I would prefer to do as much logistics before the trip than during the trip. Therefore, I would prefer not to be spending time once I arrive shopping for different SIM cards at the airport or other shops but actually procure it before the trip so that it is ready once there.

Does it make sense (is it available and does it cost less) to actually buy a UK SIM card so I can use my phone here on Amazon or do I actually need to be there because their phone service providers don't sell them abroad? I just want to minimize the amount of landing logistics I need to do once there.


Basically, ranking up your options:

  1. Use your US phone in roaming. This is most convenient but (unless you use T-Mobile and are on their Simple Choice plan with free sms/3g data in roaming) most expensive. Assuming your phone and provider supports it, this way you don't have to do anything at all.

  2. Buy an "international" SIM card in US. This is less convenient (extra hassle), but also likely less expensive than using your phone in roaming. There are plenty of providers with various coverage, and UK is likely covered by most of them - check with each provider though. Also beware of various hidden costs and fees (connection fee, activation fee, daily/monthly fee, inactive balance fee) which some providers like to add up. So far in every case I tried that it assigned you the US number, so this was essentially the special case of option #1.

  3. Buy SIM card in UK. This is the least convenient (you'd have to spend time), but you'd get the cheapest prices from all three options (again, unless you're on that TMO plan). You also would get the local number, which makes difference if you need to receive calls from locals.

  4. Rent the phone at your destination. This is popular option in countries like Korea, where getting a SIM card for a tourist without the residence card doesn't seem to be possible. This is even bigger hassle as you need to line up both to get the phone at the airport AND to return it, and the price is not cheap. This is however the only option if your current phone is locked, and you don't want to purchase another phone.

Of course options #2 and #3 would require your phone to a) be unlocked and b) support SIM cards.

So, as you see, it costs less than roaming, but generally not less than a local prepaid plan. Again, beware of hidden costs - and it is indeed extra hassle to make sure you know all costs in advance. Whether this makes it good time investment or not, only you can decide.

  • 1
    I would support option 3 because there are plenties of mobile phone shops in the city centres and it takes only 10 minutes or less to get a card Sep 11 '18 at 9:05
  • Depending on which airport you arrive at and what time you will most likely to be able to buy a SIM card at the airport. Sep 11 '18 at 14:02

Just wait until you get to the UK. Assuming you have a carrier unlocked phone (very important) you can grab a sim very quick. Most countries I travel to takes a max of 30 minutes. In some places you can even just buy the prepaid sim cards at the grocery store. I bet it'll be cheaper and with a more reliable carrier than the ones on Amazon, which are probably carrier resellers.

But ultimately your choice :) Also if your Amazon SIM doesn't work properly you are left with a non-working sim. Whereas you can get someone who can actually help you if there is any issues when you are there physically if you go with the just wait option :)

Hope it helps! Enjoy your vacay

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