I'll be visiting Beijing for four weeks. What are my options for getting a cell phone to call home?
You have three choices: Rent a phone in the United States, take your own phone and buy a SIM card, or buy a phone and SIM card after you arrive in China. If your personal phone is on the GSM network, such as AT&T; or T-Mobile, you can use it in China, but you'll have to get it unlocked. Your phone company can give you the code and instructions.
Or you can buy an inexpensive phone in China for less than $100. They're available at phone stores such as China Mobile or grocery or department stores. (Advance warning: A colleague who has done this says you may have trouble finding a store clerk who speaks English.)
SIM cards - tiny cards that are inserted in the phone and have prepaid minutes - are also available at most stores.
Expect to pay around 138 yuan ($18) for a card for about 20 minutes' worth of calls home.
Mobile phone rental companies in the United States, such as San Francisco-based Trip Tel (triptel.com) and Cellular Abroad (cellularabroad.com), can also set you up with phone packages that include a phone, battery, charger and international plug adapters. Here's what you'll pay: TripTel charges $75 for one month's rental, plus 99 cents a minute for incoming calls and $2.99 a minute for calls to the United States. Cellular Abroad charges $69 for phone rental, $69 for a SIM card (giving you about 38 minutes of calls to the U.S.), $150 security deposit and $25 shipping.
San Jose (Calif.) Mercury News