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How and where to buy a prepaid SIM card for the UK in 2024?

In this article, we will show you why a UK SIM card, physical or virtual, is the best way to connect to the internet abroad.

Mark Robins

January 31, 2024

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To enjoy your trip to London, Edinburgh, Liverpool, or any other British city, you’ll need an internet connection. But do you know how to use your cell phone connected to the internet abroad without spending a fortune? If not, in this article, we will show you why a UK prepaid SIM card is one of the best ways to connect to the internet abroad.

Why is a SIM card for the United Kingdom the best option? Most importantly, it is much cheaper than data roaming in the UK and other options. Besides, the best of all is that SIM cards have been evolving, and now even virtual SIM cards exist! So, we will also be talking about what is an eSIM and how it become a favorite among travelers. Read on to find out more about UK international SIM cards and virtual SIMs for tourists.

Digital SIM card for the United Kingdom

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Where to buy a SIM card for the United Kingdom?

Not only is the UK SIM Card option cheaper than other alternatives, but it is also more secure. It is clear that today there are free Wifi hotspots in almost every major city, but these connections can be slow due to the number of people using them and insecure because of the exposure of your mobile device. This is why having a UK tourist SIM card for tourists is usually the best alternative for travelers.

uk SIM card

There is no reason not to opt for a Prepaid SIM card for the UK, even though the ways in which you can acquire them have multiplied. Nowadays, the market and communications have taken a hand in hand to give more possibilities to tourists and customers interested in the best data SIM card for the UK.
Most tourists have two main ways to purchase their SIM cards for the UK, with several options.

In summary, you can make your purchase through the following:

1. Buy before you travel from an online store.

2. Buy once you arrive in the United Kingdom

(You may also be interested in the best SIM for Jersey)

Buy a UK SIM card in the USA

Even if you are in the USA, buying a UK prepaid SIM card is possible before you arrive in the country. You can find online providers such as Amazon, Simify, My UK SIM card, and Simcorner, which sell UK SIM cards from local carriers but with delivery in the USA. The package options vary depending on the operator, and of course, we invite you to confirm the coverage map of each one to see which one works best in the UK cities you will be visiting.

Prices for these UK SIM cards with data range from $20 to a maximum of $60, some include shipping costs, and some do not. However, it is not easy to find unlimited data packages.

If you don’t want to try to buy a UK SIM card from a local carrier in the USA, you might consider using your carrier’s roaming service to stay connected. Companies in the USA, such as T-Mobile and Verizon, allow their customers to continue using their USA plans abroad. This includes the UK, but remember that this is quite expensive. Plans cost as low as $10 per day and up to $100 monthly if you have a particular plan.

We have not given you the best alternative but don’t worry. You can still count on the virtual SIM card for the UK to make your trip a better experience. They have the great advantage of being entirely digital, so they are delivered immediately wherever you are, not needing physical installation and having a fast and secure activation process. Online stores like Holafly have an eSIM UK with unlimited data plans and good coverage nationwide. You can learn more about this alternative in a later section.

Pros of buying a data SIM card abroad before traveling

Regarding the second point, the benefits that we can find buying your UK travel SIM card before your trip are:

  • You’re connected the moment you land.

When you buy a SIM card from an online store, you can connect to the internet the moment you land in the UK. This will save you a lot of time, and you’ll be able to order a cab or an Uber instantly.

  • Be always communicated.

You’ll also be able to let friends and family know that you’ve arrived safely by sending a message on WhatsApp or other apps. This option gives you peace of mind of having everything sorted before you go.

  • Cheapest option.

UK cell phone companies take advantage of tourists by charging excessive rates and prices. The cheapest option is always to buy from an online traveler’s store. We also invite you to consider an even cheaper option, such as the Holafly virtual SIM card with unlimited data for $6 (USD).

Buying a local SIM card in the UK 

We have given you many reasons to choose to buy your UK SIM card through online providers. If you are still thinking about it, you can also choose to buy them once you arrive in the country through the physical stores of the mobile operators working in the UK. Currently, The United Kingdom has four Main Operators offering prepaid SIM card options. We will be giving you information about some of them.

You will notice that many of the offers that these companies have cannot be purchased online. We recommend buying from Vodafone or O2 because these stores offer the best coverage in the country. So, they’re the best option for a fast and stable connection.

>Traveling to the UK from Canada? You might be interested in our guide!<

Top 4 Best UK SIM Cards for Travelers

Now that you know all the alternatives you have to buy a SIM card or any of the best eSIM for the UK, it is time to talk about the best ones. To decide this, you have to consider factors such as the plans they offer, the speed and stability of the connection, and, of course, the price. We will present below, one by one, what are considered the best options to have mobile internet in the UK.

1. Holafly

The company is currently positioned as one of the best online stores offering virtual SIM cards for the UK and 170 other destinations worldwide. Holafly has unlimited data packages from 1 to 90 days of use, you can also share data up to 500 MB per day which is ideal for any type of visit.

The price will range from $6 to $139 depending on how many days people need to travel to the UK. The best part about this service is that people can choose how many days they are traveling to the UK, which is a great advantage when preparing a budget.

Also, with coverage from Telefonica, Hutchinson, and EE Limited, high-speed networks and great connectivity will be part of the package travelers take with them. And if you need to stay longer, then you can purchase more days with the top-up feature!

holafly esim customization uk

2. Vodafone UK

The Spanish-born company has a whole division dedicated to the UK market. They offer options for tourists through their Pay-as-you-go SIM deal for the UK with data packages from 7GB to 100GB of browsing. They all last for 30 days once you activate one and renew them automatically. Prices range from $12.00 to approximately $35.00. No contract or credit verification is required, but Vodafone does remind you that if you have no credit on renewal, you will be paying a flat rate per day of usage until the plan is upgraded. Additionally, if you have no credit for 90 days in a row, the SIM card will be suspended.

3. Three

This operator also works with Pay as you go SIM cards for the UK. In the case of Three, the package options are 10GB, 50GB, and 100GB of web browsing. The period of use of services is 30 days before renewal, with costs from 15$ to 25$, but this can change. Three offers these cards and packages in its physical stores and can also be found available on Amazon. In case you plan to visit another EU country, the operator offers Roaming for your selected plan for a flat rate of 5$/Day that will be charged additionally for each day of usage outside the UK.

4. O2

Another alternative to purchasing your UK Data Sim Card is with O2 and its Rollings plans. These data packages are available in versions from 10GB to 150GB to be used for periods of 30 days. The plans have costs from $15 to $35 for the most complete versions. These have the advantage of having rollover in all versions so that unused data in one month can be transferred to the next if you keep renewing the plan. Regarding the renewal, O2 offers the option to link your payment automatically to a valid credit or debit card.

You may be interested in knowing about the best eSIM for UK!

SIM cards for the UK with Unlimited Data 

You may be surprised by the term unlimited data, but the truth is that some providers have this type of UK SIM card. It is important to know that even though they are called SIM cards with unlimited data, they usually have restrictions. These are known as usage policies and can vary between having a high-speed data limit and the rest at a reduced speed. You should also confirm if you are eligible for these UK SIM cards and the number of options each provider gives you to choose from.


Holafly eSIM home
Holafly home website.

This is one of the best eSIM for UK travel with unlimited data because of the large number of plans they have and how easy it is to buy them. As we said before, there are options from 1 to 90 days of use, and all of them have unlimited data. Just go to their online store, choose the UK as your destination, and select one of the packages to buy it. After paying, you will receive a QR code in your email to install your virtual SIM card.

The whole process, from purchase to installation, will not take you more than a few minutes. Best of all, with Holafly’s virtual SIM card for the UK, you won’t suffer from browsing restrictions for at least the first 90GB of each month. Even after that, you can wait 24 hours to restore your speed.

Vodafone UK

We anticipate that Vodafone UK has a tourist SIM card for the UK available for visitors. Within its catalog, there is also a unique unlimited data plan for the region. The cost is approximately 45$ which you can renew every time the period ends as long as you have enough credit. The phone company has credit and debit cards and also Paypal as payment methods, but this always depends on the physical store you visit and the availability at the moment.


Something similar happens with the British telephone company Three, which among the UK SIM card for tourists, offers an unlimited data plan. This package has an approximate cost of 40$. You can renew it automatically, and it is necessary to have the credit in your account at the end of the month. All Three’s additional services, such as roaming, can also be activated on this prepaid SIM card. You will be connected to a 5G network as long as it is available.

>Get to know the eSIM from Giffgaff for the UK<

What is the best SIM card for the UK?

There is no doubt that if we plan to travel to the UK, we want to have the best data SIM card to keep mobile internet abroad. From the opinion of many users, the choice of the best one always goes through the availability of delivery, how easy it is to buy and install, the plans they offer, and of course, the cost. For some, it is also important to the connection speed you will have and the coverage, even better if you have unlimited data.

When we think of an option that unites all the positive points of each of the features, without a doubt, the best one is the virtual SIM card for the UK from Holafly. This online store has websites in more than five languages that are easy to use for all types of travelers. They have various unlimited plans and data sharing for this destination, plus multiple payment methods.

You will have a 3G/4G/LTE/5G connection and perfect coverage throughout the country for an excellent cost compared to other options. If you want to stay connected on your trip without complications, you should choose a virtual SIM card from Holafly.

Frequently asked questions about prepaid SIM cards for the United Kingdom

How else can I connect to the internet in the United Kingdom?

You can activate data roaming and use data provided by your current domestic carrier. But be aware that this will be very expensive. If you use this option, you can expect a hefty phone bill when you return home. Alternatively, you could buy Pocket Wi-Fi (a portable device that generates a WiFi connection for your phone and other devices).

This option is also expensive, and you must carry the device everywhere with you, which may be a bit tedious. A virtual SIM card for the UK or a European eSIM card is the cheapest and most convenient way of connecting to the internet.

How much does roaming cost in the United Kingdom?

You could expect to be charged $7-$15 per MB. So, if you watched a movie on Netflix, that could mean paying hundreds. That’s why we recommend buying a virtual SIM card instead.

How do I know if my phone is compatible with the eSIM?

You can check if your phone is compatible with our compatible devices list.

What do I do if my SIM card doesn’t work in the UK?

If you buy your virtual SIM card from Holafly, you can contact their customer support team 24/7. All SIM cards come with clear and comprehensive set-up instructions.