Best Prepaid SIM Card for UK Tourists with Data

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by Michael Rozenblit


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One of the most popular destinations to visit anywhere in the world is the United Kingdom. And whether you’re planning a city break in London, explore rural Scotland or anything in between, it’s undeniable that finding the best prepaid SIM card for tourists to the UK will make your time in Britain easier to navigate.

Even if you’re planning to combine your trip in the UK with Ireland or many other countries in continental Europe, you’ll still be able to use any of these prepaid SIM cards in many other countries.

So if you’re wondering what the best UK sim card for visitors is and how to best buy them, check out our guide below to ensure you can easily stay connected while in the UK!

Want a quick answer? My choice for the best UK SIM card that can be purchased online is the Orange Prepaid SIM with 30GB Data (eSIM available) or the Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB data

Prepaid SIM Card for UK Visitors Comparison

SIM CardDescriptionPrices
Three Prepaid SIM Card
PrePaid Europe (UK THREE) sim card 12GB data+3000 minutes+3000 texts for 30 days with FREE ROAMING / USE in 71 destinations including all European countries
Data: 12GB
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: 3000 min (UK/EU only)
SMS: 3000 (UK/EU only)
Hotspot Allowed?: No
Countries Covered: 71
Recharagable?: Yes
eSIM Available?: No
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Orange Prepaid SIM Card
Data: 30GB
Expiry: 14 days
Calls: 120 min
SMS: 1000
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 30
Recharagable?: Yes
eSIM Available?: Yes
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O2 Prepaid Data SIM Card
$45 Sims4Travel Prepaid O2 UNLIMITED Data Plan. Unlimited 5G Data for use in the UK (Valid for 30 Days from Activation). Easy to Renew. (3-in-1 SIM Card). Stay connected whilst in the UK.
Data: Unlimited
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: None
SMS: None
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: UK only
Recharagable?: Yes
eSIM Available?: No
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Giffgaff Prepaid SIM Card
GiffGaff United Kingdom PAYG SIM Card for Visiting UK & Europe w/ 5£bonus, Activate While in U.S., 12£ for Unlimited SMS/Calls and 12GB Data [for Unlocked phones]
Data: 20GB
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: Unlimited (UK only)
SMS: Unlimited (UK only)
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 5GB in EU
Recharagable?: Yes
eSIM Available?: No
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Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card
12GB Bundle Dataroam® Prepaid Europe Data SIM Card - 33 countries - 3-in-1 SIM - Cellhire
Data: 12GB
Expiry: 60 days
Calls:None
SMS: None
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 33
Recharagable?: No
eSIM Available?: No
Check Prices


How to Purchase a Travel SIM Card for the UK

If you’re used to buying SIM cards in the USA, you might be pleasantly surprised to know that you can actually buy a local SIM card in many arrival ports of the UK such as Heathrow or Gatwick Airport. However, while this might seem like a convenient option, there are a few disadvantages to taking this approach.

The first and perhaps most obvious one is that if you’re coming to the UK after a long flight, you probably prefer to get as quickly as possible to wherever you’re staying, rather than dealing with shopping for SIM card for the UK.

Secondly, a lot of the SIM cards sold at airports often are marked up meaning you are paying more than you should. And if you’re only travelling in the UK for a short period of time, you probably don’t want to waste your precious time going to the various telecom shops.

Finally, it’s undoubtedly more convenient to be able to connect to data as soon as you land in the UK either to be able to order a cheaper taxi through an app or simply to let your family back home know that you’ve arrived!

With a plethora of great UK prepaid sim cards available online, I personally suggest travellers pre-order one a few weeks before they’re due to leave, pop it into their phone and know that they’ll have data as soon as they land in the UK!

If you prefer to pick one up when landing in the UK and are prepared to pay an inflated price, then you can head to shops like WH Smith and Sim Local or look for vending machines that exist in some airports.

Hiking on the Three Lochs Way
You’ll want data when hiking in Scotland!

Will a UK SIM Card Work in my Phone?

Before you travel to the UK and buy a SIM card, you want to make sure that your mobile phone is unlocked completely and will work with a different carrier to what you use back home.

If you have bought your mobile phone on a contract plan, you should call your provider at home and check to see if your phone can be unlocked. If you’re not under contract, your phone might still be locked but the provider should unlock it for free.

Be aware that your mobile phone provider might try to upsell you an expensive roaming package — this is undoubtedly the most costly option for travellers heading abroad. If, for whatever reason, you can’t get your phone unlocked, a cheaper option might be to purchase a mobile WiFi hotspot or an unlocked phone online.

Alternatively, you can always rely on public WiFI in cafes and your accommodation, however, this isn’t always ideal for a short trip! If you choose to go down this route, then make sure to subscribe to a quality VPN such as ExpressVPN.

Best SIM Cards for UK Tourists

These are some of the best UK SIM cards for travellers that can be purchased online and allow you to have data as soon as you land!

Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB Data

Whether you’re travelling only in the UK or looking for a SIM card for all of Europe, the Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB Data is undoubtedly one of the best deals available for travellers.

This SIM card comes with 12GB data, 3000 minutes of calls and 3000 texts which can be used for 30 days across a total of 71 countries including the EU countries and even in the US, Canada & Australia!

If you’re travelling for more than 30 days you have the option of recharging your phone, or alternatively, you can consider purchasing a Three SIM Card with 1-year validity here. The only difference to be aware of with these SIM cards is that they don’t include phone calls or SMS credits.

Some things to be aware of with this Three SIM is that you can only use calls or texts for other UK and other European numbers and it’s not possible to use this SIM card as a mobile hotspot.

PrePaid Europe (UK THREE) sim card 12GB data+3000 minutes+3000 texts for 30 days with FREE ROAMING / USE in 71 destinations including all European countries

Orange Prepaid SIM Card with 30GB Data

If the disadvantages of the Three Prepaid SIM card make it not a suitable option for your needs, you’ll be happy to know that the Orange Prepaid SIM card might be the perfect choice for you. It is available as a physical SIM card or an eSIM.

Coming with a whopping 30GB of data it also includes 120 minutes of phone calls and 1000 SMS that can be used to call or message any number around the world.

It also has no restrictions in terms of being able to use the SIM card as a hotspot so you have the guarantee of a reliable internet connection for your laptop!

This SIM card only has 14 days of validity however you can easily recharge online so it’s ideal for heavy data users that will probably be using this SIM card as a hotspot during their travels.

It also has a smaller country list than the Three Prepaid SIM card, as it only works in 30 countries however they do still cover all the major European destinations.

All in all, the Orange SIM card is a fantastic option for a UK sim card for visitors who need a large data allowance and the ability to make some short phone calls back home!

best sim card for europe with data

O2 Prepaid SIM Card with Unlimited Data

Another good option for travellers looking for a UK prepaid SIM card is the O2 SIM Card.

This SIM card gives you unlimited data in the UK, however, it doesn’t include any roaming options for Europe so it’s not a great option if you plan on country-hopping.

It also doesn’t include any calls or texts so it’s really designed for people that want a lot of data in the UK only.

The credit is valid for 30 days and it is possible to recharge this SIM card. You can also use it as a mobile hotspot, unlike the Three Prepaid SIM card.

Overall, the O2 SIM Card is a great SIM card choice if you’re planning to primarily stay in the UK and don’t need any calls or texts.

$45 Sims4Travel Prepaid O2 UNLIMITED Data Plan. Unlimited 5G Data for use in the UK (Valid for 30 Days from Activation). Easy to Renew. (3-in-1 SIM Card). Stay connected whilst in the UK.

Giffgaff Prepaid SIM Card with 20GB Data

If you want to have flexibility on your trip to the UK when it comes to your data allowance then the Giffgaff SIM with 20GB data is a great option.

This SIM card allows you to purchase 20GB of data with the lowest tier option but you also have options to buy larger data plans which have 35GB or 100GB of data.

This SIM card utilises the O2 network and also includes unlimited calls and texts across the UK. You are also able to use 5GB for data roaming in the EU. There is also the option to pay extra if you would like to call or text the USA.

The Giffgaff SIM card is rechargeable and remains active for up to six months of no usage so is a good option if you plan to do multiple trips to the UK and don’t want to always be buying a new SIM card for every trip.

GiffGaff United Kingdom PAYG SIM Card for Visiting UK & Europe w/ 5£bonus, Activate While in U.S., 12£ for Unlimited SMS/Calls and 12GB Data [for Unlocked phones]

Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card with 12GB Data

If you’re simply looking for a throwaway SIM Card to use for a one-off trip to the UK & possibly Europe then the Cellhire SIM Card with 12GB data might be a good option for you.

This SIM card doesn’t come with any calls or texts included and isn’t rechargeable which means it’s most suitable for travellers looking for a basic data SIM card.

You can activate it in Europe rather than the UK so it’s ideal if you’re first stop is outside of the United Kingdom.

The Cellhire SIM Card can be purchased with different data limits and has an expiry of 60 days.

It can also be used as a hotspot making it great if you want to share data with friends across devices for a long period of time. In other words, this might be a great option for long-term backpackers in Europe!

12GB Bundle Dataroam® Prepaid Europe Data SIM Card - 33 countries - 3-in-1 SIM - Cellhire

If you’re a visitor looking for a travel SIM card for the UK, then you’ll be happy to know that there are a number of great options that can be purchased online to ensure you have internet access as soon as you land!

Are you looking to buy a prepaid SIM card for the UK? Have any questions about these SIMs? Let us know in the comments below!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Both solo and with his partner, Maggie, he has travelled to over 50 countries across the globe and has a particular affinity for the Balkans and Eastern Europe. He’s lived in numerous countries worldwide but currently resides in his hometown of Melbourne, Australia. Read more about Michael

Comments

  1. Hi Micheal,
    I am a visitor in Uk and will stay there for 3 weeks.I need just internet data service on my phone as I am planning to use it for just navigation or texting / calling via whatasapp whenever I am out .I will arrive in Heathrow.As far as I check it seems that there is no good deal for me at the airport.I need a simcard that can be bought and activated right there .I checked O2 deals ,but not sure any option would be there that can be bought right in place in any O2 stores or any other service providers that meets my requirement.what is your recommendation?Thanks in advance.

    Reply
  2. Hello Michael,
    Flying in from Austria (EU) we do not have the free roaming option between EU to GB and vice versa anymore due to Brexit . I’m going to London only for a five-day stay arriving in Stansted . I have a Samsung mobile A52 with Dual SIM and need a prepaid SIMcard only for roaming from London to EU with 4 to 5 GB data . What is your recommendation , Thanks

    Reply
  3. Hello Michael!
    I’ll be traveling to both UK and Greece for a total stay of 10 days, and would like to know which SIM card would suit my travel plans considering that I am arriving in UK first. I mainly need the internet data service as am planning to use both FaceTime and iMessage as my main means of communication. Thank you in advance!

    Reply
  4. Good evening Michael,
    I will be travelling thru Scotland, Northern Ireland, Republic of Ireland, Wales and England on self drive holiday mid next year. I am hoping to use Apple maps as a navigation tool in our hire car and am looking for a SIM only arrangement that provides enough data for 42 days touring (est. 20GB) and allows some text and call time. Any suggestions, as it seems nothing available currently achieves my requirements.
    Thanks
    Steve

    Reply
  5. Hi Michael,

    Thanks for the info. Do you know average price of sims purchased locally? Since I’m travelling to Scotland next week I don’t think I’ll be able to order sim online.

    Thanks,
    Hadas

    Reply
  6. Hi Michael,
    I’ll be traveling through out Scotland and a portion of England, then to Republic of Ireland over the course of about 25 days.
    Is there one sim card that will work in both areas?

    Thanks,
    Mike

    Reply
  7. Hi Michael, I’m planning on being in the UK for 50 days. I notice most SIM cards are for 30 days or less. Do I need to purchase 2 sim cards? Thanks, Kevin

    Reply

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