What is the best eSIM for travel in Europe in 2024?

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3rd July 2024
In partnership with Holafly
a tourist using a smartphone featuring an eSIM for travel in Europe

Now that roaming charges are back for British travellers on the continent, we take a look at the best eSIM for travel in Europe

Since Brexit, roaming chargers have returned for British travellers in Europe. Almost all the major mobile phone companies, including Giffgaff, EE, Sky Mobile, Tesco, Three and Vodafone have made contract changes and reintroduced EU roaming charges for UK customers.

Out of the ‘big four’ networks of EE, O2, Three and Vodafone, only O2 has not reintroduced roaming charges. However, even O2 (who we are with) do not cover all of Europe, especially countries in the Balkans such as Albania, Montenegro and North Macedonia. For travellers from further afield such as in the US, Canada or Australia, international fees for using phones abroad can be astronomical.

As such, when we recently took off on a month-long rail trip around Europe, for the first time in years we had to think about how we were going to connect our phones to the internet. We looked at a number of options from wifi hotspots to a pay-as-you-go SIM card but eventually settled on an eSIM.

What is an eSIM?

The best way to connect when travelling in Europe is to use an eSIM: a virtual SIM card. It is much cheaper than using the data roaming options provided by the major networks, pay-as-you-go physical SIM cards or a wifi hotspot device. An eSIM is also far more convenient than any of these methods.

An eSIM works remotely, meaning you don’t have to remove your current SIM card so there’s no risk of misplacing or damaging it or losing your number. eSIMs are actually pre-installed on the majority of devices now and can be activated just by installing an ‘eSIM profile’ of a new provider.

Once you’ve chosen your package, you’ll be emailed a QR code to scan. All you have to do is activate the pre-installed eSIM profile on your device and you’re good to go. The software connects your smartphone to a local mobile network on the fly, letting you quickly sign up for service without having to track down a store or shop.

An eSIM is essentially an evolution of the physical SIM card. Most modern smartphones, tablets and laptops are already installed with an eSIM card and the list of compatible devices is growing. Eventually, physical SIM cards will probably be phased out completely in favour of eSIMs.

A traveller using a phone on a train platform with an eSIM for travel in Europe
A_B_C/Shutterstock Roaming charges can be high in Europe

In the US, the three biggest wireless providers – AT&T, T-Mobile, and Verizon – have said that a cardless future is fast approaching. With the latest model of the iPhone, Apple stopped including physical SIM cards in the box. In a similar nod to the future, Motorola’s Razr flip phones don’t support physical SIMs at all.

One thing worth remembering is that as an eSIM is a virtual SIM, it does not provide minutes or calltime. As such, it does not include a phone number to make and receive calls. However, it is still possible to make voice and video calls on an eSIM using apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and iMessage. Additionally, eSIMs do not usually allow data sharing or the creation of a hotspot for other devices to connect to.

Best eSim for travel in Europe

There are a number of data providers to choose from but we feel the best eSIM for travel in Europe is Holafly eSIM. We’ve used several providers over the years as well as pay-as-you-go SIM cards and wifi hotspots. Having used them in Europe as well as Mexico and Panama, we have now settled on Holafly which also comes highly rated on Trustpilot.

Holafly covers 165 destinations worldwide and offers several eSIM data packages for Europe covering over 32 countries including popular destinations such as France, Germany, Italy, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland and Turkey across a range of networks including 3G, 4G and 5G.

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Packages include:

  • Unlimited data, 5 days: €19
  • Unlimited data, 7 days: €27
  • Unlimited data, 10 days: €34
  • Unlimited data, 15 days: €47
  • Unlimited data, 20 days: €57
  • Unlimited data, 30 days: €69
  • Unlimited data, 60 days: €87
  • Unlimited data, 90 days: €99
A traveller taking a photo in Venice while using an eSIM for travel in Europe
El Nariz/Shutterstock An eSim makes travel easier

The new Holafly app makes the installation process even smoother, helps users track and make their various data plans and provides the option to top up after your plan expires.

Holafly eSIMS also come with 24-hour support in various languages so if you are experiencing technical issues you can reach them by email, through the app’s chat feature or via WhatsApp.

Holafly’s latest eSIM with unlimited data for Europe has the ability to make calls within Europe for up to 60 minutes and receive calls for up to 60 minutes without receiving roaming charges.

Other options

Airalo is the second-best eSIM for travel in Europe. They have a wide range of eSIMs available covering short and long-term plans but do not offer unlimited data plans and are poorly rated on Trustpilot.

Nomad eSIM is the third-best eSIM for travel in Europe. They are competitive on price and well-rated on Trustpilot. However, they only have short-term plans (30-day maximum) and cover fewer countries than the two above.

eSIM.net is part of O2 so enjoys a reliable and fast service across Europe and is well-regarded on Trustpilot. However, they only have 30-day rolling or fixed eSIM plans.

Keepgo traditionally only offered pay-as-you-go physical SIM cards but has recently transitioned to eSIMs. They currently only have a limited range of eSIM data bundles. One advantage is their data is not time-limited meaning it’s valid forever.

Orange Zen provide affordable short-term data bundles for travellers to Europe but only has a 14-day option available making them a bad choice for longer trips.


Below you’ll find answers to the most frequently asked questions when it comes to using eSIMs in Europe.

What phones are compatible with eSIMs?

Nearly all modern phones are compatible with eSIMs including the latest models of iPhone, Google Pixel, Samsung, Huawei and Motorola. Likewise, eSIMs work on iOS or Android mobile operating systems.

Does Google Maps work on an eSIM?

Yes, all apps that only rely on data such as Google Maps, email, social media, hotel booking and streaming apps will still work. However, you should keep an eye on your data usage if you are using your eSIM to stream video.

Can I share data with other devices?

Usually, you cannot share data when using eSIMs which means you cannot use the tethering or hotspot features on your smartphone. Always check the technical specs on the product page to clarify.

Are there any security risks with eSIMs in Europe?

Generally, eSIMs are secure. They provide the same level of security as local SIM cards and all reputable eSIM providers should have encryption on their products.

Do eSIMs have poor network coverage?

As eSIMs connect your smartphone to a local mobile network, you should have the same network quality as if you were using a physical eSIM.

How reliable are European eSIMs?

Europe has some of the world’s most reliable mobile networks and as such, eSIMs are also reliable. Always check coverage maps and read user reviews before you select an eSIM.

Is there a global eSIM?

As eSIMs use local mobile carriers, a global eSIM is not yet available. There are regional plans available for areas such as Europe, Asia, North America, South America and the Caribbean.

Do I have to download any software or apps?

No, you don’t have to download any additional software or apps. Some providers have apps to use to make the installation process easier but most eSIMs can be installed manually as well.

Can I make and receive calls using an eSIM?

A data-only eSIM will not be able to make and receive calls. However, it is still possible to make voice and video calls on an eSIM using apps such as WhatsApp, Skype and iMessage. However, some providers such as Holafly’s Europe eSIM now have the ability to make and receive calls.

Can I send and receive SMS/text messages on an eSIM?

Like calls, a data-only eSIM cannot send and receive text messages. Instead, use apps such as WhatsApp and iMessage.

Which European countries don’t support eSIMs?

Coverage can vary but the best eSIM providers have plans for most countries. Belarus, Kosovo and San Marino are not currently covered by the top eSIM providers. However, an Italian plan will probably work in San Marino.

eSIMs are available in all other European countries including Austria, Belgium, Croatia, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, France, Finland, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey, Ukraine and the United Kingdom.

Can I buy an international eSIM online?

The only way to buy an eSIM is online so they can be bought from anywhere in the world.

Can I activate an eSIM abroad?

Yes. You can activate an eSIM anywhere but it’s best to wait until you actually land in the country so you get the maximum time out of your package. You can install the eSIM before you leave but don’t activate it until you arrive.

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