The easiest pre-paid SIM card for Beijing, Shanghai, China

By Chris C., April 5 2016
The easiest pre-paid SIM card for Beijing, Shanghai, China

Scooping up a local SIM card in China can prove a difficult task, not only thanks to the language barrier but also because some retailers, even those at the airports, surprisingly don’t always keep pre-paid SIM cards in stock.

What’s more, some unscrupulous sellers insist you “purchase a phone number” during the process – something that’s actually already included with your SIM pack – or strongly upsell ‘lucky numbers’ which have an array of 8s and a price tag to match.

Fortunately though, Aussie retailer SimCorner lets you bypass all the hassle by pre-ordering your Chinese SIM card before leaving Australia, or indeed, grabbing one on your way thorough Sydney and Melbourne international airports.

Buy your China Unicom SIM at SimCorner Sydney Airport...
Buy your China Unicom SIM at SimCorner Sydney Airport...

Its pick of the bunch – and ours, for a stress-free connection – is China Unicom’s A$39.99 pre-paid SIM card, but do note: as is standard in China, what’s included with your plan varies based on the date you activate it, and in any case, is only valid for the remainder of the current calendar month.

Flick the switch between the 1st and the 15th of any month and you’ll get 120 minutes of calls to Chinese mobiles and landlines, 60MB of starter 3G data and a total of ¥74 (A$15) in flexible credit.

That credit can be used as you wish, such as for an extra 500MB of data (¥30), 10 text messages to Australian numbers back home (¥0.80 each) and 10 minutes of international calls to the same (¥3.60/minute).

That’s on the lighter side for keeping in touch with family or the office in Oz, but if your contacts use Apple iMessage – where texts are transmitted as data instead of traditional SMSs – or you’re mostly calling your local clients and suppliers in China, it should be all you’ll need.

Alternately, activate your SIM from the 16th of any month and you’ll instead get a reduced 60 minutes of included intra-China calls and a lower 30MB of welcome data, but a higher ¥87 (A$17.60) of credit that can again be used as you wish.

For example, you could use that towards an extra 300MB of data (¥20), 15 minutes of airtime to Australia (¥3.60/minute), 15 Aussie text messages (again ¥0.80 each) and also 10 text messages within China (¥0.10/each), or can mix and match as your needs dictate.

Just avoid activating your SIM on the last day of the month or thereabouts, or your inclusions will be valid for a day or even just an evening. This is where roaming on your Aussie SIM for a day might prove the best value, before switching on your Chinese SIM for the remainder of the trip.

Flying to China on business? Also read:

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Chris C.

Chris is a a former contributor to Executive Traveller.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

22 Jan 2015

Total posts 71

If you're transiting through HKG to the mainland, then it is well worth noting that you can purchase SIM cards by the mainland carriers' HK subsidiaries (e.g. China Mobile HK) that are designated '1-card-2-number' - once activated, you are assigned 2 numbers, a HK local number, and a Chinese mainland mobile number. The single most important benefit of these SIMs is that Internet content served over them are not subject to censorship unlike the SIMs purchased with their mainland counterparts (since HK have different laws), so you can access Facebook, YouTube and any other blocked service.

The CMHK SIM is available for HK$120 (incl. HK$60 credit), and 3G/4G LTE access is at HK$1.50/MB (capped at HK$38/day, though speed is shaped after 1GB and teathering is disabled thereafter till the following day)

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