Reduce your roaming rates by using a local SIM.
If you’re planning a trip to Macau, a top tip for keeping costs down is to switch to a local SIM card. Take advantage of better tariffs, plans and deals to dramatically reduce your roaming rates. So, whether you’re a short- or long-term traveller, you can save money by comparing your SIM card options on finder.com.au.
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Telco providers in Macau
There are four main telco providers in Macau: CTM, Three, SmarTone and China Telecom. Both locals and travellers use SIM cards from all four networks, and they can be trusted with whatever plan you choose. According to OpenSignal’s coverage map, Macau has a strong network signal across most of the country. However, some areas can be weak, and that will happen on any phone or provider you use there.
About Macau’s operators
Macau’s operators offer good roaming rates and sell prepaid credit, which allows users to take advantage of cheap offers and deals. All networks offer customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Locals call their SIM cards “SIMs” or “SIM Kaa”, and there are rules and regulations you need to follow when purchasing them. Tourists can only buy SIM cards from approved dealers after filling out the registration paperwork and showing a passport as proof of identification. The best place to do this is at Macau International Airport to get it out of the way as soon as you arrive.
Below, we have broken down each telco provider to highlight exactly what they can offer you during your stay in Macau.
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CTM is the largest operator in Macau and offers customers 2G, 3G and 4G/LTE services. Internet speeds are fast and network coverage is good. Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased from official stores or approved resellers, but you will have to show your passport and register the SIM card with the retailer before it can be activated. Credit can be purchased at supermarkets, corner stores and gas stations.
The “BEST” prepaid SIM cards are a good option for tourists and offer a selection of different plans. The SIM card can be purchased for MOP48 and contains 880 MB data, unlimited Wi-Fi and 480 minutes of local calls, valid for 30 days. Credit can be added in the following denominations: MOP50, MOP100, MOP200 and MOP500.
The standard default data rate is charged at MOP0.02 per Kb. The following data packs are available on 3G, each valid for one month:
|300 MB||12 hours Wi-Fi||MOP29|
|1GB||28 hours Wi-Fi||MOP99|
|2GB||60 hours Wi-Fi||MOP169|
|Unlimited Data||Unlimited Wi-Fi||MOP500|
To activate, dial #160*?# and follow the steps, along with the number of the pack you wish to purchase: “1, 2, 3 or 4”.
Data overuse is charged at MOP0.625 per MB and MOP0.10 per minute for Wi-Fi usage. You must activate the SIM card before being able to use this service. Dial 1772 or *122# to activate the SIM for data packs. To upload credit, dial 1772 or *122*, then add the credit voucher number.
The following monthly 4G/LTE packs are also available::
100 hours Wi-Fi
480 local minutes
There is also a data-only "online everywhere in Macau" SIM card on sale, which includes data and unlimited Wi-Fi usage. The SIM card can be purchased for MOP100 for 3 days or MOP200 for 7 days. The following combo packs are available too:
- 3 days: MOP78 for 2GB, activation on 3G: *162*1#, activation on 4G: *163*1#
- 7 days: MOP188 for 4GB, activation on 3G: *162*7#, activation on 4G: *163*7
CTM’s APN: ctm-mobile, and website: http://www.ctm.net/cportal/base/public/mobiweb/PrepaidLeftNav.iface
Three is the second-largest provider in Macau. 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. Top-ups in amounts between MOP50 and MOP500 can be purchased in the form of credit vouchers available in most stores or by using your credit card online.
Prepaid SIM cards can be purchased in the following options:
- 4G Data Card: MOP200 with unlimited 4G data, valid for 3 days. You can purchase a 3-day bonus for the discounted rate of MOP188. Dial **190# to activate.
- Easy Travel 3G Prepaid Card: MOP100, which comes with 8GB data, 800 local minutes and 800 local SMS, valid for 3 days. Additional packs of the same amounts can be purchased for a discounted rate of MOP88.
- 3G Prepaid Card Data 200: MOP200, which comes with 7 days unlimited data. Additional packs of the same amounts can be purchased for a discounted rate of MOP168.
- 3G Low-Speed Data Card: MOP100, which comes with 30 days unlimited data. The following three options are available on this SIM card:
- 3GB for 30 days: MOP68, activation: **160*1#, deactivation: ##160*1#
- 8GB for 30 days: MOP168, activation: **160*2#, deactivation: ##160*2#
- 12GB for 30 days: MOP238, activation: **160*3#, deactivation: ##160*3#
Three’s APN: mobile.three.com.mo, and website: http://www.three.com.mo/eng
SmarTone is the third provider in Macau 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. Top-ups can be purchased in the form of credit vouchers that can be found in most stores or by using your credit card online to add amounts between MOP50 and MOP300.
There is only one prepaid SIM card, and it can be purchased for MOP50. Unlimited data is charged at MOP100 per day. Dial *123*6*1117# to activate.
SmarTone’s APN: smartone /or/ smartgpr, and website: http://www.smartone.com/mo/en/mobile-services/price-plans/prepaid-sim-card/pricing.jsp
China Telecom uses CDMA, which is only compatible with some US phone networks, including Verizon and Sprint. Check to make sure that your device supports CDMA BC0. If you are using 4G/LTE, then your device must be able to operate on the following bands: 1, 3, 20, 40 and 41.
China Telecom has the smallest network out of all the providers but is relatively good. Prepaid SIMs can be purchased by using the Chinese RMB currency, rather than Macau’s MOP.
China Telecom has the lowest prices and offers the best deals and plans, plus significant bonus packages, in a bid to attract new customers. For customers with compatible phones or tablets, China Telecom offers the best deals. It also offers CDMA USB dongles, which you can use for Internet packages. This will give you massive savings if you plan on staying for a longer period.
Visitors requiring Chinese Telecom’s prepaid SIM cards will have to show their passport as an official form of identification. It’s better to purchase SIM cards at official stores because if you purchase the SIM card in a smaller store, you will still have to take it over to the official store to get it registered and activated.
Be warned that you may need to pay a deposit of between RMB50 to RMB900, depending on the desired plan. These deposits are non-refundable, but sometimes you can use this fee against monthly plans, so check with the store assistant when making your purchase.
You can add the following data packs to any prepaid SIM card:
|RMB50||1GB||Valid for 30 days|
|RMB100||2GB||Valid for 90 days|
|RMB300||6GB||Valid for 180 days|
|RMB600||12GB||Valid for 365 days|
Data-only SIM cards are known as “Internet cards” (liu liang ka). To purchase one, make sure you show your passport and provide your hotel phone number and address. Once the SIM is registered, then you’re good to go!
Some top tips from finder.com.au staff
- The official languages in Macau are Cantonese and Portuguese. If you don’t know the languages, you could download Google Translate onto your phone before you travel.
- Locals call a SIM card a “SIM Kaa” or “SIM”.
- Ask the sellers to set up the SIM for you; 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 vendor.
- 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 Macau.
Here are some top tips from TripAdvisor users:
“Most of the prepaid SIM cards allow for roaming, but of course the rates for calls across the border are much higher. If you will mainly be making rather than receiving calls, and can choose your location to do so, it can make more sense to buy a mainland SIM card (easily available in Macau), as many areas in Macau (specially on fortresses, in some highrises and along waterfront areas) have good mainland reception – ask at your hotel about the situation in that particular area.”
“You can get SIM cards at vending machines in main ports like ferry terminals and Border Gate.”
“By the way, depending which hotel in Macau you are staying, for WhatsApp, free Wi-Fi is usually available at the lobby (and in some hotels free in rooms also), and around tourist spots, there is free Wi-Fi also.”
“Check with your hotel when you arrive because both Chinese and Hong Kong SIM cards can be used in Macau. It depends on which area you are staying in.”
Pros and cons of Macau’s top telco providers
All networks except China Telecom require you to have a SIM-unlocked, GSM-compatible phone. For China Telecom, you'll need a SIM-unlocked, CDMA-compatible phone. To double check which phone you have, contact your provider before you set off on your travels.
- Good value for money
- Prepaid credit when required
- No in-store contract needed
- Could be compatible with your current phone
- Some areas can suffer from bad coverage
- No devices offered with the SIM card packages
- Double check whether there are roaming charges when travelling to China or Hong Kong
- Rules and regulations could make buying a SIM card difficult
Had more questions about finding the best SIM card?
Q: What if I lose my phone in Macau?
A: Your phone is your lifeline, especially when travelling around Asia. 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!
Q: Is the signal bad on the islands?
A: All networks could suffer in some parts, no matter what provider you use. Macau’s networks offer a relatively reliable service that is no worse than what you would get on a home phone network, so it makes sense to opt for a local SIM card because the rates are ridiculously cheap.