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 UK travel with data 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!
Prepaid SIM Card for UK Travel Comparison
This table compares the best prepaid UK sim cards for tourists that can be purchased online. It’s created for travellers that want the convenience of being able to connect to data in the UK as soon as they land rather than buying a SIM card when they arrive.
|Three Prepaid SIM Card||Data: 12GB|
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: Unlimited (UK/EU only)
SMS: Unlimited (UK/EU only)
Hotspot Allowed?: No
Countries Covered: 71
|Orange Prepaid SIM Card||Data: 20GB|
Expiry: 14 days
Calls: 120 min
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 30
|O2 Prepaid Data SIM Card||Data: 20GB|
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: 5000 min (UK/EU only)
SMS: 5000 (UK/EU only)
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 44
|EE Prepaid SIM Card||Data: 20GB|
Expiry: 90 days
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 48
|Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card||Data: 8GB|
Expiry: 60 days
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 36
How to Purchase a UK Prepaid Sim Card
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 few disadvantages of 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 prepaid UK Sim Card.
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 for tourists 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 alternatively lookout for vending machines that exist in some airports.
Will a UK Prepaid SIM Card Work in my Phone?
Before travelling overseas and purchasing a SIM card for UK travel, 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.
Best SIM Cards for UK Travel
These are some of the best UK SIM cards for travellers that can be purchased online that allow you to have data as soon as you land!
This SIM card comes with 12GB data, unlimited calls and unlimited 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 12GB data and 1-year validity here. The only difference to be aware of with these SIM cards is that they don’t include phone call or SMS credits.
Some things to be aware of with this Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB Data 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. Nevertheless, this is still one of the best options available on the market for travellers looking for the best SIM card for UK travel.
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 with 20GB data might be the perfect choice for you.
Coming with a whopping 20GB 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 validity however you can easily recharge online so it’s ideal for heavy data users that will probably be using this SIM card a hotspot during their travels. It’s 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 Prepaid SIM card with 20GB data is a fantastic option for a UK sim card for visitors that need a large data allowance and the ability to make some short phone calls back home!
Another good option for travellers looking for a UK prepaid SIM card is the O2 Prepaid SIM Card with 20GB data. However, while the Orange SIM card gives you 4G coverage in all countries where the SIM card operates, the O2 Prepaid SIM Card only gives you 4G coverage in the UK with 3G available within Europe.
This SIM card offers 5000 minutes of calls and 5000 texts which can only be used in the UK while you’re travelling in the UK. If you head to Europe with this SIM Card then you can use the call and text credits to contact other European numbers.
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 Prepaid SIM Card with 20GB data is a great SIM card choice if you’re planning to primarily stay in the UK and don’t need to call abroad.
The EE Prepaid Data SIM card with 20GB data is a fantastic choice if you’re planning a long stay in the UK as it offers 20GB Data with an expiry of 90 days. However, there are no calls or texts available with this option.
This SIM card does work in Europe however you have to first use it in the UK so it’s ideal for travellers that are heading to the UK first. It’s also possible to use this SIM card as a hotspot.
If you don’t need a large data allowance, it is also possible to purchase an EE Prepaid Data Sim Card with 6GB data which also has 90 days expiry.
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 Prepaid SIM Card with 8GB 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. Unlike the EE Prepaid SIM Card though, 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 Prepaid 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!
If you’re looking for the best prepaid SIM card for UK travel, then you’ll be happy to know that there are a number of great option that can be purchased online to ensure you have internet access as soon as you land!
Are you looking for the best UK SIM Card for tourists? Have any questions about these SIMs? Let us know in the comments below!