The Best International SIM Cards Are eSIMs
The best SIM cards travel aren’t physical SIM cards, they’re eSIMs. If you’re just here to look at the comparison of the best providers, skip to the 6 best eSIM providers for travelers.
But if you’re new to eSIMs, read on to see what they are and why you need one.
eSIMs Are How You Stay Connected Abroad
Getting data while you’re traveling is one of the most critical components that make digital nomads and remote workers successful. And yes - you can freeball it and rock up to a foreign city, not knowing the language, not knowing where you’re going to stay, and not even knowing how to tell the cab driver to go to the center of town.
Ok Davey Crockett - have fun with that. We’ve got an 11am Zoom call we’ve got to make.
So how can you be sure you’re going to have data anywhere on Earth?
Enter the mighty eSIM.
What Are eSIMS And Why Travelers Need Them
eSIMs are electronic SIM cards that you can download which provide you with service to a mobile data and cellular provider.
You can have a physical SIM card and an eSIM simultaneously in your phone without issue.
The only catch is that you have to make sure your phone;
- Doesn’t have a carrier lock
- Supports eSIM technology
Common eSIM-compatible phones include:
- iPhone XS and newer
- Google Pixel 3 and newer
- Samsung Galaxy S20 and newer
- And many more. A simple web search can provide clarity if you're unsure.
The Benefits Of An eSIM
- No Data Roaming Fees: Traditional domestic providers like Verizon would LOVE you to turn on your data while you’re abroad. They’re able to hit you with huge data roaming fees and other charges.
- Convenience: eSIMs eliminate the need for physical SIM cards. You simply scan a QR code or download a mobile plan without the hassle of swapping cards or buying data packages in a foreign language.
- Multiple Plans: eSIMs allow users to store multiple plans/profiles on a single device. This is perfect for nomads who move between countries and need to switch between local and international plans.
- Increased Connectivity: As eSIM adoption grows, more carriers worldwide are offering eSIM plans. This allows remote workers and digital nomads to easily connect to data and hotspot if their wifi goes out, ensuring better coverage and often cheaper rates.
Do You Need An eSIM For International Travel?
No, you don’t. You have the option of buying a physical SIM card on arrival to a country, buying a data plan and popping that SIM into your phone.
And if your phone only supports one eSIM and one physical SIM, and you want to keep your eSIM for your US number to receive OTPs and 2FAs and buy local physical SIM cards for data.
But if your phone supports multiple eSIMs - then keeping your home number on an eSIM and getting a local eSIM are definitely the way to go.
The 6 Best International eSIMs for Travel: A Comparative Study
The 6 services below are basically apps or websites that provide you with a QR code you scan that automatically downloads local eSIMs for you. You can then purchase data packages through these services.
- Overview: Airalo is a popular choice for short-term travelers due to its wide-ranging coverage and affordability for short stints.
- App: Yes, available on both iOS and Android platforms.
- Company Origin: Based in Singapore.
- Coverage: 200+ countries and offers wide coverage across many countries.
- Data Speed: Generally reliable but can vary depending on the region and local partners.
- Phone Compatibility: Works with most modern smartphones that support eSIM technology.
- Wide coverage in multiple countries.
- Affordable short-term data packs.
- Limited long-term packages.
- Pricing: $$/$$$
- Overview: Holafly is tailored for travelers looking for unlimited data and who are heading to major destinations.
- App: Yes - you can purchase data packages through the app.
- Company Origin: Based in Spain.
- Coverage: Over 160 countries, but primarily focused on tourist-heavy regions, so it might not offer as broad of a coverage as some competitors.
- Data Speed: Typically good in the regions they cover.
- Phone Compatibility: Compatible with most eSIM-enabled smartphones.
- Tailored packages for top destinations
- Instant activation
- Unlimited data
- Pricier due to unlimited data packages
- Pricing: $$$
- Overview: Simcorner stands out with its no-expiration policy on credits and a single card option supporting multiple countries.
- App: No app, but you can purchase and manage plans through the website.
- Company Origin: Based in Australia.
- Coverage: Coverage in 100+ countries, although more limited than others on the list. Coverage doesn’t include Africa or the Americas (except for USA, where there is coverage offered).
- Data Speed: Reliable, but the speed may vary based on the local carrier.
- Phone Compatibility: Compatible with any device that supports eSIMs
- No expiration on credit
- Supports multiple countries with a single eSIM card
- Higher upfront cost
- Pricing: $$
- Overview: Onesim provides affordable local and regional eSIM card plans
- App: Yes, available on both iOS and Android.
- Company Origin: Based in New Mexico, USA.
- Coverage: 75+ countries
- Data Speed: Generally good data in the areas coverage is offered.
- Phone Compatibility: Works with most eSIM-enabled devices.
- Solid speeds in covered areas
- Affordable plans
- Limited coverage compared to other options
- Pricing: $
- Overview: Nomad offers transparent pricing and certain plans with data rollover, catering mainly to the European region.
- App: Yes - for both iOS and Android.
- Company Origin: Santa Clara, CA
- Coverage: Extensive coverage in 165+ countries.
- Data Speed: Reliable in its covered regions.
- Phone Compatibility: Supports most phones with eSIM technology.
- Transparent pricing
- Data rollover on certain plans
- Smaller coverage compared to other providers
- Pricing: $
- Overview: Gigsky offers flexible plans and decent coverage, especially in North America and Europe.
- App: Yes, available for both iOS and Android.
- Company Origin: Based in the USA.
- Coverage: Extensive coverage in 190+ countries, with the most affordable coverage in North America and Europe. They offer a “World Plan” where you can take to most countries in the world.
- Data Speed: Generally good and consistent.
- Phone Compatibility: Compatible with most eSIM-capable devices.
- Flexible plans
- Decent coverage in North America and Europe
- Costly for Asia and Africa
- Pricing: $$
eSIMs are absolutely the way of the future, and the technology has reached a place where there’s no excuse not to be using them.
But whether you use an eSIM for your US or local number depends on how many eSIMs your phone can handle, and whether you need to use your US number while you’re abroad. There’s no one-size-fits-all here, so you should pick whichever one fits your situation best.
Travel well! And if you want to travel better, check out our 2-in-1 laptop case that doubles as a stand below.