Something that has long been the traveler’s nemesis is the dreaded mobile data roaming charge. We’ve all been in that agonizing situation where you have no WiFi and nowhere to buy a local SIM for your phone, and you end up forking out for crazily high roaming bills at the end of the trip. In the 21st century, access to the internet when you travel should be easy, right?
This Airalo review may change your mind about mobile data forever!
Well, finally, mobile data is easy to come by. There is now a clever thing called an eSIM which magically gives you access to the internet on your phone in affordable packages. There are a few things to know about the eSIM first, like the fact that it’s not yet available for all phone models, but before long, there’s no doubt we’ll all be swearing by eSIMs to keep up our communications.
The best thing – they require no physical fiddling around with tiny bits of plastic in the form of a physical SIM!
Airalo is one brand of eSIM for travelers, so check out my Airalo eSIM review to figure out if an eSIM could work for you on your travels.
What is an eSIM?
Mobile phones are always evolving and developing, and it can often feel hard to keep up with the latest technologies. Especially if you’re busy living a life on the road. But one area that’s had surprisingly little development is the all-important SIM card. These pivotal components of cellular phones haven’t changed much over the years. Until now.
eSIM stands for embedded SIM. New smartphones (most notably the latest Apple and Google models such as the iPhone XR, XS, XS Max and models 11-14, the Google Pixel 3 and 4, and the Samsung Galaxy S20 and Samsung Galaxy Z Flip) are now being fitted with an embedded SIM inside it from the start.
If you have one of these, you can download and support different SIM configurations whenever you like, access different data packages, and connect to a local network and different service for varying lengths of time. When you get a virtual SIM card, you can also keep the same mobile phone number as you use on your service back home, which is incredibly useful.
Something that’s worth mentioning is that an eSIM can be used not just on your mobile phone but also with certain tablets and laptops.
An eSIM is kind of like Netflix or Amazon Prime. Rather than pulling together a bunch of different movies and TV series to put all the choices in one place and save you from going to the rental store, you can now pick and choose all the best data plans without having to pay for the new SIM card for your mobile phone each time you want to use one.
What is the difference between eSIMs and standard SIM cards?
The key difference between an eSIM and a traditional SIM is that everything with an eSIM is done digitally. You don't need to go to a shop and pick up a local SIM card to put in your phone anymore; you can organize everything you need to get data on your phone online.
Can you use an eSIM and physical SIM at the same time?
Yes, you can. If you have a mobile device that supports dual SIM, you can keep your physical SIM in your phone, while using an eSIM at the same time.
How are eSIMs useful for travelers?
There’s nothing worse than trying to keep track of a bunch of minuscule physical SIMs – one for each country you visit. These cards are easily lost or broken and can be a real pain, especially when you’re arriving in different countries for the first time, laden with a bunch of heavy bags and running on little sleep.
Not to mention all the stress that you’ll avoid in the airport trying to hunt down somewhere to purchase a travel SIM (and fumbling with difficult foreign vocab), or looking for WiFi, or a mobile hotspot as soon as you arrive at your next destination.
The idea of being able to buy data packages from your phone just like you would at home certainly has a lot of appeal. The idea is that you can keep a collection of different SIM cards on your device and flick between them easily whenever you want. As soon as the seatbelt light goes off and you’ve switched off Airplane Mode – the internet is your oyster.
As they are virtual SIMs only, you don’t need to do anything to your physical SIM slot, and so you can keep your home SIM card in there for when you get back, making the transition between countries, a local number and each different data service really smooth. Added bonus – you will never lose one of those tiny physical SIM cards again!
Which kind of travelers are eSIMs useful for?
It’s hard to imagine anyone that wouldn’t benefit from eSIMs as there’s no doubt they’ll save a lot of time and effort. However, the people that will profit the most are frequent travelers who are on the move a lot. If you’re planning an interrail trip, backpacking adventure, or a vacation that incorporates multiple countries, then making use of different eSIM global plans on your device is going to be a very convenient solution for you.
By using the Airalo, app you can store multiple eSIMs in your Airalo account and activate and deactivate each of them whenever you like, from country to country, keeping the rest of the package to use when you next need it. Ideal for travel between countries, and keeping an air of spontaneity that is so easily lost when you have to fine-comb your travel plans in advance! Stay connected and never lose access to Google Maps again!
What is an Airalo eSIM?
As mentioned already, the Airalo app is a great resource for using an eSIM. To put it plainly, Airalo is the first-ever eSIM provider where you can buy temporary Airalo eSIM plans according to what country you’re in, how much data you think you’ll need, and how much time you’re there for. You can purchase regional and global packages on the Airalo store.
It's not just the Airalo website where you can buy your international data, but you can also buy it on the mobile app. You can use the app just like any other app on your device. You can use Airalo with any eSIM compatible smartphone, tablet or computer (see the complete list at the bottom of this post).
Airalo is clever because it uses all the best local service rates from countries around the world so there aren’t any hidden charges or nasty data roaming bills. It works in over 200 countries and the process is really simple.
Why haven’t I heard of eSIMs?
As with all new technologies, these things take time to be adopted by everyone. The biggest problem with eSIMs is that not many people understand them, or realize international virtual SIM cards are an option at all.
According to Bahadir Ozdemir, Arialo’s founder, there are over 60 millions devices that could support eSIMs but most people don’t make use of the feature as they don’t realize their mobile phone, tablet or PC is compatible, or simply don’t know how to get hold of an eSIM. It’s not going to be long before this is the go-to means for buying SIM cards abroad.
Airalo review: How does Airalo work?
So when you know you’re going to a new country and are going to be needing a SIM, you download the Airalo app and purchase a data plan that suits you.
It's as simple as:
- Downloading the Airalo app
- Choosing your destination and package
- Installing your eSIM
- Activating your eSIM
If you’re going to a few different countries in a row, you could even go ahead and get eSIM cards with plans for each new country, so they’re ready to activate as soon as you arrive. You pay for the plan using either PayPal, credit card or the in-app currency, Airmoney. You can buy data only or if you think you'll need to make phone calls, a combined plan.
Once you have purchased an eSIM plan, you then need to download it to your phone. This can only be done through an active internet connection so it’s a good idea to do this before you arrive in your destination.
To do this, you’ll be sent confirmation details and this will include a QR code to scan, to start your data plan. If you are doing all of this on the device you want to use the eSIM on however, you can’t scan the QR code. In this case, you can just follow the manual instructions in the confirmation email to activate your international cellular eSIM and use data abroad. This normally just entails entering a confirmation code into your device.
You can label the various eSIMs you have downloaded to your phone so you can tell at a glance which country they’re for.
When it’s downloaded to your phone, the next step is to activate the cellular plan, which is dead-easy and takes very little time compared to seeking out a kiosk to buy a physical SIM card for your device.
This is done by heading to your phone's settings > Mobile Data > choose eSIM > Turn On This Line.
Airalo eSIM FAQs
What does the Airalo eSIM store offer?
When you create an Airalo account you can then sift through the different Airalo eSIM options depending on where you are in the world, on either the app or through their website.
You then purchase a data plan. To give you an idea, this might be, say, a 1GB plan that lasts for 7 days for $5, or a 30-day 10GB plan that costs $37. It completely varies and there are loads of choices to use on your phone.
You can then purchase any number of eSIM plans depending on your device and manufacturer. You can only have one SIM activated at a time on each phone or device, but it’s really easy to switch between each eSIM on your mobile or cellular data settings and it makes life much smoother when you travel from country to country.
You have three options for the type of eSIM you buy:
- Local eSIMs – for one country only
- Regional eSIMs– usually covers several countries in one continent (27, African countries/13 Asian countries/24 Caribbean Islands/39 European countries/19 Latin American countries, 15 MENA countries)
- Global eSIMs– cover you for 85 countries worldwide
Here's an example of the options you have for the regional eSIMs for African countries:
and these are the global eSIM packages you can buy in the app:
As you can see there's a huge variety in the length and cost of the different packages which means you can pick and choose the option which best suits your trip. From 7 days, up to 180 days, staying connected when you travel will never be an issue again.
How can Airalo offer such affordable data?
The reason you get to escape the huge data roaming bills when you use Airalo is that they partner with local network providers. They find the best deals in the local area and then pass them on to you electronically via the eSIM package you buy.
Are there any perks for being an Airalo user?
Airalo offers a rewards scheme, with their custom currency called ‘Airmoney’. This means that every time you get a different eSIM plan for your phone or top up an existing eSIM, or basically do anything via the app, you build up credit that you can then spend next time you buy a cellular eSIM.
You also get ‘Airmoney’ for referring a friend to Airalo.
Do I need an unlocked phone to use Airalo eSIMs?
Yes, to use an eSIM, you do need to make sure you have a compatible device which is unlocked and not tied to a specific carrier.
80% of people use iphones, so to check if your iOS device is unlocked, do the following:
- Head to settings
- Click general
- Click about
- It should say NO SIM restrictions – this means your phone is unlocked
To check if your iOS device is compatible with an eSIM, do the following:
- Head to Settings>General>About
- Click AVAILABLE SIM or DIGITAL SIM
- You should see an IMEI number under available SIM which means your device is eSIM compatible
Another great thing about the Airalo website is that it provides very comprehensive customer support sections and easy how-to-guides to help you troubleshoot should you run into any problems.
If you can't figure out why your Airalo eSIM isn't working, you can easily jump on a call with the support team who will help you out. The eSIM support team is available across all time zones and you can access the support in multiple languages. This is a massive relief if you don't want to deal with customer support in a language you can't understand!
Start with $3 free Credit
While sigining up use our referral code HARRY5578 and start with a $3 free credit. That is around 1GB in regional data sim card.
What are the downsides of Airalo eSIMs?
Airalo is great for saving you time and huge roaming bills.
However, this wouldn't be an honest review if it didn't point out the limitations of the service. Your Airalo eSIM gives you data only, which means you don't get access to a local phone number.
While this shouldn't be too much of a problem, it may cause you trouble if you want to make local calls, to make a restaurant reservation for example.
The other limitation with the eSIMs is that your package uses only 1 local provider. What does this mean? Your phone won't automatically search for the network with the best signal when you're out and about. While this is not usually a problem in big cities and main towns, it can mean you don't have service when you go somewhere a little more remote.
What do customers say about Airalo eSIMs?
Airalo has over 30,000 reviews online – most of them positive. Here are a few things that customers love about the company:
- How easy it is to download and install your eSIM
- How cost-effective the service is
- Flexibility to choose the price and duration of your eSIM
- Reliable customer support that is easy to get hold of 24/7
Check out some of Airalo reviews for yourself:
Get an Airalo eSIM for your next trip
eSIMs are still a work in progress and not yet available for everyone. Remember, the devices that support eSIMs are mostly Apple and Google products but there are a few more companies getting on board too. You can find the complete list here.
Do you want to avoid huge roaming charges and say bye to the faff of the physical SIM card when traveling abroad next? If this Airalo review has made you want to try out an eSIM for your next trip, check out the Airalo plan that suits you best on their website here.