If you're reading this, chances are you're a savvy traveler or a digital nomad looking for the best ways to stay connected while exploring the world.
And we're here to help you do just that.
In this article, we're going to dive into the world of eSIMs, the game-changing technology that's revolutionizing how we stay connected while traveling. We'll then go through the top 6 eSim plans you absolutely have to check out.
What is an eSIM?
You've probably heard the term eSIM buzzing around in travel circles, but what exactly is it?
eSIM stands for 'embedded SIM', a newer type of SIM card that's built right into your smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch. Unlike traditional SIM cards that you physically insert into your device, an eSIM is already there, waiting to be activated. It's like having a virtual SIM card that can be programmed to work with various carriers, without having to buy a new SIM card in each country. Pretty cool, right?
Why Use an eSIM as an International Traveler?
Now, you might be wondering, why should I switch to an eSIM? Let's break it down:
Advantages of Using an eSim
- Convenience: No more fumbling with tiny SIM cards or hunting for paper clips or hearings to open SIM trays. With an eSIM, you can switch carriers or plans right from your device.
- Flexibility: Traveling abroad? You can subscribe to a local data plan without swapping out your home SIM card. Say goodbye to outrageous roaming fees!
- Space for Dual SIM: Many newer smartphones support both an eSIM and a physical SIM, allowing you to have two active phone numbers or data plans on the same device.
Limitations of Using an eSim
- Limited Support: Not all carriers support eSIMs yet, so your options might be limited depending on where you are.
- Device Compatibility: While more and more devices are starting to support eSIMs, as we already mentioned, not all do. So make sure to check if your device is eSIM-compatible.
The Best eSIM for International Travel
Airalo is making waves in the eSIM world with its affordable and flexible plans. Offering local, regional, and global plans for over 190 countries, Airalo has got you covered whether you're planning a quick getaway or a long-term adventure. You can choose from short-term or long-term options, tailoring your plan to your travel needs. Navigating their services is super easy with their user-friendly app and website, where you can buy and manage your eSIM plans.
Coverage: 190 countries, including South & Noth America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
Personal hotspotting and tethering allowed? Yes, as long as it is supported by your device and the network. You may need to set up the APN settings for your eSIM to enable this feature.
How To Install Airalo eSim
And if you are considering Airalo but you are still not sure if it's the right eSIM for you, read our full Airalo review here:
Next up is Holafly, a fantastic choice for those heading to the United States, where they offer unlimited data plans. But don't worry if you're not U.S.-bound; Holafly also has plans for Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania. With competitive prices and good coverage, Holafly is a strong contender in the eSIM market. They also shine in customer service, providing 24/7 support and free shipping of physical SIM cards if you prefer the traditional route.
Coverage: Over 130 destinations, including unlimited data plans in some countries.
Personal hotspotting and tethering allowed? Some of their eSIM plans, but not all of them.
How to Install Holafly eSIM
If variety is what you're after, Nomad might be the eSIM provider for you. They offer a range of country and global plans and even unlimited data plans in some destinations. Nomad covers over 110 countries, giving you plenty of options for your travels. Their plans are flexible, allowing you to activate or pause them anytime, perfect for the unpredictable nature of travel. Plus, their sleek app and website make managing your eSIM plans easy and convenient.
Coverage: 110 countries, including the United States, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Oceania.
Personal hotspotting and tethering allowed? Some of their eSIM plans, but not all of them.
How To Install Nomad eSIM
aloSIM is another global eSIM provider that's making international data access easy to access worldwide. Offering instant eSIM travel data in over 170 countries, Alosim ensures you stay connected no matter where your journey takes you. You can choose from various prepaid eSIM data packages that suit your travel needs and budget. They also have a free app which makes shopping, managing, and activating your eSIM plans just a few taps away. Plus, their sister app Hushed helps aloSIM users avoid roaming fees and use private numbers for calling/texting, all powered by their aloSIM eSIM data.
Coverage: aloSIM provides coverage in over 170 countries worldwide.
Personal hotspotting and tethering allowed: Yes, as long as it is supported by your device and the network.
How to Install aloSIM eSIM
Next, we have BNESIM, an eSIM provider that offers plans in over 170 countries. With international phone numbers, unlimited data packages, and monthly subscriptions, BNESIM provides a comprehensive solution for your international travel abroad. Plus, their app makes it easy to buy and manage your eSIM plans, so you can focus on enjoying your travels.
Coverage: Over 170 countries worldwide.
Personal hotspotting and tethering allowed? No. They don't offer this option.
How to Install BNESIM eSIM on Android
How to Install BNESIM eSIM on iPhone
Last but not least, we have SimOptions. SimOptions is not a provider per se but it's a one-stop shop for international prepaid SIM cards and eSIMs around the world. With plans in over 200 destinations, SimOptions offers a wide range of local and regional options to fit your travel needs and budget. Whether you're planning a multi-country European tour or a secluded island getaway, SimOptions has got you covered.
Coverage: Over 200 destinations, including the UK, US, Africa, Europe, South America, Asia and Oceania.
Personal hotspotting and tethering allowed? Yes, as long as it is supported by your device and the network.
How to Install SimOptions eSIM
So, What's the Best eSim Provider Then?
These providers have proven to be the most reliable in our travels, offering extensive coverage, flexible plans, and excellent customer service.
We often find ourselves switching between Airalo and Holafly depending on the situation. Airalo is our go-to for its affordability and wide coverage of over 190 countries, making it a great choice for short-term trips or visits to multiple countries. On the other hand, Holafly shines with its variety of country and global plans, as well as unlimited data plans in some destinations, making it ideal for longer stays or when we need a consistent, high-quality connection.
However, it's important to remember that the "best" eSIM provider can vary depending on your specific needs. Factors such as your destination, the length of your trip, your data needs, and your budget can all influence which provider is the best fit for you.
We encourage you to explore your options, try out different providers, and find the one that best suits your travel needs. After all, the world of eSIMs is all about flexibility and convenience, so don't be afraid to find the perfect match for your unique journey.
Other ways to stay connected you may also be interested in:
Are All Devices Compatible With eSIMs?
The short answer is no. Although most of the latest smartphone models support eSIMs, not all devices do, and some may have restrictions or limitations depending on the device, network, or plan. So, you should always check whether your device is compatible or not.
Below is a list of the most popular smartphones that support eSIM:
- iPhone models: iPhone 14 / Pro / Pro Max, 13 / Pro / Pro Max / Mini, 12 / Pro / Pro Max / Mini, 11 / Pro / Pro Max, XS / XS Max, XR, and SE (versions from 2020 and 2022).
- iPad models: iPad Air (3rd & 4th Generation), Pro 11‑inch (1st, 2nd, and 3rd generation), Pro 12.9‑inch (3rd, 4th, and 5th generation), iPad (7th, 8th, and 9th generation), and iPad Mini (5th and 6th generation).
- Samsung Galaxy models: Samsung Galaxy S23, S23+, S23 Ultra, S22 Ultra 5G, S22+ 5G, S22 5G, S21 Ultra 5G, S21 5G, S21+ 5G, S20, S20+, Z Flip, Z Flip3 5G, Z Fold3, Z Fold2, Fold, Note 20 Ultra, Note 20+, and Note 20.
- Google Pixel models: 7 / 7 Pro, 5 / 6 / 6a / 6 Pro, 4, 4a, 4 XL, 3, 3 XL, 3a, and 3a XL.
- Motorola models:Razr 2019 and Razr 5G.
- Huawei models: P40, P40 Pro, and Mate 40 Pro. Please note, Huawei P40 Pro+ is not compatible with eSIMs.
- OnePlus models: 11 5G
- OPPO models: Find X3 Pro, Find X5, Find X5 Pro, and Reno A.
- SONY models: Xperia 10 III Lite, Xperia 10 IV, and Xperia 1 IV.
- Nuu Mobile X5
- Gemini PDA 4G+Wi-Fi
- Xiaomi 12T Pro (Global Version)
- Fairphone 4.
Frequently Asked Questions About eSims
How does eSIM technology work?
An eSIM, or embedded SIM, is a digital SIM card. Instead of a physical card, the eSIM technology is built right into your device. It's programmed to work with various carriers, allowing you to switch between networks without needing to swap out physical SIM cards.
What is an eSIM profile?
An eSIM profile is the information that's programmed into the eSIM by a carrier. This profile contains all the details needed for the device to connect to a network, such as the operator identifier and authentication keys.
How many profiles can I have on an eSIM?
The number of profiles you can have on an eSIM depends on your device. Some devices allow you to store multiple profiles, but only one can be active at a time.
How do I activate my eSIM?
To activate your eSIM, you'll typically need to scan a QR code provided by your eSIM provider. This can usually be done in the device's settings. Some carriers may also allow you to enter the details manually or directly in the app like Airalo do (it's our favorite option to activate an eSIM).
Is the activation immediate?
Yes, once you've scanned the QR code or entered the details, the eSIM should generally activate immediately. Sometimes you might need to restart your phone to make it work (it happened to us a few times!).
When will I receive my eSIM?
Since eSIMs are digital, you should receive them as soon as your carrier sends you the QR code or activation details. This is typically done via email or through the carrier's app.
Where can I find my eSIM activation code?
Your eSIM activation code is typically provided by your carrier. It may be included in the QR code you scan to activate the eSIM, or it may be sent to you separately.
I cannot scan the QR Code, what do I do?
If you're having trouble scanning the QR code, try manually entering the details provided by your eSIM provider or, if you are using Airalo, use their app. If you're still having issues, contact your carrier for assistance.
Is my device compatible with an eSIM?
Not all devices are compatible with eSIM. Most newer smartphones and tablets support eSIM, but it's best to check your device's specifications or contact the manufacturer to be sure.
Do eSIMs come with a number to make or receive calls?
Yes, eSIMs can come with a phone number, allowing you to make and receive calls, just like a traditional SIM card. However, this depends on the plan you choose.
Can eSIM plans combine data and voice and/or SMS calls?
Yes, many eSIM plans offer a combination of data, voice, and SMS services. The specifics will depend on the plan and carrier.
Are eSIMs more sustainable?
Yes, eSIMs are generally considered more sustainable than traditional SIM cards. They reduce the need for physical cards, which can contribute to electronic waste.
Can my prepaid eSIM incur additional charges?
Typically, prepaid eSIMs have a set amount of data, calls, or texts, and you can't go over this limit, so you shouldn't incur additional charges. However, if you purchase additional services or if your plan has certain fees or charges, you may incur additional costs. Always check the details of your plan.
Ready to Keep Your Connection Going Whenever You Are?
If you want more digital nomad guides like these, sign up for our free newsletter and get upcoming articles straight to your inbox!
Sign up for our Newsletter
Receive nomad stories, tips, news, and resources every week!
100% free. No spam. Unsubscribe anytime.
We'll see you there, Freaking Nomads!
Disclosure: Hey, just a heads up that some of the links in this article are affiliate links. This means that, if you buy through our links, we may earn a small commission that helps us create helpful content for the community. We only recommend products if we think they will add value, so thanks for supporting us!