HKTravelBlog

Top Hong Kong Prepaid SIM Cards Guide: 2019-2020

Here’s an update for our annual rundown of Hong Kong’s best prepaid SIM cards! This list is updated to include new products in the SIM card market, and share some of the most popular cards. (If you’re looking to see what we selected last year, you’re welcome to visit our best Hong Kong SIM cards for 2018)

The SIM card landscape has changed the last few years. For 2019 there’s a lot more data options, higher allowances (e.g. more gigabytes), and less roaming charges. All positives for the consumer!

Also, 3-in-1 SIM cards are now norm. You do not need to specify micro/nano sizes. The SIM card will look like this, and you pop out the size that fits your phone, super easy.

This guide gives you everything you need to know about prepaid SIM cards in Hong Kong, and some popular options. (This guide is applicable for 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 straightforward, phone calls are rounded to the nearest minute, and charged at a set price per minute. Simply guesstimate how many minutes you’ll call using the prepaid SIM to figure out how much credit you may use. (You don’t need voice minutes to call someone. You can download and use one of the following apps which will utilize your data allowance WhatsApp, WeChat, Facetime, Skype, Line, etc.)

SMS (aka text message) is not free to send in Asia. It’s very cheap to SMS others on the same mobile network, and slightly costlier out of network. However, receiving incoming SMS to a HK number is free, anywhere worldwide. Our suggestion is not to use SMS. As with voice, use a messaging service such as iMessage, Facebook Messenger, Skype, WeChat, or Whatsapp to chat with your friends and family. Messaging programs use data only, and you can reach all your friends overseas.

Data is usually what travelers covet these days. 4G is readily available in Hong Kong and throughout Asia, and 5G is rolling out now too. Most of the prepaid services will either offer 4G or 3G, which are both still plenty fast. As long as you aren’t downloading huge files or videos, you should be fine.

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, and turn off data roaming to avoid fees if applicable.

Activating SIM cards are fairly easy too. Used to be you had to type a code but nowadays you pretty much just insert and start using.


HKTravelBlog’s Hong Kong Prepaid 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 and Macau: 5 Days or Less – Discover HK Tourist SIM 5 Day by csl
  • HK and Macau: 8 Days or Less (most popular) – Discover HK Tourist SIM 8 Day by csl
  • HK only: longer than 8 days – 4G/3G Data & Voice Prepaid by China Mobile

HK & Roaming Prepaid SIM Cards

  • HK, China and Macau: 30 days or less – Big Bay Area by China Mobile
  • HK and Macau: 8 days (budget option) – Voyage King by China Unicom
  • Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, & Laos: 8 days or less (best for roamers) – Asia 8 Days Data SIM by China Unicom


Hong Kong Voice and Data SIM card picks


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: 3 GB (HK and Macau)
Local Voice Calls: Unlimited
csl Wi-Fi: Unlimited
Usable value: $30HK

Newest feature for 2019 is data allowance has been increased to 3GB (from 1.5gb) for Hong Kong and Macau. If you plan on hopping over to Macau for a few days, feel free to use the data allowance there without roaming!

Unlimited wifi and voice calls in Hong Kong. 3 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 8 GB allowance instead.

Credits included can be used for calls or texts overseas, or use in China or Taiwan. If you need to pop over to those places, lower roaming fees than before too!

China or Taiwan roaming data rates:

  • $48HK / 500MB / 3 day
  • $98HK / 1GB / 7 day

Top up the card for $48 for another 5 days and 3GB of data.


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: 8 GB (HK and Macau)
Local Voice Calls: Unlimited
csl Wi-Fi: Unlimited
Usable value: $48HK

Same as above, but comes with 8 GB of high-speed data, awesome! Huge increase from 5GB allowance from the older versions of the card. This is the best selling card for visitors to Hong Kong.

Top up the card for $48 for another 5 days and 3GB of data.


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
Does not work outside HK. Only for Hong Kong.

Inexpensive card for visitors planning on staying in Hong Kong for longer than 8 days and not too much planned SIM card usage. You can refill (top-up) as needed and extend the validity each time by 180 days.

$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 staying awhile there’s a 30 day data plan for $68. Not super fast for video watching, but certainly speedy enough for web sites and email.

5 days, 10 days, and up to 180 days data packages, you can keep refilling if you need more.

200MB – up to validity of prepaid SIM card: $50
1GB – up to validity of prepaid SIM card: $148
3GB- 5 days: $48
2GB – 10 days: $68
Unlimited 3G Lite – 10 days: $30


Roaming SIM Cards

Used to be VERY expensive to roam. Nowadays there’s a few good card options for roaming in Greater China or Asia. Some are data only keep in mind, which usually isn’t an issue with Skype and other video calling. Here’s our picks below.


Hong Kong, China, and Macau: Big Bay Area Prepaid SIM card by China Mobile (3, 10, and 30 day variations)
Local retail price: $198 30 days, $148 10 days, or $98 3 days or Buy Online through HKSIMCard

Great inexpensive card for roaming in Hong Kong, Mainland China, and Macau. Up to 30 days service, though short visits can utilize the 3 day card.

Also includes some voice minutes and SMS as a plus. New this year is an unlimited upgraded data allowance, high speed will go down to 128kbps after 2 or 3GB usage, but still plenty fat for web surfing.

  • 30 & 10 days SIM: Unlimited high-speed data, 128kbps after 3GB + 100 Mins Voice Calls + 100 SMS
  • 3 days SIM: Unlimited high-speed data 128kbps after 3GB + 50 Mins Voice Calls + 50 SMS

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


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. Good for travelers on a budget!

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


Asia 8 Days Data SIM (unlimited data) by China Unicom
Local retail price: $138 or buy through HK SIM Card

Highly recommended due to very reasonable price and large coverage of countries to roam in. 2GB of high-speed data, and slows down after, but still plenty fast to access anything pretty much except video streaming.

Included free roaming in all of the below countries:

Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, Singapore, Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Philippines, Cambodia, Vietnam, & Laos: 8 days or less

Once your total data usage in above listed Asian regions reaches 2GB “Fair Usage level”, the upload/download speed would be reduced and restricted (but not below 256kbps) and tethering and Peer-to-Peer services would not be available.)


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.

Roamers should pick one of the cards under the roaming SIM section we recommend above to avoid any unwanted surprises. The roaming data cards with unlimited allowance is a huge bonus and you don’t need to worry about running out of money or data on your SIM. Just make sure you turn on the roaming data option on your phone, otherwise it probably won’t work when you arrive in a new country.

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, some 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: Purchase from our partner HKSIMCard.com; they will 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 encountering 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 before you 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, 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. Almost any unlocked phone less than 10 years old that supports a SIM card will work.


Summary

Obtaining a prepaid SIM card should not be a 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!

You can also add a comment to this page and see if the reader community can help you out!

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