What's The Best eSIM For International Travel? We've Ranked the Top Providers in 2024

Byron Mühlberg, writer at

Byron Mühlberg


Jan Watermann


Dec 7, 2023
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Setting off to visit a foreign country can be an exciting experience, but it also can pose many logistical challenges, and one of those that are most commonly overlooked is connectivity. While you're abroad, you won't be able to call, SMS, or access the web on the go with your smartphone as you normally would at home, and if you do so with roaming, it can result in hefty additional charges.

However, none of this means you should leave your smartphone at home. If you have a current model (i.e., a model from 2019 or later), there's a good chance it'll support an eSIM. These nifty digital SIM cards can be downloaded and installed before you travel, promising flexible internet while abroad at a comparatively very low cost. In this guide, we explore everything you have to know about eSIMs for international travel and what the best deals might be for you.

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Do I Need a SIM Card Abroad?

No, you don't need a SIM card as a tourist for international travel, but having one will enable you to make phone calls and SMSes and not to rely solely on public or hotel WiFi to access the web.

A good place to start would be to review your contract from your mobile network provider before you travel to a country abroad. Most contracts are limited to use just within your home country (or within the European Union if you live in an EU country). For all other countries, so-called 'roaming charges' typically apply. However, there is one exception: specific contracts sometimes allow you to use your own data worldwide. If you have a global internet contract, you can also use it abroad without unexpected roaming charges.

Brett Jordan SIM card beside a black iPhone 5.

Otherwise, although precise roaming charges differ according to your network provider, the fees for using mobile internet outside your home country are typically around $2 or $3 per 6MB (six megabytes) of data used, though they could still be higher. For example, if you wanted to download an average-sized app from the Google Play Store onto your Android smartphone, you'd use around 24MB and pay $8 to $10 in roaming charges. It should, therefore, be clear that roaming with your regular SIM card while abroad is generally not worthwhile and can lead to enormous costs. As we'll see in a moment, it's significantly cheaper to purchase a local physical SIM card once you arrive or, better yet, an eSIM before you travel.

What Are eSIMs?

Simply put, eSIMs are regular SIM cards that don't require inserting an actual microchip into your device while providing the same benefits. Newer smartphones (but also smartwatches, tablets, and other devices) can be equipped with eSIMs, and since you don't need an actual SIM card to install an eSIM, you can also get one before your trip abroad. To do this, you must visit an online eSIM service, purchase the eSIM you want, and follow the instructions to download and install it onto your device.

Like regular SIM cards, prepaid eSIMs come bundled with a certain fixed amount of data, SMSes, or telephone minutes, which you can use at your leisure while traveling. You get to choose the package you want, and you can generally also extend your eSIM's validity easily right from an app.

Pros of Using an eSIM

In general, eSIMs have numerous advantages and are often a better alternative to using a regular SIM card for most tourists. In our opinion, the most significant advantages include:

  • internet access immediately upon arrival on your holiday,
  • no negotiating with SIM card sellers at the airport,
  • transparent and fair pricing,
  • online extension is often possible,
  • credit card payment is possible,
  • local telecom provider networks are used.

In our opinion, there are only a few reasons against using an eSIM when traveling overseas (which we'll discuss below), and in most instances, we're sure that it's a far better deal than using your normal SIM card from your home country on local networks.

Cons of Using an eSIM

As we've already seen, eSIMs have very few drawbacks and are an excellent option for accessing mobile internet on your foreign vacation.

However, one disadvantage is the slightly higher upfront cost than physical SIM cards. That said, eSIMs are still comparatively cheap, especially for use in a foreign country from abroad. In our opinion, the significantly higher level of comfort and the possibility of having access to the internet immediately upon arrival are worth the extra pennies. Another disadvantage is related to installation, where the process may be unfamiliar to you if you've never installed an eSIM before. However, if you follow the instructions carefully, you'll be fine.

Finally, there's the compatibility issue: not all devices support eSIMs. If your device was released before late 2019, we recommend double-checking on the internet or contacting a representative from an eSIM service to confirm whether your device is compatible before you purchase an eSIM. In general, the following devices will support eSIMs though:

  • iPhone 11 or later
  • iPhone XS, iPhone XR, or iPhone SE
  • iPad 7th generation or later,
  • Galaxy S20 or later
  • Google Pixel 3 or later
  • and many other newer devices.

Read our full list of eSIM compatible devices.

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How To Use An eSIM When Traveling

Luckily for you, not only is it affordable, but using an eSIM while you're traveling internationally is a breeze. Here's how it works in practice in a few simple steps:

  1. Double that you have an eSIM-compatible phone: See our summary above or check out a more comprehensive list of eSIM-compatible devices. Read our full list of eSIM compatible devices.
  2. Choose the right data plan: Consider your trip duration and how much data you think you'll need, and choose a package that suits you.
  3. Install your new eSIM to your device: After you've purchased your plan, your eSIM provider will walk you through the installation process. This can generally be done in-app (which you'll need to download) or using a QR code.
  4. Activate the eSIM and connect to the local network: In almost all cases, your eSIM data will never activate until you're located in your destination and the eSIM establishes a connection with the local telecommunications network. Just turn on the data function on your phone like normal, and it should work!

Best eSIM Apps For International Travel

When choosing an eSIM, you basically have two options: you can go through an online service or purchase it directly from your telecom provider. We recommend the first option since, with reputable services, you can always be sure you'll get good support, excellent rates, and quality instructions.

According to our review and comparison of the best options on the market, here are the three best eSIM providers for international travel and other countries worldwide:

Best eSIM: Airalo

Airalo is an excellent eSIM provider for international travel. Its online platform offers global access to eSIMs through collaboration with big local telecom providers. While you're overseas, for example, Airalo works directly with local telecom providers to provide you with high-speed coverage directly from their networks, wherever you are in the country.

Once-off prices for eSIMs for international travel range from $4.50 to over $60 and include between 1GB and 20GB of data. Most travellers should be able to get by with these amounts without any problems.

We recommend Airalo in general, especially if you travel often. The service provides an excellent connectivity companion while you're abroad.

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2nd-Best eSIM: Holafly

Holafly is another trusted eSIM service which also offers eSIMs for international travel. The special thing about Holafly is that it only offers packages with unlimited data volume for international travel and other countries worldwide. Although these packages cost quite a bit more than the smaller Airalo packages, in return, they offer the certainty that you'll never use up your data.

Holafly's packages cost between $19 and $99 and are valid from five to 90 days. Like Airalo, Holafly also works with local networks in over 150 countries worldwide.

Although it's a great package if you want uncapped access to the web, it's worth remembering that most travellers don't normally need such a large sum of data. Therefore, for most vacationers, we think Airalo's cheaper packages will easily be sufficient.

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3rd-Best eSIM: Yesim

Yesim is a Swiss-based eSIM service offering highly-rated eSIMs for all world regions. Their packages cost between $8 and $28 for 3GB to 20GB, but only the 10GB and 20GB data plans last for a longer period of 30 days. In our opinion, this makes Yesim's offers slightly less attractive than Airalo's.

Can I Call From Abroad With an eSIM?

Yes, you can call abroad from abroad with an eSIM, but once again, using your regular network provider and SIM card could result in surprisingly high calling charges at the end of the month (we've personally encountered as high as $4 per minute!). Fortunately, you can call abroad without the high costs, and there are three ways of doing this. We go through each below:

Voice-Over-IP (VoIP) With Data

In most cases, eSIM packages are loaded with mobile data, not with minutes or airtime. However, by using your data, you can use web-based apps like WhatsApp, Google Meet, Skype, Telegram, Facebook Messenger, FaceTime and others to stay in touch with family and friends abroad while you're traveling internationally.

Airtime Bundle eSIMs

Some eSIM services offer talk and text packages alongside normal data packages. These allow you to make direct phone calls or SMSes to your home country via local networks abroad for only a slightly higher fee than regular data packages. Not all eSIM services offer this service though, but some, like Wraptel, do.

International Calling Apps

Another option is to use a third-party app to make international calls from overseas at excellent rates. In our opinion, Rebtel is by far the best service out there, offering low rates and providing you with local phone numbers with which you can make calls abroad as though they were completely domestic.

Recap: All About eSIMs For International Travel

Are you planning a trip abroad, and do you have a modern smartphone? Then, you should certainly at least consider getting an eSIM. In our opinion, they offer almost nothing but advantages, and they're generally far superior to using your regular SIM card.

To find the right provider for eSIMs for international travel, you should compare the available options. As we've seen, we recommend looking primarily at the network provider and the price. Depending on how long you want to stay abroad, Airalo, Holafly or possibly Yesim are the best choices. To recap, here are what each can offer you:

  1. Airalo: Best eSIM for international travel
  2. Holafly: Best eSIM for unlimited data abroad
  3. Yesim: Good alternative to Airalo.
  4. Wraptel: Best eSIM for airtime and SMSes.
  5. Rebtel: Best calling service for international calls.

FAQ About eSIMs For International Travel

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