How to write a blog from China to share your adventures

When I told friends about our big move from the US to China, many said I should write a blog to share my adventures with them and to stay connected. Back then I didn’t think much about it. I wasn’t even very active on Facebook, and I definitely didn’t feel like a blogger.

So when I eventually started How to blog from Chinathis website, I didn’t want it to be a personal blog for friends and family, but more a resource for new expats. The Beijing Expat Guide is my very first website, and I learned a lot along the way, including dealing with some China-specific challenges.

Some of you may have had the same conversations as I had about sharing your new life in a blog. If you consider starting a blog in China, or continuing your existing blog from China, keep reading. (This post contains affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission if you buy services using the links here, at no extra cost to you. Thank you for supporting the Beijing Expat Guide this way!)

You need VPN to access typical blogger platforms

Many bloggers use free blogging platforms like blogger.com or wordpress.com. Unfortunately, those are not accessible in China without a VPN. (Read more about why you need a VPN in China, as well as some recommendations for the best VPNs for China expats). In general, websites with the word “blog” in the URL may be blocked in China.

So if you already have a blog on one of these platforms and you want to continue from China you need to have VPN.

Over the last years, China has been increasingly cracking down on foreign VPN services. Even though there are many different VPN providers to choose from, many don’t work too well, especially lately. My personal favorite VPN is ExpressVPN, but there are plenty of others that work well. (Bonus: Get 3 months of free service with ExpressVPN when you use the links on the Beijing Expat Guide)

A Self-Hosted Website is a Good Alternative

If you are willing to pay a small hosting fee, you can have your website hosted with one of the many hosting companies like Bluehost, HostGator, GoDaddy, to name just a few. The advantages are that you can select your own website name without having blogspot, wordpress or such part of your URL.

You can still use the WordPress framework on a self-hosted site and have many options available to design and customize your website with different themes and plugins.

The Beijing Expat Guide is hosted with Bluehost. I use WordPress with a Genesis theme and a variety of plugins to speed up and secure the site.

Some Hosting Companies are More Accessible in China

Smaller websites are usually hosted on a shared server because this is the least expensive option. That means your website has the same IP address as other websites hosted on the same server. Here lies a danger for China… If one of the other websites on the server is blocked in China because of its content, your site will be blocked too. Just because it shares the same IP address. The great firewall of China filters by IP and not by website name – something I learned when I helped someone with his coffee website that you couldn’t access from within China. Coffee!

My research revealed that the known cheapest hosting providers may be a bit more vulnerable to this issue. To avoid it you could pay for a dedicated server but that is much more expensive. Or you could use a hosting company with a better track record. I would not use a Chinese hosting company though. The cheaper ones are all in Chinese, and if they have an English interface they are more expensive than international web hosting services.

I have not had any issues with access in China with Bluehost web hosting. Not for the Beijing Expat Guide or other websites I’m involved with. I actually moved the blocked coffee website I was helping from GoDaddy to Bluehost, which restored access. I can only recommend using Bluehost for hosting your website.

Write and publish your adventures in China

With the right setup, you can easily share your new experiences with your family, friends and the world. Many resources describe in detail how to get started with a blog or website in general. Now you also know what it takes to blog from China.

If you have a blog about your life in China feel free to share the link and a little info about it in the comments below.

Comments

How to write a blog from China to share your adventures — 17 Comments

  1. Thank you for this useful information. I am about to try to tour Xinjiang etc. and wanted to share experiences with friends, Bluehost seems to be the way to go.

  2. Hi Gina,
    Thank you so much for writing this blog about practical tips when visiting China. I found it very helpful when I went to check out the sites I am going to use for my upcoming watercolor workshop in March 2018. I wanted to be able to share my experiences with potential participants on FB and Instagram, as well as write in more detail on my blog while I was in China 2 weeks ago. The VPN info you gave was extremely useful, and based on your advice I signed up for VyprVPN and it worked! Thank you!
    My blog is whereintheworldiseva.blogspot.com
    If you know expats that might be interested in participating in my watercolor workshop in Xixinan, close to Huangshan, Anhui Province, please let me know. Detailed description is on my website.
    thanks again, and Happy Thanksgiving!
    Warm regards,
    Eva

    • Thank you for your kind words about my blog Eva! Best of luck with your own blog and watercolor workshop!

  3. Hi, I am going to sign up to BlueHost
    It’s part blog part keeping in touch tool for my boyfriend and I (he will be staying in London for a year before joning me)
    Which option is best, basic, prime, pro etc?
    Also, will I need a VPN in addition to this? If so do you still recommend Vypr?
    I’m not very good at ‘techy’ things, so perhaps this wont make a difference but I am based in Hangzhou.

    Thanks

    • Hi Sarah, I think the basic account a Bluehost is absolutely sufficient for a standard blog.
      Bluehost also offers (for a fee) to install WordPress for you, but it is easy enough for a non-techie to do without having to pay someone. There are many free tutorials online, also on YouTube.
      You won’t need VPN for your blog in China if it is self-hosted (like with Bluehost). But you still want to get a VPN if you want to access Facebook and other social media that is usually blocked in China. If you mostly use Gmail, keep in mind that everything Google is often blocked or agonizingly slow. I still recommend VyprVPN. With their Basic package, you get 2 simultaneous connections, so you can use it on your computer and phone at the same time. The Pro offers special technology called Chameleon that is especially made for China and other countries that actively try to block VPNs. I usually don’t need it in Beijing. You could start with a basic plan and upgrade later if you need.

  4. Hi, thanks for great website! I was wondering if you have any experience with bluehost china? I’m working on a website that will be targeted towards mainlanders and was thinking of hosting it in Hong Kong with them.

    Many thanks!
    Anna

    • Thank you Anna!
      I don’t have experience with Bluehost China hosting in Hong Kong, sorry. But I had a quick look, and it seems a great solution for targeting the Chinese market without the hassle of hosting the website in China. Having English speaking support and many language options for their admin panel is a plus in my eyes. I have used their support a few times and was very happy with it. But I think the biggest plus is that you can host on a server in HK for quicker access from the mainland. Best of luck with your website!

  5. Hello, I run a health food site in Canada, but I’d like to tap into the Chinese market. I get a lot of views from Taiwan, because I studied basic Chinese there so have been able to use my social media reach in that country. Many of my Taiwanese friends cant really speak english and have been successfully using Google Translate to make some of my recipes.

    In order to access the Chinese market, I needed 2 things. 1) A host that is not blocked in China (thanks for your advice on this article)….

    But a bigger challenge is 2) I tested a Google Translate widget which automatically translate my site to whatever language is default in the reader’s browser.

    Except, Google is blocked. Microsoft has a similar translation widget I can add into my HTML, but again, it is blocked in China.

    Does Baidu or any of the Chinese sites have an equivalent? I’m putting it out here cause I thought maybe you tried a similar tool so that some of your local chinese friends\colleagues can read your blog.

    The only other option is to create a separate page, and copy and paste from Google Translate. I know its not ideal, but my level of Chinese isn’t good enough to translate. And google translate seems to work well enough in Taiwan for people not to mess up my recipes.

    • As far as I know Baidu has a translation tool for websites, similar to Google. You may also be able to use a translation WordPress plugin on your website if your website is on WordPress.
      Best of luck with your health food site in China!

  6. Hello! Since this post is a year old, I was wondering if it is still accurate. I have a successful book blog on literogo.com (registered domain) which operated through WordPress.com (not a self-hosted WordPress.org site) and I’m planning to transfer it to whichever will be my most reliable option in China. Is BlueHost still the best option?

    I’m moving to Shanghai in August, so I’ve got a couple of months to sort this out. Any advice would be most welcome!

    • Hi Katherine,

      Yes, not much has really changed. Bluehost still works well for me, and I have not heard otherwise.
      (The link here is an affiliate link, so if you use it to buy your hosting I will earn a small commission, at no extra cost for you. Thank you for supporting my website!)
      Even though you should be able to access your self-hosted domain directly, I would still suggest to get a VPN service.
      Although there are random days when usually blocked sites are accessible without VPN, normally all Western social media is blocked. Also Gmail and other Google services are often blocked.
      Best of luck with your move and all the best for your blog!

  7. Pingback: TWCC40 - Blogging and Social Media in China, Episode 40

  8. Aloha, I was a designer in California for over 20 years & I like to share any design I made or can make that any company may also want to build it.

  9. Hello friend,

    Are you still in Beijing? My wife and I will be passing thru Beijing on the way to Vietnam and would like to get some advice…

    Cheers,
    Tommy and Thanh Hong