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If you're prepping for a trip to Asia, you'll want a reliable cellular data connection so you can focus on all your incredible adventures.
That's where travel eSIMs come in. These handy virtual SIM cards let you connect to local mobile networks at your destination, saving you time, hassle, and money.
In this guide, I'll explain how this convenient option works and go over the advantages of this convenient technology. Additionally, I'll share my picks for the best eSIMs for Asia.
Best overall travel eSIM
Airalo is one of the most well-known names in travel eSIMs, and for good reason - it partners with major local networks in over 200 destinations to provide reliable mobile internet access for travelers.
Of course, no one international eSIM is perfect for every customer. Below, you'll find what we consider to be the pros and cons of Airalo.
- 200+ countries
- 7 days-3 months validity period
- Prices start around $5 for one week
- Local, regional, or global plans
- Flexible eSIMs - add voice and text
- Great coverage
- Mobile hotspot usage
- Prices drop the more data you buy
- Phone number included with Discover+ plans
- eSIM automatically connects to the fastest local network
- User-friendly Airalo app and website
- Fast, helpful customer support
- Can't mix-and-match data size and validity period
- Customer service is only available by message
While it isn't the cheapest option, Airalo eSIM is a solid choice with offerings to fit various needs. Plus, they have the advantage of being highly recognizable, with an impressive customer count of over five million people.
Nomad provides straightforward data-only plans that operate at 4G LTE speeds. The rates offered by Nomad are affordable, and they also offer unlimited data packages (with a maximum of 2 GB of high-speed data per day, after which the speed is reduced to 512 Kbps).
Customers can select between different data options, ranging from 1 GB to 20 GB, with validity periods ranging from 7 to 30 days. For those requiring unlimited data, plans are available for durations of 1 to 7 days.
- 165+ destinations
- 7 - 30 days validity period
- Prices start at $7 for one week
- Local, regional, & global plans
- Simple plan choices
- Taxes & fees are included in the price
- Unlimited data plans
- Reliable major networks
- Mobile hotspot supported
- SMS plans available
- Data throttling after 2 GB on unlimited
- Validity begins upon activation
- No voice/phone number
Holafly is another leading provider of global eSIM plans, catering specifically to international travel needs. With Holafly, you can easily access data and make calls in different countries, all with the convenience of digital eSIM cards.
- 160+ destinations
- Unlimited data
- 5 to 90-day plans
- Prices around $20 for a 5-day plan
- Simple to use app and website
- Easy data and validity period top-ups
- Useful features like validity tracking in the app
- 24/7 customer support
- Must use WhatsApp
- Local number not included
- No voice call or SMS message options
- Doesn't allow data sharing or hotspot usage
Holafly eSIM cards offer unlimited data plans - you can send as many videos and photos with your family without worrying about the data limit. In the few countries where unlimited data isn't an option, it offers higher data limits than most other eSIM providers.
In terms of duration, too, there's great flexibility. You can get plans from 5 to 90 days and everything in between. In short, there will always be a plan close to the number of days you're traveling for in about 160 countries that Holafly caters to.
On the price front, Holafly is a little high-end, but it's worth the unlimited data and stress-free traveling it offers. For example, its 5-day unlimited data plan for the USA costs $19. It also offers regional plans. However, I found it tough to locate these plans on its website, as there's no dedicated "Regional Plans" section as there are on some other websites like Nomad and Airhub.
Brands like Airalo are significantly cheaper than Holafly, but you will have to get top-up plans if you exhaust your data mid-journey, which can be troublesome if you travel alone and don't have anyone to provide you with a hotspot in the meantime.
Installing the eSIM is also a breeze with Holafly. Scan the QR code you receive after purchasing a plan and follow the prompts. You will be guided through each step of the process, and the payment can be made through various portals like a credit card, debit card, PayPal, Google Pay, or Apple Pay. You can also use a code for manual installation if you don't want to scan the QR code.
Holafly's customer support is one of the best in the market. You can expect a reply from them within less than a minute of entering your query. With language support in English, German, French, Italian, Japanese, and Spanish, you can easily access the 24/7 support via WhatsApp or chat. On top of that, there's a frequently asked questions section that will solve most of your queries regarding the installation of the eSIM.
However, if you plan to buy a single Holafly eSIM for your family, thinking that the unlimited data plan will do the trick, beware. Holafly eSIM doesn't allow data sharing with other devices as of now.
While Holafly has great data plans, it doesn't include calls with all plans or SMS service. Currently, you can make calls for up to 60 minutes and receive calls for up to 60 minutes in Europe, Spain, France, Italy, and Germany. However, I didn't find this off-putting due to the sheer non-functionality of SMS and calls these days. You can always make calls or send texts through Holafly's unlimited Internet (WhatsApp, Skype, or other apps).
What is a travel eSIM?
A travel eSIM refers to a digital SIM card that allows you to connect to the most reliable local networks anywhere you travel. This convenient solution eliminates the need for visiting a retailer to buy a SIM card.
You'll also need to consider device compatibility. Most of the popular phones made in the last few years have eSIM support. They include iPhone 13 and up, plus a large selection of Android devices.
Important note: Your phone must be unlocked in order to use it with an eSIM. Contact your carrier for help unlocking your device.
How travel eSIMs work
Getting your international data plan up and running is fast and simple. Scan the provided QR code and you'll be guided through step-by-step instructions to install your eSIM plan.
Once you reach your destination, your phone will automatically connect to nearby mobile networks. Who wants to waste valuable trip time shopping for a SIM card? This way, you can dive right in upon arrival.
Why should I get an eSIM for international travel?
- Convenience: Effortlessly manage your smartphone's data plan through the provider's mobile app. Activate it immediately to avoid the hassle of having to find a nearby store or vending machine to purchase a local SIM card.
- Affordability: Using a travel eSIM card allows you to connect to local networks. No more bill shock due to expensive international data roaming charges.
- Flexibility: Discover the versatility of accessing all your phone plans. Seamlessly transition between your domestic SIM card and travel plan - no physical SIM card swapping required.
- Enhanced security: Embedded SIM cards offer increased security compared to physical SIM cards, which can be lost or stolen.
How to choose the best eSIM for Asia
eSIM providers offer a wide range of choices for Asia travel. To make the right decision, it's important to consider your travel plans and the specific features you need.
Here are some questions that can help you choose the most suitable option for your journey.
Where is your destination?
Various options are available from international eSIM card providers, including local (single-country), regional, and global plans.
A regional plan can often be a great value because it allows you to move between countries without switching to a different phone plan.
On the other hand, some Asian countries - like Thailand - feature such affordable data that individual country plans become more cost-effective if you're staying put in that location.
If you're going with regional, make sure your eSIM data plan includes your countries of choice. There isn't a hard and fast standard set of countries included with an Asian eSIM. For example, an Airalo eSIM for Asia covers 14 countries, while Holafly eSIMs cover 11.
How much data do you need?
You can buy mobile data for Asia in packs of anywhere between 1GB and unlimited data. Just like in the US, international unlimited data plans often come with limited data at high speeds. It's always wise to read the terms and conditions before purchasing.
Think about data sharing, as well. Many providers allow you to use your phone as a mobile hotspot. That's something to keep in mind if you need to provide other devices with internet access.
Consider whether you intend to stay off your phone as much as possible or you want every drop of data you can possibly use while abroad. Estimate your daily usage in order to decide how much you'll need to last your entire trip.
How long will you be abroad?
Now, let's talk about validity periods. Are you staying in Asia for a week or for a few months? There are options to suit virtually any length of trip.
If you frequently travel to your chosen region, choose a long-term plan that allows you to carry over your data for your next trip. If you're going on a one-time vacation, select a validity period that closely corresponds to the duration of your stay.
Take note of the starting point of the validity period. If it initiates upon activation rather than upon connection to an Asian network, wait until you land to activate your plan.
Do you need international calling?
Certain travel plans provide a phone number specific to the local region, allowing you to easily make calls within Asia, and sometimes globally. Choose a plan that includes voice minutes for the country you'd like to call.
If you choose a travel package that only offers data, don't worry; you can make international calls and send text messages through WhatsApp or Wi-Fi calling. However, please be aware that using these apps for calling and texting will use up the data allowance provided in your travel plan.
Best eSIM for Asia FAQs
Recap - What's the best travel eSIM for Asia?
Ultimately, the best eSIM for Asia is the one that meets your specific usage requirements. There's a wide variety of data packages and countries covered. Additionally, you can conveniently purchase and activate it directly from your device.
Before embarking on your next thrilling adventure, make sure to refer to our comprehensive guide to the best eSIM for international travel.