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Internet and Phones in China

A simple guide to getting connected fast


Joe O Neill

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About China

One of the first things to do once you arrive in the Middle Kingdom is set up Internet and phone connections.Here’s how to do so with the minimum of fuss.


Check with your landlord to see if Internet will be included in your apartment. If you need to purchase your own Internet you can call China Telecom on 10000 once you are in China. You will be given the option of English service and can check details such as price plans on the phone. You should be given an option between pre-paid plans, where you pay ahead for six months or a year, and a monthly package. The monthly plan can be cancelled at any time, but it is necessary to pay a deposit and installation fee for the first month.


VPN stands for virtual private network. Having one active on your computer allows you to effectively relocate your IP address to another country. Many expats use VPNs to access websites such as Facebook and Twitter, and more recently, even Google. VPN's can be useful but there are reports of unreliability from some users. Which VPN is best is open to debate, and has been much discussed in our forums.


Service Phone Numbers:


China Mobile: 10086 (24 hours service, press 2 for English)

China Unicom: 10010 (24 hours service. For English, press 6 and follow the instructions)

China Telecom: 10000 ( 24 hours service, press 2 for English)



Setting up your phone

There are three main cellphone network providers in China. These are China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom (phone numbers above). The quickest way to get connected is to get a pay as you go SIM Card from one of the main network providers’ stores. You can buy a phone in China or if you bring an unlocked phone from abroad you will be able to add a Chinese SIM card on arrival.


SIM cards are available from China Mobile, China Unicom and China Telecom outlets. A SIM card should cost 100-200 RMB with some credit included. You can add credit by buying a top up card from network provider stores and convenience stores.  If one convenience store can't top up your phone, they can usually point you to another outlet that can. You can charge your phone at most KEDI stores.


Some newspaper stands also sell top-up cards.Phone cards range in value from 30 RMB to 100 RMB. Some outlets add a surcharge; a 30 RMB card might cost 31 RMB. These newspaper stands also stock international phone cards.




Methods of phone charging vary:some outlets sell top up cards or slips where you have to call a line and enter a code, other outlets require you to enter your phone number into a keypad and pay in cash. Some shops,meanwhile have a machine where you can top up your phone as well as pay bills.


To use a top-up card, call the number on the top left of the card. You should be given the option of selecting English service. Scratch off the grey foil on the card and enter the number underneath when prompted.

These days you're unlikely to come across one of these collector phone cards.


Monthly-paid phone contracts are also an option, but are more complicated and may require a greater level of Chinese to negotiate and understand the contract. Pay as you go is the way most newcomers choose.


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