If you plan on visiting the UK, having a SIM card is essential. Having internet access while traveling allows you to easily navigate new cities, discover the best restaurants, find directions to your accommodation, book taxis, and share photos with your family on the go.
While roaming is an option, the international fees can quickly accumulate. That’s why we recommend either an eSIM or a local SIM card to access local phone rates. Thankfully, obtaining an eSIM or local SIM card in the UK is incredibly straightforward, but it’s beneficial to know which option is most suitable for you.
This comprehensive guide provides all the information you need to purchase a SIM card in the UK, including current pricing and the absolute best SIM card to meet your needs.
The best sim card in the UK is the Vodafone Pay as you go Sim deal. For just 10 GBP you will get 7 GB of data, unlimited minutes and unlimited texts valid for 30 days. On top of this, Vodafone often runs promotions, you can check the current pricing here.
Vodafone, Three and O2 all have very extensive mobile networks across the UK so it is highly unlikely you will experience not having internet connection, so any of these three will be fine.
If you are a very heavy data users then check out Three as their plans offer good value for large amounts of data. For 15 GBP you will get 50GB of data valid for 30 days which is a great deal if you need the extra data.
The Airalo UK eSim is also a great option for travellers who appreciate the extra convenience of using an eSim. The prices are not quite as good as the local sim cards but I consider them to be still pretty reasonable. For $10 USD you will get 3GB of data, or for $15 USD you will get 5GB.
This is not quite as good as the local sim cards, but you won’t need to visit a store, buy a sim card, buy a plan and install the sim card. Instead, you can buy the [Airalo eSim](http://The best sim card in the UK is the Vodafone Pay as you go Sim deal. For just 10 GBP you will get 7 GB of data, unlimited minutes and unlimited texts valid for 30 days. On top of this, Vodafone often runs promotions, you can check the current pricing here. Vodafone, Three and O2 all have very extensive mobile networks across the UK so it is highly unlikely you will experience not having internet connection, so any of these three will be fine. If you are a very heavy data users then check out Three as their plans offer good value for large amounts of data. For 15 GBP you will get 50GB of data valid for 30 days which is a great deal if you need the extra data. The Airalo UK eSim is also a great option for travellers who appreciate the extra convenience of using an eSim. The prices are not quite as good as the local sim cards but I consider them to be still pretty reasonable. For $10 USD you will get 3GB of data, or for $15 USD you will get 5GB. This is not quite as good as the local sim cards, but you won’t need to visit a store, buy a sim card, buy a plan and install the sim card) before you go and it will begin working when you arrive in the UK. It’s much easier and I consider it worth the extra cost but it depends on your budget and data requirements.
If you are planning to visit the EU, then it is a good idea to ask in store whether their plan includes EU roaming for free. Currently, only O2 offer EU roaming for free whilst the other providers cancelled this post-Brexit.
A Tourist Sim Card in UK costs 10 GBP in February 2024, however, the exact price will often depend on the store you visit and the plan you choose.
Alternatively, an eSim in UK will cost between $5 USD and $36 USD. This, again, depends on how much data you require and which eSim provider you choose.
I generally recommend this Airalo plan for most tourists visiting UK which includes 5GB of data which is valid for 30 days and costs $15 USD.
The UK is home to several main SIM card providers, offering a wide range of plans and services. Three (3), known for its competitive prices and generous data allowances, is a popular choice among customers. With its strong network coverage and affordable international roaming options, Three attracts frequent travelers. Vodafone, one of the largest telecommunications companies worldwide, offers reliable coverage and a variety of plans tailored to different lifestyles. Additionally, Vodafone provides excellent customer service, making it highly regarded among consumers. O2, known for its wide-reaching network and attractive perks such as O2 Priority, appeals to customers seeking additional benefits and access to exclusive events. With these providers, customers have plenty of options to suit their specific needs and preferences.
Three is a popular telecommunications company in the UK offering tourist sim cards. Their tourist sim card provides unlimited data usage and offers fast internet speeds across the country. With competitive pricing, Three’s sim cards are an excellent option for tourists. Additionally, they provide extensive coverage, ensuring a seamless experience for travelers exploring different parts of the UK. Three’s tourist sim cards also come with additional perks such as free calls and texts, making it a convenient choice for visitors.
The price of a Three (3) tourist sim card in UK is 15 GBP.
The plan offered by Three (3) stores includes 50GB data + unlimited minutes & texts valid for 1 month.
Vodafone is a renowned telecommunications company offering convenient tourist sim cards in the UK. Their sim cards provide international visitors with exceptional connectivity and affordable rates for calls, texts, and data. Travellers can enjoy seamless communication and internet access throughout their stay, allowing them to explore and share their experiences without any worries. Vodafone’s reliable network and user-friendly packages make it a preferred choice for tourists visiting the UK.
The price of a Vodafone tourist sim card in UK is 10 GBP.
The plan offered by Vodafone stores offers 7GB data + unlimited minutes + unlimited texts valid for 30 days.
O2 is a renowned telecommunications company in the UK, offering tourist sim cards for international travelers. These sim cards provide convenience and connectivity while exploring the country, with extensive coverage and high-speed data options. O2’s tourist sim cards come with various prepaid plans, allowing visitors to stay connected, make calls, send texts, and access the internet seamlessly. With O2, tourists can enjoy a hassle-free and reliable communication experience throughout their visit to the UK.
The price of a O2 tourist sim card in UK is 10 GBP.
The plan offered by O2 stores includes 7GB data valid for 1 month.
Identify mobile providers: Three (3), Vodafone and O2 are your best options in UK.
Find your nearest store: Locate a store or retailer by searching on Google Maps for your nearest store or asking at your hotel reception. I’ve never had issues finding a store as they can usually be found in major cities, shopping centers, or tourist areas. If possible, I always recommend to to avoid airports and head in to an official store in the city.
Bring the necessary documents: It is always a good idea to carry your passport or identification documents for sim card registration purposes. We’ve found most providers will need to confirm your identity to provide a sim card and it can be a major hassle to head to a store only to have to come back again later with your passport.
Choose your plan: Either request the plan you are after or consult with the staff in the store to select the right plan for you. My recommendations at the beginning of this guide are a good starting point, but the staff will usually be able to suggest the best option.
Pay and activate your card: Pay for the SIM card and plan, and the staff will activate it for you.
Test: It’s always a good idea to check that you can access the internet before you leave the store. I always search for something on Google then refresh my Instagram feed to check it’s working fine.
Buying a prepaid sim card for UK at the airport is usually considered the most convenient option for travellers arriving by plane.
However, airport stores selling sim cards are almost guaranteed to charge inflated prices, so if you are a cost-conscious traveller then you should definitely buy your sim card from a store in the city center.
In addition to this, we would argue that buying physical sim cards at all aren’t particularly convenient now that most people use esim compatible phones. If you are looking for the most convenient option, then buying an esim before you arrive or with the airport wifi is much easier and will save you having to queue up or communicate with staff.
If you must purchase a sim card at the airport in UK then you will be in luck. All major international airports in UK have stores selling sim cards. Despite the prices being higher than normal, the staff are knowledgable and will be able to get you set up with the correct sim card relatively quickly.
If you want to avoid the inflated sim card prices you’ll find at the airport and your phone isn’t esim compatible, then you’re going to need to head in to a store to buy your sim card.
I recommend visiting one of the official retail stores of the mobile internet operators such as Three (3), Vodafone and O2. Your best option is to enter their names into Google Maps and find the branch closest to your hotel or accommodation. Typically the staff in the official stores in UK are knowledgable and helpful which means you can ensure you’ll walk away with a functioning sim card.
Despite this, it’s always a good idea to check your internet is working before you leave the store by loading a Google search results page and your preferred social media app. You should also ensure you always bring your passport with you when purchasing a sim card in case they need to register it.
If you like to be prepared and would prefer to arrive in UK with your sim card all sorted and your phone ready to connect to the internet immediately then you should look into purchasing a sim card online.
The first option is to buy your sim card in advance via SimOptions, which is a company that will prepare and ship a sim card directly to your door. It’s a reliable and effective service, but with the invention of eSims it’s becoming obsolete.
The better option is to purchase an eSim online. We’ve written more on that below!
An eSim is a digital version of a traditional sim card and is most likely the future of connectivity for mobile devices. The convenience of no longer visiting a store, handing over your passport and purchasing a physical sim card is quickly making physical sim cards obsolete in favour of eSims.
We recommend Airalo’s eSim when travelling to UK. The Airalo UK eSim offers fast internet speeds, wide coverage and extremely competitive prices making it a far more compelling option than purchasing a physical sim card from any of the local sim card providers.
In order to get set up with an Airalo eSim, all you need to do is visit Airalo here and purchase the eSim online (the $15 USD plan is suitable for most travellers). Once you’ve purchased the sim card Airalo will email you instructions and a QR code. Following these instructions should take just a couple of minutes, then you’ll have a sim card in UK without having to venture outside.
Our preferred eSim provider in UK is Airalo. We used them, alongside a local sim card on another device, for our most recent trip to UK and found the service to be equal to the local sim card but without the hassle of acquiring a sim card in a store.
Airalo’s UK eSim uses the O2 UK and Three UK networks to provide data and connect users to the internet. You can expect very good coverage and reliability with the O2 UK and Three UK networksnetwork as they are amongst the best mobile internet operators in UK.
Here are the plans and prices for Airalo’s UK eSim:
1GB data valid for 7 days – Price: $5 USD
2GB data valid for 15 days – Price: $7.50 USD
3GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $10 USD
5GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $15 USD
10GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $22.50 USD
20GB data valid for 30 days – Price: $36 USD
For most travellers we recommend the 5GB data plan for $15 USD which is valid for 30 days. Some travellers may prefer a larger plan, whilst travellers visiting for just a couple of days may be fine with a smaller plan.
An alternative eSim provider we can recommend is Holafly.
Holafly’s eSim is a suitable option for travellers who require large amounts of data, such as digital nomads and people who work online while they travel. All of Holafly’s UK eSims offer unlimited data.
Holafly’s UK eSim uses the Vodafone UKnetwork to provide data and connect users to the internet. This network will provide reliable speeds and coverage while in UK
Here are the plans and prices for Holafly’s UK eSim:
Unlimited data valid for 5 days – Price: $19 USD
Unlimited data valid for 7 days – Price: $27 USD
Unlimited data valid for 10 days – Price: $34 USD
Unlimited data valid for 15 days – Price: $47 USD
Unlimited data valid for 20 days – Price: $54 USD
Unlimited data valid for 30 days – Price: $64 USD
Unlimited data valid for 60 days – Price: $84 USD
Unlimited data valid for 90 days – Price: $99 USD
An eSIM is a digital SIM card that is permanently installed in a device, such as a smartphone, tablet, or smartwatch. Unlike traditional SIM cards, it does not need to be physically inserted or removed.
Instead, the eSIM is integrated into the device’s hardware and can be remotely activated and programmed by a mobile network operator. This allows users to easily switch between different mobile networks or plans without the hassle of swapping physical SIM cards.
eSIM technology offers convenience, flexibility, and simplicity, especially for frequent travelers or those who frequently switch between different mobile networks or travel internationally. It eliminates the need to purchase and insert physical SIM cards, making it much easier to manage multiple mobile connections on a single device.
To activate an eSIM, users can scan a QR code provided by their mobile network operator or manually enter the activation details. Once activated, the device can connect to the chosen mobile network and access voice, data, and messaging services just like with a traditional SIM card.
One reason why using an eSIM can be beneficial is the convenience it offers. Unlike traditional SIM cards, eSIMs eliminate the need for physically inserting or removing a SIM card when switching between mobile networks or plans. This is especially useful for frequent travelers who may need to switch networks or use local SIM cards in different countries.
Another benefit of eSIMs is the dual SIM functionality they provide. With an eSIM, users can have two active mobile numbers on the same device. This feature can be helpful for separating personal and work numbers or for managing multiple phone lines.
Additionally, eSIMs offer a space-saving advantage. Since they are embedded within the device, there is no need for a physical SIM card slot. This allows manufacturers to make devices smaller or utilize the extra space for other components.
The remote provisioning capability of eSIMs is also noteworthy. Activation and management of mobile plans can be done remotely over the air, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card or visiting a store. This offers greater flexibility and convenience in managing mobile connectivity.
Furthermore, eSIM technology ensures future-proofing. As more mobile networks and service providers begin to support eSIMs, using an eSIM-compatible device allows users to take advantage of new services and offerings as they become available.
Overall, eSIM technology provides convenience, flexibility, and future-proofing for mobile connectivity, making it an appealing choice for many users.
eSIM technology is becoming increasingly popular and is supported by a growing number of smartphones and other devices. Here are some examples of eSIM-compatible phones:
Apple iPhone series (iPhone 11, iPhone 12, iPhone 13, etc.): Apple was one of the early adopters of eSIM technology and offers support for eSIM on various iPhone models.
Google Pixel series (Pixel 3, Pixel 4, Pixel 5, etc.): Google’s Pixel smartphones also support eSIM functionality, allowing users to activate and use eSIMs.
Samsung Galaxy series (Galaxy S22, Galaxy Note 20, etc.): Many of Samsung’s flagship devices now come with eSIM support, enabling users to utilize eSIM technology.
OnePlus devices (OnePlus 7, OnePlus 8, etc.): OnePlus has included eSIM support in some of its smartphone models, offering users the flexibility of using eSIMs.
Motorola Razr (2020): The latest iteration of the iconic Motorola Razr features eSIM compatibility, enabling users to use eSIMs for cellular connectivity.
These are just a few examples, and the list of eSIM-compatible phones continues to expand as more manufacturers embrace this technology. There’s a very strong chance your phone supports eSims so if you’re unsure we recommend looking it up on our list of eSim supported phones.
Using an eSim is new for many travellers, however, the good news is it’s surprisingly easy to get set up – even for the technologically challenged!
Here’s a general guide on how to use an eSIM:
Check eSIM Compatibility: Ensure that your device supports eSIM functionality. Many newer smartphones, smartwatches, tablets, and other devices are eSIM compatible including all iPhones produced since 2018.
Obtain an eSIM: There are multiple ways to acquire an eSIM. You can purchase an eSIM online from a provider like Airalo (which we recommend) or directly from a mobile network operator. Some devices also allow you to scan a QR code provided by your carrier to download the eSIM profile.
Activate the eSIM: Your eSim provider will send you instructions to activate the sim. This will usually involve scanning a QR code, entering an activation code, or downloading the eSIM profile directly onto your device.
Set up the eSIM: Once activated, your device will guide you through the eSIM setup process. This typically involves selecting the eSIM as your preferred mobile plan, configuring settings like data roaming, and entering any necessary authentication details.
Enjoy the Connection: Once the eSIM is set up, you can use it as you would with a physical SIM card. Make calls, send messages, browse the internet, and use data services as needed. You can also switch between eSIM profiles if you have multiple eSIMs installed on your device.
Hi, I’m Mitchell. I’m a full-time traveller, explorer and travel blogger. Travel Sim Expert is a blog dedicated to helping you find the best sim card for you, no matter where you are or what your budget is.