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Since launching in 2009, WhatsApp has become the world’s most popular instant messaging application, boasting over 2 billion users and counting . However, there are a few countries where WhatsApp is banned.
Certain countries have banned WhatsApp for political and national security reasons, while others claim they want to promote their local telecommunications industry. In this guide, we’ll list the countries that have outlawed WhatsApp and their reasons. We’ll conclude by showing you exactly how to bypass such geo-restrictions .
Over 180 countries allow WhatsApp; only five countries forbid WhatsApp use.
WhatsApp is banned in China, North Korea, Syria, Qatar and the UAE.
Yes, WhatsApp is banned in China and will not work there; you will need a VPN to get around the ban. However, VPNs are also banned in the country unless you have government permission, so you might need to install both WhatsApp and the VPN before you visit China.
WhatsApp isn’t fully banned in Dubai or the other Emirates. You can’t make WhatsApp video and voice calls in Dubai, but you can send and receive texts.
The following countries forbid access to WhatsApp from within their borders:
It’s worth noting that the UAE only prohibits WhatsApp voice and video calls, but you can still send and receive text messages.
There are also some countries that have temporarily blocked WhatsApp. Countries that have extended online censorship to block WhatsApp and other social media apps during protests include Brazil , Cuba , Iran and Venezuela .
Many countries have shut off WhatsApp due to the app’s end-to-end encryption — a feature that allows people to communicate without detection. Local authorities claim that blocking the app is key to maintaining a stable and secure political climate. In reality, this kind of control is usually exercised to stifle political opposition.
Other countries have banned WhatsApp to promote their local telecommunications industry. This move is typically expected to boost government revenue in the long run.
The Chinese government has blocked WhatsApp, and essentially has a stranglehold on the internet services in the country. Since 1998, the Great Firewall of China has been used to restrict access to any app that the Chinese government deems noncompliant. In September 2017, WhatsApp fell victim.
Initially, observers thought the app was temporarily shut down because of a Chinese Communist Party meeting in October. However, the ban has not yet been lifted. Be sure to check our guide on how to unblock WhatsApp in China .
Chinese authorities banned the app because of its end-to-end encryption, a feature that prevents them from reading messages sent through the app. For perspective, the Chinese government does allow Skype — a similar communications app — because it doesn’t have such encryption.
Like many other Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) services, WhatsApp’s video and voice calls are banned in Dubai for two main reasons.
First, UAE authorities fear that terrorists and extremist groups could take advantage of WhatsApp’s encryption. Second, Dubai is hell-bent on ensuring that their local telecommunication services do not lose revenue as a result of people using free communication apps. Read our guide to learn how to get around the WhatsApp ban in Dubai .
The app isn’t currently banned in Iran, but it has been in the past during protests and times of unrest. The Iranian government has plans to build a “ national internet ” featuring an internal search engine and internal messaging apps — a potential threat to WhatsApp.
WhatsApp isn’t banned in Brazil, though there have been several restrictions in the past. The latest of these was the Brazilian Central Bank’s ban on WhatsApp’s payment feature in 2020, which was lifted in 2021.
There’s no telling if Brazil will ban WhatsApp in the future, but with the Brazilian National Congress considering legislation that would make messages traceable, it seems there’s no truce just yet.
India is WhatsApp’s biggest market , with over 480 million WhatsApp users. There has been a tussle raging between the Indian government and WhatsApp regarding privacy, but there’s no clear indication of an imminent ban.
WhatsApp is thriving in the U.K. with over 40 million users. The only thing close to a restriction so far has been WhatsApp moving the legal age for accessing the app from 13 to 16, in accordance with EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). A full-blown ban of the app is very unlikely.
If you live in or you’re traveling to a country that’s banned WhatsApp, there’s good news: You can use a virtual private network (VPN) to bypass geoblocks. Here’s how.
Go to your app store and download a VPN service. For this example, we’ll use ExpressVPN . Hit the “install” button and it should download quickly.
Sign in to the app and connect to a server. Make sure the VPN server is in a country where WhatsApp isn’t banned, but is geographically close to you. The closer the server, the faster the connection speed.
Once you’re connected, open WhatsApp to start texting or calling.
ExpressVPN is a great choice for unbanning WhatsApp.
To get past a robust WhatsApp censorship, you need a top-shelf VPN. Enter ExpressVPN . Because ExpressVPN has 3,000 servers in 94 countries, your chances of finding a server close to a WhatsApp-restricted country are high. This should yield faster and more reliable connections.
Some of these countries, like China and North Korea, also ban the use of VPNs. ExpressVPN’s obfuscated servers ensure that governments can’t detect your VPN traffic and see it as just normal internet traffic.
Aside from its strong encryption protocols, ExpressVPN supports IP and DNS leak protection — features that ensure your data never leaks. Read our full ExpressVPN review for more information.
A handful of countries have WhatsApp restrictions, often for political and security reasons. Fortunately, VPNs can help you bypass such restrictions with ease. ExpressVPN stands out as the best choice, but you can also try other top VPN options like NordVPN and Surfshark .
Have you ever tried to get around a WhatsApp ban? Which VPN did the trick for you? Share your thoughts with us in the comment section below, and as always, thanks for reading!