I spent last week in Beijing, China which was rather fun. Lenovo held their first “Lenovo Tech World” to announce new products and show off some innovative technology you might find rather rad.
Getting the invite was an interesting one for me. The travel bug has definitely bitten and I love these tech trips when I have a few hours during the day or in the evening to go get myself lost in a city. But China? That was a pretty terrifying one for me. The number of people in one place and a language barrier than seems almost impossible to cross… I had my doubts about whether I should take the unpaid leave and do the journey.
I’m not a what ifs type of girl so, of course, I went. There is a gargantuan language barrier and even nastier firewall that stops you accessing your favourite websites and apps BUT if you have the opportunity to go to China do not turn it down. It’s one of those places you definitely want to experience in your life time. However, there are 3 tech travel tips if you’re visiting China that you may want to keep in mind before you head out.
1. Sort out a VPN before you go.
What’s a VPN right? Something you’ll get awfully friendly with if you visit China and experience their great firewall. VPN stands for Virtual Private Network and adds security and privacy to networks (so people can’t see what you’re browsing). Facebook, Twitter, Gmail and most google apps do not work in China. The biggest reason is because the “government doesn’t have a good relationship with Google” or any other company not featuring. Truth be told I presume this has more to do with some sort of dodgy backhander expected (I’m speculating here, who actually knows. Maybe Gmail really is the devil and we’ve got it all wrong). There are a lot of free VPN offerings out there, from apps to websites. Don’t waste your time. They won’t work.
I use KnowRoaming when I travel and it seemed to work much like a VPN. So when it was activated I had access to email and social media. However, at a cost of $0.50 per MB in China I hit $125 of data spend faster than you can say nǐ hǎo. Trying to download free VPNs that promised the world contributed to that ridiculous cost. Don’t do it. Pay the $6 for a month’s subscription to a VPN with a decent reputation. I’d love to suggest one to you but by the time I realised I should pay I’d spent enough to feel comfortable giving up on access to the outside world.
2. Beware the Power Banks
It would appear that power banks are just as great a threat to national security as Gmail. I took a train to Wuhan for the day before having to catch a flight from Wuhan to Beijing and then Beijing to Abu Dhabi. I had two power banks in my hand luggage and another in my actual suitcase. As we started boarding our Wuhan flight one of the attendants came over and in broken English told me I needed to run back to the check in counter and open my suitcase for security.
Queue me running. Fun. They wanted the bag open and I had to remove the power bank in there. No one in China is allowed to have power banks in their luggage. You need to keep it on your carry on and remove it at the security check points. Something I forgot to do at Beijing where I got pulled off to one side and given a stern talking to. Be warned. Keep your power banks on your person.
3. Don’t worry about adapters
I’ve purchased a universal adapter when I travel to make sure I can always plug in my GHD no matter what country of the world I’m in. However, Beijing had two point plug points in all the places I was. Most of my charging cables come with two point plugs and I had no problem plugging them directly into the power source and charging accordingly.
One final tip and this isn’t tech orientated. Chinese food is delicious. However, if they bring you something at desert that looks like a fruit floating in a liquid that has a syrup type consistency don’t eat it. On two occasions I convinced male colleagues to put it in their mouth first (I know, that’s what he said) and both times the reactions were enough to steer me away from it. I advise you do the same.
Disclaimer: My flights and accommodation were covered by Lenovo. I was in China to attend their Lenovo Tech World Expo.
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