1

I will travel to China via Hong Kong airport (stopover only). I will stay there for 4 months. I heard that it could be useful to purchase a SIM card at the HK airport because you can use it in the mainland as well and what's more, you would avoid the necessity for VPN on your mobile.

Can you confirm this? Or would it be better to buy a SIM card at my final destination in the mainland? If not, could you also suggest a concrete SIM card from a certain provider?

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It has become excessively hard to buy a prepaid SIM card in China. So buying it in HK is wise. However, since China and HK do not share a common telecoms system, you will need to buy either a SIM card that can work in both China and HK (China Unicom sells them), or a "normal" prepaid card in HK for HK, and another prepaid SIM card specifically for China.

Both China Unicom and Peoples (China Mobile) have them. Avoid 3HK, they're bandits.

Also, whatever you decide to do, try not to buy at the airport but wait until you reach downtown, and visit a regular China Mobile/China Unicom shop. You'll have more options, and prices will be less demented.

Also, you'll need a VPN. Only non-Chinese post-paid SIM cards offer, sometimes a modicum of VPN-ish behaviour. Prepaid cards sold by the HK subsidiaries of Chinese telcos will obey the law and your connection will be filtered.

  • Can you clarify that last paragraph? There are places/companies that will sell me a SIM card which will actually work in China yet will not have as much restriction as ones bought there? – WGroleau Feb 27 '18 at 12:05
  • Thank you for answering. So just to clarify: since I have to use VPN either way, the only reason for buying the SIM card in HK is the limited availability of prepaid SIM cards in China (for foreigners)? Anyway, since I have only about 1.5 hrs for transit I have to rely on the offers at the airport. According to your explanations it would be most reasonable for me to buy a China-only SIM card since I won't be in HK aside from the transit. – Muad Feb 27 '18 at 13:55
  • If you buy a China Unicom SIM in Hong Kong (the one with both a Guangzhou and a Hong Kong number) the phone's Internet connection will stay in Hong Kong and you probably won't need the VPN. I'm not sure you can buy top ups for a HK SIM in China, however, and I haven't done that for a couple of years so this information might be stale. – Dennis Feb 28 '18 at 0:45
  • @dennis I've tried last year a HK Unicom card for HK+China (I had lost my Chinese prepaid SIM), and without a VPN, it was basically useless for social networks. The great firewall is "improved" upon all the time... Besides when in China you're connected to a Chinese network, so... – user67108 Feb 28 '18 at 0:49
  • @dda, That has changed, then. The way cell phone data roaming typically works leaves your Internet connection with your home provider ('s country) with not much opportunity for filtering before then (my US SIM is unfiltered in China), but China Unicom HK is not an ordinary roaming carrier in China so I guess that hole got plugged. – Dennis Feb 28 '18 at 1:12

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