How to Google and Facebook while travelling in Mainland China
Imagine no Facebook, Gmail, Yahoo or Youtube for 1 week – could be nerve wrecking for youngsters nowadays. But without Gmail and Google maps for a week would be quite inconvenient for most. You’d experience that if you travel in China as access to everything Google and Facebook is ban there ( go to here to see the hundreds of websites now blocked in mainland China). So it doesn’t matter if you have the fastest and free WiFi there, you just won’t be able to go to your favorite sites. If you’ve set your default search engine as Google or Yahoo, then you cannot even do searches online as it would return a blank page – but you can go to baidu.com! Ah, but there is a way and free too…
Using VPN (Virtual Private Network) would allow you to bypass the ban and get access to any sites just like in Hong Kong or elsewhere, it also provides you protection against phishing allowing safer browsing and online access. This technology is similar to using a private tunnel for online access where all your data traffic goes through this tunnel accessing an overseas server (typically in Hong Kong, USA or Europe). If you work for a global company, your company may already have a VPN and you can access through this for Gmail and Facebook while in Mainland China, but if you don’t have this luxury, below is a step by step guide. If you’re outside China, Tunnelbear or Android is an excellent VPN app- quick and easy.
While in China, most VPN charges for usage, free access may be subject to availability and such access may have constraints like may be cut off after a while, may not be available all the time, etc. plus as usual some ad nuisance. Notwithstanding this, having access say for 20 min or more every time you establish access would likely be adequate to download/access all your new Gmails and Facebook items, allowing you to reply important emails, load and save handy maps for offline use, etc. You also need to manually install (a few steps) each time with the info provided unless you have a rooted phone. Well, I guess nothing is free and very convenient too. Here’s how for Android phones, please another blog of mine for VPN for iPhone/iPad-
- There are many VPN provider apps available but most charges for usage (some after 7 days, but you still need to input your credit card details on application) or have lots of limitations. After many trials, I found a truly free and workable one in Mainland China called “FreeVPN”, you can download it from here.
- After installing it on your phone, use this together with the VPN function built in with your phone – go to Settings (the Gear)/More Networks/VPN
- To use this (establish a VPN tunnel)- make sure you have WiFi, tab the FreeVPN app which if available will show you the info of the server (see screenshot above, and ignore all the ads and traps for installing them).
- Tab the “Copy” button (on RHS of the IP/server address), note the server name (usually either vpn123 or vpnme) and password. There is usually no need to test the speed.
- Scroll down the page and click “Manually Install” (yellow button) and you’d be presented with the VPN page built in your phone (or you can go there via Settings (the Gear)/More Networks/VPN), just use the default options (PPTP (Encrypt)…) – see screenshot above.
- Tab the “+” button to add a server, and fill in the details (name, server address (just paste the one you save in 4.), click “Save”
- On the next page (see screenshot), fill in the server name and the password (if you forget the password, just scroll down the top as the info. would be amongst the notifications.
- Click “Connect” , the page will show the process until “Connected”, if it ends up saying “Disconnected”, check correct inputs (case sensitive) and try again.
- Once connected, you’d see a key symbol in the top bar of your phone and you’re in, just surf anywhere you like! Test it with Gmail and Facebook access!
As mentioned above, you may be cut off the VPN after a while, all you have to do is to repeat the above process, or if you are lucky that the password has not been changed (with time), just click the previous tunnel and try connect again. After awhile, you may end up with too many VPN servers shown on the page, long tab each to delete them for clearer info.