Are you planning a trip to the UK and looking for the best tourist e-sim card to stay connected? This is a complete guide with everything you need to know about using an e-sim cards when traveling to the UK including a comparison of the best the UK e-sim cards for 2024.
Don’t waste money on high roaming charges, read my recommendations below and order an e-sim card for the UK on the internet and get connected in just a couple minutes. Below you will find up to date prices as per January 2024 and all specifications per e-sim card.
This guide will show you where and when to order an e-sim card for the UK, a comparison with local prepaid sim cards for the UK and of course links to directly order your e-sim card for traveling to the UK online.
Ever since 2012 I am traveling the world non-stop and eventually turned my passion for traveling into a lifestyle and became a full time nomadic travel blogger. That is why I constantly get to a different country and pretty much every week I need to look for a new sim card to stay connected.
In 2022 I visited 62 different countries and in 2023 I traveled to 34 countries so imagine how many different prepaid and e-sim cards I used throughout the last two years.
In the past I used to buy a local prepaid sim card on arrival in every country but nowadays I mostly use e-sim cards to stay connected when traveling abroad.
Helping other travelers to save money while traveling the world is one of the reasons I started this travel blog. Providing essential travel tips is what made me start writing sim card guides from every country I visit and now on Traveltomtom you can already find more than 200 sim card guides from all over the world: USA, Canada, Dubai, Egypt, Asia, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Europe, Italy, France, Spain, Vietnam, Philippines, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand, international e-sim cards and many more.
Of course Traveltomtom also wrote a complete guide for buying a prepaid sim card for the United Kingdom as well as specific guides for buying a sim card at London Heathrow Airport, Manchester Airport, London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted airport in the UK.
So next time you are planning your adventure abroad come check out Traveltomtom for the latest prepaid sim card and e-sim card advice for your holiday destination.
In this the UK e-sim card guide I will show you a comparison of all the e-sim card plans for tourists with up to date prices as per January 2024.
After I will explain how e-sim cards work, more about the network coverage and 4G/5G data speed, some FAQ about e-sim cards, the difference between e-sim cards and local prepaid sim cards in the UK and everything else you need to know about using e-sim cards when traveling to the UK.
But let me start with giving you my e-sim card recommendation for the UK. These are my favorite e-sim cards for traveling to the UK in 2024.
Traveltomtom recommends the following two e-sim cards for traveling to the UK in 2024:
- 50 GB data
- Valid in all of Europe
- Unlimited calling/texting in Europe
- Valid for 28 days
- 5G ready
- $1.2 USD per Gigabyte
- 20 GB data-only e-sim
- Valid only in the UK
- NO incoming/outgoing calls
- Valid for 30 days
- 5G ready
- $1.05 USD per Gigabyte
The best value tourist e-sim card for the United Kingdom is the Orange Holiday Europe eSIM that you can order via SimOptions. This UK e-sim card is a little more expensive than options 2 but it gives you 50 GB data and is 5G ready. The best thing about this Orange e-sim card for the UK is that it is valid in 39 countries and comes with unlimited calling and texting in Europe at a rate of $1.2 USD per Gigabyte.
You can order this e-sim card for traveling to the UK exclusively on SimOptions.
Because the Orange Holiday Europe e-sim card is valid in all of Europe it is also rated as one of the best sim cards for traveling to Europe in 2024.
A very good second best is an e-sim offered by Nomad. This e-sim is even a couple bucks cheaper, but is a data-only e-sim card. The e-sim operator is eSIM Go and they operate on the EE, Vodafone, Three and O2 network in the UK. It is a data-only sim card so you can not make or receive phone calls with this e-sim card, sms services are also not available. This UK e-sim from Nomad is 5G ready and comes at a rate of only $1.05 USD per Gigabyte.
Is the UK one of your stops on a trip around the world then you can also look into getting an e-sim card for traveling internationally. Just like the Orange Holiday Europe international e-sim there are e-sim cards that cover up to 141 countries.
There are 2 very important things to check before ordering an e-sim card for the UK or in general before using an e-sim card.
Unlocked phones only
Make sure your phone is unlocked. E-sim cards only work in unlocked phones. If you are not sure if your phone is unlocked then contact your mobile internet provider in your home country.
In general phones from Europe, Asia and the Middle East tend to be unlocked. Phones from North America are often locked.
If your smartphone is locked that means it does not allow another prepaid sim card or e-sim card to operate in the device. You can easily unlock your phone, but depending on your mobile internet provider you will be charged a fee for unlocking your phone.
E-sim compatible phones only
Second, and equally important: e-sim cards only work if your smartphone supports e-sim cards, also called e-sim compatible. All newer smartphones support e-sim cards. If you are not sure if your phone is e-sim compatible then simply go to Google and type in your mobile phone model in the search bar and ask if it is e-sim compatible. You will get the answer instantly.
If your phone is NOT e-sim compatible then there is no other solution and you can NOT use an e-sim card for traveling to the UK.
However, in this case you can still order a sim card for traveling to the UK on the internet before your trip. But it will be a physical prepaid sim card instead of an e-sim card.
Check out Traveltomtom’s complete guide for buying a prepaid sim card for the UK in 2024 or find out everything you need to know about international sim cards for traveling abroad in 2024.
Comparison of the best e-sim cards for the UK
Buying an e-sim card on arrival in the UK is still not possible for tourists. As per January 2024 Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three still provide physical prepaid sim cards for tourists only. In stores, as well as on airports in the UK, there are NO e-sim cards available for tourists.
But luckily there are multiple e-sim providers on the internet that sell e-sim cards for the UK and they actually have amazing offers, even better than buying a sim card in the UK on arrival, so keep reading…
Traveltomtom recommends ordering an e-sim card for traveling in the UK from one of the well-known e-sim card providers that have proven to be reliable operators.
These are the 3 big e-sim card providers and they sell great e-sim card plans for the UK. They are tested and reviewed multiple times by Traveltomtom:
Nowadays, you can buy an e-sim card for pretty much every country around the world. Order directly from one of the above e-sim card providers and instantly receive your e-sim card in your email. But before you buy an e-sim card first read all my tips below.
SimOptions is the only e-sim provider that also offers international prepaid sim cards for the UK. These are pre-activated physical prepaid sim cards and will be delivered to your home address before your trip to the UK and it is plug and play when you arrive in the UK.
Airalo and Nomad only sell e-sim cards for the UK.
Airalo is a very reputable e-sim card provider that is very much recommended by Traveltomtom. Ordering your e-sim card for the UK through Airalo is done fast and easy. Traveltomtom has used Airalo uncountable times for staying connected when traveling abroad. Very reliable, never an issue and often some of the cheapest e-sim card deals.
Airalo is normally one of my top recommendations but the Airalo e-sim card plans for the UK are slightly more expensive compared to SimOptions and Nomad. However, sometimes they have on going offers so it is worth checking them out anyway.
Here are the UK e-sim card plans from Airalo for 2024:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 USD
- 2 GB data for 15 days = $7.5 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $10 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $15 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $22.5 USD
- 20 GB data for 30 days = $36 USD
Click here to order an e-sim card for the UK from Airalo.
The Airalo e-sim cards for the UK are from Uki Mobile and operate on the 4G/LTE network of O2 and Three. Unfortunately the Airalo Uki Mobile e-sim cards for the UK are not 5G ready.
In pretty much all the amazing places to visit in the UK you will find a 4G/LTE signal tho and the data speed is pretty generally good. However, there is 5G in a lot of popular tourist attractions in the UK already.
For more info about the best 4G/5G network in the UK check my complete guide for the best prepaid sim card for tourists in the UK in 2024, including network coverage maps of all the mobile internet providers.
All the Airalo e-sim cards are data-only sim cards without a phone number, so any phone/sms service is NOT supported. An Airalo e-sim card has to be installed within 1 month and after activation the credit validity starts when it connects the first time to a supported network. For more info check out the Airalo website.
SimOptions is a very reliable e-sim card provider and Traveltomtom has used SimOptions uncountable times in more than 50 countries around the world. I can totally recommend using SimOptions for ordering an e-sim card.
Why using SimOptions? When it comes to UK e-sim cards SimOptions has better e-sim card plans than Airalo and is therefore also recommended as the best e-sim cards for tourists traveling to the UK.
SimOptions has a lot of UK e-sim cards and most of them are actually international e-sim cards that are valid in all of Europe and beyond and on top of that most of these e-sim cards come with unlimited calling and texting.
Let me first show you the UK e-sim cards from SimOptions, which in fact are not so interesting.
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $9.90 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $17.90 USD
But the best e-sim cards for the UK from SimOptions are the international e-sim cards.
Here are all the international e-sim cards from SimOptions for 2024. These international e-sim cards are valid in up to 39 countries, including the UK:
- 15 GB data + unlimited callsfor 15 days = $21.90 USD
- 10 GB data (5G ready) + $2 calling credit for 30 days = $24.90 USD
- 12 GB data + 30 minutes international + unlimited calls/text for 14 days = $29.90 USD
- 20 GB data-only in 6 countries = $34.90 USD
- 30 GB data + unlimited calls/text for 30 days = $44.90 USD
- 30 GB data + 120 minutes international + unlimited calls/text for 14 days = $49.90 USD
- 50 GB data (5G ready) + unlimited calls/text for 28 days = $59.90 USD
Click here for more info or to order a SimOptions e-sim card for the UK.
The e-sim cards from SimOptions are from various but well-known and reputed mobile internet operators in Europe: O2, Orange, Bouygues Telecom and Three.
Unfortunately SimOptions doesn’t specify which mobile network operator in the UK they use and most of these international e-sim cards only offer 4G/LTE max data speed.
However, one of the reasons Traveltomtom rated the Orange Holiday Europe eSIM as the best e-sim card for traveling to the United Kingdom is that this e-sim is also 5G ready.
All the international e-sim cards that you order via SimOptions come with a phone number and they allow incoming and outgoing calls and sms. Most of these e-sim cards even have unlimited calling and texting in all of Europe.
The validity of these e-sim cards is 1 year and the credit validity starts instantly after installing the e-sim card, even if you are not in the UK. For more info check the SimOptions website.
Last but not least there is Nomad and they often have amazing e-sim card deals for tourists. I wasn’t disappointed when I checked out the UK e-sim deals.
Traveltomtom has used Nomad now in more than 10 different countries and had great experiences.
Here are the regular Nomad e-sim card plans for the UK in 2024:
- 1 GB data for 7 days = $7 USD
- 3 GB data for 30 days = $8 USD
- 5 GB data for 30 days = $11 USD
- 10 GB data for 30 days = $15 USD
- 20 GB data for 30 days = $21 USD
Click here to order an e-sim card for the UK from Nomad.
The Nomad e-sim cards for the UK are from eSIM Go and they use the 4G/5G mobile data network of all mobile internet providers in the UK: EE, O2, Vodafone and Three. The Nomad e-sim cards for the UK are 5G ready. All Nomad e-sim cards are data-only and incoming and outgoing calls and sms are NOT supported
Below you can find the Nomad e-sim card specifications for the standard e-sim plans.
The Nomad the UK e-sim cards have to be installed on your phone within 30 days and after installation its validity starts when it connects for the first time to a supported network in the UK. Basically when the plane lands. For more info check the Nomad website.
Nomad e-sim cards for the UK with unlimited data
Nomad also offers e-sim cards for the United Kingdom with unlimited data, but Traveltomtom is NOT a fan and does not recommend e-sim cards with unlimited data. More about it later.
Check out the following unlimited data e-sim cards for the UK from Nomad:
- Unlimited data in the UK for 1 day = $7 USD
- Unlimited data in the UK for 3 days = $15 USD
- Unlimited data in the UK for 5 days = $22 USD
- Unlimited data in the UK for 7 days = $30 USD
- Unlimited data in the UK for 10 days = $41 USD
These unlimited data e-sim cards operate on the 4G/5G network of Three and O2.
The reason Traveltomtom is not a fan of these unlimited plans is that they have a so-called FUP (Fair Use Policy) of only 2 GB per day. Which means after you used 2 GB in 1 day, the data speed will be reduced for 24 hours to 512 Kbps. That is ridiculously slow, barely enough for email and WhatsApp. You won’t be able to use social media apps any more for the next 24 hours.
For Traveltomtom a hard no-go, but it is up to you. More about the exact specifications for the Nomad e-sim cards with unlimited data later on in this article.
Why did Traveltomtom already used more than 100s of e-sim cards? I mentioned before that I travel the world full time and I am on the road constantly. Pretty much every week I need another sim card to stay connected.
What is the cheapest e-sim card for the UK?
The cheapest e-sim card for the UK is an Airalo e-sim card for just $5 USD, it will give you 1 GB data for 7 days. This e-sim is only valid in the UK and does not support calling and texting.
Why ordering an e-sim card for traveling in the UK
E-sim cards are the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to the UK in 2024 and you can arrange everything online in just a couple clicks. No more visiting a sim card shop and swapping physical sim cards. Order online, scan the QR code, follow the steps and you are connected in less than 2 minutes.
The most important reason to get an e-sim card is because we would like to stay connected on our trip to the UK without wasting money on high roaming costs. Our smartphones are pretty useless without a working data connection. Think about ordering a taxi through an app, finding nearby friends, restaurants and bars. Get directions from Google Maps or simply staying in touch with family back home, check your social media apps on long bus rides or your banking apps when paying contactless.
One of the best things about arriving in the UK with an activated e-sim card is that you are online as soon as the plane lands. More about when to instal your e-sim card later.
There are so many reasons to stay connected when traveling to the UK, but the most important reason is that it makes your trip to the UK so much more convenient and fun!
At the same time we don’t want to waste money on high roaming charges. Many mobile internet operators still charge $3 USD per MB for data roaming, that means just opening the Instagram app will already cost you 20 MB * $3 USD = $60 USD! Not kidding… it still is very common in 2024.
E-sim cards are the easiest way to avoid high roaming charges!
Overseas dat roaming plans
So what about overseas data roaming plans? Well, not recommended! Why? Did you read the small letters at what data speed you can use data roaming? Pretty much all mobile internet operators limit the data speed for overseas data roaming plans, which means you end up with 3G data speed. Do you have the patience to handle 3G? It is frustrating when all around you at pretty much every amazing tourist destinations in the UK there is at least a 4G/LTE signal if not even already 5G available.
Uncountable times travel friends have asked me: “can I use your hotspot? My data roaming plan is so slow, it is barely working!” Trust me, get yourself an e-sim card or an international prepaid sim card for traveling to the UK. Spend a couple dollars extra and be connected all the time instead of begging for WiFi or a hotspot from friends.
Where to buy an e-sim card for the UK?
You can only buy an e-sim card for the UK on the internet through an e-sim card provider. There are multiple e-sim card providers for the UK. Traveltomtom compared 6 e-sim card providers and concluded that the above mentioned ones (SimOptions, Airalo and Nomad) are the best e-sim card providers for traveling to the UK in 2024.
When buying an e-sim card for the UK through one of the above recommended e-sim providers you only need your email address and the e-sim card is instantly ready to use after installation.
On arrival in the UK
There are 4 main mobile internet provider in the UK: Vodafone, EE, Three and O2. As per January 2024 none of these operators offer e-sim cards for tourists, only physical prepaid sim cards.
For more info about buying a prepaid sim card for tourists in the UK in 2024 click on the link to read my complete guide and comparison of all the mobile internet providers in the UK, including a comparison of the 4G/5G network.
Flying into the UK and landing in either London, Liverpool, Manchester or any other international airport then you can buy a tourist sim card for the UK on arrival at the airport, but only physical prepaid sim cards for tourists are provided, there are no e-sim cards for tourists available.
When to order/activate an e-sim card for the UK?
You can order an e-sim card for the UK pretty much any time you want. Most e-sim cards have to be installed on a phone within 1 month after purchasing, some even within 1 year, so you have time.
More important therefore is when do you instal/activate the e-sim card. The validity of some e-sims start straight after the installation, other e-sim cards only start their validity when they connect the first time to a supported network.
Traveltomtom advices to instal your e-sim card on the day of departure to the UK or before. When in the UK you will need an internet connection to instal your e-sim card. Pretty much every international airport in the UK has free WiFi so you could use that to install your e-sim card. Just make sure it is a stable internet connection and therefore Traveltomtom advices you to install/activate your e-sim card in your home country.
So my personal advice is to instal your e-sim card for the UK before you get into the plane and as soon as the plane lands you will already be connected without any problems.
How do I know all this? Traveltomtom visits the UK multiple times per year.
As mentioned before at London Heathrow Airport you can only buy physical prepaid sim cards, no e-sims. Click on the link for more info about my experiences buying a prepaid sim card at London Heathrow International Airport or check out my vlog on YouTube.
For more detailed info about the best prepaid sim cards for the UK, check out my complete guide in the link or click here for my YouTube video.
How to activate an e-sim card
Installing and activating an e-sim card is made as simple as possible. Everyone can activate an e-sim card and the instructions on how to are very detailed and will be send to you instantly by email. But wait, it gets even easier. Just scan the QR code.
When you order an e-sim card plan for the UK you instantly receive a summery of your order including a QR-code after the payment is processed.
You will see a summary of your e-sim card order including a QR code on your screen and at the same time you will also receive an email with the same QR code. The email contains instructions on how to instal and activate your the UK e-sim card.
But installing an activating an e-sim card is as easy as scanning the QR code with the same phone where you want to activate the e-sim card on. The QR contains all the information about your the UK e-sim card.
Once you scan the code you will be guided through a couple simple steps and within less than 1 minute your e-sim card is successfully installed.
Very important is that you are connected to the internet when installing your e-sim card otherwise you will get an error and issues can occur.
Tip: if you order an e-sim card with the same phone where you want to instal the e-sim card on then ask a friend or someone nearby to take a photo of the QR code and then you scan the QR code from his/her phone and start the installation.
Things to know before ordering an e-sim card for the UK
Here are some general tips for using e-sim cards when traveling abroad. These tips do not only apply for the UK e-sim cards, but are things you have to know before buying an e-sim card in general.
Make sure your phone is unlocked
To make sure you didn’t miss this, let me say this again: e-sim cards only work in UNLOCKED phones. If your phone is unlocked then you can use any e-sim card without any problems.
If your phone is locked then ask your mobile internet provider from your home country to unlock your phone before your trip to the UK. It is likely that your mobile internet provider will charge you a fee for unlocking your smartphone.
If you are unable to unlock your phone you can look into getting a portable WiFi for staying connected when traveling to the UK or better… bring a second unlocked phone on your trip to the UK and use it as a portable WiFi device.
Which smartphones support e-sim cards?
Another very important thing you have to check before buying an e-sim card is if your smartphone supports e-sim cards. If you have any of the latest smartphones then there is no need to worry, all new smartphones of the well known brands support e-sim cards.
The fastest way to find out if your phone is e-sim compatible is by asking Google the question: is my (your phone model) e-sim compatible? Simple as that!
Can I trust these e-sim card providers?
All the e-sim card providers for the UK recommended above (SimOptions, Airalo and Nomad) are reputable e-sim card providers reviewed and tested by Traveltomtom. All of them are licensed third party companies and resellers that partner or work directly with the mobile internet providers in the UK.
Traveltomtom has successfully partnered for several consecutive years with SimOptions and Airalo. Nomad is a fairly new partner of Traveltomtom, but has so far proven to be a reliable e-sim card provider as well. All e-sim card providers have their own Helpdesk which you can contact may you encounter any problems or in case you want to claim a refund.
Traveltomtom does NOT sell the UK e-sim cards, only RECOMMENDS you to use e-sim cards for traveling to the UK.
Can I keep my phone number from home with a UK e-sim card?
Yes, you can and this is for many people a reason to order an e-sim card to stay connected when traveling to the UK. An e-sim card can be used next to your physical or e-sim card from your home country at the same time. You do not need a dual-sim phone for using an e-sim card.
So you can have multiple e-sim cards installed on your phone? Yes, no problem at all!
For example: you can turn off the mobile data from your sim card from home but still use it for texting and calling. Your new the UK e-sim card you can be used at the same time just for data to ensure you are not wasting money on high roaming costs.
This is also the trick to keep receiving sms for example for OTP (one time password) sms to login to applications.
Switching between physical and e-sim cards is a matter of turning them on/off in the settings. Just always make sure your sim card from home is switched off for data roaming.
Can I make phone calls with a UK tourist e-sim card?
Yes, you can but it depends which e-sim card you order. All the Airalo and Nomad e-sim cards for the UK are data-only. Data-only means that incoming and outgoing calls are NOT supported and the e-sim card does not come with a phone number.
However, all the international e-sim cards from SimOptions come with a phone number. That means incoming calls and sms are supported. Most of these e-sim cards also come with unlimited calling and texting in all of Europe.
So if you like the option of receiving and making phone calls then definitely order your e-sim card for the United Kingdom through SimOptions.
In the above the UK e-sim card comparison you can find all the specifications per e-sim card.
Can I use 5G on a UK e-sim card?
Yes, some of the UK e-sim cards that you can buy on the internet are 5G ready, but definitely not all of them. One of the reasons why Traveltomtom rated the Orange Holiday Europe eSIM with 50 GB data as the best tourist e-sim for the UK is that this e-sim card is 5G ready.
Also some of the e-sim cards from Nomad are 5G ready, all others only support 4G/LTE.
Are there e-sim cards for the UK with unlimited data?
Yes, there are UK e-sim cards with unlimited data and as indicated above Nomad also offers unlimited data e-sim cards for the UK.
Even if you would come across some e-sim cards on the internet that sell the UK e-sim cards with unlimited data then make sure the unlimited data is on max data speed, mostly the data speed is capped after you used X amount of Gigabytes.
Holafly is an e-sim card provider that also sells e-sim cards with unlimited data, but does NOT specify what is the exact Fair Use Policy. Very tricky and therefore not recommended.
Traveltomtom does NOT recommend e-sim cards for the UK with unlimited data plans. There are always restrictions. I have used one of these e-sim cards with unlimited data before and I experienced a reduce in data speed after using more than 2 GB per day. Then I literally had to wait for 24 hours until my data speed was restored to normal. Nomad also offers these kind of e-sim cards for the UK with 'unlimited' data.
Those 24 hours were a nightmare as my data speed was barely enough to use WhatsApp. Social media was not loading!
Again, Traveltomtom does NOT recommend e-sim cards for the UK with unlimited data. But if you think you will never use more than 2 GB per day, then this might be your favorite e-sim card for the UK.
For $59.90 USD you get a UK sim card with 50 GB data via SimOptions. These e-sims offer a lot of data and there is no real need for an e-sim card with unlimited data unless you want to upload your whole camera roll to a Google Drive or iCloud via 4G instead of WiFi.
There are a lot of different specifications per e-sim card. Another reason why I advice you to take a close at my comparison of the best e-sim cards for traveling to the UK in 2024 before choosing your favorite.
Are e-sim cards the best way to stay connected when traveling to the UK?
E-sim cards are the easiest and fastest way to get data on your phone when traveling to the UK, but what is the best way? This of course depends on your own needs.
There are 3 ways to stay connected when traveling to the UK:
- Local prepaid sim cards
- International prepaid sim cards
- E-sim cards
Let’s compare e-sim cards, local prepaid sim cards and international prepaid sim cards, for you to find out what is your preferred way of staying connected.
Local prepaid sim cards
In general if you use a lot of data local prepaid sim cards are a cheaper way to stay connected and this is also the case in the UK. Local prepaid sim cards with big data bundles are cheaper than the UK e-sim cards that you order on the internet.
The difference is just a couple dollars though and local prepaid sim cards for tourists can only be purchased on arrival in the UK in a phone store or at the airport and NOT on the internet.
More info about the best the UK sim cards for tourists can be found in my complete guide for buying a tourist sim card in the UK in 2024.
International prepaid sim cards
If your smartphone is not e-sim compatible you can order an international prepaid sim card for traveling to the UK. Some of them are great for the UK as well as in all other countries in for example Europe, Americas and Asia and you can easily order them online.
A pre-activated physical sim card will be delivered to your home address before your trip. You put this physical sim card in your phone and as soon as the plane touches the ground and the sim card connects to a supported network you are online. Plug and play!
As explained throughout the article there are two different e-sim cards:
- E-sim cards that you buy on the internet through a third party
- E-sim cards that you buy in the UK in a mobile internet provider store
However, as of January 2024 e-sim cards are still not available for prepaid tourist sim cards in the UK.
Traveltomtom personally shopped around in the UK to find out if e-sim cards were available for tourists and the answer is: NO!
On arrival at the international airports in the UK they only sell physical prepaid sim cards for tourists and in every phone store of EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three they told me e-sim cards where not available for tourists.
Read all about it in my detailed guide for buying a sim card at London Heathrow Airport or if you are interested in watching a vlog about my arrival and buying a sim card at London Heathrow Airport then check out my YouTube video.
There is also a video about buying a prepaid sim card in the UK on my YouTube Channel.
E-sim cards vs. local prepaid sim cards
Getting an e-sim card is the easiest way to stay connected when traveling to the UK, no doubt! You arrange everything online within just a couple clicks. Right here, right now and you are all set for your trip to the UK. You arrive prepared and there is no need to visit a sim card shop on arrival in the UK. As soon as the plane lands, you are online.
But what is cheaper? An e-sim card or a local prepaid sim card for tourists?
When we compare the best the UK e-sim card for tourists with local prepaid sim cards for the UK, Traveltomtom comes to the conclusion that local prepaid sim cards are slightly cheaper than the e-sim cards.
When buying a local prepaid sim card on arrival in the UK the best prepaid sim card deal is a Three UK physical prepaid sim card for £15 GBP, which is around $18 USD that give you 25 GB data for 30 days. That means only $0.75 USD per Gigabyte.
This is the price you pay for a prepaid sim card in a Three store around the UK. So on arrival you will need to locate the nearest phone shop next to your hotel via Google Maps. Bring your passport and get in line for a UK prepaid sim card. A lot of hassle I would say if you are on a holiday. But up to you…
For more detailed info check out my article about the best prepaid sim cards for tourists in the UK in 2024.
Normally at international airports sim cards are more expensive but at London Heathrow Airport there is actually a sim card kiosk that sells prepaid sim cards for the UK that goes as low as $0.25 USD per Gigabyte. There is a Three UK prepaid sim card deal with 100 GB data for just £25 GBP, which is around $32 USD.
Click here to read my complete article with detailed info about buying a sim card at London Heathrow Airport.
After a long flight you just want to go to your hotel and it is often a big task to go to a sim card store and get connected. With an e-sim card that you buy on the internet you are connected as soon as the plane lands.
For this convenience Traveltomtom definitely recommends to order one of the listed best e-sim cards for the United Kingdom in the comparison above.
Many reasons why a lot of travelers simply get an e-sim card for the UK. Faster, easier, less stress and even cheaper depending on how much data you need. Because there is also an e-sim card for the UK for just $5 USD.
Another difference between a local prepaid sim card and an e-sim card that have to be mentioned is the data speed.
The e-sim cards you order on the internet are through a third party, a roaming partner or a so called MVNO (Mobile Virtual Network Operator). This means these operates buy/request bandwidth of one of the main mobile internet operators in the UK.
This may sound a little bit too technical, but what it means is that e-sim cards through a roaming partner or an MVNO are the last ones in line when the line is busy.
Especially during peak times, the performance of an e-sim cards ordered through a third party is in general less compared to a local prepaid sim card directly from a mobile internet operator.
Bottomline: the data speed of e-sim cards can be less compared to a local UK prepaid sim card.
I am sure some of the above tips for finding the best e-sim card for your trip to the United Kingdom were helpful. I hope that after reading through my comparison, FAQ and tips and tricks it was easier for you to make a decision and order your favorite e-sim card for the UK right away.
If you still have any questions about e-sim cards then please leave me a comment below. I promise I will try to reply instantly and I am more than happy to help you out finding the best way for you to stay connected.
Curious what the life of a full time nomadic traveler looks like? Go check out my Instagram account @traveltomtom and follow along with daily updates from around the world about the good, the bad and the ugly about traveling.
Traveltomtom is on the road to 197, meaning I would like to travel to every country in the world. As of January 2024 I have visited more than 155 countries, still about 40 to go, but no rush.
Enjoy your trip to the UK!
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