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Looking for the best prepaid UK SIM card for tourists? Here are your best options!
Whether you are planning to visit London for a weekend city break or a couple of months, getting Prepaid SIM cards in the UK for tourists can be a total lifesaver.
Let’s paint a picture: So, you’ve booked your flight, packed your bags, and built the perfect London itinerary for a whirlwind adventure.
Shortly after landing you find that you have no idea how to find your way around. The tube map is complicated (to say the least), and you don’t have data to contact that friend from university who promised to pick you up from the airport. What do you do?
I have lived in the U.K. for a decade, and I still find it confusing to get around without data.
Picking up an England SIM card for tourists can save you a lot of hassle and make your trip efficient – leaving you more time to explore all of the unusual things to do in London.
Let’s look at the best prepaid UK SIM cards for tourists, what plans are available, and how to get your hands on one!
Where Can I Get Prepaid Sim Cards In The UK?
Prepaid Sim Cards in the UK are really easy to get. You can purchase a SIM Card right after touching down at the airport, visit a local provider directly, or find prepaid SIM cards at local convenience stores. You can even buy one before you leave your home country or just get an E-Sim that doesn’t even require purchasing a physical card.
How to Buy a SIM Card at the Airport
If you’re looking for where to buy a UK sim card for visitors, the good news is that you won’t have to look very far. In fact, you can organise a SIM card before you even leave the airport.
Most international flights into the UK arrive at Heathrow Airport or Gatwick Airport. Here is where you can find SIM Cards at each international hub.
Heathrow Terminals 2, 3, and 5 all have stores that sell SIM cards at the usual rate. You can also find local SIM cards for sale in the underground (Terminal 2). The opening hours are very convenient, allowing you to purchase from as early as 6 am right until 10 pm. Overall, it’s very easy to get a UK tourist sim card at Heathrow.
Gatwick’s options are slightly more limited because there are no mobile internet operator shops on site.
However, there are vending machines that sell prepaid SIM cards in the UK. You can also head on over to a WH Smith store, as they also stock SIM cards. The vending machines sell prepaid SIM cards, so the data packages are already activated.
The WH Smith stores sell SIM cards with credit that can be used to buy your desired data package.
How to Buy a SIM Card Directly with the Carrier
If you’re desperate to drop your bags at your London accommodation, you can skip the SIM cards at the airport and make your purchase at a later stage.
After taking a shower and putting on a fresh set of clothes, you’ll most likely ask yourself, “Where can I buy a sim card UK?”.
Prepaid SIM cards are accessible throughout the city. There are dedicated mobile stores on the high streets.
Buy A SIM Card at a Convenience Store (Third-party)
Countless tiny convenience stores offer the same service. These stores will be able to sell you a prepaid sim card for the UK and help you top up if needed
Two stores that are certain to stock internet SIM cards are Asda and Tesco supermarkets – so if there is one nearby, it can save you a bit of searching around central London.
If you’re a planner like me, then you like to have your ducks in a row before embarking on an adventure. The good news is that you can order a prepaid tourist SIM card for the UK before you even leave the comfort of your home.
There are options to buy an international SIM card and have it delivered wherever you are in the world. you can find There are various packages available and no surprise hidden costs.
By doing your research in advance, you’re sure to find a few of the best UK sim cards to buy online.
Here’s how to order a Europe SIM card online:
- Look at the various choices available on SimOptions
- Compare options of providers, packages, and prices
- Add your package of choice to your cart
- Make payment and wait for your delivery
Handy tip: The delivery time is an estimated 1 – 3 days for central European countries and up to 5 days for North America. Make sure that you allocate enough time for delivery before your trip.
Many people think that because London has decent WiFi, they don’t need to invest in a SIM card as a tourist. And perhaps you don’t.
Here are a few benefits offered by a prepaid UK tourist SIM card:
- A prepaid card means that you can pick and choose how much data to load without tying you into a long-term contract
- Local rates apply, which means you avoid paying exorbitant international roaming fees
- SIM cards are affordable, thereby providing inexpensive data 24/7
- There’s an opportunity to make and receive local calls at an affordable rate – this can come in handy when making a reservation at highly-acclaimed London bottomless brunch spots.
- You’ll have access to the internet out of WiFi zones – which helps with navigating, searching, and communicating while on the road
These are just a few of the many benefits to enjoy if you buy one of the UK SIM card options. Now, let’s dive into the various network coverage providers and SIM packages.
Best 4G Network Coverage Providers In The UK
Several providers offer 4G networks to users across the UK. Here’s an overview of all of them, demonstrating their pros and cons.
Boasting the widest 4G coverage of all the providers, EE UK is the largest operator. Their signal even extends to the underground, keep this in mind if you are a heavy data user or plan on spending a lot of time on the tube and still need data roaming.
Vodafone is known around the world and has earned a reliable reputation. In the UK, it comes in at a close second to EE and has recently deployed 4G LTE carrier aggregation technology.
For those who aren’t tech experts, this means that it has helped improve speeds and reliability of connection across the UK. It’s also known as the best SIM Card for UK and Europe because you can get service in other European Countries.
O2 UK is known mainly for its SIM deals as they don’t offer home broadband. Their coverage is relatively decent in London and other major cities.
However, the connection gets noticeably weaker in smaller towns.
Although one of the leading mobile internet operators in the UK, Three has the least coverage across the country.
However, it does feature some of the most affordable packages. So if you’re planning to stay in one of the large cities and want the cheapest pay-as-you-go SIM in the UK, then Three could be a great option.
Just as there are different types of UK SIM card companies, there’s also a choice of SIM cards for tourists to choose from. This UK prepaid SIM card comparison should help make your decision easier.
Here are a few of the most popular UK prepaid SIM cards for tourists options and the different packages that they have available.
Operating off of 02’s network, Giffgaff offers options ranging from 2G to 5G coverage. One of the biggest perks of choosing Giffgaff is that they allow you to top up easily without a UK credit card.
Giffgaff offers the lowest fees of all UK telecommunication providers. Some of their packages are called ‘GoodyBags,’ which last 30 days – perfect for a whirlwind trip through the UK.
Giffgaff’s 26GB deal is arguably one of their most cost-effective packages.
- 26GB of data
- Unlimited minutes
- Unlimited texts
How To Top-Up Your Giff Gaff SIM Card
If you fall in love with London and choose to stay longer, you may decide to top up your Giffgaff account. To do so, you can purchase a voucher from any kiosk or cell provider.
Alternatively, you can call 43430, select option 2 and top up using a debit card or credit card – but this will need to be a UK card.
O2 offers five different options of prepaid SIM cards to choose from, ranging from £10 to £30. They run these bundles using their own network coverage.
The brand is reliable but not necessarily the most affordable.
O2 UK offers one of the best pay as you go UK bundles for up to £30, which includes 100GB of data. But unless you’re streaming YouTube videos instead of ticking off your London bucket list, this package may be overkill. With this in mind, I’d recommend the entry-level deal.
- £15 per month
- 20GB of data
- Unlimited minutes
- Unlimited texts
It’s rather easy to top up your O2 travel SIM, with different convenient options to choose from.
You can either call 4444, top-up online or use an E-Top Up card after you buy a voucher from anywhere that has the green top-up logo.
Once again, you may need a UK card (so make a British friend and repay them with a pint).
Three UK offers four different Pay As You Go prepaid SIM packages . These 5G ready packages include unlimited texts and calls.
Of the various options available, the most cost-effective package is the unlimited package for £35. However, the 8 GB package at £10 should give you enough data for a single trip as a tourist.
What really sells the package is the ‘Go Roam’ feature. This feature allows you to use your phone outside of the UK. This makes it one of the best SIM cards for travelling Europe and the UK.
- Unlimited data
- Unlimited minutes (within Europe)
- Unlimited texts (within Europe)
Just like the other SIM cards, you can easily top-up your Three SIM. The UK has convenience stores on practically every street that will happily help you buy a voucher to do so. It’s one of the best UK SIM Card pay as you go options available!
You can also top up online from their website by entering your phone number and paying with your international MasterCard.
You can’t go wrong with EE SIM cards in the UK. As the packages are on the EE network, you can be confident that you’ll have consistent signal across the city – including underground.
The EE prepaid sim card UK has two packages within the same price bracket that can be customised to your needs.
For example, you can either receive less data but more minutes. Or you can receive more data and fewer minutes.
If you’re looking for reliable connectivity but are on a tighter budget, then you may find EE’s affordable packages to be limited. However, if you have a few extra pounds to spend, then you can have an easy, hassle-free experience.
Regardless, I’d still recommend the entry-level package.
- 200GB of data
- Unlimited minutes
- Unlimited texts
To top-up your EE prepaid contract, you can buy and redeem an e-voucher from a convenience store. You can also top up online, call or text 150 from your EE phone.
Vodafone likes to keep business sweet and simple with four distinctive packages to choose from. In addition, they like to sweeten the deal by throwing in regular promotions.
Vodafone UK sim cards run off their own network, which offers excellent coverage and makes it arguably the best sim card in the UK.
Vodafone has a very affordable entry-level package that costs very little, but you get what you pay for, and the chances are that it won’t be enough to keep you going.
With this in mind, the best Vodafone UK tourist SIM deal is as follows:
- 5GB Data
- Unlimited calls
- Unlimited texts
Vodafone sells top-up vouchers through their My Vodafone app, which can be activated when needed.
You can text 2345 with the words ‘TOPUP’ and the amount you want to top up with. Another option is to call 2345 free from your Vodafone Pay-as-You-Go phone. This could be tricky if you don’t have access to a UK credit card.
In their own words, VOXI SIM card packages offer you “endless possibilities”. They offer rolling 30-day SIM card deals with complete flexibility to cancel at any time. VOXI has two main contract types: Endless Social Media and Endless Data.
Seeing as data includes access to social media, I’d recommend the VOXI Endless Data package. It is considerably pricier than the Endless Social Media plan but offers fantastic perks.
The plan also has EU roaming which you can access at no extra cost.
- Unlimited data – for everything
- Unlimited minutes
- Unlimited texts
VOXI works differently from other providers because it uses a prepaid contract method. You can opt out of this to use their pay-as-you-go, but this restricts data access. With this in mind, you’ll need to cancel your “contract” before the end of your 30-day rolling period (in case of an impromptu change of plans to Hang Kong or South America!)
These are just a few of the recommended prepaid SIM providers in the UK. Here are a few others that you may have heard of:
- Virgin Mobile SIM – on the EE network offering 4G services, but their packages are more long-term focused
- Lycamobile SIM card – on the 02 networks offering 4G services at a slightly higher price
- SMARTY SIM card – on the Three UK network offering 3G and 4G services at an affordable rate
Best E-SIM Cards for the UK
E-SIM Cards are becoming more popular among frequent travelers because they bypass the need to purchase. physical SIM Card. Most of the time it’s more reliable to have a physical card with a local carrier if you are spending a few weeks in the UK, but if you will only be there for a couple of days, an E-SIM is the most convenient option.
There are no local carriers in the UK that provide E-SIM Cards, but if you want the convenience of one, there are some third-party sites where you can purchase them and have access to Data throughout the UK
The best E-SIM providers are;
SimOptions – After you purchase an E-SIM Card with SimOptions, you will get a QR code sent to your email, from there, you simply scan the code and activate the SIM card through their website.
Airalo – Airalo is the leading E-SIM company in the world. They have an easy-to-use app, so once you purchase your SIM Card for the UK, you can install the card and activate it right on the app (no need to mess around in your phone settings!
Orange Holiday Europe – Orange Holiday is the most expensive E-SIm, but they offer 14-day packages that work all across Europe, so if you will be traveling to multiple countries, this will save you the hassle of needing multiple SIM cards!
No matter which option you choose, you can simply purchase the E-SIM on the website or the app and they will give you instructions for installation.
The only downside to using an E-SIM Card is that you will pay for the convenience. They are often 2x-3x more expensive than you can get at a local provider. But if you only have a few days in London, it’s worth it to pay a little more so you can spend more time exploring the city!
The answer to this question depends entirely on your data-using habits and how long you plan to spend in the UK.
If your idea of killing time on the tube is streaming YouTube videos, you may run out of data before uploading that amazing Instagram shot. Even worse, you could lose your way and get stuck in the rain without direction.
As a guideline, you can consider how much data you use in a week at home and estimate a little bit more than that amount.
The good news is that most UK SIM cards with prepaid data allow you to top up rather easily. This is usually done by heading over to a convenience store where you can purchase a voucher.
Alternatively, you can head on over to Mobiletopup.co.uk which allows you to top-up your account as needed.
Keep in mind that most restaurants, hotels, and public areas offer free WiFi. I’d recommend switching over to WiFi access whenever possible.
Once again, this will depend largely on your data requirements. If you use a lot of data then it’s best to invest in a slightly pricier package so that you can use your phone without concern.
If the purpose of your phone is to take photographs (and maybe upload them to social media) and navigate your way through the city, then you can opt for the budget package.
Generally, a SIM card and data package will cost approximately £10 for the entry-level option and go up to £35 for the pricier alternative.
Getting a SIM card in London is as easy as pie. In most instances, you don’t need to show your passport or any other form of identification. All that you need are the funds to make the exchange.
The one part of the process that you should check in advance is whether or not your phone is compatible with a UK SIM card.
Pre-paid vs. Pay-as-you-go Contracts
While looking for a SIM Card in the UK, you can choose either a prepaid phone plan or a pay-as-you-go phone plan.
A prepaid phone plan doesn’t have. contract, but you pay on a monthly basis a set amount of Data, minutes, and texts.
A pay-as-you-go phone plan is very similar, and sometimes the phrases are used interchangeably, but pay-as-you-go minutes, texts, and data typically don’t expire, so if you won’t need a lot of data, this can be a better option for you!
UK mobiles use the Global System for Mobile Communications (GSM). GSM mobile phones are widely used across Europe and the rest of the world.
If you arrive from one of these destinations, then all that you need is a SIM card.
However, a few international phones won’t work in the UK without being unlocked.
If you travel frequently, then you may find that buying a new tourist SIM card in each country can become tiresome.
A great solution for travel junkies is a portable WiFi device for travelling . With a portable WiFi device, you have access to a 4G mobile hotspot wherever you are in the world.
This way, you can stay connected in various instances, such as travelling the Ocho Rios beaches of Jamaica one day and landing in London the next.
There are several benefits to purchasing a portable mobile device, namely:
- Full access to internet on-the-go
- The small and slight size makes it easy to move around
- It can save you money in the long run
- Removes the hassle of finding a network provider and SIM in each new country
Also known as travel SIM cards, an international SIM card can also save you a fair amount of money in the long run.
You can enjoy the same benefits of a local SIM, such as free incoming calls and local data rates. Some UK international SIM cards allow you to make cheap international calls from inside the UK too.
You can buy these SIM cards in most countries from cell-store providers.
One of the unexpected benefits of many internet providers is Europe’s ban on roaming costs. This means that you can use the data (and make calls) on your UK SIM card in at least 30 other countries across Europe.
This makes a European trip a lot more convenient when it comes to connectivity and communications.
As a guideline, SIM cards from outside the EU will be subject to roaming charges and it’s best to invest in a UK SIM card. However, you may still be able to benefit from a European SIM card.
There are concerns that Brexit’s impact on roaming fees won’t be positive. While some networks might charge a bit more for roaming charges, there are a few networks that promise not to (for now).
In fact, some providers are reassuring customers about their consistent services. Certain providers have the following to say about their services in relation to Brexit:
“We currently have no plans to change our roaming services across Europe. We will be working closely with the UK government and other European mobile operators to try to maintain the current EU ‘Roam like at home‘ arrangements once the UK leaves the EU.” – O2
Best Prepaid UK SIM Cards for Tourists: FAQ
What is the Best Sim Card to Buy in the UK?
Three UK SIM Card is the best SIM Card to buy in the UK, especially as a tourist because it is one of the most versatile cards and you can use an International Mastercard to top up!
What is the Most Popular Sim Card in the UK?
The most popular SIM Card in the UK is the Vodaphone SIM Card. Users love that you can use it while traveling to other countries in the EU, plus the variety of plans.
Can I get a Prepaid Sim Card for the UK?
Yes, you can get a prepaid SIM Card in the UK with almost any provider.
Can I Buy a UK Sim Card in the US?
Yes, you can buy an E-SIM for your phone before a trip to the UK, or you can buy a physical SIM CArd online! But remember to plan for shipping and purchase the SIM Card 4-7 days in advance.
UK prepaid SIM cards for tourists are readily available and affordable. Choosing the best prepaid UK SIM cards for travelling to London will depend largely on your needs.
Ultimately, you can buy a really affordable Three UK package or opt for EE if your priority is reliable coverage.
Whether you’re finding your way from one of the free things to do in London to another or want to connect to the internet to answer a few urgent emails, a data package is a great way to stay online.