As part of your arrival package you will receive a SIM card with a local phone number. The SIM card has some minutes on it so you will be able to start using your phone right away. Soon, you'll need to purchase a "top-up" card (called chong zhi ka in Chinese). This prepaid card has credit on it and can be topped up as you need it. It is good to know that the top-up cards can only be bought in the city where you originally got your SIM card, so if you move, you'll need a new local number.
Calling Internationally (3 Options)
1) IP card
IP cards are used to dial internationally. They can be bought at local vendors. Although their face value is RMB100, their real value is about RMB30, so don't pay more than RMB35 for it. In order to use, you call a number, put in a code, and then make your international phone call. Sound is clear, but they usually don't last more than 30 minutes.
It's free and it has video function so you can feel like you are on the Jetsons. The downside is that it requires you to be on a computer so you can't do it on the go very easily.
Rebtel is genius. By applying online at www.rebtel.com you get a local phone number for each of your international contacts. You can call this local number from your China cell phone, and through the magic of internet, you are connected to your mom or dad in Kansas. For them, you are coming in as a local call too so it is very inexpensive on both sides. The upside is that you can call from your cell phone, the downside is that you need a unique local number for each of you contacts.
ADSL connections are cheap and simple to set-up. Apply to the local telephone company office (often your landlord or agent will help you set it up). Generally you will pay about RMB 100-200 for installation and between RMB 100-300 for unlimited access. The exact charge will depend on where you live and the amount of bandwidth you require. If you do not want to install internet at home and you are often out and about, there are many internet cafes that offer fast access at around RMB 4 hour. The downside is that they can be a bit noisy and smoky!
Web Access in China
Bear in mind that access to some websites can be blocked by the authorities. Currently, Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Blogspot and some news sites are blocked, and it changes frequently. For those of us that live here, we either use a VPN or have learned to live without.
Want to know more? Check out the discussion in our Newbie Group and leave a comment or ask a question!