Author Topic: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)  (Read 1317 times)

dreamer8887

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Hi everyone,

I'm heading to Beijing for a month, leaving in three weeks, with a baby and husband in tow for part of that time.

I hear that it's pretty important to have a smartphone in China these days, to be able to order Uber-equivalents with carseats, and arrange meet-ups (I'll be doing interviews with various parties around the place so this will be quite key). I also want a smartphone for peace of mind - to be able to check in with DH/DD during the day while I'm out and about working.

so I'm hoping some of you might have some advice on the most frugal way to go about getting a smartphone for my time in China. I currently have a very basic Ting phone that I just use for WiFi, and it doesn't take a SIM card, so I can't use it in China.

Would it be cheaper to buy a handset in China or in the US? I know nothing about smartphones, but assume a second-hand one will do the job (main concern would be battery life) but have no idea what sort to be looking out for, and how to ensure (if I buy in the US) that it will work in China.

Any advice gratefully received!

Also if you have any general advice on doing Beijing with a baby, I would gladly hear it. I am planning to buy an air purifier as soon as we arrive, cost be damned, to use in our hotel/AirBnB, and to stay home if the air pollution index exceeds 200. I've just heard that Beijing is shutting down polluting industry in the second week of May for a conference so I am hopeful that it will be a relatively "good" time to travel in terms of air quality.

I'm also concerned about taking public transport with a small child - what are the peak times to avoid, and is it do-able outside of those times?

Thanks in advance!

Freedomin5

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #1 on: April 25, 2017, 08:29:45 AM »
Pretty much any brand smartphone will work, as long as it is unlocked (if you buy in the states). If you buy in China, all phones are already unlocked. If you're only going for a month, maybe ask around to see if any of your friends have an older iPhone lying around? I'm not sure how to  unlock an iPhone. I took mine to a phone kiosk at a Chinese mall before I left Canada, and they unlocked it for me. Don't try to unlock the phone in China - most stores won't know how to do that because phones are sold already unlocked.

I've been in China for almost six years now, and I've never heard of Uber-equivalents with car seats. Did not even know that option existed. Most people here just hold their kid in their laps. So you may want to consider bringing your own car seat over. You can just check it as luggage, or I think there are some brands that can be brought on the plane.

If you're staying at an AirBnB you could ask your host if they have an air purifier. To check the AQI, use www.aqicn.org. If you use the local sites, the aqi reading will be half of the reading on aqicn. Definitely recommend staying indoors if aqi is over 200.

Sis works in Beijing. She says peak hours are from 7:30 to after 9:00 am, and it was packed by 4:30 pm with people getting off work. She says stick to the subway, because the bus system sucks - narrow roads, so they often get stuck in traffic, and there are no dedicated bus lanes.

Re: doing stuff with baby. There's an active expat community that holds lots of events for parents with young children. If you Google Beijing expat group/forum, you should be able to find play groups and other fun outings.


Gimesalot

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #2 on: April 25, 2017, 08:32:19 AM »
I stayed in Shanghai a few years back and what I did was to purchase a cell phone on Amazon before I left.  Go on Amazon and look for a GSM/sim card phone that operates on the 900 and 1800 MHZ frequencies.  There are some 2G phones starting at around $29 on Amazon.  Before you leave, make sure it works and pre-load all the apps that you will need.  When you get to China, go to the tourist area and look for a cell phone service provider.  Buy a sim card and use it in your new phone.  It's easy.

FLBiker

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #3 on: April 25, 2017, 09:25:23 AM »
I lived in China for a year (but not in Beijing).  I've spent about a week total in Beijing though.  I was childless at the time, and I didn't have a cellphone, but I'd be happy to answer any general living in China Qs.

Re: your Qs, I'm definitely pro-Subway, and pro-avoiding rushhour (w/ a baby).  And I think the air purifier is a good idea.  A couple of years ago, I did a two week trip that was Hong Kong, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Beijing.  I was hoarse from the day I entered Guangzhou til the day I got back to the US.

I'd also recommend getting outside of Beijing on the weekend (or whenever you can).  My experience in China is that the countryside is quite beautiful / pleasant to be in.  When I was in Beijing, I went on a tour with this group: http://chinaculturecenter.org/  It was great!  The guide was really good, and there was no touristy / sales element to it at all.  We were on a minibus, and I'm not sure if they offer carseats.  It does look like they have some kid-specific tours, though.

If you want to bring a carseat with you, we use the Cosco Scenera as a travel carseat and it has been great.  It's light and easy to install.

Also, if you don't already, I'd recommend looking into babywearing.  It's a great way to carry your kid in places with a lot of walking (and crowds) and public transportation.  There are all sorts of options.  When our daughter was little, my wife really liked slings / wraps, but I've preferred using a soft-structured carrier like an ergo or a lille baby.

drudgep

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #4 on: April 25, 2017, 09:34:41 AM »
You can buy an iPhone or any phone that will work on GSM network here, and just make sure its unlocked (you own the phone, and have an unlock code from the carrier you are with) and you should just be able to buy a sim card in China and pop it in.

FLBiker

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #5 on: April 25, 2017, 09:37:12 AM »
Oh, and just a couple of "to do" things:

I went to the Forbidden City, and found it to be kind of cool, but also kind of repetitive.  I actually preferred the Summer Palace, which is a ton of walking, but I found it more interesting / beautiful than the Forbidden City.  There's a neat botanical garden next to the Forbidden City that was cool, though.  And Mao's tomb / Tiananmen Square are right there, too.

dreamer8887

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #6 on: April 25, 2017, 06:58:50 PM »
Thank you all SO much for the advice, it's really helpful!

I have a follow-up question about what sort of cell phone to buy, but I might go post that in a separate topic. Thank you again!

missundecided

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #7 on: April 25, 2017, 07:26:36 PM »
Google apps won't work unless you get a VPN, at least based on my limited experience with a cell in Beijing.

Bourbon

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #8 on: April 25, 2017, 07:37:05 PM »
Oh, and just a couple of "to do" things:

I went to the Forbidden City, and found it to be kind of cool, but also kind of repetitive.  I actually preferred the Summer Palace, which is a ton of walking, but I found it more interesting / beautiful than the Forbidden City.  There's a neat botanical garden next to the Forbidden City that was cool, though.  And Mao's tomb / Tiananmen Square are right there, too.

I agree on the FC/SP recommendation. We also really enjoyed a cooking class at  the Hutong
http://thehutong.com/beijing-cooking-classes/

 But I think they had other interesting events. I was only in China for about 10 days with just 3/4 in Beijing though, so others will likely have better advice.

Freedomin5

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Re: Advice on cell for travel in China (and other China questions)
« Reply #9 on: April 26, 2017, 04:45:07 AM »
Oh yes, Google is blocked here in China. Gmail also doesn't work unless you're on VPN. Yahoo works fine, as does hotmail. You can work around the gmail block if you use an iPhone/iPad and add the account to the Mail app; I'm not sure why that is. TIC (This Is China), I guess.

Also, the rules changed recently. All phone numbers need to be registered now, which means you need to bring your passport when you buy a SIM card. There are shady workarounds if you don't want the gvmt tracking your phone calls. If you purchase a SIM card in a tourist location, some of the sellers will register your number under their name or their friend's name. Each Chinese person can register up to five numbers. If you have someone hosting you in China, you can (and should) probably ask them for help. If you decide to go the proper way and register the number to your name, you'll have to bring a translator if you don't speak Chinese, as the customer service people likely can't speak English.