Traveling to the UK and planning your trip? Don't waste money on high roaming costs or slow overseas data roaming plans. The UK already has prepaid sim card deals with unlimited data for about $30 USD! In this guide you will read everything you need to know about buying a prepaid sim card in the UK: which provider has the best 5G network, where to buy a local sim card for the UK, up to date prices as per October 2022, EU roaming information, e-sim cards for the UK and much more.

I also wrote local sim card guides for the major airports in the UK: HeathrowGatwick, StanstedLuton, Manchester. If you are arriving at one of these airports and want the convenience of buying a sim card straight on arrival at the airport check out these guides. I will tell you exactly where to go, how much UK sim cards cost at the airport, etc.

In this article you will find a UK sim card comparison of all the pay-as-you-go deals on the market that you can find in every big city in the retail stores.

Buying a local prepaid sim card is the first thing I do when I get to a new country. Since I am on a journey to travel to every country in the world I get to some cool places. Everywhere I go I write local sim card guides, here are the latest ones: Brazil, CameroonKenya, South Africa, Costa Rica. But also places like New YorkParis, Rome, Amsterdam, Barcelona, Mexico, Canada, Panama, Thailand, Malaysia, Hong Kong, etc.

Bookmark this website so whenever you are traveling abroad come check out Traveltomtom and I will give you the latest prepaid sim card advice for your next adventure!

RELATED: Check out these 15 charming but cheap Airbnbs in London, all for under $100 per room per night!

Why buying a UK sim card?

Being connected to the internet makes life so much more easier, so imagine not having data on your phone when you travel to the UK! Think about ordering a cab on the streets or getting directions from Google Maps, finding a nearby restaurant with good reviews. So many simple things that you can only do when you have a working internet connection on your phone.

You can of course use data roaming or overseas data plans, but did you know that your internet speed will be limited. Plus, why pay $5 per day when for $30 you can get unlimited 4G/5G data for a whole month!? Data roaming is always more expensive than local prepaid sim cards.

Yes, these days all hotels, bars, restaurants, trains, busses, etc have free public WiFi. But did you know that this is an UNSECURED connection? Feels tricky right to check your cryptos on public WiFi! Just don't do it. The use of a VPN in these cases is recommended! Or what if the signal in your hotel room is too weak or the internet speed is nerve-racking? Just don't rely on others! Traveltomtom recommends you getting a local sim card when traveling.

Third and not unimportant, prepaid UK sim card deals are GREAT! Big data bundles are cheap in the UK, plus when traveling onwards in Europe, you can enjoy FREE EU DATA ROAMING on UK sim cards.

My recommendation

Traveltomtom recommends an EE prepaid sim card for traveling to the UK. They offer 30 GB data for £20 and the EE 4G/5G network is the best in the UK.

We always recommend local sim cards over international sim cards however, some international sim cards are great for when traveling to multiple countries. Check out my article a comparison of the best international sim cards for traveling in 2022 and find that travel sim card that suits your trip, e-sim cards are included in the article!

If you are NOT a fan of swapping sim cards and changing phone numbers then you might want to look into the option of getting a portable WiFi device for your trip to the UK. Personally I am not a fan and I will tell you why in my HONEST review about using a pocket WiFi when traveling.

But a portable WiFi device is so old school! The best way to get internet when traveling to the UK in 2022 is an e-sim card for the UK. Keep reading for the best e-sim cards for the UK! You can get an e-sim card for the UK with 30 GB data + unlimited calls in Europe for $49.90 USD, see more info below.

E-sim card for the UK

I said it before but Traveltomtom 100% recommends e-sim cards for traveling. It is the most convenient and easiest way to stay connected when traveling. No need to go to a store any more, no need to swap physical sim cards, just an online process. You order an e-sim card, receive a code follow the instructions and you are able to connected to a foreign network when abroad and use the data allowance you purchased. Check out the following UK e-sim card deals:

  • 1 GB data for 7 days = $5 USD
  • 3 GB data for 30 days = $10 USD
  • 5 GB data for 30 days = $15 USD
  • 10 GB data for 30 days = $22.5 USD

Click here to directly order one of the above e-sim card deals for the UK and find more info.

On top of that I found another website with amazing e-sim card deals for the UK, including calling time:

  • 15 GB data + unlimited calls in Europe for 14 days = 29.90 USD
  • 30 GB data + unlimited calls in Europe for 14 days = 49.90 USD

Click here to order one of the above UK e-sim card deals or find more offers and info in the link.

europe sim card orange 728x90

There is also still the possibility of ordering an international sim card with coverage in the UK online and get it shipped to your home address before your trip. For $49.90 USD you get 20 GB data + unlimited calls within Europe and 120 minutes worldwide. Click on the link to order directly or find more info.

Free EU roaming with UK sim cards

One of the best things the European Union came up with after the Euro was the ban on roaming costs within the EU countries. That means you can use the data on your UK sim card in more than 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 EU roaming

Brexit happened already in January 2020 which means the UK has officially left the European Union. For a long time UK prepaid sim cards allowed free EU roaming but that has changed unfortunately! As of October 2022 there UK prepaid sim cards do NOT allow EU ROAMING IN EUROPE! That means you will have to pay an extra fee if you want to use you UK prepaid sim card in other parts of Europe.

Read more info about EU roaming and all my tips and tricks in my guide for buying a local sim cards in Europe.

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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:

  • Vodafone
  • O2
  • Three (3)
  • EE Mobile
  • Virgin Mobile

Virgin Mobile UK does not offer any prepaid or pay as you go sim cards for the UK!

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, so called MVNO's. For tourists on a short stay I do not recommend any of these sim cards.

When arriving at London HeathrowLondon Gatwick, London Stansted or London Luton Airport you are able to buy a Lebara sim card or a Lycamobile sim card at the airport. Both sim cards also work fine for traveling in Europe. The problem is they have a lot of restrictions and surprises, like limited EU roaming, etc.

Where to buy a UK sim card for tourists

May you arrive by plane to the UK and landing at one of the following airports: HeathrowGatwick, StanstedLuton or Manchester Airport then click on the links for a detailed guide for buying a UK sim card per airport.

When looking for a sim card in London or any other city in the UK, you can best use Google Maps to find the nearest mobile phone shop or official retail store. Simply type in the by you preferred mobile internet operator and add store to it. For example your search term would then be: ‘Vodafone store’. The search results on Google Maps will then show you all the Vodafone shops around you. Simple as that! :)

All the following prepaid sim card offers are sold in the official retail store only and can NOT be ordered online. For ordering a sim card for the UK directly online scroll down to the end!

UK prepaid sim card comparison in 2022

All the below info and prices are updated as per October 2022.

Note that calling bundles are for UK to UK calls, but also for local calls in other European countries. So once you travel to Germany you can call all over Germany as well as back to the UK, but NOT from Germany to Italy. This counts for all the prepaid sim card deals and packages with EE, Vodafone, O2 and Three.

Vodafone UK pay as you go sim card

vodafone uk sim card sim only prices 2021

Vodafone has 5 different UK prepaid sim cards available. If you don't use the main social media apps that consume a lot of data the smallest package is probably enough for your trip and you only pay £10 ($13.5 USD).

  • £10 = 5 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting
  • £15 = 10 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting
  • £20 = 20 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting

All the Vodafone sim only deals come with unlimited calls/text in the UK and all packages are valid for 1 month, unless specified differently.

vodafone pay as you go deals

For those looking for 5G when traveling to the UK will have to pay more:

  • £30 = 50 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting - 5G ready.
  • £40 = UNLIMITED data* + Unlimited calling and texting - 5G ready.

*Unlimited data is capped at 25 GB outside of the UK!

For more info about these prepaid sim card deals see the Vodafone UK website and check out the latest pay as you go Vodafone UK prices.

Three UK prepaid sim card

3 uk prepaid sim card prices

There are 4 different Three UK sim card for tourists packages available. Three UK sim cards are free, no activation costs required. The great thing about 3 UK prepaid sim cards are that they are all 5G ready, this in contrast with Vodafone as we saw before.

  • £19 = 4 GB data + unlimited texting + calling
  • £22 = 12 GB data + unlimited texting + calling

3 uk prepaid sim card deal

For those who are looking for bigger bundles or unlimited data sim cards they will love the following 3 UK prepaid sim card deals:

  • £24 = 30 GB data + unlimited texting + calling
  • £28 = Unlimited data, calling + texting

The Three UK prepaid sim card with unlimited data is an AMAZING option for travelers. Three UK Go Roam Around the World lets you use your sim card in 71 countries*: Australia, Brazil, United States, etc. However, you will have to pay an extra fee! See below.

*Unfortunately data roaming packages are capped up to 20GB in Europe and 12GB in a go-roam destination outside of Europe like USA, Brazil, Australia.

NEWS! 3 UK just announced that there will be a GO ROAM UPDATE from 23 May 2022 and FREE roaming will from then on be chargeable! Go Roam within Europe will cost £2 per day and outside of Europe they will charge £5 per day for Go Roam. THIS IS VERY DISAPPOINTING Three UK!

Is this the end of free EU roaming with UK prepaid sim cards?

For more info and offers check out the Three UK website for all the pay-as-you-go offers. Unfortunately online orders are only available for UK residence. For more on how to order a UK sim card online scroll down below!

three prepaid sim card

These are all the countries that are included in the Three UK Go Roam plan, but as specified above it will cost you an extra fee nowadays.

O2 UK prepaid sim card

o2 uk prepaid sim card

There are 4 different O2 UK prepaid sim cards available. The sim card is free, but you have to top up with one of the following 4 pay-as-you-go options valid for 30 days:

  • £10 = 7 GB data + unlimited calls + sms
  • £15 = 15 GB data + unlimited calls + sms
  • £20 = 30 GB data + unlimited calls + sms
  • £30 = 100 GB data + unlimited calls + sms

These are the prices as per October 2022 for the latest prepaid offers from O2 UK click on the link.

EE UK pay as you go sim card

ee uk prepaid sim card deals

Last but not least EE UK. 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.

Another big plus is that EE has the best 5G network in the UK, so may be that could play a roll when looking for the best pay as you go UK tourist sim card as well. But let first see the sim only deals EE UK offers in 2022:

  • £10 = 5 GB data + unlimited calls + sms
  • £15 = 15 GB data + unlimited calls + sms
  • £20 = 30 GB data + unlimited calls + sms
  • £30 = 100 GB data + unlimited calls + sms

In the above we can clearly see that also EE offers competitive data packages. An EE prepaid sim card is free and for £20 GBP you get 30 GB data + unlimited calls/text in the UK. Data roaming is not included anymore. For the latest EE sim only deals have a look at their website in the link.

When doing my research for buying a sim card at London HeathrowLondon Gatwick, Luton and Stansted Airport I rated EE UK as the best buy!

GiffGaff UK sim card

giffgaff uk sim card sim only prices 2021

Looking for another free sim card for the UK then have a look at GiffGaff. A Giffgaff prepaid sim card will be send to your home address for free before your trip to the UK. The activation is very quick and easy. GiffGaff operates on the O2 network in the UK.

Rates for GiffGaff UK sim cards are GOOD! All the pay-as-you-go data packages below INCLUDE unlimited calls/text within the UK. For £35 GBP ($50) you get unlimited calls/text AND DATA in the UK. EU roaming is NOT included in this UK sim card. Also the process of obtaining one is rather difficult. I tried it myself and 

Lebara UK sim card

lebara uk sim only deals 2021

Lebara UK also offers a free UK sim card and only charges for the data bundles. The pay as you go bundles already start from £5 and gives you 2 GB data for 30 days. But there are more data bundles available.

For most tourists traveling to the UK the £15 sim only plan from Lebara is a good deal, but it give you much less value for money than Vodafone, EE, Three and O2. EU roaming is available but very limited. Lebara sim cards are NOT good for traveling in Europe.

What Lebara separates from the other Uk sim cards is that they offer free international calling minutes not only to the EU, but also to the USA, India, Thailand, Australia, Canada, China, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Malaysia, Israel, South Korea, Singapore.

Another great thing about a Lebara UK sim card is that you can also buy them in mobile phone shops and convenient stores across the UK like Tesco, Wh Smith, Argos, Sainsbury's. If you see shops with a Lebara sign you can get the same deals as online. Lebara operates on the Vodafone UK network and allows free roaming in Europe.

Best 4G/5G network in the UK in 2022

To make a fair UK prepaid sim card comparison we also have to look at the 4G/5G network coverage across the country. It would suck big time if you are on a UK road trip and as soon as you leave the city there is no service. Also who is happy with a 3G signal nowadays!? Exactly all we want is 5G! :)

Find below the UK 4G/5G network coverage maps per provider updated per February 2022.

Network coverage Three UK

3 uk 4g 5g network coverage 

Network coverage Vodafone UK

vodafone uk 4g 5g network coverage

Network coverage O2 UK

o2 uk 4g 5g network coverage

Network coverage EE Mobile UK

ee uk 4g 5g network coverage 

Three UK has an excellent network coverage and covers all the tourist destinations in the UK however, compared to the EE it has a weaker network strength. EE Mobile has the best 4G/5G network in the UK in 2022!

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Best prepaid UK sim card for tourists in 2022

When I updated my comparison of the UK prepaid sim cards in October 2022 I came to the conclusion that prices these days are more or less the same. However, when we take £20 and see what we can get at the different providers we see that EE and O2 are offering 30 GB data and Vodafone only 20 GB data for the same price and that is not even 5G but 4G. Three offers only 12 GB for £22, so they are ranked at the most expensive UK prepaid sim card.

That said, Three offers the cheapest prepaid sim card with unlimited data in the UK: £28. At Vodafone you get 50 GB for £30 and EE and O2 give you 100 GB for £30.

As EE has the best 4G/5G network in the UK in 2022 and also offers free WiFi hotspots at the London tube and gives you 100 GB without any data and speed limitations, my conclusion is that EE is the best prepaid UK sim card in 2022!

UK sim card deals are actually pretty good for traveling in Europe. Curious what is the best sim card for Europe travel? Click on the link for my article comparing every European sim card on the market.

RELATED: 15 Charming but cheap London Airbnbs! All these listing are for under $100 per night!

Buying a sim card for the UK online

europe sim card orange 728x90

Want to make it yourself easy? Then order one of the below physical international sim cards right now. These pre activated travel sim cards will be shipped to your home address before your trip and work based on plug and play.

Check out the following prepaid sim cards deals for traveling in the UK:

Three PAYG AIO15 - $29.90

  • 10 GB data
  • Unlimited calls within Europe
  • Unlimited sms within Europe
  • Valid 30 days

Three PAYG AIO20 - $39.90

  • 12 GB data
  • Unlimited calls within Europe
  • Unlimited sms within Europe
  • Valid 30 days

Orange Holiday Europe - $49.90

  • 20 GB data
  • Unlimited calls in Europe
  • 120 minutes worldwide
  • Unlimited sms in Europe
  • 1,000 sms worldwide
  • Valid 14 days

Traveltomtom recommends the Orange Holiday Europe with 20 GB data for Europe. Click here to order this great UK sim card deal directly online or get more info and check out all options.

Also another reminder that the most convenient solution for getting a data connection abroad is an e-sim card for the UK. Click on the link to check out and order an e-sim card for your trip to the UK!

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 leave me a comment below. I am more than happy to help you out!

May you have any travel related questions also feel free to reach out to me or check out my Instagram profile @traveltomtom where I keep track of my road to visit every country in the world. As per October 2022 I have visited more than 140 countries. Still a lot to go!

Enjoy your UK trip!

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