I had no idea what an eSIM was until about six months ago and it’s now an essential part of my travel arsenal. It has allowed me to stay in touch with friends and family from back home while getting data in the country I’m traveling in.
What is an eSIM?
An eSIM is a digital SIM card from a variety of different carriers that you can use on an unlocked phone. It allows you to have a cellular plan without needing a physical SIM card in your phone.
Why is eSIM Useful?
Using an eSIM allows you to keep your SIM card from your home plan in while also having local data.
If you want to convert your home plan to an eSIM plan, you can also do it the other way around. My Verizon plan for my iPhone in the US is now eSIM only. So, that means I can just buy a cheap physical SIM wherever I travel to and always have my home plan running as well.
Before, eSIM I had two options, neither of which were particularly great. The first was to keep my home SIM card in and only use WiFi on Airplane Mode while traveling. I would still receive iMessages but it meant that I was severely limited when it came to getting around.
The other option was taking my home SIM card out and putting in a local SIM. While it was convenient to be able to have internet on the go, I wasn’t receiving messages from home. It was frustrating missing messages and getting them three months later when my trip was over.
Now, with eSIM I get both local data and all of my messages from home. It’s been incredibly helpful for staying in touch with friends and family. It’s also been crucial for receiving two-factor authentication texts to login to my accounts.
What’s the Catch?
The catch is that you could get charged by your carrier if your settings aren’t in order. That’s why you’ll want to turn roaming off on the plan from your home country when traveling.
I also recommend turning off Verizon’s Travel Pass or any international plan that’s pay per day. Even if roaming is turned off, you can still trigger a $10 travel pass session with a text or call from your primary number.
It took some tinkering to figure out how to get charged the least and I think the solution is well worth the cost. If you refrain from making/accepting calls on your primary number and only send texts when necessary, it is definitely manageable.
My International Plan is now Verizon Pay as You Go. With it, I’m charged at 50 cents per text message sent and five cents for every text received. I think it’s typically around $2/minute per call but I make sure to use WhatsApp or FB Messenger for calls so I’m not charged. Please take note that the text message charge is only for SMS.
iMessages will come through and are always free if you have the following settings on your iPhone while traveling:
Cellular Data: Local Plan
Default Voice Line: Local Plan
Home plan: ON Roaming: OFF.
So if I only send and receive 10 texts each month, I’ll only be charged an extra $5.50. I find that well worth it to not miss any important texts and still have access to my accounts.
What Countries Have Carriers Offering eSIM?
Apple has a handy list of the 70+ countries offering eSIM service and I’m pretty sure it’s more than that in reality.
When I still had my Verizon plan as a physical SIM I was able to get a great deal on an eSIM in Italy. Very Mobile offered an Italian number, with 100 GB and unlimited calls/texts for just 7.99 Euros per month.
So, in total I paid about $15 extra per month to have both Italian and American phone lines. Not bad at all.
Is eSIM iPhone Specific?
Nope! As far as I know, a lot of the latest Android smartphone models support eSIM. I’m not familiar with the specific settings on an Android phone but two plans at the same time is definitely possible.
In sum, eSIM is an essential travel tool for me and makes my life a lot easier when I’m on the road.