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Are you traveling to Europe and thinking about buying a Nomad eSIM so you can stay connected?
We’ve been using Nomad eSIMs across Europe, alongside a range of other eSIMs, local SIM cards, and Cloud SIM devices for well over 6 months, meaning we can offer a detailed and honest review based on our own experiences.
In this Nomad eSIM review and guide, we’ll answer all your frequently asked questions, look at using a Nomad eSIM in Europe, and share our Nomad review.
TL;DR? Get the basic Nomad info here…
What is an eSIM?
A regular SIM (Subscriber Identification Module) is a physical piece of plastic that contains microchips enabling your smartphone to make and receive calls and text messages, and access wireless internet.
SIM cards can be used in smartphones and watches, mobile hotspots like MiFi devices, dongles, and some travel routers.
The first SIM was launched in 1991 and was the size of a credit card! 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.
In 2018, the first eSIM was launched. 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 a 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 Nomad’s guide to compatible phones before making a purchase.
Why do I need an eSIM?
Whether you’re a backpacker, business traveler, holidaymaker, long-term globetrotter, or digital nomad, the chances are you’ll want to access the internet when you travel.
When we started traveling full-time in our overland truck in 2018, we thought we’d stop being slaves to our phones. That didn’t go well!
Fast forward five years and we use the internet more than ever – for research, creating blog posts and YouTube videos, social media, streaming, planning and booking stuff, and keeping in touch with family and loved ones.
For us, access to mobile data with a travel eSIM makes navigating a new country or negotiating a different language simple. The convenience of being able to manage our business online, make a reservation, take a video call, post on social media, or research our 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, 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 over the last five years 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 like us 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 your SIM card into your phone as soon as you arrive, then ordering a SIM online for delivery to your home before you travel is a great option.
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.
This means you won’t be able to make calls or send messages using your usual number, and if you use two-factor authentication which often relies on sending a code via SMS, this could be an issue.
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 when you travel.
What are the benefits of eSIMs?
Is there a downside to using eSIMs?
If you balance the cost of a Nomad card against a local SIM, eSIM data is always going to be more expensive gigabyte for gigabyte, but Nomad does offer pricing which is pretty close to what you would pay locally.
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.
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 Nomad eSIMs do include local phone numbers for making calls, so check in the ‘plan details’ section before buying if this is important.
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Who are Nomad?
Nomad was developed with the idea of making travel fun and easy, allowing users to control costs by providing data connectivity at near-local rates anywhere in the world.
With LotusFlare as its software foundation, Nomad operates as an aggregator of mobile data supplied by various communications service providers and makes this accessible for international travelers.
How does Nomad work?
Entirely internet-based, Nomad can be bought and accessed on the web, and via their app. Head online (so you need some sort of connection to get started) and select the country or region to which you’re traveling.
Nomad offers international eSIM data packages in over 165 countries, plus seven regional plans for Asia-Pacific, Scandinavia (Nordic), Europe, SEA-Oceania, North America, Africa, and the Middle East.
Nomad also offers a global eSIM that covers all the regions and operates in 165 countries, providing truly international data.
Nomad offers a range of eSIMs by size and validity time. You may see several eSIMs for the same amount of data and for the same length of time, but this is where Nomad differs from competitors as you can choose the provider.
We have generally picked the multi-carrier option which means you’re not tied to one network, and this often seems to be a cheaper option too.
Right now we’re in Greece and our Nomad multi-carrier eSIM is connecting to Vodafone GR, one of Europe’s largest network carriers.
Does Nomad work instantly? Your eSIM can be installed from the QR code that comes in an email they send you immediately after purchase if you buy online, or that is displayed in the app.
You need to be able to scan the QR code, so you do need a second phone or device where you can access the QR code – I take a photo on Phil’s phone and scan that. If you don’t have a second device you can manually install the eSIM by copying and pasting into your phone the information provided.
Once installed, select the eSIM, rename (it helps to keep track!), and activate data roaming. If you have other eSIMs you’ll need to let your phone know which one you want to use.
We recommended that you install your eSIM before you leave home for your trip since you need a data connection to do so.
Most of the eSIM Nomad provides will be activated automatically once you land at your destination, but some need to be activated manually on the Nomad website or in the Nomad app.
Once that’s done you’ll be connected immediately. If you’re not, there are a lot of help documents that talk you through the setup online.
Nomad eSIM also provides 24/7 customer support and you can always contact them if you have an issue with your eSIM.
How much do Nomad eSIM cards cost?
The price 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. Nomad’s larger data packs and longer term plans 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 Nomad eSIM pricing is very competitive, often only a few euros more than picking up a regular SIM card locally.
Is Nomad reputable?
Can Nomad be trusted? We’ve used Nomad eSIM cards for over six months now with no issues and have felt comfortable using a credit card to pay for our eSIMs on their website and app.
Nomad also gets a healthy 4.3 average rating over 1,500+ reviews on Trustpilot. That’s not bad at all.
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 Nomad coverage?
I’ve been keeping an eye on this as we’ve traveled over the past six months. Nomad‘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 – that’s where choosing a multi-carrier option really works.
Are Nomad eSIMs fast?
Your Nomad eSIM will connect at full speed to 4G, LTE (like 4.5G!), and 5G depending on the carrier and for the latter, your phone’s capabilities.
You may be limited by your device but we’ve been able to upload video and stream tv from our iPhones without any buffering, even when hotspotting.
Does Nomad have a loyalty program?
They do. The Nomad loyalty program is called Nomad Points. Refer your friends and family and they’ll get US$3 off their first purchase, and you earn 300 points (worth US$3).
You can also earn 25 points (worth US$0.25) for each US$5 purchase you make. All the points you make can be redeemed against future purchases.
Our Nomad Experience
We had tried both Airalo eSIMs and Holofly eSIMs and were being lazy about trying a third provider, but Nomad kept popping up in Google searches and we read good things about them.
We’re really pleased we gave them a go! Nomad are more competitively priced than Airalo and their coverage is just as good.
The web and app interfaces are user-friendly, the guides and help documents easy to understand, and the eSIM itself has been flawless, working across multiple countries without a hitch.
The only downside is that, as yet, you cannot contact Nomad customer service by phone or live chat. But they do have a very responsive customer support team who usually respond within a few hours.
There are a couple of things to know before buying your first Nomad eSIM;
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