Getting connected with a local SIM card should be one of the important things when arriving in UK. This guide will walk through all you need to know about buying a SIM card at UK airports.
Table of Contents
I. Which Airport in UK offers SIM card for Tourist
The main airports in the UK that have SIM card kiosks include:
- London Heathrow Airport
- London Gatwick Airport
- London Stansted Airport
- Manchester Airport
- London Luton Airport
Purchasing a SIM card at UK airports is the most convenient way to get set up with cellular data during your trip. The main benefit is you can insert the SIM and have a working UK phone number ready to use as soon as you exit the airport.
II. Where to Buy a SIM Card at UK Airports
Stores run by the major networks like EE, Vodafone, and O2. Usually located after passport control.
- Price: Prices range from $5-30 depending on data allowance.
- Opening hours: Open similar hours to airport shops
Retailers like WHSmith, Boots etc. stock basic SIM starter packs.
- Price: Pay-as-you-go SIMs starting $5 with short validity periods.
- Opening hours: Open similar hours to airport shops.
Vending machine-style booths in airport terminals.
- Plans: Only offer 1-2 basic pay-as-you-go plans ($5-10).
- Opening hours: Operate throughout airport opening hours.
Costs for SIM card at UK airports are higher than the rates you’ll find in city shops. However, if you want to have connectivity right after landing, it’s still a great choice.
III. What You’ll Need to Buy a SIM Card at UK Airports
Purchasing a SIM card at UK airports is a quick and easy process. Here are a few things you need:
- Passport – Your passport is required as proof of ID to buy and register a prepaid UK SIM card.
- Passport Photo – Some SIM networks may ask for a passport photo in order to activate your prepaid account. Bring a printed photo or digital copy on your phone to speed up the process.
- Unlocked Phone – Your current mobile phone must be unlocked to use a UK SIM. Confirm your device is unlocked.
- Nano/Micro/Standard SIM – Most phones today use nano SIMs.
- Credit/Debit Card – Credit or debit card should be ready for payment. Some providers accept PayPal or Apple Pay. Cash payments are less common for SIM purchases.
As long as you have your passport, an unlocked phone and payment card, getting a SIM card only takes a few minutes once you reach the kiosk.
IV. eSIM – An Alternative to Buying SIM Card at UK Airports
While purchasing a physical SIM card on arrival is convenient, there are some disadvantages to this approach:
- Long lines and wait times during peak airport periods
- Limits your SIM provider options to stores at the airport
- Late night or early morning arrivals may not have SIM kiosks open
A great solution is getting set up with an eSIM before your trip. One of popular eSIM providers is GIGAGO, they offer prepaid data packages for the UK and over 200 countries. Plans are flexible with allowance amounts from 1GB .
Let’s take a look at their best plans:
👉eSIM tips: Check eSIM-compatible device list before purchasing eSIM
Can I buy a SIM card at the airport late at night or early in the morning?
Most major UK airports have SIM card shops open during all operating hours. However, smaller kiosks may close earlier at night after the last arriving flights. For late night or early morning arrivals, eSIM plans activated in advance offer guaranteed connectivity without waiting in line.
How much more expensive are airport SIM cards compared to city shops?
Airport SIM cards are typically 10-30% higher in price than city outlets for the same data amounts. But the convenience of having connectivity right after landing may be worth the small premium. eSIM plans ordered online tend to be cheaper than both airport and city shops.
Can I order a SIM card online and pick it up at the airport?
Some UK networks allow you to purchase a SIM voucher online before your trip that you can later exchange for the physical SIM card at the airport shop. This saves time waiting in line but still requires visiting the kiosk after arrival. For quicker and easier service, eSIM connected before departure is recommended.
VI. Final Thoughts
So, getting SIM card at UK airports is the most convenient way for tourists. However, ordering eSIM service in advance from UK eSIM is also a great solution.