Let’s be honest, we are all quite reliant on our phones, to stay connected, to find directions, or to just doom scroll in bed out of habit. Using your domestic provider data while traveling is typically the most expensive option so the alternatives are to either find a local SIM card package or get an eSIM. 

Getting a local SIM can be as easy as walking into a cell phone shop at the airport and popping in a new card (Mexico City airport). More often than not, however, it is a quest around town or to the neighbouring resort/mall and at this point, you may have already had to turn on your data which, if you are Canadian, immediately costs you at least $14. I’ve been using eSIMs for over a year now and have found eSIMs reliable and safe to use.  Admittedly occasionally they can be more expensive than a physical local SIM card but the hustle of finding one is a major deterrent for me, especially with multiple country stops.

This post is about a specific eSIM provider, GigSky, but first, let’s cover some common eSIM-related questions. If you are already familiar with how eSIMs work just scroll past these FAQs ☺️. 

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GigSky giveaway!

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eSIM FAQ: What’s an eSIM & How does it work

What’s an ESIM

eSIM is a shorthand for embedded SIM. Instead of having to swap out a physical SIM, eSIM gets installed next to your regular SIM digitally, so in simple terms, it’s a digital SIM card. You can even add it to your tablet if that’s where you want your data to live. Using an eSIM offers you data only, typically this data is sourced from a local provider (Orange, T-Mobile, etc). Since it is a data-only card you do not get a phone number and you cannot make or receive calls unless, of course, it is a WhatsApp or FaceTime. 

How does it work

eSIM can be installed in two ways: using a QR code or using an app. I found the QR code method a bit tedious since the code needs to be visible on something other than the phone you are installing the eSIM on. Additionally, with a QR code without the App, you don’t get visibility into the status of your data. With an app you can purchase, top up, and keep track of your usage so you can know if you are running out and will not be just cut off. You do not need a contract to use an eSIM, you simply purchase the data package and top it up as needed. 

Where is the eSIM on my phone

Once your first eSIM is installed you can turn off your primary SIM with a toggle and turn on the eSIM. This makes sure you do not get charged for roaming usages from your local provider (Rogers, Bell, etc) because that SIM is now completely inactive. On your phone the eSIM lives in the “Cellular” settings section (iPhone), here’s a screenshot of mine. The one “On” is my Canadian physical SIM. The ones “Off” are the travel eSIMs that I can top up when I return to that location. The “no sim” lines are the eSIMs I removed.

Can I make calls

Not in the traditional sense but you can make calls using WhatsApp and FaceTime which I found is perfectly enough, unless of course you need to be on call or waiting to receive some banking verification code. 

What happens to my phone number

Nothing. It is there taking a nap behind the scenes, receiving text messages that will flood your phone once you turn your primary SIM card on upon returning home. All of your apps and settings remain intact and you can use iMessage (iPhone) and WhatsApp to stay in touch with your friends and family. In many places around the world, WhatsApp is actually the preferred mode of communication and can even be used to make restaurant reservations. 

About GigSky eSIM

GigSky* is a company from Palo Alto, California. When the eSIM was first released GigSky launched as an Apple partner in 2018. Today they provide eSIM services on land, cruise ships, and in-flight. The company is also the largest provider of connectivity services to the Airline industry servicing staff, passengers, and core parts of the plane. Recently GigSky launched a global partnership with Visa so if you have a US Bank Altitude® Connect Visa Signature® Card a GigSky data plan is available to you. It is a safe, legitimate business, and a reliable eSIM provider. 

How does GigSky work

Same as any other eSIM plan (described above) GigSky eSIM can be installed using a QR code or through the app (recommended). With GigSky you can have two operators active at the same time, for example, their eSIM and your regular physical card, if you need the calls for example. The plan can be purchased in the app or on gigsky.com*. In a nutshell, the steps are:

  1. Choose your destination and package
  2. Install your eSIM
  3. Activate the eSIM on arrival
  4. And you are connected!

GigSky connectivity & Service locations

Connectivity is the major differentiator for GigSky. The majority of eSIM companies basically resell network services from local providers (re-route you to it so to say), GigSky, however, is an actual network provider. The company partners with about 400 cellular network providers around the world to have direct access to the servers. So if one network goes down, they will automatically re-connect you to the next, best available service. 

The coolest bit is that you only need one GigSky eSIM for all of the countries you plan to visit so your cellar setting would not be riddled with lines like mine and just have one eSIM line. 

Where can you use GigSky

Currently, GigSky offers connection services in 190 different countries and off-shore throughout the Gulf of Mexico and the North Sea. It is also available at sea on over 190 different cruise ships – trust me when I say, that getting connected on a cruise ship is challenging and expensive so if I ever do get on another boat this is my plan. Data plans are also available for over 20 different airlines, more about in-flight connectivity here. What all this really means is that even if you are island hopping you can still stay connected.

The GigSky plan range

Plans are offered by country, region, and location (cruise, off-shore, in-flight). GigSky* also offers a small trial package, 100 MB for free without a credit card to test drive the data and the app. 

Overall the packages are competitively priced and in some instances could be a bit more expensive than other brands (ie. AirAlo) but for some destinations are also more affordable. You can get country-specific packages (ie. India), regional (ie. Asia Pacific), or combo (ie. Cruise+Asia Pacific). The choices you need to make of course is how much data and for how many days. However, if you run out of data on the trip you can simply top it up within the app.  

The best value, in my opinion, is the unlimited regional packages, for example, the Unlimited European country of your choice or Europe as a whole is $27.99/7 days or $44.99/15 days!

Purchase your plan on gigsky.com*.

A few eSIM usage tips

  • Turn off your domestic SIM and roaming as soon as you take off to avoid accidental charges
  • Upon landing connect to airport WiFi, find a strong connection spot, and stay there until your eSIM is activated 
  • Check the connection by turning off the WiFi
  • You might need to make sure roaming is turned “On” for your new eSIM
  • In “Cellular” settings scroll down and turn off roaming for any apps you know you won’t need so they are not using data in the background

That’s all, if you have any questions please comment below, and happy traveling! 

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