New phones like the iPhone XR, XS and Pixel 3 now support eSIMs. So what does that mean for you? It means the plastic SIM card is no more and the data once held in the Subscriber Identity Module, can now be provided via a simple to issue QR code. Since QR codes can be delivered digitally, the industry of moving and selling boxes of physical SIM cards, is about to go the way of Netflix’s DVD rental service.
So how can one benefit from this new manufacturing-free technology? While the eSIM enables advances in remote sim provisioning from anything from vehicle tracking to connected refrigerators, the major use case for most people will be for data roaming while they travel.
Being able to procure data roaming services prior to traveling will, in most cases, save you significant money from the roaming rates charged by your home carrier. In addition, roaming providers also get clear cut pricing, not some large expense on your bill some weeks after your trip. As most roaming offerings are pre-paid once funds run out, there is no more charges to your card. This gives you peace of mind that excessive charges won’t make their way on to your phone bill.
So which eSIM should you pick for travel in Asia?
Good news — there is a great resource called esimdb.com which tracks prices and offerings from some of the major eSim providers. At first glance it might seem like there are already a lot to choose from but in reality they can be split into 2 groups:
Expensive but convenient eSIMs
In this camp we have mostly startup, country independent networks. These include:
Prices for 3 GB of data can range from $27 to $80 USD. Also the longer you want your data active for, the more it will cost. 3GB for 5 days vs 180 days will have a large price difference.
At the top of the convenience pile is GigSky. Once inside their app, you can provision your eSIM (no need to scan a QR), pick a plan and pay. In app provisioning is the holy grail of usability, as it makes billing and package selection happen all in one place.
Flexiroam have similar offerings, but they have the added benefit of picking lower cost packages that are country specific.
Picking the best of these is going to up to preference but money being no object, GigSky seems to have the tightest offering.
Cheap but extra hassles eSIMs
In this group are a few of the large existing regional telcos, like 3 Hong Kong and AIS. Prices here are much better as these larger companies have access to better pricing, but you might have a bit harder time with the details.
10 Days, 500 MB per day (5GB total) — $18
This is eSIM can be purchase right from the telco, and works in: China, Macau, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand, Myanmar, Vietnam, India, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Australia.
Also works in US, Canada, Guam, France, UK, Italy*, Ireland*, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Mexico, Israel, Kuwait. Terms.
Counties missing: Cambodia, Qatar, Nepal, Laos.
Where to buy: Online at https://www.three.com.hk
8 days, 4–6 GB (depending which version you buy) — $13
Australia, Brunei, Cambodia, China (including Tibet), Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Laos, Macau, Malaysia, Myanmar, Nepal, Philippines, Qatar, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, Taiwan, Vietnam
What is the best Asian eSIM?
The bottom line is that if you can get your hands on an AIS eSIM2Fly it’s the cheapest eSIM option for data roaming in Asia. Additionally it supports the most Asian countries at the same price. Adding another data plan involves adding funds (topping up) and then selecting the new package with a USSD Code.
Have a favorite eSIM provider for Asia? Leave a note in the comments and we’ll make some updates along the way.