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Which eSIM to get for your China-Japan-Korea trip?

Convenience doesn't have to be expensive!

· 4 min read

As we approach spring where the beautiful cherry blossoms are starting to bloom all over the world, are you also planning for a cherry blossom viewing trip? If so, Japan, Korea, and China are probably some of the destinations that you are considering! If you are planning to tour the region and visit all three destinations and are looking for a way to help you stay connected, we have got you covered!

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Important factors when buying (e)SIMs for Japan, Korea, and China

When you are looking for an option to help you stay connected during your trip to Japan, Korea, and China, there are some key factors that you should consider:

1. Network and Reliability

Network and reliability is one of the most important factors when helping you make your decision. This is especially so since these three destinations are not English-speaking, and you are likely going to be having to rely on translation apps quite a bit throughout your trip. Whether you are trying to order your food at a restaurant or ask for directions, it could potentially be very stressful when your network is unstable and you are unable to get your translation apps working.

Furthermore, in China, where payments are largely digital, you will need to ensure you have a stable network so that your payments via Alipay or WeChat Pay can go through.

In Japan, the major networks are NTT DoCoMo, Softbank, and KDDI. The three providers have varying coverage across the different parts of Japan, but the coverage and signals do not differ much in major cities.

In Korea, the biggest players to look out for would be SK Telecom, KT Olleh, and LG U+. All three providers have fairly similar performance, with SK Telecom and KT Olleh being known to have a slightly wider coverage than LG U+.

And finally, in China, China Mobile and China Unicom are the names that you should be looking out for!

2. Convenience and Flexibility

Another factor to consider while you travel across Japan, Korea, and China is the convenience and flexibility.

If you will be traveling across multiple destinations in a single trip, convenience and seamless connectivity might become more important than if you were to simply travel to one destination.

When traveling to a single destination, you might not really mind spending some time queuing at the airport counters and booths to pick up a local SIM card or a portable WiFi device. But, if you will be travelling across multiple countries, this might not be something you really want to do.

The good news is that there are options that allow you to seamlessly stay connected even as you cross borders and visit multiple destinations. Sure, there is the option of international roaming. But, there also exists the option of regional travel SIM cards or regional travel eSIMs.

Regional travel SIM cards or regional travel eSIMs usually provide network coverage across multiple destinations in the region. With a single SIM card (or eSIM), you can stay connected while you explore the different destinations, all without having to switch out your SIM cards or eSIMs multiple times.

3. Price Point

Of course, price is a very important factor when deciding which option to go for.

While it is commonly believed that getting a local SIM card is the cheapest option, this might not always be the case, and especially not when you will be traveling to multiple destinations!

Getting multiple local SIM cards is very likely to add up to become more expensive than if you were to get a single regional travel SIM card or regional travel eSIM.

With a single travel SIM card or travel eSIM, you will be able to share your data allowance across multiple regions, whereas in the case of getting multiple local SIM cards, you will have to buy separate data volume packs for each destination. Buying separate data volume packs for each destination often results in you buying more data than you would actually consume.

4. Need for additional features: VPN, local phone number, hotspot capabilities

Finally, what is important to consider is whether you might need additional features like a local phone number, hotspot capabilities, or a VPN.

If you are traveling to China, you would likely want to look for an option that allows you to still access your social media apps and other resources like emails, or even simply just Google.

In this unique case, getting a local SIM card (or simply connecting to a local WiFI) will mean that you need an external VPN service to help you access your social media apps and Google services. Instead, look for a SIM card or eSIM that allows you to use your apps like you would at home.

Hotspot capabilities is also a factor to consider, especially if you foresee the need to share your data volume with other devices or with your travel buddies.

Finally, consider if you might need a local phone number. Instinctively, it might be tempting to say that you need one, truth is that you are likely not going to require one. While it is true that in China and Korea, a local number might come in handy when trying to access services, a lot of these services also require you to have a local ID for verification; or they might simply not allow numbers that are assigned to tourist SIM cards.

Asia eSIM vs China-Japan-Korea eSIM

A regional eSIM for Asia is undoubtedly a good option for a trip that comprises Japan, Korea, and China.

But, what is even better might be an eSIM that covers only Japan, Korea, and China — especially if your trip only includes these three destinations!

It is true that a regional eSIM for Asia provides network and coverage across more destinations. But if you are only visiting these three destinations (or two of three of these destinations), you really wouldn't need that additional coverage.

Getting an eSIM that includes only Japan, Korea, and China will allow you to enjoy the same benefits of convenience as you would with an Asia eSIM. But that's not all - getting a Japan-Korea-China eSIM will allow you to enjoy connectivity at a lower price than an Asia eSIM would!

Get a Nomad eSIM for China, Japan, Korea

Nomad has recently introduced a small regional CN-JP-KR plan, which provides coverage across China, Japan, and Korea.

Nomad's China, Japan, and Korea eSIM plan works with leading telco providers in the three destinations. You will be connected to China Unicom or China Mobile in China; KDDI in Japan; and KT Olleh in South Korea.

And while Nomad's eSIM does not come with a local number, hotspot and data tethering is allowed. You will also not require a VPN in China if you need to access your social media apps or other services that might be blocked by the Great Firewall of China.

There are various plans, ranging from 1GB for 4USD to 20GB for 33USD. And in case you run out of data, you can always purchase an add-on and continue using the same eSIM as you travel!