Do yourself a favor and visit the breathtakingly beautiful Hong Kong, home to a unique cuisine, peaceful nature and wildlife, and lively traditions. In 2017, over 58 million tourists made their way to East Asia to visit this spectacular place. That many people cannot be wrong about the magnetism of this bustling city, so make sure you can share all of your memorable experiences with your friends and family with proper mobile coverage!
But you probably know that roaming with your provider is often expensive. You do not want to go back home and face an expensive roaming bill. That is why you want to buy a Hong Kong SIM card so that you can stay connected while paying local prices. In this article, we will explore the options we have while visiting Hong Kong.
Telecom Providers in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has four big telecom providers: CMHK, HKT (CSL), 3 Hong Kong, and SmarTone. There are many Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), but the bigger ones are CUniq HK, Hong Kong Broadband Network, SUN Mobile, and Birdie Mobile. The MVNOs will not be discussed in this article.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Hong Kong? If you want to buy a SIM card in Hong Kong, I would recommend going with the csl. Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM Card. The 5-day SIM card is sold for 88 HKD with 1.5 GB of local mobile data. The 8-day pass can be bought for 118 HKD and comes with 5 GB, unlimited calling, and CSL WiFi.
As many who visit Hong Kong are stopover tourists, one of these tourist SIM cards will be more than enough. The other providers sell visitor SIM cards too, but I believe the one from csl. is the best.
You can even buy a SIM card at the airport after leaving customs at a 7-Eleven.
Many providers offer SIM cards that can be used in Macau as well. In this article, I will only focus on SIM cards that solely focus on cards that target Hong Kong only, as they are cheaper than the combo cards. Additionally, Macau has its own providers, meaning they deserve their own article.
Speaking of Macau, 3 is active in Macau as well. If you are planning on buying SIM cards at the market, which is often cheaper than in stores, make sure you look closely at the type of card you buy. These sellers often sell SIM cards for Macau, as many who buy SIM cards at the market are interested in the ones for Macau. However, they will be rather useless if you want one for Hong Kong (only). When reviewing the packages, look at the web address. If it says three.com.hk, you are good. If it says three.com.mo, well… wrong SIM card.
All providers in this article offer roaming options to China or other (South)East Asian countries. Although affordable, I always recommend getting a local SIM card of the destination you are visiting. If you plan on visiting China with your Hong Kong SIM card, you will not be subjected to the internet censorship you will normally face in China, which is why you should use a VPN when China.
Finally, all providers charge an administration fee ranging from 2 HKD to 3 HKD monthly. This is done to subsidize the license fee of the provider and other administrative costs. Some providers will charge this fee when you activate your SIM, while others will charge it after 30 days of use.
With that out of the way, let’s see what options we have in Hong Kong.
CMHK, also known as China Mobile Hong Kong, is the largest operator in Hong Kong with more than 8 million subscribers. They sell tourist SIM cards and many plans you can take advantage of. If you buy your SIM card at the market, make sure to buy one with “4G/3G” on it. Else, you may accidentally buy one of their discontinued 2G SIM cards, which will be useless for normal data usage.
You can buy a CMHK SIM card for 80 HKD, but you will get 78 HKD in credit that can be used for 180 days. You will pay a monthly administration fee of 2 HKD, which will be charged once you activate your SIM card (which is why you miss 2 HKD when you buy your SIM card).
Topping your account up with more than 50 HKD will extend the validity of your SIM card for 180 days, which is good to know if you are planning on staying in Hong Kong for an extended period. Recharging with less than 50 HKD will extend your account with 30 days. Recharging can be done online or with vouchers.
Although 4G/LTE is available all over Hong Kong (although it may be spotty in some areas), you may not be able to take advantage of full 4G/LTE speeds depending on the data package you select. Let’s see our options:
- 30 HKD: Unlimited data usage at 384 Kbit/s for 10 days (tethering and P2P access is not allowed – the speeds would be to slow for tethering anyway)
- 48 HKD: 3GB at full 4G/LTE speed for 5 days
- 50 HKD: 200 MB at full 4G/LTE speed, which will last as long as your SIM card is valid
- 68 HKD: 1 GB at max. 14.4 Mbit/s for 10 days
- 68 HKD: 3 GB at max. 7.2 Mbit/s for 30 days
- 148 HKD: 1 GB at full 4G/LTE speed, which will last as long as your SIM card is valid
If you are staying in Hong Kong for less than 5 days, you should go for the 4G/3G Individual Traveler SIM card, which will get you 3 GB of data to be used for 5 days and is sold for 68 HKD. You will also get 18 HKD in credit for calls and SMS, and the account will stay valid for 90 days (if bought and activated at a CMHK store). Just like the regular SIM card, you will pay a monthly administration fee of 2 HKD. The first installment will be charged upon activation.
Hong Kong Telecom merged with two other companies and became csl. They have become the second-largest telecom provider since then with more than 4 million subscribers. csl. has two types of SIM cards: the csl. Local Prepaid SIM card and the csl. All-in-one Prepaid SIM card. The former can be bought for 48 HKD or 78 HKD with the same amount in credit, while the latter can be purchased for 100 HKD or 180 HKD with the same face value as well.
The SIM cards can be bought in official csl. and HKT stores, various kiosks, and authorized dealers. csl. SIM cards are valid for 180 days. The validity gets extended with each top-up. The administration fee with csl. is 2.50 HKD or 3 HKD depending on the type of card you have.
What is the difference between csl. Local and csl. All-in-one? The Local SIM cards have lower call rates for numbers in Hong Kong, while the All-in-one SIM cards have lower international call rates for 30 countries, such as Canada, China, the United States, and many European countries.
Below are some of the data packages you can buy:
- 8 HKD: 500 MB for 1 hour
- 18 HKD: 1.2 GB for 1 day
- 38 HKD: 2 GB for 3 days
- 48 HKD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 68 HKD: 3 GB for 7 days
The csl. Discover Hong Kong Tourist SIM Card is ideal for those who are hopping between countries or on a spontaneous trip across the sea, as it is only a 5-day SIM card for 88 HKD with 1.5GB of local mobile data. Although this is the most popular option, CSL does recommend the 8-day pass, also with a 5GB allowance for 118 HKD. This SIM card offers unlimited calling, CSL WiFi, and data at 1.5GB at 4G.
There is also a 30 HKD or 48 HKD credit included for overseas phone calls – so you can keep your loved ones up-to-date even if they are back at home! You can order your CSL SIM card ahead of your trip, even at the last minute: with their fast shipping to North America, you will receive your card within 7 business days.
3 Hong Kong
3 is active in various countries, including Hong Kong. They are the third-largest provider with more than 3 million subscribers. They are also the ones who installed the WiFI service on the MTR (metro/subway) in Hong Kong. The administration fee with 3 is 2.50 HKD per month on all cards.
3 Hong Kong has a large variety of SIM card types and package offers. Almost too many to write about. Their Hong Kong Visitor Prepaid SIM costs 128 HKD and comes with the same amount in credit. The SIM card, however, does not allow you to use the 4G/LTE network. You cannot buy any of the data packages, except for the 3-day pass for 88 HKD, which gives you unlimited local calls and internet for 3 days.
The HK Local Prepaid SIM card is, just like the visitor card, for 2G and 3G only. The SIM card can be bought for either 48 HKD or 98 HKD. You can buy 1 GB of data for 48 HKD, 2 GB for 78 HKD, or 5 GB for 188 HKD.
The All-in-One SIM cards do come with 4G coverage. These SIM cards can be bought for38 HKD when bought at a self-service kiosk (Live Box), or 88 HKD or 138 HKD in 3 stores or resellers. Below are a few of their data packages:
- 18 HKD: 1.5 GB for 1 day
- 38 HKD: 3 GB for 3 days
- 38 HKD: 500 MB for 30 days
- 48 HKD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 68 HKD: 4 GB for 7 days
- 88 HKD: 5 GB for 14 days
As mentioned earlier, there are many other 3 SIM cards you can choose from. So far, I have mentioned the most interesting ones for travelers like us.
SmarTone Hong Kong
SmarTone is the smallest operator in Hong Kong with more than 2.5 million subscribers. SmarTone SIM cards can be bought in many stores like 7-Eleven and Circle K. They even have vending machines selling these cards. The administration fee is 2.50 HKD on all cards.
You can choose from the following three SmarTone SIM cards:
- 48 HKD: Data and voice (for those not wanting to use a lot of data)
- 68 HKD: Data and voice (standard)
- 98 HKD: Data and voice with Macau data as well
With the 48 HKD card, you can get unlimited data for 8 HKD per hour. After spending 24 HKD, 3 hours of usage, you will get the rest of the day until midnight access to unlimited data. Besides that, you can get 300 MB to be used in a month for 38 HKD and 1 GB for 168 HKD – also to be used in a month.
The 68 HKD card comes with 2 GB of data for 30 days at max. 7.2 Mbps. After that, speeds get throttled to 384 kbps unless you add one of the following packages:
- The packages offered with the 48 HKD card (8 HKD per hour and 24 HKD for unlimited data)
- 20 HKD: 300 MB for 30 days
- 38 HKD: 2 GB for 3 days
- 58 HKD: 1 GB for 30 days
- 68 HKD: 3 GB for 7 days
- 148 HKD: 5 GB for 30 days
- 248 HKD: 10 GB for 30 days
- 398 HKD: 20 GB for days
The 98 HKD card comes with the following data packages, which are valid in Macau too:
- The unlimited data packages mentioned earlier with the same prices
- 38 HKD: 2 GB for 3 days
- 68 HKD: unlimited data at max. 384 kbps for 7 days
- 68 HKD: 3 GB for 7 days
- 168 HKD: 300 MB for 30 days
- 248 HKD: 3 GB for 30 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Hong Kong
The Best Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Hong Kong
Getting the visitor SIM card from csl. would do you well when considering a Hong Kong SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Card in Other Asian Countries
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
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