Restricted websites in China

By Tony Leisner
This item appears on page 14 of the February 2020 issue.

Prior to embarking on a 7-country cruise in late October 2019, my wife, Patti, and I spent four days in China, and while in Shanghai, Patti discovered that she was blocked from accessing her Gmail account.

I learned from the desk clerk in the hotel we stayed at that all Google services (including Gmail, search and Maps) are blocked in mainland China, as is Yahoo.

We were able to access Google in Taipei and Hong Kong, so we used Gmail there.

I recommend obtaining an alternate email account for China travel. I have several email accounts; my AOL (owned by Verizon) and iCloud (Apple) accounts worked fine, and I was able to exchange emails with my daughter. It’s very helpful to have a viable email address when traveling, especially when dealing with tour guides and hotel reservations.

On this trip, free Wi-Fi was offered at the Bellagio Shanghai hotel, but I couldn’t establish a connection on our iPad, so I went to the front desk. I was told that we could not use Google or Yahoo in China “by policy.” We were using the Google Chrome browser.

Instead, I used the Safari browser to try to establish a Wi-Fi connection, but when I tried to visit (run by Microsoft), I found I needed a code that would be sent by text in order to sign in to the hotel’s Wi-Fi. Since we didn’t have a working cell phone in China on which to recieve a text, the desk person had the access code texted to her phone, then entered it on our iPad. After that, we had full Wi-Fi access.

Even aboard the ship while sailing on toward Japan, we weren’t able to use Google until we were about 50 miles out at sea.


Tarpon Springs, FL