I'm traveling to the UK soon, and I plan on buying a prepaid SIM when I get there. If I buy one from a vending machine at the airport or train station, what physical size SIM cards are typically available? I don't want to find out that none of them work in my phone.

My phone uses the micro-sim size.

  • 6
    Note that though newsagents and supermarkets sell SIMs, I don't think I've seen a SIM vending machine in the UK. – Mark Perryman Sep 17 at 12:36
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    I saw a SIM vending machine at heathrow terminal 5 yesterday (in baggage claim area IIRC), so they definitely exist. Probably only at some airports, and I didn't actually examine it so no idea what options are available. – etmuse Sep 17 at 13:13
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    Theres also a vending machine as you exit T2 at Heathrow towards the car park (EE from memory) – PeterI Sep 17 at 13:51
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    There is no such "UK SIM card size". Phone SIM cards are standard all over the world. Three standard sizes, to be exact – usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Sep 17 at 16:22
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    @usr-local-ΕΨΗΕΛΩΝ Four actually, there's the full size credit-card sized SIM that's been pretty much forgotten. – user71659 Sep 17 at 17:47
up vote 32 down vote accepted

Most likely it will be a SIM that can be a range of sizes (depending on how it is popped out).

I would be surprised if you couldn't find one that fit at least a micro SIM slot.

For example EE (https://ee.co.uk/help/help-new/getting-started-and-upgrading/activate-a-new-sim/what-size-sim-do-i-need):

Our SIMs are designed to include all three sizes – Nano and micro SIMs pop out of the middle of standard SIMs

  • 1
    It really depends on where you're visiting and how you're using your phone in terms of voice/data. Use this coverage checker to check the regions for your visit. This should point you toward the carrier with the better signal - then work from there on your prepaid SIM package according to usage. – Snow Sep 17 at 13:49
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    I just recently bought a Vodaphone pay as you go SIM for a visitor -- can confirm this is the case, the SIM comes in all sizes with a series of wrapping rings around the smallest size, and so you just 'pop out' the appropriate size for your phone. – davnicwil Sep 17 at 13:56
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    @davnicwil Actually "micro" is the middle size - they go "nano", "micro", "standard" - so it will be a series of wrapping rings around the nano size. – Martin Bonner Sep 17 at 14:00
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    @schadjo. If you are staying in urban areas then it really doesn't matter much. All the networks have good coverage and the difference in price is fairly minimal unless you are going to be using it heavily. If I had to pick one I would pick GiffGaff, but don't worry about it. If you are going into the countryside then definitely use the checker to find out what networks have coverage where you are staying. – Mark Perryman Sep 17 at 14:08
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    What EE are calling "standard" is technically called "mini sim". The credit-card size outer plastic is the original full size. – Peter Green Sep 17 at 14:13

Just about all the mobile providers here do multi SIMs. Here is an example from GiffGaff: Multi-sim from GiffGaff

Certain airports do have vending machines, but a better bet would be to just buy one at the checkout of a store (supermarkets and places like B&M have them), or go into a phone shop and buy one. Just about every town here has multiple phone stores.

In the worst case that you end up with only a nano-SIM, adaptors are easily available (e.g. from phone repair/unlocking shops, some supermarkets). I was in the same position (in the UK) as my old phone took a nano-SIM and my new one is dual SIM but the nano-SIM slot is needed for an SD card instead.

They are nearly always provided so you can push out the size you need, but I've found the perforations to vary within one card, so that it's too easy to push out the nano-SIM.

  • 2
    Fun fact: when nano-SIMs were only starting to show up, the problem was the other way round: your new iPhone accepted nano-SIMs, but your mini-SIM could not be popped out into a micro/nano-SIM. Russian cell-phone stores would offer a service to cut out the chip in your mini-SIM to nano-SIM form, using an appropriately shaped hole punch. – LLlAMnYP Sep 17 at 14:23
  • @LLlAMnYP for phones with a removable tray you could do it using a scalpel, though it was easier if you had another nano-SIM for a template – Chris H Sep 17 at 14:36
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    @LLlAMnYP I did mine myself with a pair of nail scissors :-) – Aaron F Sep 17 at 16:16
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    @LLlAMnYP You shouldn't really do that because the nano-SIM is thinner and creates the possibility it gets stuck – user71659 Sep 19 at 20:46

Most of the mobile-phone repair shops will have a jig to cut a mini-SIM to a micro-SIM, and will do it for a small fee. A nano-SIM is slightly thinner than mini/micro SIMs (and the pads a slightly smaller as well), so a micro can't easily be cut to a nano.

  • I do not know how common it is, but I have heard several people tell that the store they went to cut out a sim to nano which was (next) ground to the right thin size. New sims are mostly made out of plastic which is thin enough to start with. – Willeke Sep 23 at 17:18

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