Apps, smartphones and social media


Your smart phone is a powerful computer, so use it during your travels. (Tip: Invest in a usb power bank. Always make sure that your computer and phone is charged, specifically when you go through a port of entry and customs.)

Language & Translation:

Google Translate has a lot of great functionality  (or Pleco Chinese Dictionary if you are in China). And if you want to learn a language try Duolingo.


There are so many different options, but check whether a service is available in a specific country.

Some of the options:

  • Going to China, use WeChat (Cool article by TechCrunch: The many ways of WeChat)
  • Whatsapp
  • Telegram
  • Viber
  • Line
  • Signal (For people caring about their privacy.)

Normally, you end up using a messenger app which are also used by your friends and what your context / environment allows. And in some cases you can use more than one messenger app.

Use apps which you are comfortable with and have used before.

Using your phone to pay:

Using your phone to pay for whatever you need in China.


Using Public Wi-Fi Networks:

There are risks in using public Wi-Fi networks that is accessible to anyone to use.  Here are links to articles providing tips and suggestions to stay safe:

For privacy and personal security the use of a VPN (Virtual Private Network) is always a good idea. Check out the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s advice regarding VPN’s.

Here are some “Tips, Tools and How-tos for Safer Online Communications” from the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

Also, if you are traveling to China, keep the following in mind regarding the use of VPN’s.

Backup & Storage:

Backup! Backup! Backup! Curate! Curate! Curate!

Use an external hard drive to back up your laptop; in most cases though a good cloud storage option will do what is required and needed.

Dropbox, Google Drive,  One Drive or Evernote: We would recommend that you use one of these services to save copies of your passport, flight tickets and reservations on them. They can also be used to save all your photos, as well as sharing your photos with friends and family. Just read the terms and conditions.

Password Managers:

Your safest password is the one you can’t remember, so think about using a password manager.

Basecamp provides specific information to their employees for when they travel. The purpose is to protect the personal privacy of their employees, but also to ensure the safety of company  secrets and intellectual property. Some of the tips they provide in their handbook for employees can also be useful for academic researchers and staff.

Here is a cool article by Lifehacker in terms of how to keep your data safe. It seems however that if the Laptop ban are implemented world-wide, things will get a bit more complicated. See these articles from Dan Gillmour and  Cory Doctorow, in terms of how to deal with the new challenges.