Getting a UK SIM card with data at London Gatwick Airport may be a popular choice among tourists landing at this airport. This way, you can easily navigate maps, order a cab, and keep in touch with your friends and family. This guide will help you find out how and where to buy a SIM card at London Gatwick Airport (LGW), and the best alternative to stay online while traveling in London, UK.

I. Should You Buy a SIM Card at London Gatwick Airport (LGW)?

Yes, but if you want to stay connected right upon arrival at London Airport and don’t mind showing your personal information like passport when buying the SIM Card at airport.

There are some other ways to buy a UK SIM card like ordering online before your trip and buying once in London center. But, getting a prepaid SIM card at London Gatwick airport is one of the most convenient ways to stay connected during your trip to London.

Buy a SIM Card at London Gatwick Airport
Buying a SIM Card at London Gatwick Airport is a great option to stay connected in the UK

Here are some pros and cons of each way:

Buy at Gatwick Airport:

  • Pros: Convenient, immediate Internet upon arrival
  • Cons: Limited choice, might be more expensive

Buy online before trip:

  • Pros: Wider selection, great deals, instant activation (for eSIM)
  • Cons: Wait for delivery, additional shipping fees (physical SIM card)

Buy in London center:

  • Pros: Widest options available, diverse data plans, good competition keeps prices cheap.
  • Cons: extra travel to the city center

► Our recommendation:

  • If you need immediate Internet access upon arrival and you are not price-conscious, get a SIM card at London airport Gatwick.
  • For the best deals and reliable cellular data, buy your UK SIM card in the city center or online before your trip.

II. Where to Buy a SIM Card at Gatwick Airport?

London Gatwick Airport map
It is easy to get a prepaid SIM card at London Gatwick Airport

To purchase a SIM card at Gatwick Airport, there are two main ways including ordering your SIM online before your trip and then picking it up at Gatwick Airport and getting a SIM card when you land at the airport.

1. Online before trip and pick up at Gatwick Airport

You can order a UK SIM card online at least 2 days before your flight. Your SIM card will be waiting for you when you land at Gatwick Airport. This way, you can save time and have SIM card with data as soon as you reach London. 

You need to go to the SIM pickup point, usually located near baggage reclaim areas in both the North Terminal and the South Terminal. It is so easy to find on signs. Remember to confirm with your chosen provider as not every operator offers this pickup service.

What to prepare: passport for verification, payment info for online order, order confirmation for collection 

Cost: Generally reasonable, 1-month plan with 10-100GB data £20-30 ($25-38).

Pros: No shopping after a long flight, diverse plan options, no hassle to activate once landed

Cons: Need to plan and order ahead of your London trip

2. At Gatwick airport upon arrival

WHSmith at London Gatwick Airport
You can buy UK SIM cards at Gatwick airport upon arrival

Gatwick Airport is the second-largest airport in London, UK, with two terminals, including the North Terminal and the South Terminal. Both terminals offer the same UK prepaid SIM plans for tourists. 

Unlike other international airports, there are no cellular network carrier stores at London Gatwick Airport. You may only purchase a UK SIM card at one of WHSmith shops – a convenience store or at a vending machine.

What to prepare: Unlocked phone to insert SIM, cash/ credit card, passport for ID proof

Cost: A bit more pricey than ordering online or buying in London center

Pros: No need to order in advance, quick connection after landing, support from staff

Cons: Shops are not always open late. If you arrive late at night, some stores are closed and you cannot buy a UK SIM card.

2.1. SIM Card Vending Machines

Location:  At baggage claim in both the South and North Terminals.

Opening hours: Always open. The machines are accessible 24/7.

Plans: Offer SIM cards from EE, Three, Vodafone, and Lycamobile. Prices range from £20-45 GBP.

SIM Card Vending Machines at London Gatwick airport
Tourists may get a SIM card at Vending Machines

Important Note: Lycamobile works on the O2 UK networks (O2 is the second-largest mobile operator in the UK).

2.2. WHSmith convenience stores  

SIM card plans sold at WHSmith convenience stores
You may purchase UK prepaid SIM card at WHSmith convenience stores

Location: In both terminals, located in the Arrival Hall areas. Cannot be missed.

Opening hours: Daily between 6am-10pm.Plans: SIM cards from EE, Three, and Lebara Mobile. Prices range from £20-45 GBP. Plans provide UK or Europe coverage.

If landing at other UK airports, you can learn our guides on buying a SIM card at London Heathrow airport (LHR) and Manchester Airport (MAN).

III. What to Prepare for Getting a SIM Card at London Gatwick Airport – Registration Process

Now is the time to find out the key things needed to get a SIM card at London Gatwick Airport: 

  • Passport: You need to show your passport for ID proof to get a UK SIM card.
  • Payment method: You need to have cash/ credit card ready for payment.
  • Research plans: Compare different plan options and prices so that you can choose the plan that suits your priorities and needs.
  • Unlocked phone: Your phone must be unlocked so it can accept a UK SIM from any carrier. Contact your operator before traveling if needed.

Pro Tip:

  • Make sure that your smartphone is unlocked to insert and activate your UK SIM card. 
  • The staff at these stores will set up and activate your SIM card for the UK so you do not need a SIM removal tool.

IV. Best Tourist London Gatwick Airport SIM Card Options and Price

Good to know: £1 GBP = $1.28 and $1 USD = £0.78 GBP (January, 2024)

At Gatwick Airport, stores sell SIM cards from major UK cellular network operators, including EE, Three, and Vodafone. They also offer SIM cards from Lycamobile (works on the O2 network).

OperatorDataCalls & TextsPrice
EE (SIM Local store)30GB/ 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK£25
EE100GB/ 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK & 60 international minutes to selected countries£30
EEUnlimited/ 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK & 180 international minutes£50
Three50GB/ 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK£25
Three100GB/ 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK£30
ThreeUnlimited 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK£45
Lycamobile10GB/ 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK£25
LycamobileUnlimited/ 30 daysUnlimited calls & texts in the UK£35

Note: The rates and details of above plans are subject to change over time.

V. UK eSIM – An Alternative to Prepaid SIM Card at London Gatwick Airport

eSIM plans for the UK offered by Gigago
Gigago offers many attractive eSIM plans for tourists to the UK

Getting a prepaid eSIM for the UK instead of a prepaid physical SIM card at London airport (Gatwick) for Internet access while visiting Longdon is a great option for several reasons:

  • eSIM plans can be downloaded and activated online anywhere, anytime before your UK trip. 
  • eSIMs activate instantly upon purchase. Tourists will have data and call services upon arrival. 
  • It is easy to switch eSIM plans while traveling to different countries.
  • A wide range of eSIM plans are offered at reasonable prices.

eSIM providers like Gigago offer reliable service in many countries worldwide and provide UK eSIM plans with extensive coverage and value. For instance, Gigago offers 10GB of data over 30 days for only $30, which is cheaper than SIM cards sold at Gatwick airport.

Pro Tip: To download and activate eSIM plans, your cell phone must support eSIM technology.

VI. Where to Buy a SIM Card Outside London Gatwick Airport?

If you wish to purchase a SIM card at the cheapest price, you may go around London to the main carrier stores, convenience stores, or supermarkets. A wide selection of SIM card plans awaits you to choose.

Where to buy: EE stores (Westfield Shopping Center); retail stores like Carphone Warehouse, Fonehouse; supermarkets like Tesco, Sainsbury’s, ASDA, convenience stores like WHSmith Store; Tesco Express Gas Station, etc.

What to prepare: unlocked smartphone, passport, card/ credit cash.

Cost: reasonable, around £10-30 with decent data.

► Our recommendation:

  • For price-conscious UK travelers with time freedom: Commute to the London center to find SIM card plans with great value and price.
  • For UK travelers with eSIM supported devices: eSIM for the UK is a wise choice that brings you reliable mobile data at affordable rates.

VII. FAQs about Buying a SIM Card at London Gatwick Airport

Where can I purchase a UK SIM card at Gatwick airport?

You can easily get a SIM card for the UK at WHSmith store (at the Arrival Hall in both South and North Terminal) or vending machines (at baggage claim in both terminals).

What networks do they offer SIM cards for?

The main networks available are EE, Three and Lycamobile. You can also sometimes find Vodafone or other MVNOs like Lebara.

What payment methods do they accept?

The main payment methods accepted are cash in British pounds or major credit/debit cards like Visa and Mastercard.

VIII. Conclusion

To sum up, buying a SIM card at London Gatwick airport (LGW) is a great option for staying connected while traveling in London. Besides, you should consider better options that offer great value and price. For flexibility and budget-friendly data plans, getting an eSIM would be a wonderful choice.