Holafly eSIM Review: The Best Unlimited eSIM for Travel?

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Are you thinking about buying a Holafly eSim unlimited data plan for your travels or to help you work remotely?

We’ve been using Holafly eSIMs right across Europe, alongside local SIM cards and Cloud SIM devices, for well over a year. In this Holafly eSIM review and guide, we’ll answer all your frequently asked questions and share our Holafly review.

Holafly review

TL;DR? Get the basic Holafly info here…

  • Did we give the Holafly eSIM card a good review? We did! After using the Holafly eSIM for a year, we keep buying another because it’s so good!
  • Why? Ease of use, truly unlimited data, and brilliant connectivity.
  • Anything I should know? Make sure your phone is eSIM compatible, and be aware you cannot tether or hotspot from a Holafly eSIM.
  • Airalo vs Holafly? Holafly offers unlimited data but Nomad and Airalo eSIMs are the best if you need to use more than one device because they allow data sharing.
  • OK, I’m sold, where do I buy one? Get your Holafly eSIM here.

What is an eSIM?

A regular SIM (Subscriber Identification Module – who knew?) is a physical bit of plastic containing microchips that enable your phone to make and receive calls, send and receive text messages, and access wireless internet. SIM cards can be used in smartphones and watches, mobile hotspots like MiFi devices, dongles, wingles, and some travel routers.

The first credit card-sized SIM was launched in 1991. By 1996 SIM card technology had advanced and the mini-SIM was introduced (now known as a standard SIM), followed by micro SIM cards, and then nano SIM cards.

That is until 2018 when the first eSIM was launched and Apple started adding the technology to their iPhones.

An eSIM is a virtual SIM, which usually provides data only. The ‘e’ of an eSIM stands for ’embedded’, meaning the eSIM is embedded in your phone technology, rather than being placed in your phone physically.

Can anyone use an eSIM?

Because this is fairly new technology, only newer mobile handsets can accept an eSIM. So, your device must be carrier-unlocked and eSIM-compatible. 

Most recent Apple iPhones and iPads are compatible, as are newer Samsung and Google Pixel phones. Check if your smartphone supports an eSIM with Holafly’s guide to compatible phones before making a purchase.

Why do I need an eSIM?

Whether you’re a holidaymaker, long-term globetrotter, backpacker, business traveler, or digital nomad, the chances are you’ll want to access the internet when you travel.

Access to mobile data with a travel eSIM makes navigating a new city or negotiating a different language simple. The convenience of being able to check your bank balance, make an online reservation, take a video call, post on social media or research your next destination, all make life on the road just that little bit easier.

If you’re a digital nomad, having reliable internet is pretty important. We work at least three days a week on the road, uploading videos, conference calling, downloading images, and generally spanking the internet, so for us, access to data is business critical.

If that sounds like you, or you have to be connected for some other reason, then you’ll recognize the stress of trying to find free WiFi and get connected when you travel.

What other options do I have to get internet?

There are other options to get online internationally, but we have tried them all and keep coming back to the eSIM.

Use your existing provider

Virtually all modern smartphones are compatible with the world’s mobile infrastructure and every major North American, European, and UK carrier will have international SIM data plans meaning your phone should work once you step foot onto foreign soil. But boy, will you pay for it!

Whichever country you’re from, all ‘Roam Like at Home’ offers have fair usage limitations which cap your monthly data allowance at a usually paltry amount, and can see you being cut off if your provider decides you’re a ‘permanent traveler’.

Buy a local prepaid SIM card

Buying a local SIM card is a good option, but there are drawbacks. Buying local only really only works if you’re staying in one country for a week or more, not if you’re country hopping.

Also, it’s not always convenient to stop and buy a local SIM, especially if you’re overlanding or staying off-the-beaten-track.

And finally, buying prepaid data SIMs can be super-expensive, especially in the developed countries of Western Europe and the US.

Order a SIM card online

If you like to be organized and want to slip that travel SIM card into your phone as soon as you arrive, then ordering a SIM online for delivery to your home or workplace before you travel is a great option – as long as you are organized.

The biggest downside to this type of SIM is that, unless you have a dual SIM phone, you need to replace your usual provider’s SIM card.

Get a portable WiFi device

A portable WiFi device or portable hotspot means you can keep your number, and tether or hotspot to the device, wherever you are. A pocket WiFi device like this operates like a router at home, meaning more than one device can be connected simultaneously.

Instead of connecting to your internet service provider, these WiFi devices use cloud SIM technology, meaning you don’t need to buy a SIM card because it’s already included, but they are amongst the most expensive ways of getting online.

What are the benefits of eSIMs?

  • An eSIM card works in your phone in conjunction with your regular SIM. You can move between using one or the other, meaning you can keep your usual number for things like calls and WhatsApp.
  • You can have multiple eSIM plans on your phone, there really is no limit.
  • You buy your eSIM online, making them extremely convenient.
  • eSIM providers work with lots of networks, meaning you’ll connect to the best one wherever you are.
  • Holafly eSIM cards can cover multiple locations and not tie you to one country. Think the whole of Europe, Africa or North America. How simple and convenient is that?
  • There are no data roaming fees, you know the costs upfront.
  • Many eSIM providers have an app so you can check your data balance as often as you like and top-up or purchase another with ease.
  • You can organize your eSIM at home and activate it on arrival.
  • These data-only eSIM cards mean you’re not paying for minutes and texts you don’t need and won’t use.
  • You don’t have to mess about removing one physical SIM, maybe keeping it safe for when you get home, and trying to fit a new physical SIM into your phone. This usually happens in the airport, which is stressful enough anyway!

Is there a downside to using eSIMs?

If you balance the cost of a Holafly card against a local SIM, eSIM data is always going to be more expensive gigabyte for gigabyte.

However, for us, the convenience of staying connected as we cross borders and move around different countries – over 20 in the last year – far outweighs the difference in price.

Also, almost all eSIMs provide mobile data only and there is no ability to use the eSIM to receive texts or phone calls. However, internet-based apps like WhatsApp, Skype, Messenger, and Snapchat will work for messages and calls. Some Holafly eSIMs include local phone numbers for making calls, so check in the ‘technical specs’ section before buying if this is important.

Who are Holafly?

Holafly, launched in 2017, started after the founders experienced the frustration of not having an internet connection on a trip to Thailand. Inspired by their own experiences, they set out to provide solutions for travelers across the globe.

Holafly says its mission is “to enable all travelers to enjoy internet connectivity wherever they are”.

How does Holafly work?

Entirely internet-based, Holafly can be accessed on the web, and via their app where you can check the status of your eSIM but cannot yet purchase one. Head online (so you need some sort of connection to get started) and select the country or region to which you’re traveling.

Holafly offers international eSIM data packages in over 160 countries, plus six regional eSIMs for Europe, Asia, North America, South America, the UK, and the Caribbean.

Many of Holafly’s regional and country-specific eSIMs offer unlimited data plans, and some more off-the-beaten-path places have a fixed amount of data for a set number of days. Choose what works for you and make your purchase.

Does Holafly work instantly? Your eSIM can be installed from the QR code that comes in an email they send you immediately after purchase or manually by copying and pasting an activation code, also included in the email. You cannot yet activate your eSIM within the Holafly app.

The first method means you need to be able to scan the QR code, so you do need a second phone or device where you can access the email with the code. The second C+P method is definitely the easiest!

Once installed, check your settings, select the eSIM, give it a name and you’ll be connected. If you don’t, there are a lot of help documents that talk you through the setup, and if that doesn’t help, you can chat with them live via their website.

How much do Holafly eSIM cards cost?

It can vary a lot depending on the country and the base price of data in said country, the amount of data you need, and the validity period. Their unlimited data packs over longer validity periods are usually more cost-effective and offer really good value for money.

We regularly look at other data eSIMs and our research tells us that Holafly is competitively priced, especially where you’re looking for a regional eSIM to cover a number of countries.

Is Holafly actually unlimited?

Holafly says the following “This eSIM includes unlimited data for the contracted time. However, please note that the operator may reserve the right to apply a Fair Usage Policy, as it applies to all other network users. In particular, if the operator estimates the usage of more than 90GB of data in a month, it may temporarily reduce the speed to between 256-1024KB to avoid affecting other users. This limitation is intended to prevent network saturation and will be removed within 24 hours. If you think the local operator has limited your speed, please get in touch with us by chat, and we will check if there is any incidence and how to restore your rate to the maximum speed allowed by the network.”

This situation occurred once for us when we were working on a pretty tight deadline to produce some video content and must have breached the data limit. We contacted customer support and they responded really quickly, resolving the issue within a couple of hours.

Is Holafly reputable?

Can Holafly be trusted? We’ve been using Holafly SIM cards for over a year now with no issues and have felt comfortable using a credit card to pay for our eSIMs on their website – you can’t yet buy eSIMs in the app.

Holafly also gets a healthy 4.7 average rating over 20,000+ reviews on Trustpilot. That’s pretty good going!

If you are concerned about safety using mobile internet with any provider, download a VPN (Virtual Private Network) to protect your privacy and keep your personal data online safe. We recommend NordVPN for its vast choice of international servers, easy-to-use app, and great pricing.

How good is Holafly coverage?

I’ve been keeping an eye on this as we’ve traveled over the past year. Holalfy’s coverage is generally excellent and we’ve been able to get connected where our portable hotspot device hasn’t been able to get a signal. Holafly will connect to 4G, LTE, and 5G depending on the carrier and for the latter, your phone’s capabilities.

Our Holafly Experience

We were a bit skeptical about eSIMs and half-expected it not to work very well, but we’ve actually been really impressed by Holafly – it is definitely the best unlimited eSIM for international travel.

The web and app interfaces are user-friendly, the guides and help documents easy to understand, and the eSIM itself has been pretty flawless, working across multiple countries without a hitch.

We did have to contact customer support after a glitch setting up the eSIM. We used the chat button on the website and received fast and helpful customer service – they didn’t even make us feel embarrassed as the problem was entirely our fault!  

Phil has been using the Holafly eSIM Europe with 90 days of unlimited data and when that expired, he purchased again. 

There are a couple of things we wish we’d known before buying our first Holafly eSIM;

  • You need connectivity at the point of purchase. If you’re in the wilds without a signal, buying an eSIM isn’t going to work.
  • Holafly doesn’t offer tethering or hot-spotting with their unlimited data packs. If that’s what you need, head to Airalo or Nomad instead.
  • Some Holafly eSIMs including the Europe regional pack come with an Austrian phone number, so you can also make and receive calls, but you can’t send or receive SMS.
  • Holafly doesn’t cover some European countries that aren’t in the European Union in their regional eSIM – like Albania, Andorra, Gibraltar, Liechtenstein, Montenegro, and Serbia. You can purchase individual eSIMS for these countries, and depending on where you’re traveling, separate country eSIMs might be a better and more cost-effective option.

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