With Canadian phone carriers Bell and partner MVNO Virgin Mobile announcing increases to their daily roaming fees, you can be sure the other carriers and partners in Canada will be likely to follow suit. Currently, it costs $12-$13 CAD per day to access roaming services in the United States and $15-$16 per day for international use. So imagine taking a two-week trip to our southern neighbour and seeing that $200+ in additional fees when your bill comes due. Not a very happy feeling.
What if there was a simple and cost-effective way to use mobile data anywhere in the world without having to hunt for airport or shopping mall kiosks selling SIM cards that may or may not work with your phone? Good news, there is!
Recently, my family and I embarked on a two-week adventure to Arizona and Nevada. We rented an RV from an amazing family just outside of Tucson and set off to explore, and not once did I worry about my phone bill. Meet Airalo
What is Airalo?
Airalo is an eSIM solution that is compatible with nearly every smartphone made in the last 5 years. The service uses the embedded SIM card inside your smartphone and offers service in almost every country. Its focus is to provide its users a “more convenient way to stay connected.” They are a US based company and have been in operation since 2019.
How Does Airalo Work
Using Airalo is incredibly easy to set up and use. In fact, it looked too easy, and admittedly, I was doubtful it would work when I first attempted to use the service.
The easiest way to get going with Airalo is by downloading their app, available on both Android and iOS. Users can also set up their eSIM purchases on Airalo.com.
After opening the app, select your region and choose your plan. Options will vary by region. In countries like the United States, available plans range from 1GB to 20 GB. In Costa Rica, to compare, 5GB is the top plan they offer.
You will notice the names of the carriers/service providers are likely ones you have never heard of. For example, in Canada, the service provider is Tuque Mobile. Still, after digging into the details of what network it will operate on, you find that Rogers is the network you will be connecting to.
During our trip to Arizona, I found that I was connected to T-Mobile for the majority of the time, but in some areas around Phoenix and closer to Nevada, I was getting connections offered by AT&T. Essentially, the phone and the eSIM from Airalo will jump to the provider that can provide the most reliable signal when possible.
Installation is straightforward, at least on my Google Pixel 7, where I used the service. However, I haven’t tried it on iOS, so your mileage may vary.
After purchasing your eSIM, the app shows any existing or used eSIMs under the “My eSIMs” tab. Once you access your SIM, click install, and the app takes care of the rest.
The only snag I ran into was immediately after installing the eSIM. It didn’t work. It had a signal, but data services would not connect. After a quick read through the info provided with my purchase, I learned I needed to turn on roaming services to allow for a proper connection. Toggled on, and I was up and running.
So, is Airalo any good?
I’ll cut right to the chase. Yes! Airalo is good. Actually great! Despite that one small snag with roaming services being disabled at the bringing, the service itself performed exceptionally during our time in Arizona and Nevada. When we made our way to Nevada for a few day break from the RV in Las Vegas, I found that I was connected to 5G most of the time. The same was the case in the Phoenix area. Obviously, the quality of the service is dependent on the actual service provider and the phone itself. So consider that just as much of a review of eSIMs in general as a review of Airalo.
There is one caveat to using Airalo compared to purchasing a traditional SIM from a carrier like T-Mobile in the United States, Rogers in Canada, or Vodaphone in Europe. Voice and SMS are not offered by Airalo eSIM plans. For me, though, this didn’t matter. Primarily, my use for an eSIM while traveling is to search for places to visit, eat, and sleep with the odd message to a friend or family member, most of which come through Facebook Messenger or Instagram. I didn’t miss the ability to make or receive calls. In a few rare cases where a call had to be made, I took advantage of a service called TextNow, which provides users with virtual numbers anywhere in the world with unlimited calling and texting. It is an ad-supported service, but it does the trick when needed.
After two weeks spread across Arizona and Nevada, I had an exceptional experience using Airalo’s eSIM service. There were no hidden fees and no gotcha moments. Instead, I ordered my eSIM, installed it, and never looked back!
In a few months, my wife and I are headed to Costa Rica on a 10-day adventure through the rainforest and onto the beach. Airalo offers its services there, and we will certainly be repeat customers!