International Roaming - specifically China

Hi all - I am heading off to China next week (next Sunday) for 10 days. I am looking at potential sim card options whilst I am there to allow me to call back home here in Australia. First time for me traveling to China and wondered if anyone knew of some good deals or options better than me just going with my current providers (Telstra) $10/day International Day Pass? which will cost me $100 for the duration of my stay.

I had a live chat with a Telstra rep today and even though I can't see it anywhere on their terms and conditions section, the rep told me that the unlimited calls/SMS are for calls only made to Telstra numbers back home in Australia?! Also - if someone was to try ring me whilst I was in China, it would be considered an international call and whoever calling me would be charged international rates without them possibly knowing it?! That just didn't seem fair to me.

Ultimately, I am just looking to have enough data to upload pictures and use social media and be able to make calls back here in Australia and allow my wife to call me, without being considered as an international call, if that makes sense.

Any help or advice would be greatly appreciated!


Poll Options expired

  • 11
    Buy a sim pack in China
  • 4
    I have no idea! Good luck!!
  • 3
    Stick with Telstra International Day Pass $10/day
  • 0
    Buy a sim pack in Australia


  • +4 votes

    The rep, as usual, did not know what they're talking about. With Telstra roaming, for $10/- a day you get Unlimited calls/txt to any number worldwide. Also, a (measly) 200MB a day. Anyone calling you overseas would be charged their local rates.


      That is what I was trying to argue with the Telstra Rep on live chat. According to the rep, that isn't the case? I asked for a reference to where that is stated on their website and she said she'll have to give feedback to their IT team to get it fixed…

      • +1 vote

        Vodafone is cheaper although it may not be an option for you. You can get unlimited calls/txts and also use data as if you were at home (meaning you'll get the domestic data allowance). They charge 5/- a day.

        • +1 vote

          Yeah I am not with Vodafone so probably won't help at this late stage. Good to know though about their options for International roaming.

      • +1 vote

        I always find Telstra customer service, including online chat, to be pretty much worthless. Speak to two of them and you get two different answers. I don't know what training they undergo. Always better to go online, but even that can be confusing or have key bits of info missing. It's a hit and miss whatever you do.

    • +1 vote

      Roaming phones won't have a local Chinese number. Which means anyone calling you will be charged the equivalent of calling a +61 mobile number.

  • +3 votes

    If you use China SIM card, you won’t be able to use a lot of social media app unless you use VPN or the sort. You can’t even use Google.


      Yeah thanks for the heads up. Fortunately have the VPN all sorted. Although interested to know which VPN people like to use whilst in China? Are there VPN's that are easier to use over another? Which one do you use?

      • +2 votes

        get yourself a few backup VPN's

        i spent some time there a few years back. got to hotel log in to laptop open vpn check in on fakebook. hour later try to get back on that vpn had been blocked. i ended up getting a vpc off a chinese mate that bypass that lovely firewall over there.

        just get yourself a local sim card when you arrive. depending on which part you're going to research the mobile phone companies and get a heads up of what to expect.


          Really thankful for that info! When I'm over there I'll be sure to come back here and let you know which one ends up working for me.

  • +3 votes

    I ordered my SIM card from China Unicom (Hong Kong based) and they ship to Australia but I think you can also find their SIM cards on eBay. It uses a HK VPN which gave me access to google, gmail, Facebook etc whilst in China.

  • +2 votes

    I am just looking to have enough data to upload pictures and use social media and be able to make calls back here in Australia and allow my wife to call me, without being considered as an international call, if that makes sense.

    Popular western social media is blocked in China i.e FB, twitter, instagram etc. Google is also blocked.

    You'll need a VPN to access google and social media so sign up for the ExpressVPN trial and have the program installed on your phone and a backup apk file in case it gets deleted. If calling your wife and vice versa via mobile network is not a top priority, it is much easier to get a VPN and call via social media.

    Are you flying direct to China or will you make a stopover? If you're stopping over in Singapore or HK, I think they sell SIM cards which allows you to roam whilst in China. You can access blocked content using the 4G included in those SIM cards, I think.

    This info's from a while ago so I'm not sure if it's changed or still the same. If you're buying in China, you can only get China Unicom as Chinese phones run on different frequencies. China Telecom and China Mobile SIM cards won't work on our phones. They'll need a lot of documentation and local Chinese sellers will make it as painful as possible to get a SIM card. i.e don't buy from China.

    I see you're from Brisbane so check with an Asian phone store and see if they sell SIM cards you can use in China.

    Vodafone also offers $5/day international roaming so you can check if they offer any short term plans that suit you.


      Yeah definitely got the heads up for most of the western sites/apps being blocked. I have a VPN installed on my phone ready to go but will also check out the Express VPN..

      Flying direct from Brisbane to China. I looked into their frequencies and I have the Samsung Galaxy S8+ and it looks to be all good for me.

      Good idea to check out a few Asian stores to see what SIM cards I could purchase. Don't know if I can be bothered ordering a vodafone sim card (probably wouldn't arrive within 7 days before I leave anyway) to go down the $5/day international plan… But for next time I'll compare and see if that is a viable option.

      Thanks for the help!

      • +1 vote

        You're welcome

        I have a VPN installed on my phone ready to go but will also check out the Express VPN..

        Most VPNs don't work in China so best go in with several VPNs in case some don't work. The free VPNs available on the play store most definitely won't work.

        I've used Windscribe, didn't work in China. I've tried VyperVPN, rarely connects and if it does connect, pages never load. Free tunnelbear and cyberghost doesn't work.

        I now use Torguard and only a few servers work. The speeds are slow but usable. 360p videos on YouTube work well, sometimes 480p videos work but definitely won't be able to load 720p videos.

        ExpressVPN has the best speed and connectivity in China. Definitely work signing up for or trialling if you're going to China.

        Don't know if I can be bothered ordering a vodafone sim card (probably wouldn't arrive within 7 days before I leave anyway) to go down the $5/day international plan… But for next time I'll compare and see if that is a viable option.

        You can grab a pre-paid SIM card from woolies or coles. Might need to check if their pre-paid plans offer the $5 roaming. I'm not too sure.


          Wow! Good to know that some VPN's don't work! I'll be sure to get Few on my phone just in case.

          Thanks heaps again for the info!


          No a problem.
          When you get to China the Chinese will tell you which VPNs to use.
          They were telling us to use Green VPN but several other free VPNs work as well. Just do some research.
          Thousands of people go to China every week with the same questions so the answers are there with Mr Google

  • +1 vote

    Typically I would recommend buying a local SIM card in the country to which you are travelling.

    However, in China, you will not be able to access most social media, Google, Google Maps, etc. with a local SIM. China actively attempts to block VPNs, and so frequently your VPN of choice won't work — this can be a very frustrating experience, cycling through VPNs for 5 minutes before finding one that works just to get a Google Maps directions. When I'm in China I roam now, because it's just so much less frustrating.

    • +2 votes

      I was there for a week a few months ago. I had no problems connecting to a self-hosted VPN back in Australia. If you go frequently, it might be worth just setting one up at home with e.g. a Raspberry Pi?


      Great info, thank you!

      I will have Roaming activated as a back up just in case but will look to have several VPN's (already verified and known to work in China) loaded on my phone as well when using the Wifi.

      According to Telstra, if I don't use data or phone calls on any given day, I won't be charged for that day.

  • +2 votes

    We didn't bother with a local sim or roaming. Had Express VPN and just accessed the internet using the free wifi at the hotel. With the VPN we could also access social media to upload photos to Facebook and use messenger with our kids. Much cheaper than making actual phone calls.

    It is also handy to download Google Translate as you can use this without using data - just make sure you have the chinese language option loaded before you leave.

    • +1 vote

      I've got Express VPN installed on my phone now, thank you. I will look to use messenger and other video calling apps as the alternative to actually calling with my phone.

      Definitely will get Google translate beforehand! Thank you

  • +1 vote

    I've just come back from a trip to shenzhen and I suggest getting a sim card when you are there. If you have VPN already on your phone that will still work, so you can get your Google and Facebook access if you need it.

    I would strongly suggest installed and wechat before you go. Even with VPN Google is not accurate enough, was a lifesaver.

    Don't do the Telstra roaming, it's scam - 200MB of data is enough for a few minutes of browsing.

    From memory, I paid $15AUS for a Chines sim that included unlimted text and calls as well as 5gig of data.

  • +1 vote

    You dont need anything.
    All the hotels have FREE WIFI.
    You can contact people here from China any way you like using facebook, Viber, Whatsapp and China's own Wechat.
    You will need a VPN to connect to Facebook and Google.
    Plenty of good free VPNs around.

    Easiest way is to get your Aussie contacts to install WeChat on thier phones.
    That way you can contact them and send photos any way you like via weChat and dont need a VPN to use it.


      I've tried installing WeChat and unfortunately my account has been blocked due to 'suspicious activity'?? No idea why as I've never had WeChat before and have tried getting it fixed but can't for some reason… :(

  • +1 vote

    Thank you everyone for your comments here. I'm writing this whilst in China and happy to report that expressvpn works well (although disconnects every now and then but can connect back pretty much straight away).

    I picked up a sim card here in China with no issues and had the attendant help activate it for me. Came with 14gb of data and local calls. Cost about $15aud.


    UPDATE - locals here told me about PandaVPN. Much better then Expressvpn! I'm using it now and haven't had any issues.

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