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China is a unique country, with unique ways and challenges when it comes to phoning. China's phone services are something all Chinese travelers should know about, to get in touch with relatives, friends, associates, etc.
With varying degrees of development, China has a range of modern technologies available depending on where you stay, including fixed location phones, mobiles services, Internet access, Wi-Fi, and so on.
Mobile services are available to international cellphones, but if you want to reduce the cost, you should find the most suitable rates before leaving your country. Some mobile phones can be set up for "global roaming", which allows making calls at home prices without any extra charges.
From megalopolises to small towns there are special phone booths for international calls. You can also use hotel phones for your international calls, but be attentive as they will cost you a lot of money. Therefore, many tourists prefer to ask for calls back from their countries.
One more way to make a cheap international call is to buy an international phone card, for example, Pingo. This provider is widely known thanks to the reasonable costs. "IP cards" in China provide credit for international calls.
Note that the regions of Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan are treated as separate countries for international phoning.
To phone another "country" from mainland China, use the following procedure:
When phoning China from "another country":
Below you can see some exit codes and country codes:
|Country/Region||Exit Code||Country Code|
|Mainland China (for international calls to China)||00||86|
If you want to make a call within the country, the procedure may be a bit different to what you're used to. The phone number you use depends on your location relative to the phone you're calling. Add 0 for inter-province calls. Add prefecture code (2 or 3 digits) for inter-prefecture calls (unnecessary for cell phones). Local landline numbers may have 7 or 8 digits.
Setting out on a journey, you should always be aware of emergency numbers in case of any accidents or troubles.
|Post Code Information (or use our China "zip code" finder)||184|
The area codes of some big tourist cities may also be useful for you:
One more really sensible decision, if you are in China, is to buy a SIM card. It is an economical solution to stay in touch with your relatives and friends because most SIM cards provide you with free incoming calls. If they're not free, they can cost you not more than 0.07 dollars per minute, so it's rather affordable. You can also enjoy local mobile network service and rates for calls, data, etc.
You can make phone calls over the Internet using Skype and other VoIP service providers and apps.
Internet access is available throughout China, but it’s a bit different from in Western countries. Most hotels (3-star and above) provide free Wi-Fi, though the signal may be weak in some places. Some hotels provide a computer with an ethernet cable for free Internet access.
Internet speed and Wi-Fi availability vary depending on how developed the area you are visiting is. For example, in Beijing, you can use Wi-Fi connections almost in any café, bar, or restaurant, while in county level towns it is rare to find Wi-Fi (an obvious exception is backpacker's Mecca Yangshuo).
One more place where you can find the Internet is an Internet café. Not all of them provide you with Wi-Fi, but still there are computers with Internet access, and staff which can help you (with limited English). Internet cafes require a Chinese ID card or passport to register before use.
The Chinese Internet firewall may affect some VOiP calls/services. Read more on The Internet in China.
If you are in Beijing and would like to find some tourists sights, then you should load some free apps, which will make your vacation or trip more pleasant.
Skype, which is known all other the world, is very popular among tourists. Calls over the net won't cost you any money at all as this program requires only an Internet access or Wi-Fi. However, calls to phones are charged at varying rates, still generally cheaper than basic landline rates. Call quality depends on Internet speed, so it's better to choose broadband Internet access with good speed.
Vonage is one more convenient app, which is very similar to Skype. It only doesn't have video chat, but it can boast of absolutely free calls to other users of Vonage and cheap rates for calls on the phones.
China doesn't have big competition with messenger programs; mainly two (from one provider) are really worth considering: QQ/WeChat.
QQ possesses several interfaces, which you can choose taking into account your native language. You can find new friends and communicate with your relatives. WeChat is one more program of that kind, which is completely original. With its help you can talk to Chinese friends using messages and voice calls.
We hope these tips and recommendations have been helpful for phoning on your China travels. If you travel with us we will do our best to cater to all you phone and other needs, for an excellent, personalized China trip.
China Highlights is your China tour tailor-making expert. We can customize the tours above or tailor-make a tour from scratch, doing the things you want in the order you want. Our consultancy service is FREE!
Also check out our China tour recommendations for 2016.