Hong Kong prepaid SIM card for travellers

First published on March 26, 2008

Unlike Canada, Hong Kong is one of the many places in the world in which you can walk into a retail store and buy a SIM card without having to also buy a phone.

For a previous trip to Hong Kong, I had bought a local Hong Kong SIM card on eBay, but you pay a slight premium plus shipping, and the main advantage is that you know your phone number ahead of time (you can also call people before you get to the arrival hall). Recently I had to go to Hong Kong on short notice and picked up a SIM card from the 7-Eleven in the arrival hall of the Hong Kong airport. (Side note: I’ve also discovered that there are 7-Elevens practically everywhere in Hong Kong.)

Hong Kong SIM card

The SIM card cost HK$68. Considering that at the time of writing, 1 Canadian dollar equals over 7.5 Hong Kong dollars, this was less than $10 CAD. It came with HK$78 airtime, and local calls were HK$0.25 per minute. The rate to Canada was the same amount. Compared to what you pay here in Canada, this is outrageously cheap. With this SIM card, I could also roam (good for a side trip to mainland China), and send and receive text messages internationally, albeit for a couple of Hong Kong dollars — still reasonable. I made sure to check my balance regularly, which was a free call to the hotline.

In order to use a Hong Kong SIM card, you need a phone that runs on the 900 or 1800 band. For North Americans, this means that you need a tri-band or quad-band phone. I was fortunate in that the phone I got in 2005 from a Rogers pay as you go deal was a quad-band phone.

Activating the phone was easy, as it was activated as soon as I made my first call. I didn’t have to submit any personal information at all.


21 Responses to “Hong Kong prepaid SIM card for travellers”

  1. May C says:

    Yeah! It's great to be able to buy a SIM card practically at any cell phone store in HK and they have tons of cell phone stores all over. Or at the local 7-Eleven or Circle K or similar stores. In my past few visits to Hong Kong, I bought a SIM card and always come back with money or free minutes still left over. I got one from Three (3) this past Christmas and then from SmarTone the previous year.

    Very convenient, I agree. I really love being able to buy an unlocked GSM phone or smartphone at a very decent price.

  2. Nancy (aka money coach) says:

    hey Peter – hope you get this in time – a fun heads up: is having a 'download an audible book for free day' today. I use them. (I rarely read a book anymore; it's all ipod). I've had consistently great experiences/good value using them.

  3. Jael says:

    Will you be charged for incoming calls using that sim?

  4. Peter says:

    From what I recall, no, incoming calls were not free. But compared to Canadian rates, it was wonderful!

  5. kenny says:

    Hi Peter,

    What about internet access in Hong Kong? I will stay there for 2 months. Do I need to join some plan or else?



  6. Peter says:

    Hi Kenny, do you mean Internet access on your phone? I did not look into that as I don’t have a capable phone. I just used the many Internet cafes.

  7. BeBe says:

    I had my cell unlocked so that last time when I was in Hong Kong I got
    a SIM card from PCCW and I had the convenient to talk anywhere.

    Would like to know:
    Is it a SIM card is a SIM card and it does not matter if I got it again from PCCW or 7-Eleven that I will able to use it?


    Reply from Peter: As long as your phone is unlocked and works on the correct network bands for that area, you should have no problems with either of those SIM cards.

  8. JiMCi says:

    You mention that you could roam to mainland China with this card. So this SIM from Hong Kong will also work in Guangzhou? Great!

  9. Katherine says:

    Hey, I am living in Hong Kong for the next 5 months and want to buy a prepaid phone/ sim card. My question is… If I call my family in the U.S., will they be charged an international rate on their cell phone plan for accepting the call from my HK phone? Same question for texting.


    Reply from Peter: Incoming calls and texts are usually considered local, unless the recipient is roaming at the time (then I’m unsure of the rule).

  10. Katherine says:

    Oh great! My biggest worry was that I was going to call family and friends and that they’d end up with a massive phone bill from my international calls. Thanks so much!

  11. Sarah says:

    Is it possible to buy a pay and go Hong Kong sim card from the UK?

    Reply from Peter: Not that I know of. But there is always eBay.

  12. vworksmtl says:

    So Peter, I will be going to HK in Jan. I can actually put this into my unlocked Fido cell (it is a quadband) and call home in Montreal? I will be going about 300kms north in China to visit a factory that we buy from-can you roam on this also. It looks like the front of your box says it is good for 30 countries

    Reply from Peter: The offerings have probably changed since I used that particular card, but yes, you should be able to find one that has affordable international calling from HK and yes, an unlocked quadband phone does the trick! I can’t speak to any particular card’s ability to roam in the different places in China, but again, such a card should be easy to track down when you’re in HK.

  13. Sebastiaan says:

    I have been to Hong Kong myself in 2007 and bought a prepaid simcard from 3. Which was very convenient and cheap. I will be returning to Hong Kong next week and still have that simcard. Does anybody know if it will still work when I put it in my phone and put some money on it again? Now it says inactive simcard, but that does make sense because I havenĀ“t used it for over 2 years. I am just wondering if I could get it activated again by just adding some credits and starting to use it again. I would like to use the same phone number again.

  14. Sarah Wyse says:

    Can I buy a sim card for my blackberry bold at the airport in Hong Kong?


    Reply from Peter: Supposing that it’s an unlocked GSM quad-band phone, yes.

  15. keke says:

    Hi, I need to purchase a SIM for hong kong, can u let me know where I can buy that in NY.

    Thank You

    Reply from Peter: eBay is a good option.

  16. kevin says:

    Just as a heads up to anyone travelling to Hong Kong and wanting a sim card. On the main concourse (second floor) check in for international flights, there is a three shop there, who will sell you a prepaid 3G/HSDPA sim card for your unlocked phone. A few shops down there is a fortress store which will sell unlocked phones that you can use with this service. Very convenient, and then if you run out, all you have to do is go to a 7-11 and get a recharge voucher at 100hkd each.

    For roaming, I live in China, so I don’t usually roam there, but 3’s rates looks OK for mainland, however if you intend to roam outside of China (Thailand, Phil, Singapore, India, etc etc) the rates are really high, especially for data, so either put 3 or 4000 hkd on your card, or find a local one when you’re travelling.

  17. Wonderful says:

    Hi anyone here can please advise for all the prepaid card should there come with data for us to surf internet or log into facebook page while we are on the go in HK beside enable us to make phone calls and smses? How much we need to first pay to buy for the prepaid card for the said service does it come with a range of price for us to choose and how much is the value inside the card?? Thank you.

  18. Paul says:

    Can I get a sim card for iPhone 4?


  19. Ron Tseng says:

    Hi Pete,

    When you buy the sim card, how could you get the Hong Kong phone # for you cell phone?
    If you buy another new sim card, how do you activate the same phone # you have?

    Reply from Peter: The phone number is attached to the SIM card, not the phone. So you’d just have to take out your current SIM card and swap in the new one (and follow the activation instructions specific to the Hong Kong service provider). Then when you return home, you put your local SIM back in the phone.

  20. Ron Tseng says:

    If I finish the SIM card value and purchase the new SIM card. Could I keep the "old" SIM card phone #?
    Excellent help.

    Reply from Peter: It depends on the carrier and usually isn’t a simple process. I’d suggest just adding more money to the original SIM card value unless that’s not possible for some reason.

  21. kestutis says:

    The main reason they have so cheap, because it’s took very little investment into equipment to cover the whole Honk Kong. They put few antennas on skyscrapers and they got full coverage. And you have millions of users with an investment of few millions. The biggest share went probably into buy that license from the government. Basically Cell call is free for Mobile providers, and just need to pay few dollars for electricity and for rent to put antenna. In my country where the land area a little bit bigger, we still have quite competitive rates. We get 800 mins for 10 US dollar monthly rates or on average its 1.25 cents/per min. One advantage, if you don’t take mobile phone, you don’t need to commit yourself into 12 month contract, and you can cancel it anytime. In addition they don’t charge for incoming calls which is I think fair enough, because when I lived in US they charged me for incoming calls. And even I didn’t call and tried not to answer, ATT somehow charged me at least 1 minute, so in such a case, they were able to charge me. Prepaid plans way more expensive. We pay 7 cents per minute for mobile to mobile, and 20 cents for national calls. But kind of interesting how cheap calls are in Honk Kong, and very expensive in US

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