Reduce your roaming rates by using a local SIM.
If you’re planning a trip to Hong Kong, a top tip for keeping down costs is to switch to a local SIM card. Take advantage of better tariffs, plans and deals to dramatically reduce your roaming rates. You can get 1GB of data from Hong Kong’s top telco providers for about HKD68 ($11.11). So, whether you’re a short or long-term traveler, you can save money by comparing your SIM card options on finder.com.au.
There are four main telco providers in Hong Kong: csl., China Mobile Hong Kong, Three and SmarTone. Both locals and travelers use SIM cards from all four networks, and they can be trusted whatever plan you choose. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, Hong Kong has strong or above-average network coverage all around the country.
About Hong Kong’s operators
Hong Kong’s operators are independent from those in China. All networks offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. SIM cards can be purchased and activated without having to use a passport, and can be found in most stores and supermarkets. We advise you to purchase a SIM card from official stores and approved resellers, and to try to avoid street sellers. Credit can be purchased from stores, supermarkets and kiosks across the country. Below, we have broken down each provider and exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Hong Kong.
csl. is the largest provider in Hong Kong. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services for GSM international phones. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers and credit can also be picked up from the same retailers. Your passport doesn’t have to be shown for the SIM card to be activated but we advise you to take it along just in case. SIM cards can be picked up for HKD48 or HKD78 and comes with the same amount of credit. Top-ups in amounts between HKD50 and HKD300 can be purchased in the form of credit vouchers that can be picked up from most stores, or by using your credit card online. Dial 179179 to add credit to your SIM card. Dial *109# to check your balance.
csl. charges users a monthly administration fee of HKD3 after the first 30 days of use. This isn’t just a csl. charge – it’s also evident with other providers.
All-in-one Prepaid SIM cards (international voice and data packages) can be purchased for HKD100 or HKD180, and come with the same amount of credit.
The following data packs can be added:
To purchase one of the above-mentioned plans, dial the activation code in the far right column. Wi-Fi can also be used with these packages. Dial *111# to receive your password.
There is also an “Octopus” prepaid SIM card which can be purchased for HKD70, but check with stores at time of purchase as they often have deals and promotions available. The following data packs can be added to the Octopus SIM cards:
All of the above-mentioned plans come with unlimited Wi-Fi and 1,000 local minutes. Dial the activation code in the far right column to activate the relevant plan.
There is also a tourist SIM card that can be used for short periods of time. These can be purchased from Apple stores and most retailers across the country, Just ask the retailer for the “Tourist SIM”. The following plans are available:
- HKD88 – 1.5GB, unlimited local calls and Wi-Fi, valid for 5 days (comes with HKD30 credit)
- HKD118 – 5GB, unlimited local calls and Wi-Fi, valid for 8 days (comes with HKD$48 credit)
csl. APN: mobile, and website: http://www.hkcsl.com/en/Prepaid
China Mobile Hong Kong
China Mobile is the largest provider in the world, mainly due to its coverage across China. They also offer a platform solely for the Hong Kong market, and offer 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services for GSM international phones. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers and credit can also be picked up from the same retailers. SIM cards can be bought for HKD80, that comes with HKD78 of credit. Top-ups can be purchased in the form of credit vouchers that can be found at most stores, or by using your credit card online. Top-ups can be added in various amounts between HKD50 and HKD500.
There is also a “Traveler SIM” available that can be purchased for HKD68 and comes with HKD18 of credit. There are many traveler plans available that change on a monthly basis, so check with the provider at the time of purchase for the latest deals.
China Mobile’s APN: CMHK, and website: http://www.hk.chinamobile.com/en
Three is the third largest provider in Hong Kong. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services for GSM international phones. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers, and credit can also be picked up from the same retailers. SIM cards can be picked up for HKD80, which comes with HKD78 of credit. Dial ##107*2# if you prefer to set the SIM card language to English, otherwise it will function in Cantonese. Top-ups in amounts between HKD50 and HKD500 can be purchased in the form of credit vouchers available in most stores, or by using your credit card online. Dial ##105*<16-digit PIN># to add credit amounts. Three also offers free Wi-Fi to customers using the HK subway network which is an added bonus.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased for HKD48 or HKD98, depending on how long you wish to use the SIM card for. In addition, the following data packs can be added:
There is also a data-only SIM card available for tablets and modems. The following packages can be added to this option:
The above-mentioned data packs are valid for 30 days.
The following voice and data packages are available on 4G SIM cards only:
In addition, the following data packs can be added to the 4G voice and data plans by dialing the code in the right-hand column.
Three’s APN: mobile.three.com.hk, and website: http://www.three.com.hk
SmarTone is the smallest provider in Hong Kong but has been rated one of the best for its service. It offers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services for GSM international phones. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores and approved resellers and credit can also be picked up from the same retailers. SIM cards can be purchased for HKD48 or HKD80, and come with the same amount of credit. Top-ups can be purchased in the form of credit vouchers which can be found in most stores, or by using your credit card online to add amounts between HKD50 and HKD300.
- 1 hour: HKD8 for unlimited data.
- 1 month: HKD38 for 300MB data.
The following packages can be added to 4G/LTE SIM cards:
- 1 hour: HKD10 for unlimited data
- 1 day (until midnight): HKD30 for unlimited data
- 1 month:
- 250MB of data: HKD45
- 1GB of data: HKD168
SmarTone’s APN: smartone, website: http://www.smartone.com
Some top tips from finder.com staff:
- The official language in Hong Kong is Cantonese and English is also widely spoken.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM Kaa” or “SIM”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIMs for you since they will know how to do it. If not, follow the instructions we have highlighted above or go to the official operator website to get advice.
- We advise you to purchase your SIM card from official stores rather than through a street seller.
- Get to the shops early to receive better assistance and to avoid the crowds.
TripAdvisor tips for the best SIM cards and where to buy them
While it’s well known for reviews, booking hotels, flights and holidays, TripAdvisor also has many user comments that can help guide you through what SIM cards have been tried and tested in Hong Kong.
“You don't need a passport to buy a SIM card from what I know. There are even vending machines that sell them. You might as well buy the SIM card from there then top up online.”
“You can go to a 7/11 and buy a SIM card. Some are cheaper than others but it doesn't really make a huge difference. If you act a bit helpless they'll even put it in for you.”
“You NEED a special tool/cutter to cut the SIM card to nano format… If you purchase directly from the telco provider, they sometimes can provide you with a nano sim card and/or cut it for you.”
Pros and cons of Hong Kong’s top telco providers
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- No phone devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Can only be used on SIM-unlocked GSM phones
- Roaming is charged in China unless you purchase a roaming SIM
Another important question
Q: What if I lose my phone?
Your phone is your lifeline, especially when traveling around the Far East. Make sure you keep it safe and always make a note of where it is. The importance of having a direct link to family and friends via social media or through phone services can never be underestimated If you do lose your phone, then retrace your steps and ask around. If you still have no luck then report it missing. Finally, find a cheap replacement to keep in touch with the outside world, and don’t let this one out of your sight!