Buying The Best SIM Cards In The UK In 2024

Best SIM Cards

As a student in the UK, having a reliable and affordable SIM card is essential. With so many options available, knowing which one to choose can be challenging. It’s important to remember that the SIM card and phone plan you choose will affect all the calls and data you use while you are in the UK. It can also impact how much money you spend on calls home, accessing social media apps, finding local restaurants and more. 

In this blog, we’ll explore the best SIM cards for students in the UK in 2024.

Need For Best SIM Cards In The UK

In the UK, a SIM card is a small essential tool for your phone, linking you to the global network and enabling calls and mobile data access even without Wi-Fi. Additionally, discovering the ideal SIM card for international students in the UK is straightforward and uncomplicated. Besides the evident advantages, here are the reasons why opting for the most favoured SIM card in the UK is advantageous:

  • Communication: A local SIM card enables accessible communication with friends, family, and university contacts within the UK.
  • Affordable Calls and Data: Using a UK SIM card often offers more cost-effective rates for calls, texts, and mobile data compared to roaming with an international SIM.
  • Integration: A UK phone number facilitates integration into local communities and simplifies administrative tasks like setting up bank accounts or registering for services.
  • Emergency Services: A UK SIM card ensures access to emergency services and local assistance during unforeseen situations.
  • Convenience: With a UK SIM card, international students can easily access online resources, navigate using maps, and stay connected without relying solely on Wi-Fi networks.

Types Of SIM Cards In The UK 

You’ll encounter two options when seeking the finest SIM card in the UK: physical SIM cards and eSIM. By exploring student discounts, you will find that top UK SIM cards are available at a reduced price. Below, we have mentioned the characteristics of the two types of UK SIM cards:

Physical SIM Cards 

A physical SIM card is a small chip available in three sizes (Standard/Mini SIM card, Micro SIM card, and Nano SIM card). It is removable and can be inserted into your phone, connecting your device to a UK mobile network. With a physical SIM card, you can send texts, make calls, and access mobile data at local UK rates.

eSIM Cards 

An eSIM is a virtual SIM that a service provider can digitally embed in your phone. It is integrated into your smartphone and can connect you to any eSIM-enabled provider. It functions as a microchip inside your phone, similar to an NFC chip. eSIM maintains cellular profiles and works seamlessly worldwide. While eSIMs offer numerous advantages and disadvantages, a notable service provider, Airalo, provides access to eSIM cards for over 190 countries, including the UK.

How To Get A UK SIM Card? 

Securing a suitable SIM card in the UK is straightforward and offers flexibility and convenience. Exploring your options and selecting the one that aligns with your specific requirements is critical. For instance, 

  • Whether you’re a student or a visitor, you can easily apply for a UK SIM card online or visit a nearby mobile store at your convenience. 
  • Mobile store operators can provide valuable information on UK SIM plans tailored for international students. Additionally, prepaid SIM cards are readily available at most convenience stores and supermarkets. 
  • It’s essential to note that proof of UK address is typically required to purchase a SIM card in the UK, especially for mobile contracts. 

Let’s know how to get the best UK SIM card for international students.

Physical SIM Cards:

  1. Locate a Mobile Phone Shop or Official Retail Store: Utilise Google Maps to find the nearest mobile phone shop or official retail store affiliated with your preferred mobile internet provider.
  2. Visit the Store: Head to the store and purchase a physical SIM card. The staff will ensure proper functionality before your departure.

eSIM Cards:

  1. Verify Device Compatibility: Confirm that your phone supports eSIM functionality.
  2. Choose an eSIM Provider: Select a provider offering eSIM services.
  3. Access the Provider’s Website or App: Navigate to the provider’s website or app to explore available plans.
  4. Purchase the eSIM Plan: Select the eSIM plan that aligns with your requirements.
  5. Receive QR Code or Activation Details: Obtain a QR code or activation details for eSIM activation.
  6. Scan the QR Code or Enter Activation Details: You can activate your eSIM by scanning the QR code or entering the activation details.
  7. Commence Usage: Your eSIM is active, enabling you to make calls, send texts, and access mobile data.

Online Purchase:

Alternatively, you can order a UK SIM card online, which will be delivered to your home address before your journey. This will offer convenience and readiness upon arrival in the UK.

Getting a UK SIM card is straightforward and available both online and in-store. It’s essential to stay connected during your UK travels, and it offers improved coverage, reduced call rates, flexible plans, cost-effective data options, and convenient local communication.

Benefits Of Obtaining A UK SIM Card

A SIM card is a mandatory requirement to stay connected with the rest of the world. However, apart from communicating with people, getting a SIM card has several advantages and benefits. Check them here: 

  • Enhanced Coverage: Enjoy improved coverage and connectivity across the country.
  • Reduced Call Rates: Benefit from lower call rates than international roaming fees.
  • Flexible Contract Plans: Opt for short, flexible contract plans tailored to your needs.
  • Cost-Effective Unlimited Data Plans: Many providers offer budget-friendly unlimited data plans, ideal for seamless connectivity while travelling.
  • Convenient Local Communication: Facilitate accessible communication with locals, which is vital for navigation and maximising your UK experience.

Best International SIM Cards For UK 

As you gear up for the most employable degrees in the UK, staying connected is crucial. Whether for online research or keeping in touch with loved ones back home, having the best SIM card for students in the UK is essential. Given that UK students typically use an average of 12GB of mobile data per month, it’s necessary to understand the two main types of UK SIM cards:

Prepaid or Pay-As-You-Go (PAYG):

In the UK, PAYG and prepaid mean the same when referring to SIM cards. With a PAYG/prepaid UK SIM card for students, users aren’t tied to a fixed subscription. Instead, they must regularly purchase prepaid credit to make calls, send messages, and use data. Subscriptions can be obtained from convenience stores or supermarkets. A prepaid UK SIM card for international students allows for usage flexibility without being locked into a lengthy contract.

Regular Contracts:

If you plan to stay in the UK for an extended period or prefer making calls over sending messages, mobile contracts can be a cost-effective option. Contracts typically span longer durations, and if you exceed your usage limit, charges will be deducted from your bank account accordingly. Mobile contracts are suitable for users who make frequent long-duration calls, offering extended-minute call packages for prolonged usage.

Difference Between Prepaid, PAYG, and Regular Contracts

Often, international students are confused if these are three different terms. While prepaid and PAYG are almost the same, regular contract SIM differs. Here is a detailed table outlining the differences between Prepaid, PAYG (Pay As You Go), and Regular Contracts based on the provided sources:

CategoryPrepaidPAYG (Pay As You Go)Regular Contracts
DefinitionCustomers pay for services in advanceCustomers buy credits in advance and use them as neededCustomers pay a fixed monthly fee after using services
Payment MethodPay for services upfrontBuy credits and use them as neededPay a fixed monthly fee
Service UsageUse services until the credit is depletedUse services as long as there are creditsUse services based on monthly allowance
FlexibilityMore flexibility in usage and spendingFlexibility in usage with credit top-upsFixed monthly commitment with potential overage charges
Cost ControlControl costs by prepaying for servicesControl costs by monitoring credit usagePotential for overage charges if usage exceeds allowance
Handset InclusionIt does not include a handsetIt does not include a handsetOften consists of a handset as part of the package
Contract LengthNo fixed contract periodNo fixed contract periodTypically, 12, 18, or 24-month contracts
Usage LimitationsLimited to available creditLimited to available creditLimited to a monthly allowance
International UsageMay have limitations on international callsMay have limitations on international callsMay include international calls in the package
Expiry PeriodCredit may expire if not used within a periodCredit may expire if not used within a periodMonthly allowance renews monthly
BenefitsPay only for what you usePay as you go with flexibility in usageIncludes a handset and fixed monthly fee
DrawbacksNeed to top up to continue using servicesNeed to monitor credit balance for usagePotential for overage charges and fixed commitment

Best SIM Card Deals In The UK For Students 2024 

Discovering the ideal SIM card deals in the UK for students in 2024 is essential, especially if you’re frequently immersed in social media. However, navigating through the range of options can take time and effort. Here, we’ll outline some popular UK SIM card plans to simplify your decision-making process:


Voxi stands out as an excellent choice for social media enthusiasts. With features like Endless Social Media and Endless Video, users can access various services without consuming their data allowances. Plans start from just £10 per month, making Voxi a budget-friendly option for international students seeking economic plans.


Vodafone offers enticing SIM deals, including complimentary subscriptions to Spotify, Amazon Prime, or YouTube Premium, for those willing to commit to a 24-month contract. Renowned for its extensive network coverage, Vodafone provides a free PAYG SIM card with access to its network, boasting 99% population coverage. Their offers often bundle the cost of streaming services directly into the contract, which contrasts with Voxi’s approach. For £27 per month, Vodafone offers plans featuring 160GB of data and an entertainment pass.

Best UK SIM Card Providers 

Presently, there are four major UK SIM card providers, and selecting the optimal one hinges on your specific preferences. If your priority is top-notch network coverage, the following mobile network operators merit consideration:


O2 is rapidly gaining popularity in the UK and is a leading contender for the best SIM card in the country. It offers impressive monthly bundles and contract options, including data rollover features to maximise your plan’s value. Many UK residents opt for O2 for its long-term affordability, with complimentary 5G services available in most areas.


Vodafone, another prominent player in the UK SIM card market, has access to strong networks and widespread internet coverage. While it may not offer the fastest internet speeds, it maintains a 66% consumer satisfaction rating compared to similar providers. Vodafone’s 5G subscription is competitively priced, making it a reliable option for students, especially with discounted rates on 24-month plans.


EE stands out for those seeking top-tier SIM card options in the UK for its smooth streaming, faster downloads, and seamless video calls. EE ensures uninterrupted connectivity with 4G coverage spanning 99% of the UK. Their PAYG plans cater well to students with fluctuating data usage, while contract plans provide fixed data, calls, and texts for a monthly fee, albeit at a premium price point.


Three is renowned for its seamless services and high-speed internet, attracting many UK residents with its affordable plans. Widely regarded as the best SIM card in the UK for international students, Three offers competitive prices, extensive data coverage, and enticing monthly discounts. Notably, Three’s SIM card plans allow users to cancel monthly subscriptions at any time.

Best UK SIM Card Only Deals

Once you’ve chosen a phone contract, you can decide between a SIM-only deal or one that includes a handset. With the best SIM-only deals, you’ll receive a complimentary SIM card and incur monthly charges, typically under a 12-month contract that automatically renews until cancelled. Therefore, conducting prior checks before committing to a plan is crucial.

Here are some of the best SIM-only deals in the UK:

Mobile OperatorPlanData AllowancePriceEU Roaming
Vodafone UK7 GB7 GB£10 GBP ($13 USD)No EU Roaming
20 GB20 GB£15 GBPIncluded
40 GB40 GB£20 GBP ($25 USD)Included
100 GB100 GB£30 GBPIncluded
UnlimitedUnlimited£40 GBP ($51 USD)Not Included
Three UK10 GB10 GB£10 GBP ($13 USD)Included
25 GB25 GB£15 GBPIncluded
50 GB50 GB£20 GBP ($25 USD)Included
UnlimitedUnlimited£35 GBPIncluded (limited)
O2 UK7 GB7 GB£10 GBP ($13 USD)Included
20 GB20 GB£15 GBPIncluded
30 GB30 GB£20 GBP ($25 USD)Included
100 GB100 GB£30 GBPNot Included
EE UK5 GB5 GB£10 GBP ($13 USD)Included
15 GB15 GB£15 GBPIncluded
70 GB70 GB£20 GBP ($25 USD)Included
100 GB100 GB£30 GBPNot Included
GiffGaff5 GB5 GB£10 GBP ($13 USD)Not Included
10 GB10 GB£12 GBPNot Included
15 GB15 GB£15 GBPNot Included
30 GB30 GB£20 GBPNot Included
Lebara5 GB5 GB£5 GBPNot Included
30 GB30 GB£15 GBPNot Included

UK SIM Card Dimensions

Phones come in diverse sizes, and SIM cards are tailored to fit them. In the UK, there are three physical SIM card types:

  • Standard SIM card, the most prevalent size at 15 x 25mm
  • Micro SIM card measuring 12 x 15mm
  • Nano SIM card in the UK, sized at 8.8 x 12.3 mm

Additionally, there’s the eSIM card option in the UK, a digital SIM that can be integrated into your phone, which is prevalent among students.

Most Affordable SIM Card Plans In The UK

Numerous secondary mobile network providers utilise the primary network bands mentioned earlier, offering advantageous UK SIM card deals tailored for students. If you prioritise ample data over extensive social media usage, these plans are ideal, providing the best UK phone plans to suit your budget:

ProviderPlan DetailsMonthly Price (£)Additional Notes
ThreeUnlimited data for £12/month for 6 months£12 (for six months)Budget-friendly option
SmartyUnlimited data with unlimited tethering£20You can cancel anytime, which is ideal for international students
GiffGaff2GB data, unlimited UK calls and texts£6Various plans available, 35GB for £15
iD Mobile60GB data£10Unlimited data is available for £16 over 24 months
Lebara3GB data£5Economical plans, flexibility to cancel
1pMobile10GB data with usage charged at 1p per minute/text/MB£10 (top-up)Utilises EE’s 5G network, affordable and flexible

Best UK eSIM Cards  

Offering a range of data allowances, coverage options, and features for various requirements, eSIM cards have become a popular choice for travellers. In 2024, standout options like the Orange Holiday Europe eSIM and the Nomad eSIM card for the UK emerge as leading choices for visitors to the UK, boasting generous data allowances, extensive coverage, and 5G compatibility at competitive rates.

ProviderPlan DetailsPrice (USD)DataValidityCoverageFeaturesCost per GB (USD)
Orange Holiday Europe eSIM50GB data, Unlimited calling/texting in Europe, 5G ready$59.9050 GB28 daysAll of EuropeUnlimited calling/texting, 5G ready$1.20
Nomad eSIM for the UK20GB data, Data-only eSIM, 5G ready$2120 GB30 daysOnly in the UKData-only eSIM, 5G ready$1.05
Lyca Mobile eSIMFree eSIM optionVariesOffers a free eSIM optionVaries
eSIM UKCost-effective, high-speed eSIM data plans with global coverageGlobalCost-effective, high-speed eSIM plans
ESIMUK.NETeSIM plans with fast local network connections from EE and ThreeLocal (EE and Three)Fast local network connections

Best SIM-only Deals In The UK For Roaming Worldwide

When venturing beyond Europe, it’s common for UK networks to impose charges for international roaming. These typically come in the form of additional packages, such as:

  • EE – the Roam Abroad Pass allows you to utilise your UK plan in the USA, Australia, Canada, Mexico, and New Zealand for an extra £25 per month.
  • Three – the Go Roam add-on enables roaming in 71 destinations for £5 daily, or opt for a Data Passport for unrestricted data in 89 countries at £5 per day.
  • Vodafone – the Roam Further add-on extends your UK plan for an extra £6.85 each day.
  • O2 – the O2 Travel add-on provides unlimited data, minutes, and texts at £6 per day, covering the US, Australia, Mexico, Canada, and New Zealand.
  • Lebara – For UK travelers, Lebara offers a standout option with free usage of your UK plan in India, also applicable in European destinations. For other locations, various roaming add-ons are available with prices varying by destination and duration.
  • Sky Mobile – Sky’s Roaming Passport Plus, priced at £2 per day, allows usage of your UK plan in the USA, UAE, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, and Turkey.


Q1. Which sim card is best in the UK?

Ans: O2 is one of the best sim cards in the UK for anybody staying in the country due to its affordability. It also comes with a six-month Disney+ subscription that makes streaming free of cost to students.

Q2. Which SIM cards are used in the UK?

Ans: Vodafone, EE, O2 and Three are some of the most commonly used sim cards in the UK. They have a physical mobile network infrastructure in the country.

Q3. Which pay-as-you-go SIM is best in the UK?

Ans: Smarty is one of the best pay-as-you-go sim cards in the UK and one of the best value-for-money sim cards for students. They have a monthly pack of 100GB of 5G data for £12 per month.

Q4. Which is the best SIM card for international students in the UK?

Ans: Giffgaff is one of the best sim cards in the UK for international students due to its affordable. It offers coverage of 5G data in the UK and a pay-as-you-go unlimited data plan at an economical price.

PS: If there’s anything more you’d like us to know about. Add it to the comments section!

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