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Airalo eSIM Overview and Review — The Perfect Mobile Data Solution for Travelers?

Andrew Kunesh's image
Andrew Kunesh

Andrew Kunesh

Former Content Contributor

Countries Visited: 28U.S. States Visited: 22

Andrew’s a lifelong traveler who puts in over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew’s worked at Th...
Edited by: Kellie Jez

Kellie Jez

Director of Operations & Compliance

Countries Visited: 10U.S. States Visited: 20

Kellie’s professional experience has led her to a deep passion for compliance, data reporting, and process improvement. Kellie’s learned the ins and outs of the points and miles world and leads UP’s c...

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Having access to the internet when you travel can be an absolute godsend. You can use it to navigate around new cities, find new places to hang out, and keep in touch with friends and family. Plus, remote workers can use a mobile hotspot abroad to work without being tethered to free Wi-Fi.

But there’s no doubt that international data can be frustrating. Buying a local SIM card can be a tedious process, and carriers like AT&T and Verizon charge a huge fee to use data plans abroad.

On the other hand, T-Mobile and Sprint offer free international mobile data, but you’re restricted to slow 2G speeds.

Thankfully, though, we’ve found a cheaper and more convenient solution for international mobile data: Airalo.

Airalo is an eSIM marketplace that smartphone users can use to buy temporary mobile data plans when traveling abroad. eSIM cards are like normal SIM cards that live digitally on your phone, letting you use another cell phone network when you travel.

This means that Airalo mobile data plans are completely separate from your standard mobile data plan and run on a different network.

Sounds complicated, right?

It can be difficult to wrap your head around. So in this article, we’ll take a look at what eSIM cards are, discuss how the Airalo service works, and give our full review of the service.

What’s An eSIM?

eSIM cards work like standard SIM cards, but are much more convenient. Image Credit: Brett Jordan

eSIM stands for “electronic Subscriber Identity Module.”

These act like any other SIM card and contain your phone number and data plan, letting your smartphone connect to a cellular network for data, calls, and texts.

Unlike standard SIMs, though, eSIMS are embedded in your phone or tablet. You generally add these eSIMs to your mobile device by scanning a QR code or entering a code on your device — think of it as a software SIM card.

Many major U.S. cell phone carriers have already started offering eSIM cards to their customers — something helpful for switching carriers on the fly since you don’t need to go to a phone shop to buy new phone service.

But eSIMs really come in handy when traveling. This is because you can buy local eSIMs remotely through select eSIM marketplaces like Airalo.

Essentially, these marketplaces sell temporary phone service that can be used abroad. The benefit of this is that you can buy mobile data plans at near-local prices without having to physically buy a SIM card at a cell phone shop.

This saves you a ton of time, especially if you’re traveling to a country like France where your passport is scanned and logged when you buy a SIM card.

You can buy these eSIM cards at-will, too, and they generally work for a set amount of time. When this period ends (or you run out of data) you can simply top-up the eSIM or purchase a new one from another carrier.

What Smartphones Support eSIMs?

eSIM is a relatively new technology, so only newer phones support it.

On the iPhone side of things, the iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max support eSIMs. We assume that all future iPhones will support the technology, too, but all previous iPhones don’t.

A few flagship Android phones support eSIM, too, like the Pixel 3, Pixel 4, and various other devices. However, not all Android phones are supported by Airalo, so make sure to check out the service’s full list of supported phones, tablets, and computers for more info.

Don’t Worry, You Can Use 2 SIM Cards at Once, Too

Both iOS and Android support the use of eSIMs and standard SIM cards in-tandem.

This means that you can set your physical SIM card to handle voice and text messages, while your eSIM card handles all of your mobile data.

This is especially useful for iOS users as you can keep your U.S. phone number active for iMessage when traveling abroad and use an eSIM for data.

Likewise, if you have a cell phone plan with free international roaming for text messages — think T-Mobile and Sprint — you can still send and receive texts and calls to your U.S. number when traveling.

Bottom Line: eSIM marketplaces are an absolute godsend for travelers that want to stay connected. They make it easy to buy cheap data from local carriers, saving you valuable time and money.

Now, let’s a look at Airalo, a premier eSIM marketplaces.

An Introduction to Airalo

Airalo sells eSIM cards for nearly all major countries worldwide, giving you access to mobile data wherever you may travel. Image Credit: Airalo

Airalo is one of the first eSIM marketplaces for iOS and Android.

All of the eSIMs available on Airalo are data-only, meaning that they’re not assigned a phone number and cannot make or receive calls or text messages. They do, however, give you ultra-fast mobile data at nearly local prices.

Hot Tip: Make calls and send text messages using popular services like FaceTime, iMessage, WhatsApp, Skype, Viber, and Facebook Messenger. These apps all run over mobile data.

You can purchase Airalo eSIMs through the Airalo mobile app or on the Airalo website. Once purchased, you’ll receive a QR code that you can scan with your phone to install on your eSIM-capable iPhone or Android device.

Airalo offers eSIMs for 100+ countries worldwide, so you’ll be hard-pressed to find a country that it doesn’t support. Just keep the app installed on your device, and you can connect to mobile data just about anywhere in the world.

Airalo Offers Tons of Different eSIM Plans

Airalo sells 2 types of eSIMs: local and regional.

As you might expect, local eSIMs are cheaper but only work in 1 specific country, while regional eSIMs are more expensive but let you connect in multiple countries with 1 plan.

The 1 thing that’s similar across all of these plans, though, is that they’re all pre-paid and do not automatically renew, meaning that there are no strings attached. Plus, you don’t have to worry about canceling a data plan or dealing with a carrier directly when you leave a country.

Plans, pricing, and data allotments vary depending on where you’re traveling. For example, you can purchase a 1 GB Greek SIM that’s valid for 7 days for just $3. On the other hand, the same plan in Singapore costs $4.

Here are are a few pricing examples from the Airalo website:

Airalo Local eSIMs

LocationData AllotmentValidityPrice
Czech Republic4 GB30 days$13
Hong Kong1 GB7 days$3
JapanUnlimited (throttled to 128 kbps speeds after 3 GB)5 days$13
United Kingdom3 GB30 days$5

Airalo Regional eSIMs

RegionData AllotmentValidityPrice
Africa (15 countries)1 GB30 days$27
AsiaUnlimited (throttled to 128 kbps speeds after 3 GB)8 days$18
Caribbean Islands1 GB30 days$25
Europe5 GB30 days$20
World20 GB90 days$40

While it may seem like a good idea to always buy the World plan, it doesn’t support all countries.

There are some notable exclusions, like the U.S., Canada, most African countries, and all of the Caribbean, amongst others. The World eSIM is more of an Asia and Europe package, with some other countries (like South Africa) thrown into the mix.

Make sure to read through the supported countries list for all Airalo regional plans. Image Credit: Airalo

Make sure you always check which countries are supported before you purchase an Airalo regional eSIM. You can see this by tapping on the regional eSIM’s name in the Airalo mobile app or by clicking on it on the Airalo website.

My Experience Using Airalo Abroad

Now that you know what Airalo is, I want to walk you through my experience using the service on a 10-day trip in Europe.

While I have a T-Mobile Magenta plan that includes free international data, it’s restricted to 2G speeds. I knew that I needed to work during the trip so being able to use my iPhone’s Personal Hotspot feature was hugely important. This isn’t possible with T-Mobile 2G roaming.

I’d also be traveling to 4 different countries during my trip: the Czech Republic, Germany, Ireland, and the U.K.

All of these countries are in the EU, so I could’ve purchased a local SIM in the first country and used it without roaming fees. However, with such limited time in each country, I didn’t want to waste valuable vacation time in a Vodafone shop in Prague.

With that in mind, I looked through both the World and Europe plans for this trip. Both would’ve suited my needs, but I ended purchasing the World plan as I travel frequently and may be able to use the SIM in other countries.

Bottom Line: Af 10 GB Europe plan was $37 for 30 days while the 20 GB World plan was $40 for a whopping 90 days!

Buying and Configuring an Airalo Global ESIM

Once I found the type of eSIM I wanted to purchase, I downloaded the free Airalo app to my iPhone 11 Pro and created an account. This account lets you purchase eSIM cards and earn Airmoney. As you might expect, Airmoney is Airalo’s loyalty program that gives you 5% back on all Airalo purchases in the form of store credit.

Then, I found the World eSIM on the Regional eSIMs tab of the app’s homepage and tapped on it.

Here, you can view the details of the eSIM. In this case, the eSIM’s carrier is Sim4crew, which actually roams off of a combination of different carriers around the world.

After doing a bit of research, the intended audience for this eSIM is sailors who need to stay connected when docked in different countries. Of course, your everyday points traveler can purchase this eSIM, too.

I tapped the “Buy Now” button at the bottom of the screen and was given the option to pay with credit card (American Express, Mastercard, Visa), by PayPal, or with my Airmoney balance.

I didn’t have enough Airmoney in my account, so I opted to pay with The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express for 2x points.

You can view all of your Airalo eSIMs on the My eSIMs pane in the Airalo app. Image Credit: Airalo

The eSIM showed up in my Airalo account immediately after purchase in the My eSIMs tab. This screen is where you can view and install all of your purchased eSIMs. Simply tap on the Details button underneath your purchased eSIM to view it.

My Experience Connecting to the Airalo Network

In the eSIM’s screen, you’ll see a variety of information and buttons. The first 2 buttons are the installation buttons: 1 for manual installation and 1 for QR code installation.

You’ll have to opt for the manual installation if you’re installing your eSIM on the device you purchased it from. This is because QR code installation requires you to scan the code with your phone’s camera, something that’s not possible if it’s shown, well, on your phone screen.

But don’t worry — manual installation isn’t hard. This is actually how I installed my World eSIM from Airalo.

Here’s how the process went on my iPhone:

Tap the Manual Installation button if you’re installing your eSIM on the device you purchased it from. Image Credit: Airalo

  1. Click the Manual Installation button and you’ll see your SM-DP+Address and Activation Code. These are the 2 things you’ll need to install your new eSIM on your phone. Copy the SM-DP+Address first.
  2. Open the Settings app and tap on the Cellular option at the top of the screen. Look towards the center of the screen and tap the Add Cellular Plan button.

    Tap Enter Details Manually to enter your eSIM’s unique codes that are required for activation. Image Credit: Airalo
  3. Tap the Enter Details Manually button at the bottom of the screen.

    Enter activation details found in the Airalo app here. Image Credit: Airalo
  4. Paste the SM-DP+Address in the top line of the screen, then, switch back to the Airalo app and copy the Activation Code and paste it into the second line.
  5. Leave the Confirmation Code blank and tap the Next button at the upper right-hand corner of the screen.
  6. Now, iOS will now walk you through the eSIM setup process. It’ll ask which of your SIMs you’d like to use for talk and text and which you’d like to use for data. You can change this at any time in the Cellular screen of the Settings app.
  7. You’re done!

Now here’s where things get weird.

My World eSIM installed without a hitch, but it wouldn’t actually connect to the network. I was in Amsterdam Airport Schiphol (AMS) at this point, so I knew that I had cell service, but it just wasn’t connecting.

Even stranger, my T-Mobile physical SIM card — which has free 2G international roaming — did have service, and I could surf the internet slowly but without issue.

So I rebooted my phone a couple of times, went in and out of airplane mode a bunch, and tried everything else that used to fix iPhones at my college IT support job.

But no matter what I did, my Airalo eSIM would not connect to a cellular network. My phone’s status indicator simply read: “No service.”

So as a last resort, I reached out to Airalo’s customer support team via Twitter — and they were awesome.

Dealing With Airalo’s Customer Support Was a Breeze

I got a response from Airalo just a few minutes after my initial contact and was walked through a handful of troubleshooting steps.

Much to my surprise, most of the initial troubleshooting was done publicly on Twitter. This was nice because I didn’t have to send an email and disrupt my workflow.

Most of the troubleshooting was pretty standard in the beginning, and none of it worked. I was told publicly that a customer service representative would get back to me via email. Oddly, I was never asked for an email address, so I waited for a DM requesting it.

I never got that DM, but I did get an email with instructions within the hour. Airalo must have matched the name on my Twitter account to my email address in its system.

The issue, they said? My phone was trying to connect to multiple networks at once, hence giving me no service.

Turn Automatic network selection off and select a network manually if you’re using the World eSIM from Airalo. Image Credit: Apple

To remedy this, I had to go into the Cellular pane in the Settings app and turn off Automatic network selection. Then, I had to manually select one of the networks supported by the World eSIM which displayed automatically — since I was still at AMS, I selected Vodafone NL and waited.

Within a minute or so, my phone displayed “Vodafone NL” as the carrier and connected to data. All was working well, and I enjoyed high-speed data during my 5-hour layover at AMS.

So long story short: Airalo’s customer support is awesome. And if you have issues with your World eSIM, make sure to manually select your network.

Using an Airalo eSIM in Europe

After I landed in Prague — the first actual destination of my mini-European tour — I noticed my phone was displaying “No service” after turning off airplane mode.

Thinking back to the service email, I manually selected a network and voila! Within a few minutes, I had Airalo cell service again, this time on Vodafone CZ.

I had to do this every time I moved to a new country in Europe. While not convenient, it sure saved time over going to a cell phone store. My phone wouldn’t connect in Germany even after switching the carrier, but I was eventually connected after rebooting my phone.

Because of these issues, Airalo can seem a bit jerry-rigged together at times. It’d be nice if new carriers just connected when I landed in a new country. In Airalo’s defense, though, this is likely an issue with phone modems instead of a fault of its service.

Actually using the Airalo eSIM was a breeze, though.

I experienced full 4G LTE speeds and was able to stream video, upload pictures, and even tether to my laptop with Personal Hotspot. There were no hiccups, and the service was the same as if I purchased a physical SIM from a local phone shop.

It was nice having access to multiple carriers with the World eSIM, too. In some countries, I had access to 2 to 3 different carriers at once, meaning that I could switch carriers if I found myself without cell service from the previously selected carrier.

Final Thoughts

All in all, Airalo is an incredible service for frequent travelers, digital nomads, and anyone else that needs to stay connected when traveling abroad.

The service is also miles cheaper than purchasing an international roaming plan from a U.S. carrier, and it’s much more convenient than purchasing a physical SIM from a phone shop. And since you can keep your U.S. number active, too, you’ll never miss an important call or text when traveling abroad.

But the service isn’t without its issues.

It isn’t exactly seamless to use, with some troubleshooting required in the beginning. But once you get it working, it provides a stable high-speed connection. If something does go wrong, you can count on Airalo’s customer support to get you up-and-running without an issue.

Long story short: I can’t recommend Airalo highly enough. Give it a shot on your next trip abroad and try for yourself — with eSIM plans starting at $3, there isn’t much to lose.

For rates and fees of The Blue Business® Plus Credit Card from American Express, click here.

Frequently Asked Questions

All newer iPhones — including the XS, XS Max, XR, 11, 11 Pro, and 11 Pro Max — are supported. Additionally, all iPads with Apple SIM support are Airalo compatible.

Do note that iPhones sold in Hong Kong, Macau, and mainland China do not have eSIM support regardless of the type. Instead, these phones have standard dual-SIM support.

See the Airalo website for the full list of supported devices.

No, at this time all Airalo eSIMs are data-only.

You can pay with:

  • American Express
  • Mastercard
  • PayPal
  • Visa

You can also pay for eSIM plans with Airmoney. You’ll earn 5% back on all eSIM purchases in the form of Airmoney, and can use it to purchase eSIMs when you have enough Airmoney saved.

No, all Airalo eSIM plans are contract-free and have no long-term commitment or auto-billing.

You can expect full, 4G LTE speeds in most countries. Do note that some countries — like Belarus and Croatia — only support 3G speeds.

Yes, Airalo offers U.S. plans. It is not, however, included in the World plan.

Pricing varies based on the type of Airalo service you buy. Regional eSIM plans generally cost more than local eSIM plans. Further, you can pay more for more data allotment.

You can view pricing for all Airalo eSIM plans on the company’s website.

Yes, if your tablet supports eSIMs it’s Airalo compatible. This includes all iPads with Apple SIM support.

About Andrew Kunesh

Andrew was born and raised in the Chicago suburbs and now splits his time between Chicago and New York City.

He’s a lifelong traveler and took his first solo trip to San Francisco at the age of 16. Fast forward a few years, and Andrew now travels just over 100,000 miles a year, with over 25 countries, 10 business class products, and 2 airline statuses (United and Alaska) under his belt. Andrew formerly worked for The Points Guy and is now Senior Money Editor at CNN Underscored.


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January 25, 2020

Thank you very much! definitely much cheaper than alternatives. Wish I could test it in China. The primary question is if it’s outside the GFW. Conventional international roaming will have you outside the wall. I am eager to have it tested during my upcoming trip, which unfortunately got cancelled due to the coronavirus outbreak 🙁


April 23, 2020

I want to know too!

James Shaw

January 26, 2020

Nice article! Would love to see how this compares with Google Fi that offers 22 GB data unthrottled, in terms of quality and price.


January 28, 2020

What if i’m already using eSIM on my T-Mobile account instead of a physical SIM? Can I buy Airalo and use 2 eSIMs concurrently?

Andrew Kunesh

February 04, 2020

Hey Jeff, you can only use 1 eSIM at a time (on iOS), but you can store as many as you’d like. However, you can use a physical SIM and an eSIM in-tandem.


May 11, 2022

Hi Jeff,

Verizon did that to me so I went back to them and made them give me a SIM card so I could have my eSim card available. So T-Mobile to do the same for you.


April 14, 2020

This is an interesting option even when not traveling. Airalo offers a 1GB/7 day plan for $3 in the U.S., I believe it’s T-Mobile. This would work great on an as-needed basis, for example, I have Mint and usually the lowest plan (3GB) is enough, but when it’s not this is a cheaper option than buying from Mint or switching to a higher-tier plan.


May 13, 2020

I try them in Colombia and Indonesia and speed was lvery bad ike a 2G
Now I use the eSIM every time I travel, I tried MySIM and it works perfectly with a very good speed
Order is easy and you receive the eSIM per email :

Matthew Ervin

September 07, 2020

I am having trouble locating a USA coverage map.

Mark Corbett

October 04, 2020

Our experience while using Airalo in Spain was that we never got 4g or LTE speeds. In Malaga, Seville, Cordoba etc the speeds were always 3G on our iPhone 11 Pro.
Being a cheap esim provider also means throttling of speed – which is the experience we had for a month.
They apologized for this with a $10 credit – but if we don’t trust that we will get what they advertise, then I say try someone else.

Knowroaming was fast with LTE and was much better.

Sergei T

October 16, 2020

You’re right I have the same issue with Airalo. I tried them because Ubigi was really expensive.
Since then, I tried MySIM in Korea in September and it was great, always 4Gg and Good Speed.

iphone screen repair

December 03, 2020

Thank you very much for presenting this data about airalo esim review. Wonderful information, thanks a lot for sharing. Great post!


December 11, 2020

Same as Mark. Horrible speed with them and no 4G, they send us a 2nd eSIM, and speed was the same as a 2G speed.
Just enough to text on WhatsApp.


February 06, 2021

Same as Steven! No more Airalo.
I’m using this App in January for Japan.


February 09, 2021

The black-and-white comments trying to promote another thing above look a bit odd to me, though I would respect it if they are genuine experiences and not trolls. I tried Airalo in 3 different countries and it worked like a charm. There was once a bit of a speed issue and their support team quickly helped me to understand the reason and how best to deal with it. So yeah go check it out for yourselves. Kudos to the author of this article for a well-rounded introduction.

Charles T

October 31, 2021

Thanks for the nice review of the pros and cons of Airalo.

Note that some of the eSIMs they sell (e.g. Thailand) also include voice calls and other eSIMs may require additional verification of your identity before you can connect.


March 11, 2022

I understand Airalo provides data only. With data you can make WhatsApp calls, correct?
Should one buy the Europe plan, if we travel to Switzerland, Italy, France ?

Jarrod West

April 09, 2022

Hi Nirlay,

Yes, the Europe plan would likely be a good fit in your scenario. Safe travels!

William S

April 18, 2023

Great comparative article, I liked that it was so detailed. First learned about eSIM here. After researching your article I found out about another provider. Thank you!

M kenwood

June 16, 2023

I use Airalo for my weekly travels and absolutely love it. Basically live on a plane and it’s saved me so much.


June 18, 2023

Nice review very comprehensive. I am currently trying to use Airalo global e-SIM and have found the service to be very unreliable and patchy let alone fast … sadly the customer service is non-existent. Not sure if that’s how e-SIms are in general or it’s just Airalo.


August 07, 2023

Bought Airalo and was told by customer service to wait and choose a network when we landed in Germany. We’ll we did that, and it didn’t work. We spent hours at the airport trying to get one of the 3 networks to work. The net result was the loss of one day of our vacation. Oh, we did contact customer service, but it was non-existent. Email was all there was, and it took them 2 days to respond. No real-time help. We were stuck with no cell service and no way to fix it. That is until a young man said he could help, and he did. That was 5 hours after we landed. Later, our rental car broke down, but we could call the hotline to get help, right? Nope. No phone calls. Bottom line is we would have been better off with just about any other service out there. Airalo is not a friendly helpful service. You can do better.

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