The first thing I do when I arrive in a new country for more than a couple of days is get myself a local SIM card. It is good to have a local number and it’s particularly important to have some cheap data. Not for me the exorbitant data roaming charges of the UK networks. Vodafone UK charge £3 ($4.50) per megabyte for roaming in China, where I arrived this morning.
A bit of research told me that China Unicom is the best network for iPhone users in Beijing. But I didn’t know what to expect in the way of costs. After unpacking I took myself off to a China Unicom service centre. The one next to the Dongdan metro station is central and very easy to find. After a bit misunderstanding, but with goodwill on both sides, I ended up with a SIM card deal for 98 yuan (about £10, $15) which gives me data and local calls.
The cost of the card is 18 yuan, the remaining 80 yuan to cover calls and data. 150MB of data costs a very reasonable 36 yuan (£3.80, $6) but if I go over this I pay 30 cents (3.3 pence, 5 US cents) a megabyte from the remaining credit. Local calls cost 30 cents also. I reckon this will just about keep me afloat for the next seven days.
I’m now back in business, supported up by an excellent hotel wifi system, and ploughing through the stuff that has accumulated in my inbox during the past day.