In February 2019 I took a trip to London to find the best UK sim card for tourists. For those traveling to the UK and do not want to spend a lot of money on roaming costs. For about £20 you can already get 10GB data! When arriving at the London Airports: Gatwick, Stansted and Luton you might want to buy your UK sim card there. Click on your London Airport for a detailed guide.
To me traveling to a new country means finding out about the best prepaid sim card available. It al started many years ago in Asia when I wanted to find the best deal possible for myself. In total I have now been traveling for more than 7 years and by documenting my trips I started to earn money with travel blogging.
On my quest finding the best sim card for tourists in Europe I had to find out what was the deal with prepaid UK sim cards. I already researched sim cards in Germany, Netherlands, France, Spain, Belgium, etc. and found out that there are huge differences in prices in Europe. While on the other hand roaming in Europe is free.
Order a Europe sim card online
There are several ways to get your sim card for traveling in Europe, but you can also let it get shipped to your home address for free. With the Orange sim card including 10GB and 200 minutes worldwide calling you surely are connected on your trip to Europe. Check out the link for more info.
Free roaming in Europe since June 2017
One of the best things the EU came up with after the Euro was the ban on roaming costs within Europe. That means you can use the data on your UK sim card in 30 countries across Europe without paying anything extra. Calling minutes are also free within each country and back to the country where you purchased your sim card.
Brexit and free roaming in Europe
So far nothing has been concrete and basically no one knows what it means when the UK will leave the European Union. This also counts for free roaming with UK sim cards. As soon as I know more about the consequences I will update this blog about prepaid UK sim cards.
Mobile internet operators in the UK
Before I make a UK prepaid sim card comparison I will first show you all the available mobile internet operators in the UK.
There are 5 main mobile internet providers in the UK:
- Three (3)
- EE Mobile
- Virgin Mobile
As I did not find a shop to buy a Virgin prepaid sim card in London or on one of the London Airports I did not include them in my UK sim card comparison.
On top of the above available mobile internet providers there are a dozen of other local sim cards available in smaller shops which I did not take into consideration. Also when arriving at London Gatwick, London Stansted and London Luton Airport you are able to buy a Lebara sim card or a Lyca Mobile sim card. Both sim cards work perfectly fine for traveling in Europe.
Surprisingly O2 sim cards can be bought all over London, but at the airports you can’t find any O2 sim cards.
4G network mobile internet providers in the UK
To make a fair UK prepaid sim card comparison it is valuable to take the 4G network coverage into consideration. It would suck big time if you are on a UK roadtrip and as soon as you leave the city there is no service.
4G network Three UK
4G network Vodafone UK
4G network O2 UK
4G network EE UK
I ordered the best 4G network in the UK from worst to best. In the above pictures you can clearly see that the Three network has a lot of catching up to do compared to the EE network which guarantees you the best network coverage in UK.
UK prepaid sim card comparison
To find the best UK sim card for you I roamed around London and went into all the mobile internet provider shops to see what they were offering and I found out the following.
Note that calling bundles are for UK to UK calls, but also for local calls in other European countries. So once you travel to Frankfurt you can call all over Germany as well as back to the UK.
Vodafone UK prepaid sim card
Vodafone has 4 different UK prepaid sim cards available. The smallest is for your mom and dad that actually never touch their phone but still wanna stay in touch so now and then. The others available sim cards are good value for money for a European sim card, but that is only because of the 4GB promotion deal. Until April 1st 2019 Vodafone UK will give you 4GB extra data, but without this promotion Vodafone would not be the best UK sim card for tourists. So lets see what they come up with after April 1st!
See the table below for all the available Vodafone UK prepaid sim cards.
Three UK prepaid sim card
There are 6 different Three UK sim card for tourists packages available. If you are looking for a small data package than Vodafone UK is better at the moment. But for the larger data bundles, a Three sim card is a very good option for traveling in Europe. I am fan of large data packages so I don't need to worry about free WiFi at places. Free WiFi is not secure and often simply slow. Therefore the Three prepaid sim card with unlimited data is a great option for travelers. A data package that size is something they can only dream of in Netherlands and Germany. In these countries you pay about €10 for 1GB data.
*Unfortunately data roaming packages are capped up to 12GB per destination. Good thing is that Three UK offers its users to use their bundles that come with a Three UK prepaid sim card in 71 countries around the world. This includes countries like Australia, Brazil, Israel, New Zealand and even the United States.
O2 UK sim prepaid sim card
There are 5 different O2 UK prepaid sim cards for tourists available see the below table.
Comparing O2 UK and Three UK you can see that the smaller packages have the same data bundles, when it comes down to the bigger data bundles you can easily see that you get more value for money at Three and therefore is a better sim card for tourists in the UK than O2.
EE UK prepaid sim card
Last but not least EE UK. I have never come across EE in another country, so this was a new brand for me when doing my UK sim card research in London. What I like about EE is that they have a wifi signal at every London Underground station. There is no phone signal in the London Underground so if you are about to buy a UK sim card and you know you gonna travel a lot in the tube this is something to keep in mind.
The EE 4G network is the best in the UK, so may be that could play a roll when looking for the best UK tourist sim card. But let first see the prepaid UK sim card packages EE has to offer.
As you can see the cheap prepaid sim cards of EE have rather limited bundles. And the bigger bundles have compared to the other available prepaid sim cards in the UK less value for money.
When finding out the prices for buying a sim card at London Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airport I rated EE UK as the best buy. Weird because at the London airports you can get an EE UK sim card for £25 which gives you 13GB data. When you decide to buy an EE UK sim card do it at any London airport and you get better value for money!
Best prepaid UK sim card for tourists
This comes down to what kind of user you are. If you are looking for a small package and can’t be bothered by data packages, I would recommend a Three UK prepaid sim card as they have unlimited calling and texting for already £10.
If you travel off the beaten path you may probably want to choose an EE prepaid sim card as they have the best network by far. Also when traveling to London and you want to get connection in the London Underground a EE prepaid sim card is the best for tourists.
Personally I would go for the Three UK sim card of £27.50 as they give you the best value data bundle of 36GB. When traveling onwards in Europe you will get 12GB in each country, which is perfectly fine as well for when your Europe trip goes through many countries.
The Three UK pay as you go sim cards in London city are better value for money than the Three UK sim cards at the airports. For EE it is the other way around.
Conclusion: the best prepaid UK sim card is Three UK, not far behind is EE!
Free shipping on European sim card
You can also order your prepaid sim card for traveling in Europe online. Check out this sim card with 10GB data and 200 minutes calling time worldwide. Click to link to get more info and free shipping to your home address!
Where to buy a UK sim card for tourists
May you arrive by plane on one of the London Airports: Gatwick, Stansted or Luton then have a look in the links where to a UK prepaid sim card. When looking for a sim card in London or any other city in the UK, you can best use Google Maps. There you simply type in the by you preferred mobile internet operator and add shop to it. For example your search term would then be ‘Vodafone shop’. The search results on Google Maps will then show you all the Vodafone shops around you. Simple as that! :)
As a full time travel blogger I always want to and need to be online. That is how I started to write about prepaid sim cards for tourists. I of course wanted to find the best deal for myself as well. After writing successful sim card for tourists articles for the Asian countries: Thailand and Indonesia I took it to Europe and wrote about Turkey and Greece. In total I wrote more than 30 articles about sim cards for tourists.
Cheap portable WiFi device
Traveling with a family then this might be a better solution! Keep your kids quiet with a portable Wifi device from TEP Wireless. They offer UNLIMITED data for up to 5 devices at the same time. Order a Teppy online and for a couple dollar day and you can connect your laptop, phone and iPad all at the same time in more than 100 countries around the world! Find out more in the link.
I hope this article about the best prepaid UK sim card for tourists was helpful and it helped you planning your trip to the UK, London or Europe in general.
May you have any questions please feel free to leave me a comment below. Safe travels!