Where and how to buy a China native phone number in Shanghai?

Admin 5 Jul 2019

How to have a native sim card for your phone in Shanghai? What stuff should you prepare for buying an officially issued sim card?


Once you are about to start a journey or adventure to China, getting a local phone number will come to the inclusion of the preparation list that you are going to deal with.

As an expat living in a new country, how and where to buy a native phone number to enjoy the corresponding benefits for communication and other using purposes, and what stuff will be requested for doing so?

The answer is: just buy it from an officially authorized card selling store or counter.

As a phone number is one of the items considered eligible credentials for applying for registrations or signup in a lot of state-running institutes and departments, if your phone number has been registered by another person's name, you'll probably fail every real-name-requested thing at the first step. Only officially authorized stores and counters are qualified to sell sim cards that will be legally registered with the buyer's real name.

In Shanghai, you will see a lot of storefronts and counters of China's official mobile service suppliers spreading along the streets across the city centers. It won't be an issue to find a legal card selling store, and it's also easy to buy a phone card from it, as long as you have a valid passport.

Here are three major mobile communication service suppliers of China:


China Mobile Communications Corporation (China Mobile) 中国移动


China United Network Communications Group Co., Ltd (China Unicom) 中国联通


China Telecommunications Corporation (China Telecom) 中国电信

China Mobile and China Unicom are selling phone cards primarily in prepaid mode while China Telecom offers an alternative option to credit consumers.

The monthly plan for the phone card basically comprises two parts: one is the minutes of Talk, and the other is the amount of mobile data which is offered in 4G and 5G modes.

The price of the monthly plan varies based on how much Talk & Text or mobile data you would consume in each month, which can range from CNY 8/month to hundreds per month.

Choose a higher rate plan to fit the practicality if you are seeing the high probability of much communication needed in your trip.

Which supplier should you buy your sim card from?

As all the three communication service suppliers have sufficiently built their independent cellular networks across all major cities of China, there is no obvious difference you could tell in the connection quality or mobile data access speed.

However, it is said China's native sim cards could fit 70-80% of the phones produced overseas while failed for the other 20-30% due to the slight difference in the card slot. So just try with another supplier if your phone didn't work with the card from one of the suppliers. If it still doesn't work at all, then you'll have to buy a new phone.

What credentials should a foreigner present to buy the phone card? The original copy of a valid passport, that's all!



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