Traveling to China? eSim is your best roaming option

Michail, 16 June 2024

If you’re planning a trip to China, then the “Great Firewall” and its Internet regulations are one more step you need to prepare for, especially if it’s your first time visiting. Most of the services and platforms that we use on a daily basis like Google, YouTube, and Instagram are not accessible in China by default.

Visiting China? Here's why you should pick up a travel eSIM plan

A VPN service is one way to bypass these regulations but that would require a stable Wi-Fi connection and even then it’s not exactly a plug-and-play solution. From our experience, most VPNs in China work for a limited time before being blocked.

There is an alternative that offers seamless connectivity and it’s eSIM. The embedded SIM standard is now widely available on phones, tablets, and smartwatches. Picking up a travel eSIM plan before your trip is a quick process that not only saves you the hassle of dealing with China’s Internet regulations but also provides you with mobile data the moment you set foot off the plane and saves you from overpaying for roaming fees.

Visiting China? Here's why you should pick up a travel eSIM plan

We selected three eSIM providers for this comparison - Airalo and Yesim which we’ve already tested in the past and a relatively new player dubbed Saily which comes from the makers of NordVPN.

In the following lines, we’ll explore the key features of these eSIM providers regarding pricing, validity, and their setup process with the end goal of helping you select the right plan for your next trip to China.

Price comparison

Kicking things off with pricing and validity, Saily and Airalo start at 1GB data plans which are valid for seven days while Yesim’s entry point is 3GB and it’s also valid for one week. Tiers then jump to 5GB, 10GB, and 20GB with validity ranging from fifteen to thirty days. Yesim also has unlimited data plans but those are significantly more expensive starting at $36.30 for seven days and going up to $79.20 for a thirty-day plan.

Saily Airalo Yesim
Price Validity Price* Validity Price* Validity
1GB data $4.49 7 days $5.00 7 days - -
3GB data $9.99 30 days $11.50 30 days $14.30 7 days
5GB data $13.99 30 days $16.50 30 days $18.70 15 days
10GB data $24.99 30 days $28.00 30 days $30.80 30 days
20GB data $42.99 30 days $49.00 30 days $55.00 30 days
* before discount

Saily offers the lowest prices for its plans before factoring in any discounts. The 1GB plan is priced at $4.49, the 3GB plan is $9.99, and the 5GB option is going for $13.99. The 10GB ($24.99) and 20GB ($42.99) plans are also more affordable than those from Airalo and Yesim before applying promo codes.

Visiting China? Here's why you should pick up a travel eSIM plan

Speaking of promo codes, you can enter our GSMARENA code at the checkout and receive a 10% discount on Airalo plans and a $5 flat discount on Yesim plans. With these savings, Yesim jumps out in the lead with its 3GB plan going for $9.30 and its 5GB plan totaling $13.70.

Airalo has a clever estimate of approximately how much data you’ll need based on your usage which applies to the other two providers as well. Video streaming is the main data hog with SD content eating up around 1GB of data per hour while HD (4GB/h) and 4K (7GB/h) can chew through your data packages pretty fast, so keep that in mind when selecting your data package.

    Data usage estimate per hour

  • Google Maps: 5MB/h
  • Social Media: 50MB/h
  • Internet Browsing: 50MB/h
  • Online Gaming: 70+MB/h
  • Music Streaming: 100MB/h
  • SD Video: 1GB/h
  • HD Video: 4GB/h
  • 4K Video: 7GB/h

Setup and Activation

The setup and activation processes for all three services are similar but you should first make sure that your device supports eSIM. These are all of the smartphones with eSIM support from our database. We also have a list for tablets here.

You can then head over to Saily, Airalo, or Yesim to pick out the specific data plan for your use case. Once you’ve selected and purchased your plan, you will see it inside your profile on the respective app. You are then guided through a setup process to activate your eSIM profile which involves scanning a QR code that was sent to your account and following the instructions on your screen. You can also enter your activation code manually instead of scanning the QR code.

Setup process for Saily, Airalo and Yesim Setup process for Saily, Airalo and Yesim Setup process for Saily, Airalo and Yesim
Setup process for Saily, Airalo and Yesim

It's advisable to activate your travel eSIM before your trip and with a stable Wi-Fi connection which will spare you the hassle of dealing with the process upon arrival at your destination and dealing with spotty airport Wi-Fi networks.

Once activated, your new eSIM profile should appear in the cellular data settings under eSIMs. You need to assign your new eSIM for mobile data and activate the roaming option which will allow it to automatically connect to the local networks at your destination. If you encounter any issues during the setup and installation process, all three services have support chats to help you out.

Visiting China? Here's why you should pick up a travel eSIM plan

All three services promise up to 5G speeds and support for personal hotspots. Apple users will also get access to iMessage and FaceTime over Cellular.

It’s worth noting that Airalo and Yesim include a free VPN feature bundled into their price though as we mentioned before you won’t actually need a VPN to bypass China’s Internet regulations as eSIMs from all three providers bypass restrictions thanks to their agreements with local carriers and different routing methods.


If you’re planning to visit China, then a travel eSIM will help you bypass the numerous local Internet restrictions without dealing with VPN providers or local telecoms. We compared the prices of three travel eSIM providers – Saily by NordVPN, Airalo and Yesim and out of the three Saily offers the most affordable pricing per GB data.

Visiting China? Here's why you should pick up a travel eSIM plan

Yesim holds the advantage of offering unlimited data plans though those come at significantly higher prices.

Our promo code GSMARENA gets you 10% off your first Airalo purchase and $5 off on Yesim plans.

We may get a commission from qualifying sales.


Reader comments

  • Anonymous
  • 18 Jun 2024
  • Sm7

Travelling to China? Say hello to our editors in chief. -GSM Arena

  • Anonymous
  • 18 Jun 2024
  • sXH

Of course China let's foreigners using the regulated eSIMs connect to unrestricted "western" data servers. Via Chinese telecoms companies. Just remember they will have access to all your data and you can bet it's monitored fo...

  • Anonymous
  • 17 Jun 2024
  • nD$

they are not heavy bricks, i got a x90 pro+ with 4700mah and now x100 ultra with 5500mah and basically it weights the same as it uses the new battery tech so 6000mah won't be too bulky or heavy

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