Buying a 4G prepaid SIM card in china: how much does it cost?

Once you have passed through immigration and picked up your luggage, you are in the airport’s commercial space. You will see SIM card vending machines.

So we thought it would be as easy and quick as buying a SIM card in Japan. It is possible that we did not understand correctly but apparently these distributors only allow to recharge an existing SIM or to buy a prepaid SIM card for another neighbouring destination (Hong Kong, Singapore…).

Basically it looks more like it’s for Chinese people travelling abroad than for tourists arriving in China. After a few minutes of research, we came across a “China Mobile” store, open from 8am to 8pm.

The Staff is very helpful, speaks good English and confirms immediately that you can buy a SIM card in this shop. One employee even suggested that we test our own personal prepaid SIM card to make sure it works with our phone. Check www.simoptions.com/ if you are interested in learning further more information about China SIM cards.

Verification done, it works perfectly. All that remains is to wait to be served. And to wait we waited. Only one customer is served at a time and the operation is long. I didn’t time it, but I think we had to wait 45 minutes when there were only 3 customers in front of us.

This is the first time it has taken us so long to recover a SIM. But it works and we leave with the Internet (with all the limitations of the Chinese Internet).

How much does a prepaid SIM card cost in China?

Unlike many countries, we do not have a prospectus 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 was a temporary offer or not. We received a discount allowing us to get this offer for 60 Yuan (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 required?

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 will be available as soon as you insert it into 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?

The speed-test service was not available, so I couldn’t measure the flow and didn’t take the time to look for another service. But overall, 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 through the metro, very convenient to use Baidu Map.