Traveling with eSIM cards

For all my travels, ensuring stable and reliable communications has always been one of my top priorities. It helps you to find stuff, stay connected to people and keep yourself safe. Luckily, technology has improved a lot during the last years. From WiFi surfing to local SIM cards for your smartphone, we’ve done it all. In recent years though, these little SIM cards can be gradually replaced with their digital counterpart, the eSIM (electronic SIM card).

If you travel to many countries, swapping physical SIM cards can be a hassle. Also, I can tell from my own experience that changing the SIM on a smartphone continuously can damage the SIM slot over time. Many network providers nowadays offer the option to go for an eSIM, and most modern smartphones – including the iPhone models in the last three years, support eSIM cards.

The beauty is that with an eSIM you can basically just import the SIM via a QR code and then store it on your phone, just like a passkey. In theory, you could store an almost unlimited amount of eSIMs on your phone, and then activate/deactivate them as you please.

I have made sure to get an eSIM from my home country provider, because my phone supports two parallel SIM cards (either a physical SIM and an eSIM or two eSIMs at a time) to be active. So the physical SIM card slot stays always free for those countries that do not yet have eSIM.

There are many ways to get an eSIM nowadays. If you search the internet, you will find a lot of global providers like Airalo or Hellofly that offer online purchase of eSIMs for individual countries or even regions. My experience with these companies, though, is that the prices are often exaggerated compared to what you can get directly in the country. To me, these companies are just an emergency fallback for convenience. I would always advise to purchase a SIM or eSIM card directly in the destination country from one of the main phone companies.

Keep in mind that for activating an eSIM for the first time, you will need a strong and stable WiFi connection AND you will need to be present in that country at the time of activation. This is another drawback of pre-purchased eSIMs from one of these global providers – you can only activate the eSIM once you’re there, and you need good WiFi to do it. It is way easier to look for the local cellular phone provider’s booth on the airport and get their best offer for a tourist prepaid SIM or eSIM.

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