Home China Guide Phoning in China

How to Phone in China

Man on phone

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.

International Phone Calls

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.

International Phone Numbers

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:

  • To dial a fixed location phone — use the exit code of China (00) + the code of your country + area code of the town/city (without the preceding zero) + the local number itself.
  • To dial a mobile phone — use the exit code of China (00) + the code of your country + the number itself (without the preceding zero).

When phoning China from "another country":

  • To dial a fixed location phone — use the exit code of your country + the country code of China (or one of its regions) + the area code of the prefecture (without the preceding zero) + the local number itself.
  • To dial a mobile phoneuse the exit code of your country + the country code of China (or one of its regions) + the number itself (without the preceding zero).

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
Hong Kong 001 852
Macau 00 853
Taiwan 002 886
USA 011 1
UK 00 44
Australia 0011 61
Canada 011 1

Phone Calls Within China

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.

Examples

  • To dial another cellphone in Beijing, don't add the zero prefix. If you go, or the cell you're calling goes, outside Beijing Municipality (the provincial level zone) add a zero before the mobile number. 
  • To dial a Guilin landline from Beijing, use the inter-province 0 and the prefecture code, e.g. 0-773-2831999.
  • To dial a Guilin landline from Nanning (same province), use the prefecture code and local number, e.g. 773-2831999.
  • To dial a Guilin landline from within Guilin prefecture, just use the 7-digit local number, e.g. 2831999.

Emergency Numbers

Setting out on a journey, you should always be aware of emergency numbers in case of any accidents or troubles.

  • Mainland China: police 110, fire 119, ambulance 120
  • Hong Kong and Macau: police/fire/ambulance 999
  • Taiwan: police 110, fire/ambulance 119

Other Useful Numbers

Post Code Information (or use our China "zip code" finder) 184
Phone Directory 114
Railway Information 12306

The area codes of some big tourist cities may also be useful for you:

Beijing (0)10
Shanghai (0)21
Xi'an (0)29
Guangzhou (0)20
Guilin (0)773
Chengdu (0)28
Kunming (0)871
Hangzhou (0)571
Lhasa (0)891

China SIM Card

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.

Internet Phoning

Internet PhoningInternet Phoning

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.

Free Apps

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.

Messenger Programs

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.

Recommended China Tours

China Highlights customers and guideTraveling with China Highlights, you'll be taken care of well by our tour guides.

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.

Our Most Popular China Trips:

  • THE GOLDEN TRIANGLE — 8 days in major tourist citiesBeijing, Xi'an, and Shanghai
  • CLASSIC WONDERS — 11 days in the most popular destinationsBeijing, Xi'an, Guilin, and Shanghai
  • THE FLAVOR OF CHINA — 12 days of scenery, culture, and food in Beijing, Xi'an, Chengdu, Guilin, Yangshuo, and Hong Kong

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.

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