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If you’re a frequent traveler, you might already have heard of an international eSIM card. But they’re still pretty new technology, so you might not exactly know what an eSIM is or which is the best eSIM for international travel.
I didn’t know about eSIMS until last summer – and it’s been a complete game-changer for me.
An eSIM is fantastic for digital nomads and regular international travelers, as they can give you easy and excellent connectivity at a great price.
In this guide, I’ll explain what an international eSIM is and how to choose the best eSIM for international roaming. I’ll also explain how an eSIM can be more convenient than a physical SIM card and talk you through some of the best eSIM providers out there.
BEST ESIM FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVEL
Don’t have time to read this? The eSIM provided I use and love is Airalo. They have affordable plans in over 190 countries!
What is an eSIM?
You might have assumed that the name eSIM means that it’s something like an app for your cell phone. But eSIM actually stands for Embedded Subscriber Identity Module, and it’s basically a digital SIM card that’s built into your mobile phone.
If you have an eSIM-compatible cell phone, it will already have an in-built microchip that allows you to install an eSIM profile. You can then activate a cellular plan from the local carrier for your current location.
This means you won’t have to switch out your travel SIM card when you arrive in a new country. Instead, you can download an eSIM to your phone before you travel to a new country and have coverage as soon as you arrive.
Plus, you can have multiple eSIM profiles on your mobile phone simultaneously.
However, it’s important to note that not all devices have eSIM technology built in, and not all countries are supported by every eSIM provider. So there’s a little bit of research to do before you throw away your physical SIM cards.
Best eSIM providers
You can usually buy an eSIM directly from the eSIM provider’s online store, which is convenient because you can activate your eSIM immediately.
To help you choose the best eSIM for international travel, here are 10 of the best eSIM providers on the market:
Airalo is the best eSIM to choose if you want a global eSIM plan. They have various local, regional, and global eSIM plans, with long- or short-term contracts available at reasonable prices.
This was the first eSIM I ever used, and it’s made my life so much easier. Before going to a new country, I buy an eSIM on the Airalo app, and then as soon as the plane touches down, I have service!
Airalo’s local plans are available for over 190 different countries, and their excellent global plan currently covers 84 countries.
It’s no surprise that Airalo is considered one of the best global eSIM providers. You can easily buy an Airalo eSIM through their website or App.
They also provide excellent customer support. When I had an issue with an eSIM not working, they replied to my e-mail immediately and resolved it quickly. The only major downside to Airalo is that they don’t currently offer a global unlimited data plan.
Visit the Airalo website for more details.
Nomad is another top-rated eSIM provider. Their global plan currently covers 110 countries, and they also offer a range of regional eSIM plans covering Europe and Asia, but they don’t currently have regional plans covering North America or South America.
Their service is easy to set up and generally reliable, and Nomad’s plans are pretty affordable.
However, as their short-term plans only last up to 30 days and have a maximum of 5GB of data, they aren’t suitable for all travelers. They also don’t have any local plans, which is annoying if you only plan to use the eSIM in one country.
Visit the Nomad website for more details.
Holafly has local plans for more than 160 countries, with unlimited mobile data plans available for the most popular countries.
Holafly eSIM plans are good value, although they do work out a little more expensive than Airalo. However, they offer fast internet speeds, and both short- and long-term plans are available. And Holafly is a particularly good choice if you’re traveling to European countries, as their unlimited data plan for Europe provides excellent value and reliable connectivity.
However, you can’t set up a hotspot on some of the unlimited data plans, and there isn’t currently a global plan available from Holafly. And because they are a small company, their customer service might be slower than the bigger eSIM providers.
Visit the Holafly website for more details.
With affordable prices, international data plans covering 200 countries, and regional unlimited data plans for Europe, Asia, the United States of America, and the Middle East, BNeSIM is a good option for your eSIM provider.
They offer quick and reliable service, and unlike other providers, you can also opt for a monthly contract which helps to keep your costs down.
The main downsides to choosing an eSIM from BNeSIM are that they don’t have a global plan, and their regional plans don’t cover Africa or Central and South America.
Visit the BNeSIM website for more details.
Flexiroam offers local plans and regional options that cover Africa, Oceania, Europe, Asia, and the Americas. They also have global plans covering more than 150 countries.
Their plans range from 15 to 365 days, which is fantastic. But, with a maximum of 10GB of data per plan, long-term travelers will almost certainly have to buy additional data at an extra cost. This can work out expensive, so a Flexiroam eSIM is better suited to shorter trips.
Visit the Flexiroam website for more details.
The Simtex eSIM offers reliable coverage in over 190 countries. You can buy a local plan for a specific country, a regional plan that covers European countries, or the Simtex Top 40 plan that covers 39 countries in Asia, Europe, and the Americas.
They don’t have a genuinely global plan, and the maximum length of a data plan is 30 days. Simtex also works out more expensive than some of the other providers.
So although they are a reliable eSIM provider and good for short trips, there are better options for long-term or frequent travel.
Visit the Simtex website for more details.
eSIM.net offers really affordable prices for their eSIM plans, but unfortunately, they only cover the UK, the USA, and Europe. So if you’re traveling anywhere outside these locations, this eSIM provider will not be the best option for your needs.
eSIM.net is part of the O2 mobile network and uses the AT&T mobile network in the US. Their plans all last 30 days, and an unlimited data package for Europe or the USA costs just $27, which is fantastic value.
If you’re traveling in Europe, this could be your best eSIM for Europe. It’s a shame that they don’t cover more territories, but hopefully, that will change soon!
Visit the eSIM.net website for more details.
KnowRoaming offers a range of local, regional, and global plans, with both long-and short-term 20GB data plans available at pretty reasonable prices.
Their global plan covers over 80 countries, however, KnowRoaming only offers two regional plans for Europe and Asia. Only 10 countries are covered by local plans, and there aren’t currently any unlimited data plans available.
So if you happen to be visiting one of the countries they cover, KnowRoaming could be a good choice, but they aren’t a great option for frequent travel to new destinations.
Visit the KnowRoaming website for more details.
Are you taking a short trip in Thailand or further afield in Asia and Australia? If so, Sim2Fly could be the best eSIM provider for you. Their limited choice of eSIM plans also includes a global plan covering over 120 countries, but no unlimited data plans are available.
Navigating the Sim2Fly website is a little confusing, and you can only buy online if you have a Thai ID card. And because the maximum length of any Sim2Fly eSIM is just 16 days, you’ll need to buy a new plan regularly on longer trips.
Visit the Sim2Fly website for more details.
Surfroam makes using an eSIM simple because you just buy the eSIM with credit loaded and then top it up as you go. Once you’ve topped up your card, you have 365 days to use the credit, which resets each time. There are no different plans, no data limits, and the eSIM works in over 200 countries.
If that sounds too good to be true, the downside to Surfroam is the cost, which varies depending on location. The cheapest rate is $10 per GB, but some countries’ charges are much higher than that, especially in Africa.
So Surfroam works out to be expensive compared to other eSIM providers, and they are less well-known than some other providers, which might put you off.
Visit the Surfroam website for more details.
The benefits of using an eSIM for international travel
There are lots of advantages to using an eSIM when you travel abroad.
One of the most significant advantages is that you can be connected to the local networks within a few minutes of landing in a new country. You won’t have the hassle of switching over to the right local SIM card, so there’s no worry about losing one of your traditional SIM cards.
As a solo female traveler, it makes me feel much safer knowing I can get online as soon as I land in a new country. This way I can connect with friends, update family members, and call Ubers (because not all airports have WiFi)!
Another great thing about travel eSIMs is that if you only buy a data plan, you don’t even have to change your phone number. You can still make phone calls and handle text messages through your regular number, which is handy if you receive codes on your cell phone for two-factor authorization.
And topping up your travel eSIM is very straightforward, taking just a few seconds on your mobile phone. No more queuing up in a store waiting to buy a scratch card to top up your credit!
Having an eSIM makes living as a digital nomad MUCH easier.
The downsides of using eSIMs
Some of the main disadvantages of using an eSIM are that you can’t set up a hotspot on your phone to share your mobile data services, and you may not have access to telephone calls or SMS messaging on your eSIM.
Is eSIM available internationally?
Not all countries support eSIMS, but the number is growing rapidly. Different countries and carriers have their own connection methods, so it’s best to check with your phone provider before you travel.
How do I choose an eSIM?
Once you know that your mobile device offers eSIM support, it’s time to choose the right eSIM for your needs. There are four main factors to consider:
Which countries does the eSIM cover?
Not all eSIM providers offer the same coverage. Some have an extensive global network, while others only provide a regional eSIM that covers certain countries. So be sure that your eSIM covers the countries you plan to visit soon or regularly visit.
How much data do you need?
The amount of data provided varies between eSIM plans, so check your smartphone or contact your provider to see how much mobile data you use on average. The last thing you want is to run out of data while you are away from home!
How fast does the Internet connection need to be?
Different eSIM service providers also offer varying data speeds, which will affect how fast you can upload and download data.
If you’re only going to use your eSIM for checking emails and general internet browsing, you might be OK with a slower Internet connection. But business travelers and digital nomads who need to upload large files to the internet will probably need a faster eSIM.
How much does it cost?
Everyone is cost-conscious these days, and the pricing for the best eSIM data plans can vary greatly. Be sure to research eSIM prices before you make your purchase to be sure you’re getting the best option and the best possible price.
In some countries, eSIM data packages cost more than what data on a physical sim would be. However, this is not always the case! When I visit Canada, I actually find it more cost-effective to buy an eSIM data package from Airalo.
What is the best international eSIM?
If you are looking for a great choice of plans, Airalo is the best eSIM for international travel. They offer excellent coverage, and their prices are reasonable.
Nomad offers a global plan that covers a wider range of countries than Airalo, which is another good option. And Holafly is an excellent choice for Europe travel or if you want an eSIM with unlimited data for a more limited selection of countries.
If you already have a cellular phone plan with a local provider in your home country, it’s also worth checking if they have their own eSIM plan. You may be able to buy your international eSIM from them.
Now you know what an eSIM is and how to choose the right eSIM. There are many good options on the market, so be sure to do your research to find the best eSIM plan before you buy.