Getting a local China prepaid SIM card with data is the first thing I do when arriving in Beijing, Shanghai or Guangzhou in International Airport. Most of time I will need to call someone or want to check my email inbox after getting off the plane.
To be honest, I don’t feel safe walking around big cities in China without a working mobile phone anyway. If you are like me, you should definitely stop by a shop to buy a SIM card before getting on a transfer to the hotel. Buying a China prepaid SIM card is not so easy because all carrier need passport check/registration, especially most of Chinese can not speak English.
But do keep in mind that there are theree wireless service providers in China. Each provider has its own prepaid SIM card products with different benefits and features. Most importantly, some SIM card products don’t offer 3G wireless data access.
The difficult part is choosing the right SIM card for your needs. This is especially critical if you have a smartphone and need 3G data during your stay in China.
Does Your Phone Work In China?
Before I give you a comparison of the different China prepaid SIM cards that I recommend, you should first make sure that your mobile phone will work in China. China Unicom use the UMTS/HSDPA frequency of 2100 MHz. Make sure your phone supports this frequency in order to have full 3G speed. If 3G high speed data is not important to you or you don’t use a smartphone, you should check to see if your phone supports the GSM 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies. These 2G frequencies are supported by most phones nowadays.
Next, you must have an unlocked phone to use prepaid SIM cards in China. If you bought your phone from your wireless provider with a discount, chances are your phone is locked by your provider. You can search online to see how you can unlock it. If you have an iPhone and you didn’t buy it from an Apple Store, it should be locked and you need to unlock it first before taking it to China.
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