With Your Own Computer

It's just possible that your ISP has a low-cost local access number in China, but that's unlikely. Never mind, because there's free, anonymous dial-up access across most of China. When, in the "Fast Facts" section of a city in this book, you see "Dial-up is . . . ," you can connect by time of the year. There are no online services offering Chinese hotel rooms at discounts lower than you can get for yourself, whatever they may tell you. See "Saving on Your Hotel Room," under "Tips on Accommodations," later in this chapter.

using the number we've provided, and by making the account name and password the same as the dial-up number. Speeds vary but are usually fine for checking e-mail directly, although they're variable for checking mail via a Web interface. The service is paid for through a tiny increment in the low cost of a local phone call. Many hotels advertising "free Internet" simply mean that they don't charge you at all for calls to these numbers.

Another option in larger cities is to buy an Internet access card (wangka). These are on sale at newspaper kiosks, phone stores, convenience stores, and department stores, and usually allow more rapid connection speeds. The back of the card (always bought for less than its face value—bargain the price well down) has instructions in English. Scratch off the panel on the back of the card, call the administration number provided, and give the card number, a contact phone number (any hotel will do), and your passport number; English is usually spoken but get hotel desk staff to assist just in case. Use the dial-up number and account number on the back of the card, and the password from behind the scratch-off panel. Online time usually costs well under ¥1 (15i) an hour. Warning: Many cards are only usable in the city where they are purchased.

Mainland China uses the standard U.S.-style RJ11 telephone jack also used as the port for laptops worldwide. Cables with RJ11 jacks at both ends can be picked up for around $1

Online Traveler's Toolbox

• The Oriental-List. A noncommercial mailing list dedicated solely to the discussion of travel in China, moderated to keep it on-topic and spam-free by the developer and co-author of this book, offering swift answers to just about any China travel question not already dealt with in these pages. Send e-mail to [email protected] xianzai.com.

• On-line Chinese Tools (www.mandarintools.com). Dictionaries for Mac and Windows, facilities for finding yourself a Chinese name, Chinese calendars for conversion between the solar and lunar calendars (on which most Chinese festivals are based), and more.

• Zhongwen.com (www.zhongwen.com). Online dictionary with lookup of English and Chinese and explanations of Chinese etymology using a system of family trees.

• Xianzai.com (www.xianzai.com). Order free e-mail bulletins of entertainment listings for Beijing, Shanghai, Guangdong, and Dalian, which include special offers for hotels and air tickets from China.

• Visa ATM Locator (www.visa.com), for locations of PLUS ATMs worldwide; or MasterCard ATM Locator (www.mastercard.com), for locations of Cirrus ATMs worldwide.

• Weatherbase (www.weatherbase.com) gives month-by-month averages for temperature and rainfall in individual cities in China. Intel-licast (www.intellicast.com) and Weather.com (www.weather.com) give weather forecasts for cities around the world.

• Universal Currency Converter (www.xe.com/ucc). Latest exchange rates of any currency against the ¥RMB, HK$, and MOP$.

• Travel Warnings See http://travel.state.gov/travel_warnings.html, www.fco.gov.uk/travel, and www.voyage.gc.ca,www.dfat.gov.au/ consular/advice.

in department stores and electrical shops without difficulty. In Hong Kong and Macau, however, phone connections are often to U.K. standards, although in better hotels an RJ11 socket is provided. Standard electrical voltage across China is 220v, 50Hz, which most laptops can deal with, but North American users in particular should check. For power socket information, see "Fast Facts," later in this chapter.

Those with on-board Ethernet can take advantage of broadband services in major hotels in China, which are sometimes free. Ethernet cables are often provided but it's best to bring your own. Details are given under each hotel listing. Occasionally Internet access is provided via the TV and a keyboard with an infra-red link, but this is slow and clumsy. At least one Beijing hotel (the Kempinski) and some Hong Kong hotels now have wireless access in public areas for those with a wireless card installed.

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