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How I used an eSIM data plan for one month in Germany (and a side trip to Denmark)

I just got back from Germany where I spent 30 days (including a quick 3-day trip to Copenhagen). I had researched several companies that sell eSIM plans (including Orange and Holafly, which had gotten good reviews) and came across Airalo on a Reddit post. The users there liked it so I thought I would try it. Airalo offers a large selection of eSIM data plans: Local (covering individual countries), Regional (covering continents, like Europe, Asia, etc.), and Global (covering 87 countries). I decided to get one just for Germany, and so I bought a 5GB plan for 30 days, which cost $15. They do offer other options - the more GB, the more expensive the plans are.

With Airalo, you do everything through an app, which you obviously have to download. Once I bought the plan, it was stored in the app until I was ready to activate it. To activate it, I opened the app, went to My eSIMs at the bottom and clicked on the eSIM, then activated it. You have to be connected to the internet to activate, but you could easily do it at the airport when you land.

It then shows the instructions for your settings. I found them easy to follow but I would recommend going to the website and finding the instructions (in the Help center) and maybe printing them out ahead of time. It just makes it a bit easier so you don't have to keep switching between the Airalo app and your Settings (I had an iPhone).

Once I had the settings right and it activated, everything worked! And I had enough data for the entire 30 days. I wound up using about 4.5GB by the time I got to the last day. I used Google maps multiple times every day along with Google searches and so on. I tried to use wifi when I could but I wasn't too anal about it.

I also discovered that you can have more than one eSIM data plan on your phone. For example, I decided to tack on 3 days travel to Copenhagen at the last minute and I needed a data plan for Denmark. It was super easy - I bought a 7 day, 1GB plan for $5 (7 days is the smallest they had for Denmark). I had gotten a small credit (called Airmoney) of $1.13 when I bought my first plan so the second one only cost me $3.87. It was very easy to switch - I bought it and activated the second plan on the train from Germany to Denmark. You just switch the plans in your settings and it used the Denmark plan when I was in Copenhagen.

Then when I left Copenhagen and went back to Germany, I removed the Denmark plan and switched back to Germany. You have to be careful with this - I made sure when I first switched to the Denmark plan that I did NOT remove the Germany plan. If you do, it's deleted and you can't get it back. But, let's say hypothetically that I did accidentally delete the Germany plan. It would not have been a catastrophe - I only had 5 days left in Germany when I got back so I could easily have just bought a short 7 day, 1GB plan for $5. I did remove the Denmark plan once I left Copenhagen since I didn't need it anymore.

Keep in mind that if I had known I would be going to Denmark, I could have just bought a regional eSIM plan instead of buying 2 separate ones for each country. Originally it was more expensive ($20 for 5GB for 30 days) but adding on Denmark almost made it about even. And I would not have had to switch, although as I said, the switching was so easy that I didn't have any problems with it. Another thing - if by any chance you get a plan and you use up your data before your trip is over, it's very easy to just "top off" your data and add more.

Regardless, everything was very easy to figure out and use, and SO convenient. I love these plans!

Posted by
14210 posts

1a I am ignorant on these things, so does the eSim have a unique phone number and what happens if someone calls on your regular number?

Posted by
2071 posts

thanks for this report! We do need to take advantage of the eSIM in our iPhones and this is showing us how.

Posted by
2284 posts

A1. You can choose whether to buy a plan that includes a local phone number, with text, data, and both local and international minutes (usually these have a time limit, though) - OR, as Mardee did, buy a plan with only data. Your choice. Of course, which choice you make determines which company you buy from. Then you can choose the size of your plan.

A2. If you choose the plan that includes a local number, most people do this to avoid using their U.S. plan. However, that is not a requirement. Your T-Mobile number can be selected as your primary or your secondary number. Or you can flip one off and one on, at will. It’s magic! Lol. I have 2 U.S. numbers on my phone, one a regular sim and one an eSim. At this moment both are on, meaning I am getting all my normal calls on my number plus all the stupid spam calls that show up on the eSim number. Sometimes I get tired of it and turn that one off.

A3. If you just want data, what Mardee did is the cheapest way to go - cheaper than turning on the upgraded T-Mobile. If, like me, you need a local number because I am stuck with AT&T for now, getting a local number is cheaper than using the $10/day AT&T International plan.

A4. What I learned from my child last month is that none of this affects apps like WhatsApp. It just keeps doing its thing either with WiFi or with data, with my normal U.S. cell number just like always. Nothing needs changing. (I thought I had to change that whenever I got a local number.)

A4. I think the set up on your phone is the same, either way you go.

A5. However, also a new thing I learned is that now I have 5 plans on my phone….. 🤦🏻‍♀️ The 2 U.S. numbers, my plan from Spain in March (which was an eSim - and which I can easily delete just like Mardee did her plan from Denmark) — AND a plan from Dubai and a plan from Jordan. These 2 are trickier. Esims weren’t an option for me in those two places, so I had physical sims. Apparently I will have to reinsert the physical sim in order to delete the cellular plan. Just haven’t bothered yet.

Posted by
45 posts

Thank you for this post and the others you have made about this! I was very nervous about a European sim card but your posts helped me decide to try it! I have our Orange sims ready to go for our trip. We have Galaxy S10s, and unfortunately our models are not dual sim, or esim for that matter. But I still think it was the right choice. So much cheapter than Verizon. Thanks again for sharing!

Posted by
14210 posts

b1 My head is spinning.
b2 My Tmobile upgrade is $25 a month, not $10 a day.
b3 That would be bonkers.
b4. It sounds like the perfect solution, but it gives me a headache.
b5 The a, b, c's and 1, 2, 3,'s have taught me self discipline.
b6 Most important, when the Thai Massage place on Ó utca calls to confirm my appointment (she has my number memorized) my phone will ring?

Posted by
8007 posts

Priceless response, James !!!

Thank you Mardee for all the posts and explanations you have done on this — and to you too Travelmom for your wonderful supporting posts !

Posted by
2404 posts

Thanks Mardee, we used your previous post to purchase our first eSim card when we went to France last month. We are going to Germany next year, so this is perfect!! We love having data overseas!
When I was in Paris, my data plan was getting low. Yikes, put me in a bit of a bind as I was trying to use it to get back to my hotel. It was very, very slow and would not load citymapper. I had to ( gasp) use my Rick Steves paper map which I luckily had with me. I contacted my husband who added more data to my plan for $10. Whew!

Posted by
2284 posts

Thanks, Kim. :)

Word of warning if you do get a local number: be sure you record it somewhere other than/in addition to a note on your phone.

Just to make up a random hypothetical example, if you happened to be riding a horse up a mountain trail in Petra and your phone happened to fall out of your pocket, and you happened to have to ride back down looking for it, and a Bedouin happened to ask if you have a number so someone could call it, …… it would be useful if you knew what the number was or could easily access it - and also if your phone wasn’t on silent. Hypothetically speaking, of course.

I add the local number to my trip spreadsheet, which I can also access from my iPad as well as my phone. Of,course, if there are two of you, then probably each of you will have the other person’s number.

Posted by
2764 posts

Just a note that if your phone is locked to the carrier (usually if you bought it through ATT or Verizon or someone, on payments not paid upfront) then you can’t use an esim. At least on iPhone. Like an idiot, I did this to get a new phone a few months ago, there was some billing incentive to do it through payments so I did. I COULD pay it off to make it unlocked, but that’s more than the $10/day for a 2 week trip so I’m not sure.

Meanwhile, my tween son has an old phone on google fi and international data is the same as domestic. He uses it so little, it’s basically for emergencies but he has the better plan for travel. Sigh.

Posted by
1803 posts

Thanks, @Travelmom! I should have mentioned that Airalo does not offer eSIM plans with phone usage. It's data only and that worked for me. I'm retired and have no need to make phone calls to clients anymore, and used alternatives (see below) for everyone else.

I called my daughter a few times and two of my sisters using FaceTime audio (and FaceTime video once so I could see my 3 year old grandson) at the hotel when I had wifi. 😊 Those worked fine. My friends messaged me since most of them have iPhones and I was able to respond when I had wifi. Other than that, I did not make any calls and did not use my Verizon plan at all.

And like Travelmom said, you can certainly use Whatsapp for voice calls and messaging. I used Whatsapp a couple of times for messaging some German distant cousins while I was there.

@James, I almost spit out my coffee when I read that! Ha!

@Tammy, that's good to know! I didn't have to top off but it's nice to know it's so easy!

@katie, yeah, Verizon is ridiculously expensive! I'm seriously looking into changing plans, but have to be careful because we live in a rural area with limited cell coverage.

@Mira, I would love to have Google Fi - I've heard many good things about it.

Posted by
247 posts

I also have returned from 4 weeks in Germany. I bought a Telekom sim plan at a phone shop in Munich. €25 for a month. 5GB data. I had none of the having to connect each time through Wi-Fi. There is no app involved. I used same card when over the border in Strasbourg and Luxembourg.
I have used sim plans in other countries. Same thing. Look up the plans and coverage before you go.
When at the phone store, put in your sim, or have them do it. Then activate. That usually takes a reboot. Then make a call to the clerks phone and ask them what your number is when it goes through. Write it down.
Ever since I started using SIM cards overseas It has been the same. Find a store. Sometimes if can be a tabac shop too. Tell them what you want for your needs and buy the appropriate card and plan.
No rocket science. If you do it once, you will see it all fall into place and you will look back on it and wonder why you ever thought it was so complicated.

Posted by
1803 posts

By the way, US carriers also have eSIM plans, including T Mobile. I mentioned that I live in a rural area and have Verizon because of the coverage. So I wasn't sure how well T Mobile would work there (my daughter and SIL and I share a plan and they must have good coverage).

But when I saw T Mobile's eSIM plans, it mentions on their site that it's a good way for someone to check out their coverage - you just buy an eSIM for a month (it includes calls and data) and see how it works. So I might be doing that soon.

Most carriers offer this so that new customers don't have to wait on a physical SIM card but can use eSIM to get new service. I've read some articles that suggest that in the near future, physical SIM cards will go away and new phones will just have multiple eSIM capability.

Posted by
2284 posts

Mira, I feel your pain. Ha! And I admit the unlocking process also generally makes me nervous. Wiping and restoring just gives me anxiety. :) I did pay my recent phone off early because I knew I was headed into a lot of solo travel and my kids like to know what I am doing on demand. LOL!

And for anyone reading, if your phone isn’t unlocked you can’t use any kind of other sim - eSim or physical.

treemoss2, I am with you 100% on the ease. The additional benefit of the eSim is that it saves you that stop to get someone to put in the physical sim, plus you are ready to go when you step off the plane. Plus I don’t have to stay up with that tiny important piece of magic that is my home sim. Or switch it back out when it’s time to come home.

Mardee, yes, I lived for years without making any calls home (well, ok, in 2018 I had an emergency and just turned on my international plan and could have cared less about the cost). But the plan that gives you a number usually includes some minutes for international calls, as well as the local calls. FaceTime, Messenger, WhatsApp, Skype would normally be sufficient, especially with plenty of data. When I went to Croatia, I ended up with a data only plan for a month and made several WhatsApp calls to an apartment manager.

Tammy, I had to top up that TMobile plan in Croatia a couple of times, too. But it was all really cheap. And easy.

James, you are hilarious. I think if you didn’t answer your phone, the Thai massage place would probably send someone in person to look for you…..

Posted by
1803 posts

Plus I don’t have to stay up with that tiny important piece of magic that is my home sim.

@Travelmom, that's what has always worried me. It's so tiny and with my luck, I would lose it. :)

Posted by
2284 posts

Mardee, it can be replaced for free at an AT&T store (my daughter had to do this last summer) but it sure would be a bother…..

Which brings another thought to mind. I guess I can convert that number (the one I use all the time) to an eSim as well. Hmmmm. No physical sim needed at all? We are having all the thoughts….. 🤣 I need to quit thinking and get to working. Ha!

Posted by
1481 posts

OK, already - while I'll likely not change my routine of purchasing physical SIM cards in Europe, I will test drive the Airalo eSIM card on my trip to the US this fall.

"First we take Manhattan, then we take Berlin"

Posted by
8007 posts

Love that hypothetical, Travelmom!!

Wow, what a VIVID imagination you have !!!

Posted by
2284 posts

Kim, you will be glad to know that hypothetically a phone can fall out of your pocket and land in the saddlebag….. And that I have heard most Bedouins riding up and down the road helping to look for a missing phone don’t know to look there - but at least one does…. 🤣🤣🤣

Posted by
13 posts

Quick question - when you switch over to your eSIM plan, am I correct that you leave your cellular data on? I leave Sunday for Europe and have purchased and downloaded the Airalo app with a 30 day plan. This will be my "virgin tour" with an eSIM!

Posted by
1803 posts

Yes, the cellular data will be run by the E-sim plan. Once you activate it, it will give you a list of instructions of what to do in the settings. And one of those is to label the E-sim plan with a name, and then you’ll switch that data plan over to that.

Posted by
3151 posts

A4. .... none of this affects apps like WhatsApp. It just keeps doing its thing either with WiFi or with data, with my normal U.S. cell number just like always....

I'm confused, and a bit worried. I'm still doing things the old-fashioned way. I use a 2nd phone with a physical SIM for the location. I keep apps on that phone set up for travel. AND, I know that the apps can't accidentally use my US phone plan.

If I get a phone that supports eSIMs and install one, will WhatsApp continue to use my US data plan .... which I'm trying to avoid in the first place by having a local SIM? If I want WhatsApp (and other apps) to use the eSIM, do I have to configure them to do so? Are other apps that use background data also going to still keep triggering US data? (Yes, I know I can turn them off, but I sure don't want to have to do that every time I travel.) Or is there a simple guardrail that tells all the apps, with one simple setting, sorry, you can only use the eSIM?

Posted by
2284 posts

CWSocial, there is a simple guardrail. You turn on the cellular plan for which set of data you want to use and turn everything else off.

Actually the installation process does this automatically for you but you can double check, look at it, do whatever you want with it. I just did this today. You really have to do very little yourself. I find it handy to have 2 devices - open the email with the QR code on my iPad , then scan the QR code with my phone for installation. Today’s installation opened an internet page with the QR code, instead of an email (like I have used previously).

Posted by
3151 posts

turn everything else off.

Everything else = ???

Turn off all the other data plans? 1 setting, easy enough.

Turn off all the apps so that they can't use data? which would seriously annoy me to change those settings back and forth.

Posted by
2284 posts

Sorry… I have 2 U.S. numbers on my phone….. my regular sim, then also an eSim that used to be my home landline number. Then a travel eSim makes 3. So theoretically I could have all 3 on (dumb) or 2 — or just 1, which is what I do obviously. Two switched off, one switched on.

For the apps themselves, sometimes I do turn off some of them (things I have no intention of using on a trip) so that they can’t use cell data running in the background, but there’s really not much logic to that.

Another benefit I just utilized. I needed to buy just now available tickets for something I want to do in a different country on a different trip. Because I am in the U.K., my credit card wanted a security code texted to my home number. It was worth it to me to use AT&T’s international plan for one day (at $10) to accomplish this. So with a simple touch, I turned on my home cell and got the code (and a few other texts as well). Then I turned my home cell off again. No changing little pieces of cardboard to make it happen!! Touch - on, touch - off!

Posted by
1803 posts

CWsocial, keep in mind that when you use WhatsApp or FaceTime or Messages, you should be using it over wifi. During the eSIM installation process, you will select the eSIM plan for cellular data only, but all the other apps that you can use over wifi will remain with your home plan. There's no data involved because it's over wifi, so you don't have to worry about incurring a charge from your original plan. You just have to make sure you turn off the ability to switch cellular data switching. It's a lot easier than it sounds.

Posted by
3151 posts

Thanks, Mardee, that makes sense. In the back of my mind, I'm worrying about those pesky apps that chew up data in the background. But with the amount of data the tourist plans give, I'm probably stressing over trickles of data. My eSIM in Turkey gave me 20GB for 30 days and I doubt I used 1/2 GB.