During my recent trip to Hong Kong, I needed to have access to data on my smartphone while roaming but I didn’t want to pay expensive roaming charges. (This is what living in a connected world does to you. You feel bereft of something important, like checking Twitter, Facebook, email and blogs. Or having to reply your Draw Something games.)
So I did some research on the Internet (doncha just love Google?) and found that it was very easy to get a prepaid sim card in Hong Kong with reasonable data charges. The network provider that I eventually went with was 3 (I think they are located in Australia as well) and it proved to be a good enough choice for the 4 days I was in Hong Kong.
Where to buy
You can buy your prepaid sim card from convenience stores (7 Eleven et al) or from mobile shops. I chose to go to the 3 mobile shop located at the airport terminal itself upon arrival. You just have to go up one floor to where the check-in counters are located – both 3 and rival operator CSL have shops there.
3 mobile store
Unit No. 7T038, Level 7, Departure Hall Row G, Hong Kong International Airport
Which type of sim card to buy
I initially wanted the HSDPA Broadband Access Rechargable starter pack recommended on various travel forums (which is only available at mobile shops), but was rather short on time to explain to the salesperson which starter pack I was looking for – the salespeople will automatically recommend you to take the basic mobile prepaid pack.
The basic mobile prepaid pack costs HKD 98.00 and it’s as easy as pie to pop in the sim card and be instantly connected. Since you’re using a mobile prepaid, naturally you will be able to make local and international calls as well as use data. (Side note : If you are using a tablet device, you may have to point your settings to the correct APN before the device detects the connection.)
Fees and charges
I didn’t really do much research into the call rates so I’m not able to list them on the blog but at the time of my trip (March 2012), the data charges for 3’s network were as follows :
1MB = HKD 2.00
Maximum daily charge = HKD 28.00
Monthly charge = HKD 388.00
Basically, as a tourist you would only need to pay up to HKD 28.00 per day for unlimited usage of data. The usual fair usage throttling only starts after 5GB so you’re basically running around with a free hand on how you use your data.
Although I did read some reports online about poor connectivity or coverage by 3’s network, I didn’t experience any problems throughout my trip. In fact, I was highly impressed that even underground in the MTR tunnels, the Hong Kong network gave me far more stability in coverage and faster network speeds compared to Malaysia and Singapore networks.
I did miscalculate the amount of data I had used (dang the fast download speeds that seduce you into using more than you originally planned!) so towards the end of my trip, so I learnt the hard way that 3 will cut off your data once you’re down to HKD 10.00 worth of credit in your prepaid account. You’ll have to top-up to continue enjoying their services.
Nevertheless, top-up is fast and easy – I did mine at a 7 Eleven convenience store. Do take note that the minimum amount to reload is HKD 100.00 so if you foresee that you won’t be using up this amount, you may wish to monitor your data usage accordingly to maximise your credit.
Your prepaid sim card and its corresponding number will be valid for 180 days from the date of your last top-up and if you don’t top-up additional credit within that time frame, whatever balance you have in your account and the number will expire.
All in, I consider buying a prepaid sim card to be a cost effective way of enjoying unrestricted data coverage while you are in Hong Kong (finding free wifi spots are not easy at all!) and would recommend 3’s network to leisure travellers (do note that online forums do not recommend 3 if you are travelling to China or the outskirts of Hong Kong).