Getting a local Hong Kong prepaid SIM card with data is the first thing I do when arriving in Hong Kong International Airport.
Most of time I will need to call someone or want to check my email inbox after getting off the plane.
To be honest, I don’t feel safe walking around Hong Kong without a working mobile phone anyway.
If you are like me, you should definitely stop by a shop to buy a SIM card before getting on a transfer to the hotel.
Buying a Hong Kong prepaid SIM card is relatively easy because many places in the airport have it.
But do keep in mind that there are many wireless service providers in Hong Kong. Each provider has its own prepaid SIM card products with different benefits and features. Most importantly, some SIM card products don’t offer 3G wireless data access.
The difficult part is choosing the right SIM card for your needs. This is especially critical if you have a smartphone and need 3G data during your stay in Hong Kong.
Does Your Phone Work In Hong Kong?
Before I give you a comparison of the different Hong Kong prepaid SIM cards that I recommend, you should first make sure that your mobile phone will work in Hong Kong.
Most 3G wireless providers in Hong Kong use the UMTS/HSDPA frequency of 2100 MHz. Make sure your phone supports this frequency in order to have full 3G speed.
If 3G high speed data is not important to you or you don’t use a smartphone, you should check to see if your phone supports the GSM 900 MHz and 1800 MHz frequencies. These 2G frequencies are supported by most phones nowadays.
Next, you must have an unlocked phone to use prepaid SIM cards in Hong Kong.
If you bought your phone from your wireless provider with a discount, chances are your phone is locked by your provider. You can search online to see how you can unlock it.
If you have an iPhone and you didn’t buy it from an Apple Store, it should be locked and you need to unlock it first before taking it to Hong Kong.
New: Hong Kong Tourist SIM Card By Hong Kong Tourism Board & PCCW
The Hong Kong Tourism Board has recently launched a partnership with PCCW to offer local prepaid sim cards tailored to tourists.
This new prepaid sim card program is really easy to understand since it only has two options to choose from: 1) 5-Day Pass for HKD $69 and 2) 8-Day Pass for HKD $96.
The best part is both options offer you unlimited local calling and very low International SMS and calling rates.
International SMS text messages cost only HKD $1.80 per sent message. International calling costs only HKD $0.45 per minute to most countries. These rates are a real bargain compared to other Hong Kong prepaid sim cards. It is super useful if you plan to call home a lot while staying in Hong Kong.
You can get both Hong Kong Tourist SIM card options in regular SIM or Micro-SIM format at any convenience store.
If you using an Apple iPhone 5, iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s, you will need a Nano-SIM. It is only available at PCCW retail stores.
1) 5-Day Pass (HKD $69)
This one is a really good deal if you are staying in Hong Kong for less than 5 days. It is the lowest price among all prepaid sim cards I’ve reviewed.
It includes unlimited local calling, unlimited Wi-Fi Internet powered by PCCW (has 12,000 hotspots) , and 1.5 GB of 3G mobile Internet data.
HKD $25 is preloaded in this option for sending international SMS messages and international calling.
This card expires in 5 days and there is no real way to extend it or add more value to it, which can be a problem.
2) 8-Day Pass (HKD $96)
The 8-Day Pass is similar to the 5-Day Pass with unlimited local calling and unlimited Wi-Fi data via PCCW hotspots.
Instead of just 1.5 GB of 3G mobile Internet data, you get 5 GB with the 8-Day Pass.
This one also packs HKD $35 for international SMS and calling (just HKD $10 more than the 5-Day Pass).
As the name suggests, this SIM card expires in 8 days and there is no way to extend it or add value for more international calling.
My Opinion On The New Hong Kong Tourist SIM Cards
While these options are very cost effective and useful for travellers coming to Hong Kong for a short period of time, they lack features that most Internet-savvy users need.
Unlimited local calling sounds good on paper, but most travellers simply do not make local calls that often. Unless you are a business traveller, you will only make local calls to make a few restaurant reservations.
I’m also not a big fan of PCCW Wi-Fi hotspots. They are quite slow and have limited range. Unless you want to stand still near a PCCW phone booth to connect to their network, you won’t find them much useful.
They are also very limiting in terms of potential. HKD$25/35 may not be enough to make a lot of international calls, but you can’t add more value after you’ve run out of money. 3G data speed and 1.5 GB make using VOIP and tethering very difficult. After they become expired, your SIM card is no longer usable and your local Hong Kong phone number is gone forever.
If you are a power user and depend a lot on the Internet using your smart phone or computer, you should opt for the one2free Power Prepaid SIM instead. You will get “unlimited” HSPA+ speeds of up to 21 MB/s for the duration of your data subscription. Your SIM card and number never expire if you don’t want them to. You can also add value to your account easily at any convenience store. More details about the one2free Power Prepaid SIM card below.
3G Prepaid SIM Cards With “Unlimited” Data
One2Free Power Prepaid SIM is by far my favourite SIM card with low talk rates and reasonable 3G data subscriptions.
It is available in HKD $88 (~ USD $12) or HKD $180 (~ USD $24) packages.
If you are visiting Hong Kong for just a few days, the $88 package should be plenty for both talk and data use.
Here’s a list of its features (rates in HKD):
- $0.1 per minute local calls
- As low as $0.8 per minute for long distance calls
- $0.8 (local) or $3 (international) each text message sent
- 3G HSDPA speeds up to 7.2 Mpbs
- Data: $8/hour, $28/day, $78/week
One advantage of this prepaid SIM is that One2Free uses the CSL wireless network. CSL is one of the largest wireless providers in Hong Kong. So you will get some decent signal quality in most places.
Your 3G data usage bill is capped at $28 per day. This can be extremely useful if your hotel doesn’t have free WIFI. You may end up saving a lot of money by tethering your phone.
If you are staying 3 days or more, you should subscribe to the $78/week data plan. You will still have $10 for calls, which is enough if you don’t need to call a lot.
Buying this One2Free Power Prepaid SIM is easy at the airport. Just head up to the Level 7 Departures Check-in Hall. You will find the 1010 Shop (CSL) at the end of section F.
You can also find it at Circle K, VanGo, and 7-Eleven stores near the terminal exits.
If you use an iPhone 5, iPhone 5c or iPhone 5s, you will need to go to the actual 1010 Shop because these convenience stores don’t have the smaller Nano-SIM cards that you need.
Update (July 2013): I’m able to get up to HSPA+ speeds of 21 MB/s within the city centre of Hong Kong using phones like Samsung Galaxy S3, Samsung Galaxy S4, Samsung Galaxy Note 2, and iPhone 5.
Update (January 2014): Many people ask me why the word unlimited is in quotations. Do you really get unlimited 3G mobile data with your Hong Kong prepaid SIM card? The short answer is yes and no. You will get unlimited mobile data for sure, but your data speeds will drop to about 2G EDGE level if you reach a certain data cap. This is to prevent people from aggressively hogging up the network. The cap is usually 4/5 GB per month. You should read the fine print that is included with your SIM card regarding mobile Internet fair usage.
The 3 Hong Kong 3G Super Value Monthly Fee Rechargeable SIM Card is more suitable for people with a longer stay (up to a month).
The advantage of this SIM card is that you can subscribe to a 30 day plan for $68 and get 680 local minutes and 10,000 intra-network SMS messages.
Without a 30 day plan, you will get:
- $0.3 per minute local calls
- $1.4 to $3 each text message sent
- Data: $2/MB, $28/day, $338/month
This SIM card is not as competitive in terms of rates and features as the One2Free one but some people claim that they get better Internet speeds using the 3 Hong Kong network.
It only comes in one package for HKD $98 (~ USD $13).
Getting this SIM card is also easy at the airport. Go up to the Level 7 Departures Check-in Hall. You will find the 3 Shop at the end of section G. Fortress, Watsons, and ParknShop also carry it.
An alternative to using 3G data is to connect using WIFI. The PCCW Mobile 3G Rechargeable SIM Card lets you connect to PCCW’s city-wide WIFI network.
For HKD $20 (~ USD $3) you get unlimited WIFI Internet for 24 hours with one device.
This is a good deal if you want a fast and reliable connection at shopping malls and coffee shops.
If you need 3G data in places where there is no WIFI signal, prices can get really high.
Here’s what you will get with this SIM card:
- $0.06 per minute local calls (non peak hours)
- $0.12 per minute local calls (peak hours 12:00 to 20:59)
- $0.1 to $1.8 each text message sent
- Data: $3/MB
This SIM card comes in $48 and $78 packages.
You can get it in most convenience stores in the airport such as Circle K and 7-Eleven.
2G Prepaid SIM Card For Voice Calling
If you don’t need fast 3G data connections and simply just want to make calls, Peoples (China Mobile) has 2 SIM cards for your needs.
The Peoples Tourist Talk Prepaid SIM Card is perfect for you if you need to make a lot of long distance calls out of Hong Kong.
$0.25 per minute is the flat rate for local calls. Calls to landlines and mobile phones in China, USA, Canada, and Singapore are only charged the local rate. Calls to landlines in more than 25 countries are also charged the local rate.
This SIM card is available only in one $98 package.
The Peoples Super Talk Prepaid SIM Card has a lower local calling rate of $0.05 per minute during non peak hours and $0.12 per minute during peak hours.
The Super Talk SIM card is available in $48 and $78 packages.
Peoples SIM cards can be purchased in most convenience stores such as Circle K and 7-Eleven.
I personally don’t recommend getting a 2G prepaid SIM card in Hong Kong because when you need to access the Internet it will be super slow and expensive.
Adding More Money To Your SIM Card
If the value in your SIM card is running low, you will receive a text message telling you to recharge.
You can do that by buying recharge vouchers at most convenience stores.
Simply tell the cashier your SIM card provider and you need to recharge. They will then tell you the values you can purchase.
Most recharge vouchers have a minimum of $50. You will end up wasting a lot if you don’t need to recharge that much.
Most SIM card provides allow you to add money online. I highly recommend this over buying vouchers in stores because you can buy smaller amounts online.
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