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Traveling is synonymous with planning and for us here at GSMArena, that also includes figuring out how to deal with roaming fees when we step abroad as we need an uninterrupted internet connection at all times.

With embedded-SIM (eSIM) support now widely available on phones, tablets, and smartwatches picking up a travel data plan is a quick and easy process and we got the chance to test out travel eSIM plans from Airalo and Yesim during a week-long trip to London.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

The convenience of downloading a travel eSIM plan and then having instant mobile data as soon as you get off the plane is a great way to kick off any trip. Not having to deal with unreliable hotel and public Wi-Fi networks is another bonus.

Activating an eSIM is a straightforward process but there are some pitfalls that you may encounter. We’ll try to cover the whole process from selecting and buying a travel eSIM to actually using one in this article.

Setup process

The very first step you need to take is to make sure that your device supports eSIM. You can use our database to see if your device has eSIM. These are all of the smartphones with eSIM support from our database. We also have a list for tablets here.

Airalo supports 200 countries and regions while Yesim covers 120 countries. Both services offer local eSIMs for visiting specific countries, regional eSIMs for visiting multiple countries in the same region or continent, and global eSIM profiles which are the most expensive but cover all of the supported countries in case you are traveling between continents in a short span. There are no contractual obligations here as both services are pay-as-you-go.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

Validity for the travel eSIMs varies by country and plan ranging from 7 to 365 days. The lowest amount of data you can buy on Airalo is 1GB while the limit for most countries is 20GB. Yesim plans start at 3GB and top out at 20GB. The more expensive plans have longer validity so keep that in mind.

One area where Yesim holds an advantage is the unlimited data packages which are on the more expensive side but will serve you without any data cap which is great if you plan to download large files and hotspot data to other devices.

Most of the Airalo and Yesim plans don’t include texts or calls though both services offer virtual international numbers which allow you to receive incoming texts for account activations. You can get a valid virtual number from Yesim for the US, Netherlands, Canada, or Israel for the equivalent of $2.75 per month or $33/year.

Airalo’s Discover+ Global eSIM plan (supported in 125 countries) includes a valid Austrian phone number that can be used to send and receive texts and calls. Calls and texts on that plan are fixed with the cheapest plan offering 10 mins of calls and 10 SMS messages.

The setup process for Airalo and Yesim is quite similar – you select and purchase your eSIM plan from their websites or via their respective apps from the Apple App Store and Google Play.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

Once you’ve successfully purchased your plan, it will appear inside the app. You can then go through the guided setup process to activate your eSIM. This involves scanning the QR code which was sent to your account. Once scanned, you’ll automatically transfer to the setup page within the settings menu. You can also enter the activation codes manually if you prefer.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

It’s advisable to activate your travel eSIM before your trip which will spare you the hassle of dealing with the setup process when you land at your destination. Having a stable internet connection during the setup process is important and you should obviously not switch off your phone during this time. The setup process will then ask you to assign a default SIM for calls and data where you can enable the new travel eSIM for the latter.

Another crucial step here is to activate the data roaming option for the new eSIM profile. Failing to do so will prevent the travel eSIM from automatically connecting to networks at your destination.

If you encounter any issues during the setup and installation process both services have support chats to help you out with any potential issues.

Experience

We tested both Airalo and Yesim in London on the O2 network with 5G connectivity. We followed the onscreen activation instructions and installed both eSIMs on two iPhone 15 Pros prior to our arrival. Once we touched down in London, our phones automatically connected to the O2 network and we had mobile data.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

We purchased 5GB data plans on both services with the Yesim plan holding 15-day validity while the Airalo plan was valid for 30 days. Each plan cost us the equivalent of $12 after applying a promo code.

In our experience, both services worked well for basic social media, navigation and music streaming. Less demanding tasks like using Google Maps navigation, search queries, and instant messaging worked without any issues.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

Some data-heavy video apps like Instagram and TikTok would take a few seconds to refresh at times but that has more to do with the actual network coverage from the local carrier which in our case was O2. When network connectivity was on point, everything worked just fine.

We also tested both Airalo and Yesim plans as hotspots which proved reliable especially if your hotel Wi-Fi is slow.

We carried out our initial network speed test at Stansted Airpot located 68 km outside of Central London. Coverage here wasn’t the best as we got 12.6 Mbps upload and 1.01 Mbps download speeds on Yesim. Our Airalo eSIM managed 9.27 Mbps upload and 0.15 Mbps download speed at the same location. Both services were rated as suitable for 1080p video max resolution by Ookla Speedtest.


Network speeds vary based on factors like signal strength, physical obstacles, band frequency, network traffic, and network adapters
Network speeds vary based on factors like signal strength, physical obstacles, band frequency, network traffic, and network adapters

Ookla Speedtest results from Stansted Airport and Central London.

Once we got to Central London, our network speeds were noticeably better as we achieved peaks of 87.9 Mbps upload and 21.4 Mbps download on both eSIMs. That’s more than good enough for 4K video streaming, online gaming, and anything else you could want from a mobile internet connection.

Conclusion

Travel eSIMs are a reliable, easy to setup service that helps you evade overpaying for roaming fees when traveling abroad. Airalo and Yesim are two of the leading providers in this field and served us well during a week-long trip to London.

Whether it was navigating the city sights with Google Maps, ordering food, or doomscrolling on social media both services got us uninterrupted connectivity as soon as we landed on UK soil. They also come with well-optimized apps with easy-to-follow setup instructions.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

Network speeds and coverage will depend on the local carriers that have deals with Airalo and Yesim. Having the ability to buy an eSIM plan for almost any country with a few clicks and knowing that you’ll have mobile data on arrival is great peace of mind.

One of the downsides to travel eSIMs is their pricing which is usually higher than that of local data plans from established carriers. You cannot switch eSIM profiles between devices like you can with a physical SIM card and most of the plans are mobile data only so you don’t get calls or text messages.

Testing Airalo and Yesim travel eSIMs in London

With that being said, we can recommend both Airalo and Yesim for your next trip abroad. Both apps offer great service, an easy-to-follow installation process, and are a valuable tool for the frequent traveler.

If you want to try out Airalo or Yesim, you can use our code GSMARENA for a 10% dicsount on your purchase.

We may get a commission from qualifying sales.

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