Telephone communication guide for expats

In the name of telephone communication there are various channels. Telephone numbers in Hong Kong have eight digits, with fixed land line numbers starting with 2 or 3, mobile phone numbers with 6 or 9, pager numbers with 7 and forwarding service with 8. Numbers beginning with 1 are usually reserved for various operator services.

Fixed Lines

A basic residential telephone plan starts at about HK$100, which includes free local landline calls. There is a one-time installation fee, but International Direct Dialing (IDD) can be installed free of charge on request. Phone lines can be arranged online, by telephone or at any PCCW or Hutchinson Global Communications store. See below for contact details. It is not usually necessary for a technician to visit your home in order to install a fixed line and the services are usually available within seven days.

For all services, a Hong Kong ID card or passport and proof of residence are necessary. Bills are sent monthly.

There are currently several service providers offering residential phone lines, though PCCW has the largest share of the market.

Hotline: 1000

Hutchison Global
Hotline: 1220

New World Telephone
Hotline: 1239


Mobile Phones

Like most of the world, Hong Kong uses the GSM cell-phone network. Coverage is excellent everywhere, even in the underground subway and in most parks, though some remote locations in the outlying islands may have limited coverage.

In order to join a mobile phone network on a monthly payment plan you are required to have a Hong Kong identity card and to provide proof of residence. Bills are sent monthly, usually by email. For those who have arrived in the city and have not yet been provided with an ID card, it is possible to sign up for the services if you pay a HK$3,000 deposit. This will be returned to you once you have registered a valid Hong Kong ID card.

A further option is a “pay as you go” mobile plan, which has slightly higher tariffs but does not require a Hong Kong identity card. These prepaid cards usually have a stored value of around HK$80, with tariffs at HK$0.10-$0.15 per minute, and are available at all service providers and convenience stores. Top up cards can be purchased from 7-Eleven stores, supermarkets and vending machines throughout Hong Kong.

If you intend to get a mobile plan, shop around for available tariffs. There are plenty of network operators and plans to choose from, and each provider usually has its own promotions and special offers. A comprehensive monthly package, which includes SMS and voicemail features starts at about HK$80 for a 2G line and about HK$130 for a 3G line. It usually takes about 24 hours before the line is activated.

The Hong Kong telecommunications system allows people to keep their mobile phone numbers even when switching providers. There is no need to notify the existing provider, as the new provider will handle the cancellation when transferring the number. This applies to long-term phone contracts as well as prepaid lines, so non-residents who started using prepaid cards can retain their telephone number even when switching to a long-term contract.

These cell phone carriers also offer data plans for devices like smartphones, Blackberries and tablets. These plans come bundled with call plans are available from $98 upwards. Additionally all cell phone carriers in Hong Kong offer cell phone roaming and data roaming plans for other countries in Far East Asia and, of course, Mainland China.

Aside from cell phone services, these Hong Kong cell phone providers also sell handsets which can be purchased with or without a cell phone plan. These cell phones, like all other cell phones sold in Hong Kong, are sold unlocked.

Hotline: 2880 2688

China Mobile(People’s)
Hotline: 2945 8888

Hotline: 2888 1010

Hotline: 2888 1010

Hotline: 2512 3123

3 (Hutchison Whampoa)
Hotline: 2121 1228

New World
Hotline: 2138 2138

Prepaid Phone Cards

Both fixed line and mobile phone providers offer competitive IDD schemes in Hong Kong but many expats choose to use prepaid phone cards for international long distance calls. These prepaid phone cards typically use voip services to provide cheap phone calls and they work quite effectively. Prepaid phone cards can be purchased at many mobile phone stores and ethnic groceries which can be found all over Hong Kong.

Internet Telephony

Hong Kong is equipped with robust internet services as a result of which internet telephony services like Skype and Vonage are often used by expats to call home when they are based in Hong Kong. Special phones which are compatible with Skype are readily available at the many stores that populate the various computer centers in Hong Kong. Vonage services are US based and require a valid subscription in the US before they can be transferred to Hong Kong.