Nowadays living without data or Wifi make you feel disconnected from the world When you come to China, it’s crucial to have a Chinese SIM card in order to make phone calls and to surf the internet to make your life easier. The good news is that data roaming fee is now cancelled since 1st July, 2018, meaning province data flows of new and old users will be upgraded to domestic data-flows.
Here is a step-by-step guide with all the information you may need to get a Chinese SIM card.
Major Chinese Mobile Network Providers
Step 1: Know the major Mobile Network providers in China There are three big mobile network providers in China: China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom. Please check each of their packages and plans in terms of the calling hours and data. Choose the option based on your own needs. You could also dial service center to ask for information in English:
- China Mobile: 10086
- China Unicom: 10010
- China Telecom: 10000
If you need to make international calls, it is suggested to use WeChat or Skype (This method of calling is not covered in this article). If you wish to add international calls to your account, you have to pay a deposit and the rates may differ per country.
Step 2: Buying a SIM Card Preparation
- An Unlocked phone
- Passport with a valid Chinese Visa
- Cash, bank card, or WeChat Pay/Alipay
Locations: Option 1: Offline stores of the three providers or mobile phone vendors.
- Go to one of the major stores in any of the malls in China.
- Ask for the mobile package that you want, or simply point to the brochure which lists all the packages they provide.
- Show your passport.
- Tell the staff which SIM card size you want: Normal, Micro or Nano. (See picture below)
- Purchase and register.
Sim Cards have the following sizes: Standard, Micro, NanoUseful sentences:
- I would like to buy a sim card = 我想买一个电话卡
- I would like to buy a sim card = 我想买一个电话卡。
- Can you show me your promotion? = 你们有什么优惠活动吗？
- I would like to have more data = 我要流量多一点。
- I would like to have more minutes = 我要通话多一点。
- I will be in China as a tourist = 我在中国是短暂旅游。
- I wish to cancel my sim card after my departure from China= 我离开中国需要取消卡号。
- How much do I have to pay? = 我要付多少钱？
- I would like to make international calls = 我想开通国际漫游。
- Can you find someone who can speak English? = 你可以找一个会英语的员工吗？
Options 2: Order a SIM card on Chinese official websites All the packages and services can be found on Chinese official sites of these three mobile carriers. If you have friends who can help you with Chinese, you can simply order a SIM card online. It will be delivered to you in a couple of days.
Mobile Top Up The easiest way to top up is by Alipay or WeChat Wallet. Otherwise you could simply go to shopfronts, counters or official stores of your mobile carriers or the official websites of the providers to top up.
Cancel or keep your card when planning to leave China There is not a clear cancellation policy but officially they require you to cancel your sim card when you leave China. Some sim cards will be automatically cancelled after running out of money or an expired date. Please do not forget asking for this when you buy the sim card and cancel your sim card while leaving China for a long time. You could also choose to keep the number while not staying in China, this needs to be asked to provider.