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(Pocket-lint) - When travelling overseas, one of the biggest challenges travellers face is regarding SIM card usage. Activating international roaming on SIM cards can be incredibly expensive, making it an unsuitable option for most budget-conscious travellers. But if you replace your standard SIM card with a local SIM card upon landing, you lose access to all the messages and calls received on your primary SIM card.

Holafly solves this conundrum by offering eSIMs that allow you to connect to the internet in any country without trouble. If you’re travelling to the USA, you have to simply scan a QR code in your iPhone to activate the virtual SIM, giving you access to fast internet at an affordable rate. But how do you activate and use Holafly eSIM on your iPhone in the USA?

In this article, we describe what eSIMs are, how they work, and how Holafly eSIMs can help you while travelling in the USA.

What is an eSIM, and how does it work?

An eSIM, short for an embedded SIM, is basically a virtual SIM card that allows you to add a data plan to your iPhone or smartphone. You have to scan a QR code on your iPhone to activate the eSIM and access the data plan. The eSIM is already located inside most of the advanced, premium smartphones, so you don’t have to insert a physical SIM card.

Setting up an eSIM is extremely simple. Once you purchase the Holafly SIM for the chosen country, you receive a QR code. You have to scan the QR code using your camera, and the plan will automatically get transferred to your phone. After scanning the QR code, you have to follow a few simple steps to choose whether the SIM will be used for calls and data or only data.

The following is an overview of the eSIM activation steps:

  • Ensure you’re connected to the WiFi.
  • Go to Settings > Mobile Data > Add Data Plan.
  • Scan the QR code with your camera.
  • Select if the eSIM is your primary or secondary SIM. If you’re using the eSIM for travel purposes, you should ideally select Secondary.
  • You will be asked which of your SIM cards you want to use for calls, mobile data, and SMS. You should choose your primary SIM for SMS and calls and use the eSIM for mobile data. But don’t activate mobile data switching because you may face additional charges.
  • After installing the eSIM, you can go to Settings > Mobile Data.
  • Select your new eSIM under Cellular Plans.
  • Toggle the Turn On This Line button.
  • Activate Mobile Data and Data Roaming from the settings.
  • You may receive a few text messages once your eSIM is activated.

Holafly, an international eSIM shop

Holafly is a Spain and Colombia-based start-up that offers eSIMs to travellers who want to stay connected while travelling overseas. The Holafly eSIM store offers SIM and eSIM cards for 100+ destinations in 4 languages, including the USA. The USA international travel eSIM offers up to 30GB of extremely fast internet and reliable connection, so you can stay connected without activating international roaming or purchasing a local SIM in the USA.

Benefits of using an eSIM in the USA:

  • You instantly receive the eSIM QR code in your email - no waiting or delays.
  • Fast and affordable internet - the ideal alternative to international data roaming.
  • Remain connected to the internet wherever you travel.
  • Eco-friendly alternative to traditional (plastic) SIM cards.
  • No risk of losing your primary SIM because you don’t have to switch out the SIM cards.
  • Extremely easy installation and activation steps - can be done in minutes.
  • 24/7 access to technical support through email, online chats, or WhatsApp.

Requirements for using the iPhone with an eSIM:

  • iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max, iPhone XR, iPhone 11, iPhone 11 Pro, iPhone SE 2, iPhone 12, iPhone 12 Mini, iPhone 12 Pro, iPhone 12 Pro Max,  iPhone 13, iPhone 13 Mini, iPhone 13 Pro, iPhone 13 Pro Max, iPhone SE 3.
  • iOS 12.1 or later.
  • Wireless carriers that support eSIM cards.
  • Your iPhone must be unlocked.
  • Your iPhone must have a WiFi connection during the installation process.

Other alternatives for using your iPhone in the USA

If you don’t have a compatible iOS or iPhone, you have two other alternatives for using your iPhone in the USA - activate international roaming or buy a local SIM card in the USA.

Activate international roaming

International roaming is one of the most convenient (and expensive) ways to remain connected while travelling. If you’re in the UK, you can activate international roaming for a specific period or indefinitely for your travels to the USA, giving you access to international data and minutes. But the charges for international roaming are fairly high.

For example, the following is a rough estimate of the international roaming charges for the USA from the UK on some of the most popular networks - Vodafone, EE, and Three.

  • Vodafone: Up to £3.00 per minute, 65p per text, or 12p per MB of data
  • EE: Up to £1.35 per minute, 60p per text, or £20 for 250MB of data
  • Three: Up to £1.40 per minute, 35p per text, or 5p per MB of data

Buying a local SIM card in the USA

If international roaming seems too expensive, you can also purchase a local SIM card once you land in the USA. Some of the best network providers in the USA are T-Mobile, Verizon, and AT&T. You can purchase prepaid SIM cards from airports, Walmart stores, shopping malls, or the operators’ local stores. When purchasing SIM cards in stores, you will need your passport with a valid VISA and a passport photograph.

The following are the primary challenges associated with buying local SIM cards in the USA:

  • You should ideally speak English.
  • Determining the ideal provider for your SIM can be difficult.
  • iPhones can only contain one physical SIM card. That means you will have to remove your primary SIM card and insert the USA SIM card, which means you won’t receive any of the calls or messages going to your primary SIM card.
  • Since you have to remove your primary SIM card, you also risk misplacing your primary SIM, which can have long-term consequences and problems.


Which operators are eSIM-enabled?

In the USA, AT&T, T-Mobile USA, and Verizon are the primary eSIM-enabled operators. Please note that eSIM is mainly meant for contract customers or for SIM to eSIM switchovers.

Which mobile network frequencies work in the USA?

In the USA, most of the network providers work at 3G or 4G frequencies, i.e., frequencies up to 2.5Gigahertz. The 5G network, which has a frequency of up to 95 Gigahertz, started rolling out in the USA in 2018, but network providers are consistently increasing coverage to additional cities around the country.

If all these features sound useful to you, be sure to check out HolaFly's website for more details and to sign up! Remember to use code POCKETLINT for a 5 per cent discount.