A beginner’s guide to travel eSIMs: How to use eSIMs for travel

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Heading out of the country soon? Forget about buying a new physical SIM card whenever you visit a different country. Travel eSIMs are the new way to stay connected while abroad. Here’s what you need to know about using eSIMs for travel, including benefits and drawbacks, how to activate an eSIM, and how to make the best use of a travel eSIM.

What is a travel eSIM, and why do I need one?

One of the latest innovations in travel tech, eSIMs are digital SIM cards embedded directly into the processors of mobile devices. Compatible devices come pre-equipped with an eSIM, so there’s no need to buy and install a card manually.

While eSIMs can be used at home, there are notable advantages to using eSIMs for travel. It’s super easy to switch between carriers and plans, which minimizes service interruptions while you’re globetrotting.

Additionally, there’s no need to visit a store in person to get a new SIM card or buy online and wait for it to be shipped to your home. eSIM cards can be purchased online and activated immediately using a QR from your carrier. Plus, there’s a huge range of plans offered by many different providers, giving you plenty of control over how much you pay based on the travel data you think you’ll need.

Are there any drawbacks to using an eSIM for travel?

Not all carriers support eSIMs, and not all devices are eSIM compatible. However, eSIM usage is growing dramatically, so mobile users can expect to see these limitations decline in the coming years.

Where can I buy a travel eSIM?

There are many providers that sell global eSIM plans with service in different countries and regions. Take a look at some of the most popular ones below.

How to deactivate your regular SIM and activate your eSIM for travel

Before activating your new eSIM card, deactivate your regular SIM card. This will protect your personal data and help you avoid getting hit with unnecessary roaming charges.

Deactivating a SIM card is pretty easy. Here’s how it works:

  1. Back up your phone, including contacts, messages, and any other data.
  2. Notify your mobile carrier about your travel plans and ask that your SIM card be temporarily deactivated. Your carrier will guide you through the process.
  3. Once deactivated, remove your SIM card from your phone and store it in a safe place.

Activating an eSIM for travel is even easier than activating/deactivating a physical SIM card. Usually, you’ll need to contact your travel plan carrier and get a QR code. Scan this into your phone to activate the eSIM.

The following tips may help if you’re having trouble knowing how to use an eSIM when traveling:

  • Make sure your device is eSIM compatible
  • Check your wireless connection. Restart your phone if necessary.
  • Re-scan your carrier’s QR code
  • Contacting your carrier for help

Check your network coverage and device compatibility

With travel eSIMs, you can stay connected almost anywhere in the world. Many new cell phone models are eSIM compatible. If you have an old phone, you may need to upgrade to a newer model to begin using eSIMs for travel. Check out a list of eSIM-compatible devices here.

eSIM plans piggyback on domestic carriers’ networks. To find out where you can get service in a given country, visit the network provider’s website or contact the network provider directly. If you’ve already landed, apps like OpenSignal (Android and iOS), LTE Discovery (Android), and Network Cell Info Lite (Android) provide info on network strength in your area and surrounding areas.

How much travel data do I need?

To get the most out of your travel eSIM, you’ll want to strategically plan your data usage. Up to 5GB of data is good if you don’t use your device often, while moderate users might want to be safe and go for a 10GB travel data plan. Look for higher data plans if you’re an active online gamer or stream a lot of high-quality videos.

Here are a few tips for minimizing your data usage while traveling:

  • Connect to Wi-Fi whenever possible (airports, hotels, cafes, etc.). But consider using a VPN to prevent unauthorized access to your device and data.
  • Disable automatic device updates and limit the number of apps that run in the background. Many phones make it easy to do this with data-saving mode.
  • Don’t stream much music or video, or download files in advance to avoid streaming while you travel.
  • Use data compression apps to reduce the size of web pages and images.
  • Disable data roaming to avoid automatically using foreign networks.
  • Go on airplane mode when you’re not using your device.

How to stay safe when using a travel eSIM

Compared to physical SIM cards, eSIM cards are much harder to hack because you can’t simply remove the card from a device.

Even though eSIMs reduce the risk of your SIM card getting lost or stolen, it’s still important to safeguard your personal data while abroad. One of the best ways to protect your personal data while using Wi-Fi is with a virtual private network (VPN). VPNs create a tunnel of sorts through which you can access the internet without your personal data being visible to others using the same Wi-Fi network.

Another great way to stay safe while using public Wi-Fi is to disable file sharing and AirDrop. Doing so makes it harder for nearby devices to access your files. Also, avoid accessing non-secured websites. Look for “https://” in the URL, which indicates that data is encrypted when being transferred between your device and the server.


Yes. Some eSIM plans offer service in multiple countries or regions (USA & Canada, Europe, Asia-Pacific, etc.). Others are country specific. Before you buy an eSIM, make sure it supports your destination country.

You can’t buy an eSIM card that works in every country, but you can buy an eSIM that offers service in multiple countries or regions. If you’re planning a trip around the world (sounds exciting!), you might need to get multiple eSIM plans and activate them separately as you travel.

Yes, it’s possible to buy and activate a data-only eSIM travel plan on your phone. Although, if you want to do more than just access the internet on your device, you’ll need a full-service eSIM plan that also lets you text and make calls.


Why settle with a physical SIM card, when you can get a digital SIM card that you don’t have to stand in line at a store to buy and that you can activate and manage remotely? Use an eSIM to avoid the hassle of interrupted mobile service when traveling internationally.

You can’t yet use a travel eSIM with all phones and providers. But more and more eSIM options are popping up on the market, so stay ahead of the trends and start riding the wave.