Gotoco Camp China

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:

Our favourite VPN: Our Beijing office team need access to Facebook etc everyday, we live behind the Great Fire Wall so have some opinions on VPNs which you may find helpful. At present, August 2019, our preferred VPN is this one: https://www.sednax.com/  in our experience, it only works well on Laptops and not phones/tablets. It is very cost effective and works very well in China, but is a little tricky to setup. It has a totally different system to most premium VPNs available it is worth the effort getting setup because we haven’t had a single day in our Beijing office where it didn’t work this year. Otherwise, you can pay around £5 a month for an easier to configure VPN that works on devices and laptops, for those options read the next paragraph (these VPNs mentioned below aren’t recommended by our Beijing office team as they are too unreliable long term, but they would be fine for a short trip/short usage.)

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.

Legality:

People often ask us if it is legal to use a VPN in China. This is a fascinating question! Some estimate as many as 10% of China’s population use a VPN, legal issues have only arisen in minority cases for those people selling VPNs. It is very normal among urban, young, student segments of China to use a VPN – so don’t worry!

WeChat

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.

Find out more about WeChat here. For information on phone and data usage in China, please read this FAQ.

Categories ○ Pre-departure questions - important information for people preparing to join us in China!, ○ What is China like? Useful tips and insights for your time in China