Whether flying into Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou or Chengdu, business travellers are faced with the same dilemma – what’s the best global roaming option for China?
Nothing beats the value of a local prepaid SIM card, especially for a longer stay. But getting that SIM organised adds an extra wrinkle to your trip and means foregoing the convenience of being contactable on your regular Aussie mobile number.
Here's a rundown of what you’ll pay to roam in China with four Australian mobile companies.
Roaming in China with Telstra
If you’re on a contract or a post-paid plan, Telstra is the most expensive of our four options for voice calls, SMS and off-the-shelf data usage.
Making or taking calls costs $3.50 per minute, so a five-minute yarn would set you back $17.50.
Text messages are charged at 75c per 160 characters, while data is a whopping $3 per MB.
If you’re a heavy data user, we’d suggest opting for a ‘casual traveller data pack’, available in 100, 300 and 600MB sizes, along with a 1.5GB pack.
Ranging from $29 through to $350, the most expensive pack lowers the cost per GB to $233, although there’s better value to be had elsewhere.
Roaming in China with Optus
For only $10/day, Optus customers can buy a ‘travel pack’ for unlimited talk and text in China (and a number of other countries), along with 50MB of data.
Data credits accumulate, so on a five-day China trip, you can use your total 250MB allowance at any time.
Without a travel pack, casual users pay $1 per minute to make and receive calls, and 50c per SMS.
Roaming data is billed at $0.50/MB. That’s quite reasonable, but once you’ve sent or received a few email attachments, it’s cheaper to buy a travel pack.
Roaming in China with Vodafone
Vodafone’s Red plans charge just $5/day to ‘roam like home’ in China and 46 other countries.
Customers on Vodafone’s other current plans can also opt for Red Roaming through the My Vodafone portal, so you may be able to keep your existing plan and pay less for roaming.
As the description suggests, the daily charge allows you to use your plan’s calling minutes, flexible credit and data entitlements when roaming.
If you’d normally enjoy unlimited calls or SMS, that’s available too – although plans featuring unlimited calls only between Vodafone numbers don’t receive the same treatment.
Instead, calls made to Vodafone numbers while overseas are drawn from your flexible credit as if a 'standard call' were being made in Australia, so you can still keep in touch without incurring additional fees.
All other Vodafone users pay $1 per minute for all calls made and received, 75c per SMS and $1 per MB of data.
Roaming in China with Truphone
Truphone's unique plans treat most of the world as a single roaming zone with your Australian number.
For business users, the Truphone World ‘300 plan’ comes with 300 voice minutes, 300 SMS and 300MB for $55/month, while 500, 1,000 and 2,000 plans are also available.
Priced at $71.50, $104.50 and $159.50 respectively and like the ‘300 plan’, these higher-cost options include the same number of minutes, texts and megabytes as their namesake.
If you exceed your plan’s allowance, making and receiving calls in China costs $0.90 per minute, text messages are $0.45 and data is $2.25/MB.
Although Truphone's plans are reasonably priced for globetrotters who regularly visit many countries – especially because you can also get a local number on your Aussie SIM card for Hong Kong, the US ands the UK, for example – they’re not best value for the occasional trip to China.
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