Last Updated: July 17, 2023
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Best eSim for International Travel: A Detailed Guide

If you travel a lot as I do then you have probably heard of an international eSim card and are wondering whether it is worth getting one.

But, since eSims are relatively new to us all, we don’t know much about them, whether they are useful, and if they are, which of the eSim providers to go with. Let’s work it out.


At A Glance: Our Top 3 eSims for International Travel


In this article, I will run through everything you need to know from what an eSim is to how they work, where they work, what devices they work with, and the top eSim providers to choose from.

By the end, you should know whether an eSim is better for you than using physical sim cards, and the best eSim provider that suits your travel patterns. Let’s dive in!

Top Product Overview

Best Esim Overall
  • Excellent global coverage
  • Good customer support
SEE ON AIRALO →
BEST Esim FOR EUROPE
  • Excellent in Europe
  • Quick and easy to set up
SEE ON Holafly →
Two Regional Packages
  • Easy to set up
  • Coverage in over 100 countries
SEE ON Nomad →
  • Works in over 170 countries
  • Local and regional plans available
SEE ON BNESIM →
BEST Esim FOR USA
  • Works in over 190 countries
  • Easy to activate
SEE ON Simtex →
Longest Plans For International
  • Long-term plans up to 1 year
  • Works in more than 200 countries
SEE ON Flexiroam →
  • Offers global and regional plans
  • Global plan includes more than 120 countries
SEE ON Sim2Fly →
  • Prepaid eSIM card with credit loaded
  • No confusing plans
SEE ON Surfroam →
  • Very affordable
  • Great service
SEE ON eSIM.net →
  • Prepaid traditional SIM cards and eSIM plans
  • Sells eSims across a range of providers
SEE ON SimOptions →
Great Small Plans
  • Small global plans at good prices
  • Decent list of countries
See On Know Roaming →

Best eSim for International Travel


Best Esim Overall

Airalo

Airalo is the best global eSim provider and the most popular too.

It offers local, regional, and global plans meaning you can buy an eSim for a specific country, continent, or for the world. Their plans also offer long or short-term contracts, often depending on the size of the data package.

Here are some examples of their Global packages (84 countries):

So, for me, Airalo is great in terms of flexibility when you travel internationally. They offer local plans for more than 190 countries and their prices are affordable too. Their global plan doesn’t cover all 190 countries but has 84 countries, which is still great.

However, sometimes a local or regional plan is better anyway, as it’s more cost-effective, especially if you are in a specific region for weeks or a month. The only downside is that unlimited data plans are not available.

Buying an eSim is very easy with Airalo. Either on the App on your phone or via their website. You just have to select from local, global, and regional plans on their website or via the App, install your eSim, and activate it. Their customer support is also excellent.

And, one big bonus I have found using them lately is the reminder emails. Some days before expiring, the remind you. Also as your data is getting low (25%).

Airalo 3 days expiry warning

Airalo 3 days expiry warning

This may not sound like a big deal, but when you are trying to find something on Google Maps and you suddenly find your plan has expired (like I did while trying Nomad this month) then it’s not fun. With Airalo that does not happen.

 

Pros

  • Excellent global coverage
  • Good customer support
  • Affordable
  • A range of plans by country, continent, or global
  • Short and long-term contracts available
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Unlimited data packages are not available
SEE ON AIRALO

BEST Esim FOR EUROPE

Holafly

Holafly is another good eSim provider. They offer coverage in over 130 countries and unlimited data packages too which is great, as you can browse all day long without worrying about your data usage. 

But, you can not use the unlimited data packages to a hotspot, which is a shame when you have to head abroad for work.

Setting up Holafly is very easy and fast, and you can choose from local or regional plans but they do not offer global plans. Their plans are affordable, and you can choose between short or long ones.

Customer support can be an issue as their team is small but they will get to you eventually.

Holafly is probably the best eSim for Europe as you can get unlimited data for an affordable price, and the connection is reliable.

Pros

  • Excellent in Europe
  • Quick and easy to set up
  • Covers local and regional plans in over 130 countries
  • Affordable short and long-term plans.
  • Unlimited data plans available

Cons

  • Unlimited data can not be used with a hotspot
  • Not as affordable as Airalo in all destinations
  • Global plans are not available
  • Speeds vary
  • Customer support is inefficient
SEE ON Holafly

Two Regional Packages

Nomad

Nomad is another popular eSim provider and it has solid global coverage which includes 110 countries.

The service is reliable, easy to set up, and generally solid. They offer both global and regional plans. Regional plans include Nordic/Scandanavia, APAC, and Europe but no regional plans in North or South America. Of course, they do have individual countries like the USA, Mexico etc.

The plans are quite affordable but they only allow for short-term plans with a max of 30 days, which isn’t useful for long trips around the world.

Also, no local plans are available for a single country which is just annoying. Plus, the most amount of data you can get on a global plan is 5GB over 30 days which is not enough for most people.

Pros

  • Easy to set up
  • Coverage in over 100 countries
  • You can buy both regional and global plans
  • Global plan covers 110 countries
  • Quite affordable

Cons

  • No local plans available
  • Maximum plan length is 30 days
  • Max data on a global plan is 5GB
SEE ON Nomad

BNESIM

BNESIM offers local plans in 170 countries and regional plans for both Europe and Asia. Their service is quick, reliable and they do something other providers don’t.

With BNESIM you can get a monthly contract which brings the price of their nice data packages right down. You can also get unlimited data and even an international phone number.

The only downsides are that they don’t offer global plans or any other regional plans such as Africa or Central America.

READ MORE: Check out our detailed review of BNESIM

Pros

  • Works in over 170 countries
  • Local and regional plans available
  • Short and long-term plans
  • Affordable
  • Monthly subscriptions available with discounts
  • Easy to set up
  • Unlimited data packages
  • International phone numbers

Cons

  • Regional plans limited to Europe & Asia
  • No global plans
SEE ON BNESIM

BEST Esim FOR USA

Simtex

Simtex is a reliable eSim provider that works in over 190 countries. This makes travel abroad a breeze.

You have the option to buy either local plans for an individual country or a regional plan for Europe or Simtex’s Top 40.

Their plans are affordable but not as affordable as other providers. Also, the plans are all short term with a maximum of 30 days available and you can not buy a global plan.

They are great if you are just going on holiday but if you are consistently traveling, you can find better options out there.

Read our detailed review of the Simtex eSim.

Pros

  • Works in over 190 countries
  • Easy to activate
  • Offers local and regional plans

Cons

  • Regional plans limited to Europe and Top 40
  • Website is slow and annoying
  • Not as affordable as others
  • No Global plans
  • Short-term plans only
SEE ON Simtex

Longest Plans For International

Flexiroam

Flexiroam takes a bit of a different approach when it comes to their plans with eSims. They offer coverage in over 200 countries and most of the Global plans allow you to keep your data for very long periods.

So, if you travel often, but don’t need huge data packages, but do move around lots of countries and want your plan to last, then they are the best.

They also offer cheaper and more specific local and global plans as you would expect. The regional plans are great as you have a load of options from Africa to Oceania, Japan/Taiwan/Korea, and even Latin America.

If you travel a lot and don’t need much data, their plans work well across regions but you will probably end up using the data and buying more, which is expensive.

Pros

  • Long-term plans up to 1 year
  • Works in more than 200 countries
  • Local, regional, & global plans
  • A large set of regional options

Cons

  • Quite expensive
  • Limited data, max 10 GB plan
SEE ON Flexiroam

Sim2Fly

Sim2Fly is a great choice if you need an eSim for a short period of time for global use, in Asia, or in Thailand.

These are the only plans they offer which are a bit limited but they are affordable and their global plan includes over 120 countries which is pretty solid.

The plans are all short-term also with a max of 16 days, but that is just for Thailand. It is 15 days for the global and just 8 days for their Asia plan.

Their service is quick and reliable, activating the eSim is easy, but their website is a little slow and confusing.

READ MORE: Check out our detailed Sim2Fly review

Pros

  • Offers global and regional plans
  • Global plan includes more than 120 countries
  • Affordable data prices
  • Easy to set up

Cons

  • Local plan for Thailand only
  • Regional plan for Asia only
  • Plans are very short term, 16 days max
  • No unlimited data
SEE ON Sim2Fly

Surfroam

Surfroam offers a prepaid eSim or physical sim card that you can use in over 200 countries. Simply buy the sim which comes with the cost amount in credit loaded and travel the world connected.

This system makes life extremely simple as there are no confusing plans, no limits, and all you have to do is top up when your credit runs out.

You can cross borders without any worries about plans and coverage. It is a great design but it comes with one flaw, the prices.

The prices change based on what country you are in and the most affordable option is $10 per GB, which is expensive compared to others.

Read our detailed review of the Surfroam eSim.

Pros

  • Prepaid eSIM card with credit loaded
  • No confusing plans
  • Works in over 200 countries
  • You can get a physical sim too
  • Pay as you go, topping up is easy
  • Simple to activate

Cons

  • Prices vary by country
  • Cheapest is $10 per GB - expensive
SEE ON Surfroam

eSIM.net

eSIM.net is a part of 02 and they offer incredibly affordable eSim plans for Europe, the Uk, and the USA too, but that is it.

Their plans are not global and do not work in any other countries.

All their plans are 30 days long and you can buy an unlimited data package for Europe or the USA for just $25 which is an absolute bargain.

eSim.net is another front-runner for the best eSim for Europe. Shame it doesn’t have a truly global reach yet but it probably won’t take long.

Read our detailed review of eSim.net here

Pros

  • Very affordable
  • Great service
  • Easy to set up
  • All monthly plans
  • Unlimted data

Cons

  • Limited to Uk, Europe, & USA
SEE ON eSIM.net

SimOptions

SimOptions works more like an eSim comparison website which means it pulls in the best deals across different providers across over 160 countries and more.

You can buy local plans by country or buy regional plans by continent, but global plans are not available.

Setting up your eSim is incredibly easy and you can even opt to get a physical sim card if your phone doesn’t carry an eSim.

The range of plans is extensive and you can easily find unlimited data packages if that is what you are looking for.

Bear in mind, the plans are all short-term with a max of 30 days.

Pros

  • Prepaid traditional SIM cards and eSIM plans
  • Sells eSims across a range of providers
  • Lots of plans and great deals to choose from
  • Easy to set up
  • Excellent coverage around the world

Cons

  • No global plans available
  • No plans longer than 30 days
SEE ON SimOptions

Great Small Plans

Know Roaming

Know Roaming offer a decent starter package for anyone wanting to get an international eSim. Their packages range from 500MB to 5 GB and the prices are competitive.

In terms of countries, they cover the major destinations with 84 countries included in their Global packages.

The prices are as follows:

The best plan is the 1.5GB for 3 days at $12, but if you don’t use a lot of data each day then the 1GB plan is way better.

READ MORE: Check out our detailed Knowroaming review

Pros

  • Small global plans at good prices
  • Decent list of countries

Cons

  • Expensive for longer or bigger plans
See On Know Roaming

Benefits of Using eSim for International Travel

There are lots of great things about using an eSim for international travel. The first is that you can simply turn on your phone, open your eSim, buy a plan, and be connected within minutes of landing in a different country.

You don’t have to queue to buy a new sim card or switch out local sim cards, you won’t lose your sim card either, and you can do all of this while keeping your normal phone number.

Topping up your eSim is also very easy. Instead of going to a store and getting a scratch card like in a lot of developing countries, you can just do it in a few seconds on your phone.

This allows those of us who travel often to cross borders into multiple countries and remain connected without having to do anything but push some buttons on our phones.

Another great thing about eSim technology is that if you only buy a data plan, you can still use your normal number for calls and texts, making your phone a dual sim device. This comes in very handy when your bank or Paypal sends you codes via text, as you don’t have to swap anything around.

Downsides of Using eSims

It’s not all sunshine and lollipops either. The biggest two things that annoy me about using an eSim (and I have been using a few for months now) are:

  • You cannot share your hotspot with anyone you are traveling with
  • You often don’t have telephone or SMS access on your eSim, so calling or messaging is still an issue

How to Choose the Best eSim for International Travel

So, you now know what an eSim is, how it works, and that you have a device that supports an eSim too. Let’s take a look at how to choose the right eSim provider for you.

What Countries Does The eSim provider cover?

Not all eSim providers offer coverage in the same countries. Some, like Vodafone who have a large global network, will cover more countries than other providers that have a smaller global network.

Think about the countries you travel to most and the new countries you would like to go to and choose an eSim provider that covers them all, or at least most of them.

How Much Data Do You Use?

Look at how much data you use when you are home. Your smartphone or your provider should be able to give you a report on this. Then make sure to find an eSim data plan to match.

Not all global data plans have the same amount of data allowance and the last thing you need is to run out of data while you are traveling.

I also find that it is not always a matter of how much data you usually use either. Why? Because when you are on the road your access to data is different.

  • You may or may not have data at your accommodation
  • You might be working at a cafe or workplace

So, you have to think about what you need the data for, and when you need it.

How Fast Do You Need Your Connection To Be?

eSim providers also have different data roaming speeds which affect how fast you can download and upload data.

These days we don’t have much patience for things to load so choose a data package from a provider with enough speed to keep you happy and working.

Prices

We all want to pay affordable prices whenever we can but pricing varies across different providers and different eSim plans. Be sure to do some research into eSim global plans so you can find one that gives you what you need at the right price.

What Is An eSim?

When I first heard of an eSim I assumed it was like an app, an electronic sim card you download to your phone. But, that is not the case. An eSim is an Embedded Subscriber Identity Module which means it is pretty much a built-in sim card inside your phone.

An eSim behaves just like a traditional physical sim card but you can’t remove it, it is as I said, built into your phone. This does make life easy as you don’t have to take out one physical sim card and replace it with another when you get to a new country.

With an eSim card, it will just continue to work, so long as the eSim provider has eSim plans for the particular country you are in.

But, not all countries are supported by all eSim providers, and not all devices have an eSim built inside them, as it is a relatively new technology.

Countries That Support eSim

Not every country in the world supports the use of eSims but the list is growing. Currently, you can use an eSim in around 90 countries and it used to only be 10, so many other countries will soon be added.

To see a full list of the many countries that support eSims, follow this link.

Devices Compatible with eSim

Since an eSim needs to be built into a device, not all devices have an eSim inside them, it is just the newer models of smartphones and tablets that support them. You can find a list of the supported devices below.

Iphone & Ipad

Apple iPad Air 10.5-inch (3rd Gen) Tablet A2152 (Wi-Fi Only) - 64GB / Space Gray (Renewed)

  • iPhone: 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, 13, 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max, 13 Mini, 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, XS, XS Max, XR, SE (2020), SE (2022).
  • iPad Air: (3rd generation), (4th generation)
  • iPad Pro 11‑inch: 1st, 2nd, & 3rd generation)
  • iPad Pro 12.9‑inch: 3rd, 4th, & 5th generation)
  • iPad: 7th, 8th, & 9th generation
  • iPad Mini: 5th & 6th generation

Be aware that only iPads that have cellular connectivity work with eSims.

Android Phones

Google Pixel 7 Pro - 5G Android Phone - Unlocked Smartphone with Telephoto/Wide Angle Lens, and 24-Hour Battery - 128GB - Obsidian

  • Samsung Galaxy: S22 Ultra 5G, S22+ 5G, S22 5G, S21 Ultra 5G, S21 5G, S21+ 5G, S20, S20+, Z Flip, Z Flip3 5G, Z Fold3, Z Fold2, Fold, Note 20 Ultra, Note 20+, Note 20

But, US versions of Samsung S20/S21 and Galaxy Z Flip 5G plus USA and Hong Kong versions of the Samsung Note 20 Ultra and Samsung Galaxy Z Fold 2 do not support eSims. Also, most Samsung devices bought in South Korea do not support eSIMs.

  • Google Pixel: 3, 3 XL, 3a, 3a XL, 4, 4a, 4 XL, 5, 6, 6 Pro, 6a, 7, 7 Pro

But, Google Pixel 3 phones bought in Australia, Taiwan, and Japan do support eSims. Nor do Pixel 3 models bought with US or Canadian carriers other than Sprint and Google Fi. Also, any Pixel 3a models bought in South East Asia and with Verizon service will not work.

  • HAMMER: Explorer PRO, Blade 3, Blade 5G, myPhone NOW eSIM
  • Motorola: Razr 2019, Razr 5G
  • Huawei: P40, P40 Pro, Mate 40 Pro
  • OPPO: Find X3 Pro, Find X5 Pro, Find X5
  • Sony Xperia: 10 III Lite, 10 IV, 1 IV

Other Devices That Support eSim

HP Elitebook 840 G5 - 14 FHD - i5-8350U Quad Core - 8 GB RAM - 256 SSD - Windows 10 Pro 64 (Renewed)

  • ACER: Swift 3, Swift 7
  • ASUS: Mini Transformer T103HAF, NovaGo TP370QL, Vivobook Flip 14 TP401NA
  • Dell Latitude: 9510, 7410, 7310, 9410, 7210 2-in-1
  • HP: Elitebook G5, Probook G5, Zbook G5, Spectre Folio 13
  • Lenovo: Yoga C630, Miix 630, Yoga 520, Yoga 720 convertible laptops
  • Surface: Go 3, Pro X, Duo 2, Duo
  • Others: Nuu Mobile X5, Gemini PDA 4G+Wi-Fi, Xiaomi 12T Pro, Windows 10*/ Windows 11

FAQs About Using eSim for International Travel

Is eSim better than a physical sim for international travel?

Whther an eSim is better than a physical SIM on what you need. If you are traveling to a new country for a month, a physical SIM is more affordable. Whereas if you are constantly changing countries, then the convenience of an e-Sim is ideal.

Why is eSim not so popular?

There are a few reasons why eSims are not very popular. The first is cost, eSim plans are a lot more expensive than a local sim card. Also, you have to have an expensive phone to even be able to use an eSim. Lastly, you can't remove an eSim which means you can't transfer it as easily to another phone

Another problem with eSims is that you can’t remove them and therefore can never disconnect as such. This means you can be tracked and hacked more easily.

Finally, eSims simply do not work everywhere yet and the global plans are not that good. I’m sure this will change with time but right now the carriers aren’t giving enough support to eSim for it to be worth it in all situations.

Is it possible to activate eSim overseas?

Yes, it is possible to activate an eSim overseas. All you need to do is buy an eSim data plan in the country you have arrived in and activate it on your phone. This is usually done with a simple QR code provided by the eSim company.