You may not know that China is famous not only for the Great Wall but also for “The Great Firewall” (internet censorship). Many tourists call this the nightmare and feel like the “outside world” when traveling to China. If you are heading to this amazing country, you should put it into considerations on how to keep in touch and stay online by cell phones properly during your China trip. Thus, the good preparation on how to use the phone in advance is the saving tool for you. Have a glance at the following tips.
The International Roaming Service in China
Most mobile phone providers offer customers international roaming services when you sign up for your phone contract. Unfortunately, many of them charge very high fees for international roaming. It may not be the cheapest way to use your mobile phone in China. Check with your providers before your trip for the price charged for data usage, phone calls and text messaging abroad. Some operators have more reasonable costs than others and rates vary from country to country. Some network suppliers do not offer roaming service in China, so check with your suppliers before traveling.
Get Unlocked Phones & SIM Cards in China
The three main operators in China are China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom, China Mobile being the largest. Their shops are everywhere in China, thus, you can get an unlocked mobile phone which is not tied into certain network providers. Bringing with you an unlocked smartphone can be much easier and more reliable than attempting to unlock your locked phones because the unlocking fee is quite expensive.
With an unlocked phone, you can simply buy a local pre-paid SIM card in China, which is often available from shops within the airport, metro stations, hotels, and convenience stores. We suggest that you buy your SIM card in a store because the price of a SIM card is reasonable and you can ask staff to help you activate your SIM card. Most Chinese SIM cards offer data coverage and local and international calls. This is certainly the cheapest way to use your phone to access the web, make local calls, and the charges for international calls are usually quite low.
If you need to access the internet on a laptop or phone but don’t want to use international roaming service, you can buy or rent a mobile wifi device, it is usually called a “MiFi” device. This device is shareable and portable wifi hotspot, the best way to stay connected during traveling no matter you are alone or with other people. To use the mobile wifi device, you log in to the mobile wifi service. Once successfully logged in, you will be able to connect to the internet, and make calls via Facetime or Skype. Tourists can purchase unlimited data packages daily (about $10). If a local SIM card is already installed on your mobile phone, you can connect to China’s 4G mobile network and access the Internet at any time. The 4G network covers most areas in China. The 4G signal is generally strong and stable except in very remote areas. The speed of 4G Internet connection is also good, although it may not be as fast as in other countries.
Keep in mind that just because you gain online access does not mean you will have complete access. There are several web channels & social media networks that are banned in China such as Facebook, Google, Gmail, Twitter, and YouTube, etc. Look into these apps WeChat, Tencent Video, Douban and DouYin (TikTok), etc; then choose ones that can assist you in China.
Get a VPN Before Leaving for China
While some inaccessible websites or services by China’s “Great Firewall”, some channels can be used normally, interruptions may occur sometimes, though. If you need to access these websites or blocked services in China, you will need to use a virtual private network or VPN. A VPN will allow you to bypass the firewall and use all your standard apps and websites. You can search online for VPN providers. There are many choices and many monthly packages that you can cancel at any time. Some free VPN services are available, but pay-per-view VPNs are usually more reliable. Some VPNs that operate in China are ExpressVPN (favorite of locals and ex-pats), VyprVPN, CyberGhost, UltraVPN, Astrill, and NordVPN. VPN applications are also prohibited on the App Store in China. If you want to use a VPN application during your trip, you will need to download and configure it before traveling to China.