How To Unlock a Phone & Use a SIM Card in China

Eleanor Boniface
Career China Digital Marketing Manager
Aug 28, 2019

If you're moving to China and planning to use your same mobile phone device, you'll to make sure it is compatible with Chinese SIM cards and that your phone is unlocked. Here are some questions to help you prepare your mobile device.

Do You Have A Phone Contract at Home?


If you have a phone contract (which most countries do), this means your phone is connected to a mobile phone provider (your mobile phone company). You will need to call the mobile phone provider to find out how to unlock your phone if it’s not unlocked already.


They may have a code you need to unlock it from the provider, or you may need to pay off the contract to get this code. Career China does not know what each provider does in all countries to unlock a phone, so please call them directly.


If you have a pay-as-you-go phone, or your phone is not contracted to a mobile phone provider, you should be able to put any SIM card in this phone. Test it by using a family member or friend’s sim card to see if it works with multiple different sim cards from different providers. 


Before you go, also make sure you check the compatibility of your phone. Phones manufactured after 2015 are able to use Chinese SIM cards, but some phones manufactured before this might not be compatible with international brands. You can check this by looking at the international frequency of your phone – make sure it cover 900 and 1800 Hz.



When Will I Get a Chinese SIM Card?


Our arrival support team will help you buy a Chinese SIM card upon arrival. They usually cost 100 RMB, and you will get a data plan with the SIM card (this means you have a certain amount of money to top up or add to your account each month. Adding money to your phone account is easy, and you can learn how to do this here). They are very simple to get and use, but you must have your passport on you when you purchase the sim card.


What happens if the Chinese SIM Card Does Not Work When I Arrive In China?

This means your phone is not unlocked for whatever reason. There is also a rare case that your phone is unlocked, but is not compatible with Chinese SIM cards (as stated before, the phone needs to be 900 and 1800 Hz.)


You can buy a cheap smart phone at any of these stores in China:


  • China Mobile
  • China Unicom
  • China Telecom
  • Gome
  • Sunning


You can ask your Arrival Support Contact to help you locate a nearby store to buy a cheap smartphone. If you’d like to buy an iPhone or an Android from a specific company, you can look up the closest store.

Is your phone unlocked and ready to use? Great! Make sure you have also downloaded a VPN for your mobile device and computer before you come to China.

Learn more about technology and APPs in China with The Ultimate Guide for Moving to China


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