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Whether you're a digital nomad, a frequent traveler, or simply planning a vacation overseas, staying connected is essential. While traditional physical SIM cards have long been the go-to option for international travel, there's a new player in town - eSIMs.

eSIMs have become increasingly popular over the past few years, particularly for international travel. Let's face it: no one enjoys standing in long lines to purchase a new SIM card from a vending machine when they arrive at their dream destination. Choosing the best eSIM for your international travels allows you to skip the queue and get straight to the fun.

eSIMs are simple to install and provide impressive network coverage. However, deciding which is right for you can be challenging with so many options. That's where I come in. I've done the research (along with my team of experts) and sorted through the top eSIM plans available for your international adventures.

Regardless of your destination, you'll find my top recommendations for staying connected - whether you're traveling for a few days or a whole year. Let's get started!

What is the best eSIM for international travel?

Short answer: Overall, Airalo is a top-rated eSIM for international travelers, with various data packages and prices starting at around $5 per week in over 200 countries. Other honorable mentions include Holafly, Airhub, GlobaleSIM, and Maya Mobile, just to name a few.

Airalo

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.

Overview

  • 200+ countries
  • 1GB-100GB
  • 7 days-3 months validity period
  • Prices start around $5 for one week
  • Local, regional, or global plans

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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.


Holiday eSIM

Best for talk & text option

Holiday eSIM has several plans offering voice minutes and SMS, which is rare across the industry. It's also a great eSIM choice for heavy data users and one of the best options for Europe.

Data packages range between 3GB and 50GB (yes, you read that right!), giving you extreme flexibility whether you only use data for bringing up maps or you prefer to TikTok your way through the south of France.

Holiday eSIM also offers a wide range of validity periods, from three days to a month. So, while Holiday may not be the best choice if you're going on a year-long pilgrimage, it's certainly plenty for most typical vacations and business trips.

Overview

  • 7 regions & 190+ countries
  • 3GB to 50GB options
  • 3 to 30 days of validity
  • Prices start around $20 for 14 days

Pros

  • Mobile hotspot permitted
  • Voice & SMS included in many plans
  • Phone number included w/ voice plans
  • Large data buckets available
  • Rewards points program
  • Versitale language options on the website

Cons

  • Cluttered, confusing website design
  • Pricier than alternatives
  • Not a wide range of data plans
  • Some plans require a credit check
  • Best for Europe - France and the UK

The Holiday collection is top-notch, especially when it comes to calling options. Most of the plans that include international voice minutes also include unlimited calls and SMS within the region the plan covers. This makes for a well-rounded, feature-rich eSIM to keep you connected worldwide.


Holafly

Best unlimited data eSIM

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.

Overview

  • 160+ destinations
  • Unlimited data
  • 5 to 90-day plans
  • Prices around $20 for a 5-day plan

Pros

  • 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

Cons

  • 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).


Airhub

Best range of eSIM plans

A popular eSIM provider with local, regional, and global plans, Airhub has more options than you think possible, making it perfect for international travel.

Airhub allows you to access data, make calls, and send messages in different countries without needing physical SIM cards.

The provider supports various devices, including smartphones, tablets, smartwatches, and laptops, ensuring compatibility across various devices.

Additionally, Airhub offers customer support, ensuring a hassle-free experience while you're exploring the world.

Overview

  • 190+ destinations
  • 1GB to unlimited data
  • 5 to 30-day options
  • Monthly subscriptions available
  • Price: begins around $10 for 3GB per month

Pros

  • Clean and clear app and website
  • Plan filters allow useful sorting of results
  • Some plans include voice minutes
  • Great speed in most countries
  • Local number provided
  • Money back guarantee
  • Discounts for monthly subscriptions

Cons

  • Some regions are very costly - North America starts at over $70 for ten days of unlimited data
  • No unlimited data global plans
  • Daily GB limit on unlimited data plans
  • Regional plans have limited options except for Europe
  • Service fees charged at checkout

Airhub is an expansive online marketplace where you can purchase eSIMs that are available in more than 190 countries across the globe. The platform offers an extensive range of eSIM plans that encompass data, local call minutes, SMS, and international call minutes.

Airhub distinguishes itself from other eSIM providers by offering an extensive selection of plans per country, giving customers the freedom to choose the plan that aligns perfectly with their requirements. Airhub's remarkable partnerships with local companies also allow it to provide cost-effective deals.

Sadly, these relationships seem to be stronger in some regions than others. There are many options in Europe, but coverage in Latin America is limited and expensive. Brazil, Argentina, and Mexico only offer one plan each. If you're heading to Cuba, Chile, Paraguay, Uruguay, or Ecuador, no plans currently exist.

Airhub offers affordable regional plans in Europe, Asia-Pacific, the Middle East, Africa, and the Americas. We suggest picking the European plan if your travels take you there. These plans are available across 49 countries starting from about $10 per month with a 3GB data limit. You can also choose from 1-year plans in Europe with data limits ranging from 10 GB to 100 GB.

If you plan on staying in a country for several months, opting for monthly subscriptions would be the most convenient option. In addition, some of these plans offer unlimited voice minutes and SMS, making them excellent value for your money.

Most plans are prepaid, with some postpaid plans available in certain countries, mainly the United States, which is likely why the prices are significantly higher in the Americas.

I also noticed that some unlimited plans have limited daily data usage. However, they allow around 2GB per day, which is more than enough unless you're a heavy data user for things like work or streaming.

The website and app are clear and clean - free of all the spammy clutter. The thing I like the most is the filtering. It's a customer-centered tool allowing you to sort results by cheapest, best price/GB, largest GB, and longest validity period. So easy to use and understand! Just be aware that the global plans list is located under the regional tab.

Airhub is a real stand-out in the world of travel eSIMs with its great plans, flexible data allotments, and user-focused approach.


Eskimo

Best long-term eSIM

When it comes to globe-trotting, you're probably already aware that finding an international eSIM with an extended expiry date can be challenging.

Eskimo stands out compared to its competitors by offering passes that last up to two years, depending on which plan you choose:

  • Individual country eSIM: 180 days
  • Regional eSIM: 365 days
  • Global eSIM: 2 years

There are some things to consider regarding the pros and cons of an Eskimo eSIM.

Overview

  • Mexico, North America, or Global
  • 1 GB - 30 GB
  • 6 months - 2 years validity period
  • Prices start at $6

Pros

  • Long validity periods
  • Borderless functionality
  • Easy top-up process
  • Mobile hotspot usage
  • Data sharing with anyone
  • No data speed throttling or daily limits
  • Hassle-free refund if unable to connect/install

Cons

  • 80+ countries included, fewer than some providers
  • No phone number is included

While cheaper options are available - for example, an Eskimo global plan with 10 GB costs $39 - the generous expiration period can be worth it for extended travels. That means no annoying monthly renewals, so you can go wherever the road takes you and know you'll stay connected.


Maya Mobile

Best new eSIM carrier

While this US-based provider has been around since 2015, I consider it up-and-coming because of its recent buzz among travelers looking for simple, affordable international eSIM options. With 194 countries to choose from, great prices, and regional plans like Europe+ and Asia+, Maya Mobile is worth looking at.

Another way Maya Mobile earns the title of best eSIM provider is by aggregating over 400 mobile networks worldwide so that you're always connected to the strongest signal.

This provider is tough to beat, with prices starting under $2 per GB. Of course, any phone plan has pros and cons, so here's what we love about Maya Mobile, along with a few downsides.

Overview

  • Mexico or South America plans
  • 1GB - Unlimited data
  • 5 days - 30 days validity period
  • Prices start at $6

Pros

  • Affordable prices
  • Unlimited data plans
  • Mobile hotspot usage
  • A wide range of different countries covered (190+)
  • Refund if service doesn't work for you
  • Business eSIM options

Cons

  • No phone number is included
  • Coverage and signal strength can vary due to multiple networks
  • Customer support is only available by message via the app or website

One of the nicest things about them is their customer feedback. The Maya Mobile Trustpilot score is excellent, which, in our industry experience, is no easy feat for a phone plan provider. Travelers like the price, reliability, and ease of use, which we think is almost everything you could ask for!


GlobaleSIM

Best flexibility

Like Maya Mobile, GlobaleSIM partners with over 400 networks to ensure you stay connected on your travels. This provider is one of the only options offering flexible, customized plans for those who need data and calling abroad.

Here's how it works: pick an individual country (from among the provider's 150+ selection) or a regional plan for areas like Europe, South America, Asia, and more, then add your choice of 0, 100, or 200 voice minutes.

As for your data, you can choose buckets ranging from 1GB to 20GB, running between a week and 30 days. For example, say you want the regional Europe plan. You can get:

  • 3GB data
  • 100 voice minutes valid from/to any included country in the European group
  • 14-day expiration period
  • Cost: $20

It's a decent deal, considering that most international eSIMs do not include access to calling. If you include voice minutes in your purchase, you'll receive a phone number via email to use with your plan.

Overview

  • 1GB - 20GB data
  • 100 or 200 voice minutes
  • 7 - 30 days validity period
  • Prices start at $7

Let's look at GlobaleSIM's pros and cons so you can make an informed decision.

Pros

  • Customizable data/voice plans
  • Extensive variety of coverage areas
  • Clean website with abundant self-help resources
  • Several data allotment & validity period options

Cons

  • Data prices are a bit above average
  • No support for inbound SMS

Unless you plan to jet-set around the world for several months, GlobaleSIM offers plenty of choices to suit your travel needs at competitive prices.


Nomad

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 seven to 30 days. For those requiring unlimited data, plans are available for durations of one to seven days.

Overview

  • 165+ destinations
  • 1GB-20GB
  • 7 - 30 days validity period
  • Prices start at $7 for one week
  • Local, regional, & global plans

Pros

  • Simple plan choices
  • Taxes & fees are included in the price
  • Unlimited data plans
  • Reliable major networks
  • Mobile hotspot supported
  • SMS plans available

Cons

  • Data throttling after 2 GB on unlimited
  • Validity begins upon activation
  • No voice/phone number

What is an eSIM?

eSIMs, or embedded SIMs, are digital SIM cards that eliminate the need for physical local SIM cards in mobile devices. You can still connect to mobile networks, access data, make calls, and send messages without the hassle.

Unlike traditional SIM cards, which require physical swapping, eSIMs can be programmed remotely. Switching between international carriers is easier than ever to manage with just a few taps on your mobile phone.


Why should I get an eSIM for international travel?

  1. Convenience: Managing your plan digitally makes traveling to a new country easier. eSIMs can be activated instantly, saving you from the hassle of finding a local store or vending machine to purchase a physical SIM card upon arrival.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: With an eSIM, you can often subscribe to local data plans, which are usually cheaper than roaming charges with your home carrier. Competitive pricing with multiple international carriers drives the prices down, so you. They offer a wide range of plans to cater to your specific needs abroad.
  3. Flexibility: Store multiple plans simultaneously. Switch between your home plan and local or regional travel plans without changing SIM cards.
  4. Safety and security: eSIM reduces the risk of losing personal data and connectivity due to a lost, damaged, or stolen SIM card.

Is my phone compatible with eSIM?

Most phones produced from 2018 onwards support eSIMs, with a few rare exceptions. Make sure you have downloaded the most recent software updates.

Apple eSIM devices

To check if your device supports eSIM:

  • Go to Settings > Cellular > Add eSIM

If "Add eSIM" is not available, your device may not be compatible.

Recent eSIM-compatible iPhones

  • iPhone 15
  • iPhone 15 Plus
  • iPhone 15 Pro
  • iPhone 15 Pro Max
  • iPhone 14
  • iPhone 14 Plus
  • iPhone 14 Pro
  • iPhone 14 Pro Max
  • iPhone SE 3 (2022)
  • iPhone 13
  • iPhone 13 Mini
  • iPhone 13 Pro
  • iPhone 13 Pro Max
  • iPhone 12
  • iPhone 12 Mini
  • iPhone 12 Pro
  • iPhone 12 Pro Max

Recent eSIM-compatible iPads

You can get an international data plan if your iPad has Wi-Fi + Cellular. Compatible iPads include:

  • iPad Pro 11″ (model A2068 onwards)
  • iPad Air (model A2123 onwards)
  • iPad Pro 12.9″ (model A2069 onwards)
  • iPad (model A2198 onwards)
  • iPad 10th generation (2022)
  • iPad Mini (model A2124 onwards)

Android eSIM devices

To check if your Android supports eSIM:

  • Samsung Galaxy:
    • Settings > Connections > SIM Manager
    • If you see an option for "Add eSIM" your device is eSIM ready.
  • Google Pixel:
    • Settings > Network & Internet > +SIMs
    • If you see an option for "Download a SIM instead?" your device is eSIM-capable.
  • All others:
    • Dial *#06# and press the call button.
    • If you can view your EID number, your device supports eSIM.

These are just a few of the most popular Android eSIM phones. You can check with your device manufacturer if you don't see your phone on this list.

Recent eSIM Android devices

  • Samsung Galaxy S23 models
  • Samsung Galaxy S22 models
  • Samsung Galaxy S21 models
  • Samsung Galaxy Note 20
  • Samsung Galaxy Fold Series
  • Samsung Galaxy Z Flip Series
  • Google Pixel 7
  • Google Pixel 6
  • Google Pixel 4
  • Google Pixel Fold
  • Google Pixel 3 XL
  • Huawei P40 Series
  • Oppo Reno 5A
  • Oppo Find X5
  • Sony Xperia 1 V
  • Xiaomi 13 Series
  • Sony Xperia 10 III Lite
  • Motorola Edge+
  • Motorola Razr 2019
  • Nokia (XR21, X30, G60)
  • OnePlus (7T and newer)

Please be aware that eSIM support can depend on the country or region of purchase and that carrier-specific restrictions may apply. Check with your carrier or phone manufacturer to be certain.


Is my phone unlocked?

It's important to note that your device must be unlocked to use abroad with a different eSIM provider. You can check your phone's unlocked with a few easy steps.

Apple devices

To see if your iPhone is unlocked:

  1. Go to Settings > General > About
  2. Scroll down to "Carrier Lock"
  3. If your device is unlocked, it will display "No SIM restrictions"
  4. If your device is locked, you must unlock it before proceeding - contact your current carrier for help
  5. Find a 15-digit IMEI number under "Available SIM" or "Digital SIM"

Android devices

Several different manufacturers use Android phones, so slight variations may exist.

To see if your Andriod phone is unlocked, use one of the following options below:

  • Contact your current carrier
  • Use their IMEI compatibility checker
  • Go to Settings > Connections or Network & Internet > Mobile Networks or SIM Cards > Network Operators > Choose Network.

How to choose the best eSIM for international travel

While every eSIM provider abroad has positives and negatives, knowing what to look for regarding the best eSIM provider option for your specific international trip is important.

Your destination

When using an eSIM, checking the network coverage in your destination is crucial.

Coverage can vary depending on the country and local service providers. Select an eSIM provider that offers coverage in your travel location.

You can select from local, regional, and global eSIMs based on your travel plans. Here's a look at each option:

  • Local eSIM: Great option if you're visiting a single country.
  • Regional eSIM: Perfect if you're traveling to multiple countries within the same region, like Europe or Southeast Asia. Instead of buying separate local plans, a regional eSIM covers all the countries you'll visit.
  • Global eSIM: Ideal for digital nomads - connects you worldwide, which is great for global travel or countries in different regions.

How much data do you need?

Will you be staying at a resort or hotel or working from the offices of a multinational business? Chances are you will likely have access to Wi-Fi in these cases.

But, if you have high data needs outside of a Wi-Fi connection, you may want to splurge on a big chunk of travel data. Conversely, if your data usage is reasonable, but you'll need to navigate with online maps or check your email regularly, you can get away with a more budget-friendly plan.

Mobile data usage of common activities:

  • Google Maps: 40MB/hour (during navigation)
  • Social media: 50MB - 120MB/hour
  • Internet browsing: 50MB/hour
  • Online gaming: 70MB/hour
  • Streaming music: 70MB/hour (normal quality)
  • SD video: 240MB/hour
  • HD video: up to 1GB/hour
  • FaceTime: 200MB/hour

Email uses a very small amount of data, with a consumption rate of about .03MB per email (without attachments).


Length of your trip

Various providers offer a range of plans, allowing you to select data plans lasting anywhere from just a few days to a year or more. If you're a digital nomad working remotely or traveling for a long time, Eskimo is an excellent option. For shorter trips, Holiday or Airalo may fit the bill.

Whichever service you choose, make sure to check both the length of validity and data allowance. Don't activate your new eSIM until you're waiting in the long passport control line while connected to the airport Wi-Fi.


Do you need international calling?

Some eSIMs include a local number for you to use for either calls to other countries or within the country or region you're going to.

Most travel eSIMs only include data, so use apps like WhatsApp or Skype to communicate via message or Wi-Fi calling.

If you opt for voice minutes, read the fine print carefully to ensure you can make calls to the relevant country.

Important note: Certain providers (notably Airhubapp) will cut off your data access if you call or SMS outside the permitted area. It's crucial that you learn all the details about usage before choosing a provider.


International travel eSIM FAQs


Recap: What is the best eSIM for traveling abroad?

eSIMs have proven a game-changer for travelers. There are plenty of different providers to choose from, offering affordable plans, reliable connections, and a range of validity options.

Maya Mobile is a solid go-to if you're going for simple, straightforward, and affordable. For voice minutes and flexibility, Airalo is a reliable solution. For a tour of European countries - particularly if you burn through a lot of data - I recommend Holiday eSIM for cheap data and a variety of options.

Are you an eSIM convert after experiencing the convenience of its use overseas? Check out my top recommendations for the best prepaid eSIMs right here in the United States!

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