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Airalo eSim for US Travel – by Claus Wolf

Hello NosillaCastaways,

Back in March, I took a trip to New York City. It was my first big vacation in over two years. The pandemic had me firmly grounded in Germany for all that time. A surreal feeling for someone who was used to being on the road for at least a week or two every month.

New York is a pretty fun place and for me, it brings back lots of memories from back in the day when I was a student. However, this isn’t a story about how old I feel, but about the need for mobile data abroad.

Like many of you, I don’t really use my phone to make calls and thus I don’t miss the phone part of my phone much. However, if you take my data away, I feel severely limited. In the past, I would order a prepaid SIM card and swap it on the plane. This time I decided to try my luck with an eSim.

I searched the app store for a suitable provider and there were so many options that it was super hard to make a decision. In the end I settled for Airalo at airalo.com.

I wished I could tell you it was the result of a lengthy evidence-based search, but it basically was a well reviewed-app, that had mobile data at a price I thought fair: 5GB for 16 Dollars. What sealed the deal was that I could pay with Apple Pay.

After buying the eSim I got a QR Code, which I ended up printing out and took it with me. Once I had arrived at JFK Airport, I scanned the code, followed the very detailed instructions and it appeared like all was well, except that I didn’t manage to connect to the internet.

I double-checked all the settings. Under Mobile Data, I had switched off my main data plan and enabled the eSim. I double- and triple-checked the instructions and had that sinking feeling that it was a scam after all.

In the end, I remembered that Airalo had mentioned that the eSIM would only work with AT&T or T-Mobile, so I decided to double-check the Network I was on. And there it was, my phone had tried to attach itself to Verizon. I toggled the Network Selection from Automatic to Manual and selected T-Mobile. My date came to life. While it sounds like this might have been an ordeal, it gave me something to do while waiting to go through immigration.

While away, I visited New York and Boston. The reception in both cities was perfect. The only time the internet was a wee bit shaky was in and around the Statue of Liberty, but the views made more than up for it.

Compared to my previous purchase of a physical SIM, here are a few thoughts:

  • the lack of a phone number wasn’t a big deal for me, but it also meant that my wife and kids had to remember to Facetime me, instead of simply calling me.
  • if I had needed to make a call, I would have had to go on the hunt for a Voice over IP application or use a phone booth

The Airalo app gave me a good overview of how much data I had used and in the unlikely event that I had used up all my data, they would have made it easy to “top up” with more.

Overall I am very happy with the experience and I will be sure to use this service again. If you plan to travel abroad this year check out an eSIM provider on a phone near you. If you have an iPhone XR or newer, you will be supported!

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