How to Buy an eSIM Online: Your 5-Step Guide

June 6, 2024

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Ready to buy an eSIM online? Choose your eSIM plan here.

Using an eSIM when traveling is one of the fastest, easiest, and cheapest ways to enjoy uninterrupted smartphone connectivity but adopting new technology, especially when you are leaving the safety of home, can be daunting.

When it comes to buying and activating an eSIM, we’ve broken it down into five simple steps.

Step 1: Check if your device is eSIM compatible

The good news is: most modern smartphones and tablets already have eSIM technology installed. However, some older models do not, so it’s worth checking this compatibility guide before purchasing. Some companies, like Sim Local, offer a full refund if you purchase an eSIM plan only to later discover that your phone is not compatible.

Your phone must also be unlocked to use an eSIM. Not sure if your handset is unlocked? Check out our guide to unlocking your phone.

Step 2: Find a trusted eSIM provider

With a plethora of eSIM providers available, choosing the right one can be overwhelming. However, if you look for a provider that offers reliable network coverage across many countries and delivers excellent customer service, it narrows things down a lot.

We have created a handy table with four of the most popular eSIM providers to give you an idea of what’s available.

Provider

Coverage

Customer Support

Trustpilot Rating

Sim Local

200+ countries

24/7 live chat, phone and email support

4.8

Airalo

200+ countries

24/7 live chat

4.2

Ubigi

180+ countries

Email and chat support

4.0

TravelSim

120+ countries

Email support only

3.8

Step 3: Choose a Plan

There’s a few things to look out for when choosing the right plan. We listed six of them below. 

1. Data: One of the first questions you’ll want to answer is: How much data do I need? eSIM plans are available as data-only plans, giving you access to internet and online messaging services such as WhatsApp, streaming services like Netflix and Disney+, and can also be used as a hotspot. You'll want a plan that matches your needs, whether you're just browsing or streaming a lot. Plans range from 1GB to unlimited data, so choose one that prevents you from running out or overpaying.

2. Regions of coverage: Ensure the plan works in all the regions you'll visit, whether it's a single-country, regional (like Europe or Asia), or a global plan. This helps avoid the hassle of needing multiple plans.

3. Length of time: Think about the length of time you'll need the plan. eSIM plans can be short-term or long-term ranging from a few days to several months. Pick one that aligns with the duration of your trip to avoid the plan expiring mid-way.

4. Calls & SMS: Consider whether you need calls and texts. Some plans are data-only, while others include these features at varying levels. If making calls or sending texts is important to you, and messaging apps like WhatsApp just won’t do, make sure your plan includes these options.

5. 4G/5G networks: Reliable network coverage and high-speed internet are crucial. Look for plans that offer 4G/LTE or 5G speeds. Check the coverage maps, especially if you're going to remote areas.

6. Customer support: Look out for providers that offer responsive customer support. It means they have multiple contact methods like phone, email, and chat. Check user reviews and feedback.

We’ve further broken down some of the data plans and what the terms mean:

Types of data plans

·   Predefined data plans: These come with a fixed amount of data from 1GB onwards and are valid for a specific time period. These can be a great option if you know how much data you typically use.

·   Flexible data plans: Instead of having a set limit, this data plans dynamically adjusts based on your usage. As you use data, your provider will monitor your consumption in real-time. If you use a small amount of data, you might pay just the base fee or a small incremental cost. If you use more data, your plan automatically expands to include more data, with a corresponding increase in cost. This is ideal for users who want more control over their spending.

·   Unlimited data plans:  These seem like a great idea on paper but you should check the terms and conditions (and reviews). You have to look in the fine print, but there are consequences when you reach a certain limit. The speed of your connection may be reduced to ensure fair usage and to manage network congestion effectively. Consider if you really need "unlimited" data for your trip based on your daily usage, or if you could save money with a different plan.

Step 4: Buy your eSIM online

Once you have selected the country plan that works best for you and your trip, just add the plan to your cart and checkout. You may need to have your bank card available (unless you can remember the details off the top of your head), although some providers accept PayPal and Google Pay.

Step 5: Install your eSIM

If your payment is successful, you will receive an email confirmation with a QR code and step-by-step instructions. You can either activate your eSIM ahead of time or wait until your departure day and activate it at the airport. 

I’m hopeless with tech. What should I do?

If you want to set up an eSIM but you’re stuck at any of these steps, it’s best to contact your provider's Customer Support team who will be able to assist you. As you can see from the table above, Sim Local offer lots of ways to get in contact. An established retailer with stores in over 100 airports, Sim Local makes it incredibly easy to purchase and activate your eSIM online. They even have an app that lets you track usage and top up on the go! 

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