How to Get a SIM Card in China

by | Jan 4, 2024

Get Sim Card in China | That's Mandarin

No matter if you’re coming to China for a short or long term, getting a local SIM card will save you a lot of time, money, and energy. Not only it will provide you with more affordable mobile data packages — but it will also be much easier to register on local apps!

How to Get a SIM Card in China in 2023.

Before You Come to China

1. Make sure your phone is unlocked (or no Chinese SIM card will work in it).

2. Check with your mobile service provider that your phone will work with the 3G and 4G networks in China.

After You Come to China

Step 01. Search

Search for the nearest 营业厅 (yíngyètīng) in your area.

Sim Card Store | That's Mandarin

store/business hall

China’s 3 most popular providers are:

Zhōngguó Yídòng
China Mobile

China Unicom | That's Mandarin

Zhōngguó Liántōng
China Unicom

China Telecom | That's Mandarin

Zhōngguó Diànxìn
China Telecom


China Unicom is probably the most suitable for foreign tourists (its network is compatible with more foreign phones).

💡 It might be better to choose a store downtown, as they will most likely support registration with foreign passports.

Step 02. Prepare the Documents

The Chinese government requires real-name registration for anyone activating a SIM card, so make sure to bring your passport (or photocopy) with you.

Passport | That's Mandarin


liù gè yuè yǐshàng yǒuxiàoqī
validity for 6+ months

Step 03. Visit the Store

Come to the store, explain what you want (possibly with the help of a translator tool), and get in line.

Queue | That's Mandarin

qǔ hào pái duì
to get a number and wait in line

Step 04. Get the SIM

Once it’s your turn, come to the counter and say:

Wǒ yào bàn SIM kǎ.
I’d like to sign up for a sim card.
(lit. “I-to want-to manage-SIM-card”).

You might be asked to choose a package – 套餐 (tàocān):

Nǐ xūyào shénme yàng de tàocān?
What kind of plan are you looking for?
(lit. “you-to require-what kind of-package”).


​套餐 (tàocān) includes a combination of services such as data, talk time, text messages, and other features. Here’s some useful vocabulary to choose a package:

​套餐 (tàocān) ∙ package / plan
​语音 (yǔyīn) ∙ calls
​流量 (liúliàng) ∙ data / traffic
​超出套餐 (chāochū tàocān) ∙ to exceed the plan
​费用 (fèiyong) ∙ price

Step 05. Get the SIM

Once you’ve chosen a plan, the staff will help you activate the SIM card and complete the registration process.


It’s quite common for providers to offer the customers a chance to choose their mobile phone number.

In Chinese culture, some numbers are considered lucky while others are believed to bring bad luck based on their pronunciation. So, if you already have a number that brings you luck, you can also choose the one that suits you best.

Bonus: Topping Up

Once the SIM is activated, you might need to top up your balance. Here’s a brief instruction on how to pay for your plan using Alipay.

01. Open Alipay ➡️ Mobile Top-Up on the main menu.

Mobile Top Up 1 | That's Mandarin

02. Choose from one of two different top-up options:
– Credit top-up
– Data top-up

Mobile Top Up 2 | That's Mandarin

03. Choose the amount of money or data you want to add to your plan and click on recharge now, 立即充值 (lìjí chōngzhí).

Mobile Top Up 3 | That's Mandarin

Congrats, all set!

Sim card | That's Mandarin

We hope that with this guide you can get your SIM card easy.

Read More

Check more How-To Chinese guides and make your life in China more enjoyable:

How to Pay Your Utility Bills with WeChat;
How to Use Alipay with International Bank Cards;
Return Items on Taobao Like a Pro.


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