How to organize your VPN and SIM Card when you are teaching in China.

It’s all fine and well knowing that you will need to organize yourself a VPN and a SIM card in China, but how does one do that? Which is the best network? How much will it cost? We have done some research so that we help prepare you for these things once you get to China.


What is a VPN?

‘VPN” stands for virtual private network. There are many techy, complicated explanations for what it is and how it works, but in short, it allows you to use sites that would otherwise be banned or blocked in a certain location.

Why do I need a VPN in China?

China is very strict when it comes to online access and communication. For example, the following everyday sites, apps and social media platforms are banned in China:

  • Google
  • Facebook
  • Youtube
  • Instagram
  • Whatsapp

For most of us, these sites and apps are part of our day-to-day lives. If you would like to continue gaining access to these sites in China, you will need a VPN.

When should I get my VPN setup?

You must do it before you go to China. The Great Firewall of China (haha) has been setup in a way to prevent people from setting up VPNs once they are in China. So, download and setup the software on your devices before you go to China.

Which VPN provider is the best?

There are a few out there but only three seem to stand out in terms of speed and accessibility.

  1. ExpressVPN
  2. NordVPN
  3. VyprVPN

It is worth noting that most of these VPN sites run specials and give out coupons all the time, so do some research and googling to find the cheapest option for you before racing into any one in particular.

There is a free VPN provider, however you will find the speed considerable slower. If you are happy to wait a little for your content to load then you could use

SIM Cards

Mobile plans are affordable in China and data is cheap. You can organize yourself a SIM card quite easily at the airport or in a mobile store. We suggest that you check with your school before doing so as they may include helping you set this up as part of your on-boarding process.

Which mobile network should I choose?

Our research tells us that China Mobile and China Unicom are the two best networks, offering good deals and the best mobile coverage. Many other networks (such as China Telecom) do not work with phones bought outside of China.

Contract or Prepaid?

You can go for a contract but there can be a number of costs involved and if the contract extends for longer than you are planning to stay in China, you will have to pay a cancellation fee. Chinese mobile networks offer really great prepaid deals. Prepaid allows you the flexibility to chop and change when you please. Here is an example of a China Unicom prepaid package:

Basic 4G Voice/Data SIM:

  • 99 RMB per month (+- R207 per month)
  • 50 minutes of call time
  • 240 sms
  • 300MB

It does not seem like a lot of data, but in China, where there is WiFi everywhere, you will be surprised how little data you need. You can top up your data if you want.

To buy the SIM card, go to any China Unicom storefront. Ask for “4G Plan A, 99RMB”. You will most likely need your passport in order to register.

To load more credit simply go to any convenience store and purchase a top up card. Most Unicom storefronts also have a direct electronic system, just give them some cash and your phone number and they will deposit the credit to your account.


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