat is probably the best app to communicate between devices within China and between China and overseas. The quality of video calls is always quite good, and it is infrequent to notice any delay.

Note that to register for WeChat, you need to be verified by at least one existing user, and there is a limit of three verifications per year. While this is not a problem if you are in China, as almost everyone has an active WeChat account, it can be a problem if you want to communicate with contacts abroad.

Using Google Duo, Google Meet and Google Hangouts in China

Google Duo and Hangouts, like all Google services, are blocked in China, so you will need to use a VPN or other system to bypass the Great Firewall.

Again, the quality of the calls will vary greatly depending on the quality of your VPN connection, so be sure to choose a reliable provider.

Other popular apps for making calls

The large majority of the other popular apps in the West for making video calls are blocked in China. Examples of these include LINE, Viber Messenger, Discord, Telegram, Signal or Tango.

Other less popular apps might not yet be blocked, but if you want an app for making video calls that you don’t need a VPN to use, WeChat will be your best option.

Conventional calls

It’s obvious that you can continue to use your phone to call from China to abroad, but it’s going to be expensive, especially if you’re using a SIM card from another country.

If you have a prepaid Chinese SIM card, you can make calls abroad, but normally you have to activate the service. By default, this service is blocked on new telephone numbers.

Companies offer monthly plans for calling abroad. For a monthly fee, they will offer you a fixed number of minutes and a reduced rate for each extra minute that you use. The price will vary greatly depending on the country that you want to call.

If you want to learn more about prepaid SIM cards in China, you can read this article.

Virtual phones

Although virtual telephones don’t usually allow calls from China, this is a very good option for receiving calls from abroad at a low cost. A virtual telephone will allow you to receive calls directly to your telephone number, whereas the people calling you will be calling a local number from your country.

To learn more about how to use a virtual telephone number to receive calls in China, you can read our complete guide.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does Skype work in China or is it blocked?
Although Skype has not been blocked in China, there are two things you need to know: the quality of the calls might be quite bad and if you try to download Skype when you are already in China, you will only be able to download a modified version that complies with Chinese regulations. To solve both of these problems, you can use a VPN.
Can I use Skype to make international calls from China?
Yes, you can. You can use Skype to call from China to a phone number or Skype account in other countries or conversely, you can use it to call from another country to your business partners, friends and family members located in China.
Does Facetime work in China?
At the moment Facetime is not blocked in China, so it still works. However, the quality of the call might not be the best, especially if you don’t use a VPN!
How do I call to China?
In addition to Skype, and Facetime, there are other options, such as Zoom and Whatsapp (but you will need a VPN), WeChat (a Chinese app that works well in China) or a virtual phone number service.
What is the country code for China?
The international country code for calling China is +86

Photo Credits: Photo by Jagrit Parajuli on Pixabay

14 thoughts on “Calling from China: Can I Use Skype, Zoom, or Facetime?”

  1. Zoom is not blocked in China, we use it to conduct online video meetings everyday. But users from China are not allowed to initiate or setup meetings. They have to rely on people outside of China to setup the meeting and send them the meeting link.

  2. Seems crazy that there isn’t a Chinese app made to make cheap calls abroad like Skype.
    Have been searching for a solution for sales guys at work to call out to customers, and so far we are stuck with the flaky Skype reception.
    Its honestly getting so bad we are thinking about pulling sales out of the country rather than pay the 0.5RMB a minute charge calling off local phones!

      1. Thanks your information was very useful.
        Now a question, my friend has downloaded we chat but every time I try to contact her I get the msg can’t be found, how do we fix this. Thank you for your help.

  3. Although I can still use the desktop version of Skype on my computer. I am now unable to use Skype on my iPhone.

    I installed Skype outside of China and have been using it with success for a long time. However, I was automatically logged out of my account (November 2018) and am no longer able to log in. My Skype app is stuck on the loading page.

    Are others experiencing the same?

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