What is an eSIM card and why do you maybe want one?

About a decade ago I took students to Spain. After a series of unfortunate events involving a passport replacement that took just long enough for a student and me to miss our flight home, I really needed to get a hold of people in the US about our delay (we did get on the flight the next day). Her parents, my parents, my summer job, our travel company…

This was in the time before everything was wifi. It was before smart phones. I had to contact everyone via email, except her parents who we bought a calling card to make the call from a public phone. That inability to contact anyone easily really was a hassle.

Since then, I’ve depended on my cell service provider’s international service. This meant paying $.25 per text and a ridiculous amount per minute for actual voice calls. Eventually wifi became more prevalent, and I was able to basically just catch signals here and there, and respond to iMessages and things sent through Messenger.

Last time I traveled (in 2018), I had AT&T, it was a $10/day for service abroad. Of course that 2-week trip (without students) would have gotten pretty spendy if I used it everyday, so I think I only turned on my cellular on the day I arrived, the day we transferred between France & Spain, and the day I left. Wifi was in most places, but I wanted to be able to be online when we were out and about and not worry about finding a hotspot.

As I am gearing up for the 2023 trip to Spain with students, I have been looking at blogs seeing what things I might want to treat myself to before I dust off my passport. And there I found an entry from Lauren of Neverending Footsteps talking about an eSIM card. I’d never heard of this but sounded interesting and I investigated. And you should too. (Or, just take my word for it, I’ve looked it up.)

A SIM card is, basically, the thing that allows your phone to connect to a cellular network. It’s like your phone’s ID card to get into the club. Your SIM is specific to the cellular provider. Whoever is behind your SIM is whose service you get, and who you pay for it. Many cell phones have a physical SIM card, which is an itty bitty little memory card-looking thing. (Look at the side of your phone. Is there a little trap door with a tiny hole in it? That is the slot for a physical SIM card.)

Of course, you could get a physical SIM card to swap out during travel, but that seems inconvenient. And knowing me, I’d drop & lose my original one somewhere along the way and be stuck back at home with no service. An eSIM card is basically a virtual version of the same. You buy from a provider, activate it through an app or by scanning a QR code, and then you’re off to the races. You’ve joined that provider’s service and your regular one is on pause. Of course, you won’t get a rebate for the time you were off the network, but you won’t be paying ridiculous data rates (because who actually CALLS people anyhow?).

I’ve decided to follow Lauren’s recommendation this time and get one from Airalo. The prices I’ve seen for Spain seem really affordable ($26 for 30 days and 20GB of data), and they also have tons of other countries they serve. I signed up for mine, and if you’d like to use the code KELLY6502, you can get $3 off your purchase (and I also get $3 credit).

While I hope I don’t need to use it to deal with a student issue like I did a decade ago, I am looking forward to keeping up my almost 1000-day duolingo streak and posting our adventures on Facebook and in Google Drive for parents (and here for those who helped support the trip through contributions via BuyMeACoffee.com).

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