To stay connected during your travels in the UK, a Three UK SIM card allows you to use mobile data to access maps, translate languages, and share your adventures on social media.

This guide will help you to get connected with Three during your trip to the UK.

Three UK SIM Card and eSIM

I. Quick Facts about Three

Three is one of the four major mobile network operators in the UK alongside EE, O2, and Vodafone. Here are some key facts about Three UK:

  • Established: Founded in 200, owned by CK Hutchison Holdings
  • Brand name: Official brand name is Hutchison 3G UK Limited
  • Slogan: “Make It Right” is their brand slogan
  • Service provided: Provides 2G, 3G, 4G and 5G services
  • Subscribers: Over 10 million subscribers
  • Stores: 700+ retail stores nationwide
  • Customer support: 24/7 customer support in 11 languages
Three UK SIM Card - Best Mobile Operators in UK
3 (Three)

II. Why Choose Three When Exploring the UK – Coverage and Speed

Three offers excellent network coverage and fast data speeds, making it a great choice for tourists exploring all corners of the UK.

2.1 Three Coverage in the UK

Three UK SIM Card - Coverage maps in UK
3 (Three) – Coverage maps in UK

As you can see from the coverage map above, Three has extensive 4G and 3G coverage across the UK’s urban and rural areas. They utilize mast sharing with O2 to reach 98% of the population. Some key points:

  • Strong coverage across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland
  • 4G services in over 90% of the UK’s geography
  • 5G available in 160+ towns and cities
  • Patchy coverage in a small number of rural locations such as the Scottish Highlands

Coverage is weaker compared to market leader EE but on par with O2 and ahead of Vodafone based on independent testing. Three’s network has vastly improved in recent years through heavy investment and mast sharing with O2.

2.2 Three UK Speeds

Three UK SIM Card - Speed test by Ookla
Three – Speed test. Source: Ookla

According to the report from OOkla Speedtest, the average mobile speed score in the UK is 248.16. Here is how Three compares:

  • Average download speed on Three is 283.02Mbps
  • Average upload speed is 12-14Mbps

According to Opensignal’s April 2022 UK Mobile Network Experience Report, Three ranked number 1 in Games Experience and Voice App Experience. It indicates reliable performance for online gaming and VoIP calls.

Three provides sufficiently fast speeds for social media, web browsing, streaming, and navigation across most parts of the UK. Speeds are constantly improving as they roll out more 5G and boost 4G capacity.

In summary, Three offers excellent coverage and speeds that should satisfy most travelers exploring the UK.

III. Three UK Connectivity Options for Travelers

As a tourist visiting the UK, you have three main options to connect to the Three network:

  1. Purchase a Three UK SIM card
  2. Use a Three MiFi/Pocket WiFi device
  3. Roam from your home network to Three UK

Here is an overview of the pros and cons of each option:

Connectivity Options

Connectivity Option Pros Cons
Three SIM Card Fast and direct connection Some setup required
Inexpensive rates Need to pick up SIM
Flexible prepaid plans
Three MiFi/Pocket WiFi No SIM swap needed Expensive to rent
Battery powered hotspot Limited range
May need deposits
Roaming to Three UK Use existing number Very expensive rates
Reliant on roaming agreement

In summary, getting a local Three SIM card is generally the most convenient and affordable way to stay connected in the UK as a tourist. Purchasing a Three eSIM online in advance is even more simple.

IV. Best Three UK SIM Card for Tourists & Cost

Three offers both Pay As You Go and pay monthly SIM plans for tourists visiting the UK. Below are some of the best options with pricing:

SIM card plans

Network SIM Plan Data Allowance Cost Key Details
Three 30 Day SIM with Unlimited Data Unlimited Data, Calls, Texts ~$20 Truly unlimited usage. Reliable coverage across the UK. No data limits.
Smarty (on Three Network) 30 Day SIM with 30GB Data 30GB ~$15 Runs on Three network. 30GB should be enough for moderate usage. Unused data can rollover.
Three PAYG 30 Day SIM 8GB ~$10 Pay-as-you-go option for lighter data use. 8GB still provides ample allowance. Cheapest flexible option on Three network.

Prices converted to USD as an estimate only. Updated as of October 2022.

As you can see, Three does not offer very short term options less than 1 month. Prices are mid-range, not the cheapest but still good value compared to other major UK networks.

V. Does Three Support eSIM in the UK?

Yes, Three launched eSIM support in the UK back in 2019 for compatible Apple and Android devices. Here are some benefits of using an eSIM:

  • No need to physically switch out SIM cards
  • Remote activation
  • Dual SIM functionality on iPhone
  • More secure and resilient

There are many providers offering tourist eSIMs for Three, such as UK eSIM. With these eSIMs, you don’t need to visit a Three store and can activate before departure.

Let’s see some best plans:

VI. Where Can You Buy a Three UK SIM Card or eSIM?

6.1 Where to Buy a Three UK SIM Card

There are a few options to purchase a Three SIM card after you arrive in the UK:

1. Airport Pickup

You can find Three stores and kiosks at major UK airports such as Heathrow, Gatwick and Manchester. Prices are similar to online but you can get set up on the spot.

Buy Three UK SIM card at Airport
Buy 3 SIM card at Airport

2. Three Stores

Visit one of over 700 Three stores nationwide to buy a SIM. Have your passport ready for identification. Find a store here.

Buy Three UK SIM Card at Store
Buy 3 SIM Card at Store

3. Other Retailers

You can also purchase Three SIMs at electronics stores like Carphone Warehouse or newsagents like WHSmith. Look for the official Three logo.

Top tips when purchasing a local Three SIM:

  • Have ID and passport ready
  • Know your SIM card size – standard, micro, or nano
  • Buy vouchers to top up if required

6.2 Where to Buy a Three UK eSIM

To purchase a Three eSIM for your trip to the UK, simply visit a provider website like UK eSIM. There’s no need to go to a physical store.

It’s super convenient to order your eSIM ahead of time and have connectivity right on arrival. No need to hunt around stores.

Some eSIM activation tips:

  • Check if your device is eSIM compatible first
  • Have an active data connection to download eSIM profile
  • Follow activation instructions carefully
  • Contact support if you encounter any issues
UK eSIM - Alternative for tourists
UK eSIM – Alternatively for tourists

VII. How to Activate a Three UK SIM Card or eSIM

Activating a Three SIM card or eSIM when you arrive in the UK is straightforward. Here’s what to do:

7.1 Activating a Three UK SIM Card

Follow these steps when you insert your new Three SIM:

  1. Locate the SIM tray – Insert the SIM into the correct slot
  2. Power on your device – Allow 1-2 minutes for the SIM to be recognized
  3. Activate the SIM – Three SIMs come pre-activated so should work instantly
  4. Configure APN settings – Usually not required but refer to Three’s instructions
  5. Check your connectivity – Open the browser or use the internet to test

You should now be ready to start using your Three SIM in the UK!

7.2 Activating a Three UK eSIM

Here is how to get started with your Three eSIM:

  1. Install eSIM – Scan QR code or download eSIM profile during activation
  2. Activate eSIM – Follow the on-screen prompts to finish activation
  3. Set up cellular plan – Go into Settings > Cellular to select your eSIM
  4. Start using – Once activated and set up, you can begin using the eSIM

Refer to detailed eSIM activation guides:

With a few quick steps, you’ll be ready to use your Three eSIM in the UK!

VIII. Three UK Call & SMS Rates

If you purchase a Three SIM card with calling and messaging, here are the current PAYG rates:

Call & SMS Rates

Call Type Rate (USD)
Calls to UK mobiles $0.30/minute
Calls to UK landlines $0.20/minute
Calls to EU/EEA mobiles $0.25/minute
Calls to international mobiles $2.10/minute
Texts to UK mobiles $0.20/message
Texts to international mobiles $0.50/message

👉Tips for saving money:

  • Use WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, Skype for cheap calls & messages
  • Get a data-only SIM if you won’t call or text much
  • Buy a bolt-on add-on for cheaper bundles

Note these call and text rates are only for PAYG SIMs, not data-only SIMs.

IX. Useful Three USSD Codes

Here are some useful USSD codes for checking your Three UK SIM status:

USSD Codes

Code Purpose
*121# Check account balance
1214# Check data usage and allowance
147oldpinnewpinnewpin# Change PIN number
144oldpinnewpinnewpin# Change barring PIN
33barringpin*service# Activate/deactivate call barring (01=international, 02=premium)
86 Activate voicemail
*86# Retrieve voicemail
86mailboxpin33greeting# Change voicemail greeting (01=greeting 1, 02=greeting 2)
*131# Check minutes/texts allowance
*150# Check inclusive allowance
338barringpin#/338barringpin*00# International calls bar/lift bar

X. How to Top Up Your Three UK SIM Card

To add more funds to your Three Pay As You Go SIM, you have a few options:

  • Online via the Three website: Go to and log in to your account. Select “Top Up” and choose an amount to add to your account via debit/credit card. Funds are added immediately.
  • Text message: Simply text the numerals of the top up amount to 250 (e.g. “20” to add £20). You’ll get a confirmation text once completed.
  • Over the phone: Call 333 from your Three phone and follow prompts to pay with a debit/credit card. Top up occurs during the call

XI. FAQs about Three UK

Is there a way to keep my existing number if switching to Three?

Yes, Three offers a ‘Number Porting’ service which transfers an existing mobile number free of charge when switching networks. The process takes around an hour to complete once requested.

Is 5G available on Three?

Yes, Three is rapidly rolling out 5G with coverage in over 160 locations so far. A 5G device is required.

Can I use a Three SIM across the UK?

Yes, Three has excellent national coverage allowing you to use your SIM throughout England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

What countries can I use my Three UK SIM Card in for no extra charge?

Three includes free roaming in many European countries. Roaming is available in over 70 destinations worldwide but a daily fee usually applies. Check Three’s website for details of which countries are covered

How do I recharge a Three pay as you go SIM?

You can recharge online via the Three website or Three App. Recharges can also be made by calling Three’s automated service or purchasing physical top-up vouchers from supermarkets and newsagents.

XII. Final Words

In summary, Three UK SIM Card is an excellent choice for tourists thanks to their widespread coverage, sufficiently fast speeds, and competitive SIM pricing.

For ultimate convenience, purchase UK eSIM in advance online before your trip and enjoy seamless connectivity on landing. Happy exploring!