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If you're gearing up for a trip to the United Kingdom and want solid network coverage while you're there, a travel eSIM is a great option. These handy virtual SIM cards allow you to access local mobile networks at your destination.

In this guide, I'll show you the benefits of using embedded international SIM cards. Plus, you'll get my top recommendations - as a traveler, wireless expert, and UK expat - for the best eSIM for UK travel.

Keep reading as we look at some eSIM options, cost information, and FAQs. Let's dive into the details!

Airalo

Best overall travel eSIM

Airalo, a household name in the world of SIM cards for travelers, offers affordable and user-friendly plans on major UK networks. Its straightforward plans and reasonable data prices make Airalo a solid all-around choice as the best eSIM for UK travel.

Airalo regional plans for Europe include the UK, so you're all set. SMS and voice calling are available on the global plans, which are a little more expensive than local and regional.

Like any other phone plan, Airalo has its advantages and drawbacks. Below, I've used my industry expertise to compile a list of the things I like, as well as a few downsides.

Overview

  • 200+ destinations
  • 1GB-100GB
  • 7 - 90 days validity period
  • Prices start at around $5 for a week
  • Local, regional, & global plans

Pros

  • Wide selection of options
  • Good LTE coverage
  • Mobile hotspot usage
  • Validity starts on connection, not activation

Cons

  • Voice minutes only global eSIM
  • Customer service only by message only

Airalo UK Mobile eSIMs cover you in England, Scotland, Wales, & Northern Ireland. If you're sticking to the UK only during your trip, this provider is one of the best values.


Nomad

Best long-term eSIM

Nomad offers no-nonsense data-only plans at 4G LTE speeds. Its rates are reasonable, and unlimited data packages are also available (up to 2 GB of high-speed data per day, then 512 Kbps).

Pick from 1 GB to 20 GB of data with validity periods between 7 and 30 days. Unlimited plans are valid for between 1 and 7 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 available
  • 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

Nomad is an effective solution if you want only data and you want to avoid being overwhelmed with a ton of different plans. We don't love the fact that the unlimited plan has such a low throttle threshold, but it does take the pressure off of you having to check your data usage constantly.


Holafly

Best unlimited eSIM

Holafly is based in Spain and boasts a wide selection of unlimited data plans for international travel. The Holafly UK package features a robust eight validity periods, ranging from 5 to 90 days.

That said, if you're thinking about using Holafly to supply a connection to your laptop for work as you move about the globe, unfortunately, the provider doesn't allow mobile hotspot usage.

However, a Holafly eSIM for the UK could be the answer to your mobile data dilemma for the average vacation or family visit.

Overview

  • 170+ destinations
  • Unlimited data
  • 5 - 90 days validity period
  • Prices start at $19 for 5 days
  • Local, regional, & global plans

Pros

  • Unlimited data plans
  • Solid 4G coverage
  • A wide variety of validity dates
  • User-friendly app

Cons

  • Throttling after 2 GB daily
  • No mobile hotspot

Holafly has been growing since its founding in 2017, and for good reason. It's one of the few providers offering unlimited data for international use while keeping its plans at reasonable prices.


What is a travel eSIM?

A travel eSIM (or embedded SIM) is a digital SIM card that enables you to connect to mobile data plans for the country or region you visit. One helpful aspect of this convenient alternative is that you will no longer have to search for a local SIM card when traveling.

The majority of the newest phone models can use eSIM. These phones include iPhone 13 and newer versions and a diverse range of Samsung smartphones, Google Pixels, and other Android devices.

With numerous options available for UK travel, I've chosen providers that offer affordable prices, versatile plan choices, and essential features for travelers.

Important note: In order to utilize a travel eSIM, it's essential for your phone to be unlocked. Please consult your current carrier to determine if your device is locked.

How travel eSIMs work

With this user-friendly product, all you need to do is scan a QR code. Note that you'll need a second phone to do so. The QR code will bring you to the activation process.

Once activated, your device will automatically connect to nearby networks, guaranteeing a dependable internet connection and phone service without the inconvenience of having to search for a local prepaid SIM card.

As for usage, most international eSIM providers offer an app to track your data usage and manage your top-ups.


Why should I get an eSIM for travel to the UK?

  1. Convenience: By managing your plan digitally, traveling to a new country becomes more convenient. With the instant activation of eSIMs, you no longer need to search for a local store or vending machine to buy a physical SIM card when you arrive.
  2. Cost-effectiveness: eSIMs allow you to sign up for local data plans that are generally more affordable compared to international roaming from your home country carrier. Multiple international carriers competing with each other leads to competitive pricing, resulting in lower costs for you.
  3. Versatile: Easily manage multiple plans at once by storing them simultaneously. Seamlessly switch between your home plan and local or regional travel plans without changing SIM cards.
  4. Enhanced security: The use of eSIM minimizes the possibility of losing personal data and internet connectivity due to misplacing, damaging, or having a SIM card stolen.

How to choose the best eSIM for UK travel

When deciding on the best eSIM for UK travel, it's important to look at your needs and usage habits, as various options are available, each offering distinct advantages.

Where is your destination?

Will you be visiting multiple regions or staying within Great Britain? While most travel plans used to work in both Europe and the UK, Brexit changed things, and that may not be the case with any given provider.

If your travels will take you between the UK and Europe, verify that your plan will have you covered across those borders without any hassle.

How much data do you need?

If you need a lot of data while traveling, you'll want to look into unlimited data plans. And be aware, that most international unlimited data plans have daily high-speed data caps, so read the fine print so you know what you're actually getting.

Light users should only need a modest data limit. Email and Google Maps navigation require minimal data. Plus, if you're going to have access to Wi-Fi on a regular basis, you can adjust your plan needs accordingly.

How long will you be abroad?

Multiple providers offer a variety of plans, giving you the flexibility to choose data plans between a few days or even up to a year or longer. If you work remotely or travel extensively as a digital nomad, choose a provider with longer validity, like Holafly. For shorter trips, Airalo should be fine.

When selecting a service, it's important to verify the duration of validity and the data allowance. I also advise waiting to activate your new eSIM until you're at the airport and connected to the Wi-Fi while waiting in the lengthy passport control queue. This is because the validity period for some international eSIM plans starts when you activate.

Do you need international calling?

Some eSIMs for the UK come with a local number that you can use to make phone calls within the country or to other countries in the region you plan to visit. However, most travel eSIMs only offer data services, so you'll need to rely on messaging apps such as WhatsApp or Skype or make Wi-Fi calls.

If you decide to include voice minutes, carefully review the terms and conditions to ensure you can call the specific country you require.

It's worth noting that certain providers, notably Airhubapp, may block your data access if you make calls or send SMS outside of the permitted area. Therefore, it's crucial that you familiarize yourself with all the details regarding usage before selecting a provider.


Best eSIM for UK travel FAQs


Recap - What's the best travel eSIM for the UK?

When you visit the UK, there are many options to choose from to stay connected. Whether your main concern is having unlimited data, a long period of validity, or finding the most cost-effective option, you can be confident that you'll find the best eSIM for UK travel that suits your needs.

Are you getting ready for other thrilling journeys to different countries across the globe? Discover our top picks for the best eSIM for international travel.

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