Internet access behind the ‘Great Fire Wall’ of China. Banned sites and how to access them?
Wi-Fi is provided on your programmes so you may want to take a laptop or other handheld device to access the internet and prepare lessons well or just chat to your families/friends. As you may know—Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Youtube, Google, Gmail and other foreign sites and platforms (even Tinder..) are not accessible in China. Prior to entering China, we suggest you get a VPN or take measures to ensure you are able to access alternate means for communication—such as hotmail (if you are a Gmail user, as its banned..) or WeChat prior to coming out.
VPN – the key to access internet without restrictions
If you wish to access Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Google, Gmail and other blocked sites while in China, please configure a VPN now. If in doubt about whether you can access a site, please check here.
VPN means ‘virtual private network’ it allows you to bypass Chinese internet restrictions, it gives you access to the internet of whichever nation’s IP address you log into. Most universities around the world offer a VPN for free to their students, which is intended for you to be able to access sites that you need to be in campus to view, such as JSTOR and other academic journals. Please contact your university to check if they have a VPN service which you can use. We suggest you get a premium VPN, as outlined below:
Easier to setup premium VPNs: If the option above is to hard to setup, then you can pay £5-10 a month for a decent private VPN service. One of the best ones is called Astrill, you can read about it here , for it to work well you will need to purchase the add-ons such as dedicated IP/VIP. An alternative to Astrill is Express VPN (but it tends not to work so well in China…) both VPNs are easy to setup and work on computers and phones. There are quite a few VPN providers offering service for free, but you get what you pay for… Some premium VPN services also allow you to cancel within 30 days at no cost, which might mean you can use their services and cancel before you are charged. Generally, our Beijing office team finds these popular VPNs to be unreliable but they tend to work a little bit of the time…Unfortunately, any premium VPN service ends up being popular and once it is used alot then the government tried to sniff it out and crack down on it.
Please test your VPN before you head to China, its much harder to get setup once in country: After downloading a VPN and turning it on, it should change your IP address. To test whether it works please first go to this link without it turned on, and then go there again with it turned on. If the IPs are significantly different then the VPN should be working and will function in China.
WeChat, a mobile app similar to Whatsapp, is highly popular in China. It will be invaluable during your time in China for communicating with the team at your school and making friends locally, so we urge you to download it now. Not only is it useful for messaging friends and family, businesses often give discounts to customers following their WeChat account.
Many people pay for their goods and services by scanning a business owners’ QR code through their WeChat app. However, this requires you, the user, to link your bank account or add money to your account.