Mobile Phones

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) in China, which you can install in your GSM phone. SIM cards are available at airports, railway stations, and mobile phone stores. Recharge or top-up cards (shenzhouxing chongzhi ka) are available at post offices, mobile phone stores, and some news kiosks. 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 ¥300 or more, though depending on the model, don't expect it necessarily to work back in North America.

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 (, can deliver phones to your hotel. Rental costs range from ¥68 to ¥116 a day before airtime (at least ¥7 a minute) and long-distance charges.

Some hotels in Shanghai have also started to make available mobile phones for guests staying in executive level rooms, while one hotel, the Peninsula, offers free VOIP calling to anywhere in the world for all its guests.

Internet & E-mail

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 cybercafes. 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 occasional government crackdowns, has reduced the number of cybercafes, or wangba (literally, "net bar") in town. Where they still exist, most of them are smoke-filled dens full of young Chinese playing online video games. Charges range from ¥3 to ¥5 an hour. These days, you will be asked to show your passport at cybercafes before you are allowed to surf the Net. Hotel business centers with broadband Internet access are the old stand-by, but expect to pay significantly higher rates. The most reliable and the cheapest Internet access can be found at the Shanghai Library (Shanghai Tushuguan), Huaihai Zhong Lu 1557 (tel. 021/6445-2001), in a small office on the ground floor underneath the main entrance staircase. It's open from 9am to 8:30pm daily (¥4 per hr.), and is always packed with Chinese students. Captain Hostel (Chuanzhang Qingnian Jiudian, Fuzhou Lu 37; tel. 021/6323-5053) charges ¥5 for 15 minutes of broadband access.

With Your Own Computer -- These days, many Shanghai hotels offer in-room broadband Internet access. The typical charge is around ¥120 for 24 hours, though an increasing number of hotels are starting to offer it free. If you don't have your own Ethernet cables, hotels can usually provide them, 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, Shangri-La, the Peninsula, the PuLi Hotel and Spa, just to name a few) offering wireless "hot spots" in their lobbies, executive lounges, and boardrooms, and also in their rooms. Charges range from free to ¥120 for 24 hours. There are also many cafes and bars around town offering free Wi-Fi.

Mainland China uses the standard U.S.-style RJ11 telephone jack also used as the port for laptops worldwide. Standard electrical voltage across China is 220v, 50Hz, and most laptops can deal with it.

Newspapers & Magazines

Foreign magazines and newspapers, including USA Today, International Herald Tribune, South China Morning Post, and Asian editions of the Wall Street Journal, Newsweek, and Time, are sold at kiosks in international hotels. For the world according to China's Communist Party, there's the English-language China Daily, distributed free at many hotels. The local version, Shanghai Daily (, a 6-day-a-week newspaper, covers the city with the same propagandistic outlook, but has an occasionally helpful arts and entertainment section appearing on Saturday. Several free, weekly and monthly English-language magazines and newspapers produced expressly for travelers and expatriates in Shanghai such as that's Shanghai, City Weekend, and Shanghai Talk can be useful for entertainment listings (not always accurate) and restaurant reviews. 


The international country code for China is 86. The city code for Shanghai is 021.

To call Shanghai:

1. Dial the international access code: 011 from the U.S. or Canada; 00 from the U.K., Ireland, or New Zealand; or 0011 from Australia.

2. Dial the country code 86 for China.

3. Drop the first zero and dial the city code 21 (for Shanghai) and then the number.

To call within China: Local calls in Shanghai require no city code; just dial the eight-digit Shanghai number (or the three-digit emergency numbers for fire, police, and ambulance). Calls from Shanghai to other locations in China require that you dial the full domestic city code (which always starts with 0). Similarly, if you are calling a Shanghai number from outside the city but within China, dial the city code (021) and then the number. Public pay phones require either a deposit of a ¥1 coin or an IC card ("aicei" ka) available from post offices, most convenience stores, and street stalls.

To make international calls: To make international calls from China, first dial 00 and then the country code (U.S. or Canada 1, U.K. 44, Ireland 353, Australia 61, New Zealand 64). Next you dial the area code and number. For example, if you wanted to call the British Embassy in Washington, D.C., you would dial 00-1-202-588-7800.

You can also use your calling card (AT&T, MCI, or Sprint, for example) to make international (but not domestic) calls from Shanghai. The local access number for AT&T is tel. 10-811; for MCI tel. 10-812; for Sprint tel. 10-813. Check with your hotel for the local access numbers for other companies. The directions for placing an international calling-card call vary from company to company, so check with your long-distance carrier before you leave home. To save money, however, use an IP card (aipi ka), available from post offices, most convenience stores, and street stalls, but bargain for less than the face value of the card (in other words, you should bargain to pay around ¥80 for a ¥100 card). Depending on where you call, a ¥50 card can yield you up to an hour's talk time. Instructions in English should be on the back of the card.

For directory assistance: Dial 114 if you're looking for a number inside Shanghai. If you want numbers for other cities in China, dial zero, the city code, followed by 114. Dial 116 for numbers to all other countries.

For operator assistance: If you need operator assistance in making a call, it's best to ask your hotel for help.

Toll-free numbers: Numbers beginning with 800 within China are toll-free, but calling a 1-800 number in the U.S. from China is not toll-free. In fact, it costs the same as an overseas call.

Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.