Mobile data is key in China. Access to Google Maps, translation, and other info makes life so much easier. Mobile phone SIM cards with data plans are cheap and easy to get. Until recently you could buy them anywhere, but now you need to head to a phone shop and show a passport.
Major providers are China Unicom, China Telecom, and China Mobile. I prefer China Unicom for no particular reason, but shops for all are next door to the Hacker Camp Shenzhen meeting locations. Check the Google Maps layer here.
Click image for a larger view.
In China Unicom look for a sheet with a list of plans like the table above. There’s are two or three packages – A, B, and C. Since most people are interested in data, plan ‘A’ is probably best.
- First column shows the price of the plan in RMB, divide by 6 for US dollars.
- Second column shows the package (A, B, C, etc)
- Third column is outgoing talk minutes included (incoming calls are free)
- Fourth column is the data included
- Other columns show various costs for things not in the plan like extra data
I’ve been using package A 96RMB ($16) plan with 300MB data for the past few months, before that I used the 156RMB plan with 500MB of data. If you’re here for a week 300MB is probably enough. More than a week with lots of exploring and searching – get the 500MB plan to be safe.
Find a Unicom shop, the orange and white signs stand out all over the place. There’s one near the workshop shown on the Google Map layer, as well as a dozen scattered throughout the market in Huaqiangbei.
Grab a sheet of plans and find someone at a counter. Show them your phone, point to the plan you want, and hand over your passport – someone at the shop may speak a tiny bit of English but don’t count on it. They’ll setup the plan, make a copy of your passport, and hand you a SIM. Data should work immediately.
Handing over a passport has never been a problem, it’s quite common in China. If you’re cagey about it, you can try to buy an ‘underground’ SIM in Hong Kong but they’ve not worked properly for the past year or so.
Please get a SIM upon arrival in China. It will make life much easier. I’ll send my contact number to hacker camp participants a week before the workshop.
Via Hacker Camp Shenzhen mini-site: Getting a data SIM card in Shenzhen