How To Get a UK eSIM for Travellers

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Are you planning a trip to the United Kingdom? If you are, congrats!

The Land of the Rose Isle has so much to offer its visitors. But before you start packing your bags, there's one important thing to take care of: getting a UK eSIM for your smartphone. 

Don't worry, it's not as complicated as it sounds. In this article, I'll walk you through everything you need to know about getting a travel-friendly eSIM in UK.

By the end of this article, you'll be ready to hit the ground running (or should we say driving?) in the UK!

So let's get started...

Imagine your dreamy Scotland road trip on the Isle of Skye

How eSIM Works in UK for Travellers

If you’re a tourist visiting the UK, using devices that support an eSIM make it easier to get connected quickly. Manufacturers like Apple and Samsung have released smartphones, tablets, and smartwatches with an integrated eSIM chip, meaning tourists heading to the UK don’t need to source separate old-school plastic SIM cards to access the Internet. 

With a smartphone or computer, travellers can sign up for a data plan from their home country, or switch to a new provider once they arrive at their destination. This makes travelling with your phone much, much simpler, saving time and hassle while still giving you all the benefits you'd expect from a reliable cellular data plan.

Getting around London is much easier when you’ve got the Internet in your pocket

Related article: Check out my recommendations if you’re visiting London for the first time.

Benefits of Using a UK eSIM for Travel

Since the first eSIM-compatible smartphone rolled out in 2017, more and more devices are getting on board with this new technology. In fact, the latest iPhone model only supports eSIM (handsets sold in the US). There are many good reasons to ditch the old physical SIM for the fully digital replacement - eSIM (or “Embedded SIM”).

Instant delivery - say goodbye to waiting for days (or even weeks!) and paying extra shipping fees. With instant delivery, you can get connected quickly, and easily, with zero extra cost.

Lightning-fast data speeds – forget about being a second-class citizen with eSIM. You can still use the same premium 4G and 5G networks when you take trips to the UK. Of course, your data connection speed may be subject to network availability - but that's true for any destination. The UK offers very thorough reception all over the country.

Only pay for what you need - don't get stuck with a plan for a whole month when you're only staying in the UK for a few days — there are UK eSIM providers that understand your needs and offer flexible options, with daily or weekly passes. Now that's the Internet with no strings attached. 

Peace of mind - vacationing is a time to relax and enjoy, so don't let the stress of finding an unreliable SIM card seller ruin your day. Prepare before you fly by getting your hands on a convenient travel-ready international eSIM plan. 

Keep your original physical SIM card - make life easy on yourself; no more needing to reach for that bent-out-of-shape paperclip when travelling; and just switch back to your usual plan when you return.

Related article: If you’re planning a trip around Europe, check out my first-timer’s guide.

Who Offers eSIM in UK?

There are 4 major mobile networks in the UK that support eSIM: EE, O2, Three, and Vodafone. In addition, there are several smaller resellers that utilise these networks, such as: Virgin Mobile (O2), Lebara (Vodafone), and Lycamobile (O2). 

Some of these networks require users to buy a physical SIM card before “upgrading” or “swapping” to an eSIM. What a waste of time and plastic!

On top of that, all these networks have plans aimed at local residents with long-term commitments. That doesn't suit most travellers who might only be in the UK for a few weeks, or a month or two.

Don’t worry.

Holafly is an international eSIM provider that covers dozens of countries, including the UK, USA, and Europe. Holafly creates affordable travel-friendly prepaid eSIM plans starting from just US$19, with periods as little as 5 days. It doesn’t own a mobile network, but utilises the Vodafone network, which covers 99% of the UK population. And best of all, Holafly now includes unlimited data!

Get started today: Buy an eSIM for the UK from Holafly and save 5% with our exclusive code "TRAVELWITHBENDER".
Vodafone 4G/LTE coverage map in the UK (source: GSMA)

How to Activate a UK eSIM

Once you've confirmed your device is compatible and unlocked, the purchase process from eSIM providers is usually a breeze. All it takes are a few quick steps - simply provide contact and payment information via their website or app. Then, watch as an email with a unique QR code lands in your inbox within minutes. Scan away on your phone, and voila – you’re ready to go!

Tip: To avoid wastage, only complete the QR scan when you’re ready to start using your plan – not before you leave home.

Here are detailed step-by-step activation instructions for the most popular handsets: iPhoneSamsung GalaxyGoogle PixelHuaweiMotorola Razr.

Important Tips for Using Your eSIM in UK

There are a few important things you should know about eSIMs in the UK to ensure your trip goes off without a hitch.

- Don't delete that eSIM! Leave it on your phone for later use, as data plans come and go but the eSIM never expires. Keep in mind though - if you end your plan early without using up all allocated data, any remaining allowance won't be available afterwards.

- When buying an eSIM, you may need to provide extra paperwork. Certain countries have KYC regulations for telecom services, so make sure your passport is ready.

- Don't wait until the last minute to set yourself up for success - planning ahead and getting fully prepared will give you peace of mind. Start researching all your eSIM options now, so that when it comes time to travel, you can relax knowing everything is squared away.

Beautiful Edinburgh at sunset

- Need to check how much data you've been using? Most phones make it easy - simply look in the settings section of your device. Depending on who provides your service, there may be a few extra steps involved, but they won't take long. 

- Decide which SIM is your primary. Find out if your home SIM offers cheap or free roaming phone calls and expensive data. In that case, a data-only international eSIM will do the job.

- Avoid costly bill shock by double-checking that you're not using your home's SIM while overseas. To make sure, switch off roaming before leaving the country to avoid unexpected costs.

- Monitor your data usage daily, otherwise you may have to pause your plan or top up if it starts running low. Be sure to stay in control.

- Keep your data usage low and manage app updates with one simple tip... disable automatic updates on both phones and laptops. Even if you've enabled wifi-only updates, remember that a tethered connection will still use up your data.

The Bottom Line

It’s time to start getting excited about your upcoming trip to the United Kingdom. Now that you’ve sorted out your mobile Internet connection, you can start focusing on planning attractions, tours, and food – the real reason why you’re travelling. 

Find your UK inspiration here.

Discount: Save 5% on Holafly's eSIMs with our exclusive code "TRAVELWITHBENDER".

Reader Comments...

"I respond to every comment by direct private email. I look forward to your feedback" -

Thank you for the information

akhil achieversit Dec 13th, 2022

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