Don't Forget About eSIMs

If you haven't been travelling for a while, eSIM might be new to you. It's worth another look.

Don't Forget About eSIMs
Image: DAL-E / Jeremy Burge

For overseas travel, chances are you've used one of three methods of mobile data in the past:

  1. Purchase a local SIM card when you arrive in a new country.
  2. Arrange some kind of travel pass for roaming with your home country carrier (eg $5 or $10 per day to use your allowance)
  3. Stick to WiFi only for internet when overseas.

The fourth option is eSIM. For quick trips, it's usually the best option.


So don't forget about eSIM next time you travel.

Why eSIM?

Given the pandemic arrived when a lot of people got their first eSIM-compatible phone, it's understandable that even seasoned travellers might not be up to date on all the benefits that can come with an eSIM.

For me, in order, the benefits of eSIM while overseas are:

  1. You can buy an eSIM before you arrive. In an app. Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay. When you arrive in your new country, the eSIM is ready for you, and so is your data.
  2. Quick trips. I don't mind buying a SIM in a store if I'm staying a while. But 2-4 day trips? No thank you.
  3. Cost. This varies, and usually the rule is that app-based eSIM will save you money for a week visit. 2+ weeks, you might want a local SIM for more data. Maybe.

Pretty much every phone supports eSIM now

Given that every major phone sold in the past few years supports eSIM (and some only support eSIM - like the iPhone 14 in the USA), it's time to give it a shot next time you're overseas.

Experience the freedom to never visit a phone store on your holiday or vacation again. I can't overstate how much I don't miss that.

Best apps (IMO)

Some of the most popular apps to buy global eSIMs are:

  1. Airalo (use this referral link or use code JEREMY0461 for $3 USD off first eSIM)
  2. Nomad (use code JERE23NR for $3 USD off first eSIM)

A third, that I don't find as easy to use, nor offer as flexible PAYG options, is Holafly.

Both Nomad and Airalo offer a quick and easy $5 USD for 1GB option in most countries, and with $3 USD off your first purchase using a referral code, it's literally $2 USD to test out your first eSIM.

You can top up any time. Larger options tend to be around $10-$25 USD for 5-10GB. Not enough for a heavy data trip, but plenty for a quick trip with maps, messaging and web use.

Airalo and Nomad walk you through all the steps to setup. Holafly is a bit more confusing, forcing customers to buy a package through the website before the app will let you do anything.


In my opinion, the simplest and easiest to use of the modern eSIM apps.

To sign up with the referral code use this link or type the following code when you see the prompt: JEREMY0461. Apps for both iPhone and Android exist.

Sign up
Sign up for an Airalo account by entering your email and selecting a password

I posted a more detailed screen-by-screen guide to Airalo on my personal blog a while back, and it's worth a look if you want even more info.


Similar to Airalo but with a very busy interface. Lots happening in the app, and it tries to gamify some aspects of sign up and purchase.

No issue with the actual eSIM. Download here. iPhone or Android. Use code JERE23NR for $3 USD off first eSIM)


Holafly is more of a website selling eSIMs that happens to have an app. First time users will find this more confusing.

Also while the larger data packs are reasonable value on Holafly, there are no small packs of 1GB or 2GB, meaning you have to pay at least $20 USD to test the service.


My current recommendation for eSIM travel in 2023 is to download Airalo. Use a referral code. Buy a 1GB SIM for a total cost of $2USD and activate it the night before you travel.

It's easy to turn the eSIM on and off in your Settings app. So with peace of mind that the eSIM is active and installed, turn it back off, then when your vacation or holiday or work trip begins, turn on your eSIM on and enjoy data from the moment you arrive.

Important note! You can't top up an eSIM without any internet. So if you run out of data, you'll need WiFi to purchase a topup. All apps make it easy to track your use, but if you think you'll run out of data and it's important, make sure to buy a topup while you still have at least some of your download limit remaining.

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