Last Updated on May 22, 2023
It’s crazy to think how much we now rely on constantly being connected. When I first started properly travelling, wifi and smartphones still weren’t really a thing (the first iPhone was released the year before!). I remember buying calling cards and using public phone boxes! But travel has changed and with more companies choosing to go digital, having overseas data is very much something we potentially need to consider! Here is my Airalo review, a global eSIM provider!
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- Airalo Review
While I was living in the US, I found that US phone providers don’t always include an option for data roaming, even at a premium. My sim card simply just didn’t work outside of the US.
So I used to travel with a UK pay as you go sim, along with the tool to open up my phone sim card slot. I would then be sat on the plane performing what felt like an operation on my phone on the tray table, trying desperately not to drop my sim card on the floor! I then had to spend the duration of my trip trying not to lose this tiny piece of plastic and metal.
With my current UK network, I still get free roaming within EU countries, but some companies no longer honour this. So an option for those travelling using a provider that does allow data roaming, is to pay the quite expensive day rates.
Another option would be to buy a local sim card on arrival. In all honesty, this IS the cheapest option. However this is another thing to think about when you land, you may not have a data plan straight away and you’ll still be having to guard your tiny ‘home number’ sim with your life, for the duration of the trip.
My new go-to is to install an Airalo eSIMs. I can get data as soon as I arrive and it runs alongside the sim card that’s already inside my phone.
How Much Does An Airalo eSIM Cost?
Airalo has a data packs for 200+ countries and regions across the globe. The packs vary depending on the amount of data included, the duration of the eSIM and the region. You can get local eSIMs for individual countries, regional eSIMs and Global eSIMs (which covers multiple countries in one pack).
Putting the costs into perspective, here’s a comparison of an Airalo eSIM for Thailand (which I plan on getting when I go) against the data roaming fee with my UK provider:
Airalo Thailand eSIM: 15 days of unlimited data + a number to receive and make local calls = $19.95 (£16.08)
EE Data Roaming Day Pass: £7.84 ($9.72) for 500mb PER DAY = 15 days would work out at $145.80 (£117.85)
*Airalo plans are priced in $USD, but they work in other countries, as long as the phone is compatible*
I would never pay £117.85 for data roaming.
For those located in the UK, looking at travelling in the EU, here is a comparison for Spain:
Airalo Spain eSIM: 2GB data for 15 days = $6.50 (£5.23)
EE Data Roaming Day Pass: £2.29 ($2.84) PER DAY = 15 days $42.19 (£34.35)
(£15 Roam Abroad monthly pass is available for Spain, with EE)
How Does Airalo Work
The most important thing is to make sure that your phone supports eSIMs. I have an iPhone SE 2020 and it works fine. Then, you download the Airalo app and create an account. You can search through all the packs available by country or region, and then choose the one that bests suits you.
I installed my eSIM before I left for my trip. It doesn’t fully activate until it picks up a signal in the country that the sim is for. There is a detailed step by step instruction guide within the app, telling you exactly how to do it. Make sure to follow EVERY step listed.
The eSIM runs alongside the current sim. So my regular UK sim and number does the calls and then the data roaming points to the eSIM. Before EU roaming was a thing, you may remember having to turn off ‘data roaming’ when travelling across borders. When using an eSIM you would turn off data roaming in the phone settings for the regular sim and then activate it for the eSIM instead.
It sounds complicated, but Airalo have a troubleshooting guide on the website, and a support desk who do respond pretty quickly. If you are having troubles, you will need to connect to wifi to do this though. I will talk more about this below, but it’s always good to make sure you have a plan B in case you can’t connect straight away.
I used Airalo for my trip to Zanzibar. I knew before I went that Zantel has the strongest signal on the island, however the only Tanzania eSIM was with Tanzacomm. The network strength was patchy and most of the time I only had a 3G signal. It was strong enough to send texts but internet was quite slow to load. I was quite remote, so it is what I was expecting. I got by though using WiFi and the data plan.
I will update again after I have been to Thailand, where I will mostly be on the mainland.
Tips for when you don’t have data/signal
It’s ALWAYS important to have offline backups just in case there is no signal. Even when I’m travelling in the EU, where I know my coverage is fairly reliable, I have offline backups such as:
- Saved offline versions of Google Maps, for the places where you know you’re going to go.
- I also have individual Google Map screenshots of where my hotels etc are located.
- Screenshots of booking reservations, flight times, saved to the phone camera roll.
- Download boarding passes to an app like Apple wallet, where they are then available offline rather than solely relying on being able to access the airline’s app.
What data includes
The majority of the Airalo packages are data plans, so this includes: apps (including video calls in Messenger) and web browsers such as Safari. It does NOT include standard text messages or regular phone calls, they still go through the primary sim at normal roaming network rates.
Data is used for WhatsApp, so any calls and messages through that are included. I have found that more and more travel related businesses are using WhatsApp as a means of communication.
The Airalo app gives you a full breakdown of how much data has been used and how much is left. If you start to get low, you are able to top up right from within the app. If you run out completely though, you will need to be connected to WiFi.
The rule of thumb that I usually go by is that 1 hour of video calling is approximately 1GB of data. In comparison a solid hour of web browsing is less than 100MB. So if you are just using it for messages or checking opening hours, nearby attractions etc, it’s going to take a long time to reach 1GB!
When I was living in the US my everyday sim card only had 1GB of data per month. Combined with using WiFi, I think I only got close to running out once and that was a high travel month where I was out and about more.
Airalo Discount Code
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