Getting a Chinese phone number when you arrive in China is one of the first things to figure out for anyone wanting to avoid annoying problems and wasting time with many apps and digital payments.
But having a Chinese phone number to get text messages could also be useful outside of China. For this reason, in this article, I will explain how to get a virtual Chinese telephone number.
“What is a virtual telephone number?
Virtual telephone numbers (also known as DID, direct inward dialing) are simply telephone numbers that are not associated with a direct telephone line. Generally, these are numbers that forward calls and text messages to which you can respond from your cell phone without needing to get a new one or pay excessive rates for international calls and messaging.
This is a very widespread and economic service because it allows us to save money. If you move to China from another part of the world, generally you’ll have to subscribe to a contract with one of the many Chinese telecom operators. But if you want to receive calls or texts from your partner or family members that are in your own country, you’d better take out a mortgage.
On the other hand, by getting a local virtual telephone number in your own country (or in whichever one is most convenient for you), anyone calling you will pay according to the local rates since you “virtually” have a number in that country. What happens is very simple. The call or text message will be forwarded to your Chinese number and you’ll pay the established rate with the agency with whom you’ve subscribed for the virtual number: which is quite low as I’ll show you shortly.
So if you want to talk to your friends in Italy while you’re in China, you can get a virtual telephone number based in Italy and there you have it!
Just think of all the many call centers that bombard us with calls from abroad. All they’re doing is taking advantage of this type of service to make countless calls around the world while paying local fees.
Why would I need a virtual Chinese phone number to get text messages?
By now any online registration or app requires a telephone number to be associated with the account to receive codes and password verification, as well as to complete the registration process and other functions.
If you’re in China as a tourist or for a short period of time, it’s not worth enrolling in a contract with a Chinese telecom operator, but having the option to receive calls or texts will still be useful: you might need to be able to receive a text to have access to various services like registering for certain travel apps, for food delivery, or opening a bank account. Or you could simply just want a more direct form of contact with friends or clients in China.
The same thing goes if you find yourself in any other country, not just China.
A virtual Chinese phone number could be useful for accessing many Chinese services, such as registering for famous portals such as Baidu, Taobao or QQ, or getting access to different useful academic sites for your Chinese-themed thesis.
In this section, I’ll list a few services that may work for you and allow you to receive text messages in China. Unfortunately, the ability to receive text messages (and above all to receive them from China) is not yet an extremely widespread service.
Please note that while we try to keep this list up-to-date, the strict regulations in China may cause some services to no longer offer Chinese virtual numbers to receive SMS.
Grizzly SMS provides a service that allows you to rent numbers from around the world, including China, for 20 minutes to receive a single SMS from a chosen service (such as a messenger, network, or online shop).
In addition, they offer an SMS activation service that lets you purchase bulk virtual phone numbers to register accounts on popular platforms. The website also supports receiving SMS via API, enabling you to complete bulk account registration on necessary services in just a few minutes. They also offer one-time SMS activation for retail customers.
Some of the popular Chinese platforms you can use to register with Grizzly SMS include DiDi, Alipay, WeChat, Alibaba, and Taobao, among others.
The rate per activation code is only 0.28 USD.
SMS-Man is a premium platform to receive activation codes for multiple services and apps. SMS-man offers virtual phones from more than 350 countries including China. Also offers the possibility to rent virtual phone numbers from certain countries.
The rates range from 0.21 to 0.51 USD per activation code depending on the application.
The process is simple:
- Register to their platform
- Top-up your account
- Select a country and a service
- Get a virtual phone number
- Register using this phone number
- Get your activation code
China Mobile Phones
With China Mobile Phones you can receive both text messages and phone calls in China. In this case, text messages are entrusted to an official “eSender” account on WeChat, through which you’ll receive text messages directly on WeChat after a brief registration.
The following are text messaging rates:
- Valid 30 days: about 3.60 USD – 3 Euro
- Valid 180 days: about 11 USD – 9 Euro
- Valid 360 days: about 16 USD – 13.50 Euro
In the case of HotTelecom, for the symbolic sum of 1 USD you can have a virtual, temporary Chinese telephone number for receiving text messages.
However, this is a “disposable” service, in the sense that once you get your Chinese number for receiving the desired text message, you’ll have to get another temporary “disposable” number for a second text, and so on. Moreover, you should know that with this number you can only get texts from certain sites, portals, or services.
On the dedicated web page, there is a varied list of things to check before buying the number, so as to make sure that the service you’re expecting a text message from is on it before you buy. The good thing is that this is a company that has been offering virtual services for many years now and is one of the best in circulation.
Getting the number is quite simple:
- Use the link and choose “One-use SMS number” (don’t choose the option “SMS” because in this case China isn’t on the list. As I’ve already told you, the texting situation in China is more complex than in other countries);
- Choose the country (in this case “China”);
- Choose from the list of services the ones you want for receiving text messages at the rate of 1 USD;
- Register and pay.
Receive-Sms-Free is very handy if you need a temporary Chinese telephone number in order to receive a text for an online registration or order. This is a temporary service that can last for a few days with a maximum period of a month. In fact, on this site, the numbers change on a regular basis so as to always offer an available number for their users, as well as adding new numbers every so often.
In this case, all you need is an internet connection and a network browser to receive your text messages: you don’t even need a cell phone since the messages will appear very briefly on the site interface.
Even more beautiful is that this is a free service.
This is the best option for anyone who only needs to receive text messages to sign on to portals, online sites or app.
As a temporary service with numbers that will be reused by other users, it’s strongly recommended not to use it for receiving personal text messages or those with sensitive content or important information.
They all work the same way. You choose a virtual Chinese telephone number from among those offered, you copy the number and enter it on the site, portal, or app you need to receive a message from, and lastly, you return to the site interface and click on the envelope icon where the received message will appear. If it doesn’t work on the first try don’t give up. Reload the page, choose another number and follow the same process.
With these solutions, you can get all the text messages you want in China and have access to a myriad of services from which you would otherwise be excluded for the simple fact that you don’t have a Chinese telephone number. Moreover, your privacy will be further protected since these are temporary numbers and you won’t be forced to give out your phone number left and right.
I just want to remind you not to use these services for registering bank accounts or receiving sensitive information. For those types of things, it’s best to tread lightly and be certain that everything goes well with the security of a traditional telephone contract in your name.