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China travel advice and trip tips

How to connect to some Internet pages and apps in China?

A large number of websites and apps are blocked by the "Great Firewall", by the Chinese government. Among the websites that you can't access there are Facebook, WhatsApp, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Also, Google Play is blocked; it means that you won't be able to download any app from it. Youâ??ll be able to access the App Store, but won't be able to find all apps.

Instead of Google - that is blocked - they use Baidu and instead of YouTube, they use Youku. In both cases when you search something, results will be what most Chinese people search. Instead of WhatsApp, they use WeChat, that you can download if you want to talk with your family and friends when you are traveling. Theyâ??ll need to install the app too.

If you like traveling without being connected to social media or if you are not a very social media person, you don't need to keep reading. On the other hand if you love to keep in contact with your family and friends while you are traveling thru social media or WhatsApp, do not worry, there is a solution to access these pages.

How to access Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, etc from China?
You can install a VPN (Virtual Private Network), that will masks your I.P. address so that your phone/laptop appears to be connected from the United States, Japan or any other country even if you are in China. Using a VPN is completely legal.

When do you need to install the VPN in your phone?
We recommend installing the VPN before traveling to China, because if you wait until you get to China, it will be more difficult to install the VPN app on your smart phone, as Google Play is blocked and the Apple App Store doesn't let you download most of these VPN apps when you're in China!

Which one is the best VPN and which one should I choose?
If you Google VPN services on Google, youâ??ll find a lot of solutions, however we recommend you to choose one of these three: Express VPN, VyprVPN and NordVPN. We recommend them for these reasons:
  • They work: there are a lot of VPN services that don't work in China.
  • They are fast: you don't need to worry about Internet speed with these three.
  • They are stable: Once you're connected, itâ??s very rare to lose the connection (this is a major issue with most VPNs out there).
  • Post-sale service: If you have any doubt or problem with your connection, you can chat with a technician at any moment.
  • Large number of protocols and servers: It's an important detail because the Great Firewall is being constantly updated. Therefore, even if your VPN works today, nobody can assure you that it will work tomorrow. Having the possibility to choose from different protocols and servers provides you with much more flexibility.
In general Express VPN is the one that has better benefits (speed, servers, etc), also it has an online chat 24h for anything you need. It has a price of 11€ ($12,95/month). The only limitation is that if you are more than 3 people and you want to be connected at the same time, you wonâ??t be able (you can purchase a second VPN then). So if you are more than three, we recommend you to go for VyprVPN that for 10,50€ you can connect 5 devices at the same time, or NordVPN that for more or less the same price you can connect up to 6 devices simultaneously. VyprVPN has a cheap plan (for three devices) for 7,95€.

â??Express VPN and NordVPN have a 30-day money-back guarantee.

Best data SIM card for China:

If you want to have internet available on your cell phone at all times, and you don't want to pay a million for roaming, it's best to get a data SIM card for China. You have two options:
  1. Buy a Chinese eSIM card before your arrival: this option (recommended) has the advantage of having internet connection from the moment you land in China, and that you will avoid having to go shopping physically the card once you arrive. On the downside, it is only good for data (it does not include calls) and the speed and coverage will not always be as good as with a local SIM card (but more than enough to use WhatsApp, check social networks, use Google Maps and do internet searches). It is necessary that your cell phone is compatible with the eSIM option. Of the eSIM cards available for China, we recommend the one from Airalo, which is the one with the best prices and offers good LTE service. For around €8 you can have 2GB to use in 15 days, and for around €15 you can have 5GB to use in 1 month. With this SIM you will also avoid the Chinese blockade, so you will not need the VPN (although we recommend having it anyway to use it when you connect to WIFI networks). You can buy the eSIM on their website and they give you all the instructions on how to install it. And in case you run out of data, they send you an email so you can easily recharge it.

  2. Buy a Chinese prepaid SIM card upon arrival: you can do it at the airport stands or in the official stores around the city by presenting your passport (it can also be done at convenience stores, but in this case the communication will be more complicated and they will not help you to install it). The main companies are China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. All 3 have similar plans and good service throughout the country, so we recommend you take the one with the least crowded stand:-). For about €10 you will have 10-20GB and about 50min of calls to spend in a month.

â??If you have a VPN on your mobile, it is best to buy an eSIM to be connected from the moment you arrive, and then buy a local card. Or even if you go in a group, you can buy the eSIM for one of you, and wait to buy the local card for the others.