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International eSIM Selection: A Quick Guide

I use my phone to book ridesharing, compare airline tickets, check in, discover lodging, navigate a new city, and decide where to eat.

Infinite.

I got a local SIM card in practically every nation I visited when I started long-term travel in 2012. Finding a vendor, comparing carriers and plans, and making payments was a chore. Sometimes in a foreign language (or even using hand gestures). No choice existed.

Yes, now.

I had more SIM cards.

eSIM claims to eliminate smartphone difficulties when traveling internationally. I'll explain eSIM so you can decide if you need one.

We'll start eSIM

To begin: A actual SIM card is a gold-clad, fingernail-sized piece of plastic that inserts into your phone to identify you. Magic allows voice, text, and data to reach your phone.

eSIM is a virtual SIM card. "Embedded Subscriber Identity Module" SIM card removal no longer requires a paperclip.

Friend, rejoice!

Okay.

Compatibility?

Check if your phone, tablet, laptop, or smartwatch is compatible with eSIM before planning a no-more-SIM-card party.

Google Pixel 2 was the first primary phone to enable eSIM. Apple followed with iPhone XS and Samsung with Galaxy S20. Check this list to discover if your device supports eSIM.

Most compatible phones still have a physical SIM tray, making it difficult for customers and carriers to upgrade. Both worlds are sound!

Before switching virtual or physical SIM cards, ensure your device is unlocked. If you acquired a phone from a carrier for a low (or no) upfront cost, they might lock it to keep you from leaving. Call your home carrier if unsure. Try a friend's SIM card if you don't want to wait 48 million years on hold.

If you lack patience or friends, here are more ways to check your locked status.

If your phone doesn't support eSIM, go shopping. *WINK*

The latest iPhone models support eSIM.

eSIMs are beneficial at home as well as abroad. However, this article focuses on overseas travel. Apple lists which carriers support eSIMs.

We're almost there. What's relaxed about virtual things?

No waiting for a SIM card or hotspot gadget in the mail and free shipment.

eSIM users don't have slow data speeds. Use top-notch 4G and 5G networks abroad. Network coverage affects internet speeds, but that's true everywhere.

Keep your original SIM card for roaming calls or texts; you may switch back to it when you arrive home without a paperclip.

Peace of mind - is perhaps the most crucial travel component. Enjoy your holiday instead of looking for a SIM card salesperson at the airport.

No need to visit a store to add credit. Hit the eSIM provider's website or app.

Switch providers in seconds without removing or inserting a SIM card.

Most overseas eSIM carriers provide 1-week, 2-week, or monthly plans. Better than buying a local SIM card for a whole month when you only need a part.

You've heard the horror stories of bill shocks. eSIM prepaid data plans let you control your spending, preventing unwelcome surprises at home.

There is no need to use dangerous airports, railway stations, or restaurant wifi networks. Hackers love these.

Keep your WhatsApp number—you won't miss essential texts. Telegram, iMessage, and Facebook Messenger work properly on eSIMs because they use the Internet.

SIM cards can quickly be dropped or misplaced when switching phones. A friend told me. Yeah.

International eSIM limitations

No silver bullet exists. eSIM is cool, but it's still immature compared to established options.

Data-only subscriptions don't always include a local phone number. That might Interest you.

Most compatible phones can download more than 1 eSIM, but only 1 can be utilized simultaneously. The iPhone 13 supports 2 active eSIM. Woot!

Use your data cautiously - limitations may be lower than at home. Sip, don't gulp.

No more swapping SIM cards!

International eSIM: for you?

Now ask yourself challenging questions. Visualize yourself on vacation and consider how often and what you'll use your phone.

Light users may only check emails and Facebook once daily, whereas heavy users may stream movies while making a group video call.

What's your phone usage?

The use of services/apps affects data use. Here's a calculator for email, web browsing, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, Spotify, and more.

Trip length?

A lengthier international eSIM plan is pointless. If your journey is over 1-2 months and you don't require a home number, overseas eSIM may be overkill.

You're visiting how many countries?

What's the speed? The more nations covered, the more valuable an international eSIM is Cruises, road vacations, and multi-country tours are its forte. Some carriers provide US-specific or regional plans (e.g., Europe).

Check out my articles on eSIM in Europe and the US.

Tethering?

Your phone will be the hotspot for your tablet, laptop, and friends' phones. Tethering lets you share 1 eSIM to save money.

“Time is money.”

International eSIM plans cost more than local SIM cards, but they're much handier. You don't have enough time on vacation already. Don't squander it.

How to Start an International eSIM

After answering these questions, compare eSIM providers and plans.

1) Check the data allowance if voice/text is vital to you. If the provider offers more data, check upgrade prices now rather than later.

2) Telco networks vary. Check your eSIM provider's website to see which networks are used abroad.

3) Check Trustpilot reviews for network coverage and customer support (you never know). Website live chat is a plus.

I recommend Airhub. It's cheap and straightforward to set up.

After choosing a provider, buy. Purchase from the provider's website or app. eSIM setup requires an Internet connection, so do it before leaving home.

1) After paying, you'll receive a QR code on the provider's website, app, or confirmation email.

2) Update phone settings

iOS: Cellular/mobile data > Data plans

- Android: Settings > Mobile Network > Carrier > Add Carrier

Scan the QR code or follow the app's instructions to download your eSIM. Some eSIM require a code (which is provided to you at the same time as the QR code). Here are thorough instructions for iPhone, Samsung, Google Pixel, and Huawei.

eSIM Advice

Intricacies matter. Here are the top eSIM tips for smooth travel.

- Your "data plan" expires, but don't destroy your eSIM. You could reuse it. Please don't delete your purchased data plan before it's over.

- Some countries have KYC (Know Your Customer) regulations for telecommunications.

Don't procrastinate. While eSIM delivery is rapid, you shouldn't start researching the night before your flight. Prepare for travel.

Check data balance. This varies by device and provider. Phone data settings are usually available.

Choose a primary SIM. Check your home SIM for cheap or free-roaming calls and pricey data. Data-only international eSIM will work.

- Turn off roaming if you're using your home SIM and provider without realizing it. No bill shock!

- If you run out of data, suspend your plan or top-up.

Disable app updates on your phone and laptop to save data. A tethered connection with a friend or family member will be treated as "wifi" even if updates are enabled just for wifi.

In sum

Now you understand international eSIM. I'm a supporter of eliminating plastic SIMs and switching providers in seconds.

If you watch your data consumption like you do your diet (no ice cream for breakfast), an eSIM will make your next international trip easy.

Now is a fantastic time to upgrade if your phone isn't up to date. Do you need an excuse?

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