Learn how to buy a SIM Card at London Heathrow airport (LHR) step-by-step, best plans to choose for tourists to London UK, with the most updated price.
Are you heading to London soon and landing at Heathrow airport? Are you wondering how you can stay connected while traveling in this stunning city? Don’t stress about getting online right away. There are easy options at the airport to get a UK SIM card with data so you can use maps, look up train schedules, and let your family know you arrived safely. This essential guide will show you everything you need to know about buying a SIM card at London Heathrow Airport (LHR).
I. Should You Buy a SIM Card at London Heathrow Airport (LHR)?
Yes and No. Buying a SIM card at London Heathrow Airport is the traditional way to get Internet when visiting London. However, this way also has downsides.
To buy a SIM card for London, travelers have 03 common options: buying online before departure, buying at the airport, and buying in London city centers. To decide which option is best for you, take a quick look at the comparison table below:
|At Heathrow Airport
|– Convenient after you land
– Activated right away
|– Fewer provider options
– Quite expensive
|Online before trip
|– More choices of plans/ providers
– Time to find the best deals
|– Have to wait for delivery (physical SIM card)
– May not work until setup
|In London center
|– Widest selection of plans/ providers/ stores
– Affordable rates
|– Extra travel into city first
– Potentially higher price than online
▶ Our recommendation:
- If you want Internet as soon as you reach London, don’t mind queuing at the airport’s SIM stands after arrival, and price is not a concern, buying a SIM card at Heathrow Airport is a good option.
- If having Internet access immediately upon arrival is not a priority, go to the city center to purchase a SIM card for the best deal.
- If you want to have Internet with reliable mobile data upon arrival actively and easily, buy it online before your UK trip.
II. Where to Buy a SIM Card at Heathrow Airport?
There are 02 major ways to buy a SIM card at London Airport: order online before departure and pick up at the airport, or buy a SIM card when you arrive. Let’s look at the pros and cons, what to prepare, and how much each method will cost.
1. Online before departure and pick up at the airport
Save time upon arrival by pre-ordering a UK SIM card online for collection at Heathrow Airport. This is the best way to keep in touch and it does not cost much. You will collect your SIM card from the welcome desks of providers that are located in every arrivals terminal (Terminal 2, 3, 4, 5) at Heathrow airport. Their friendly staff will set up and activate your SIM card. Remember that not every provider has this pickup service.
What to prepare: passport for ID verification, order confirmation number/email.
Cost: Generally cheap, maybe slightly more costly than buying in stores in London center but much cheaper than airport kiosks.
Pros: no queues – just pick up and go, activates before travel for immediate use, a wider choice of carriers and plans.
Cons: must remember to pick up at airport, need UK address/ contact if required for activation
2. At Heathrow airport upon arrival
Heathrow is one of the world’s largest airports, with four terminals in operation: 2, 3, 4, and 5. Tourists do not need to travel to another terminal to purchase a SIM card at Heathrow Airport because all terminals offer UK SIM cards to tourists. At the airport, SIM cards can be purchased at a variety of locations, including the arrival hall, baggage claim hall, sim card vending machines, and even convenience stores.
What to prepare: passport for ID proof, cash/credit card
Cost: quite expensive compared to buying online or in the city center
Pros: convenient, support from staff
Cons: not all stores are open 24/7. You will not be able to buy a UK SIM if you arrive late at night and stores are closed. Check carefully beforehand.
2.1. Local SIM stores
Location: Located in the baggage claim areas and arrival halls of all terminals.
Opening hours: Monday – Sunday (6:00am-10:00pm)
Plans: Offers SIM cards from Three, EE, and Lycamobile. Some plans include data and calls/ texts 10-100GB (for 30 days).
2.2. WHSmith convenience stores
Location: in the terminals near arrival halls
Opening hours: daily but hours vary by store.
Plans: Sell the same SIM cards as Sim Local but you must activate yourself. Plans include 10-100GB of data and calls/texts for 30 days.
2.3. SIM card vending machines
Location: in baggage areas and terminals near shops.
Opening hours: Work 24/7 but no staff to help.
Plans: SIMs from Sim Local for cheaper but you activate yourself. Similar plans to Sim Local and WHSmith.
2.4. Travelex Currency Exchange
Location: In Terminal 2 and 5 baggage claim halls.
Opening hours: Open daily but hours vary.Plans: Have the cheapest SIMs starting at 20 pounds for 30 days with 40+ GB data and calls. No activation help.
2.5. We Know London tourist info desks
Location: in Terminals 2 and 3 arrival halls.
Opening hours: daily from early to late.
Plans: Sell SIMs plus help with activation and travel questions.
III. What to Prepare for Getting a SIM Card at London Heathrow Airport?
Now that you know the kiosks and stores that sell SIM card at Heathrow airport. It is essential to prepare necessary items so that you can get your UK SIM card.
- Have your passport ready for ID proof and SIM activation
- Research which providers and data plans work best for your needs before your UK trip
- Know what size of SIM card your phone uses (micro/ nano)
- Check store hours. Not all places are open 24/7 so you may have to wait ultil morning if arriving late at night.
- Consider backup options. If stores are closed, you may use airport Wifi. Buying a UK SIM card or eSIM online before your trip is a great option.
- Prepare cash and credit cards for payment.
- You need to make sure that your cell phone is unlocked and charged.
- You do not need to bring SIM removal tool as store staff will help set up and activate your UK SIM card.
IV. Best Tourist London Airport SIM Card Options and Price
Tourists can get UK SIM cards from major UK mobile network operators at Heathrow airport: Three, Vodafone, EE, and O2. Stores sell the same prepaid physical SIM cards but at different costs.
Good to know: £1 GBP = $1.28 and $1 USD = £0.78 GBP (January, 2024)
|Calls & Texts
|EE (SIM Local store)
|30GB/ 30 days
|Unlimited calls & texts in the UK
|100GB/ 30 days
|Unlimited calls & texts in the UK & 60 international minutes to 41 countries
|Three (SIM Local store)
|10GB/ 30 days (10 GB free EU data roaming)
|Unlimited calls & texts in 70 countries
|100GB (12 GB free EU data roaming)
|Unlimited calls & texts in the UK
|Unlimited calls & texts in the UK
Note: The data details and rates are subject to change over time, contact the providers for updated information.
V. UK eSIM for London – An Alternative to Prepaid SIM Card at London Heathrow Airport
Choosing a eSIM rather than a physical SIM card at Heathrow Airport for Internet connection when visit London is an excellent option. This is why:
- It is easy to download and activate an eSIM plan before your UK trip and activate it from anywhere.
- Once bought, eSIM activate instantly. You will have data and calls as soon as you reach London.
- No need to keep physical SIM cards for different countries, easy to switch plans while traveling.
- Multiple plans and wide coverage
Gigago is a trusted eSIM providers for many countries around the world, including United Kingdom. For the UK, Gigago offers multiple data plan options, starting from 1GB for 3 days with $3.50 . What is great about Gigago’s UK eSIM is that its plans’ costs are diversifying, vary between $3.50 – $125.98 . Therefore, it does not matter how Internet users you are and how long your trip is in the UK, there is always an option for you with Gigago UK eSIM.
VI. Where to Buy a SIM Card Outside London Heathrow Airport?
In addition to buying a SIM card at Heathrow airport upon arrival, you can get a UK SIM card in the London center. This way, you can choose from diverse data plans at affordable rates.
Where to buy: official stores of major operators like Three, EE, Vodafone, O2, convenience stores (WHSmith Travel Store), the Phone House, gas stations (BP Gas Station, Tesco Express Gas Station, Sainsbury’s Local Gas Station), etc.
What to prepare: passport, card/ credit cash, unlocked phone
Cost: reasonable, around £25 ($32) for 30 days with decent data
▶ Our recommendation:
It’s worth considering excellent options such as getting eSIM online before your trip or purchasing in London center. These choices offer a wide range of SIM plans and budget-friendly rates.
VII. FAQs about Getting a SIM Card at London Heathrow Airport
Where can I buy a SIM card at London Heathrow airport?
You can get a SIM card from SIM Local stores, WHSmith stores, vending machines, and currency exchanges like Travelex located throughout the terminals.
Do I need to unlock my smartphone to use SIM card for London?
Definitely. Your smartphone needs to be unlocked by your home carrier to use a SIM from a different network abroad.
Is there EU data roaming included?
Some Three plans offered at Heathrow airport include limited EU roaming but not all. Check terms to avoid high bills while visiting Europe.
Getting a SIM card at London Heathrow airport is a great option if you need immediate Internet access upon arrival. This option seems very convenient, but it costs much more than buying a SIM card in the London center. For diverse and cost-effective data plans while traveling in the UK, eSIM would be an excellent choice.