Virtual Phone Numbers: The Best Way to Receive Calls in China

virtual phone number in china

What is a virtual phone number?

A virtual number is a phone number that isn’t associated with any physical phone line: all the incoming calls are redirected to another number (for instance your mobile number)

Why you may need a virtual phone number

Have you ever used a roaming service while you were abroad? I did it when I just arrived in China and I ended up paying a huge amount of money (at the time my family needed to contact me quite frequently and I was often offline). After the first crazy expensive bill I decided to find a solution to this problem. This is how I stumbled upon virtual numbers.

Using a virtual number to redirect calls from a local number in your country to your Chinese mobile number is probably the best option to receive calls in China or wherever you are. It’s cheap and you won’t have to teach your grandma to use Skype!

How does it works?

It’s easier if I explain it through an example.

Imagine that you move from New York to Shanghai and you get a Chinese mobile phone number. Now, if you aren’t online, your family, friends or customers that are located in New York only have two choices: call you at your old U.S. mobile number or at your new Chinese mobile number. This is a classic “devil’s choice” as both options are extremely expensive for both you and the person who is calling you.

However, there is a third option: you can purchase a virtual phone number located in New York, U.S. Now, when somebody calls you at this number, they will pay U.S. local fees (almost nothing). However, the number won’t be real in the sense that the call will be redirected to your Chinese mobile number and you’ll pay a fee that will depend on the virtual number company of your choice. The good news is that this fee may be as little as 0.04. USD/minute.

So, after you set up a virtual number, anyone can call your Chinese cell phone from the U.S. (or any other country) and both that person and you will pay a quite small fee. Now that’s interesting!

This is the system used by most 24 hour call center services: the people on the other side of the line often have an Indian accent because the call center is located in India. Even if you are calling a local U.S. number, your call is being redirected through a virtual phone number service.

This is especially useful if you handle an international business and your customers need to call you from any country while you are in China.

Comparison of the best virtual telephone number services

FEATURESTollfreeforwardingHippo CallKall8BEST SERVICE
Main advantageCheaper, complete and flexibleMost flexibleThe cheapest in the USAIt depends on your needs!
Monthly price15 USD (including calls)0 to 35 USD5 USDHippo Call
Free minutes150 minutesNoNoTollfreeforwarding
Countries with local numbers120+50+Only in the USATollfreeforwarding
Toll-free numbersYesYesOnly in the USATollfreeforwarding
Price per minute for transferring a call to China0.040 USDFrom 0.048 USD0.007 USDKall8
Free trial period30 daysNoNoTollfreeforwarding
Discount couponNoNoTENOFFKall8
DiscountNoNo10% discountKall8
Try TollfreeforwardingTry Call HippoTry Kall8


Reviews of Virtual Phone Services

Toll Free Forwarding

Toll Free Forwarding is one of the best services that I have found and is ideal for both individuals and companies with customers in multiple countries.

The good thing about this service is that it’s very flexible with a lot of different plans that are appropriate for both individuals and companies, as well as the ability to choose local or toll-free numbers in many countries in the world. In addition, basic plans only cost 15 USD per month, and give you 150 free minutes. Also, it is very easy to purchase and use.

The only problem that I see is the price per minute if you exceed the minutes in your monthly plan, as these rates are the most expensive on the market, which means that you have to be careful not to exceed your plan.

Try Toll Free Forwarding Now


Kall8 is an ideal service for individuals and companies that receive calls from the United States, as it is a service that is relatively complete and is one of the cheapest on the market.
The main problem is that it’s a company exclusively focused on the American market, which means that if you receive calls from other countries, its services will be of no use to you.

Try Kall8 Now and Use the TENOFF Coupon to Get a 10% Discount

Call Hippo

This service is ideal for small companies with a strong international presence, since it allows you to contract a wide range of services in a flexible way. Call Hippo is ideal to pay for the services you exactly need.

The main problem is that unlike other services you are charged both for receiving calls and for redirecting them to other numbers. Even if the rates are relatively low when you sum the two charges it usually comes out a little more expensive than other similar services.

It is also important to note that they offer a portability plan so if you are using another type of virtual phone service you can switch to Call Hippo without having to lose your previous number(s).

Try Call Hippo Now


Twilio was founded in 2008 and has one of the most popular and cheapest virtual phone number services in the world. In the past years, the company has received several rounds of funding worth millions of dollars.

What makes Twilio different from other similar service providers is that they primarily work B2B, while other operators work B2C.

For example, if you have used Airbnb, Netflix, or Lyft, then you have probably used Twilio, according to the website. Why? Because it’s often used by other service providers and by 40,000 businesses all over the world.

In short, Twilio is a developer platform for communications. This means that companies can use the APIs provided by Twilio to add functions like video, voice, or messaging on their own websites and applications. The benefit here is that businesses can provide better communication experiences for their clients. Customers can get reached in the way they want and you can contact and engage with them effectively.

Third Parties that Use Twilio

There are plenty of other providers who use Twilio’s API when building their own services. These companies are referred to as “third-parties” by Twilio and include famous brand names such as:

  • Zoho
  • Agile
  • Hubspot
  • Zapier
  • ClickFunnels
  • Sparkbooth
  • Cisco WiFi
  • Others

Zoho, for example, is a multinational company that focuses on web-based business tools and IT. With 50 million users worldwide, Zoho has plenty of renowned customers, including Amazon, Facebook, Netflix, KPMG, Renault, and HP.

What do third parties need to work with Twilio?

Third-party companies have to prepare the following Twilio-supplied information if they want to work with Twilio:

  • A Twilio Account SID and Auth Token: The Account SID and project Auth Token serve as your API access credentials; you get these automatically when signing up for a Twilio account. Find them under “Project Info” in the Twilio Console
  • A Twilio phone number: Free with a trial account, but needs to be picked out. For help getting a number, see our article here


Twilio is comparatively cheap and offers the following prices depending on the service:

Programmable Voice – Starting from USD 0.0085 per min to receive, USD 0.013 per minute to make a call:

  • Global Low Latency
  • Unlimited capacity
  • Advanced call control

Programmable SMS – Starting from USD 0.0075 to send or receive a message:

  • Ship 50% faster with Copilot software
  • Real-time reporting & insights
  • Automatic content encoding

Twilio SendGrid Email API – Starting from USD 14.95 per month, up to 100,000 emails. It’s free for up to 40,000 emails for 30 days:

  • Quick integration via API or SMTP
  • Real-time data and analytics
  • Tools to optimize deliverability

For more information about Twilio’s services, you can also visit this page.

Frequently asked questions

What are the benefits of having a virtual phone number?
As mentioned, it can save you tons of money as a private person. But, it’s also useful for startups and small companies that want to establish a presence in markets where they currently don’t have a physical presence.

Not to forget, as you don’t need to provide your real phone number, it gives you more privacy. Service providers often give you the choice to have several numbers, which can be a great advantage.

Can I receive SMS to virtual numbers?
Previously, it was most common to use a virtual number for phone calls. Over the years, we’ve seen an increased demand for virtual numbers when receiving and sending SMS. There are operators who can provide virtual numbers that can be used for SMS only, but you cannot make phone calls with the number.
Can I use a virtual number in WhatsApp?
Yes, you can. CallHippo, for example, has written a guide on how you can use your virtual number in WhatsApp. Just keep in mind that they cannot verify your WhatsApp account with the virtual number.
Can I use a virtual number in WeChat?
WeChat has strict security policies and it’s not that easy to register and verify accounts with virtual phone numbers. Many say that it’s impossible, but we still find applications, like Wabi, who claim they can help foreigners to register on WeChat with virtual phone numbers.

Photo Credits: Creative Commons License Old Phone 1 by Jan-Hendrik Caspers

15 thoughts on “Virtual Phone Numbers: The Best Way to Receive Calls in China”

  1. I am.not in the USA but would love to know where I can get China sim card numbrs and have them activated. Fourerr used to have the service whereby the seller send me activation codes.

    So for example i use the mobile number and activation code sent to my email address, to activate an app service that only accepts china phone numbers for first-time registration. Lots of China apps only accept China phone numbers only, which is a pain (i read Mandarin fairly). If anyone can sell me China mobile numbers and send me activation codes for a few apps i intend to register and use, kindly let me know. Thank you.

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  2. Just voice not help with SMS Skype is better you can send SMS but not receive with your number.
    I need a service that can help with SMS send and receive and voice call too.

    1. the virtual number is only for calls, but you’ll still be able to receive text messages to your real number

  3. thanks for Your help! Just another thing: i’m in China, i bought an italian number to receive my calls, but it says i have to send passport and proof of residency in Italy within two it a normal procedure?since i’m in China how can i send the proof that i live in Italy?

    1. Yes it’s normal that you have to send a proof of residence, it’s an standard procedure in Italy. Yes you can send a proof if you have any recent bills paid in Italy or a bank extract of your bank in Italy, together with your passport or ID card.

    2. Clara,

      you don’t need to send your passport. A photo of the main page of your passport + a photo of a recent bill or bank statement is more than enough.

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