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If you are coming to China for travel, work or living — and you are a self respecting citizen of our modern world — then you will need a China SIM card in order to stay connected to the web through your mobile phone and to make calls (or SMS text messages, but I don’t know anybody who still uses SMS now in the days of Facebook messenger, What's app, LINE, We Chat, and Kakao Talk). You will also probably want to get a VPN so you can connect to Facebook, Google, and YouTube.

In most Asian countries that I have travelled to it is usually a breeze to get a pre-paid SIM card. They are cheap, easy to recharge credits, and you can get connected in virtually a couple minutes. Just make sure that your phone is already  unlocked, and you will have no trouble using a new SIM.

China mobile networks operates much in the same  way, however there are a few wrinkles that you should be aware of — so here is a guide to help you figure out which SIM card to get when you come to China.

The Big 3 Mobile Carriers in China

China Mobile, 中国移动

Whats the Best China Sim Card?
The largest mobile carrier with about 70% market share. China Mobile shopfronts are EVERYWHERE in China. So even if you for some unknown reason find yourself out in rural-nowhere China, you might not be able to find a real toilet, but at least you will still be able to get a SIM card there.

Coverage: Very good. Virtually everywhere in China.


  • 2G GSM Service is compatible with any quad-band unlocked phone.
  • 3G service is based on a weird Chinese-made TD-SCDMA standard, which unfortunately is not compatible with any phones from outside China. If you brought your own phone from outside China, you will not be able to use 3G on China Mobile’s Network.

China Unicom, 中国联通

The 2nd largest mobile carrier in China, and is the only carrier that has 3G that will work with phones from outside China.

Coverage: China Unicom coverage is not as extensive as China Mobile, but is still very good. It covers nearly 90% of the population, so chances are you will be covered wherever you are.


  • 2G GSM Service compatible with any quad-band unlocked phone.
  • 3G UMTS compatible with any unlocked phone that supports 2100mhz 3G, which covers most modern smartphones. HSPA+ with the highest downloading speed up to 42Mbps service recently launched in most major cities, which again, just requires any 2100MHz smart phone.

China Telecom, 中国电信

China Telecom uses a CDMA network which is incompatible virtually all phones purchased outside China. If you are thinking of purchasing a phone that only works in China (why you would do that, I have no idea), then I guess you could look at China Telecom. Otherwise, pass on it.

Best Mobile Carrier VERDICT: China Unicom