For those traveling to the UK and do not want to spend a lot of money on roaming costs: for about £24 you can already get a 30GB data sim card! When arriving at the London or Manchester Airports: HeathrowGatwick, Stansted and Luton you might want to buy your UK sim card on arrival at the airport. Click on your London Airport for a detailed guide.

Traveling to a new country often means high roaming costs, but I am here to help you get rid of that! Buying a local sim card is the best way to do so.

On my quest finding the best sim card for tourists in Europe (click here for my complete guide) I had to find out what was the deal with prepaid UK sim cards. I found out that there are huge differences in prices in Europe. While on the other hand roaming in Europe is free.

RELATED: Check out these 15 charming but cheap Airbnbs in London, all for under $100 per room per night!

Free roaming in Europe/UK since June 2017

One of the best things the EU came up with after the Euro was the ban on roaming costs within Europe. That means you can use the data on your UK sim card in 30 countries across Europe without paying anything extra. Calling minutes are also free within each country and back to the country where you purchased your sim card.

Brexit and free roaming in Europe

So far nothing has been concrete and basically no one knows what it means when the UK will leave the European Union. This also counts for free roaming with UK sim cards. As soon as I know more about the consequences I will update this blog about prepaid UK sim cards.

As of now (January 2021) there is still no news... that mens good news: ROAMING IN EUROPE WITH A UK SIM CARD IS STILL FREE OF CHARGE!

Oder your European sim card online

You can also order your prepaid sim card for traveling in the UK online. Check out this sim card with 20GB data, UNLIMITED calling + sms in Europe and 200 minutes calling time worldwide. Click on the link to get more info and possible free shipping to your home address!

europe sim card orange 728x90

More about ordering UK sim cards online below. I will name you the 6 best prepaid sim card deals for tourists in the UK.

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Mobile internet operators in the UK

Before I make a UK prepaid sim card comparison I will first show you all the available mobile internet operators in the UK. 

There are 5 main mobile internet providers in the UK:

  • Vodafone
  • O2
  • Three (3)
  • EE Mobile
  • Virgin Mobile

UPDATE 2021: Virgin Mobile UK does not have any prepaid UK sim cards for tourists!

On top of the above available mobile internet providers there are a dozen of other local sim cards available in smaller shops which I did not take into consideration. Also when arriving at London HeathrowLondon Gatwick, London Stansted or London Luton Airport you are able to buy a Lebara sim card or a Lyca Mobile sim card. Both sim cards work perfectly fine for traveling in Europe.

Surprisingly O2 sim cards can be bought all over London, but at the London airports you can’t find any O2 sim cards.

Where to buy a UK sim card for tourists

May you arrive by plane on one of the London Airports: Gatwick, Stansted or Luton then have a look in the links where to buy a UK prepaid sim card. When looking for a sim card in London or any other city in the UK, you can best use Google Maps to find the nearest mobile phone shop or official retail store.

Simply type in the by you preferred mobile internet operator and add store to it. For example your search term would then be: ‘Vodafone store’. The search results on Google Maps will then show you all the Vodafone shops around you. Simple as that! :)

All the following prepaid sim card offers are sold in the official retail store and can NOT be ordered online. For ordering a sim card for the UK online scroll down to the end!

UK prepaid sim card comparison in 2021

To find the best UK sim card for you I roamed around London and went into all the mobile operator stores to see what they were offering and I found out the following.

Note that calling bundles are for UK to UK calls, but also for local calls in other European countries. So once you travel to Germany you can call all over Germany as well as back to the UK.

Vodafone UK prepaid sim card

Vodafone has 4 different UK prepaid sim cards available. The smallest is for your mom and dad that actually never touch their phone but still wanna stay in touch so now and then. The others available sim cards are good value for money for a European sim card, but that is only because of the 4GB promotion deal.

See the table below for all the available Vodafone UK prepaid sim cards.

vodafone uk prepaid sim card

vodafone uk sim card

Three UK prepaid sim card

There are 4 different Three UK sim card for tourists packages available. Three UK sim cards are free, no activation costs required. These are the latest Three UK prepaid sim card offers, all valid for 1 month:

  • £26 = UNLIMITED data, texting & calling.
  • £24 = 30 GB data + unlimited texting + calling.
  • £19 = 12 GB data + unlimited texting + calling.
  • £16 = 4 GB data + unlimited texting + calling.

3 uk prepaid sim card

The Three UK prepaid sim card with unlimited data is an AMAZING option for travelers. Three UK Go Roam Around the World lets you use your sim card in 71 countries*: Australia, Brazil, United States, etc.

*Unfortunately data roaming packages are capped up to 20GB in Europe and 12GB in a go-roam destination outside of Europe like USA, Brazil, Australia. For more info and offers check out the Three UK website for all the pay-as-you-go offers. Unfortunately online orders are only available for UK residence. For more on how to order a UK sim card online scroll down below!

Here are all the countries that are included in the Three UK Go Roam plan.

three prepaid sim card

O2 UK sim prepaid sim card

There are 2 different O2 UK prepaid sim cards available. The sim card is free, but you have to top up with one of the following 2 pay-as-you-go options:

  • £10 = 5 GB data + 500 minutes & 5,000 sms - valid for 30 days.
  • £20 = 15 GB data + 1,000 minutes & 5,000 sms - valid for 30 days.

o2 uk prepaid sim card

The £10 top up includes data usage, calling and text in Europe only, the £20 top up allows you to roam freely in additional countries like: USA, Canada, Colombia, Brazil, South Korea, etc. For more info see the prepaid offers from O2 UK, unfortunately are online orders from the O2 website only for UK residence. But later more on how to order a UK sim card online.

EE UK prepaid sim card

Last but not least EE UK. I have never come across EE in another country, so this was a new brand for me when doing my UK sim card research in London. What I like about EE is that they have a wifi signal at every London Underground station. There is no phone signal in the London Underground so if you are about to buy a UK sim card and you know you gonna travel a lot in the tube this is something to keep in mind.

The EE 4G network is the best in the UK, so may be that could play a roll when looking for the best UK tourist sim card. But let first see the prepaid UK sim card packages EE has to offer.

ee uk prepaid sim card

As you can see the cheap prepaid sim cards of EE have rather limited bundles. And the bigger bundles have compared to the other available prepaid sim cards in the UK less value for money. 

uk prepaid sim card comparison3

When finding out the prices for buying a sim card at London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airport I rated EE UK as the best buy. Weird because at the London airports you can get an EE UK sim card for £25 which gives you 13GB data. When you decide to buy an EE UK sim card do it at any London airport and you get better value for money!

Network coverage mobile internet providers in the UK in 2021

To make a fair UK prepaid sim card comparison it is just as valuable to take the 4G and 5G network coverage into consideration. It would suck big time if you are on a UK roadtrip and as soon as you leave the city there is no service. Also who is happy with a 3G signal nowadays!? Exactly all we want is 5G! :)

Network coverage Three UK

network coverage map three uk 

Network coverage Vodafone UK

network coverage map vodafone uk

Network coverage O2 UK

network coverage map o2 uk

Network coverage EE Mobile UK

network coverage map ee mobile uk 

I ordered the network coverage in the UK from worst to best, meaning Three UK has the weakest network and EE Mobile the strongest network in the UK. In the above pictures (source nperf.com) you can also see the new 5G network coverage. EE Mobile and Three have the best 5G network in the UK in 2021!

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Best prepaid UK sim card for tourists

This comes down to what kind of user you are. If you are looking for a small package and can’t be bothered by data packages, I would recommend a Three UK prepaid sim card as they have unlimited calling and texting for already £10.

If you travel off the beaten path you may probably want to choose an EE prepaid sim card as they have the best network by far. Also when traveling to London and you want to get connection in the London Underground a EE prepaid sim card is the best for tourists in London.

Personally I think Three is the best prepaid sim card for the UK as £26 gives you unlimited data, calls and texts. When traveling onwards in Europe you will get 12GB in each country, which is perfectly fine as well for when your Europe trip goes through many countries.

The Three UK pay as you go sim cards in London city are better value for money than the Three UK sim cards at the airports. For EE it is the other way around.

Conclusion: the best prepaid UK sim card is Three UK, not far behind is EE!

UK sim card deals are actually pretty good for traveling in Europe. Curious what is the best sim card for Europe travel? Click on the link for my article comparing every European sim card on the market.

Looking for cheap London Airbnbs? In the link you will find a list containing 15 homes all for under $100!

The 6 best UK sim cards to buy online in 2021

If you don't want to waste your precious holiday time standing in line for buying a sim card in the UK then simply order one online. On top of the above mentioned UK pay-as-you-go sim cards, the following prepaid sim cards are perfect for traveling in the UK.

The first two options can be ordered online through Amazon and will be shipped to your home address.

1. GiffGaff United Kingdom PAYG SIM Card Europe

  • price $2.99
  • activation via Giffgaff app or website

Through the Giffgaff website you will have to buy data packages. For £15 you get 15 GB data in Europe including unlimited calling + texting in the UK. A bit more work, but competitive prices!

2. Lycamobile Unlimited Talk Text Data

  • price $23
  • Unlimited data*
  • Unlimited calling + texting

*Lycamobile unlimited data is ONLY 2 GB at 4G/LTE speed and then reduced to 3G speed!

The following 4 options can be ordered through the Simpotions website, specialized in sim cards for travelers. All the below prepaid sim cards for traveling in the UK can be found in the link.

1. Orange Holiday ZEN - $29.90

  • 8 GB data
  • Unlimited calls in Europe
  • 30 minutes worldwide
  • Unlimited sms in Europe
  • 200 sms worldwide
  • Valid 14 days

2. Three PAYG AIO15 - $29.90

  • 10 GB data
  • Unlimited calls within Europe
  • Unlimited sms within Europe
  • Valid 30 days

3. Three PAYG AIO20 - $39.90

  • 12 GB data
  • Unlimited calls within Europe
  • Unlimited sms within Europe
  • Valid 30 days

4. Orange Holiday Europe - $49.90

  • 20 GB data
  • Unlimited calls in Europe
  • 120 minutes worldwide
  • Unlimited sms in Europe
  • 1,000 sms worldwide
  • Valid 14 days

Personally I would recommend you the last available option: Orange Holiday Europe with 20 GB data. Click here to order it directly through the Simoptions website. It will be shipped to your home address and this international travel sim card is already activated.

europe sim card orange 728x90

Portable WiFi device for the UK

Traveling with a family then this might be a better solution! Keep your kids quiet with a portable Wifi device from TEP Wireless. They offer UNLIMITED data for up to 5 devices at the same time. Order a Teppy online and for a couple dollar per day and you can connect your laptop, phone and iPad all at the same time in more than 100 countries around the world! Find out more in the link or click on the banner below.

portable wifi device for traveling

Travel insurance already sorted for your next trip to the UK?

Get a free quotation below, just fill out your dates and see with your own eyes how cheap it is to get yourself and your stuff covered for your next trip.


 

I hope this article about the best prepaid UK sim card for tourists was helpful and it helped you planning your trip to the UK, London or Europe in general. May you have any questions please leave me a comment below. I am more than happy to help you out!

Enjoy your UK trip!

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