Asia,  China,  During the World Tour,  Tips

Prepaid 4G SIM card in China: how much does it cost? Where to buy it?

Buy a SIM card before you leave

The article below talks about buying a SIM card on the spot, when you arrive in China.

A simpler alternative solution is to buy a SIM card before you leave.

This offer(Amazon link) allows you to benefit from 6 GB of data for 30 days at the rate of 27 €.

It’s more expensive than what you will find on site but it’s much simpler and BIG BENEFIT, you won’t be blocked by the Chinese firewall and you will be able to use Google, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, Youtube, … without VPN.

I think it has to do with the fact that this is a Hong Kong offer and not a Chinese offer.

Where to buy a prepaid SIM card at Beijing airport?

Once you have passed immigration and retrieved your luggage, you are in the commercial area of the airport.

You will see SIM card vending machines like this one.

So we thought it would be as simple and quick as buying a SIM card in Japan. It is possible that we didn’t understand but apparently these distributors only allow to recharge an existing SIM or to buy a SIM for another nearby destination (Hong Kong, Singapore, …).

Basically it looks more for the Chinese who go abroad than for the tourists who arrive in China.

After a few minutes of research, we came across a store “China Mobile”, open from 8am to 8pm.

The staff is very helpful, speaks good English and immediately confirms that you can buy a SIM card in this store. One employee even offers us to test his own personal SIM card to verify that it works with our phone.

Check done, it works perfectly. Just wait to be served.

And to wait we waited. Only one customer is served at a time and the operation is looooong. I didn’t time it but I think we must have waited 45 minutes when there were only 3 customers in front of us.

It’s the first time we’ve taken so long to recover a SIM. But it works and we are back on the internet (with all the limitations of the Chinese internet).

How much does a prepaid SIM card cost in China?

In contrast to many countries, we do not have a brochure at our disposal to choose between several offers.

The employee asks us how long we stay (3 days) and offers us a unique offer: 10 GB of data valid for 7 days for 100 yuan (12.5 euros).

Without knowing if this is a temporary offer or not, we received a discount allowing us to get this offer for 60 yuans (7,5 €).

We paid in cash, I don’t remember if it was possible to pay by card.

Is my phone compatible?

Yes, if your phone is unlocked, there should be no problem.

What documents are requested?

A passport is required when purchasing the SIM card.

How to activate the SIM card?

No activation is required. The SIM card is functional and internet available as soon as you insert it in the phone.

How to recharge the SIM card?

No idea 🙂 If one of our readers has the answer, feel free to share it as a comment.

What speed for 4G?

Since the speedtest service was not available, I couldn’t measure the flow and did not take the time to look for another service.

But basically, the throughput is excellent for all services hosted in China. As soon as you call external sites, it’s much slower.

The network also passes in the metro, which is very convenient to use Baidu Map.

If you are in transit in Beijing like us, you should know that the transit visa is free of charge and allows you to explore the city in 144 hours. We recommend you the Beijing Prime Hotel Wangfujing in the center of Beijing, 5 stars which has a very good tour desk. See our Beijing travel diary (2.5 days) here

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