Airalo is one of the new eSIM startup brands offering prepaid international eSIM plans for travelers. I’ve become a huge fan of eSIM data plans thanks to their convenience and affordable prices, so I wanted to do a real-world, hands-on test of Airalo’s service—especially since Airalo offers some cheap rates (i.e. do you get what you pay for?).
So let’s jump into this Airalo review to see how Airalo’s mobile service worked on my latest European trip and to see how they stacked up against other SIM/eSIM data plans I’ve used in Europe.
Are you just interested in seeing how Airalo performed when I used it in Italy? Click here to jump straight to my Airalo Real-World Performance review.
How I Tested Airalo & Why Trust Me
For this Airalo review, I used Airalo’s Italy 5GB data eSIM plan on an iPhone 14 Pro throughout a two-week trip to Italy. I spent the majority of this trip between Rome and Naples but also I did a handful of side trips outside these cities so I could see how the service worked in more rural settings.
On past travels to Europe, I’ve done reviews of the Orange Holiday Europe data plan, Bouygues Telecom Vacation Prepaid Data Plan, and Holafly. I’ve also tied using T-Mobile’s international data plan (the mobile carrier I use at home).
Airalo Plan Offerings, Rates, and Coverage
Before getting started, it’s important to know that almost every Airalo eSIM is data only—which means you can’t make calls or send SMS texts (but you can still use Apple iMessage, WhatsApp, and other app-based services). You also can’t use your phone as a mobile hotspot because data tethering is largely blocked.
If you really want a plan that can make calls/texts, I recommend the Orange Holiday Europe eSIM.
Coverage and Data Allowances
Airalo offers eSIM data plans that cover 190+ countries/regions. They have local (country-specific), regional (Europe, North America, Asia, etc), and global plans.
Most of their plans come with a set amount of data (1GB, 3GB, 5GB, 10GB, etc) that’s valid for 30 days after activation (although the 1GB plans are only valid for 7 days and some longer duration global plans).
Airalo’s prices are quite reasonable and sometimes they seem suspiciously cheap—like $16 for 10GB of data in Europe (which is pretty good).
What Mobile Network Does Airalo Use?
Airalo isn’t a mobile provider—i.e. they don’t own the mobile towers. Airalo partners with local mobile data providers across the world and rents bandwidth on their networks.
For example, in Italy, Airalo automatically connects to either Vodafone Italy, Telecom Italia, Wind Tre’s network depending on the signal strength of the area.
The only downside to this is that local data providers typically give preference to their customers so Airalo users might get reduced speeds during peak usage times—this isn’t always the case but it’s sometime past users have reported.
Setting Up, Installing, and Activating Airalo
Setting up Airalo was super straightforward (see the video above to get the full details).
First, I downloaded the Airalo app and then purchased credit (aka AirMoney) to add to my account at home before I left for my trip (for this trip, I bought the 5GB plan).
The Airalo app will walk you through the process of installing and activating the data plan on your phone. You might have to make a few small adjustments to your phone’s settings as part of the activation process but it’s generally fairly straightforward.
NOTE: I recommend downloading the Airalo app and adding credit to your account when you’re at home (or when you have a wifi signal) but don’t activate your Airalo plan until you’re at your destination.
Then, as soon as your plane lands, open the Airalo app and click “activate.” Your phone will then automatically connect to the local network and you’ll have data (it might take around 5 minutes for your phone to go through the process).
Airalo Performance Review
When I first heard about Airalo and its low prices, I was somewhat skeptical that the service might be slow or inconsistent.
But after using Airalo for a week in Italy, I was very happy with their service and the speeds—I mostly had LTE/4G speeds throughout my trip.
My Google Maps/Google searches worked flawlessly, my iMessage never had any issues sending photos/videos, all my social media posts went through quickly, and my mobile data never had any issues.
Naturally, I can’t comment on how Airalo works in other parts of the world but I’m confident that will work similarly throughout Europe and other developed nations.
I also appreciated that the Airalo app tracks data usage so you always know how much you have left. And you can buy more data straight from the app if needed. All in all, it’s a pretty easy system.
How Much Mobile Data Do You Need?
Personally, I used around 1GB of data each day with average usage when I was in Italy. If you’re a heavy user you might use more data but light users will use about 0.5GB daily.
For a week-long trip, I recommend the 10GB plan for most people but light users would be fine with 5GB but heavier users will want to bump up to 20GB.
Is Airalo A Good Deal?
From my experience in using Airalo in Italy, Airalo is a legit eSIM data company and I had nothing but positive experiences with them. The prices are very fair and the price per gigabyte of data is much cheaper than using your home plan’s international data plan.
The main downsides are the lack of voice and texting and the inability to use your phone as a mobile hotspot (on most plans). But those are both minor issues in my experience.
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Thanks For Reading! — James