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China: 3 Best eSIMs Compared + Discounts (2022)

China is a popular travel destination in Asia because it has a lot to offer.

And it is rather affordable too… as long as you behave.

What you should not do, in many cases, is roam internationally in China.

International roaming can be expensive, which is why using local and travel eSIMs is recommended to save money.

And if you get a travel eSIM, you do not have to deal with the SIM card registration bureaucracy and skip the queues in China.

How much will a local or travel eSIM for China cost you?

You can get an eSIM for China for as little as 7 USD, with 1 GB of data for 7 days, up to 99 USD, with unlimited data for 90 days, from Airalo (Chinacom), Holafly & Nomad.

Those are some generous data allowances, right?

And you can even get unlimited data if you want.

See how much it would cost you to use 10 GB while roaming – much more than what Holafly would charge you for unlimited data for 90 days!

In this guide, I will go over the eSIM options offered by the Chinese mobile operators, Airalo, Holafly & Nomad. Let's do this.

Buying an eSIM for China Guide (Airalo, Holafly, Nomad & Chinacom)

Original publication: 20th of September 2022. Last updated: 23rd of September 2022.


Table of Contents

Introduction to Travel eSIMs for China

To get the best service available, in terms of reception and speeds, you want to go with the local mobile operators directly instead of with a travel eSIM.

That is because you will have a higher priority on the network in case of network congestion.

However, that does not mean travel eSIMs will always be slow.

In fact, some mobile operators throttle (prepaid) on select plans or all plans for “optimization” reasons (read: we cannot be bothered to invest in our network).

You have several other options for getting an eSIM for your trip to China: You can choose travel eSIMs from Airalo (with Chinacom), Holafly & Nomad.

Not only can you set up these eSIMs before arriving in China and activate them upon landing, but you can also avoid China's SIM card registration scheme, which is mandatory for anyone using Chinese SIM cards and eSIMs.

While mobile data is already affordable in China, getting a travel eSIM will not break the bank – not at all.

Plus, I have plenty of experience with Airalo, Holafly & Nomad, and I can assure you they work well – and other Phone Travel Wiz readers also had pleasant experiences with them.

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So let's see what these travel eSIM providers have to offer in China, right?


Airalo eSIMs for China (Chinacom)

China Chinacom eSIM Airalo
© Airalo

If I could only get a travel eSIM during my trip because I do not have the time or opportunity to buy a local SIM card or eSIM, then I would always get an eSIM from Airalo.

Airalo has eSIMs for around 190 countries, offers eSIMs at the lowest prices (on average compared to the competition) & has good service.

Airalo usually partners with the local mobile operator with the best coverage, the fastest speeds, or both.

And if it needs to partner up with multiple mobile operators, it does so, allowing you to have the best reception at all times.

Anyway, you can get a Chinacom eSIM for as low as 7 USD, with 1 GB of data, up to 21 USD, with 5 GB of data.

Those prices and data allowances are not too bad, right?

Especially knowing that the Chinacom eSIM uses the China Unicom network.

China Unicom Logo
© China Unicom

The following three Chinese Chinacom eSIM options are available:

  1. China/Chinacom 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 7 USD
  2. China/Chinacom 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 14 USD
  3. China/Chinacom 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 21 USD
China Chinacom eSIM Airalo (with Prices)

For Airalo eSIMs, the links above will automatically get you the Phone Travel Wiz exclusive offers available – a code is not necessary.

Overall, the Chinacom eSIM gives you fantastic value for your money.


Airalo Chinacom eSIM Pros

Are there any other reasons why you should get the Chinacom eSIM for your trip? For sure:

  • You can activate your Chinacom eSIM as soon as you land in China
  • You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access to China Unicom
  • Chinacom eSIMs are affordable (especially compared to roaming) and have generous data allowances
  • You do not have to worry about SIM card registration with the Chinacom eSIM, saving you time
  • Out of data? You can simply top up online on the Airalo website and not worry about language barriers when dealing with local agents
  • You can circumvent the Great Firewall with this eSIM

There are many other small pros, but these are the major ones.

It would be disingenuous not to mention some cons, so here we go.

Airalo Chinacom eSIM Cons

So, why should you not get the Chinacom eSIM?

  • The Chinese mobile operators, including China Unicom itself, have much more generous data allowances
  • While you get access to China Unicom's network, your speeds will not be as fast as going with China Unicom itself because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
  • There is no 5G NR access with the China Unicom eSIM (yet)
  • You cannot call or text with the China Unicom eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)

Airalo Chinacom eSIM Overall Thoughts

Honestly, the Chinacom eSIM is fantastic.

The plans offered with Chinacom eSIMs are generous and affordable.

You get fast speeds and access to China Unicom, without standing in queues or dealing with SIM card registration bureaucracy.

And everything, purchasing and topping up, can be done online on the Airalo website or Airalo app (downloading the app is recommended).

Unfortunately, you cannot call or text with the Chinacom eSIM, as it is a data-only eSIM.

But if you do wish to make actual calls, so not through apps like Whatsapp, consider a Chinese SIM card (but you will have to deal with the SIM card registration laws).


Nomad eSIMs for China

Nomad eSIMs Logo
© Nomad

Another travel eSIM provider I recommend is Nomad.

In fact, I have been in close contact with Nomad as soon as I partnered up with them.

For example, upon my recommendation, it started offering the Nordics regional eSIM – an eSIM that can be used in Denmark, Finland, Sweden & Norway.

Yes, I really try to get the best offers and deals for you 🥰.

Another thing I have been pushing Nomad for, and Airalo and Holafly (to be discussed next) for that matter, is lowering its prices or increasing its data allowances.

In June, Nomad started offering a 2 GB eSIM variant upon my request for China and various other Asian countries (because Phone Travel Wiz readers asked for such an eSIM) at competitive prices.

In August, Nomad dropped its prices again for its China, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Thailand & Vietnam eSIMs (which are even cheaper than Airalo – that is remarkable on its own!).

So yes, Nomad is looking out for you 👁👁.

Anyway, in China, it uses the Truphone network, which uses a combination of local networks (China Mobile, China Telecom & China Unicom), allowing your eSIM to switch to the network with the best reception automatically.

This way, you will always be connected!

You have the following four options with Nomad for China:

  1. China 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 5 USD/5.50 EUR/4.50 GBP/7 CAD
  2. China 2 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 10 USD/10.50 EUR/9 GBP/13.50 CAD
  3. China 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 13 USD/13.50 EUR/11.50 GBP/17 CAD
  4. China 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 15 USD/15.50 EUR/13 GBP/20 CAD
China eSIMs Nomad

Even though Nomad dropped its prices for China eSIMs, you can still get 3 USD off your first Nomad purchase by using code ADU123!

Of course, going with Nomad has some pros and cons, so let's go over them.

Nomad China eSIM Pros

So, why should you get a Nomad eSIM? Because:

  • You can activate your Nomad China eSIM as soon as you land in China
  • You do not have to worry about SIM card registration, saving you time
  • You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access on all Chinese networks, allowing you to have the best reception at all times
  • Nomad China eSIMs are the cheapest eSIMs offered in this guide
  • You can avoid expensive international roaming fees
  • Out of data? You can simply top up online on the Nomad website and not worry about language barriers when dealing with local agents
  • You can circumvent the Great Firewall with this eSIM

But it is not all good news with Nomad though – there are some disadvantages.

Nomad China eSIM Cons

So, why should you not get the Nomad China eSIM?

  • The Chinese mobile operators have much more generous data allowances and cheaper plans
  • While you get access to seven networks, your speeds will not be as fast as going with the Chinese mobile operators themselves because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
  • There is no 5G NR access with the Nomad China eSIM
  • You cannot call or text with the Nomad China eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)

Nomad China eSIM Overall Thoughts

Overall, the Nomad China eSIM is a great premium eSIM offering with the lowest prices in this guide.

You will always have the best reception because the Nomad China eSIM automatically switches to the best network at your location.

However, just like the other travel eSIMs mentioned in this guide, you do not get a (local) phone number with the Nomad China eSIM.

Moreover, you can only get up to 5 GB of data.

Luckily, you can top up your Nomad China eSIM with more data if you want.


Holafly eSIMs for China

Holafly Logo
© Holafly

The last travel eSIM provider I recommend is Holafly.

In June 2022, Holafly introduced something that no other travel eSIM provider had done by that time.

You can now get unlimited data plans for China, several other Asian countries, almost all European Union member states (except for Liechtenstein) & a few other countries, like Canada and the United States.

And that is super exciting!

Now, I have to say that the unlimited data plans offered by Holafly are more expensive than the Airalo China eSIM or the eSIMs sold by Nomad.

But if you do not want to worry about data allowances, Holafly is the one to go for.

The Holafly eSIMs use the China Unicom network (as well).

China Unicom Logo
© China Unicom

You have the following seven China eSIM options with Holafly:

China eSIMs Holafly

Based on the emails I have received, the 20-, 30- & 60-day plans are popular because those who buy Holafly eSIMs tend to stay in China for a prolonged period to explore the country.

As I recently started my collaboration with Holafly, you can get 5% off each purchase whenever you use code PHONETRAVELWIZ – awesome, right?

Of course, there are some pros and cons with going with Holafly, so let's go over them.

Holafly China eSIM Pros

So, why should you get the Holafly eSIMs? Well, because of the following:

  • You can purchase and set up your Holafly China eSIM before arriving in China (and activate it upon landing)
  • You do not have to worry about SIM card registration, saving you time
  • You get full (up to 4G/LTE) access on the China Unicom
  • You do not have to deal with data caps because you get unlimited data (67 GB – here I come!)
  • You can avoid expensive international roaming fees
  • You can circumvent the Great Firewall with this eSIM as it includes a VPN

But it is not all good news with Holafly though – there are some disadvantages.

Holafly China eSIM Cons

So, why should you not get a Holafly China eSIM?

  • While the Chinese mobile operators do not offer unlimited data plans (yet), their plans are much cheaper than Holafly
  • While you get access to the China Unicom network, your speeds will not be as fast as going with China Unicom itself because you will be roaming on their networks (and not be a native customer)
  • There is no 5G NR access with the Holafly eSIM
  • You cannot call or text with the Holafly eSIM (nor can you receive them – you get no (local) phone number)
  • Holafly is the most expensive travel eSIM provider in this guide

Holafly China eSIM Overall Thoughts

Overall, the Holafly China eSIM is an excellent eSIM for those who do not want to deal with data caps because you get unlimited data.

Even then, you will still get fast speeds and 4G/LTE reception.

However, Holafly is the most expensive option in this guide and may not be the best for budget travelers.


Best eSIMs for in Asia (not just China)

So what if you plan to visit neighboring Korea? Mongolia? Nepal? Or other countries in East Asia or Southeast Asia?

Unfortunately, you cannot use your Airalo Chinacom, Holafly China, or Nomad China eSIMs in any country than China.

However, the three eSIM providers have eSIMs covering several East Asian and Southeast Asian countries.

I highly recommend these Asia/APAC eSIMs if you plan to visit multiple East- and Southeast Asian countries to save money!

Airalo Asialink Asia eSIM

Asialink Asia eSIM Airalo
© Airalo

Airalo recently heavily improved its Asia eSIM, which used to offer a meager 4 GB of high-speed data before allowing for unlimited data at snail speeds, following the popular Eurolink eSIM for 39 European countries.

The Eurolink eSIM is the most popular eSIM for Phone Travel readers, and I have no doubt that the Asialink eSIM will be popular too.

Just like in Europe, many readers tend to visit multiple Asian countries, so they would rather have a travel eSIM covering multiple countries than just one (like China).

The Asialink eSIM can be used in the following 14 countries:

Below is an overview of how much each Asialink eSIM costs:

  1. Asia/Asialink 1 GB eSIM for 1 day, costing 5 USD
  2. Asia/Asialink 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 13 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
  3. Asia/Asialink 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 20 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
  4. Asia/Asialink 10 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 37 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
  5. Asia/Asialink 50 GB eSIM for 90 days, costing 100 USD
  6. Asia/Asialink 100 GB eSIM for 180 days, costing 185 USD
Asialink Asia eSIM Airalo (with Prices)

Holafly & Nomad eSIMs for China

Because of Airalo's previous Asia eSIM, I used to recommend Nomad's APAC eSIMs instead (to be used in 8 countries).

This eSIM can be used in Australia, Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, Singapore & Thailand (1 GB/7 days/15 USD – 20 GB/30 days/69 USD).

APAC eSIMs Nomad
APAC Value Pack eSIMs Nomad

As you can see, this eSIM cannot be used in China, so it would be useless here but useful in the aforementioned countries.

The Holafly Asia eSIM has only one variant: 8 GB for 30 days, costing 47 USD/49 EUR/34 GBP.

This eSIM can be used in Cambodia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand & Vietnam.

Asia eSIMs Holafly

Basically, the same countries as the Airalo Asialink eSIM with just fewer options (1 variant (8 GB) vs. 6 variants (1 GB/3 GB/5 GB/10 GB/50 GB/100 GB) and much more expensive.

So yeah, the Asialink eSIM is superior, I would say.

Remember, the Airalo links above will automatically offer you the best deals.


Overview of the Best eSIMs for China (Airalo vs. Holafly vs. Nomad)

In this guide, I went over various eSIMs for China: Airalo (Chinacom), Holafly & Nomad.

Below is an overview of my recommendation order:

  • Airalo's China Chinacom eSIM (best value for money)
  • Airalo's Asia Asialink eSIM (best value for money when also visiting other East- and Southeast Asian countries)
  • Nomad China eSIM (cheapest and excellent performance)
  • Holafly China eSIM (truly unlimited data plans at premium prices)
  • Holafly Asia eSIM (to be used in 13 countries)

Remember to use code PHONETRAVELWIZ for Holafly eSIMs and code ADU123 for Nomad eSIMs – a code is not necessary for Airalo eSIM purchases.


Buying a SIM Card in China

Want to just use a SIM card but not your current one because roaming will be criminally expensive?

Consider getting a Chinese SIM card instead – local SIM cards are the cheapest way to stay connected abroad.


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