Traveling to the UK soon and planning your trip? Don't waste money on high roaming costs or slow overseas data roaming plans. The UK already has prepaid sim card deals with unlimited data for about $30! In this guide you will read everything you need to know about buying a sim card in the UK: which provider has the best 5G network, where to buy a local sim card, up to date prices, EU roaming information and much more.

This article is updated with the latest information and prices as of June 2021.

Buying a local sim card is the first thing I do when I get to a new country. Since I am on a journey to travel to every country in the world I get to some cool places. Everywhere I go I write local sim card guides, here are the latest ones: Kenya, South Africa, Uganda, Tanzania, Zambia.

But I also wrote local sim card guides for the major airports in the UK: HeathrowGatwick, StanstedLuton, Manchester. If you are arriving on one of these airports and want the convenience of buying a sim card rightnat the airport then click on the link and I will tell you where to go and how much it costs

In this article you will find a UK sim card comparison of all the pay-as-you-go deals on the market that you can find in every big city in the retail stores.

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

Why buying a UK sim card?

Just like in real life, being connected to the internet makes traveling so much more easier! Think about ordering a cab on the streets or getting directions from Google Maps, finding a nearby restaurant with good reviews. So many simple things why to stay connected when traveling.

Yes, these days all hotels, bars, restaurants, trains, busses, etc have free public WiFi. But did you know that this is an UNSECURED connection? And what if the signal in your hotel room is too weak or the internet speed is nerve-racking? Just don't rely on others! Traveltomtom recommends you getting a local sim card when traveling.

Third and not unimportant, prepaid UK sim card deals are GREAT! Big data bundles are cheap in the UK, plus when traveling onwards in Europe, you can enjoy FREE EU DATA ROAMING on UK sim cards.

If you are NOT a fan of swapping sim cards and changing phone numbers then you might want to look into the option of getting a portable WiFi device for your trip to the UK. Personally I am not a fan and I will tell you why in my HONEST review about using a pocket WiFi when traveling.

My recommendation

Traveltomtom recommends a 3 UK prepaid sim card for traveling to the UK. They offer unlimited data for £26 per month and their network is good too.

Traveltomtom does NOT recommend global sim cards with worldwide coverage. After reviewing and comparing all the international sim cards for my article I came to the simple conclusion that most of these so called travel sim cards are INCREDIBLY expensive compared to local sim cards. Some are so ridiculously priced I think they are a SCAM!

Free roaming in Europe/UK

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 EU roaming

Brexit finally happened and the UK has left the European Union. But luckily the free EU roaming has not changed!  As of now June 2021 there is still no news... which means good news: ROAMING IN EUROPE WITH A UK SIM CARD IS STILL FREE OF CHARGE!

Read more info about EU roaming and all my tips and tricks in my guide for buying a local sim cards in Europe.

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Order a sim card for the UK online

Getting a sim card on arrival is easy, but if you want to skip the hassle of getting a local sim card you can order a sim card for the UK online and get it delivered to your home address prior to your trip! Here is a comparison of the best sim cards for traveling in Europe.

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 even free shipping to your home address!

europe sim card orange 728x90

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 Lycamobile 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 at one of the London Airports: HeathrowGatwick, Stansted or Luton or Manchester Airport 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 only and can NOT be ordered online. For ordering a sim card for the UK directly online scroll down to the end!

UK prepaid sim card comparison in 2021

All the below info and prices are updated as per June 2021.

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, but NOT from Germany to Italy.

Vodafone UK pay as you go sim card

Vodafone has 5 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 UK sim cards are good value for money for a European sim card.

See the table below for all the available Vodafone UK data packages. All sim only deals come with unlimited calls/text in the UK and Europe. Data roaming with every European country is included and all packages are valid for 1 month.

vodafone uk sim card sim only prices 2021

On top of the above pay as you go deals, they also offer the following two sim only deals:

  • £30 = 50 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting - 5G ready.
  • £40 = UNLIMITED data + Unlimited calling and texting - 5G ready.

For more info see the Vodafone UK website in the link and check the latest pay as you go Vodafone UK prices.

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 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 pay as you go 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.

Another big plus is that EE has the best 5G network in the UK, so may be that could play a roll when looking for the best pay as you go UK tourist sim card as well. But let first see the sim only deals EE UK offers in 2021.

ee uk sim card sim only prices 2021

In the above we can clearly see that also EE offers competitive data packages. An EE prepaid sim card is free and for £20 GBP you get 15 GB data + unlimited calls/text in the UK AND in Europe. Data roaming is included and is NOT capped like with Three UK.

For the latest EE sim only deals have a look at their website in the link.

When doing my research for buying a sim card at London HeathrowLondon Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airport I rated EE UK as the best buy!

GiffGaff UK sim card

Looking for a FREE sim card for the UK then have a look at GiffGaff. A Giffgaff prepaid sim card will be send to your home address for FREE before your trip to the UK. The activation is very quick and easy. GiffGaff operates on the O2 network in the UK.

Rates for GiffGaff UK sim cards are GOOD! All the pay-as-you-go data packages below INCLUDE unlimited calls/text within the UK.

giffgaff uk sim card sim only prices 2021

For £35 GBP ($50) you get unlimited calls/text AND DATA in the UK.

On the Giffgaff website you can buy the above packages and order your FREE UK sim card. Trust me £15 GBP for 25 GB data in the UK and including unlimited calling + texting, is a good deal!

Lebara UK sim card

Lebara UK also offers a free UK sim card and only charges for the data bundles. Their pay as you go bundles already start from £5 and gives you 2 GB data for 30 days. But there are more data bundles available.

lebara uk sim only deals 2021

For most tourists traveling to the UK the £15 sim only plan from Lebara is a good deal.

What Lebara separates from the other Uk sim cards is that they offer free international calling minutes not only to the EU, but also to the USA, India, Thailand, Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia, Israel, South Korea, Singapore.

Another great thing about a Lebara UK sim card is that you can also buy them in mobile phone shops and convenient stores across the UK like Tesco, Wh Smith, Argos, Sainsbury's. If you see shops with a Lebara sign you can get the same deals as online. Lebara operates on the Vodafone UK network and allows free roaming in Europe.

For more info see the Lebara UK website.

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 in 2021

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  or Vodafone 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 5G network in the UK by far. Also when traveling to London and you want to get a data connection in the London Underground an 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 Vodafone UK and EE!

For traveling onwards into Europe I recommend Vodafone UK as they do NOT have any data caps in Europe.

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.

RELATED: 15 Charming but cheap London Airbnbs! All these listing are for under $100 per night!

Order a UK sim card online

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.

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.

3. 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

4. Three PAYG AIO15 - $29.90

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

5. Three PAYG AIO20 - $39.90

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

6. 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

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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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