Traveling overseas? It’s easier (and cheaper) than ever to get data just about anywhere. That’s why I’ve got a review of Airalo, an eSIM provider that makes it easy to livestream your trek through the Pyrenées or Facetime your folks from the back of a gondola.
📱 Want the TLDR? If you’re on T-Mobile, you don’t need Airalo. But if you’re on Verizon/AT&T or other carriers without free international roaming, Airalo will be way, way cheaper. And it’ll likely be cheaper, and certainly easier, than buying a local SIM when you land.
Why You Shouldn’t Just Roam While You…Roam
Back in the day (say, before 2015), if you were traveling overseas, you’d probably need to buy a horrendously overpriced international roaming plan from your cell phone company for a few bucks/day, over and above your monthly fee. And in fact, Verizon and AT&T still charge $10/day. Sure, these options are painless, but they’ll get expensive fast. T-Mobile (to its credit!) does provide free international roaming.
More recently, you could pop into just about any corner store near where you landed and buy a SIM card for about $5, and then pay for about $10 worth of data. This wasn’t always easy, but it was a heckton cheaper than roaming internationally.
Enter eSIMs. These virtual SIM cards work just like a regular SIM, except, well, they’re virtual. No need to keep tabs on little flakes of silicon, carry a bent paperclip, or worry about losing a dime bag with your original Verizon SIM.
I recently used Airalo on trips within the US and Spain, and found that it was both pretty easy and fairly inexpensive. Like, under $10 in most cases. In Spain, for example, you’ll pay for a week’s worth of data what you would otherwise pay per day on an international roaming plan. Seriously.
The same is true of Airalo’s rates in other countries, too. It’s almost always just a few bucks for a week’s worth of data, and top-ups are equally cheap, as well.
Here’s how to use Airalo:
- Sign up on Airalo’s site.
- Select a plan.
- Install the eSIM before you land. This can be a tad intimidating at first, but they provide easy walkthrough documentation and videos.
- That’s it. When you land, toggle your eSIM to your Airalo SIM, and be sure to turn off international roaming on your original plan, to avoid potential overcharges.
My experiences with Airalo have been very smooth. It was always inexpensive, installation (once you get it), is straightforward, and coverage has been good.
The only caveat I’d offer around Airalo is that it’s data-only, so no SMS or voice calls. But if you’ve got FaceTime, Whatsapp and Google Maps, you’re pretty much ready to hit the road.
Airalo Review: Comparison
For the comparison below, I’m assuming a one-week stay where you use around 2GB of data (Google Maps, iMessage, internet browsing), but otherwise hop on Wifi networks where available. Obviously, do your own math and adjust according to your own usage patterns and access to hotspots.
|Verizon/AT&T||T-Mobile||Buy a local SIM||Airalo|
|Avg Daily Cost||$10||$0||~$2||~$0.80|
Obviously, if you’re on T-Mobile, then you’ve got no need to buy an international plan. But if you’re on Verizon or AT&T, or have another carrier that doesn’t offer international roaming, then Airalo is an easy way to stay connected.