Traveling within China has its enchantments and challenges. One of the challenges? Finding a way to navigate the where, what, when, how, and why in an environment that’s so large and immensely enriching can be in a word, difficult.
An integral and incredibly helpful instrument in making one’s journey within China easier is a SIM card for international data usage. Although the process of getting a SIM card in China may seem arduous, it is surprisingly simple.
So what are the steps one needs to take to get a SIM card? Here is our step-by-step guide.
1. Unlock your phone/Bring an unlocked phone
Before heading out to buy a SIM card, make sure your phone is unlocked. A SIM card purchased from a China mobile carrier will not be compatible with an existing mobile carrier outside of China.
The iPhone 6s and iPhone 6 plus are already unlocked. To ensure a smooth process before leaving for China, inform your mobile carrier of your travels and ask them to unlock the phone.
Another great option is to bring an old phone that is no longer in use. If you’ve updated your phone and have an old one lying around, dust it off and bring it with you.
2. Don’t forget your passport!
Make sure to bring your passport, it’s needed to buy a SIM card if you are a foreigner.
3. Pick a Chinese mobile carrier
The three best reviewed mobile carriers in China are, China Telecom, 中国电信, China Mobile, 中国移动, and China Unicom, 中国联通.
4. Buy a SIM card and pick the best data plan for you.
To buy a SIM card, go to any China Unicom store or mobile phone vendor. Data plans in China are inexpensive.
The average cost of a SIM card and data plan is: RMB66 - RMB118 monthly prepaid.
A standard plan includes:
- 50 - 1hr minutes of outgoing calls
- 240-300 outgoing SMS
- 300MB of 3G data or 4G data (additional cost but best option)
- Incoming calls and SMS are free
- Overage charge for outgoing calls are 0.2 RMB/minute anywhere in China.
- Overage charge for data is billed at 0.3 RMB/MB, or 30RMB per 100MBs.
5. Enjoy using your phone!
Once you’ve selected the desired data plan, the mobile expert will insert the SIM card into your phone and you will be able to use your phone immediately.
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