This is a paid article written in partnership with AloSIM, with products or services supplied by them. Full editorial integrity is maintained at all times. The views and opinions expressed are entirely the authors own based on personal experiences when travelling and are honest and factual without any bias.
Staying online while travelling the world is more important than ever before, and eSims are a perfect way to stay connected to local networks without hassle, fuss or expensive roaming charges! Here is your ultimate guide to eSims and using them while travelling.
Long gone are the halcyon days of the gap year, where backpackers would have to search for an internet cafe on Khao San Road so they could send those monthly emails to their parents to let them know they were still alive, and then staying offline for another few weeks while they hopped around an island or two. Now smartphones are an ubiquitous tool in any travellers packing list and everyone is on line all the time.
In many ways being online is essential for modern travellers. Trusty paperback guidebooks have been replaced by more in depth, accurate and up to date information from travel blogs and online reviews, accommodation can be researched and booked at the touch of a button, transport apps like Uber or Grab are reliant on being online, it has made staying in contact with loved ones back home as easy as chatting to another traveller in your dorm room and of course you can’t use any of the quintessential social media apps without it.
But how exactly do you stay online while travelling? Of course you could always use local wifi hotspots, which can be risky and leave you wide open to a number of security issues or you could use your own home networks data, which can come with a hefty price tag if you are caught out with roaming charges.
Getting a local sim card is a tried and tested method for staying online, and honestly it is still a great option, for now at least. You simply buy a local SIM when you get to your destination, put it into your phone, pay for some data and you are on your way. The vast majority of travellers probably still do this. It does however mean that you have to wait until you are actually in your destination, can find a local shop selling them and then still have to go through the fiddly process of putting them in, which is not the easiest of processes with modern smartphones and those damn paperclip style keys when you are on a side street in Delhi! The real problem with this method will become more apparent over the next few years as Apple have declared they are doing away with the traditional sim card eventually, and other brands will almost certainly follow suit.
eSims on the other hand are a great way to make sure you have data and can get online the second you get off the plane, which is ideal if you need to organise safe transport late at night or book yourself somewhere to stay quickly.
What Are eSims?
An eSim is quite simply a virtual sim card. Instead of being a physical piece of plastic that you insert into your phone, it is a software based app that acts like a sim card and gives you data packages by using local networks. This means you get to keep your own phone number, because you are still using your own actual sim card, and use data without any roaming charges because you are using local networks. It really is the best of both worlds. All you have to do is buy a data package for the specific destination you are heading to, or multiple packages if you are planning on visiting multiple countries.
Who Are eSims For?
Eventually eSims will be for everyone as more and more smartphones move away from physical sims, but for now they are the ideal option for any traveller needing to get online while abroad.
Backpackers will be able to stay online without resorting to the old trick of switching sim cards, and saving an absolute fortune in roaming charges in the process, always handy when trying to stick to a budget.
Digital nomads will find eSims invaluable, especially the larger data packages, as they work their way around the world on their laptops. The ease of buying data online cuts back on extra equipment and bulk of WiFi dongles, and means they can rely on local networks safely while submitting their freelance articles or scrolling through social media.
ESims are in fact useful for any traveller, and will become increasingly useful over time.
The Benefits of eSims For Travellers.
Quite simply eSims, or embedded sims are the evolution of the old school plastic sims, and convenience is obviously at the top of the list of benefits of using one, but there are many more than that.
No waiting around.
No need to wait until you can find and buy a physical sim, you can just download it, play with a few settings and you are ready to go!
The best local data speeds.
Because you are using local networks, you know your internet speeds will be as good as any locals and you won’t be reliant on your home network that may or may not be widely available where you are, or roaming speeds that are notoriously low.
Only pay for what you need.
AloSim offers a wide range of data plans, so you can pick and choose which ones suit you best and only pay for what you need. Only in a country for a week but want to keep the internet for research or emergency use? Then just buy a small 1gb package. Staying still for a month or two and have a lot of work to do on your laptop? Then get a bigger package. The point is you no longer have to buy expensive data packages you probably won’t use.
Being online the second you get off the plane in a new destination as opposed to having to find a local sim means that you can avoid the hassle of taxi mafias by arranging an uber from the airport, or make sure that your accommodation is secure and you can keep in touch with someone if you are arriving late at night.
You can switch between sims at will, so if you decide to hop over to another country on a whim or do a good old fashioned cross border visa run, you know you will be able to stay online, and then you can easily switch back to your own sim once you get back home too, all at the touch of a button on your screen.
Do eSims Work On All Devices?
Having the option to switch sims virtually and have access to local networks without opening up your phone and fiddling with awkward little pieces of plastic is a genuine gamechanger, and they have slowly been integrated into newer model smartphones over the last few years. If you have bought a new phone since 2019, there is a good chance it is already compatible, but this means it obviously won’t work on older smartphones. Check out the full list of AloSIM eSim compatible devices here.
How Much Does An eSim Cost?
Because an eSim is a virtual sim card it doesn’t actually cost anything apart from whatever data package you choose to buy. AloSIM offers a free lifetime eSim with any data package.
What Data Plan Do I Need?
It really depends on where you want to go and how much data you want to use. You can buy a data plan for a specific individual country or a pack for a whole region if you plan on hopping over a few borders, and then you just have to choose whether you just want 1gb of data over a week, or 3 or 5gb of data over a month.
How Do I Activate And Use An eSim?
Everyone is used to getting a new sim card, fiddling with that annoying key thing in the tiny hole and swapping out their sims inside their phone, right? Well the good news is using an eSim is far less complicated than that.
Dependent on the make of your phone, the setting themselves will be slightly different, but basically all it takes is changing a few settings.
How to install an eSim on my iPhone or iPad
How to install an eSim on my Samsung Galaxy
How to install an eSim on my Google Pixel
How to install an eSim on my Android phone/tablet
How to install an eSim on my laptop
After that all you need to do is activate your data plan when you arrive at your destination, and then switch back to your own sim when you get back home. It really is that simple!
The Freedom Of Prepaid Data.
No matter whether you are a backpacker or a digital nomad, travelling to one country or many on a full gap year, having data to get online is essential and eSims are making that process easier and cheaper by the day.
Remember, it’s important to put your phone down once in a while and take in your travel adventures without looking at the world through a screen, but when you do need to get online, an AloSIM eSim is a great option.
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I have never heard of these before, I always just buy one when I arrive at a new destination. Are they really a replacement for normal sims though?
At the moment not really as many phones still use physical sims and will do for a good few years yet, but eventually they will be phased out. At the moment the best way to describe them is a cheap and convenient alternative.
Would you say these are better than just buying a sim card when you get to wherever you are going and then buying a data pack? I know where I am with that at least!
I get why people do stick with what they are familiar with Kevin but genuinely yes, these are just as easy once you get used to them, often cheaper and a lot more convenient.
Wait, what? Apple are doing away with sim cards? When did this happen?
I don’t know when they announced it exactly but their latest models use eSims and I think eventually this will be the norm.