Vodafone would be a good option for travelers to stay connected during their time in the UK. This article will provide an overview of Vodafone UK to help you make the right decision.

Vodafone UK SIM Card and eSIM

I. A Quick Look at Vodafone UK

Vodafone Group Plc is a British multinational telecommunications company and one of the largest mobile phone operators in the UK.

  • Established: Founded in 1991 as Racal Telecom Plc, rebranded as Vodafone in 1997
  • Services provided: Provides mobile voice, messaging, data and fixed broadband services
  • Subscribers: Over 18 million subscribers in the UK (as of 2020)
  • Stores/ Agents: Has over 400 retail stores and numerous authorized resellers across the country
  • Customer support: 24/7 customer support via call, chat, email and social media
  • Awards: Vodafone has received multiple awards for its network quality and customer service over the years.
Vodafone UK SIM Card and eSIM
Vodafone SIM Card and eSIM

II. Vodafone Coverage and Speeds in the UK

When choosing a network operator in the UK, coverage and internet speeds are important factors to consider. Let’s see how Vodafone fares in these aspects.

1. Vodafone Coverage in the UK

Vodafone UK- Coverage maps
Vodafone- Coverage maps. Source: nperf

According to this coverage map, Vodafone has extensive 2G and 3G population coverage across the UK, reaching over 99% and 98% respectively. Their 4G and 5G networks are also expanding quickly, already covering around 95% of the population.

However, their coverage is decent across most cities and metropolitan areas where most travelers spend their time. You can expect good Vodafone signals while visiting popular destinations like London, Manchester, Edinburgh, Liverpool, Birmingham, etc.

2. Vodafone Speeds in the UK

Vodafone UK Speed test
Vodafone Speed test. Source: Broadband

In a nationwide speed test conducted in 2023, Vodafone’s average 4G download speed clocked around 80 Mbps, while their average upload speed was around 40 Mbps.

Between the big four networks in UK, Vodafone sits in the middle of the pack in terms of actual speeds experienced by users.

So while not the fastest, Vodafone still provides pretty decent 4G speeds for most normal usage like web browsing, maps, social media, messaging, calls, music streaming and even some video streaming in most areas with good coverage.

III. Connectivity Options for Travelers to the UK

As a tourist visiting the UK, you have a few options to get connected to the Vodafone network:

  • Get a Vodafone UK SIM card – This directly provides you access to Vodafone’s network and services in the UK.
  • Use a Pocket Wifi Device – Connects via a Vodafone SIM card internally. Provides a portable WiFi hotspot.
  • Roam from your Home SIM card – Requires roaming agreement between your home network and Vodafone UK.

For most travelers, getting a local Vodafone SIM card in the UK often works out to be the most convenient and cost-effective option. Let’s compare the pros and cons of each:

Connectivity Options

Connectivity Options Pros Cons
Vodafone UK SIM Card Direct connection to Vodafone network Requires changing SIM card
Affordable data packages
Easy to swap SIM cards
Pocket WiFi No need to change SIM Can be bulky to carry around
Portable WiFi access Limited range and battery life
Higher rental cost
Shipping and return required
Roaming from Home SIM No need to change SIM Potentially expensive roaming charges
Slower speeds
May not have roaming access to Vodafone UK

As you can see, getting a local Vodafone SIM card is the simplest and most cost-effective way for most tourists to stay connected in the UK.

IV. Best Vodafone SIM Cards for Tourists

Vodafone offers both contract plans and prepaid plans in the UK. For tourists, prepaid SIM cards are the best option as they don’t require any long-term contract or commitment.

Here are some of the main Vodafone prepaid SIM options for visitors to the UK:

SIM Card Data Allowance Validity Price (USD) Best For
Travel SIM 500MB 30 days $12 Light usage
World Traveller SIM 2GB 1 month $33 Mix of calls/data
Flexi Travel SIM 1-15GB (chosen) 30 days $6-35 Flexible data usage
Vodafone Passport 1-15GB (chosen) Length of stay $6-35 Longer trips
Curve Travel SIM 1GB No expiry $24 Extendable usage
Pay As You Go 125MB/min included As balance lasts $12 min top up Budget option
Visitor Pay Monthly Unlimited 30 days $42 Heavy data users

*The above prices are approximate; taxes apply. Validity starts from SIM activation. Top-up to renew monthly packs. Calls and texts not included in data-only SIMs.

Calls and texts often cost extra on prepaid SIMs. So these data-centric plans are great if you will primarily use data while in the UK. For Europe and Asia travelers who rely more on messaging apps, the generous data is perfect for staying in touch over WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, etc.

V. Where To Buy a Vodafone SIM Card/eSIM

1. Where to buy Vodafone SIM Card

You can easily find Vodafone SIM cards in the UK, both at official stores and other major retailers. Here are some options:

Upon Arrival: 

Vodafone stores available at major airports like London Heathrow, London Gatwick, Manchester, etc.

Buy Vodafone UK SIM card at Airport
Buy Vodafone SIM card at Airport

Official Vodafone Stores

Vodafone has over 400 retail stores across the UK where you can buy SIM cards directly. Use the store locator on their website to find a nearby location.

Buy Vodafone UK SIM card at Store
Buy Vodafone SIM card at Store

Bring your passport as ID proof. SIMs cost £5-10 with some preloaded credit. Top up and add data packs after activating your SIM.

Other Authorized Retailers

In addition to official Vodafone stores, you’ll find Vodafone SIM cards at many electronics shops and convenience stores across the country like Carphone Warehouse, Argos,… Besides supermarkets and mobile phone stores, newsagents and corner shops also often sell Vodafone top up vouchers and SIM packs.

2. Where To Buy a Vodafone UK eSIM

If your device is compatible, you can activate Vodafone UK eSIM online:

Vodafone does provide eSIM service in the UK. To use it on your phone, you need to:

  1. Choose your Vodafone plan online and select eSIM option
  2. Download the Vodafone eSIM app
  3. Follow the in-app steps to activate your plan onto the eSIM

However, their eSIM support for prepaid tourist plans seems limited. It is focused more on contract customers.

VI. How To Activate Your Vodafone UK SIM or eSIM

Activating your new Vodafone SIM card or eSIM on your phone is quick and easy. Just follow the steps below for your type of SIM.

For Vodafone UK physical SIM:

  1. Insert the new SIM into your phone’s SIM slot.
  2. Power on your phone and wait for the SIM to be detected.
  3. Follow the on-screen prompts to activate your Vodafone SIM.
  4. You’ll get SMS confirmations as your SIM activates.
  5. Start using the SIM!

For Vodafone UK eSIM:

  1. Make sure your device supports eSIM functionality.
  2. Download the Vodafone eSIM app for activation steps (or use your eSIM provider’s app).
  3. Scan your eSIM QR code when prompted.
  4. Follow the in-app eSIM activation process.
  5. Once activated, your eSIM plan details will appear on your device.
  6. You can now start using mobile data, make calls and texts over the eSIM.

That’s all there is to it! Both Vodafone SIM and eSIM are easy to set up and use during your travels in the UK.

VII. Vodafone Call and SMS Rates

If you get a Vodafone SIM primarily for calls and texts, here are the approximate costs:

Call & SMS Rates

Call/SMS Type Rate (USD)
Calls to UK mobile numbers $0.35/min
Calls to UK landlines $0.25/min
Calls to numbers in EU/EEA $0.30/min
Texts to UK mobile numbers $0.20/SMS
Texts to numbers in EU/EEA $0.20/SMS
Calls to international numbers $1.50/min

*Rates can vary depending on specific calling/messaging plans. Taxes apply.

You can reduce costs by:

  • Calling over WhatsApp, Messenger, etc.
  • Getting a calling plan with free UK landline mins
  • Buying an international bolt-on for non-EU calls

Check call and SMS rates for your specific Vodafone prepaid plan before traveling.

VIII. Useful USSD codes

USSD codes help you check your SIM details and balances directly from your phone. Here are some useful USSD codes for Vodafone UK:

USSD Codes

USSD Code Description
#101# Check account balance
*111# Check usage/allowance
1501# Enable data roaming
1502# Disable data roaming
1331# Turn call barring on
1330# Turn call barring off
*131# Change voicemail number
*105# Change SIM PIN
*100# Check account details
*144# Check IMEI number

Enter these USSD codes in your phone dialer to quickly access the information.

IX. How To Top Up Your Vodafone UK SIM

When your Vodafone prepaid credit runs low, you can easily top up in multiple ways:

Online Top Up

Use your Vodafone online account or the MyVodafone app to top up using your credit/debit card.

Retail Top Up

Buy top up vouchers at official Vodafone stores and other retailers like supermarkets, convenience stores, etc.

Scratch the voucher to reveal a code and enter it on your phone to add the top up amount.

Auto Top Up

Set up recurring auto top up on your Vodafone account to automatically maintain your balance.

With easy online and retail top up options, recharging your Vodafone UK SIM is very convenient.

X. Alternatives to Vodafone UK

While Vodafone provides wide overall coverage, their 4G network has some limitations in rural areas. You may want to consider these alternatives when visiting the UK:

  • EE – Best for urban areas like London, fastest 4G speeds
  • Three – Economical data packages, strong rural coverage
  • O2 – Good balance of coverage, prices and speeds

UK eSIM provides prepaid eSIM for UK through Three’s network. This allows you to compare deals and switch plans easily during your trip. Let’s see their best plans:

Best UK eSIM plans
Best UK eSIM plans

XI. FAQs about Vodafone UK

What identification is required for a Vodafone contract?

You’ll need two acceptable forms of photo ID like a passport and utility bill to pass Know Your Customer checks.

Is WiFi Calling available on Vodafone?

Yes, all Vodafone contracts include WiFi Calling which allows calls/texts over a WiFi connection in areas of low cellular signal.

Can tourists get Vodafone UK eSIM?

Vodafone does offer eSIM support in the UK, however prepaid eSIM options for tourists are limited. Specialist eSIM providers offer global travel eSIM for Vodafone UK and other networks.

What apps work with Vodafone Pay as you go?

The My Vodafone app is free to manage your account on the go. Social apps like WhatsApp have discounted rates for PAYG.

How much data do I need on Vodafone UK for a week?

For a week’s trip, a 10 GB data pack should be enough for moderate usage including social media, messaging, maps and some video streaming. Buy more for heavier usage.

XII. Final Words

Vodafone UK makes for a reliable connectivity choice for tourists in cities and metropolitan areas across England, Scotland and Wales. Their coverage can be limited in remote rural regions.

With good urban coverage and affordable plans, consider UK eSIM to keep travelers connected during their UK visit.