What are the best hotels in Shanghai and Beijing in China with unrestricted internet access? Which are the best for Wi-Fi speed and uncensored access?
When you connect to Wi-Fi at your luxury hotel in China, you never know what sort of internet speed and access you will get. You will most probably want to find a hotel that allows guests to circumvent the Great Firewall of China, a sophisticated system that denies online users access to blocked content such as foreign news portals and social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter. In this article, we attempt to help you choose a luxury hotel with decent internet access for your next stay in China.
Why Pick A Hotel With Unrestricted Internet Access?
The Great Firewall of China will stop you from accessing some of the sites that you usually visit outside China for work or leisure, such as Facebook, Twitter, and the New York Times. If you want to catch up on news with your friends or connect to your work or business, you might just find that the blasted firewall stops you. In fact, if you rely on complete internet access for business-critical information when you are traveling, having extremely restricted internet access can be a disaster.
In a survey by the American Chamber of Commerce in China, nearly 80% of the 500 American companies operating in China said that the country’s web filters had a negative impact on their business. It is therefore imperative that you choose a hotel which enables reasonable internet access to the rest of the world.
How Can Some Hotels Offer Better Internet Access Than Others?
They use VPNs. While China routinely blocks sensitive content online, such as searches for the 1989 Tiananmen Square protests. These topics are searchable in China using a VPN connection. VPNs create a tunnel through the Great Firewall, allowing users to access blocked content outside China’s borders. Companies in China routinely use VPNs for their businesses, which Beijing has approved.
The Ministry of Chinese Industry and Information Technology, which is the body that regulates the internet, has more recently limited VPN use to businesses and has stopped hotels officially using VPNs. These services that get around the firewall have been restricted, and hotels must comply.
A notice from the Waldorf Astoria in Beijing, circulated online, said the hotel had stopped offering VPN services. The Park Hyatt Shanghai said it started providing VPN services in 2013, according to a South China Morning Post report, but a hotel spokeswoman said it had stopped providing the service four years ago. The JW Marriott Hotel Chengdu hotel used to provide an internet VPN service, according to the Telegraph. But the hotel ceased the service “given the circumstance in China”.
If you are traveling to China, you shouldn’t expect decent internet access anywhere. Luxury hotels try to comply with the ever-changing rules of the People’s Republic of China and their legal requirements on internet access as they are updated. That said, there ARE variations in internet access and speed depending on the hotel you choose. Some hotels have very good internet connections.
Hotels now use ‘neutered’ VPN accounts with tacit approval from authorities. This internet enhancement enables access to selected sites beyond the Great Firewalls. It won’t get you onto Facebook or YouTube, but it will get you onto Google at a reasonable speed.
The Best Hotels For Internet Access in China
Luxury hotels have been one of the few places that you can find gaps in the Great Firewall. Guests of Crowne Plaza, Hilton, and Shangri-La hotels in Beijing tend to enjoy a decent connection and can still access some blocked websites, while others remain off-limits.
Reuters visited the InterContinental and Crowne Plaza in Beijing, both owned by InterContinental Hotels Group, where Google and Gmail were unblocked. A worker at the Hilton Beijing hotel said the same sites should be accessible.
According to Fortune, A worker at the Pangu 7 Star Hotel in Beijing, owned by exiled tycoon Guo Wengui, said guests could get full internet access, including sites like Facebook and Twitter, through its VPN-enabled “Pangu global” Wi-Fi network.
Our own research has found, Le Meridian Shanghai apparently offers no Google or major news sites access, whereas, at the Sheraton Hongqiao Shanghai, unrestricted internet access was recently reported. The Sheraton Hongkou Shanghai is hit, or miss but The Hongta Hotel, a Luxury Collection Hotel in, Shanghai is almost always heavily restricted.
In terms of luxury hotels, the internet at the Mandarin Oriental in Shanghai is rather slow and extremely restricted. The Fairmont Peace Hotel in Shanghai has ordinary restricted internet, and the internet at the Peninsula Shanghai is also slow and restricted. The complimentary internet at both Four Seasons hotels is decent, and there is an option to pay for premium access which is markedly faster.
Bottom line, in Shanghai, there’s is usually no problem in accessing Google and news sites from either Four Seasons or the Park Hyatt, so these are the ones to pick. All three are great choices and both Four Seasons hotels have some of the best club lounges in Shanghai.
So when choosing between Four Seasons Shanghai vs. Four Seasons Pudong vs. Mandarin Oriental vs. Peninsula luxury hotels in Shanghai, pick the Four Seasons Shanghai or Four Seasons Pudong for the best internet access.
Outside Beijing and Shanghai, the Hyatts in Shenzhen and Guangzhou have very restricted and almost unusable internet access.
You can set up your own personal VPN before you travel to China. The websites of some VPN companies are blocked in China, so be careful which one you choose.
Restrictions on the internet in China depend on the prevailing political wind. Sometimes you’ll have it, and sometimes you won’t, even at the same property. These restrictions are unbearable for some, who like to stay constantly connected. If you need to be connected, the Four Seasons hotels across China are usually your best bet.
Book any Four Seasons luxury hotel via our luxury travel concierge and you will get great free benefits at no extra cost:
- Breakfast for two people per bedroom
- Food, beverage, or spa credit of $100 USD per stay
- Upgrade of one category, based on availability at time of check-in (this usually excludes suites)
- Early check-in / late check-out (subject to availability)
- Complimentary basic Internet in all guest rooms
- Complimentary welcome gift (usually a box of chocs, bottle of wine, etc)
Best Hotels In China For Business Or Leisure
Whether you are traveling to China on business or leisure, we recommend booking a hotel with a club lounge so that all your drinks and snacks are covered, and you have a place to retreat to. The Four Seasons hotels in China also tend to have a club lounge, and we pick the best hotel club lounges in China below:
Best Club Lounges In Beijing And Shanghai
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