According to the prepaid SIM card wiki, it is possible to get a SIM card as a foreigner in certain "flagship" stores:

The problem is recently, that most shops - even the small newsstands - only accept the machine-readable Chinese ID card. Foreign passports seem to be accepted only by the flagship stores of the providers (or at airports)

However, when I tried to buy a SIM card with data plan, they told me that they needed a Chinese ID Card (身份证), and it was not possible to register with a foreign passport. I tried 10-15 different phone stores in several major cities and they all refused.

Has anyone successfully registered a SIM card with a foreign passport recently, or is the wiki page out of date? If this is still possible, what are the "flagship" stores that do this?

  • 1
    At least in Russia you can often buy sim-cards from unofficial sellers without showing any ID. Perhaps that's the case in China too?
    – JonathanReez
    May 27, 2017 at 18:40
  • @JonathanReez, why would that be a case in china too?
    – Incerteza
    May 30, 2017 at 4:02
  • in Hong Kong you can buy a sim-card without your passport
    – Incerteza
    May 30, 2017 at 4:04
  • Well, I got a SIM card from main store from China Unicom. I was working in Shanghai. I dont remember anything about deposit. But every month I would pay 80~150 RMB bill with 4G internet included. And note, before leaving China make sure, you cancel your number. other wise, It will bill you.
    – Rafee
    May 30, 2017 at 6:35
  • 1
    @アレックス because it's a developing country where the rules can often be bent going through unofficial channels. This is a commonality with just about every developing country in Asia, at least in my experience. There are a lot of rules in China, you do not have to in practice actually follow. It may be the case in China for this, it may not, really depends. I was able to buy a China Mobile SIM but that was years ago and I know they change the rules and enforcement thereof all the time.
    – Ivan McA
    May 30, 2017 at 6:52

1 Answer 1


I haven't done that but when I asked about that last year, they were very well willing to sell it to me in the main office of china telecom or some other company I don't remember which. I'd have to pay around $100 in rmb for it because it was a requirement - a deposit which would be topped up to my sim-card. All of $100 or nearly all, I don't remember. In other companies it's more or less the same. I decided I didn't want a sim-card for $100 even if it was a deposit and thus I didn't buy one. But I could have. It was in Guangzhou.

In Hong Kong you can officially buy a sim-card for 50HKD without your passport. Money - sim-card.

  • Interesting, nobody offered this option to me. Is it 100 RMB or $100 USD?
    – Bai Li
    May 27, 2017 at 15:56
  • @Bai, 100 usd but in rmb
    – Incerteza
    May 27, 2017 at 16:13
  • 1
    They might have tried to scam you since you are clearly a foreigner. At least in China, it is not uncommon to negotiate in many places.
    – Blaszard
    May 27, 2017 at 16:26
  • @Blaszard, what scam? central office. all money would be topped up to my sim-card.
    – Incerteza
    May 29, 2017 at 14:51
  • @アレックス They try to sell any products in expensive prices. Not only did I experience it in buying a SIM card but also in other products, such as a Nintendo 3DS adapter. I negotiated it so much but still purchased it in expensive price...
    – Blaszard
    May 29, 2017 at 15:00

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