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Guide to Accessing the Internet in China

If you have been to or planning to travel to mainland China, you have probably heard about the Great Firewall.  What Now?  Browsing the web can be difficult if you lack a reliable internet connection. The trick is planning ahead and that’s what this article is all about-   keeping you connected on the go. Buckle up as we take you on an informative ride on how to surf China's internet.

Why Can’t I Access My Favorite Websites While In China?

Well, this is a question we get a lot. Censorship in China is consciously heavy handed which severely limits internet access. They use a combination of technologies to censor content including IP Address Blacklists, Keyword Filtering, DNS Poisoning, Manual Enforcement and Packet Inspection.

Which Popular Websites Are Blocked?

Many popular social media sites such as Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, reputable news outlets such as Bloomberg. The Economist and New York Times, Google-owned sites (YouTube, Gmail, Google +, Google Maps, and Google Drive), Apps like Telegram, Whatsapp and Kakao Talk, and Video Sharing sites like Vimeo and Daily Motion are all blocked.

How to Bypass the Great Firewall

In this article, I will comprehensively cover 5 ways you can circumvent the cyberspace blockage and gain full access to your favorite websites and apps while in China.

1. T-Mobile

T-Mobile is not blocked by the Great Firewall within China. Staying connected with your loved ones or accessing important business tools while traveling through China is possible with T-Mobile. T-Mobile reviews roaming fees regularly to make it possible for you to use your line in China, and maintain access to the same internet experience just like in your home country. Internet speeds can be unreliable, and connecting a VPN will further slow down your connection.

T-Mobile has a pretty good network in urban areas which deteriorates as you go to low-population areas. But hey, you won’t need to buy another phone or SIM card to surf China's internet! And you won’t even need a bandwidth-killing VPN to evade the Great Firewall.

How to use the T-Mobile?    ·

  1. If you are new to T-Mobile, you can sign up online using this link https://account.t-mobile.com/oauth2/v1/signup
  2. Enter the country you will be visiting in T-Mobile look-up page and click Check Rates and Coverage https://www.t-mobile.com/coverage/roaming
  3. After reviewing the coverage and rates, scroll to see if your device works in the country you entered, in this case, China. Your phone needs to be compatible with China’s cellular network. (China Unicom and China Mobile).
  4. T-Mobile ONE and Simple Choice plans offer unlimited texts and up to 2G data (128kbps) in 140+ destinations and countries, China included. Pick a plan that works for you.
  5. Log in to My T-Mobile to confirm that you have one of the qualified plans listed above. If you want to switch from your current plan to either T-Mobile ONE or Simple Choice, click here https://account.t-mobile.com/oauth2/v1/auth
  6. Make sure Data Roaming is enabled in your device. To turn on data, dial the shortcode #RON#. Dial #ROF# to turn data back off. Once your phone recognizes that you’re in another country, you will receive a confirmation text about coverage. Enjoy browsing the internet!
  7. To contact T-Mobile Customer service toll-free while in China, Dial +1-505-998-3793.
2. VPN

You can easily gain access to the blocked websites mentioned above by using a Virtual Private Network (VPN). With VPN, you simply connect to a system that feeds the content to you. VPN is not illegal to use in China even though there are constant rumors about a crackdown on VPN services, especially during times of international conflict and social unrest. When shopping for a new paid VPN service, consider Speed, Reliability, Pricing, Supported Devices, Encrypted Protocols, Customer Support, Refund Policy and Bandwidth.      ·

  1. Sign up with a trusted VPN service. Pick a VPN from a trustworthy company with an excellent track record. Good recommendations include ExpressVPN, Astrill, NordVPN and VyprVPN. I personally recommend ExpressVPN.
  2. Go to Express VPN order page and sign up for a subscription https://www.expressvpn.com/order
  3. Select your ideal plan according to the duration of your stay.
  4. Download your VPN and launch the app on your device.
  5. A good tip is to set up your VPN before you come to China as most VPN company websites are blocked here.
  6. Pick a server to connect to from the 148 available. After connecting you will be assigned an IP address.
  7. Enjoy accessing your favorite sites knowing that your privacy is well taken care of! Keep in mind that poor internet connections limit VPN performance.
3. Pocket WiFi + VPN

Even though some bars, restaurants, and cafes have WiFi accessibility, the best option to surf China's internet is to have a pocket router. It gives you WiFi wherever you go and supports multiple devices. It will also save you money spent on roaming fees and you will be able to access the internet just like the locals.  There are many companies that rent out pocket WiFi with seamless connectivity at reasonable rates. (Starting from about $10).

  1. Pick a plan that works for you and the pocket WiFi will be delivered to your hotel room.
  2. Log in to the mobile WiFi service to connect to the internet. If you are using an Android device, download the VPN .apk file from your preferred VPN provider’s website. If you are using an iPhone or iPad, it is advisable to configure the VPN manually, activate it then download the app from the App Store.
4. Local SIM card + VPN

If you are coming to China for work or travel, you are going to need a Chinese SIM card to stay connected to the internet through your mobile phone. A local SIM card is one of the cheapest ways to surf China's internet, but also difficult due to the language barrier.

  1. First, check whether your phone can communicate in Chinese A general rule of the thumb is that the newer and higher end your phone is, the higher the possibility that it will work.
  2. Check with your service provider to check if international service is activated.
  3. You can buy a prepaid SIM card ant any local wireless and telecom outlet, recharge credits and get connected in a few minutes. The locals call a SIM card IM Kaa’ or just SIM.
  4. The three main players are China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom. The carriers use different frequencies, it is your responsibility to pick the one that fits your device.
  5. Check the rates and choose a plan that works for you and you’ll be good to go. Ensure that your smartphone is already unlocked to be able to use your new SIM card.
  6. If you are planning to have a long holiday, you can consider signing up for a contract that will be comparatively cheaper in the long-run.
  7. After getting your line, the next step will involve getting a VPN so you can get around the censored websites like Facebook, YouTube, and Google.
5. Renting and Buying a Phone in China

If you want to avoid the headache of paying exorbitant roaming fees or having to unlock your phone to use a Chinese SIM card, there are still two options left – renting or buying a phone in China. It is now possible to rent a phone with a local SIM card that has data, calling minutes and texts during your stay at reasonable fees.

  1. Do some research and pick a phone rental company with practical charges.
  2. You can alternatively buy a brand new phone in China. The good news is that China is famous for its competitive pricing when it comes to smartphones. Depending on your budget and preference, purchase your ideal phone.
  3. To purchase a prepaid SIM card, you will be required to fill out registration paperwork and present your passport as proof of ownership.
  4. Insert a local SIM card, add credit and start to surf China's internet. Ensure the top up card is from the same province you bought the SIM card. Remember to purchase a VPN that will allow you to bypass blocked sites. By masking your IP address, your smartphone will appear to be connected to another country outside China. Connect to a server location and use the internet as you please!
Conclusion

The high levels of internet censorship in China is not something you will be able to brush off easily. People use the internet every day to connect with their families, find interesting places to visit, make hotel reservations and be updated on what’s happening around them. Lucky for you, the above-listed tricks will help you bypass the many restrictions and surf China's internet.

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