best international sim card UK

Best International SIM Cards for the UK


The United Kingdom is undeniably one of the most preferred travelling destinations in the world. Whether you want to explore historic sites in London, roam around rural Scotland, or anywhere in between, finding the best international SIM card for the UK will make your wanders stress-free.

Even if you have planned to spend some time in Ireland or any other country located in European Union, these prepaid SIM cards will still work like a charm. So, if you have mixed thoughts about choosing the best prepaid SIM card while travelling to the UK, explore this guide to stay connected with loved ones without blowing your budget.

How to Purchase an International SIM Card for the UK

Unlike USA or Canada, buying a local SIM card in the UK is effortless. No matter whether you’re landing at Gatwick or Heathrow, you will easily find kiosks of various cellular companies at the arrival ports. But, while this might appear as a straightforward option, this approach has a few downsides.

Firstly, most SIM cards sold at airports are usually marked up. It means that you might end up paying more than the actual price. Secondly, the jet lags and tiredness after your long flight might force you to take an uncalculated decision without exploring a plethora of other cheap options.

The best solution is pre-ordering a prepaid SIM card a week before your travel date. You can also choose to pick up your pre-ordered SIM at the airport. This way, you will receive your UK SIM card when you set foot at the airport.

Check if the UK SIM Card Works on Your Phone

Make sure to check whether your smartphone is country unlocked at least one week before boarding the plane. If you have purchased your smartphone on contract, you must contact your cellular company and ask if they can unlock your phone during the time of your overseas visit. Your phone provider might charge a fee if you are still under a contract.

However, if your contract period is over and there aren’t any dues remaining, the cellular company will unlock your phone for free.

At this point, it is important to note that your cellular company might ask you to buy an international roaming. That’s a trap! And a quite expensive one. Cellular companies mostly offer roaming packages when they see the customer’s smartphone cannot be unlocked and the customer is out of options but to buy a roaming package.

If you find yourself in a similar situation, buying a cheap unlocked smartphone online will be a far better option than buying an expensive roaming plan.

7 Best SIM Cards to Choose while Staying in the UK

1. Talk Home SIM with Unlimited 4G Data


Talk Home is one of the fastest-growing MVNOs in the UK. With Talk Home 4G SIM, you can get the cheapest local and international calling plans with free EU roaming. A prominent feature that makes Talk Home a standout among all other networks is the “no-contract policy.”

Not only does the company offers the SIM free of cost, but it also does not bind the customer with yearly contracts. It means the customer will only pay for the period they are using the service.

Another great feature Talk Home offers is “uncapped data.” No daily or weekly capping on 4G data is offered in any plan you select. For example, if you buy a plan that offers 50 GB of data for a month, it’s up to you if you want to consume the entire 50 GB in a single day. Explore Talk Home’s Monthly plans here.

But that’s not all! If you’re buying Talk Home SIM for the first time, you will get a 50% discount on all monthly plans for the first three months. A 50% discount for three months without any contract is surely a win-win for you if you want to test the service without getting trapped for a whole year.

2. Three Prepaid SIM

Whether you’re visiting the UK for a short vacation or searching for the best international SIM card for all of Europe, Three prepaid SIM with 12 GB of data is a convenient option.

Along with 12 GB of data, the user gets 3000 calling minutes and texts for a whole month valid for USA, Australia, Canada, and 71 other countries, including the European countries.

However, one drawback of Three SIM is that you can only use calls or messages for the other UK and European numbers. Moreover, this SIM cannot be used as a personal mobile hotspot.

3. Orange Prepaid SIM

If 12 GB data isn’t enough for your needs, you’ll be glad to know that Orange offers a prepaid SIM card with 20 GB data. Along with the data, you will get 120 calling minutes and 1000 texts that can be used locally and internationally.

Moreover, you can also use this SIM card as a personal hotspot to extend the internet connectivity to other devices such as your laptop.

But there are two major drawbacks of Orange SIM card. Firstly, it has a validity of only 14 days, meaning that you will have to recharge your SIM every 14 days if you are a heavy data user. Secondly, this SIM card covers only 30 countries, including European countries, which is a smaller number as compared to the Three SIM card.

4. O2 Prepaid SIM

O2 SIM card is another great option for visitors looking for the best international SIM card in the UK. The SIM offers 20 GB data with 5000 calling minutes and texts.

Unlike Three SIM cards, O2 SIM offers a mobile hotspot with a credit validity of 30 days. However, there are a few shortcomings. O2 offers 4G connectivity and calling minutes valid only within the UK and not the other European countries.

In general, the O2 SIM Card is an excellent option if you want to remain mostly in the UK and won’t need to make international calls.

5. Giffgaff Prepaid SIM

The Giffgaff Prepaid SIM is a fantastic choice if you want freedom with your data usage while visiting the UK.

The top tier of the Giffgaff Prepaid SIM card delivers 20GB of data, but you may also choose to purchase less expensive packs that only include 3GB or 8GB of data.

Utilizing the O2 network, this SIM card offers unlimited calls and messages throughout the UK and other European countries. However, you have to pay extra if you want to make calls or texts to the USA, Canada, or Australia. Don’t forget to enter the right country code for Canada, USA, or any other country before making an international call.

6. EE Prepaid SIM

If you’re considering staying in the UK for a little longer and searching for the best international SIM card, the EE Prepaid SIM is an excellent pick. It comes with 10GB of data and a 90-day expiration.

However, this SIM card does not offer calls and messages. If you want EE prepaid SIM to work in other European countries, you must use it in the UK first.

This SIM card doesn’t need to be activated before leaving; just insert it into your phone once you get to your destination to start using the data.

Data-only SIM Cards in the UK

A data-only SIM, commonly known as a “data SIM,” is primarily made for tablets and provides a monthly data allowance in exchange for payment.

Unlike the traditional SIM-only deals offered by major mobile networks for smartphones, a data-only SIM does not offers calling minutes and SMS.

A data-only SIM is usually available under a short one-month rolling contract or a longer 12-24 months contract.

Majorly most of the big names in the mobile network industry, including EE, Three, O2, Smarty, Vodafone, and BT Mobile, offer data-only SIMs with their respective selling points.

Unlimited Data Plans in the UK

Nowadays, unlimited internet data is the foremost priority of almost every user who is going to buy a SIM card.

Whether you are a heavy data user or just want a guarantee that you will never run out of data, major network operators in the UK now offer plans with unlimited data. This way, you can surf, download, and stream as much as you want.

Here’s a list of mobile networks currently offering the cheapest unlimited data plans.

Network Minutes Texts Data Monthly Cost Contract
Talk Home Unlimited

(Free EU roaming)

Unlimited Unlimited

(4G with no data capping)

£12.5/month for first 3 months

£25/ month after 3 months

No contract
ID Mobile Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £16/month 2 years
Three Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited 16/month 1 year
Tesco Mobile Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £17.5/month 1 year
Lebara Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £22.5/month 1 year
Giffgaff Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £25/month 1 month
Vodafone Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £27/month 2 years
EE Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £28/month 2 years
O2 Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £30/month 2 years
Virgin Mobile Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £30/month 1 month
Voxi Unlimited Unlimited Unlimited £35/month 1 month

Free Wi-fi Hotspots in the UK

When visiting different parts of the UK, you will find free Wi-fi hotspots in many restaurants and cafes. As compared to the local eateries, national food chains are more likely to offer free Wi-fi hotspots. If you find it awkward asking for free Wi-fi, using a Wi-fi map will be a convenient option.

Nowadays, most major tourist attractions – museums, monuments, and malls – offer free Wi-fi hotspots. Although such free networks aren’t always secure, you can use them to connect with your friends and family back home.

Besides the eateries, you can also find Wi-fi hotspots on public transportation in the UK. However, you must agree to the terms and conditions before using public Wi-fi hotspots.

How to Buy a UK SIM card?

Buying a SIM card in the UK is effortless and quick. You can either purchase it online or at a local Kiosk. Most shopping centres and supermarkets have dedicated mobile stores selling SIM cards of all the major networks in the UK.

If you plan to order a prepaid SIM online, you will need a UK home address to receive your SIM. Once you receive your SIM, the next step is to add credit by topping up. You can head to your nearest convenience store and ask them to top up your SIM by simply providing them your number. Alternatively, you can also top up your SIM card online.

Frequencies and Bands of Major Networks in the UK

In this list, you can find frequencies and bands used by the four major networks in the UK and the MVNOs associated with them.


–         MVNO

GSM Frequencies 3G Frequencies 4G/LTE Frequencies

–         Talk Home

–         Virgin

–         ASDA


1800Mhz 2100Mhz 1800Mhz (Band 3)

2600Mhz (Band 7)


–         Giffgaff

–         Lyca

–         Tesco

–         TalkTalk





800Mhz (Band 20)

–         Lebara





800Mhz (Band 20)

2600Mhz (Band 7)

Three 2100Mhz 800Mhz (Band 20)

1800Mhz (Band 3)

BT Mobile 1800Mhz 2100Mhz 800Mhz (Band 20)

1800Mhz (Band 3)

2100Mhz (Band 7)


(UK Broadband)

Owned by Three

3500Mhz (Band 42)

3700Mhz (Band 43)

Relish uses TDD, not FDD

UK SIM Cost in 2022

Below are the prices and information regarding the prepaid SIMs offered by major networks in the UK.

It is important to note that calling bundles are for UK-to-UK calls and for making calls in other European countries. It means, if you are going to Paris, you can call all over France and back to the UK, but not from France to Germany.

Network SIM cost with bundle details
Vodafone £10 = 5 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting

£15 = 10 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting

£20 = 20 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting

£30 = 50 GB data + Unlimited calling and texting – 5G ready.

£40 = UNLIMITED data* + Unlimited calling and texting – 5G ready.


Three £19 = 4 GB data + unlimited texting + calling

£22 = 12 GB data + unlimited texting + calling

£24 = 30 GB data + unlimited texting + calling

£28 = Unlimited data, calling + texting


O2 £10 = 7 GB data + unlimited calls + texts

£15 = 15 GB data + unlimited calls + texts

£20 = 30 GB data + unlimited calls + texts

£30 = 100 GB data + unlimited calls + texts


EE £10 = 5 GB data + unlimited calls + texts

£15 = 15 GB data + unlimited calls + texts

£20 = 30 GB data + unlimited calls + texts

£30 = 100 GB data + unlimited calls + texts


Talk Home (Free SIM) £5 = 2GB data + unlimited calls & texts (50% OFF for first three months)

£10 = 10GB data + unlimited calls & texts (50% OFF for first three months)

£15 = 50GB data + unlimited calls & texts (50% OFF for first three months)

£20 = 100GB data + unlimited calls & texts (50% OFF for first three months)

£25 = Unlimited data + unlimited calls & texts (50% OFF for first three months)


Best Network in the UK for 4G/5G

When looking for the best network in the UK in terms of 4G/5G connectivity, it is important to know that 4G/5G connectivity might differ depending on your location. You can check Ofcom’s network coverage checker to find out.

RootMetrics, a website that researched operators’ performance in 2021, ranked EE as the best mobile network in the UK regarding coverage, 4G/5G speed, and customer satisfaction.

After EE, Vodafone was ranked second in the performance race while Three and O2 clinched third and Fourth place.


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