Traveling to Asia and you want to get an eSim? You’ve come to exactly the right place because this detailed guide will tell you all about the best eSim options for Asia!
Whether you need internet access for a week or a month, there’s a suitable Asia eSim for you. I’ve also included the best regional plans for Asia, in case you’re planning to visit more than one country in the region. Device compatibility, eSim support, and tips for using eSims in Asia are all included in this guide, so keep reading to see the best eSim options for Asia!
The main benefit of having an Asia eSim is easy internet access whenever you need it. You don’t have to use data roaming, which is usually very expensive for ridiculously small amounts of data.
You also don’t have to roam around a foreign city looking for a sim card, since you can easily buy and set up an eSim online. And if you buy an eSim data plan from a provider that allows data sharing, it’s like you have pocket WiFi. You can connect your other devices and share the internet with others, which is pretty great.
You can use an eSim in Asia only if your phone supports the technology. If you purchased a flagship phone (iPhone or Android) in the last 3-4 years, then it should have the chip necessary to use embedded sim cards.
Google Pixel 2 was the first smartphone that supported eSim technology upon release and it came out in 2017. Apple and Samsung included it in their phones in 2018 for the first time, and every iPhone and iPad since then has supported an eSim, except for those manufactured in mainland China.
It’s not exactly the same with Samsung phones – the flagships all support eSim technology but the budget and mid-range phones don’t. It’s the same with other Android manufacturers – Motorola, Oppo, Xiaomi, etc.
You can quickly check if your device supports eSim by calling *#06#. This should bring up a list of your phone’s unique identification numbers – an EID number indicates that your phone supports an eSim. If there isn’t an EID number in this menu, your smartphone most likely can’t support an eSim.
eSim is supported in most Asian countries with mainland China as the main exception. Chinese network operators are against this technology, and embedded sim cards are not available for purchase in the country. In fact, all iPhones produced in China don’t have the chip to support eSims and instead come with physical sim trays – including the latest, eSim-only iPhone 14.
That’s why I was surprised to see that international eSim providers like Holafly and Airalo offer eSim data plans for China. Holafly even gives you a free VPN with the eSim, so you can still use apps and access websites that are banned in China – Facebook, WhatsApp, etc.
I can’t tell you how or why this works, but I can tell you that many travelers have reported using these eSim cards in China successfully.
With that in mind, it’s safe to say that you can use an eSim to access the internet in every country in Asia – Japan, South Korea, Thailand, Kazakhstan, Indonesia, Myanmar, Bhutan, and many others.
There are quite a few local mobile operators in Asia that offer eSims, but they’re usually more expensive than international providers. In general, there’s no reason to buy an eSim from a local provider, unless you need an eSim that can access one specific network.
Three HK, AIS, and China Unicom are popular providers among the locals. However, their plans are best-suited for Asians traveling overseas, instead of tourists visiting Asia.
You won’t find any local mobile operators offering eSims in China. The technology is not supported, and you can only buy a physical sim card from Chinese network operators.
Airalo offers eSim data packages for nearly every corner of the world, and they usually start at $4.5. That’s what makes them the most popular global eSim card provider among travelers.
This eSim provider offers affordable data plans for Asian countries, which usually include plans for a week, two weeks, or a month.
You can usually choose from multiple data allowances for the monthly plan, and you can get a month of cellular data access for less than $10 in most countries. Airalo eSim cards do not provide you with a phone number or SMS options, so keep that in mind.
Airalo also offers a regional data plan for Asia, which covers 13 countries in Southeast Asia. The data plan starts at $5 for 1GB, which is great value, but keep in mind that it doesn’t include coverage in Central Asia countries. If you’re spending some time in Bhutan or Kazakhstan, you will need to purchase an individual eSim for each country.
Holafly is the most popular eSim provider among travelers who need unlimited data. The provider offers individual plans that start at $19 in most Asian countries – that’s for 5 days of unlimited data.
The main issue I have with Holafly eSim cards is that they don’t let you share your internet connection. Tethering and mobile hotspot aren’t allowed, so you can only use unlimited data on one device.
Holafly is a good option if you genuinely need unlimited data (for work, streaming, etc.), but otherwise, they’re simply not worth it. You can get 20GB of data for about $25 from Airalo, which is a much better deal.
SimOptions offers eSim cards for 33 countries across Asia and Southeast Asia, as well as separate regional plans for each region. Their eSims can usually be used in more than one country, and this is always indicated on the website.
The thing I like a lot about their online store is that they offer their own (SimOptions) eSim data plan, as well as data plans from local providers in Asia. So, you can either purchase their eSim, which is the most affordable option out of the bunch, or you can get one from China Unicom, AIS, and Three HK.
Also, you can easily compare the different eSim options on their website to decide which one is the best for you. SimOptions offers data-only eSims with limited data, valid for up to one month.
The Smart Traveller eSIM is their most affordable option, which gets you 6 GB to be used over 10 days for just $18. The eSim is valid in 27 different countries, including most of Central and Southeast Asia, as well as the United States and even Australia. However, this eSim isn’t available for all Asia countries (Thailand is the most notable exception).
Nomad is another popular global eSim provider with both budget-friendly and value data plans. Their prices are comparable to those of Airalo, plus they offer excellent coverage and a reliable internet connection. The provider covers more than 100 countries across the world, as well as multi-country data plans for five regions.
Nomad data plans are the most affordable in Europe, Asia, and North America. Packages for South American countries are quite pricey – $20 gets you 10 GB of the internet in Thailand, but only 1 GB in Honduras.
One thing that’s great about Nomad is that you can easily buy more data if you need it. Also, when you buy a Nomad eSim, you have 30 days to activate it; it activates automatically on the 30th day, so there’s no point in buying the eSim months before your trip.
Nomad eSims are data-only and do not provide you with a phone number. The provider offers SMS plans for customers, but these are only available in the UK, US, and Canada.
Simtex is another popular eSim provider that operates internationally. They offer many individual country data packages, as well as two multi-destination plans – one for Europe (29 countries included), and a Top 40 package that covers Europe, the USA, Australia, and a few more countries in Southeast Asia.
The multi-destination plans have a flat rate of $25 for Europe and $35 for the Top 40. Both plans are active for an entire month; the Europe plan comes with 10 GB of data, while the Top 40 plan includes 7 GB. The regional plan of Europe is great value for money – it’s significantly cheaper than even Airalo, but I have to point out that Airalo offers coverage in 10 more countries. But the Top 40 plan just isn’t good enough if you only need coverage in Asia.
Simtex’s single-destination packages are priced fairly and start at $4-5 for 1 GB of data that’s active for three days. That’s not quite as convenient as Airalo’s budget weekly plans, but if you’re going on a short trip and you don’t need internet access for longer, it can work.
Mogo is an eSim provider that offers coverage in Europe, Asia, North America, and Oceania. If you’re traveling to any one of those regions and you need mobile data for your trip, they’re a provider worth considering.
They offer both single-country plans and regional data packages, so you can get Internet access in as many countries as you need. Mogo’s data plan for the Asia Pacific region starts at just $2.5, which gets you 300 MB of data. Spend $20, and you can get 5 GB of data that is active for two weeks, which is a pretty good deal.
Mogo offers coverage in only 12 countries in Asia, so they’re certainly not a good option for people who are going to travel to multiple countries. But if you’re heading to Thailand for a week and you need cheap internet access, they’re certainly worth considering.
The individual country plans from this provider start at just $2.5 for 300 MB and $4 for 1 GB of data. Mogo also offers larger data plans with up to 30 GB of data to be used over 2 months, which comes down to just $1 per day. That’s very good value for money even when compared to Airalo and Holafly.
UPeSIM offers coverage in 20+ countries in Asia, as well as two multi-destination packages for this region. Their two regional Asia plans are a little confusing – one is around 15 Euros for 6GB of data that can be used in 15 Asian countries and China. The other package is 20 Euros for 1 GB, to be used in 14 countries, including Japan and Thailand, which the cheaper package doesn’t.
The regional data plans are just not worth it – other providers offer better value for money for sure. On the other hand, the individual country plans from this provider are definitely worth considering. They’re priced at 9.99, 10.99, or 12.99 Euros depending on the country, and they all offer limited data to be used over a period of 10—12 days.
If you don’t have to use the data for work; if it’s just for maps, social media, and music, 6 GB is plenty. UPeSIM might just be the best value for money for travel in Asia, especially for trips that aren’t longer than 10 days.
How much data you need while traveling in Asia depends on a few different things. The first thing to consider is how much data you normally use – some people barely spend 1 GB in a month, while others easily burn through 5 GB.
Of course, your browsing habits aren’t the same at home and in a foreign country, but you should have a general idea of how much data you usually use. Then consider the length of your stay – many eSim plans are priced based on how long they stay active.
If you’re staying somewhere for less than a week, you should be perfectly fine with a data allowance of 3-5 GB. This is more than enough for map directions, social media, and music/video streaming.
On the other hand, if you normally use a lot of data, Holafly eSim for the specific country you’re traveling to is your best option. They offer unlimited data in many Asian countries, but you won’t have the option of sharing the internet connection with other devices.
If you’re traveling in China, look for an eSim that includes VPN in the price. Many international websites are region-blocked in China, and you can’t access them without a VPN. There are plenty of eSim providers that include a VPN in the price, and this is just better value for money than having to pay for a VPN on your own.
You can activate the eSim by scanning a QR code with your phone. You can try just scanning the code with a basic QR code scanner – in some devices, this will prompt a push notification that will take you to the eSim setup.
Another way to activate an eSim is to go to Settings – Add Cellular Plan (on iPhone) / Add eSim (on Android) and then you can scan the QR code you got with your eSim purchase. The setup process is easy and you just need to follow the on-screen instructions.
You can easily purchase an eSim online, it’s just not recommended to activate the eSim immediately after purchase. Instead, buy the eSim while you’re still at home and take a screenshot of the QR code, so you can set it up as soon as you land in Asia. That’s the best way to make the most of your eSim.
Airalo and Holafly are the best options if you want a data-only eSim. Asia is covered pretty well by both providers, and the data plans are fairly priced.
Airalo is by far the best option if you need a cheap eSim and you don’t care about a phone number. Holafly is the better option if you need unlimited data – they’re much pricier than Airalo, but also the only eSim provider that offers truly unlimited data access.
Roger is a little obsessed with travel. He has been to over 40 countries, broken 3 suitcases and owned over 10 backpacks in 12 months. What he doesn't know about travel, ain't worth knowing!