Ways to Get a SIM Card for Your Mobile in Shenzhen China

(Last Modified: 2019-07-10 11:53:01    Author: jinyu)

For foreigners visiting to China, they may encounter the problem of telephone communication. Some of them haven't noticed the importance to get a Chinese SIM card, and some are just not doing it wisely.

cover for mobile SIM China

In this article, we will analyze into reasons why foreigners need a Chinese mobile SIM card, and will introduce possible solutions for choosing appropriate services from major providers. Situations here are based on that of Shenzhen, but those information and suggestions are still relevant to conditions in the rest cities of China.

Why You Need it?

1. It is saving money. As we all known that international phone calls are much expensive than local communications. Meanwhile, with the roaming status activated, mobile data charge become costly when you are glancing over Facebook pages, email lists, or are sending messages via Apps.

Below are some rates information from T-Mobile, Vodafone UK, SFR, O2, and EE for roaming in Mainland China:

Table 1 - Rates for International Roaming
Company Call Data Plan Charge Remark
T-Mobile Free 3GB of 4GLTE $160/mo. 4 lines Magenta®
Data Source
Vodafone UK Free to Receive unknown £6/day Data Source
SFR 30 min 10 MB €25/7 days Data Source
O2 N/A N/A N/A Out of Service Area
Data Source
EE £1.8/min 500MB/£6 unknown Data Source

From the above table, we can see that charging rates for international roaming are more expensive than that of normal conditions, let alone undocumented fees for extra cost, provisional cost or underlying prices.

Compared to foreign services, the rates from Chinese service providers are dirt-cheap:

Table 2 - Rates for Chinese SIM Cards
Company Call Data Plan Charge Remark
China Mobile ¥0.2/min 2GB
¥0.29.MB for Extra
¥50/mo. Data Source
China Unicom free for 300min
¥0.1/min for Extra
Unlimited ¥50/mo. 2 affiliate SIM Available
Data Source
China Telecom ¥0.15/min ¥1/GB ¥50/mo. Data Source

The prices presented above are just standard rates from local official websites. For special services such as daily rental SIM, promotional SIM, or basic network pack, price can be cheaper.

2. It is more credible. Calling with a phone number headed with 0086 to local users will increase the chance of being raised. This is because a large number of frauds are calling their targets by disguising those incoming phone numbers as foreign ones.

Therefore, service provider will launch a pop-up reminder for all calls which are coming from abroad. When you call your Chinese friends or customers with the original SIM card, they may see this:

alert SMS for foreign calls

Translation of the above text message: "[China Mobile] Honorable user, hello! This phone call XXXXXX is coming from abroad. Please be careful of related risks." Thus, a new friend may have problems before you reaching to him.

3. It is good for business partners. Some of you may think that calling might not be a big headache during the short time travel, however, things will be a little different when condition reversed: Your Chinese peers are enduring from international calling.

Taking China Mobile as an example, here are its international calling rates for USA, Britain, Germany, Spain, UAE, Australia and Brazil.

Table 3 - Rates for International Calls of China Mobile
Country Rate
USA ¥0.49/min
Britain ¥0.88/6s or ¥6.88/min
Germany ¥0.88/6s or ¥6.88/min
Spain ¥0.88/6s or ¥6.88/min
UAE ¥0.88/6s or ¥6.88/min
Australia ¥0.99/min
Brazil ¥0.88/6s or ¥6.88/min

Here is more information about rate of calling to other countries. People hesitate to call out not only because the costly bill, but also due to complicated procedures of activating international calls.

Meanwhile, one may have problems to use Wechat, Alipay, which are popular social and paying platforms in China here with foreign numbers.

How to Get it?

Can foreigners get it normally in service center? Yes. According to 《电话用户真实身份信息登记规定》 (English: Phone Users True Identity Information Registration Requirements), foreign citizen's passport is valid for application of SIM card.

China Mobile service center

However, In Shenzhen, we found situations of foreigners being rejected by the working staff from applying a local SIM card. In order to reduce troubles, we now offer the following suggestions:

  • Choose bigger service centers. Although there are lots of map results or shops labeled as "中国移动 (China Mobile)", some of them are just mobile phone shops without any card service. Moreover, it's easy for Chinese individuals to be franchised by service providers where only Chinese service is available. So, going to bigger service centers next time when you are rejected.
  • Understand their problems. As above mentioned, some of the service shop owners are just affiliation of major carriers, and they may have problems of communication, foreign identification verification, or approving of special applications. Taking their advice when more options are available.
  • Ask some friends for help. It's a great help if you have a Chinese friend here. As foreigners SIM card may takes a lot of procedures (picture taking, passport scanning, data transmitting, consultation, or translation), doing those for a Chinese will be quick and easy.
  • Make service call. If there is no service center near you, calling directly to carriers for help is a good try. All of the 3 service providers are offering English services. For China Mobile, call 0086-10086; for China Unicom, call 0086-10010; for China Telecom, call 0086-10000.
  • Try to bribe. When choices are limited, trying to pay extra money is feasible. Some of shop owners are not willing to offer services to foreigners just because they do not want to bother. However, their final purpose is making profit. If you pay ¥70 for a card of ¥50, some of them will be happy for the margin and will manage to get the things you want.

FAQs for Getting Mobile SIM in China

Q: How to Get the Cheapest Cards?

A: Yes, what table 2 shows are just popular SIM card services with standard rates. If you want to get the rock-bottom price which contains basic functions, go and ask the service staff for the cheapest one, as all of them are encouraged to recommend profitable packs to their customers.

Q: How to make sure my phone is available to use in China?

A: Available bands or frequency ranges in China may be different from that of your country. We have 1880 - 1900 MHz, 2320 - 2370 MHz, 2575 - 2635 MHz, 2300 - 2320 MHz, 2555 - 2575 MHz, 2370 - 2390 MHz and 2635 - 2655 MHz available here. It's better to ask or check online from your service provider to confirm the availability.

Q: Are there any disadvantages of buying a Chinese SIM card?

A: Yes, sure. Outbound mobile data traffic using local SIM to social platforms like Google, Facebook or Twitter has been blocked by GFW. Meanwhile, the chance of getting spam SMS will be increased.

Q: I am in China now, my phone is dead. How can I do?

A: Buying a new phone here may not cost much. There are many options to buy a cheap Android phone at around $100. Some shops sell both mobile phones and SIM cards.

Q: How can I recharge my balance?

A: Options for recharging: 1. going to service center with cash; 2. going to convenience stores for recharging cards or related services; 3. finding online 3rd party service like Taobao; 4. Doing in Apps like Wechat, Alipay, or carriers' Apps.

Q: I am in Beijing (not in Shenzhen), can I use the suggestions here?

A: Yes. All above situations are nearly the same around China, with slight differences between cities. So, advices here are generic. If you find and exceptions or mistakes, please feel free to contact us.

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