Best Hong Kong SIM Card Guide for Tourists: 2017

HKTravelBlog readers always ask us which is the best prepaid SIM card? Here’s our updated list for 2017.

This is a two-in-one guide that provides a primer of everything you need to know about prepaid SIM cards in Hong Kong, and some recommended options. (This guide is applicable in many other Asian countries. However, some countries such as China and Singapore require identification before purchase, Hong Kong does not.)


Quick primer on voice, SMS, and data:

Voice is fairly straightforward, phone calls are rounded to the nearest minute, and charged at a set price per minute. Incoming is free in HK so don’t worry about that, simply guesstimate how many minutes you’ll call out using the prepaid SIM to figure out how much credit you may use.

SMS (aka text message) is not free to send in Asia. It’s generally very cheap to SMS people on the same network, and not so cheap to SMS people on a different network. However, receiving SMS to a HK number is free, no matter where you are worldwide. My suggestion, don’t use SMS. Get a program like iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Skype, or Whatsapp to chat with your friends and family. Those messaging programs use data, and you can reach all your friends overseas. Not to mention a lot of them offer free calling now too.

Data is important these days. Venture to guess most people simply do not need high-speed. Yeah 4G is great, but a map, e-mail, messages, websites will still load using a slower 3G, or 2G speed. If you’re in town for awhile, don’t waste your money on high-speed if it’s not already included, get the cheaper slower speed plans which typically last longer, up to 30 days each. Download all the big files or watch videos when you’re on wi-fi (which some cards include.)

On many SIM cards, you will need to enter a code from the packaging to activate the particular data package you would like. It is easy to do, don’t fret. Considering turning off apps refreshing in the background to conserve your data usage.


HKTravelBlog’s HK SIM Card Recommendations

Now the list. First determine your length of stay and coverage required, then look up the appropriate card.

Voice and Data Prepaid SIM Cards

  • HK: 5 Days or Less – Discover HK Tourist SIM 5 Day
  • HK: 8 Days or Less – Discover HK Tourist SIM 8 Day
  • HK only: more than 8 days – 4G/3G Data & Voice Prepaid
  • HK / China and Roaming – 4G/3G Data & Voice Roaming
  • HK and Macau – Voyage King by China Unicom

Data Only Prepaid SIM Cards

  • HK and China 10 Days 1.5 GB: 4G/3G China/HK Data Prepaid
  • HK/China/Taiwan/Macau: Greater China 30 Days 1 GB Data

 

Voice and Data


Hong Kong only, 5 day visit or shorter: Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM 5-day by CSL
Local retail price: $88 or buy through HK SIM Card

Local Data Usage: 1.5 GB
Local Voice Calls: Unlimited
csl Wi-Fi: Unlimited

Notice the unlimited wifi and voice calls. 1.5 GB of high-speed data should be plenty for 5 days, don’t download big files unless you’re on wifi. If you need more data, get the 8 day card with 5 GB allowance instead.

Does work in China, Macau, Taiwan if you need to pop over to those places, but high roaming fees.

discover-hk-sim-5-day

Hong Kong only, 8 days visit or shorter: Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM 8-day by CSL
Local retail price: $118 or buy through HK SIM Card

Local Data Usage: 5.0 GB
Local Voice Calls: Unlimited
csl Wi-Fi: Unlimited

Same as above, but comes with 5 GB of high-speed data, awesome!

discover-hk-sim-8-day

Hong Kong only, more than 8 days: 4G/3G Data & Voice Prepaid SIM Card by China Mobile
Local retail price: $80 or buy through HK SIM Card

$78 of useable credit loaded on card for data plans / voice calling. Local calls are cheap and data plan you can select to suit to your needs. Recommend using the unlimited 3G lite plan at $30 and keep renewing it every 10 days you’re in HK. Or if you’re very light on data usage, get the 1GB package at $148 which will last until your card expires.

5 days, 10 days, and up to 180 days data packages, you can keep refilling if you need more. Does not work outside HK.

200MB – up to validity of prepaid SIM card: $50
1GB – up to validity of prepaid SIM card: $148
1.5GB- 5 days: $48
1GB – 10 days: $68
Unlimited 3G Lite – 10 days: $30

4g3g-data-voice-prepaid-sim-card-by-china-mobile

Hong Kong / China and Roaming: 4G/3G Data & Voice Roaming: China Mobile
Local retail price: $108 or buy through HK SIM Card

Local calling very cheap. $0.1/min for local HK calling. Roaming fees in China are relatively inexpensive at $1.9/min. Roaming feature allows this card to works in other countries too such as Taiwan, Macau, Thailand, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, pretty much anywhere.

Local data plans depending on your needs and caps on data roaming in China at $68/day. Valid for 90 days upon activation, you can refill to extend validity.

*Keep in mind Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media & Western sites such as NYTimes are often blocked by the Great Firewall of China*

datavoiceroaming108_cardholder-002-l_495x550

Hong Kong and Macau: Voyage King by China Unicom
Local retail price: $88 or buy through HK SIM Card

7 days unlimited data in HK and Macau, 1st 1GB high-speed, after slows to not less than 128kbps.

Unlimited voice calling in HK, and includes $30 for direct dial voice services to 14 countries.

Direct dialing Mainland China, Macau, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, United Kingdom, India, Indonesia, Taiwan, Australia, Japan, United States, Canada, Philippines.

china-unicom-voyage-king


 

Data Only

Keep in mind you can use one of the Voice & Data cards, even if you don’t plan on making phone calls. Many of them provide data allowance. If you need a lot of data, or plan to roam around Greater China look at these two options.

Hong Kong & China 1.5GB: 4G/3G China/HK 10 Day Data
Local retail price: $148 or buy through HK SIM Card

Data Usage shared between HK and China Usage: 1.5 GB
Local Voice Calls: None

1.5 GB data allowance, should be plenty as long as you don’t watch videos or download large files. Valid for 10 days. No roaming fees in HK or China.

*Keep in mind Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media & Western sites such as NYTimes are often blocked by the Great Firewall of China*

4g3g-china-10-day-data-prepaid-sim-card-495x550-jpg_1335194955

Greater China (HK, China, Macau & Taiwan): Greater China 30 Days SIM

Local retail price: $199 or buy through HK SIM Card

Data Usage shared between HK/China/Macau/Taiwan: 1 GB
Local Voice Calls: None

Limited data at 1 GB, but valid for 30 days and no roaming fees in Greater China.

*Keep in mind Google, Facebook, Twitter, and other Social Media & Western sites such as NYTimes are often blocked by the Great Firewall of China* In HK, TW, and Macau you can access all sites without issue.

screen-shot-2016-11-06-at-12-21-43-pm


 

Roaming: 

If you will roaming with a prepaid SIM, be sure to look at the rates before you use it. Also, double check the card for roaming support, some cards don’t work outside their home country, though many do.

Many cards are marketed for roaming however, such as the China Mobile 4G/3G Roaming card mentioned earlier. Calling rates for these cards are generally less than others. For example, this card is $1.9/min in China, vs $6-8/min for many others.

Activation:

Activation for most cards is easy, pop it into your SIM card it should register automatically. Some may require a number combination to be sent, be sure to read the instructions. Keep in mind many of the cards must be activated in Hong Kong, or some cases activation can be done other countries that are supported, such as China.

Refill / Top-off:

If you used up the credit that was initially loaded onto the card, many cards allow refills or “top-up.” This can be done online or in-store. It will usually extend the validity of the card as well. For instance, some cards are valid for up to 180 days, then each top-up will extend it another 180 days from the refill date.

 


How to purchase

There’s a few options.

Online: hksimcard.com is our partner site and they will mail you via air mail the prepaid SIM cards to your door so that you have it for your trip before you leave. Best if you instantly want to turn on your phone once the plane lands in HKG and use it. Saves time for searching for your card or stock issues at the store. They carry cards for other countries as well.

Airport: 7-11 and Circle K are some of the stores which carry prepaid SIM cards. The inventory and stock changes so often it’s hard to know what they’ll have when they arrive. Pro, you can get it at the airport. Con, airport stores are often out of stock on many SIM cards due to the sheer number of passengers.

In-town: Again check out any convenience store, or go visit your local mobile phone store and see what they carry. Major mobile carriers are CSL/PCCW/One2Free, Smartone, China Unicom, Three, and China Mobile. Usually you’re limited to whatever mobile brand store you enter but their stock tends to be better than the convenience stores. The customer service is usually better too, helping you activate the SIM card and help answer any questions.


 

Phone Compatibility

Most important, make sure your cell/mobile phone is GSM capable and accepts SIM cards. (Hint: if it accepts SIM cards, it’s GSM.) Make sure it’s unlocked. Phones in many western countries are locked to only accept SIM cards for one particular carrier, if it’s unlocked you can use it anywhere globally. Call you carrier if you’re not sure, sometimes they can send you a code to enter on the phone to unlock it.

Reminder to bring a paper clip, or needle to put the SIM card tray out if you’re phone has this. Often people forget to bring the pin to change SIM cards and are stuck scrambling to find something that’ll fit in the phone’s SIM card tray eject hole.

If you need more details check which phones will work in Asia.


Summary

Obtaining a prepaid SIM card should not be a huge stressful event, but many times is it. Hopefully this guide will help. If you run out of funds on the card, you can usually “top-off”, aka refill, your SIM card by adding extra money in-store or online. Read the instructions that come with the SIM card packaging and you’ll be fine. Enjoy your trip!

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