Over the last few years, travel eSIMs have taken the world by storm.
They have completely revolutionised travel forever. Having the ability to touchdown in any country and instantly get a fast, reliable mobile data connection with no extra hardware, no need to charge any special devices, and no need to track down a physical shop… well, that’s pretty darn amazing.
It puts stress-free travel within reach of the masses.
Say goodbye to fiddly SIM card swapping, frustrating lost connections, eye-watering bills, and international roaming nightmares.
Say hello to Holafly.
Who is Holafly?
There is a growing market of travel-focused eSIM providers to fill the insatiable demand for mobile data anywhere at any time. And at the front of the pack is an innovator, pushing the boundaries of international internet connectivity.
Holafly is a communications provider founded in Spain in 2018 that now offers eSIMs for all types of travellers - from casual short-term leisure, to frequent business, to long-term digital nomads.
They have built a well-deserved reputation for reliability. Over 15,000 reviews on TrustPilot can’t be wrong.
Holafly doesn’t own or manage a physical telecommunications network, but rather partners with local mobile networks all over the world. These services are packaged into travel-friendly data plans and sold via their website and mobile app. All customer support also goes through Holafly’s team of experts.
Not to rest on its laurels, Holafly continues to innovate. In June 2022, they became the first in the industry to offer unlimited data caps on travel eSIMs. And in March 2023 they released eSIM top-ups for even more freedom and convenience.
Discount: Save 5% on Holafly's eSIMs with our exclusive code "TRAVELWITHBENDER" or use the link at the bottom of this article.
Regions Covered by Holafly
So, your first question will probably be, “does Holafly work in (wherever my next destination is)?”. The answer is “probably yes”. Covering more than 160 destinations from France to the Philippines, you can almost guarantee your destination is on the list – unless you’re exploring North Korea. In which case, mobile internet is the least of your worries.
Holafly offers 2 types of eSIMs:
- Local eSIMs - work in just 1 country (such as Japan), and
- Regional eSIMs - work in several countries, for example:
Regional eSIM plans give you more flexibility to roam wherever you want without having to change plans or buy multiple plans.
The regional Europe eSIM (my favourite) is especially handy, covering these countries: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Croatia, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, United Kingdom, Czech Republic, Romania, Sweden, Switzerland, and Ukraine.
Holafly eSIM Pricing Plans
The right eSIM plan for you will depend on your travel schedule and data usage.
Holafly offer 2 types of pricing models, depending on the destination:
- Unlimited data - based on the number of days (available in Europe, North America and some countries in Asia), and
- Fixed data – based on the number of days AND data cap measured in gigabytes (like most traditional eSIM providers).
The plan prices vary from one region/country to another, so the best thing to do is take a look at this list of countries on the Holafly website and go from there. The longer the data plan, the cheaper it gets per day.
Some examples of popular destinations:
- Europe (5 days, unlimited data): US$19
- United States (5 days, unlimited data): US$19
- Australia (30 days, 10GB): US$34
- Thailand (5 days, unlimited data): US$19
If you’re not sure how much data you need, as a rough guide, most travellers who use their phone each day should aim at 6-10GB per month. Here is a free calculator to help work out a personalised estimate based on your typical usage.
Holafly eSIM Real World Experience & Speed Test
I used Holafly while travelling across Europe last year in more than a dozen countries. Almost everywhere was fast and reliable. The only exceptions were very remote areas during road trips, with relatively little 4G coverage, which was not surprising.
And more recently, I tried their unlimited eSIM in Malaysia. It was super easy to install – just took a few seconds, and the speeds were better than expected. Here’s a screenshot of a speed test on a tropical island – 95Mbps!
Yes, it was fast. Really fast. And it worked perfectly everywhere that I had a decent 4G signal.
Note: Most travel eSIM providers connect to a network as a “roaming” user, not “native”, including Holafly. This means browsing speeds won’t be quite as fast as if you went direct with a local provider during periods of heavy network congestion. But weighing up convenience and flexibility, travel eSIMs are still a far better choice.
Travel hack: once you know your destination country, check the network used by Holafly (on their relevant country page, click “Technical Specs”) and then take a look at the GSMA network coverage map. This way, you know can tell if there are any network “dead zones” in the areas you’re travelling to before you get there. This is especially handy on long road trips.
How Does eSIM Work?
Unlike an old-school thumbnail-sized plastic SIM card, eSIMs are entirely embedded within the phone. There’s nothing to insert or remove. They are simply configured via software on the phone and by your selected mobile data provider (Holafly in this case). Without going into technical mumbo jumbo and getting bogged down in jargon, let me just say they are a breath of fresh air in terms of ease of use.
You can switch between providers with just a few taps, which puts pressure on providers to give you the best possible value and service, rather than locking you into a long-term plan.
eSIM technology was first released in 2017, and now almost all new mid-to-high-end phones support it – Apple iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, Huawei, Xiaomi, and Sony. Check out this comprehensive list of eSIM-compatible devices to find out if yours is on there.
Installing a new Holafly eSIM is easy peasy. Here are Holafly’s step-by-step activation instructions for the most popular handsets: iPhone, Samsung Galaxy, Google Pixel, Huawei. And my first-hand experience:
Why Holafly Travel eSIM is Better Than Public WiFi & International Roaming
Public WiFi networks are dangerous – they’re a giant bullseye for hackers. Cafes, hotels, parks, airports, you name it. Even more so if there is no network password – then all traffic is completely unencrypted. Not to mention, most of them are as slow as molasses.
I learned about this danger the hard way several years ago, when I used a public WiFi network for only a few minutes before having my Instagram account stolen by Russian hackers. Goodbye, 170,000 followers.
Alternatively, international roaming from your “home” telecom provider is expensive, averaging around US$10 per day. When you’re travelling for a few weeks or even a month or two, that’s a lot of Coronas.
Holafly’s travel eSIM is an easy, affordable, safe and fast alternative.
Most destinations covered by Holafly offer pretty competitive rates, especially for those with unlimited data. I’m a heavy Internet user, so I need a stable, fast Internet connection wherever I go. Not to mention I rely on my smartphone to get me from point A to point B.
Last year, before I used Holafly for the first time, I crossed a land border in Asia and experienced firsthand how frustrating (and expensive) a lack of mobile data can be. I had researched my trip as best as possible; however, the 2 countries involved were just emerging from Covid-era lockdowns and travel restrictions. I was expecting to walk across the border and catch a train to my final destination 1 hour away. Once I walked through, I discovered the train station was completely shut down. There were no buses. No people around. No other tourists. A ghost town. And there were no public WiFi hotspots, so booking an e-hailing service was off the table. The only thing I could do was flag down a random taxi van that gleefully raked me for an exorbitant fare. I had 2 options – pay for an overpriced fare, or be stuck on the side of the road for God-knows-how-long.
That was an expensive lesson.
After that, I used Holafly.
Why I Like The Holafly eSIM?
It’s so easy
The website is smooth and intuitive, so online purchases are effortless. Trying to compare different tourist-friendly SIM plans in a foreign country, where English may not be widely spoken, has always been a royal pain in the butt. Not to mention, having to remember to bring my passport along. Now in just a few seconds, I can have everything I need without even getting off the couch. Bliss!
The eSIM is delivered instantly via email after purchase – no waiting for a courier or having to pick anything up at an airport.
No need to check data usage
In regions that offer unlimited data, it really is unlimited. Goodbye nervously checking data usage every 15 minutes!
Holafly clearly identifies the mobile network/s used in each country. Not all networks are equal in terms of coverage and strength. Simply click the “technical specs” tab on the destination page.
Holafly partners with top-tier mobile networks, so the coverage is better than competing eSIM providers who cut corners in this area.
Multiple carriers on 1 eSIM
In regions like Europe, this is a huge benefit. Each country has their own set of 4G networks, and the old-school method of buying a different physical SIM card in each country made me tear my hair out. Now 1 eSIM with Holafly covers dozens of countries – no more SIM swapping.
No need for internet connection to activate the eSIM
After you’ve initially installed the eSIM (which requires an internet connection), it can sit there until you’re ready to activate it. Just jump off the plane, pull out your phone, and within a couple of taps, you’re online. Easy!
eSIM lasts forever
The “data plan” you choose has a fixed time limit, however, the actual Holafly eSIM on your phone does not. So do not delete it when you’ve finished your trip – just deactivate it. As of March 2023, Holafly support top-ups so you can re-use your existing eSIM, eliminating the need to install a new eSIM each time.
Live support 24/7
Get help when you need it with live chat on the Holafly website (in 5 languages). Also available on WhatsApp. I found that during some periods, the replies can take a little while, but any issues I had were always resolved.
Pay by card
Online payments can be done via Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Google Pay, Apple Pay, and Paypal. If you’re a credit card point hacker and trying to earn as many points as possible, every little bit counts. And many cheap physical SIM cards in developing countries can only be purchased with cash in a physical store.
You can now manage your Holafly account and easily install the eSIM without having to scan another device (or copy and paste long codes) thanks to their new mobile app. The Android app is coming soon.
What Could Be Better
No physical SIM cards available
Holafly started their journey with SIM cards, but now exclusively focuses on eSIM. So only newer phones that support eSIM can be used. That has inspired me to upgrade to a new phone.
Only unlimited plans in some regions
While the unlimited plans are excellent value for moderate-to-heavy users, if you’re an ultra-light user, those might be overkill. There are cheaper cap-limited options available from other providers.
Tethering is not supported on unlimited plans. That’s not ideal if you have 2 devices like a smartphone and a laptop. Also, check each destination with “regular” capped plans, as tethering support is not available in a couple of specific locations (like Morocco and Chile) due to local network policies. This is clearly identified on Holafly’s country page.
No phone number
This eSIM is just for data. But you can still use apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Facebook Messenger and more for instant messaging and voice/video calls. And if your phone supports Dual SIM (chances it does if it supports eSIM) then you can use your “home” SIM for receiving calls and SMS and Holafly for mobile data – just double check any international roaming voice/text costs with your home provider first.
Live chat support language
While they do offer support in English, it doesn’t take too long to realise that this company is based in Spain. So some phrases a native English speaker would use can get lost in translation, and cause misunderstandings. That caused some inconveniences for me, but eventually, all issues were resolved.
The Bottom Line
Holafly has saved my bacon on more than once in Europe. I’m a satisfied repeat customer, and can honestly recommend their eSIMs to other travellers.
The greatest compliment I can give about Holafly is that I almost forget about them sometimes. That means I can be present in the moment while travelling, or navigating to the next destination, or savouring local flavours. I’m not cursing at my phone when the 4G connection drops out, holding it up high trying desperately to catch a tantalising mobile signal morsel, or dropping everything and wasting precious time to top-up my credit when it runs out.
I’m just enjoying travel. The way it should be.
Price: from USD$19
Where to buy: holafly.com (use this link for an exclusive 5% discount on all eSIM plans)