Using the virtual SIM card function on your phone can be a convenient way to avoid roaming charges while traveling. Of course, you still need to buy specific plans, but it offers a more flexible option.
In this article, we’ll look at what we mean by virtual SIM card and how you can set up an international SIM card for travel.
What is a Virtual SIM Card?
A virtual SIM card is also known as an eSIM. In short, the E stands for embedded. This means that, rather than inserting a SIM into your phone, it already has the hardware built in. The benefit of using an eSIM is that you can quickly switch between profiles without needing to change your hardware.
Some smartphones come with a virtual SIM card built in. As a general rule, flagship phones such as Samsung Galaxy and iPhones have this feature. It started being rolled out around 2020, so it’s still a relatively new feature.
Does a Virtual SIM Card Work for Travel?
You can use an eSIM as an international SIM card for travel. The best eSIM for international travel will be one you can use in multiple countries. However, buying a short-term plan in each country is also an option.
The first step is to work out whether your phone supports a virtual SIM card. To do this, you need your phone’s IMEI number.
- Open Settings, go to General, and tap About
- On iPhone, you’ll see an option that says Digital SIM within the IMEI menu.
- On Android, you’ll see an IMEI for eSIM.
Your phone supports a virtual SIM card if you have either of these options in the IMEI menu. Providing it does, you can move on to choosing a SIM card international travel plan.
Setting Up an International SIM Card for Travel
Setting up a virtual SIM card for travel is pretty easy:
- Choose your virtual SIM profile from a provider.
- Select a data plan for the timespan and country of your choice.
- Set up the plan using the QR code you’ll be given.
- Once it’s live, use your phone as normal.
Can I Buy a Virtual SIM Card from Another Country?
Using an international carrier is probably the most convenient option. Once you have the profile, it’s ready to use whenever you enter a different country. As such, a travel SIM card profile is useful for frequent travelers.
But if you only need occasional use of an international SIM card for travel, you can buy them from the country you’re visiting. Apple has a list of mainstream providers that offer eSIM plans, although it’s not a complete list.
You can then buy a virtual SIM card profile from a carrier’s website or buy it in-store once you’re in the country. Of course, this can be a harder option because you may have to deal with language barriers.
To do this, you simply use your existing phone, buy the plan you want, and then activate it. You’ll find short-term roaming plans or pay-as-you-roam depending on your needs. For example, some international providers offer 5- or 10-day plans, whereas others sell rolling daily plans.
These short-term plans often work out more cost-effective than pay-as-you-roam, particularly if you’re using a lot of data. For straightforward calls and texts, pay-as-you-roam might be the better option.
Does a Virtual SIM Card Deactivate Physical SIM?
One way or another, you can have 2 SIM cards in your phone. But some phones support dual SIM while others will only let you have one live at a time.
To check, do the following:
- On Android, go to Settings and select Network and Internet.
- Tap SIM Cards, which should be below Airplane mode.
- If there’s more than one SIM slot displayed, your phone is dual SIM.
For iPhones, it’s just a case of having an iPhone XS or later that runs iOS 12.1 or later.
If your phone supports dual SIM, it’ll need to be unlocked if you want to use an international SIM card for travel. Both plans need to be from the same network if your phone is still locked.
However, you can still set up a virtual SIM card profile if your phone is single SIM. The only difference is that you’ll need to manually switch between them. Doing so involves:
- Going to Settings and selecting Data and Network.
- Here, you should see your available SIM profiles. Tap on the one you want to use.
It’s pretty much the same for Android and iOS. The only real difference is that the menu options have slightly different names.
Also, be aware that dual SIM phones can usually still make calls on both profiles. It’s worth double checking which is active before making a call, as you could accidentally rack up a massive bill if you use your domestic SIM card to make a call while abroad!
How Can I Choose a Virtual SIM Card?
Textr will soon be launching its eSIM service, which will make it super easy to choose the best eSIM for international travel. Why is this?
Well, Textr will offer a variety of plants at a much lower cost than your standard carriers. Providing your phone is unlocked, you’ll have loads of options to help save money while traveling abroad.
Textr’s eSIM services are tailored for international travel, meaning you can set up a virtual SIM card no matter where in the world you are.
Combining your eSIM profile with Textr Team will give you unlimited calls and texts while traveling, too. You can do it all in one app and set up multiple phone numbers for different countries. You can high quality call minutes, meaning you don’t have to sacrifice quality simply because you’re abroad.
Download Textr Team today to get started and see how it can help you streamline your international communications. It’s available on Android, iOS, and web browser.
About the Writer
As a blogger, traveler, and food lover, I'm always on the hunt for new taste sensations. I'm excited to share my tips and tricks to help you have the most memorable travels. Come along and let's savor the journey!