Best Prepaid SIM Card for UK Travel with Data

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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 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!

Want a quick answer? My choice for the best prepaid SIM card for UK travel that can be purchased online is the Orange Prepaid SIM with 20GB Data (eSIM available) or the Three Prepaid SIM with 12GB data

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.

SIM CardDescriptionPrices
Three Prepaid SIM Card
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: 20GB
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
Data: 20GB
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: 5000 min (UK/EU only)
SMS: 5000 (UK/EU only)
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 44
Recharagable?: Yes
eSIM Available?: No
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Giffgaff Prepaid SIM Card
Data: 20GB
Expiry: 30 days
Calls: Unlimited (UK/EU only)
SMS: Unlimited (UK/EU only)
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 37
Recharagable?: Yes
eSIM Available?: No
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Cellhire Prepaid SIM Card
Data: 12GB
Expiry: 60 days
SMS: None
Hotspot Allowed?: Yes
Countries Covered: 33
Recharagable?: No
eSIM Available?: No
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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 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 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.

Big Ben London
You’ll want data to navigate London’s confusing streets!

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.

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 subscribe to a quality VPN such as ExpressVPN.

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!

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 (also available from SimOptions here) 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 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.

Orange Prepaid SIM Card with 20GB 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 with 20GB data might be the perfect choice for you. It is available as a physical SIM or an eSIM.

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 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 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!

best sim card for europe with data

O2 Prepaid SIM Card with 20GB Data

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, 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.

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 Prepaid SIM with 20GB data is a great option.

The Giffgaff Prepaid SIM card allows you to purchase 20GB of data with the highest tier option but you also have options to buy cheaper packs which only have 3GB or 8GB of data.

This SIM card utilises the O2 network and also includes unlimited calls and texts across the UK and Europe. There is also the option to pay extra if you would like to call or text to the USA.

The Giffgaff Prepaid SIM card is rechargeable and remains active for up to six of 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.

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 Prepaid 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 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 options 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!

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Michael is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. When not obsessively searching for flight deals, Michael likes being ultra-competitive at table tennis, gazing at street art, and contemplating life while sipping a dram of fine single malt whisky.


  1. 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

  2. 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?


  3. 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.


  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.

  5. 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!

  6. 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

  7. 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.


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