How I Access Instagram in China (now that it's blocked)

How I Access Instagram in China

June 20 | No Comments

I’ve become addicted to Instagram over the past two years. As it turns out, I’m not the only one. According to the latest numbers, there are 800 million other people around the world who feel the same way every month. My problem, however, is that Instagram in China is blocked. Ugh.

How to use Instagram in China

If we’re not already connected, you should check out all my Xinjiang photos on the FarWestChina Instagram feed. I have hundreds of great photos and videos that I’ve posted from within China.

Every so often I get a comment from somebody that asks: how are you posting to Instagram in China?

So to everybody who has that same question, let me share with you some quick thoughts.

Accessing Instagram in China | Expat Guide

Perhaps you’ve heard of China’s “Great Firewall”? It’s an affectionate term that we expats in China have given to the annoying censorship that happens in the country.

In 2009, following the horrific July riots here in Xinjiang, websites like Facebook, Google and Twitter were blocked. A few years later in September 2014 Instagram was blocked during the height of the Hong Kong protests.

As you’re aware, Instagram requires a mobile phone connected to the internet in order to post photos to the platform. Unfortunately, if you were to open the Instagram app in China it would never load. Eventually the app will serve you the message: “Not Connected to Internet”.

"No Internet Connection" notice when accessing Instagram in China

For this reason, using Instagram in China requires a solution that allows your phone to get past this government censorship.

Solution: VPN Connection

When you’re on your desktop or laptop computer, there are simple proxy workarounds or free VPNs that can work in China (although free VPNs aren’t all they’re cracked up to be).

Try ExpressVPN, editor's choice for best VPN in ChinaThese free solutions unfortunately don’t work on your mobile phone.

Like it or not, this is where you’re going to need to fork over a few dollars to purchase a subscription to a VPN or “Virtual Private Network”. Most people use a VPN to secure their internet connection but it’s also an effective tool to circumvent internet censorship.

Personally, I have 2 different VPNs installed on my phone. The reason for this is because in China, there are times when one doesn’t work while another does. My go-to VPNs for my phone are ExpressVPN and NordVPN – I recommend them because they work well and they both offer a generous 30-day money back guarantee.

It’s a pretty simple connection process. After I’ve created an account and downloaded the VPN app on my phone, I just click “connect”. Within seconds I am able to start viewing and posting on Instagram!

Tips to Use Instagram in China

Having lived in China for 10 years and experiencing the frustrations of the internet, here are a few tips for you to keep in mind as you download a VPN and use Instagram in China.

  1. Download a VPN before You Arrive in China: I know many people who wait until they arrive in China to start thinking about censorship, but by then it’s too late. China doesn’t just censor the internet, they make it intentionally hard to access VPN websites. Do yourself a favor and download ExpressVPN before you leave for China.
  2. Use a 3rd Party App: I’ve used¬†a service called Hootsuite (click this link for a 30 day free trial) that allows me to upload my photos from my computer and schedule them to be posted on Instagram. It doesn’t always work without a VPN, but it can be an interesting workaround.
  3. Be Patient: Using Instagram in China is always going to be slower and more frustrating than doing so in your home country. That’s just part of the game. Be patient and let the VPN work its magic.

Conclusion | Accessing Instagram in China

Whether you’re looking to access Instagram in China, or if you just want to get past China’s censorship to visit Facebook, Twitter, Gmail or one of the hundreds of other blocked websites, you’re going to be looking for the best VPN.

Oh, and once you do get set up, if you start to post some photos of Xinjiang on Instagram, make sure to tag #farwestchina! I’d love to see your photos and connect with you. :)

Tag your Xinjiang photos with #farwestchina!

About Josh Summers

Josh is a writer, musician and entrepreneur who currently resides in Urumqi, capital of China's western province of Xinjiang. He has been traveling and writing about this region since 2006 and has no plans to stop in the near future.

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