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How to Use Your Cell Phone While Traveling in China

using cell phone in china

Many people feel that it is hard to live without their cell phones. It's not so much that people can't live without their mobile phones, rather that they can't live without the network access. Indeed, the Internet brings convenience to our daily lives. You can get map directions, book hotels and tickets, and use translation software while traveling in China.

So, can foreign tourists use their cell phones while traveling in China? The answer is yes. But you should pay attention to some things while using your cell phone in the country. Here, we have provided you with some tips for using your cell phone while traveling in China.

1. Use International Roaming in China

It seems that this is the easiest way to use your cell phone while traveling in China. Once you land in China, just turn on your cell phone and go into its settings to enable “Data Roaming”. This means you can surf the Internet and make a call with your cell phone.

What you should do if you decide to use international roaming in China: Contact your mobile phone provider to make sure your cell phone operates with international roaming services in China. If you have the option for using international roaming in China, then ask your mobile phone provider to turn on this feature. A few mobile phone providers cannot provide roaming services in China. If you are in such a situation, you can purchase a Chinese SIM card.

Please be aware that roaming can be very expensive. Make sure you learn about the charges for calls, text messages, and data usage. If you need to go online often or make a lot of calls, this may be not an economic option.

2. Get an Unlocked Cell Phone and Purchase a Chinese SIM Card

This may be the best choice for people who need to use their cell phones often to surf the Internet or make calls.

What is a locked cell phone? This is a cell phone that is tied into a certain carrier’s network. That is to say, the cell phone can only work with one service provider. For example, if your cell phone can only use an AT&T SIM card, your cell phone is a locked mobile phone. Most cell phones are locked.

How to unlock your cell phone: Contact your mobile phone provider, tell them your conditions, and ask them to unlock your cell phone. Some mobile phone providers require users not to unlock their cell phones for a certain period of time. In this situation, you can buy or rent an unlocked cell phone.

Once you have an unlocked cell phone, you need to purchase a Chinese SIM card. You are able to buy a Chinese SIM card in the airports, train stations, metro stations, hotels, convenience stores, and mobile phone providers’ stores. Our guide can prepare a SIM card for you when you arrive in China and help you to activate the SIM card in your cell phone.

There are three primary mobile phone providers in China: China Mobile, China Unicom, and China Telecom. China Mobile's 4G network runs on TDD-LTE, which is unique to China. China Unicom’s and China Telecom's 4G networks run on FDD-LTE, which is used by most countries.

3. Rent or Buy a Wi-Fi Service

If you think neither of the above methods are right for you, then you can take this option into consideration — you can have your own portable Wi-Fi hot spot. It can be applied to your cell phone, iPad, and laptop. It can also be shared with several friends. When you use it, you should log in with the given account and password, then you can connect to the Internet. If you want to make a call, please remember to use FaceTime or Skype instead of dialing.

4. Use Local Free Wi-Fi

In China’s airports, train stations, hotels, cafés, and shopping malls, there will be free Wi-Fi. When in these places, you can turn on your cell phone’s Wi-Fi and search for a free Wi-Fi network. Some can be connected directly without a password and some will need a password, which you can ask the staff for. The network speed will be slow for this service.

If you need to rely on your cell phone while traveling in China for getting directions, translations, booking hotels, and using social media, you’d better use a Chinese SIM card or purchase a Wi-Fi service.

5. Get a VPN to Deal with Online Limitations

Because of strict Internet censorship in China, many social media sites and websites have been blocked, such as Google, Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube. Also some apps will not function or update in China. To use these, you need to get a VPN. Check here to learn about how to get a VPN and the best VPNs for China in 2019.

6. Pay for Things Using Your Phone

As of November 2019, WeChat Pay and Alipay can both be linked to foreign bank accounts, allowing tourists to make QR code buys in China. You will need to download the WeChat or Alipay app and create an account, which requires a Chinese phone number, in order to use these services.

Experience Interesting Cell Phone Functions in China with Us

mobile paymentsExperience mobile payment with us!

In Chinese people’s daily lives, a cell phone can take care of almost everything, mainly because of mobile payments. In Hangzhou, all of the buses, 98 percent of taxis, more than 95 percent of supermarkets, and more than 80 percent of restaurants can accept mobile payments.

It is interesting to experience a “cashless society” and learn about the influence of mobile phones on people's lives when traveling in China.

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