We’re not going to sugarcoat it: if you’re going to be using WeChat, you’d better plan to use a VPN as well. The reasons are numerous, but just keep in mind that the company is under intense scrutiny and surveillance by the Chinese government. In order to prevent spying and communicate anonymously with WeChat, consider our recommended VPN providers below.
While WeChat is owned by a private company, it is heavily affiliated with the Chinese government. This can be problematic, given the app’s poor track record of maintaining users’ privacy. In one instance, the holding company – Tencent – admitted to handing messages that users deleted on their phones over to the police.
Knowing that every message you’ve ever sent on the app can possibly be retrieved and used against you can be worrisome. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a digital nomad traveling through China, or a permanent resident. Using VPNs that come with built-in encryption is one way to feel more secure when using the app inside mainland China.
In this post, we’ll go over the best VPNs for WeChat you can use to protect your privacy and ensure a smooth experience with the service, no matter where you are in the world (even China). At the same time, we give you the information you need to make the best choice for yourself – and avoid VPNs that can expose you to various risks, like DNS leaks and data logging.
Why use a VPN to access WeChat outside China?
Many countries have blocked the WeChat app for various reasons. In one case, Russia blocked the app because it had (reportedly) failed to properly register with the country’s authorities. WeChat was reinstated and unblocked just months later, but users had to go without coverage for that period. At least two other countries have either asked or outright told people not to use WeChat. The Australian and US militaries have both instructed their staff members, administrative and otherwise, to avoid the app due to security concerns.
But even if WeChat isn’t blocked where you are, there are several reasons to use a VPN to access it. First, using a local IP can give you a more native experience, with Chinese-language ads and messages. Second, using a Chinese IP means you can view content that is exclusively available in Mainland China, but blocked outside of it. For these reasons, as well as personal preferences and tastes, you may prefer to get a VPN to access WeChat outside China.
Top recommended VPNs to unblock WeChat
There are many VPN providers on the market, but only a few of them have the ability to punch through the Great Firewall of China while delivering good performance. Below, you’ll find the top 4 VPNs to unblock WeChat from anywhere:
ExpressVPN consistently ranks as the #1 VPN for a variety of use cases – and WeChat is no exception. For starters, ExpressVPN has a massive server network, delivering ready access to 3,000+ proxy servers in 94. countries. This ensures users inside and outside China can enjoy low latencies and high download speeds wherever they are. The service uses 256-bit encryption that’s virtually unbreakable, which means that any third party – including the Chinese government – is extremely unlikely to succeed hacking into your data. ExpressVPN also has one of the best zero-logging policies out there, with no logs on traffic, DNS requests, IP addresses, or browsing history.
Despite being on the cutting edge of VPN technology, ExpressVPN is easy to install and set up. With a dead-simple one-click interface giving you ready access to its suite of features, as well as dedicated software apps for virtually every platform, you’ll get top-tier protection no matter how you choose to connect to the internet. Bandwidth is unlimited, there are no speed caps, and ExpressVPN never discriminates against certain types of traffic–perfect for streaming, downloading, and browsing to your heart’s content without buffering or slowdown.
Read our full ExpressVPN review.
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- 3,000+ super fast servers
- No DNS/IP leaks found
- Strict no-logs policy
- Great customer service via chat.
- Slightly more expensive than some other options.
In terms of sheer utility, NordVPN is hard to beat. With over 5,800 servers in 59 countries, the network is extremely fast, offering unprecedented choice of IP addresses worldwide while guaranteeing high download speeds and low latencies. Handy for WeChat is the fact that NordVPN comes with a range of specialty servers, including obfuscated servers that hide the fact you’re using a VPN, and multi-hop servers which wrap your data in two layers of encryption. And speaking of encryption, rest easy knowing you’re guarded by 256-bit AES cryptography over OpenVPN, with the option to switch to the SSTP protocol for piercing the Great Firewall. If you’re at all worried about the Chinese government finding out about your VPN use, this is definitely a great service to go with.
NordVPN’s zero-logging policy is one of the most complete in the industry, and it includes traffic, IP addresses, timestamps, bandwidth and browsing history. The holding company is based in Panama, making it exempt from the Five, Nine and Fourteen Eyes surveillance agreements between major world governments. Last but not least, NordVPN’s software is available for all common desktop and mobile operating systems, including Windows, MacOS, iOS, Linux and Android – and you can connect up to 6 devices at once.
Read our full NordVPN review.
- Unblocks US Netflix, iPlayer, Amazon Prime and other streaming services
- Mind-boggling number of servers
- Up to 6 simultaneous connections
- “Double” data protection
- Live chat support is available.
- They can take 30 days to process refunds.
On paper, PrivateVPN doesn’t look like much, with its relatively small network spanning around 150 servers in 60+ countries. However, this provider punches way above its weight, with a variety of features that put it on par or even above some of the toughest competition in the VPN industry. Notably for WeChat users is “stealth mode”, which sneaks past China’s Great Firewall by making encrypted L2TP traffic look like harmless, unencrypted traffic in a process known as obfuscation. In our testing, PrivateVPN not only enabled consistent access through, but offered impressively fast speeds for just about any task. It’s even great at unblocking streaming services like Netflix, with specially labeled servers enabling you to do so.
Worried about privacy? Don’t be, PrivateVPN isn’t just a clever name. With 256-bit AES encryption locking down your data stream, plus a no-logging guarantee that destroys any record of your connection or usage metadata, you won’t ever have to worry about your VPN failing you against tough censorship. Concerned about compatibility with your favorite WeChat device? PrivateVPN has you covered there too, with dedicated apps available for all major platforms including Windows, Mac, Linux, iOS, Android, and many more.
Read our full PrivateVPN review.
PureVPN is a veteran of the VPN industry, and has more than a few tricks up its sleeve to deal with just about anything you throw at it. First, we’ll look at the server network, which covers an already-impressive 2,000+ nodes in an outright mind-boggling 141+ countries. Many of these servers are located in places few other VPNs have access to, including 6 locations in China (Guangdong and Shanghai). This enables you to pierce the world’s most powerful censorship method with just a couple of clicks. WeChat users will be glad to know they don’t have to sacrifice on performance either, with zero caps on speed, bandwidth, or server switches.
Powerful 256-bit AES encryption secures your activity and identity against virtually any hacking effort, while a solid no-logging policy underpins your privacy. Not enough, you say? How about an entire suite of cybersecurity extras including app filtering, DDoS protection, getting a dedicated IP address, NAT firewalls, anti-spam filtering, and even antivirus software. With PureVPN, you can really do it all, anywhere in the world.
Read our full PureVPN review.
How we made our VPN recommendations
The VPN market is a booming one, which can be a blessing and a curse for the average consumer. While there are some outstanding VPNs out there, how are you supposed to find them, with so many companies constantly striving to outdo one another with their feature claims?
There are two key considerations to keep in mind: privacy and performance. Chinese authorities have no qualms about peering into your activity online, so your VPN will need strong security provisions to withstand sophisticated governmental penetration efforts. We recommend you settle for nothing less than industry-standard 256-bit AES encryption to lock down each packet of data leaving your device; plus a complete no-logging policy, in which your provider guarantees never to keep any data which might be used to identify you–no matter who comes asking for those (nonexistent) records.
Secondly, consider that speed and stability are requirements for a good quality of life when surfing, downloading, or chatting online. You want to make sure your chosen provider maintains a robust network of well-maintained proxy servers in order to minimize latency. What’s more, you should always avoid VPNs which place artificial caps on bandwidth, speed, or how many times you can switch servers.
We picked each of our recommendations according to the above criteria, and happily laud these providers as the best VPNs on the market for WeChat, or any other application.
What else can you use your VPN for?
Now you know everything you need to know in order to pick the perfect VPN for your WeChat use. But as you may have already figured out, the services above aren’t just handy for accessing the world’s most popular messenger. For example, you can use them to access streaming services like Hulu from Europe, the US and elsewhere. You can also use them to access services like Facebook while traveling inside China. Perhaps most importantly, you can use your VPN to browse the internet securely in virtually every scenario you can think of. (To learn how you can use your VPN without your internet service provider (ISP) finding out, click here.)
Forget about using free VPNs or proxies
Unfortunately, the best things in life are rarely free, and that is certainly the case with VPNs. You just can’t rely on free providers to protect you from China’s powerful censorship and surveillance methods, since they lack powerful encryption, servers in the country, or other sophisticated methods of obfuscating their connection. What’s worse, many of these services actually make you less safe by collecting your sensitive user data and selling it off to the highest bidder.
What about proxies? These services by definition lack encryption, and only reroute your data through remote nodes. Even if you found a proxy that has servers in China, you wouldn’t have a single degree of privacy. What’s worse, most paid proxies cost the same or more than our recommended VPN providers, so why pay more for less?
WeChat, also known as Weixin in its native China, is the world’s biggest instant messenger. As of 2018, it has well over a billion users; its holding firm, Tencent, is China’s second-most valuable company with a market cap of over $348 billion. When you first look at WeChat, it seems very similar to similar apps like Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp. But the fact is, WeChat does a whole lot more. You can use it to order cabs, get someone flowers, pay for products and deliveries, and even meet singles in your area. The more you learn about WeChat, the more you realize that it’s more of a multifunctional entertainment and utility app than a just another plain-jane messenger.
At the same time, WeChat isn’t without its fair share of controversy. First, it was built to run behind the Great Firewall of China – and certain governments and agencies have tried to block it off in the past, sometimes successfully. Second, WeChat is supported by the Chinese government – and is perhaps unsurprisingly happy to censor and monitor users. In fact, WeChat is known to provide authorities with its collection of user logs, when it’s asked to do so. For these reasons, users inside and outside China often want to use a VPN to either access the app, or get a degree of anonymity via encryption.
WeChat users, whether in China or outside the country, can benefit from using a VPN. Whether it’s for bypassing censorship to access the free and open Internet, or simply blocking hackers and governments from snooping in on your conversations, a VPN is an indispensable cybersecurity tool. Today, we’ve gone over a few of our favorite providers proven to pierce through the Great Firewall of China to enable freer, more private use of the world’s largest instant messenger service.
How will you use your VPN? Do you have any provider suggestions of your own? Let us know in the comments below!
If you need a VPN for a short while when traveling for example, you can get our top ranked VPN free of charge. ExpressVPN includes a 30-day money-back guarantee. You will need to pay for the subscription, that’s a fact, but it allows full access for 30 days and then you cancel for a full refund. Their no-questions-asked cancellation policy lives up to its name.