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Why I Wish I Had Got a Virtual SIM Card at the Start of Our Long-Term Travel

When embarking on our long-term travel journey, one of the decisions we had to make was how to stay connected while on the road. Initially, we opted for getting local SIM cards in each destination, which had its benefits. They were often cost-effective and provided reliable connectivity tailored to the specific region. However, as our travels progressed, we discovered the advantages of virtual SIM cards, or eSIMs, and honestly, this may have been the better option. 

What are the options?

Let me run through both options and I’ll explain why I believe a virtual SIM card would have been a game-changer for us.

I feel it’s important to confess something here. No judgement, it’s a safe space

I believe that the number one reason I didn’t get an eSim was because I am a bit of a technophobe and thought it would be complicated. There, I said it and now you will see how silly I feel because of how ridiculously easy it actually is.

So, our ‘go to’ was to get a local sim on arrival, let’s acknowledge the benefits of this because it’s not a bad idea. 

  • They offer cost-effective data plans, usually cheaper than international roaming charges or global SIM cards.
  •  Local SIM cards also provide reliable and fast connectivity, ensuring we can navigate, communicate, and share our travel experiences without interruptions. 
  • Additionally, we get a local phone number, making it easier to book local services and contact people in the area.

However, there were some downsides to relying solely on local SIM cards. We now have 14 different sim cards randomly stuck to the inside of our phone cases. Each border we crossed meant switching between sim cards which was just a faff. It’s easy enough to find somewhere to pick up the sim cards but dragging the kids to the counter at 3am after an 8 hour flight to stand and wait whilst you set up a sim isn’t ideal for anyone.

This is where virtual SIM cards, or eSIMs, would have made a difference. 

With eSIMs, we could have downloaded and installed digital data packs from various countries or regions right from our phones, eliminating the need for physical SIM cards. And here I think is the secret. Having this set up for arrival means you have the flexibility, you can get your physical sim if you wish or you can book your taxi using the esim and be able to venture past the airports free wifi zone.

One great advantage of eSIMs that we missed out on was the ability to keep our original phone number. 

These days, many online services and platforms rely on phone number verification, and constantly changing our number with each new SIM card caused difficulties in accessing these services, which after a while becomes really annoying. With a virtual SIM card, we could have retained our original phone number, ensuring easier access to important verifications, messaging apps, and other services that require phone number authentication.

Another handy thing about the eSIMs is how easy it is to monitor use. We were stung a few times when data suddenly stopped working on the local sim and we had no idea why. Being able to monitor data usage, and purchase additional data packs if needed, all through the phone would have helped massively.

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In retrospect, while local SIM cards have their advantages, I wish I had explored the benefits of virtual SIM cards earlier in our long-term travel journey, rather than cowering away at the thought of another thing I had to figure out. 

The ability to keep our original phone number, the convenience of instant activation, the elimination of physical SIM cards, and the remote management features make eSIMs a really useful tool for modern travellers. 

From this point, we have an eSim and a local sim between us. The eSim ensures we always have connectivity and can manage and control our date use. The local sim we use for large data bundles as they are often cheaper for long term stays.

So, if you’re embarking on long-term travel or frequently crossing borders, I highly recommend considering a virtual SIM card like Airalo or Nomad. They offer the flexibility, convenience, and cost efficiency and make sure you don’t lose connection as soon as you leave a wifi zone.

eSIM Comprisons

Looking for the best eSIM provider for your international travel needs? Here are our top two picks in 2023 (that we have used):

1. Airalo: As my personal pick, Airalo offers a wide range of eSIM options for travelers, whether you’re looking for short-term or long-term coverage worldwide. With competitive pricing and flexible data plans, Airalo is a reliable choice to stay connected wherever you go.

2. Nomad: For those looking for a variety of country-specific or global eSIM plans, as well as unlimited data options in select destinations, Nomad has you covered. Their offerings cater to different travel needs and provide seamless connectivity around the world.

3. Drimsim: When you use Drimsim, you have two options. You can either get a traditional sim card (available in nano, micro, or min) or a Drimsim eSIM. The eSIM is a new technology that is slowly becoming increasingly popular. It’s essentially a digital SIM card that is stored on your phone.


Important- make sure you check locations that are covered by the eSim!

Here are some technical bits

Don’t be scared, it’s easy (now I know what it is and how to use it)

Now, let’s dive deeper into what eSIM is and which devices are compatible:

eSIM, or embedded SIM, is a type of SIM card that is built into your device, eliminating the need for a physical SIM card. It offers convenience, and is increasingly supported by smartphones. However, it’s important to note that not all devices currently support eSIM, so make sure to check your device’s compatibility before making the switch.

Some compatible devices include:

– Apple iPhone XS, XS Max, XR, 11, 12, 13, 14, and newer models.

– Google Pixel 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, and newer models.

– Samsung Galaxy S20, S21, S22, and newer models.

– Huawei P40, and newer models.

To verify if your device supports eSIM, go to your device’s Settings and locate your International Mobile Equipment Identity (IMEI). This information will confirm if your device is compatible.

Both Airalo and Nomad offer a pretty comprehensive instructions guide which is simple to set up, taking just a few minutes and you are good to go.

So what’s your experience? Are you an eSim user or a buy when you arrive?

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