Setting up a telephone network is quick and simple if you are a native Chinese speaker. You need to be the owner of the property in order to be able to install a line so this is something the landlord will do for renters. To order a telephone line, call Shanghai Telecoms or get your landlord to do so as he will have to present proof of ownership of the property before the line can be installed.
The main landline telephone networks in Shanghai are China Telecom and OCN (Overseas Chinese Network, http://www.ocn.net.cn, Telephone: 96877). OCN does not have English translation on its website or a help line in English while China Telecom, the larger network, does.
Actual land telephones are cheap in Shanghai and you can get one for as little as 20 RMB each (remember, these are not mobile phones). Setting up a landline can take a few days or just over a week. Use the following phone numbers to ask about rates and service — there will be English-speakers available:
- Customer Service Hotline: +86-21-10000 – Dial 10000 in Shanghai (English available)
- Self-Service Hotline: 10001
- International Roaming Customer Service Hotline: 18918910000
- China Telecom Shanghai Branch General Manager Hotline: 021-63062105
- China Telecom Website: http://www.189.cn
International dialing rates are not very competitive in Shanghai due to the near monopoly of one provider. It is therefore advisable to buy an International Prepaid (“IP”) phone card and use that for your international calls. China Telecom, China Unicom, China Netcom and China Jitong issue IP cards. With the Shanghai Telecoms Jitong card, you can use a stored value card to make international long-distance calls. Jitong cards, and all calling cards, may be purchased at post offices and convenience stores. You can also buy them online at: http://www.comfi.com/calling-cards/USA/from/China.
These cards have a 100 RMB value but should be purchased for 20 – 35 RMB. No one pays the full 100 RMB for these cards although the sellers may ask you for that much when they see you are a foreigner. It is up to you to counter-offer the price that you are prepared to pay.
Shanghai Telecoms is offering a China Calling Card Service, which uses an intelligent card (300) which retains your account number and password, and automatically debits the card each time you use it. The card is obtainable from the web site above and from the post office.
The truth is, however, nobody places calls to Europe or America with landlines, due to the far cheaper rates available with mobile or cell phones.
To buy a mobile phone in Shanghai you need proof of identity, i.e. your passport. The two major mobile phone companies in Shanghai are China Mobile and China Telecom. (http://www.chinatelecom-h.com, Telephone: 10000).
You will find most, but not all, of the major European brand handsets, as well as a multitude of Chinese ones, here. Handsets vary wildly in price. You can get one for as little as 400 RMB or as much as 6,000 RMB. Price is obviously dictated by the phone’s capabilities, its brand and the newness of the model. We don’t advice you to buy one of the widely available counterfeit phones, the chances that it lasts more than 24 hours are pretty low.
China Telecom currently offers long-distance direct dialing by using the prefix of 12593 before the number called – the rate for this service is 0.7 RMB per minute. Most mobile phone services use prepaid service plans, although expats are able to obtain postpaid service from China Telecom and China Mobile. Expats can obtain postpaid mobile phone service with their passport and a personal visit to one of the China Telecom or China Mobile offices (there are hundreds of small offices all over Shanghai).
Emergency calls (all free)
- 112 (weather)
- 119 (fire)
- 120 (hospital)
- 110 (police)