Planning a trip? Here are the best eSIMs for international travel

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Google Fi Wireless logo on smartphone with SIM card and SIM ejector next to it Stock photo 5

Edgar Cervantes / Android Authority

Traveling is exciting, but dealing with SIM cards can be a hassle. Thankfully, eSIMs (embedded SIMs) are changing the game. You don’t have to put up with long queues for a new SIM or fumble with tiny plastic cards. You can get a local plan while in your country of origin and enjoy seamless connectivity before getting off the plane.

eSIMs are great, but with so many providers, how do you choose the right one? We’ve researched to find the best eSIM for international travel in 2024, whether you’re heading to Europe, Asia, Africa, or Australia.

What is an eSIM?

iSim vs eSIM vs nanoSIM size comparison

An eSIM is a digital SIM card that works with a chip built into your device. With a supported phone, you can get started from anywhere. Switching operators is as simple as getting a new carrier, scanning a code, and installing and activating the eSIM. This is in sharp contrast to the plastic physical SIM you have to get from the carrier and insert in your phone to get connectivity.

While eSIMs have been around for a while, they caught everyone’s attention when Apple made the bold move to go all-in on them, ditching the traditional SIM card slot altogether.

eSIMs aren’t just about convenience; they’re also eco-friendly. By eliminating physical cards, eSIMs reduce the amount of plastic waste the mobile industry generates. Plus, they free up space inside your device that manufacturers can use to fit in larger batteries or make it more sleek.

The real game-changer is how eSIMs enable 5G connectivity in devices that struggle to fit a SIM card, like smart glasses and fitness trackers. Their compact size makes them perfect for the next generation of connected gadgets.

Best eSIMs for international travel

We’ve covered some of the best eSIMs for international travel, whether you’re taking the trip alone or with loved ones.

Airhub

Airhub homepage
  • Local, regional, and global plans
  • Customizable plans
  • 150+ countries, seven regions
  • Some plans support data sharing
  • Unlimited data, SMS, and call options
  • Covers all regions
  • Expensive in Africa and America

Airhub is a global marketplace with eSIMs available in over 150 countries. Thanks to strategic partnerships with local companies, it offers several plans per destination that you can use to browse and, in some cases, send texts and make calls.

Local eSIMs cover over 150 countries. Regional eSIMs cover Africa, Asia-Pacific, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and South America. The Europe regional eSIM, for example, covers 48 countries, while the South American eSIM covers 18 countries. There are multiple global plans covering countries on all continents.

Airhub’s eSIM covers 150+ countries and 7 regions, offering multiple plans for browsing, texting, and calling.

Airhub shows the network you’ll use at your destination. Plus, you can get unlimited data with SMS and voice minutes in certain countries and regions like Europe, North America, and South America. The Africa, Asia-Pacific, and Eurasian eSIMs only offer capped data volumes without voice credits. Meanwhile, the global plans include data-only options and options with SMS and voice minutes.

Prices vary across regions. European and Eurasian plans are generally cheaper, while North and South American plans are more expensive. African plans are not available at the time of writing.

You can get started with Airhub using the company’s website or mobile application. Choose your destination country and prepaid eSIM data plan, and make payment using your credit card, debit card, or PayPal. You’ll receive a QR code to activate your eSIM.

Airalo

Airalo homepage
  • Local, regional, and global plans
  • Flexible, customizable plans
  • 200+ countries, seven regions
  • Supports data sharing
  • Data validity up to 180 days
  • Covers all regions
  • Data-only local and regional plans
  • Expensive in Africa
  • No unlimited plans

Airalo is regarded as the first-ever eSIM store globally and is a top choice for eSIMs thanks to its budget-friendly options and worldwide availability. It offers local, regional, and global eSIMs, with prices varying by destination and local data rates.

Local eSIMs cover over 200 countries. Local USA plans, for example, range from 1–20GB and are valid for 7–30 days. However, there are no unlimited plans.

Regional eSIMs cover Africa, Asia, the Caribbean Islands, Europe, Latin America, the Middle East, North Africa, and North America. The Eurolink regional eSIM covers 39 European countries and offers as much as 100GB of data for 180 days, while the Island Hopper is good for 24 Caribbean islands.

In over 200 countries, Airalo offers data-only local and regional plans and global plans that include calls and texts.

Prices vary across regions. 1GB of data costs $5 for European and American regional plans, $15 for Caribbean, Latin America, and Middle Eastern regional plans, and $27 for an African regional plan.

The global eSIM plans cover 124 countries simultaneously and are perfect for interregional adventures. Local and regional plans only cover data, while global plans may be data-only or include data, calls, and texts.

To get started with an Airalo eSIM, download the app, create an account, select your destination and package, and install the eSIM. Payment methods include credit and debit cards, Paypal, Apple Pay (in some countries), Google Pay, Alipay (via the app), and Airmoney (Airalo’s reward currency).

aloSIM

aloSIM homepage
  • Local and regional plans
  • Flexible plans with top-up options
  • 175+ countries, 11 regions
  • Supports data sharing
  • Nifty data calculator
  • Free SMS and voice minutes via third-party
  • Referral-only loyal points
  • No global plans
  • No African or Middle Eastern regional plans
  • No unlimited plans

aloSIM is a Canadian tech company founded in 2022 that offers low-cost prepaid data eSIMs and a nifty data calculator that estimates data usage based on daily activities. This ensures you only pay for what you need.

aloSIM has local plans covering over 175 countries across all continents. Regional plans cover Europe, America, and some parts of Asia, with unique options for Scandinavia and the Mediterranean. However, regional offers are limited in Africa and the Middle East.

The European regional plan spans 34 countries and lets you buy 1–10GB of data for seven to 30 days, with the option to add more if needed. You can get 5GB of data for around $20. If your journey only takes you to the UK, a cheaper UK-Ireland plan that costs $20 for 10GB of data is available. Prices are more expensive in North and South America, with the same 10GB going for $50 or more.

aloSIM provides free call and SMS numbers in 175+ countries but has limited offers in Africa and the Middle East.

Like Airalo, aloSIM shows you which networks you’ll be connected to and the speed availability before purchasing a plan. You also can’t get unlimited data. While the eSIMs do not include phone numbers for calling and texting, aloSIM offers free numbers with voice minutes and SMS from its sister app, Hushed.

You can get started with aloSIM on the web or mobile app. There are three installation methods: Automatic, QR code, and manual.

Nomad

Nomad homepage
  • Local, regional, and global plans
  • 170+ countries, 11 regions
  • Covers all regions
  • Small regional price disparity
  • Prepaid SMS plans
  • Some eSIMs support data sharing
  • Data-only plans

Nomad was founded in 2020 and has headquarters in Silicon Valley. It has local, regional, and global plans.

Local eSIMs cover 170+ countries across all continents. Regional plans include Asia–Pacific, Africa, Europe, the Middle East, North America, and smaller three-country combinations. The global plan covers 109 countries.

You can see which network you’ll be connected to within your destination country and the speed. You can also top up your data when necessary. Note that there are no unlimited plans or options with voice minutes, but you can get separate SMS plans in the US and Canada at $4 for 100 texts lasting 30 days.

Nomad offers data-only plans in 170+ countries, with separate SMS plans in the US and Canada.

Prices vary by region. The European plan costs $5 for 1GB of data for seven days. Prices are similar for American and Asian plans. The African plans are slightly more expensive, starting at $11 for 1GB of data. But this is still significantly cheaper than Airalo’s $27 for 1GB.

BNESIM

BNESIM homepage
  • Local, regional, and global plans
  • 170+ countries, seven regions
  • Two global coverage plans
  • Unlimited global and European plans
  • Offers eSIMs and physical SIMs
  • Pay-as-you-go option
  • Pricier in the Middle East and Africa
  • No info on destination networks
  • Auto-renewal feature
  • No data sharing
  • Data-only plans

BNESIM was founded in 2017 in Sheung Wan, Hong Kong Island. It provides eSIMs and SIM cards in several countries and regions, but we’ll focus on eSIMs.

BNESIM offers local eSIM plans in over 170 countries. Its seven regional plans cover Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, Oceania, and South America. It has a global plan for 102 countries and a mini global plan for 56 countries, mainly consisting of North America, Europe, and some parts of Asia.

Aside from its base plans that renew automatically, BNE offers one-time plans with relatively shorter expiration dates and pay-as-you-go plans that never expire. It also provides unlimited European and global data plans with voice minutes — other plans are data-only.

BNESIM offers eSIMs in over 170 countries, with European and global plans including voice calls and SMS.

You can top up your plan anytime using the app. However, you can’t see the network you’ll connect to within your destination country.

Local US plans start at €4.36 for 3GB of data lasting a month. It’s cheaper in European countries, costing about €3.96 for the same 3GB in the UK. Prices are higher in Africa and South America, with a rate of around €18.72/3GB and €15.34/3GB, respectively. Regional plans follow a similar pricing pattern.

Holafly

Holafly homepage
  • Local and regional plans
  • 190+ countries and some regions
  • Unlimited data plans in several locations
  • Small price disparity across regions
  • No data sharing

Holafly was founded in 2017 and has offices in Ireland, Columbia, Peru, and Thailand. It offers local and regional eSIMs with unlimited data in several locations.

Holafly eSIMs are available in over 190 destinations worldwide. Coverage includes countries, cities like Barcelona, and regions like Asia and Europe. Plans vary widely, with some places only offering fixed data bundles while others have unlimited volumes.

You can get unlimited data at a rate of €6/day and €19/5 days in Australia, Canada, Japan, the US, the UK, and several other places. Prices are slightly more expensive in countries like Nigeria and South Africa, with five days of unlimited data costing €29. The data volume is capped in several other countries.

Holafly eSIMs support over 190 destinations worldwide but only offer voice calls in Europe.

Finding regional plans on the website is tricky. However, a quick search on the website brought up plans for Asia, Europe, Latin and North America, and the Caribbean.

The Holafly website highlights several details about your purchase, including the available networks in your destination and places that are likely to have high-speed internet. However, the plans are data-only, so you can’t make phone calls or send text messages, except with the Europe eSIM, which gives you 60 minutes of normal voice calls.

Holiday eSIM

Holiday eSIM homepage
  • Regional and global plans
  • Great European coverage
  • Plans include calls, SMS, and data
  • Supports data sharing
  • Poor coverage of other regions
  • Poor website design

Holiday eSIM is a top choice for travelers heading to Europe. Thanks to robust connections in nearly every European country, you can enjoy high-speed data wherever you are.

Holiday eSIM includes a French number in your plan, a rare find among eSIM providers. Its most popular plan costs £17.50 for 12GB of data in Europe, unlimited calls and texts in Europe, and 30 minutes and 200 SMS from Europe to anywhere in the world. There are other plans as well.

While its major offerings cover Europe, Holiday eSIM has Asia-only plans covering several countries. Aside from these two regions, every other location is part of a global plan that covers parts of Europe and other continents.

Holiday eSIM provides a French number for calls in most of Europe, in addition to Asia-only and global plans.

Thanks to the user-friendly Orange Holiday app, installing the eSIM is simple. Download the app, install the eSIM, and you’ll automatically connect to the strongest local European mobile network. However, the Holiday eSIM website interface leaves a lot to be desired. Navigating through plans is challenging, especially if it’s your first time.

Should you get an eSIM?

esim chip on finger

One of the most incredible things about eSIMs is their flexibility — you can store multiple eSIMs on your phone (up to eight or more in some cases) and activate them as needed without worrying about extra roaming charges.

If your current network offers free roaming, you might not need a travel-specific or local SIM. But if not, the hassle of finding a new operator and dealing with language barriers can be a real headache.

Security-wise, eSIMs have a leg up on physical SIMs. Since they’re not removable, they’re practically impossible to lose. And if your phone goes missing, tracking it through the eSIM is much easier than with a physical SIM that the perpetrator can remove.

While international roaming works the same way with physical and eSIMs, the real advantage of eSIMs is their flexibility. You can have multiple eSIMs from different countries saved on your device, making it a breeze to switch between them when you’re hopping from one country to another.

The best part? Switching between eSIMs is as easy as buying and activating a plan online. There is no need to juggle physical SIM cards or worry about losing your old number.

Which phones support eSIMs?

EoY 2022 Phone Collage

Robert Triggs / Android Authority

To use an eSIM, your phone must support the technology and be unlocked (not tied to any carrier). We’ll cover a list of phones with built-in eSIM support and how you can check if they’re unlocked.

iPhones

To see if your iOS device supports eSIMs and is carrier unlocked:

  1. Go to Settings > General > About.
  2. Scroll down to Carrier Lock. If the device is unlocked, it will show No SIM restrictions.
  3. For iOS 15 or higher, scroll down to Available SIM. For earlier versions, look for Digital SIM. If your phone supports eSIMs, it will display a 15-digit IMEI number.

Here are the iPhone models that support eSIMs:

  • iPhone XR, XS, and XS Max
  • iPhone 11 series
  • iPhone 12 series
  • iPhone 13 series
  • iPhone SE 2 and 3
  • iPhone 14 series
  • iPhone 15 series

Here are the iPad models that support eSIMs:

  • iPad Pro 1st generation and newer
  • iPad Air 3rd generation and newer
  • iPad 7th generation and newer
  • iPad Mini 5th generation and newer

Android

To check if your Android phone supports eSIMs:

  1. Go to Settings > Network & Internet.
  2. Tap on eSIM cards.
  3. Your device is compatible if you see the “Download a SIM instead?” option.

You can also check for an EID (Embedded Identity Document) number by dialing *#06#.

Some popular high-end Android phones that support eSIMs include:

  • Samsung Galaxy S20 series and newer
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20 series
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold series
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip series
  • Samsung Galaxy A54 5G
  • Google Pixel 4 series and newer (and older Google Fi Pixel phones)
  • Google Pixel Fold
  • Xiaomi 12T Pro and 13 series
  • Oppo Find X5 series
  • Huawei P40 series

This list is not exhaustive, and compatibility can vary based on where the device was manufactured. Check with your manufacturer to confirm.

Types of eSIMs

Setting up eSIM on a galaxy s22 ultra

Dhruv Bhutani / Android Authority

There are two main types of eSIMs: data-only and data with SMS and voice credits. Which one should you choose?

  • Data-only eSIM: As the name implies, a data-only eSIM only works for browsing. It connects you to major networks in your destination country so you can surf the web and use your favorite apps. While you can’t make phone calls with it, you can leverage apps like WhatsApp to speak with others over the web.
  • Voice, SMS, and data eSIM: This option is perfect for those seeking the whole package — calling, texting, and browsing. It usually comes with a separate phone number for this purpose. While most providers give you a fixed number of SMS messages or call minutes, some add this for free. Meanwhile, most unlimited data plans come with unlimited calls and texts.

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