In the run up to my trip, I made list after list, read “what to pack – the essentials” on travel blogs galore and was feeling pretty smug that I’d rammed my backpack full of everything I could possibly need…
To my peril, I forgot about one minor detail… the whole of the internet in censored in China, so the sites / apps we take for granted in the West, are all blocked.
Fab. There’s nothing like spending weeks packing, making sure you’re totes prepared, and then realising you’re completely UN-prepared. Yup, it sucks.
Fortunately for you, I’ve made a list of everything that was missing from my smartphone. ‘Cos I’m nice like that ;)…
Problem 1: GOOGLE-LESS
That’s right, Google is blocked. So my sneaky solution to all of life’s problems being to “Google it”, was foiled.
The way around it… Bing. Make sure you have downloaded shortcuts to a few different search engines before you go. Most smartphones and laptops have quick-click links built in to Internet Explorer and Safari.
Bing is just about getting me by. I can’t seem to find the maps/directions function (like Google Earth), but that could well be user error (so I’m using pictures of maps instead).
For all other travel planning; i.e. access to Hostelworld, Laterooms, Booking.com and Skyscanner, it’s just fine. Though RometoRio doesn’t seem to want to compute.
Problem 2: Downloading Apps
If you have an Android smartphone, like me, your app downloader will be Google Play. That’s great, superb, fan-dabby-dosy in the West (it seems we depend on Google for everything). In China, not so much. As it’s a Google software, it won’t load for love nor money. So you can forget about downloading anything whilst you’re here.
Just make sure you have everything downloaded before you go. Here are the essentials:
Messaging: Whatsapp, Viber, Skype, WeChat (which is China’s equivalent of WhatsApp – everyone you meet uses it)
Social: Forget about Facebook, Twitter and Snapchat, but my Instagram seems to post pictures from the app in China (although talking to other travellers, it’s hit and miss). So I’ve been using and abusing that, much to the annoyance of my long-suffering friends and followers.
Handy Travel: Pleco (offline Mandarin dictionary), XE Currency (world currency converter)
Other: Phone security (McAfee et al) to block dodgey connections, especially handy if you are using your phone to pay for flights/hotels/banking over a communal wifi connection.
Dropbox (to back up images via wifi – even though the site is blocked, the app seems to work)
Metro Maps like Explore Shanghai / Beijing (though you can choose to download a file straight to your smartphone, rather than the Google Play, which saved my life!)
Banking: Great for quick and easy access to your dollar!
Problem 3: Blogs are a no go!
Yup, even stuff like the Western version of WordPress and Bloglovin is blocked / very, very slow – heaven forbid free speech! They actually have their own WordPress China / blogging sites. So all of those riveting reads on MyHappyRucksack you’ve been waiting for? Are sat idle on my Mac waiting to be backdated / published when I get to Japan (like this one).
A few travellers have told me about setting up a VPN line, which (somehow) bypasses the firewall. Now, I’m not a tech whizz-kid, as I think we’ve established here, so you’ll need to
If you are a profesh blogger ’n’ that, not like Miss ‘writing for fun’ over here, I guess you could schedule some posts to get you by too.
Hope this saves you some agro / grey hairs.
For now, happy Googling – you lucky sods!