Visiting China soon? Make sure to know what to expect when it comes to purchasing a China SIM card.
Fortunately, Asia is one of the best places where you can buy a SIM card easily. You should be able to find a cheap SIM card pretty much anywhere in Asia. In fact, most data packages are affordable, which makes the whole thing easier!
In this guide, we’ll explain where to buy a SIM card in China in person and online. We’ll also discuss prepaid SIM cards and eSIMs if your mobile supports them.
Before you read this guide, you may wonder if you actually need a SIM card in China. If you don’t mind not having Internet, you’ll likely find free Wifi in restaurants, shopping malls, and hotels.
That said, if you need data to get around, call a cab, or translate Chinese – you may want to get a SIM card for your travels in China.
Best SIM Cards In China
If you’re traveling in China, we recommend using a SIM card from China Unicom, China Mobile, China Telecom, or Airalo. (I’ll get back to Airalo later on, so keep reading to learn more!)
That said, if you’re planning on visiting other countries during your trip to Asia, you might want to make sure to pick an option that offers coverage in other Asian countries.
How To Buy A SIM Card In China
You can either buy a China prepaid SIM card in person in some international airports, mobile provider stores, convenience stores, or online.
Usually, you can expect higher costs and low data offers at the airport, so we don’t recommend buying a SIM card at the airport. That said, you won’t necessarily find SIM card shops in every airport, so it’s essential to keep this in mind. And, when you see a shop, you might also have limited options.
For this reason, I’d recommend buying a SIM card directly from the mobile provider store. Note that you may need your passport to buy one.
Planning your upcoming adventures? Travel by bus! (It’s cheap!)
Although, this means you won’t get data right upon your arrival. So, if you prefer to be connected at all times, you could use an eSIM or purchase an Asia prepaid SIM card online.
Now, let’s take a look at the data plans offered by China Unicom, China Mobile, and China Telecom.
China Unicom SIM Cards
China Unicom offers a variety of prepaid SIM card plans. The most relevant for tourists include:
- 10 GB data, valid for 30 days, for CNY 20 ($80)
- 20 GB data, valid for 30 days, for CNY 40 ($100)
- 30 GB data, valid for 30 days, for CNY 60 ($120)
China Mobile SIM Cards
China Mobile has several plans available for inbound tourists:
- 2 GB data, valid for 30 days for USD 48
- 3 GB data, valid for 30 days for USD 80
- 18 GB data, valid for 30 days for USD 198
China Telecom SIM Cards
China Telecom offers a number of SIM-only plans for local users:
- 30 GB, valid for 30 days, CNY 129 ($19.12)
- 40 GB, valid for 30 days, CNY 159 ($23.57)
- 100 GB, valid for 30 days, CNY 229 ($33.95)
Please note, the China Telecom website is in Chinese and is difficult to use.
Overall, we think China Unicom is the best option if you plan to buy your SIM card in person. That said, any would do if you can’t find their store!
How To Buy A China Prepaid SIM Card Online
If you wish to have your SIM card ready for your arrival, you could purchase it online or on websites like Amazon.
You’ll find different plans on Amazon. For example, the Prepaid Asia-Pacific SIM card works in more than 17 countries and gives you unlimited data for 14 days. China is included.
But there are many other options worth considering, so have a look and make sure the countries you plan on visiting are listed.
Another option is to purchase a prepaid Asian SIM card on Simify. This works if you live in the United States or Australia. They currently offer 3 different packages that cover China:
- 5 GB, valid for 15 days for $30 – works in China & Hong Kong
- 6 GB, valid for 30 days for $35 – works in China & Hong Kong
- 6 GB, valid for 15 days for $40 – works in 18 countries
Finally, the last option is to buy an eSIM card for China or, if you’re traveling to multiple countries, an eSIM plan for Asia.
How To Buy An eSIM Card For China
eSIM is a new concept allowing you to have a virtual SIM card inside your phone. If your mobile phone supports eSIM cards – it’s definitely one of the best options to get data in China.
Curious? Learn more about eSIMs for travelers on eSIM Roamers.
I started using eSIM as soon as my mobile phone supported it in 2021. To buy eSIMs, I usually use Airalo. Keep reading to learn more about the best eSIMs for China.
If you want to buy an eSIM for China, you could purchase one on Airalo. This website offers many eSIM cards worldwide and special plans for Asia and China. I’ve been using Airalo for several months, and it works fine.
Here are the options available:
- Chinacom: 1 GB, valid for 7 days for $5
- Chinacom: 2 GB, valid for 15 days for $8.50
- Chinacom: 3 GB, valid for 30 days for $11.50
- Chinacom: 5 GB, valid for 30 days for $16.50
- Chinacom: 10 GB, valid for 30 days for $28
Here’s an overview of the options available for Asia:
- 1 GB, valid for 7 days for $5
- 3 GB, valid for 30 days for $13
- 5 GB, valid for 30 days for $20
- 10 GB, valid for 30 days for $37
- 50 GB, valid for 90 days for $100
- 100 GB, valid for 180 days for $185
The options mentioned above are part of Asialink and offer coverage in 13 countries, including China.
Alternatively, if you’re traveling in other countries that are not mentioned on the list, you can try Discover Global, which offers coverage in 87 countries, including China.
Here’s an overview of the options available on Discover Global:
- 1 GB, valid for 7 days for $9
- 3 GB, valid for 15 days for $24
- 5 GB, valid for 30 days for $35
- 10 GB, valid for 60 days for $59
- 20 GB, valid for 180 days for $89
Now, one important thing to note about Airalo is that you’ll need to keep an eye out for the provider in each country.
Suppose you ever have trouble connecting to the Internet during your trip. In that case, it might be because you’re connecting automatically to networks and need to select a network manually instead.
When you purchase the eSIM, you’ll get access to the list of networks supported in each country.
Alternatively, you could look at your options on Holafly. You can read our Holafly review to learn more about this eSIM store.
Here’s an overview of their plans for China:
- Unlimited data, valid for 5 days for $19
- Unlimited data, valid for 10 days for $34
- Unlimited data, valid for 15 days for $47
- Unlimited data, valid for 20 days for $54
- Unlimited data, valid for 30 days for $64
- Unlimited data, valid for 60 days for $84
- Unlimited data, valid for 90 days for $99
Their Asia eSIM work in 12 countries (including China), and they offer the following plan:
- 6 GB data for 15 days for $44
- 10 GB data for 30 days for $54
Finally, Nomad is also a great eSIM provider. Here’s an overview of the plans available for China:
- 1GB, valid for 7 days for $4
- 2GB, valid for 7 days for $10
- 3GB, valid for 30 days for $9
- 5GB, valid for 30 days for $13
- 10GB, valid for 30 days for $22
- 15GB, valid for 30 days for $28
- 20GB, valid for 30 days for $34
- 30GB, valid for 30 days for $80
- 40GB, valid for 30 days for $110
- 50GB, valid for 30 days for $125
Nomad also has APAC, an eSIM plan in Asia. This plan offers coverage in China. Here’s an overview:
- 1GB, valid for 7 days for $6
- 3GB, valid for 30 days for $15
- 5GB, valid for 30 days for $17
- 10GB, valid for 30 days for $50
- 20GB, valid for 30 days for $69
Final Thoughts On SIM Cards In China
As you can see, getting a prepaid SIM card in China or even an eSIM for your travels in China is pretty straightforward.
You’ll even be able to stay connected wherever you go in Asia without changing your SIM card, especially if you purchase an Asia plan.
I believe the eSIM card is the most convenient way to get data in China if you wish to have data upon your arrival. This way, you won’t need to go to a store to buy a SIM card.
Obviously, you need to make sure your mobile phone supports eSIM first.
Psst. Traveling to China soon? Get a VPN! Otherwise, you might have restricted access to the Internet.
Traveling to Asia soon? Read one of the following blog posts: