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.
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.
So let's see what these travel eSIM providers have to offer in China, right?
Airalo eSIMs for China (Chinacom)
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.
The following three Chinese Chinacom eSIM options are available:
- China/Chinacom 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 7 USD
- China/Chinacom 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 14 USD
- China/Chinacom 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 21 USD
For Airalo eSIMs, the links above will automatically get you the Phone Travel Wiz exclusive offers available – a code is not necessary.
- Check out my Airalo eSIM reviews
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.
Nomad eSIMs for China
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:
- China 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 5 USD/5.50 EUR/4.50 GBP/7 CAD
- China 2 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 10 USD/10.50 EUR/9 GBP/13.50 CAD
- China 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 13 USD/13.50 EUR/11.50 GBP/17 CAD
- China 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 15 USD/15.50 EUR/13 GBP/20 CAD
Even though Nomad dropped its prices for China eSIMs, you can still get 3 USD off your first Nomad purchase by using code ADU123!
- Check out my Nomad eSIM reviews
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
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).
You have the following seven China eSIM options with Holafly:
- China unlimited data eSIM for 5 days, costing 19 USD/19 EUR/19 GBP
- China unlimited data eSIM for 10 days, costing 34 USD/34 EUR/29 GBP
- China unlimited data eSIM for 15 days, costing 47 USD/47 EUR/44 GBP
- China unlimited data eSIM for 20 days, costing 54 USD/57 EUR/49 GBP
- China unlimited data eSIM for 30 days, costing 64 USD/69 EUR/59 GBP
- China unlimited data eSIM for 60 days, costing 84 USD/87 EUR/77 GBP
- China unlimited data eSIM for 90 days, costing 99 USD/99 EUR/87 GBP
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?
- Check out my Holafly eSIM reviews
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)
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 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:
- Asia/Asialink 1 GB eSIM for 1 day, costing 5 USD
- Asia/Asialink 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 13 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 5 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 20 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 10 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 37 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Asia/Asialink 50 GB eSIM for 90 days, costing 100 USD
- Asia/Asialink 100 GB eSIM for 180 days, costing 185 USD
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).
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.
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.
Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences
Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:
Support Phone Travel Wiz
It takes a lot of time to analyze, translate & review the SIM card options worldwide (especially to test them out).
Your support helps me keep producing impartial content by eliminating the need to recommend international SIM cards as the best local SIM card (but some of them CAN be useful).
Every Ko-Fi donation, one-time or monthly, helps me to spend more time creating local SIM card buying guides.
Check Out My Resource Page
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience?
Check out my travel resources page for the best companies to use when you travel!
Save money with international SIM cards, on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises & accommodation.
Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Start Your Own Online Business – Make Money While Traveling
Do you want to learn how I started an online business that allows me to generate income while traveling?
In my starting an online business guide, I tell you which tools, services & products I have for this site and my YouTube channel.
If I can start a business about something I am passionate about (phone travel), then you can do it too!
Learn About Your Phone Travel Options
Each of these options has its pros and cons. Learn more about them, and find the best option for you.
Phone Travel Tips, Tricks & Hacks
I have written many articles with tips and hacks to save money on mobile costs while abroad. You surely want to check them out!
Sign Up for the Phone Travel Wiz Newsletter
Get updates related to the newest guides, videos & recommended products and services.
Moreover, I send you many tips and tricks on saving money while traveling every now and then.
Let's Be Social
Did you know that I have a YouTube channel covering everything you need to know about traveling with your phone?
A lot of useful videos are uploaded multiple times a week, and you do not want to miss out on them!
Learn More About Who Adu Actually Is
Who is the guy behind Phone Travel Wiz? Well, find out on the Ernest Adu about page!