China SIM Cards: Full Guide for Tourist and Travel 2024

If you plan to take a China trip, have you prepared all the necessary things in your luggage? Personal items, visa, plane ticket, and an important thing – internet connection. eSIM for China travel is one of the most convenient to stay connected in China. This is a complete guide with everything you need to know about using an e-sim card for traveling to China including a comparison of the best China e-sim cards for 2024.

Let us recommend you that getting connected with an e-sim card when traveling to China will make your life so much easier! Based on my own experiences on my recent trip to Shanghai and Shenzhen the internet censorship in China really is a pain and constantly trying to find a VPN that actually works and gives you a fast data connection is a daily challenge.

China esim for travel

I. About China SIM Card: Mobile Internet, Telecommunication and Internet Policies

1. Mobile internet in China?

There are a wide range of options for travelers to China to stay connected. Some are free, some are cheap and some are very expensive.

The most popular are:

  • Prepaid SIM card – CHEAP
  • eSIM cards – RATHER CHEAP
  • Pocket Wifi – MODERATE
  • International roaming – VERY EXPENSIVE
  • Free Wifi – FREE BUT SOMETIMES NEED TEXT VERIFICATION

Each option has their own pros and cons, but the most recommended is using prepaid SIM card/eSIM cards. So why? See below:

Ways to stay connected in ChinaFeatures
Prepaid SIM cardsThe traditional way to stay connected in China
How to use: Insert a plastic SIM card into an unlocked mobile phone.
Where to buy: from an online shop or from physical stores of either Chinese mobile operators or phone stores once arriving in China
What to buy: 2 options: data only or data + voice + SMS
Registration process: require personal information like passport/ID card. 
eSIMA new way to stay connected while traveling
How to use: require an unlocked, eSIM-compatible mobile phone. Just buy it online, scan QR code to install and activate. No need to remove the main SIM card. 
Where to buy: buy it online in your hometown before departure (most recommended) or after arrival in China.
What to buy: data-only (no analog calls or SMS), but still make calls or send texts through apps.
Registration process: no need to register your personal info.
Pocket WifiA device connecting to the Internet via a wireless local area network (WLAN). This acts as a hotspot which mobile devices can connect to the Internet.
International roamingInvolves in paying certain fees for voice, SMS and mobile data to your domestic mobile operator in order to use your main SIM card in China
Where and when to buy: must be requested before traveling to China.
Price: very expensive in compared with other options
Free Wi-FiThe most economical way to stay online during your trip, but coming with low security.
Where to get it: from hotels, restaurants, cafes, famous attractions, parks,…
Price: free (but in fact, sometimes, you need to pay a small fee for buying something (ex. At a coffee shop) in order to have password for free WiFi
Note: Many public WiFi networks in China require text verification. You may be required to submit a Chinese phone number to get a security code via text to use the WiFi. 

From the table, we can see that utilizing a paid ahead of time SIM/eSIM card is the most modern, helpful and adaptable choice to get Web association. Particularly, utilizing an eSIM doesn’t expect you to line up or hang tight for SIM card conveyance. It tends to be purchased, introduced and actuated 100 percent on the web. Sounds perfect? We will inform all the more later on.

2. Mobile Internet coverage map for China SIM card

If you choose SIM cards for China, it is crucial to consider the coverage of your SIM. Remember that sometimes, cheap eSIM cards have poor coverage, which may leave users to have no Internet connection when you need it most.

Below we uncover the coverage map of 3 popular mobile operators in China:

  • China Mobile 3G/4G/5G coverage map in China
  • China Telecom 3G network coverage map
  • China Unicom 3G/4G/5G coverage map

II. Why utilize a China SIM card while going to China?

While going in another country, you might need to get to the neighborhood cell organizations and utilize your ongoing telephone to remain associated with your loved ones, be it through settling on decisions, sending SMS or riding the Web.

In any case, there are a few justifications for why you shouldn’t or can’t do it:

  • Your ongoing SIM card might be not viable with the nearby organizations in China.
  • The meandering charges for utilizing your essential SIM card abroad might be excessively costly.
  • China has severe Web restriction, and a few sites/applications might be hindered when you utilize your ongoing SIM card.

Thus, to remain associated while in China, it is prescribed to put resources into a neighborhood SIM card/eSIM and utilize a solid VPN to peruse all the more without any problem.

Advantages of utilizing SIM cards in China

By purchasing another SIM card for China, you can get a few advantages as follows:

Getting a nearby SIM card for China will get a good deal on worldwide meandering charges.

You don’t have to switch between various SIM cards while as yet getting calls/SMS from your essential line.

You can exploit China’s 3G and 4G organization to have inclusion (since you are utilizing the neighborhood network straightforwardly as opposed to wandering through an outsider organization)

It can set aside you more cash in the event that you would rather not settle on decisions or SMS, yet utilizing information exclusively by purchasing an information just SIM card in China.

III. Where and How to Purchase a China SIM Card?

You know that utilizing paid ahead of time SIM cards/eSIM are a viable and affordable method for remaining on the web for sightseers while venturing out to China.

Presently, you might ponder where and how to get it. Truly, broadcast communications in China are effectively accessible. You can track down China eSIM cards in web-based stores, nearby administrator’s stores, at the air terminal, in odds and ends shops.

Beneath, we will make sense of where you can purchase SIM or eSIM for China travel:

1. Purchase China SIM card online before movement

This is the most helpful and efficient method for purchasing a SIM card for China travel. You can pick an internet based store, pick the arrangement that meets your requirements, pay, and sit tight for it to be delivered to your home entryway. No private enrollment is required.

The beneficial things about purchasing your prepaid China SIM Card before flight are:

No confined Web in China. It is on the grounds that a few suppliers likewise incorporate VPN with their paid ahead of time SIM Cards.

Have the web as soon as you land in the country.

Support various dialects for clients from over the world.

Set aside cash. Contrasted with different choices like worldwide wandering or utilizing pocket Wifi, the paid ahead of time SIM card purchased before your outing will be a lot less expensive.

More secure. Having your own portable web association is a lot more secure than involving Complimentary wireless internet in China.

Save time. No agreement marking and no enrollment by any stretch of the imagination. Purchasing a neighborhood SIM Card after appearance in China can time-consume. You might have to track down a store, speak with the staff there to tell them what you need, and register so your administration can work.

2. Buy China SIM card at Chinese airports upon arrival

After landing at Chinese airports, you can go to a physical store of a certain Chinese mobile operator, pick a package for your preferences, and wait for it to be set up and activated by the staff there. However, buying SIM at the airport also means you have fewer options to choose from. There, it takes more time to queue up and requires you to go under a registration scheme according to the Chinese laws.

The bad thing about this way is that:

  • Depending on the time you land at the airport, these physical stores may or may not be open
  • There may be fewer options to choose from at the airport (than buying in the city center).
  • The prices of SIM packages at the airports are more expensive than other places.

Note: Don’t worry, most staff at airports can speak English well.

3. Buy in China: at local operators’ stores, shopping malls, convenience stores

Buying a SIM card from a local operator may not be the best. As a foreigner, you may have some limitations like going through the SIM card registration process, not being familiar with the local map to find the store, and not being able to communicate with the staff there to express what you want.

IV. How many types of Chinese SIM cards for travelers are there?

There are 2 forms of SIM cards for tourists in China:

  • Physical SIM card
  • eSIM card (digital SIM)

Let’s see in details:

1. Physical China SIM card

It can be mini-SIM, micro SIM, nano SIM.

This type is classified into 2 major categories:

  • Prepaid local SIM cards
  • Tourists SIM cards with calls, texts and data

All these types of physical SIM Cards for China require you to present your passport and probably personal documents like ID card.

2. Prepaid tourist eSIM for China

This type includes 2 main categories:

  • Prepaid data-only eSIM; and
  • Prepaid eSIM with data, calls and SMS

While prepaid physical SIM cards are a traditional and popular option among locals and tourists, eSIM sounds new to many people. However, this type of SIM is associated with a lot of benefits that the traditional plastic one does not have. It is 100% online, can be installed and activated wherever and whenever you are.

Speaking of tourist eSIM cards, in general, and China tourist eSIM, in particular, it is often about the data-only eSIM. Travelers choose this because it helps save money while still giving them the ability to maintain contacts via apps.

V. China SIM Card Alternative: China eSIM

What you need to know:

eSIM is not supported in mainland China.

While phones produced for most countries / territories in the world include 1 SIM slot + 1 eSIM, in China, eSIM is not practical because of the solution is still in trial stage, pending approval for further trials, also cross-carrier plan transfer is not applicable, so in China dual physical SIM slot is offered.

1. What is China eSIM?

The China eSIM for travel is an electronic SIM Card that allows travelers to access the internet, make calls, and send text messages without having to change SIM Cards or looking for a local provider. This helps save time as well as effort for travelers to focus on their trip.
eSIM innovation is fairly new, so not all telephone models work with eSIM.

The following are a few elements of a China eSIM you really want to check prior to purchasing:

  • Your telephone should be viable with eSIM
  • Your telephone should be opened to Chinese versatile administrators
  • You really want an email address to get eSIM data subsequent to making installment
  • You want a Web association with introduce and enact your eSIM.

A few suppliers will request that you set up their application to download and deal with the eSIM.

Most eSIM don’t offer portable calls, or text SMSs, just information. You can utilize applications like Skype or WhatsApp all things considered.

ESIM can be introduced once just, so don’t eliminate it from your gadget, however get in touch with us.

Some eSIM plans permit clients to divide information among gadgets while others don’t.

Assuming you utilize double SIM iPhone, you can keep your essential SIM while voyaging China

Why? Let’s see a comparison table between tourist SIM card and eSIM for China travel by major criterias:

CriteriasSIM CardeSIM
FormA traditional, physical, plastic SIM card, requires users to insert/swap out of the SIM tray.A digital/virtual SIM embedded inside the motherboard of a mobile device. No need to swap out any SIM card.
How to useRemove the primary SIM card first, then Insert the China travel SIM into the tray and set up, then activate. Scan the QR code to install the eSIM. It will be automatically activated upon arrival in China without any hassle.
Where to buyBuy in stores, or buy online and wait for shippingBuy 100% online via websites/apps.
Procedure of buyingEither require personal documents or not requireNo need of personal info
PriceRather cheap
Higher but worth every penny  
Bonus featureNo VPN included, probably not being able to bypass China firewall. Maybe blocked when accessing some specific websites/apps.VPN included, bypass China firewall. Browse the internet without restrictions. 

Now, let’s see some main advantages and disadvantages of virtual SIM cards for China travel.

Pros
Cons
Buy, set up in minutesDiversifying options for travelersData with VPNIf you need more, buy moreRequire compatible phone

So, the biggest advantage of a China travel eSIM is that it has a VPN included, so you can browse the web in China without any hassle.

This is a problem that many travelers who buy SIM cards in China have to cope with and eSIM resolves it easily.

Is it beneficial?

What to do if my phone does not support eSIM?

If you cannot buy or use an eSIM, we recommend you to buy a physical SIM card for travelers instead.

2. Where and How to buy a tourist China eSIM?

An eSIM is a virtual SIM card which can be bought, installed and activated no matter where you are.

Where to buy tourist eSIM for China?

The easiest way to buy a travel eSIM for China travel is buying it before departure.

Similar to buying SIM cards before departure, you can buy an eSIM either from a local mobile operator or an eSIM provider.

Which documents do you need to show when buying a tourist eSIM for China?

All 3 Chinese network carriers require documentation like passport/visa/ID card/stamp to buy and register your SIM card.So if you choose to buy eSIMs from them, you have to show your passport.

If you buy eSIMs from eSIM providers, you do not need to show anything but money.

The eSIM providers you should choose to buy are China eSIM, Airalo, Holafly, etc. Buying eSIM from them also gives you more options with different mobile carriers (rather than buying from only one carrier).

VI. How much does a tourist eSIM for China cost?

You can get an eSIM for China travel from either Chinese mobile operators (if available) or eSIM providers.

The eSIM price that 3 mobile network carriers in China cost you are rather similar.

On the other hand, you can get an eSIM for China with just 4 USD to 99 USD from eSIM providers like Chinaesim.biz, Airalo, Holafly, etc offering from 1 GB to unlimited data. These eSIM packages can work in either China only, in Asia or globally.

VII. Chinaesim.biz offers China eSIM

Below are a list of popular eSIM providers for China travel:

Look at the different plans offered to access the Internet in China. Then, pay close attention to the prices and features of the provider, you can choose the deal that fits you best.

This is an eSIM provider specializing in China only eSIM and regional eSIM covering China.

To acquire an eSIM with Chinaesim.biz, you only need to visit their website, look up the plan that suits your needs, make payment and proceed to complete the installation.

Coverage: Mainland China, Macao, Hong Kong

Features: prepaid, data-only, VPN included, give tourists the ability to bypass China Firewalls.

How it works: the eSIM will be delivered to your email address about 5 minutes after payment. What to prepare: An unlocked, eSIM-compatible mobile device. No contract or personal info registration required.

Best data plans of Chinaesim for tourists:

Plan nameDataValidityPrice
China 5 days3 – 50GB total and 1GB/day, 4GB/day5 days$8.0 – $137
China 7 days3 – 50GB total and 1GB/day, 4GB/day7 days$9 – $144
China 10 days3 – 50GB total and 1GB/day, 4GB/day10 days$9.9 – $147
China 15 days3 – 50GB total and 1GB/day, 4GB/day15 days$10.5 – $150.0
China 30 days3 – 50GB total, 1GB/day, 4GB/day30 days$11.5 – $154
Greater China3 – 50GB total,  1GB/day, 4GB/day5/7/10/15/30 days$8.5 – $154
China Hong Kong3 – 50GB total, 1GB/day, 4GB/day5/7/10/15/30 days$8.5 – $154
China Vietnam1 – 15GB and 1GB/day7/10/15/30 days$11.9 – $127
China Thailand Vietnam1 – 15GB and 1GB/day7/10/15/30 days$11.9 – $127
China Thai Viet Cam1 – 15GB and 1GB/day7/10/15/30 days$11.9 – $127

Pros:

  • Specifically for China market only (both local and regional plans)
  • Customer support is more focused and attentive
  • Diversifying options for different budgets and Internet usage habits
  • Suitable for both short-term, long-term travelers
  • Large coverage: Mainland China, Macao, Hong Kong
  • Network: 3 popular networks in China
  • Allow to share data via hotspot, tethering
  • Competitive price
  • 100% online from buying to setting up to activating
  • VPN include, surf the web / apps in China without restrictions
  • Multi-language customer service

Cons:

  • Data only, no phone number, so no analog calls or texts

VIII. Understanding about telecommunication and China internet laws for China SIM cards

Telecommunications and Internet regulations in China are managed strictly by the Chinese government. It relates to internet usage, censorship and online activities.

The government also requires all companies operating in the telecommunications field to register and comply with specific rules and regulations.

Tourists in China need to acknowledge these laws to avoid any legal issues while using the Internet or telecommunications services in the country.

Tip:

If traveling to China, you should use a virtual private network (VPN) to access the blocked websites and protect your privacy.

Now, let’s see what restrictions on Internet access in China are.

1. Restrictions on Internet access in China

Basically, the restrictions on Internet access in the mainland China include:

The Great Firewall of China: This is a system controlled by the government that blocks access to some particular websites and services deemed improper or politically sensitive. The noticeable platforms that are blocked are mostly social media sites like Facebook, Instagram, Twitter as well as new websites like the BBC and the New York Times.

Internet censorship: the government monitors online activities and censors content which are considered harmful or critical. This includes blocking certain phrases or keywords, erasing posts or comments, and even arresting people sharing such information online.

So, to navigate these restrictions, a traveler to China can:

Use VPN: this is a tool encrypting the internet traffic and allows users to bypass the Chinese Great Firewall. But, it is worth noting that not all VPNs work in China, and some may be blocked or subject to Chinese surveillance.

Do online activities cautiously: do not share sensitive information or opinions online. Even the seemingly harmless activities like using/sharing certain memes or emojis can be deemed inappropriate by the government.

Take advantage of alternative platforms: Facebook, Instagram, Twitter are popular Western social media platforms and blocked in China. Travelers can still use local alternatives such as Weibo or WeChat to stay connected with other people. However, because travelers often do not have access to such platforms before, it is rather difficult to take advantage of it, in reality. Also, these platforms are subject to government censorship and surveillance.

2. What are the consequences of breaking telecommunications and Internet Law in China?

You will probably cope with some problems below:

  • Heavy fines: apply for both individuals and companies who violate or are found guilty.
  • Imprisonment (in some extreme cases)
  • Blacklisting: apply for both individuals and companies, so it will be difficult for them to do business in China.
  • Deportation: foreigners breaking the laws can be deported from China.

To minimize these consequences, you are advised to:

Use a VPN

  • Avoid sensitive topics
  • Follow the rules
  • Be cautious with public Wi-Fi network
  • Seek legal advice from a local lawyer

Pro Tips:

You should download any apps or content you want to use before departure, or play it safe and avoid any websites that can be blocked in China.

Get a VPN before leaving (if you have no other better options) to secure your browsing activities and keep it away from prying eyes.

Which devices are compatible with China eSIM?

You can check if your smartphone works with eSIM in our up-to-date esim-supported device list. Remember that, to use eSIM, your device must be carrier unlocked.
Click HERE to check your devices support eSIM or Not

When should I buy and activate an eSIM?

At your convenience, you should buy an eSIM the day before your departure date or upon arrival at your destination. To install it, your device must get connected with WiFi or a mobile data network.

Can I keep my WhatsApp number?

Yes, you can keep your WhatsApp number and all your contacts and conversations. You can use it like normal during your trip in China.

Can I use eSIM plans everywhere in China

Yes, China eSIM plans work everywhere in China. We choose and offer the best data packages that provide the best nationwide data coverage.

Can I make voice calls and send text SMS with eSIM?

The eSIM is data-only and does not come with local phone number. It only allows the use of mobile data, so you cannot receive or send calls or SMS.

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