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Cell phone rental for China tourism


Johndrei

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I will be in Beijing for about 2 weeks at the end of May. I am thinking about renting a cell phone from CELLULAR ABROAD for this short stay. I expect to have less than 30 calls during this time. Does anyone have feedback about this cell phone rental for such tourism?

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Can you go without calling the US for 2 weeks? If you are referring to just making calls inside China then it is a bad deal you can buy a phone cheaper when you are here. Otherwise if you must call home I would try Skype its free.

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Just buy a SIM card and credits when you arrive at the airport. Then top it off if you need to. There are some cheap numbers you can use to phone the US also. The hostesses will tell you how much the calls are and which cheap numbers you can call.

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The last suggestion is probably not very helpful for the OP, since US cell phones usually don't take SIM cards. (Don't ask me why, it's really stupid.) It would work perfectly if the OP, for some reason - travelled in Europe before? - had a SIM card based phone. Then it is indeed just to pop it into the phone. Moreover, whilst Europe and Asia use the same frequency, North America and Japan use the same frequency. Although there are now a lot of phones capable of both, the SIM card issue will remain.

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Folks, thanks for the input.

I am indeed coming from the US.

I am not interested in calling back to the US except in case of an extreme emergency.

I do have a Sprint cell phone; as far as I can tell the phone does not accept a SIM card.

I do not have a laptop computer at this time.

However I have thought about acquiring the ASUS Eee PC ultra mobile laptop with Linux operating system for use on this trip.

Some Wi-Fi spots where I live allow a person to use their internet provider service without being in the building where the service is intended to be used, for example, sitting outside Wi-Fi coffee shops or in classrooms at the university where I work. Does that happen in Beijing?

I was looking for something or a means which would allow me to easily contact my Beijing friends if I got lost or had some unexpected development when I was away from them.

As far as buying a phone when I get to Beijing: what should I be looking for?

I haven't been out of Kansas, let alone the US, in about 30 years. A lot has happened in that time, including me being a slower learner.

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Hi John,

Sorry about my "unhelpful" response above. I did not realise you were from the US. Argg, should have read your profile before responding. However, I am sure you will be well looked after by other contributors.

Good luck and I hope you have a great time in China. I am sure you will love the Chinese mentality.

Scoobyqueen

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If you've got friends in Beijing, could you ask them if they can lend you an old phone, or help you out in buying a dirt-cheap second hand one for the two weeks and getting a SIM card to put in it.

I wouldn't buy anything at the airport unless it's essential - you are almost certain to pay through the nose. Once you get into the city mobile shops are all over the place and it shouldn't be too hard to explain what you need.

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The last suggestion is probably not very helpful for the OP, since US cell phones usually don't take SIM cards. (Don't ask me why, it's really stupid.) It would work perfectly if the OP, for some reason - travelled in Europe before? - had a SIM card based phone. Then it is indeed just to pop it into the phone. Moreover, whilst Europe and Asia use the same frequency, North America and Japan use the same frequency. Although there are now a lot of phones capable of both, the SIM card issue will remain.

There are a couple of US carriers that use GSM, and phones for those carriers would obviously use a SIM card. The iPhone is a good example! However, the problem is that most carrier-provided phones in the US are "SIM locked" to that carrier, so even though it may be physically possible to install a SIM card from another carrier into the phone, the phone will most likely not allow you to make calls using that SIM. There is also the issue that you pointed out of North America using different frequencies from most parts of the world.

One solution would be to get a tri- or quad-band GSM phone, and make sure it is "SIM unlocked". Since the OP has already stated that he's on Sprint (which uses CDMA instead of GSM), then I second the suggestion of buying a phone after he arrives. You can get a brand new, basic, no-frills phone here for $50 US.

As far as buying a phone when I get to Beijing: what should I be looking for?

The most basic (read: cheapest) phone should suit your needs. Or you could buy an iPhone before you leave, get it unlocked, and use it while you are here. :) Have a look at the following for more information:

http://www.chinese-forums.com/index.php?/topic/2-favourite-chinese-musician1374

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I was looking for something or a means which would allow me to easily contact my Beijing friends if I got lost or had some unexpected development when I was away from them.
If this is all you'll need, you might even consider not getting a cellphone at all and just using public phones when you need to call. Don't know if they are still there, but a few years ago such phones were all over the place, both coin phones and phones operated by small shops where you pay after calling.

If you want a cellphone, the above idea of borrowing an old phone or buying a really cheap one and put a local SIM card in it is the best idea, I think.

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However, the problem is that most carrier-provided phones in the US are "SIM locked" to that carrier, so even though it may be physically possible to install a SIM card from another carrier into the phone, the phone will most likely not allow you to make calls using that SIM.

That's news for me and thanks for the enlightenment! :cry:

As far as I know, SIM locks are usually not an issue. It's standard in the UK, too, but there will be people unlocking your phone for less than £10 wherever you turn. I would have thought it was illegal (it should indeed be at the distress of operators), but no one seems to care.

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I believe it is actually illegal, at least in some places, for phone companies to not provide an unlock code if requested, although they usually charge you for the privilege. Courts have also upheld the right of consumers to unlock their phones.

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  • 3 weeks later...

I think I would follow Roddy's advice and just buy a cheap phone when you get here there are simple ones for 300-500 yuan $40-60 and then you can buy prepaid cards or just go to a Unicom or telecom store and add money on to your phone as you need it.

100 yuan lasts me about 20 days of moderate calling and there is no minimum or maximum to add.

(Check though if you want roaming or not as different plans charge differently.)

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I was in China for a short time last summer, and just unlocked the phone and got a SIM card there. It was super easy, and I called friends and contacts in China, as well as home to the US. It is not illegal in the least to unlock your phone. The problem is usually that the carriers give you these cheap offers with expensive phones in exchange for you signing a contract with them for 1 or 2 years. What they don't want is for someone to get a great deal on a phone, with all the rebates, etc., and then in 2 weeks or a month, just cancel the contract and switch companies, which you can do once you unlock the phone and switch SIM cards. If you have been a customer for a while, and will only be gone for a little while (I plan to do this agan this summer when I am in CHina for 5 weeks), then call or contact your phone company (web chat works, too), and they will determine if you are eligible to get the unlock code. If you qualify (that is, been with them for long enough and won't be gone for very long), they will give you the unlock code. I did it last summer with Tmobile, and just got my phone unlocked this weekend with AT&T (I switched back in november). IT is really easy and really cheap, and by far the easiest way to deal. You just need to check that your phone is compatible (usually tri and quad bands are fine for CHina) with Chinese phone systems. The problem is that US symbian phones generally cannot read Chinese text messages, so you will have to either use pinyin, english or old fashioned voice to communicate.

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