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Can I control when my eSIM gets activated?

Find out how you can influence when your plan starts.

· 4 min read

Travel eSIMs have been an increasingly popular option for travelers to stay connected, especially due to the convenience and flexibility that it offers. Because it is so easy to buy an eSIM, many travelers may choose to buy the eSIM just before they travel - or for some, even after they land. To fully benefit from the flexibility of travel eSIMs, perhaps some people might be wondering if it is possible for you to activate your eSIM ahead of your trip, or halfway through the trip. Let’s take a look at what it means to activate your eSIM, how to activate your eSIM, and how you can influence when your eSIM gets activated.


What does it mean to activate your eSIM?

Activating your eSIM is also known as starting your eSIM plan. And for those who are wondering, no - installing your eSIM does not always equate to starting your eSIM. While you will need to both install and activate your eSIM for it to work, these are fundamentally different actions.

Installing your eSIM is the act of adding your eSIM profile to your device, similar to the act of inserting your physical SIM card into your device; whereas activating your eSIM means that you are starting the plan associated with your eSIM profile, which is more of a backend setting on the telco to allow you to start using your plan.

Simply installing your eSIM without activating the plan wouldn’t allow you to connect to the internet; conversely, if your plan is activated but your eSIM is not installed, you will not be able to use the plan — though in most cases, activation of your eSIM requires you to first have your eSIM installed.

How do you activate your eSIM and how to influence when it gets activated?

There are many reasons why you might want to influence when your plan gets activated - but one of the biggest reasons is because with travel eSIMs, there is a relatively short validity period and you might want to avoid a scenario where you start the plan too early and the plan expires before your trip ends.

To find out how to influence when your eSIM plan gets activated, we’ll need to understand about how to activate your eSIM.

Typically, travel eSIMs can be activated in these main ways:

  • When the eSIM first connects to the local network, it automatically gets activated — this is the most common method an eSIM gets activated
  • A manual activation trigger by the user
  • When the eSIM is installed on the device
  • Automatically after a defined period of time from the eSIM purchase

The way the eSIM gets activated varies from provider to provider, so you should read the instructions and details of your plan to find out more.

Naturally, how you can influence when your eSIM gets activated will also vary depending on how the eSIM gets activated.

Automatic activation upon connection to a local network

In this case, the eSIM will get activated automatically when it first connects to a local network.

What this essentially means is that:

Now, the question that you might have will then be whether or not you can start your eSIM a few days later after you arrive at your destination. The short answer? Yes, you can.

If you do not want to start your eSIM plan the moment you arrive at your destination, what you can do is to simply switch off or disable that eSIM profile from the settings of your phone. If that eSIM profile is switched off / disabled, it will not try to connect to the local networks.

Simply turn on your eSIM profile from your device settings when you are ready to activate that eSIM profile and allow it to connect to the local network.

Manual activation triggered by user

Some eSIMs will require you to manually activate your plan, either by pressing on a button in the provider’s website or app, or by sending a text message.

In such cases, it is relatively straightforward for you to control when you want to activate your plan. Simply trigger the activation when you are ready to.

However, do note that if the activation requires you to press on a button in the provider’s website or app, you will likely need a stable internet connection for you to carry out the activation — so consider when might be the best time for you to successfully activate your plan.

When the eSIM is installed on your device

While this is uncommon, there are some eSIMs that will activate the moment it is installed on your device. In such cases, you might need to consider when you should install your eSIM as the installation will automatically trigger the activation.

Installation of your eSIM requires you to have a stable internet connection, so while you might not want your plan to start too early, it is worth considering installing your eSIM right before you fly so that you don’t run into issues with your installation of your eSIM.

Automatic activation after a defined period of time

For some providers, there could also be a time limit before which the eSIM will get automatically activated. There isn’t much you can do about this — if the time limit is reached, the eSIM gets activated. So before you purchase your eSIM, check what this time limit is, and make sure that your trip falls within this given period and that you will be using your eSIM before this time limit is reached.

Get a Nomad travel eSIM on your next trip

Nomad offers data plans in over 170 countries, and you can be sure to find one that is suitable for your travel needs. And if you will be traveling across multiple countries, there are also regional plans available so you can stay seamlessly connected as you hop between countries. Data plans are available from as low as $1.10/GB.

Most of Nomad’s eSIM plans are activated automatically upon connection to a local network - but there are some plans that still require manual activation. Make sure to check the plan details as well as the instructions on your installation email to ensure a smooth installation process.

If you share your Nomad referral code with your friends, your friend will stand to enjoy 25% off their first purchase of a Nomad eSIM of plans that are USD 5 and above. You will also receive a 25% off coupon that you can use for your next purchase!