Everything you need to know about virtual SIM cards for your next international trip

Man using his phone on the top of a mountain.

When you travel, even to the most remote locations, odds are you want to stay in touch with the outside world which requires high-speed mobile data. Traditionally, that meant you’d need to buy a physical SIM card, but now with the invention of the eSIM or virtual SIM cards, you can save time and money while staying connected. 

Many new phones have an electronically embedded, built in SIM called an eSIM, removing the need for an additional physical SIM card while abroad. And there are many countries, especially in Europe, that boast data providers offering virtual connectivity plans so you can stay in the loop from a distance. 

Want to take advantage of the convenience and ease of this new technology? We’ve got all the details you need to understand eSIM cards so you can take full advantage of this technology for your next trip. 

What is an eSIM or virtual SIM card?

Basically, an eSIM or virtual SIM card is a digital version of a physical SIM card. It allows you to connect to a new mobile data network using an app or by simply signing up without needing to install a physical SIM card.

This saves you time and alleviates the need to go out and buy a SIM card when you arrive at a new destination. You can activate your eSIM and get online in a matter of minutes, even purchasing it pre-trip and timing it to activate when you land. 

You can also use it in tandem with your physical domestic SIM, so you can benefit from both mobile data providers if needed.

The benefits of virtual SIM mobile data plans

There are many advantages to going virtual, including the obvious: not losing your home SIM card when you switch them out. Some other pros include:

  • Not wasting time finding a new SIM when you land
  • Instant installation and $0 delivery fees
  • Multi eSIM capabilities (some phones can hold 20 eSIMs)
  • Ability to switch between an eSIM and a physical domestic SIM card

Do all networks support eSIM?

No, not all networks offer eSIMs, but many do. In most countries, you will be able to find a few options to choose from before you leave home. For a virtual phone plan while in the United Kingdom, for example, you can get an eSIM online from EE, O2 or Vodafone. 

Do eSIMS work on all phones?

First and foremost, it’s important to note you’ll need an unlocked phone to use virtual sims. Most new phone models offer eSIM services and even iPads with 4G connectivity have an eSIM option. Here is a full list of the latest compatible devices

How do I set up an eSIM once I’ve activated it?

Most of the time, it’s as simple as purchasing the policy, opening an email with a QR code that you’ll need to scan, and following a few instructions from the carrier. It could differ depending on your phone’s make and model. We’ve found some step-by-step guides with troubleshooting help for Apple and Android to help you out if you get stuck. 

And here’s a video for iPhone activation if that’s more your style:

How much data should I buy for my trip?

Americans use an average of about 15 GB of mobile data every month, but when you’re abroad, it’s likely to be a bit higher as you navigate your way around new destinations. It’s a good idea to take out around 30 GB a month and opt for more if you see you’re using a lot in your first couple of days to a week. 

Also, most hotels, restaurants and even event spaces (like theaters and museums) offer wifi, so feel free to ask for that password to preserve your precious data for when you’re out and about.  

Staying connected and safe wherever you go

You’ve got the low down on all things eSIM, so now all you need is travel coverage to be fully prepared for wherever you head next. Trust Faye to get you there and back protected.

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