Airalo Review [2024]: Are eSIMs Worth It For Travelers?

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Airalo Review [2024]: Are eSIMs Worth It For Travelers?
As an avid traveler myself, I needed to find the easiest way to access data at an affordable rate. That's when I found out about eSIMs and Airalo, a top contender for the best eSIM provider. Since I needed to find out more about this competitor, I wanted to share what I found so that you can also stay connected while traveling and exploring!
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High roaming bills, poor connection, and Wi-Fi issues are common problems I've faced when traveling abroad. If you have a limited budget, you would likely buy a local prepaid SIM card in the country you're going to.

Data roaming plans are often too expensive, and other international SIMs aren't affordable either. But what if there's one solution to all these problems? I was eager to find out.

Since the invention of eSIMs, high roaming costs have become a thing of the past.

If you're traveling to a new country, I've found it's far more convenient to get an eSIM than to buy a local prepaid sim or pay for roaming charges. Gone are the days of running around the airport looking for a decent wifi connection.

But are eSims something that can completely replace traditional sims for travelers, and most importantly, is Airalo the brand to do it?

Read my Airalo eSIM review that highlights the pros and cons and the alternatives to see if this is the right choice for you!

The screenshot I took of the Airalo logo
Image Courtesy of Airalo

What Is Airalo?

Airalo is the world's first eSIM store with a marketplace of data packages for travelers who regularly visit other countries like myself.

Airalo now has eSIM cards for over 190 countries and regions around the world, with many local and regional data plans to choose from. Regardless of where you're going and what type of trip you're taking, it's very likely Airalo has the eSIM for you.

But what makes Airalo different?

Airalo makes partnerships with local internet and cellular service providers from across the world to secure low price cellular plans for travelers like you.

But first, what are eSIMs and why are they superior to physical SIM cards?

Psst... I'm going to be real. While this is my honest review, we're such fans that we've scored a deal for you from Airalo. If you've decided to purchase, use code "PILOT10" for 10% off your purchase, or use referral code "PILOT2992" when you first sign up to receive $3 off your first purchase!

What Are eSIMs?

I wanted to learn all I could before I diving into it. It is, after all, a relatively new thing.

eSIM stands for embedded Subscriber Identity Module or simply "embedded sim". They allow you to store your sim card collection in one place. With an eSIM, I can still access my contacts no matter what home network you use without a physical SIM card.

Some older phones are not compatible with eSIMs, regardless of which company's offering them. Make sure to check if you have an eSIM compatible device before making the purchase!

How do eSIMs work?

eSIMs, at least for Airalo, mostly only come with data.

This means you won't get a phone number to make and receive calls on, nor can you send our SMS messages. However, you'll be able to use your data to call and send texts through apps that require internet service, like Gmail, iMessage, Facetime, or Zoom.

If you're in need for a traditional phone number for work trips or you need your phone line to consistently stay active, you might want to opt for a traditional physical sim card instead.

With eSIMs, the way they work is very simple, You simply follow their instructions with Airalo's app and download the credentials into your phone before you go on your trip. Once you're there, all you'll need to do is flip a switch and voilà, you've got service.

In addition, eSIMs for travel are great because some tablets and laptops are now also being built to be eSIM compatible, which makes working abroad so much more painless!

eSIMs vs. traditional SIM cards: What's the difference?

Today, nearly 80% of the world has mobile phone coverage, making it easy to connect with anyone, no matter where you are. But that doesn't mean traditional phone carriers have gotten cheaper and more affordable.

In fact, many travelers often come home to a horrible surprise of overage charges applied on their data plans, even if they've gone through the process of turning data off abroad. I made that mistake once and it nearly doubled my travel budget.

With Airalo, you're able to purchase regional and local data plans available all around the world from local providers. This means that Airalo have spent the effort in connecting with local cellular carriers worldwide to make sure you get the affordable prices on your data plans while traveling.

It's such a relief to not deal with hidden fees and expensive roaming fees. Be able to book your transportation and contact people right as the plane lands, without having to worry about your bill skyrocketing.

Plus, you wouldn't have to wonder around airports looking for a vendor to buy local sims from. You'll get service right when the plane lands.

Obviously I'm already sold on the concept of eSIMs, but I can recognize that it's not for everyone.

Here are eSIMs benefits and features that I've summarized for you:

  • Local data plans from local providers
  • No issues with storing physical plastic sim cards.
  • Keep your number active while still being able to switch your data plan
  • Better plans at affordable prices
  • No excessive roaming charges
  • Instant activation and ready-to-use.
  • Switch between data plans to a local, continental, or international plan easily

Now that you're aware of the benefits of eSIMs, let's find out how you can get set up with Airalo.

My iphone sitting next to my laptop
Photo by Rahul Chakraborty on Unsplash

How to Use Airalo?

This is the part I want to be your manual to how to get setup. These are the steps I've followed with great success.

You can either set up your eSIM profile before you arrive at your destination, in the airport connected to WiFi, or at your convenience. I like to do it a couple hours before I'm set to begin my ravels.

Most eSIMs don't activate until you arrive at your destination; however, you can get connected as soon as you land if you set it up earlier.

Before you install Airalo, make sure that your phone is carrier unlocked and can support eSIMs. Wondering if your phone supports eSim? Follow the eSim phone compatibility guide they've written before you buy!

Express Installation Guide

If your device is eSim compatible and you'd like to use Airalo as your eSim provider, this is how you getset up with your eSim services at your next destination.

1. Download the Airalo App (You can use their website as an alternative).

2. Choose your destination or region you're traveling to.

3. Buy & Install your eSIMs as per instructions on the app.

2. Activate your eSIM in 3 ways: Direct installation, QR code, or manual installation. Follow instructions provided by Airalo for Direct or QR code installations, or read on to find the manual installation guide.

3. Depending on the eSIM you choose, your eSIM will activate immediately when you arrive at your destination, or your activation policy will direct you to further installation instructions, typically involving setting up an APN. Don't worry, Airalo will provide clear instructions as to how.

Tip: Once you get your destination, make sure you turn off "Allow Cellular Data Switching" on your mobile phone to avoid charges to your other providers!

Manual Installation

If the QR code does not work or if you'd like to manually activate your Airalo eSIMs yourself, here are the instructions to do so. I really only had to do this once or twice but it's super easy.

  1. Go to “Settings” on your phone
  2. Select “Cellular/Mobile”, then “Add a Cellular/Mobile Plan”
  3. Select “Enter Details Manually”
  4. Enter the SM-DP, address and activation code (you'll find these in the Airalo app's purchase confirmation details)
  5. Enter a 4-digit confirmation code (if applicable)

And you're done! You'll automatically get service once you land at your destination. No more desperately searching for airport wifi.

My screenshot from Airlo website on "How to use Airalo" step by step instructions
Image Courtesy of Airalo

Buy a local Airalo eSim to Your Destination!

Here's a non-exhaustive list of the top destinations Airalo offers eSim services from. Some countries eSim may be data only with no calling/SMS features. All prices are in USD.

United States (Applies to all 50 states + Puerto Rico)

4 Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 4.50$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 11.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 16.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 26.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • AT&T and T-Mobile LTE Network

Canada

4 Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 7.50$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 17.50$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 25.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 36.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • Rogers LTE Network

Italy

4 Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 4.50$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 7.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 10.50$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 16.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • Vodafone, Telecom Italia, and Wind Tre LTE Network

Portugal

5 Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 4.50$
  • 15 Days for 30 GB Data (MEO 5G)- 15.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 7.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 10.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 17.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • NOS (Optimus) 4G Network / MEO 5G Network

France

4 Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 5.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 10.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 15.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 22.50$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • Orange, Bouygues, and SFR LTE Network

United Kingdom

4 Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 5.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 10.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 15.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 22.50$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • O2-UK LTE Network

Spain

4 Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 4.50$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 7.50$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 12.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 18.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • Movistar LTE Network

Aside from these top destinations, Airalo also offers great affordable esim data plan in Asia, like Japan, South Korea, Singapore, and more.

Keep in mind that the prices and availability mentioned above may fluctuate. I'd always check Airalo's official site for the most up-to-date pricing, features, and availability.

Airalo Regional & Global eSIM packages

If you're a digital nomad or if you're looking to visit multiple countries at once (Euro trip, anyone?), these packages are definitely more fitting for you.

Airalo offers regional and even global eSIMs, which have saved me a ton of money while backpacking across Europe. In short, Regional eSIMs cover multiple countries within a region so that you can stay connected even when you're crossing the border.

Airalo Regional Data packages
Image Courtesy of Airalo

Airalo has 6 different regional eSIM packages:

1. Africa

2 Packages - Hello Africa Packages

  • 30 Days for 1 GB Data - 27.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 59.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • 27 supported countries: South Africa, Senegal, Nigeria, Madagascar, Kenya, Ghana, and more!

2. Asia

6 Packages - Asialink Packages

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 5.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 13.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 20.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 37.00$
  • 90 Days for 50 GB Data - 100.00$
  • 180 Days for 100 GB Data - 185.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • 13 supported countries: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Taiwan, Thailand, South Korea, and more!

3. Caribbean Islands

1 Package - Island Hopper Package

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 15.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • 24 Supported countries: Bahamas, Aruba, Cayman Islands, Jamaica, Haiti, Curaçao, and more!

4. Europe

6 Package - Eurolink Package

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 5.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 13.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 20.00$
  • 30 Days for 10 GB Data - 37.00$
  • 90 Days for 50 GB Data - 100.00$
  • 180 Days for 100 GB Data - 185.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • 39 supported countries: France, Portugal, Spain, Italy, UK, Netherlands, and more!

5. Latin America

4 Package - Latamlink Package

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 15.00$
  • 15 Days for 2 GB Data - 28.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 39.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 60.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • 19 supported countries: Brazil, Colombia, Peru, Mexico, Costa Rica, Argentina, and more!

6. Middle East & North Africa

3 Package - Menalink Package

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 15.00$
  • 15 Days for 2 GB Data - 28.00$
  • 30 Days for 3 GB Data - 39.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • 15 supported countries: Egypt, Israel, Palestine, UAE, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and more!

Regional eSIM data plans have saved a ton of money and made travel much easier. I haven't tried all of them, but the Eurolink package has definitely saved me both time and money! It was instant and fast internet connection throughout, even beating some of our friends who've purchased physical local sim cards ahead of time.

I can't speak for all regional eSIMs Airalo has to offer, but the Eurolink package was definitely a no brainer as a recommend for all digital nomads or traveler!

But what about Global eSIMs?

If regional eSIM plan isn't enough for you, and you travel internationally really frequently, Airalo's Global esim data package might be the ultimate data plan for you.

With up to 84 countries of data access, you'll be able to stay connected to all of the countries that are compatible with your global eSIM.

5 Package - Discover Global Package

  • 7 Days for 1 GB Data - 9.00$
  • 15 Days for 3 GB Data - 24.00$
  • 30 Days for 5 GB Data - 35.00$
  • 60 Days for 10 GB Data - 59.00$
  • 180 Days for 20 GB Data - 89.00$

Features:

  • Data Only
  • 85 supported countries: Australia, Canada, Hong Kong, Germany, India, Japan, Mexico, Philippines, UK, US, Thailand, and more!

While you'll ultimately be paying more money per gigabytes, this is truly the ultimate eSIM package for global travelers.

Best Features: Pros of using Airalo

Whenever I go abroad, one of the first things I'm doing when I arrive is updating people and checking what's next on my Pilot itinerary. With Airalo, these steps are practically effortless.

Cartoon of passport, ticket, airplane, and location pin
Image Courtesy of Airalo

Connect to the Local Network as Soon as You Land

Airalo takes the stress away of buying a SIM in the country you're going to. I don't have to worry about setting up a new SIM in the new country; I can easily connect to my local network as soon as the plane lands —I don't even have to wait to use the airport's free Wi-Fi.

Have Access to Multiple eSIMS

So I travel alot, so another big benefit to using Airalo, is the ability to store multiple eSIMs in your account. If you're a digital nomad, you'll find it very convenient to have all of the eSIMs stored on your device without needing to line up at the airport and keep track of those plastic SIM cards. The app has all the information I need, and I can  see all my eSims from my travels.

There is even regional eSIMs provided by Airalo for those that are staying in multiple countries but won't want to pay for a full 5 or 7 days worth of the local phone plan!

Language Support

It is often difficult to ask for assistance while visiting a country with a different native language than your own. With Airalo, you can contact a customer support team that speaks your language. I found that's not always the case when purchasing a local esim on site.

Save Up to 10x Roaming Mobile Data

Avoid high roaming charges. Airalo offers cheap mobile data fees!

There are different packages, with the lowest starting at $4.50!

Airmoney

Airalo rewards customers with a currency they call 'Airmoney.' Every time a customer purchases a new eSIM, they can earn credits that can be used for discounts when purchasing their products. Honestly, I'm not one of these people, but I'm sure there is a way to really use this to your advantage with smart purchases.

Airalo Chat Support

So there have been several Airalo reviews I've seen that talk about the delays with Airalo's in-app 24/7 chat support, but I still believe that it's one of the best amongst Airalo's competitors.

Some reviews have said that it took Airalo ~5-15 minutes to reply, while others claimed it took them close to a day to respond. While that might be an issue to travelers who have lost connection, it is still a faster way to reach support than having to email or call in. In the few times, I've need any sort of support they have been responsive.

What i look like when I'm sitting in the airport browsing my phone
Photo by Levon Vardanyan on Unsplash

Drawbacks: Cons of using Airalo

Are there any downsides to using Airalo? In truth, yes. I'll let you decide for yourself how much these impact you:

No local Number

Airalo's prepaid travel eSIM is just like other eSIMs that don't usually come with a local number.

They're data-only sims. However, it doesn't mean you can't make phone calls. With messaging apps such as Whatsapp and Facebook messenger, you can still make calls and contact your friends and family!

Infrequent Intermittent Services

If you're traveling somewhere where Wi-Fi and internet connections are a bit unreliable, Airalo might not work for you. A solution to this is to enable call/SMS on your home SIM, making your phone contactable if it's necessary.

Airalo also offers data and voice packages in some countries on their list but make sure to check the packages for details on data only or data and voice.

Incompatible Devices

This isn't so much an Airalo issue as it is a device compatibility issue.

Many devices currently do not support eSIM capabilities, including older version iPhones. Make sure you read up on Airalo's eSim phone compatibility guide they've written before you buy.

With that being said, a lot of smartphones are moving in the direction of eSIMs. As shown in iPhone 14's removal of the SIM slot for their US users, it's clear that eSIMs will continue to be the popular option amongst mobility users across the world.

I'm surfing the web while traveling and working
Photo by Lilly Rum on Unsplash

Airalo Alternatives

There are a few other Airalo eSIM competitors that you can look into. Out of the bunch, I feel the most popular ones are Holafly and Nomad.

Airalo vs. Holafly

From my experiences with the app, they're both easy to use and the buying/installation process is straightforward. If I had to pick one, I'd go with Airalo.

Price wise, Holafly is more expensive than Airalo, but most of their packages include unlimited data plans, so the price makes sense for what you'll get.

Check out our full review of Holafly to learn more about them!

Airalo vs. Nomad

Nomad eSIMs is another alternative to Airalo that offers competitive pricing for local data plans fit for budget travelers.

While both apps have intuitive installation and payment processes, the actual data plans itself is where Nomad stands out.

In some cases, Nomad pricing can be more competitive and easily available than Airalo, covering 112+ countries around the world. Just like Airalo, Nomad also offers region data plans for those planning to travel to multiple countries. I have had some in my group of travel partners use Nomad with great results.

I'd recommend you to check the prices of the eSIMs of both apps with your destination to make your decision on which eSIM provider you should go with for your next trip.

Is Airalo Worth It? 

In my opinion, Airalo is legit and an excellent solution for people who travel internationally, either regularly or infrequently. While there may be better pricing with other providers, Airalo provides travelers ease of mind and reduces stress.

Airalo can save you time and money, allowing you to travel anywhere with peace of mind. With the ability to instantly connect to data and have multiple eSIMs in place, frequent travelers can save so much time not having to wait in line for your SIM card at the airport.

In my experience, in comparisons between Airalo and its competitors, Airalo offers the best European data plans. In other places like Colombia, I've noticed that local data plans were cheaper than purchasing an eSIM.

While that is the truth for now, I believe that with the prevalence of eSIMs becoming more and more often, the partnerships Airalo secures in the near future will definitely help lower the prices of these data plans down.

I've used Airalo on almost 4 trips now, and I can confidently say that I happily rely on Airalo for data service and almost never check other competitors. I definitely don't even bother with physical SIM cards anymore.

You're also able to see your data usage on the app and top up whenever you're running out, which in my opinion is a super convenient feature for travelers like me who's always on the go.

Not to mention, Airalo offers local rates with local carriers, so no more relying on expensive data plans from large phone carriers that'll overcharge you wherever they can.

While I talk about the pros of Airalo, it's also important to discuss the downsides. There were some limitations like limited coverage, but that's more the fault of the local provider's range and not Airalos. The biggest flaw is that you won't get a local phone number, so this might make it difficult for people to reach you through phone calls. It really comes down to personal preference.

There are also other competitors that offer competitive pricing with reach in other countries Airalo might not offer, so I invite you to check them out.

Important: Make sure you check if your phone supports eSIMs before purchasing. I've had a friend buy an eSIM from Airalo just to realize that its incompatible.

If this breakdown appeals to you, I recommend you to give Airalo eSIMs a try next time you go traveling. I know I have and it has saved me tons of money traveling abroad!

My Rating: 4.5/5

Pros:

  • Instant Connection
  • Easy to Set Up
  • Multiple eSIM Access
  • Short + Long Term Plans Available
  • Worldwide coverage
  • Competitive Local Rates

Cons:

  • No Local Phone Number
  • data-only eSIMs for Most Countries
  • Data and voice available for limited countries

Additional Airalo and eSIM FAQs

Can Airalo be trusted?

Definitely. Airalo partners with local phone carriers around the world and is one of the world's first eSIM companies. If there's anyone to trust for eSIMs, it's Airalo.

Is Airalo eSIM reliable?

Mileage may vary from different service providers in different countries. For my experience in 5+ countries using Airalo's eSIMs, they're all decently fast, sufficient for me to watch livestream videos or Netflix without delay.

Is Airalo data fast?

Airalo partners with fast data service providers and is still working on expanding coverage. With that being said, Airalo themselves mention spotty services in rural areas as a limitation of the coverage of local carriers.

Does eSIM drain battery?

No, it drains at the same speed to a phone with a physical SIM card inserted.

Does eSIM have faster data?

No. The actual speed is not affected if you use an eSIM compared to a physical SIM card, since they rely on the same technology.

Is there a downside to using eSIM?

I'd say there's no significant downsides, other than the ones we've already mentioned, which focuses more on the downsides of eSIM providers and cell service carriers.

Plan Ahead While Traveling!

Traveling abroad doesn't have to be a nightmare with eSIMs.

eSIMs are the answer to staying connected wherever you are. Not only are they cheap, but they're also very reliable—they do an outstanding job keeping you connected and secure while in a foreign place.

Another tool that will help you feel secure while on your journey is Pilot. I mentioned earlier that as soon as land I check my Pilot itinerary. Having all the info I need in one place is a huge relief and it allows me to enjoy traveling right away stress free.

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Disclosure: Pilot is supported by our community. We may earn a small commission fee with affiliate links on our website. All reviews and recommendations are independent and do not reflect the official view of Pilot.

Armela Escalona Blog
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Armela Escalona
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