🇨🇳 China - Setting up phone and apps

We’re planning a trip to China and, based on our last trip there, I think I’d better bring a phone. I have an old one I can use, so I’d like to get WeChat up and running for going through Immigration and find an electronic payment method.

Can I just pop my Taiwan SIM into my phone and use that number for WeChat registration, even if I plan to leave my SIM in Taiwan? Or does my SIM always have to stay in my phone to use WeChat?

What electronic payment app works smoothest for tourists in China? I know both WeChat and Alipay are popular, but what have your experiences been?

Any other app suggestions or Android phone tips before heading there? I doubt I’d need a VPN unless there’s a really good free one.


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Wechat needs a friend already on the platform to verify you before you can use the app.

It doesn’t have to be on the phone, but the SIM card should be active to receive SMS if needed.

China is not tourist friendly in this regard. I just use cash and most places will, if not begrudgingly, take it. I think Alipay is more friendly. But. I got around just fine using cash.

If you’re not going for a long time, you might want to consider the roaming options from Taiwan’s carriers. They come with a tunnel to Taiwan.

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Just a couple of points from me when I was there in 2022.

Definitely use Alipay. When I went it wasn’t possible as a non citizen to set up WeChat pay.

Also download and try and register your phone beforehand. I had an issue that my Taiwan number was already registered and I couldn’t sign up. Ended up having to register first with my mother in laws number.

Just came back from Chengdu, tw sims works ok (my tw mobile worked well, CHT of my wife sometimes was lagging bad). Wechat/alipay both works with foreign cards and allow u to also use didi (chinese uber), works amazing tbh. Alipay will allow u to use it in english, wechat forces chinese.

I was quite impressed by the development since my last visit (2019). Still prefer TW, HK and JP, but now much less painful traveling.

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Colleague reported high fees on their European credit cards when using them through WeChat, did you have the same experience?

3% should be. 1% more than normal card transaction, but it’s that or nothing. Not too many places get cash anymore, credit card very rare and only at upscale places.

Oh they do if you ask.

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That’s pretty high, they also mentioned some set (minimum?) fee whereby it wasn’t worth making small transactions like short cab rides etc., although that was perhaps on their CC provider side.

Have had zero problems using cash my last few visits, it’s illegal for stores & restaurants to not take it. Probably getting off topic here though.

Back on topic, I use contract CHT all the time in China, no issues and not blocking of FB, YT etc. Always set it up with CHT before going to get a fixed rate.

My wife is on WeChat, so she can verify me. She was able to use her phone just fine behind the Great Firewall by just purchasing some roaming data from Taiwan Mobile.

We had difficultly using cash in the city except the train station and taxis. Rural areas took cash no problem.

So Alipay works off of your credit card?


You can download my3 Hutchison, switch App Store to Hong Kong, buy their DiY eSIM which gives you roaming data while in China (no need for vpn since all mobile data is unblocked) and a China number for receiving SMS. It’s about 35 USD for 45 GB roaming data and it’s fast (I use it to work while hotspotting from my laptop - I get up to 200 Mbps downloads in some places).

I set this up in Taoyuan airport before leaving Taiwan.

that’s a lot of fuss, TW mobile works well with roaming.

it did, no issues at all in linking and paying.

given how dirty chinese currency is, I prefer not to handle it haha.

Sure, but you get two benefits.

No government tracking. And it’s the only legal way you get to fold Mao’s face in half.

Even the CCP has been asking businesses to take more cash because tourists have been locked out of the system.


separate China-only phone with HK number registered on my HKID. No contamination.

I saw stickers with cash acceptance, but I’m lazy on cash, u know that already, so I just used alipay, which tbh is a far better app than Line to pay. Wechat too clunky (like Line), hate it.

Never used it.

I have embraced my Sun Yat Cents and my Chiang Kai Shekels.

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don’t bother haha! Jkou much better.

Well, well, well. Speak of the devil:

We won’t have to spend much money on this trip anyway, so I think I’ll postpone setting up Alipay.

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Physical cash comprises only 3% of the total currency in circulation.

Yeah I got along fine in China as recently as March with cash.

I ask for cash in Chinese and they’re too busy fawning over my Chinese to even care about forcing digital payments.

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