Travel China Tools
Overview

Internet Use

Travelers in China should find it quite easy to check their e-mail and access the Internet on the road, despite periodic government attempts to block websites, control traffic, and shut down cyber-cafes. If you find yourself unable to access a popular website or search engine, try returning to it in a day or two; some shutdowns are temporary.

Without Your Own Computer--The comparative wealth of the Shanghainese (making personal computers more popular than ever), along with recent government crackdowns, has reduced the number of cyber-cafes, or wangba (literally, net bar) in town. Where they still exist, charges range from ¥5 to ¥20 (60¢-$2.50) an hour. Avoid hotel business centers if possible unless you want to pay significantly higher rates.

With Your Own Computer--In Shanghai, those still using dial-up access no longer need the local access number for their ISP, but can connect directly by dialing the number 96563 and making that the account number and password. Cost is a little higher than that of a local call. Mainland China uses the standard U.S. RJ11 telephone jack, easily available at any of Shanghai's major department stores and electrical shops. Electrical voltage in China is 220V, 50Mhz.

Those with on-board Ethernet can avail themselves of broadband services now available in many Shanghai hotels. The typical charge is around ¥120 ($15) for 24 hours. It's best to bring your own Ethernet cables, but hotels can usually provide them as well, either for free or for a small fee.

Wi-fi (wireless fidelity) has caught on quickly in Shanghai, with a number of the top business hotels (Westin, St. Regis, Sheraton, Regent) now offering wireless "hot spots" in their lobbies, executive lounges, and boardrooms, from where anyone can get high-speed connection without cable wires if you have a wireless card installed on your computer. Check with hotel reception to sign up for access, which averages around ¥100 ($13) for 24 hours. There are also many cafes and bars around town offering wi-fi. China Pulse (www.chinapulse.com./wifi) provides listings of hotels, restaurants, and cafes in Shanghai that offer wireless Internet access.

Cellphone Use

China's wireless capabilities function on the quasi-universal GSM (Global System for Mobiles) network, which is used by all Europeans, most Australians, many Asians (except in Japan and Korea), and many North Americans as well. In the U.S., T-Mobile, AT&T Wireless, and Cingular use this quasi-universal system; in Canada, Microcell and some Rogers customers are GSM. If you're coming from North America and want to use your GSM phone in China, make sure it's at least a tri-band (900 Mhz/ 1800 Mhz/ 1900 Mhz) phone that's been "unlocked" to receive service in China. Also call your wireless operator at home and ask for "international roaming" to be activated on your account. The roaming and international call charges will be predictably exorbitant, so consider buying a prepaid SIM card (known as quanqiutong, about ¥100/$13) in China, which you can install in your GSM phone. Recharge cards (shenzhouxing chongzhi ka) are available at post offices and mobile phone stores. If you don't have a GSM phone, you can purchase an older Chinese model in any of Shanghai's department stores or phone shops for around ¥800 ($100), which should come with chip and ¥100 ($13) of pre-paid airtime.

Alternatively, it's easy to rent a phone in Shanghai. There are rental shops in the arrival hall of Pudong Airport; and the city's largest phone company, China Mobile (www.china-mobile-phones.com), can deliver phones to your hotel. Rental costs range from $2 to $9 a day before airtime and long-distance charges.

Online Traveler's Toolbox

ATM Locators: Visa ATM Locator (www.visa.com) provides locations of PLUS ATMs worldwide; MasterCard ATM Locator (www.mastercard.com), gives locations of Cirrus ATMs worldwide.

China Pulse (www.chinapulse.com) has listings of hotels, restaurants, cafes, and bars in Shanghai that have wireless Internet access.

Foreign Languages for Travelers (www.travlang.com) provides a lexicon, with pronunciation guide, of basic useful traveling terms in English, Chinese characters, and pinyin.

Online Chinese Tools (www.mandarintools.com) has Chinese dictionaries for Mac and Windows users, and also provides conversions between the solar and lunar calendar.

The Oriental-List is a spam- and ad-free moderated mailing list focusing only on travel in China, and is an excellent location to post questions not already covered in this guide. To subscribe, send a blank e-mail to subscribe-oriental-list@datasinica.com.

Travel Advisories are available at www.travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html, www.fco.gov.uk/travel, www.voyage.gc.ca, and www.dfat.gov.au/consular/advice.

Universal Currency Converter (www.xe.net/currency) provides the latest exchange rates for any currency against the ¥RMB.

Weatherbase (www.weatherbase.com) provides month-by-month temperatures and rainfalls for individual cities in China.

Weather (www.weather.com) provides current temperatures in Shanghai.

World Health Organization (http://www.who.org) and the Centers for Disease Control (http://www.cdc.gov) both provide information on health concerns that may affect travelers around the world, including in China.

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