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How to buy an eSIM for travel?

And other questions you might have.

· 5 min read

As more and more phones are equipped with eSIM capability, travel eSIMs are also becoming an increasingly popular option for travelers to stay connected as they explore the world. If you are also thinking of using an eSIM for your travels, here are some questions that you might have when buying an eSIM.


1. How to buy a travel eSIM?

When buying a travel eSIM, you will first need to know what your options are. Broadly, your options can be categorised into a two main categories: Providers of travel eSIMs, or an eSIM offered by a local telco.

For many people, you might intuitively be inclined to choosing the option of getting a tourist eSIM provided by a local telco.

However, it is important to note that in many countries globally, the telcos do not offer eSIM options for tourist plans or prepaid plans. Hence, before you decide that you want to get a local eSIM, make sure to check and confirm that it is offered by the local telcos at the destination you are traveling to.

When researching and evaluating your options, ask yourself what features and services you might need, how much data you need and for how long, where you will be traveling to, and how flexible you are with your budget.

Getting an eSIM from a local telco

If you will be picking up an eSIM from a local telco, there are typically two options:

  • Getting the eSIM at the airport or local stores upon arrival
  • Pre-purchasing them in advance online via the telco's web store

How you can buy the eSIMs vary from telco to telco, so make sure to do your research before you travel to ensure you will be able to get your eSIM when traveling!

In both cases, the purchase flow typically requires you to provide a copy of your identity documents.

Getting an eSIM from a travel eSIM provider like Nomad

The second option would be to get an eSIM from a provider of travel eSIMs. There are many providers of travel eSIMs, and one such provider is Nomad.

The process to get an eSIM from a travel eSIM provider is typically much more straightforward, and it rarely requires any identity documents.

Simply log on to the providers' web store or mobile app, find the plan that you want, and check out. Thereafter, you will get the installation kit of your eSIM, so that you can easily install and activate it.

2. When should I buy my travel eSIM?

It depends.

If you are getting an eSIM from a local telco, you might not always be able to buy your eSIM in advance. In such cases, you can only buy your eSIM upon arrival at the destination.

But, assuming you are able to buy your travel eSIM in advance, it is always recommended to make your purchase before your trip.

This is because a stable internet connection is required for your purchase of an eSIM, not unlike any other online purchases.

3. There is a sale right now. Can I buy it now and use it for my trip next time?

It depends on how long later your trip is!

Each provider has its own terms and conditions around how much time you have to activate your eSIM after purchase. As long as your trip falls within that window, feel free to leverage the ongoing sale and purchase your eSIM in advance.

With Nomad, the validity of the eSIM starts only from the point of activation; but the eSIM has to be activated within 30 or 60 days from the point of purchase, depending on the plan that you purchase.

So, if your trip is within 30 days from now (or 60 days from now), you can safely leverage existing sales and buy your eSIM now but use it at a later time.

4. When should I install my travel eSIM?

You can install it as soon as you receive your installation kit.

Installing your eSIM requires you to have a stable internet connection, so it is advised that you install it in advance.

However, note that with most travel eSIMs, you wouldn't be able to transfer your eSIM across devices. So make sure that you install your travel eSIM on the device that you will be bringing with you when you travel.

You don't necessarily have to worry about the validity of your eSIM starting before your trip, as installation does not equate to activation. Installing your eSIM simply means that you have added your eSIM to your device, but the act of adding your eSIM does not mean that you have activated your plan.

5. Can I activate my eSIM before I travel?

It really depends.

There are generally two types of activation methods: the first requires you to manually activate your eSIM plan, and the second is an automatic activation when your eSIM connects to the local network.

In the case of the first scenario where a manual activation is required, you can activate your eSIM before you fly, and you most probably should. Manual activation often requires you to have a stable internet connection. But, as activation will immediately start the countdown of the validity of your plan, you might want to activate it right before you depart.

In the second case where your eSIM gets activated upon connection to a local network, you wouldn't be able to activate it before you travel. As the eSIM wouldn't be able to connect to the local network before your arrival, there wouldn't be any way for you to activate your eSIM before you arrive at your destination.

However, if you have purchased a regional eSIM that works in many different destinations including your home country, do take note that your eSIM could also be activated when it connects to your home network. In such cases, you might want to be careful of when you switch to your eSIM on your device to prevent your eSIM from activating too early!

6. Is there a way to test my eSIM before my trip?

Your eSIM will only work at destinations where it has coverage for.

That simply means that you will only be able to use your eSIM when it can connect to a network. So, if your eSIM does not include coverage in your home country, there is no way for you to actually use your eSIM before your trip.

Get a Nomad travel eSIM for 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 $1.50/GB.

The networks that Nomad's eSIMs use for each plan are stated on the plan details on the web store and apps, so you can check which networks are supported before buying your plan.

And, if you are unsure about how much data you need for your trip, Nomad also has a Data Calculator that can help you find the plan that is most suitable for you. Also check out our blog post on data-saving tips when traveling to keep your data usage in check when traveling.

Nomad also has a 24-hour customer support team. So, in the event where you face difficulties while using your eSIM, rest assured there will be someone available to help you resolve your issues!