Mobile Phone Number

You will definitely need a mobile phone and phone number. This will allow you to interact with jobs, schools, travel, work and family back home. Without a phone you will be at a serious disadvantage, and Chinese will say ‘Oh my god, he doesn’t have a phone!’

It’s very easy. You can get a phone at one of the many phone stores that are scattered around every city. If you are in a large city just head to a local mall and you will have plenty of choices. The cheapest phone you will find is about 200RMB, an old version of Nokia. And they go up to 6,000RMB plus, roughly the price of the newest iPhone version, now iPhone5.

To get a phone number you have two options. The first is to buy it on the street. You will see at some small shops and newspaper stands they will sell number. The numbers are usually hanging on the stands, choose one based on the price and they will give you the SIM card. Simply insert the SIM card add credit and you are good to go.

Credit is added to phones by buying recharge cards. These come in values of 30, 50 and 100RMB. Follow the instructions in English on the card to add this credit to your number.

When buying a phone number this can get interesting. Numbers in China have special meanings, for example 8 is lucky and 9 is lucky but 4 is the number of death, as it sounds the same (si). If the number has many 8s, or one 8 it will be expensive. If it has many 4s it will be dirt cheap. It’s up to you how you want to play this.

The second option to get a phone number, your SIM card, you can go to any China mobile or China Unicom store. If you did not see one (there are many) just ask anyone and they can point you in the right direction. They will need your passport. I recommend this method because here you can ask them to set up a plan and they speak English. They offer plans for 10RMB per month that allows all picked up calls to be free. If you don’t choose this option you are charged for picked up phone calls. They also have a good option to choose 2 other numbers and have unlimited calling to those numbers for 10RMB per month. If you are only calling your roommate and rarely call anyone else your phone bill will be less than 30RMB per month, unless you are using data.

And the good part of getting it at China mobile is it is registered to your passport. So if one night you go on a bender and lose your phone at least you can get back the same number. Go to China mobile, say you lost your SIM and give them your passport. For 10RMB they will give you a new SIM card.

Also a key note on SIM cards and Smart phones, if you have a smart phone that requires a microSIM or miniSIM card go to China mobile, the street vendors will not have this.

Note for smart phone users. You may want to get 3G, depending on your phone this may only be available on China Unicom. China mobile does not offer 3G for iPhone. They offer it for other brands they carry, but currently they do not carry iPhone, so only 2G. As when you get the SIM if 3G is available. But remember the data plans will cost much more.