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Internet access

Internet access in China is now more advanced than in many other countries, at least in its major cities. Broadband connections are widely available and cheap, and there is also a wide range of wireless access options available. Wifi access is everywhere in large cities!

If you don’t want to get an internet contract, the simplest way to access the Internet is via dial-up. Plug your computer into any phone jack. In most cities, there are free Internet numbers available, but if you want a quicker connection, you might want to opt for a paid service number, which will add the access charges directly to your phone bill. There is also a wide range of prepaid Internet access cards available, which allow you to dial an access number of the card provider and stay connected until your credit has run out.

Broadband access

Broadband is cheap, and companies are rolling out “broadband wireless fixed access” (BWFA), which allows you to connect to the Internet wherever your mobile phone works.

Internet cafes

If you don’t have an Internet connection at home or at your school you might want to use and Internet café to access the web. Unfortunately, most Chinese Internet cafés are rather dingy places, and can be hard to find. Every now and then some cafés get shut down by government censors, but eventually new ones pop up.

Browsing Restrictions and the Great China Firewall

Yes, we know what you’re thinking – how do I access facebook?! Most people know China restricts internet usage, however today much of what the rest of the world can view is also available in China. There are still a few exceptions though – YouTube, Twitter, and Facebook are all technically unavailable.

Certain websites are blocked by the government censors because they contain certain keywords. This is all done automatically with sophisticated software that all internet traffic is filtered through.

Bypassing this is actually as simple as downloading a computer program to your computer or laptop. Most users opt to download software that connects them to a VPN (virtual private network). Your internet connection bypasses the censors by tricking them into thinking you are not actually surfing from within China, giving access to all of the websites enjoyed in your home country. It can make an internet connection much slower, but if you disable the VPN while surfing “safe” sites and turn it on only when watching YouTube or posting on Facebook, this should be minimal.

While there are some free VPN services available, you do tend to get what you pay for. There are many options out there, so it’s a case of looking into what is best for you. Software varies in price from a few pounds a month up to £20 a month, but many companies give good discounts if you subscribe for a full year. ‘Strong VPN’ and ‘12VPN’ are just two examples.

Mobile Phones

Your current phone contract may provide international roaming services, but keep in mind that roaming can be very expensive. If you just want to have your phone for emergencies, then this is probably OK. But if you’re planning on using your phone a lot we advise you purchase a cheap unlocked mobile phone once you arrive in China.

With an unlocked phone you can simply buy a pre-paid SIM card (often available from shops within the airport, metro stations or nearby hotels at stalls and convenience stores). The cost for a SIM card is anywhere between 100-200rmb and will have minutes already included. You can top-up your minutes buy buying phone cards (available from convenience stores and stalls) in amounts up to 100rmb. Rates are very reasonable and the menu for recharging your phone is available in English and Mandarin.

Yes, all cards in China can be used nationwide, and there is no domestic roaming charge if your card support 3G network.

1. Phrase for general purchase

I want to buy a…
Wo yao mai yi ge
“Woh yow my ee ghe”
我要买一个…

2. Phrase for asking if something is available

Do you have…
You mei you
“Yoh may yoh”
有没有…

3. How much?

How much does it cost?
Duo shao qian?
“Doh shao chee-an”
多少钱?

4. Mobile phone

Cell / mobile phone
shou ji
“show gee”
手机

4. SIM card

SIM card
SIM ka or shouji ka
“sim kah” or “show gee kah”
SIM卡 | 手机卡

5. Adding value to your phone

Cell phone card (to add value/minutes)
chong zhi ka
“chong jih kah”
充值卡

6. Phrase for when you want to buy a phone card

I need to top up my phone (add value).
Wo yao chong zhi.
“woh yow chong jih”
我要充值。

7. Mobile carrier

If you say the above phrase to the person from whom you are buying your phone card, they might ask you which carrier you’re using: China Mobile or China Unicom?
Yidong huozhe lian tong?
“ee dong huoh jih leeahn tong?”
移动或者联通?
If you don’t know the answer, tell them or write down the first three digits of your cell phone number (e.g. “136” or “159”) and the seller will know which carrier.

8. Convenience store

The most obvious place to buy phone cards is a convenience store although they are available from small shops along the street that sell phone cards, long-distance calling cards, etc. convenience store
bian li dian
“beeahn lee deeahn”
便利店

9. Mobile phone card denominations

Cell phone cards usually come in denominations of 50rmb or 100rmb. 50 yuan / 100 yuan
wushi yuan (kuai) / yibai yuan (kuai)
“woo shih yooahn (kwye) / ee bye yooahn (kwye)”
五十(50)元 / 一百(100) 元
Note: rmb (renminbi) is the official name of the Chinese currency but you’ll usually hear people say “yuan” (or ”kuai” especially in Shanghai) when discussing the price of something.

10. Battery charger

You may have left your charger at home or need a new one: battery charger (cord)
chong dian qi
“chong dee-ahn chee”
充电器