SIM vs eSIM: Benefits of eSIM for International Travelers

Discover the advantages of eSIM for international travel and why you should make the switch from SIM to eSIM.
Table of Contents
Arijana Tkalcec and Matej Span underwater selfie, Similan Islands, Thailand
Hi! We're Arijana & Matej

Welcome & thank you for reading our blog. :) We love what we do and put a lot of work in our free articles. We hope you find what you are looking for!

Benefits of eSIM for International Travel - Benefits of eSIM for travelers - Switching from SIM to eSIM - SIM vs eSIM comparsion - is eSIM worth it - advantages of eSIM - disadvantages of eSIM

About eSIM Technology

eSIM technology is a new innovation that is revolutionizing how we use SIM cards in mobile devices.

Unlike traditional physical SIM cards, eSIMs are virtual SIM cards embedded in mobile devices. They can be downloaded and activated digitally, eliminating the need to insert a physical SIM card into the device.

As travelers, in particular, we can benefit from the convenience and flexibility of eSIMs when switching between different countries and networks. All this is now done digitally, without visiting a physical store.

Benefits of eSIM for International Travel - Benefits of eSIM for travelers - Switching from SIM to eSIM - SIM vs eSIM comparsion - is eSIM worth it - advantages of eSIM - disadvantages of eSIM

eSIM adoption around the world

eSIM adoption has been steadily increasing worldwide, with more smartphones and mobile operators supporting eSIM technology.

Major smartphone brands like Apple, Google, Samsung, Huawei, Motorola, Xiaomi, and more have already incorporated eSIM support in their devices for a good few years. And almost any new phone is now equipped with an eSIM.

Additionally, many eSIM service providers have emerged in countries worldwide, offering eSIM plans and data packages specifically designed for travelers. These eSIM service providers allow you to purchase and activate eSIMs remotely, making traveling extremely convenient.

It has made looking for the most convenient package a breeze, as you can shop through online catalogs of eSIM options catering to various types of travel needs. It’s truly become the quickest way to get online, practically as soon as you land in another country.

Subscribe to Shipped Away! 🙂

Get travel tips, ideas, plans, behind the scenes, and more.

Benefits of eSIM for travelers

Switching to eSIMs offers several benefits for travelers.

One of the main advantages is international use. Before traveling, you can easily buy eSIM plans for the countries you intend to visit and only activate them during the trip. This eliminates the need for physical SIM cards and allows for seamless mobile connectivity while traveling.

eSIMs also provide convenience for business travelers who frequently travel between different countries. Instead of carrying multiple SIM cards or relying on international roaming services, business travelers can simply buy an eSIM plan. This allows them to maintain their mobile connectivity and stay connected with clients and colleagues no matter where they are.

This is also where multiple-country eSIM packages come in handy. Many eSIM packages offer connectivity in multiple countries at still good prices, especially for shorter periods.

Traveling soon? Get insured!

With 24/7 worldwide assistance, Heymondo includes comprehensive coverage for medical expenses, trip cancellations, and baggage loss or delay. Click here for details.

5% Off Heymondo Travel Insurance

eSIMs also eliminate the need to search for local SIM card vendors or deal with language barriers when purchasing a local SIM card. You can simply activate an eSIM remotely before your trip and have immediate access to a local carrier’s network upon arrival.

Furthermore, eSIMs allow you to choose the most suitable network provider. For example, you can shop around to find an operator offering the best network coverage in a specific destination. All from the comfort of your home.

Best eSIM Marketplaces for finding travel and tourist eSIM packages

Finding travel and tourist eSIM packages is extremely easy with the availability of various eSIM marketplaces where you can browse and purchase eSIM plans from different network providers.

Most eSIM marketplaces provide eSIM plans for various countries, if not the whole world.

So buying your eSIM on one of the trusted eSIM marketplaces is the safest and most affordable way to quickly find the most suitable plan for your travel itinerary and budget.

Airalo - best eSIM marketplace for travelers and tourists


190+ destinations

Affordable for short and long trips

SimOptions - best eSIM marketplace for travelers and tourists


200+ destinations

Great selection of eSIM and prepaid SIM plans

Holafly - best eSIM marketplace for travelers and tourists


130+ destinations

The go-to for buying unlimited eSIM data plans

1. Airalo

Airalo provides eSIM plans for over 190 destinations worldwide, including Africa, Asia, Europe, Oceania, and North and South America.

Airalo’s eSIM plans are some of the best on the market and often the most affordable options for both short and long trips.

This makes Airalo the best eSIM marketplace overall.

Airalo discount

Use the code MATEJ1033 to claim a $3 discount on your first Airalo eSIM purchase.

2. SimOptions

SimOptions provides eSIM plans for over 200 destinations worldwide.

Much like Airalo, SimOptions offers a great selection of eSIM plans, but in addition provides the service of getting a prepaid SIM card package.

3. Holafly

Holafly is the go-to marketplace for buying unlimited eSIM data plans, especially for longer trips to more than 130 destinations worldwide.

Holafly discount

Use our link or use the code SHIPPEDAWAY on checkout to claim a 5% discount on your eSIMs.

What is the best eSIM marketplace?

In conclusion, while there are countless eSIM marketplaces, you can easily find the right eSIM plan for your travel needs with a combination of Airalo, SimOptions, and Holafly.

Buying an eSIM at local mobile network operators

Another option is to visit the websites of local mobile network operators directly. Those that have adapted the eSIM technology have a list of available eSIM plans and packages, allowing you to choose the one that best fits your travel requirements.

Although, this is often a bit more complicated due to the language barrier, and the fact that many local operators don’t cater specifically to travelers and tourists.

In comparison, using eSIM marketplaces like Airalo, SimOptions, and Holafly allows you to easily find and purchase eSIM packages that offer local data plans and connectivity in different countries. This eliminates the need to search for local eSIM or SIM card vendors.

Also, local providers that usually sell SIM cards at airports and other entry points to countries have yet to start selling eSIM options. It’s still all physical SIM there.

Credit Card

Save money on conversion fees and ATM transactions. Get a Wise card!

Choosing eSIM vs SIM as a traveler: Pros and Cons

When it comes to comparing the pros and cons of buying an eSIM or physical SIM card for traveling, there are several factors to consider.

Advantages of eSIM

One of the main advantages of eSIMs is their flexibility. Unlike physical SIM cards, eSIMs can store multiple profiles, allowing you to switch between different networks without physically swapping out SIM cards. This is particularly useful for travelers who frequently switch between different countries and networks.

One such scenario is vacationing in Thailand with a Thailand eSIM package and then going on a trip to Vietnam with a Vietnam eSIM. Depending on the validity of your Thailand eSIM, you can still simply use your Thailand eSIM package on your return to Thailand for flying out of Southeast Asia.

Better yet, you can buy an Asia eSIM package and get connectivity in both countries (and more!). And if you travel frequently between continents, it’s worth checking out the Global eSIM.

In contrast, physical SIM cards require you to insert and remove the card from your devices physically. This can be cumbersome, especially when traveling or when using dual SIM phones that require managing two physical SIM cards.

And let’s not forget the stress of finding a good SIM card package on your arrival at the airport or in the city. With eSIM, you can completely forget about that step of travel.

Another advantage of eSIM packages bought from eSIM marketplaces is that you do not need to go through the identity verification process with your passport, which is usually done at local SIM card stores.

Disadvantages of eSIM

However, there are a few disadvantages to consider when using eSIMs. One of the main disadvantages is the limited availability and support for eSIMs. Not all smartphones and network providers currently support eSIM technology.

Additionally, eSIMs cannot be easily transferred to other devices. Unlike physical SIM cards that can be removed and inserted into different devices, eSIMs are tied to the specific device they were downloaded onto. This can be problematic if you want to switch to a new device or share your eSIM with another device.

Overall, the choice between eSIMs and physical SIM cards depends on your preferences, travel needs, and budget.

But in general, the advantages of traveling with an eSIM far outweigh those of regular SIM Cards.

Benefits of eSIM for International Travel - Benefits of eSIM for travelers - Switching from SIM to eSIM - SIM vs eSIM comparsion - is eSIM worth it - advantages of eSIM - disadvantages of eSIM - Stunning beach in Kas, Turkey
Check next: Kas & Turkey travel guides

Activating your eSIM before traveling to a new country

Activating an eSIM before traveling to a new country is a quick and easy process.

When you purchase an eSIM plan, the eSIM provider issues an eSIM QR code or activation code. You then use this code to download/install the eSIM onto the device’s chip and make it available for use.

Time needed: 15 minutes

eSIM Step-by-Step Activation Guide

  1. Choose your eSIM provider

    Select a reputable eSIM provider with data plans suitable for your travel needs.

  2. Purchase your eSIM

    Visit the eSIM provider’s website and choose the data plan that best suits your requirements. Add the plan to your cart and proceed to checkout to complete the purchase.

  3. Receive the QR code

    After your purchase is complete, you will receive an email containing a QR code from the eSIM provider to your email address. Keep this email accessible on your device.

  4. Scan the QR code

    On your device, open the camera app and scan the QR code received from the eSIM provider. This will activate the eSIM and initiate the download of the necessary eSIM profile. If you’re wondering how to do this on the phone, just save the QR code image or take a screenshot of it, and then tap on it in your photo gallery. It should scan it.

  5. Optional: Manually install eSIM plan

    If you can’t scan the QR code, follow the manual steps for adding the eSIM to your phone. It’s very straightforward and shouldn’t take a long time either.

  6. Confirm the eSIM activation

    Follow the on-screen instructions to confirm the activation of the eSIM profile. This may involve entering a confirmation code or selecting the appropriate settings on your device. Sometimes, you need to send a text message to the provider’s phone number to activate the eSIM.

    Ensure that your device has a stable internet connection for the initial activation process. We usually do this at the departure airport before flying into a new country, so as soon as we land, we’re online.

  7. Enable Data Roaming on the new eSIM plan

    Enable Data Roaming in your new eSIM plan settings; otherwise, it won’t work. Don’t forget this step!

  8. Turn off “Cellular Data Switching”

    When you enable data roaming, make sure to turn off “Cellular Data Switching”; otherwise, the phone might switch to your home plan if the eSIM loses connectivity. This is usually something that rarely happens, but it’s possible in elevators of skyscrapers, where the connection drops. So, if your home plan gets connectivity first, it might cause extra costs.

  9. Set new eSIM data plan as primary

    Make sure to set the new eSIM plan on your phone as the primary one for mobile data. This way, your home plan won’t be used for data, but it can still receive texts and phone calls.

    Otherwise, remember to remove or disable your physical SIM card while using the eSIM to avoid any conflicts or additional charges.

  10. Start using your new eSIM

    Once the eSIM activation is complete, you can start using your eSIM to access mobile data. The validity period usually starts when the eSIM connects to the local network’s cellular data. But make sure to check this, as sometimes it starts right after installation (Steps 4-5-6).

Device Compatibility: Ensuring your smartphone is eSIM compatible

Before using an eSIM, ensuring your smartphone is compatible with eSIM technology is important.

AppleiPhone 15, 15 Plus, 15 Pro, 15 Pro Max, iPhone 14, 14 Plus, 14 Pro, 14 Pro Max, iPhone 13, 13 Mini, 13 Pro, 13 Pro Max, iPhone 12, 12 Mini, 12 Pro, 12 Pro Max, iPhone 11, 11 Pro, 11 Pro Max, iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, iPhone SE (2020, 2022), iPad Air (3rd Generation), iPad Air (4th generation), iPad Pro 11-inch (1st-2nd-3rd generation), iPad Pro 12.9-inch (3rd-4th-5th generation), iPad (7th generation), iPad (8th generation), iPad (9th generation) iPad Mini (5th generation), iPad Mini (6th generation)
SamsungGalaxy S23, Galaxy S23+, Galaxy S23 Ultra, Galaxy S22, Galaxy S22 Ultra, Galaxy S22+ , Galaxy S21, Galaxy S21 Ultra, Galaxy S21+ , Galaxy S20, Galaxy S20+, Galaxy Note 20, Galaxy Note 20+, Galaxy Note 20 Ultra, Galaxy Fold 4, Galaxy Fold 5, Galaxy Z Flip5, Galaxy Z Flip 4, Galaxy Z Flip 3
GoogleGoogle Pixel 7, 7a, 7 Pro, 6, 6a, 6 Pro, 5, 4, 4a, 4 XL, 3, 3 XL, 3a, 3a XL
OthersHuawei P40, Huawei P40 Pro, Huawei Mate 40 Pro, OPPO Find X5, OPPO Find X5 Pro, OPPO Find X3 Pro, Sony Xperia 10 IV, Sony Experia 10 III Lite, Motorola Razr (2019), Motorola Razr 5G, Nuu Mobile X5, Honor Magic 4 Pro, Fairphone 5, Fairphone 4
List of compatible devices for eSIMs

Please note that device compatibility may vary based on regional restrictions and carrier limitations. It’s important to check with your device manufacturer or eSIM provider to ensure compatibility before purchasing an eSIM.

You can check this convenient article about device compatibility.

Tips for troubleshooting eSIM issues while traveling

While eSIM technology is designed to be user-friendly, there can be instances where you may encounter issues or difficulties with your digital SIM while traveling.

Here are some tips for troubleshooting common eSIM issues:

  1. Contact your eSIM provider: If you are experiencing persistent issues with your eSIM, contact your eSIM provider for assistance. They can help troubleshoot the issue and provide guidance on resolving any connectivity or activation problems.
  2. Restart your device: Sometimes, a simple restart of your device can resolve minor connectivity issues. Try turning off your device, waiting a few moments, and then turning it back on again to see if the issue is resolved. Another similar trick is to switch the flight mode on and off.
  3. Update your device firmware: Keeping your device’s firmware up to date can help address any compatibility issues and ensure optimal performance with eSIM technology. Check for any available updates for your device and install them if necessary.

However, the most common mistake when using an eSIM while traveling is forgetting to activate it. Sometimes, it gets activated right as you install it, but often, you need to send a text message or do a similar manual step. So just make sure to follow the eSIM installation and activation instructions.

Benefits of eSIM for International Travel - Benefits of eSIM for travelers - Switching from SIM to eSIM - SIM vs eSIM comparsion - is eSIM worth it - advantages of eSIM - disadvantages of eSIM - Beautiful Beach in Koh Tao Thailand
Check: Koh Tao, Thailand

Frequently Asked Questions about eSIMs

Can you use an eSIM in multiple countries?

Yes, you can use your eSIM in multiple countries. You can easily buy a multi-country package that provides seamless connectivity to more destinations. In that case, you can keep the same eSIM plan and the same mobile number.

Are there any limitations to using an eSIM compared to a physical SIM card while traveling?

While eSIMs offer many advantages for travelers, there are a few limitations to consider. Not all mobile phone brands and network providers support eSIM technology. So availability may be limited for some users and in some areas. And there is no way to transfer an eSIM from one phone to another – unlike with a physical SIM.

Can you use data sharing (hotspot) on an eSIM?

Yes, you can use data sharing, also known as a hotspot, on an eSIM while traveling. Just like with a physical SIM card, you can enable the hotspot feature on your device and share your mobile data with other devices. Before purchasing an eSIM package, check about hotspot availability if you require it, as some plans have it locked.

Can you get an eSIM with unlimited data?

Yes, many eSIM packages with unlimited data exist, which are a great option for traveling. Check out Holafly, the go-to marketplace for unlimited data eSIM plans.

Can you top-up data on an eSIM?

To top up data on your eSIM, you can follow the instructions provided by your eSIM provider. This may involve using an app or website to purchase additional data packages or credits. It’s recommended to top up before your current data plan expires to avoid any interruptions in connectivity.

Are there any hidden charges with eSIM plans?

eSIM plans typically do not have hidden charges, as they function just like a prepaid phone plan. However, it’s important to carefully review the terms and conditions of the eSIM provider to ensure you understand any additional fees or charges that may apply, such as data overage fees or international calling rates.

Can you send messages and make calls on an eSIM?

Yes, many eSIM packages now include a local number for making and receiving calls and texts, making it easy to call local businesses and use local apps while traveling. An eSIM is still a real SIM card, it’s just digital.

Is it possible to keep your home country number active?

Yes, it is possible to keep your home country number active while traveling with an eSIM. With eSIMs, you can have multiple phone numbers and plans active on your device, allowing you to receive calls and messages on your home country number while using the eSIM for mobile data in other countries.

What should you do if you face connectivity issues?

If you encounter connectivity issues with your eSIM while traveling, it’s recommended that you contact your eSIM provider’s customer support team. They can provide troubleshooting assistance and guide you through any necessary steps to resolve the issue.

How long do you need to wait to receive an eSIM?

eSIM is a digital SIM card that you receive in seconds or minutes after purchase by email or inside the app.

Final thoughts on choosing an eSIM for international travel

Without a doubt, eSIMs really are a must-have and the most hassle-free way to stay connected on your travels.

Since we got phones supporting eSIM technology a few years back, we have switched our “home” plans to eSIM and simply buy eSIMs whenever we travel. We haven’t inserted a SIM card in our phones in years.

Plus, over the years, we have saved a lot of time and trouble by no longer needing to visit any mobile store and browse through overpriced packages for a new SIM card. We’re online as soon as we land in a new country – simple as that.

We really can’t think of any disadvantages of eSIM that would make us return to a physical SIM.

Happy travels!

Disclaimer: This post may contain affiliate links, which means if you book something through them, we may earn a small commission. But at no extra cost to you!

This helps us to keep posting great informational content and keep everything fresh and up-to-date.

Thank you for your support!

Arijana Tkalcec and Matej Span underwater selfie, Similan Islands, Thailand
Arijana & Matej

We thrive while slow-traveling and focus on experiences, meeting locals, and immersing ourselves in the cultures we stumble upon. And we love publishing in-depth, researched and above-all, useful travel guides.

So if you like our work, and would like to support us, you can tip us a coffee. ☕

Have a question or an update you would like to share with others?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *