There is free Wi-Fi available in both the Shanghai Pudong International Airport (PVG) and in Shanghai Hong Qiao Airport (SHA). However, if you're not familiar with getting online in China, accessing the Wi-Fi network can be tricky.
For Phones with Local Chinese SIM Cards
If you live in China, or even if you don't live in China if you have a local Chinese SIM card on your mobile phone, the first step is choosing the appropriate wireless network depending on where you are.
- For Pudong International Airport the network name is SPIA-guest
- For Shanghai Hong Qiao Airport the network name is SHA-Airport-FreeWiFi
Next, open your browser. You will be automatically sent to a page that requires you to type in your mobile number. (If the page appears all in Chinese, the box to type in your mobile is the first one. The Mandarin characters will look something like 手机号码.)
Hit submit and wait a few seconds. You should receive a text message with a PIN code that is 4 to 6 digits. Even if you can't read the text message, you'll see a string of 4 or 6 digits. That's the password (or 密码 in Mandarin.) Copy and paste the code back into the browser page (into the second text box where it says 密码) and hit submit again.
You should now be connected and able to enjoy free Wi-Fi.
For Overseas Phones (Roaming)
If you're roaming from overseas, unfortunately getting online is not an easy process.
You need to scan your passport or ID card at a special machine inside the airport terminal. So first, you'll have to find an information desk inside the terminal -- before you start the check-in process. At the Pudong International Airport, the information desk is located in the center of the check-in counters on the entrance side.
At the Shanghai Hong Qiao Airport, the information desk is located in the area of the terminal near the large screens -- before you head to the check-in counters.
The information desk attendants speak English and can help you get access. After you scan your document, you'll be given a PIN. Then you can follow the same instructions as above for local phones. If you're feeling unsure, ask that one of the attendants take you to a machine and lead you through the process.
For Computers and Devices
You'll still need a PIN code to get online with your devices so the same process applies as for the phones.
Using the Internet in China
Your favorite social media apps and news sites are mostly blocked in China -- the Chinese government does not allow access to sites and apps such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal, just to name a few. To continue to access these sites while traveling in China, you'll need to put virtual private network (VPN) software on your phone, computer, and devices. If you know you're going to be traveling in China for a while, then it may be worth looking into buying VPN software.
The other potential problem you may find with the internet in China is the speed, which is very slow and can be frustrating at best, excruciating at worst.
Unfortunately, there is yet to be a software answer to that problem.