So, you’re looking at Hong Kong prepaid SIM cards. We know there’s a lot out there—so here’s a handy guide on how SIMs work in Hong Kong, and a few suggestions on which SIMs to pick up.
A few helpful tips
- Make sure your phone is unlocked so it can be used with any SIM card. Your local service provider might have your phone restricted to specific countries or networks. If it is restricted, you might find your newly purchased prepaid SIM does not work.
- If you have an iPhone, make sure you’re carrying the little key that pops open the SIM card container so that you can switch the SIM card.
- If you haven’t already, download the apps for Whatsapp, WeChat or Line for free calls and texting using data. Most people in Hong Kong use one or all three. Facebook Messenger also has the same functions.
Hong Kong prepaid SIM cards overview
If you’re paying more than HK$150.00 for a monthly plan, you’re probably paying too much. Most plans differentiate themselves by offering a different combination of voice, data, and international calling or roaming options. Most cards are valid for the number of days indicated on the package, and many can have their validity extended usually by 1 month or 180 days by topping them up (adding value) at convenience stores or stores operated by the mobile phone operators. Talk to the clerk, and they’ll know what to do.
Where to buy SIM cards in Hong Kong
: Circle K, 7-11, Vanguard (VanGo)
There are convenience stores at the airport, ferry terminals, near bus depots and all over the city. Just know that stocks can vary across stores and you may not be able to get the card that you want.
Mobile (cell phone) operator stores
You’re more likely to get what you’re looking for at these specialty shops that can be found all over the city.
- CSL (Same company as One2Free and PCCW)
- China Mobile
Each plan will vary, but here’s a breakdown of the services provided through the SIM cards.
Voice: Calls are charged by the nearest minute. Rates change depending on which country you’re calling and sometimes on whether or not you’re calling a fixed line or a mobile phone.
SMS: Texts aren’t free to send in Hong Kong (although receiving them is). They’re charged per text and prices differ depending on whether they’re in network, out of network, or which country they’re sent to. To get around this, most people just use the chat apps we mentioned earlier, which send messages and call using data.
Data: If you’re like most people and aren’t planning on streaming Netflix on your phone through your data plan, you’re not going to need more than 2G for a couple of days, maybe even a month if you’re not a big user. Posting to Instagram, Facebook, or sending photos to your Mom (unless for some reason you’re sending giant files) isn’t going to eat into your data too much. We’d say, save streaming for your hotel room, which probably has pretty speedy internet. Most plans seem to provide 3GB of service over a few days.
Just the basics please: China Mobile’s 4G/3G Super Talk Prepaid SIM Card
Low cost and no frills. If you’re not looking to use a lot data or make many international direct dialing (IDD) calls, this is the one for you.
HK$48.00: 3G of data over 5 days for the local data package
HK$68.00: The 30 Days Local Data package for 3G over, you guessed it, 30 days.
There’s also the lite data package that has slower service, but lasts over 10 days. Note that the lite data package doesn’t allow tethering.
For local calls, your stored amount will be deducted either HK$0.05/HK$0.12 a minute depending on whether it’s peak or non-peak hours. IDD calls can cost anywhere from HK$1.19/minute to HK$11.35/minute for most major destinations.
The works: CSL’s 4G All-in-One
This SIM offers free calling to 30 overseas destinations, but read the fine print, as some of these countries are only free to call landlines. USA, China, Canada, Singapore and Thailand are the only ones that have completely free IDD. For the rest of the countries, charges to call mobile phones are anywhere from HK$1.00/minute to HK$15.80/minute.
For this plan you can buy a SIM card loaded with HK$100.00 or HK$180.00 and deduct the charges from that amount. Basically, you can choose the number of days and the amount of data you need, and update as you go. You subscribe to the plan by texting a number. See the official site for a chart on prices.
If you really need a lot of data over 8 days, CSL’s Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM Card, provides 5G of service over those days for HK$118.00.
Free internet in Hong Kong
For those of you who don’t want to spend money on a SIM card, Hong Kong is generally a wifi-friendly city with many restaurants, buildings, malls and hotels providing free internet. Connecting to free wifi when possible can help reduce your data usage.
Here’s a list of places you can find free wifi in Hong Kong:
- The airport
- The Airport Express
- MTR stations
- Pacific Coffee
- Major shopping malls (The IFC, Pacific Place, and others offer their own wifi services, which are usually time restricted and require you to share your email)
- Organisations like Wi-Fi.HK provide free hotspots and have an app you can download.