Three SIM Cards and eSIM 2024: A Comprehensive Guide for Tourists

Buying a SIM card is crucial for tourists traveling to the United Kingdom. You can buy SIM cards or download an eSIM plan from Three – one of the largest network carriers in the UK. With extensive coverage and fast data speed, Three let visitors access a secure and easy Internet connection. This guide will go over everything you need to know about Three SIM cards and eSIM: the best option, how to get and activate, and the finest alternatives.

THREE sim card and eSIM in the UK
Three SIM cards and eSIM in the UK

I. Quick Facts about Three

Three is one of the largest mobile network providers in the UK. Several key facts about Three UK you may need to know include: 

  • Founded: in 2003
  • Headquarter: Reading, England
  • Full company name: Hutchison 3G UK Limited
  • Types of services: mobile telephony, mobile Internet services, and broadband Internet services
  • Coverage: widest 4G/5G network coverage across the UK
  • Number of users: the fourth-largest operator in the UK with around 10.3 million users
  • Distribution: a wide range of shops located in busy shopping centers, street stores, and malls; thousands of other stores sell Three phones and plans
  • Customer support: 24/7 support, live chat, phone call
  • Language: English
Three is the fourth-largest operator in the UK
Three is the fourth-largest operator in the UK

II. Why Three When Visiting the UK – Coverage and Speed

Let us look at the network coverage and data speed of Three in the UK:

1. Three Coverage in the UK

Three UK boasts the widest 4G/5G network coverage in the UK
Three coverage map (Source: nPerf)
  • Three UK boasts the widest 4G/5G network coverage in the UK
  • Visitors using Three networks may access the Internet almost everywhere, including very remote regions
  • Three provides prepaid users with a 5G network no extra rate.

2. Three Speed

Three delivers fast speeds in the UK
Three speed in the UK (Source: OpenSignal)
  • Average download speed: 34.5Mbps, the second-fastest (led by EE 40Mbps and followed by O2 20.9Mbps anf Vodafone 27.9Mbps)
  • Average upload speed: 6.3Mbps (led by EE 9.3Mbps)
  • Consistency: 66.3%, the second-highest

In summary, Three UK has cell towers around the country so most areas get coverage. Tourists can use high-speed 4G or even 5G for fast Internet on their phones in most cities and towns. 

III. What are the Best Connectivity Options of Three for Travelers to the UK?

Visitors to the UK can connect to the Three’s networks via three key connectivity options:

Three SIM cards– A wide selection of SIM card options to choose
– Competitive prices for cellular services
– Easy purchase (upon arrival in the city stores or online before departure)
– Unlocked phone needed
Pocket Wifi– Portable 
– Internet sharing between mobile devices like phones, tablets, laptops
– Limited broadcast range 
– Not sure whether it is connected to Three’s network or not
– Have to return the pocket Wifi after trip
– High rental rates
Roaming– Familiar home carrier, phone number, and plan 
– No SIM swap
– Costly charges
– Network coverage depends on the contract between your domestic provider and Three

► Recommendation:

We can see that getting Three SIM cards is an excellent choice. It is more convenient than roaming with your regular SIM or renting a pocket Wifi – and better value for money too.

IV. Best Three SIM Cards for Tourists & Cost

Here are some of the most preferred Three SIM cards for tourists visiting the UK and costs accordingly.

Auto-renew plans£10 GBP – $12.6 USD12GB & unlimited minutes and texts
£15 GBP – $19 USD40GB & unlimited minutes and texts
£20 GBP – $25 USD80GB & unlimited minutes & texts
£35 GBP – $44 USDUnlimited data & minutes & texts
One-time plans£10 GBP – $12.6 USD10GB & unlimited minutes and texts
£15 GBP – $19 USD30GB & unlimited minutes and texts
£20 GBP – $25 USD60GB & unlimited minutes & texts
£35 GBP – $44 USDUnlimited data & minutes & texts

Note: If you want to buy Three SIM cards, it is recommended to check Three’s official website for the most up-to-date info.

V. Does Three Support eSIM in the UK?

Sure. Three offers eSIM (virtual SIM) that is built into a mobile device like smartphones, tablets, or watches without needing to insert a physical SIM in the UK. So why select an eSIM for the UK?

  • No need to visit a physical store or wait for delivery
  • Easy online activation so you may get connected instantly
  • Use 2 different numbers on a cell phone due to dual-SIM feature
  • eSIM is eco-friendly with no plastic

You have two options to buy the UK eSIM:

  • Purchase a UK eSIM plan directly from Three’s website. Have your passport/ driver’s license with you for ID verification.
  • Buy a UK eSIM plan from third-party eSIM sellers. Online eSIM purchase without ID check.

► Recommendation:

It is much easier for visitors to the UK to have an eSIM from a third-party provider rather than from Three directly. But it can be hard to pick which reseller to choose. A good option might be getting an eSIM from a reputable provider like Gigago.

Gigago eSIM plans for the UK
Gigago eSIM plans for the UK

Gigago offers a wide selection of UK eSIM plans for tourists. The cheapest pack costs only $3.50 and provides 1GB of data over 3 days.  Other plan options vary between $3.50$125.98 , depending on the trip duration and data amount. Just choose the UK eSIM option that best suits your trip needs and budget.

Pro Tip: Before downloading a UK eSIM plan, make sure that your smartphone is compatible with eSIM. Check out the list of eSIM-compatible mobile devices.

VI. Where to Buy a Three SIM cards and eSIM?

Now that you know the Three SIM card and eSIM options. Now is the time to find out where to get Three SIMs.

1. Where to Buy Three SIM Cards for the UK?

1.1. Upon arrival at the UK airports

Three SIM cards are sold at:

  • London Gatwick International Airport (LGW): SIM Card Vending Machine and WHSmith convenience stores
  • London Heathrow International Airport (LHR): Local SIM stores; WHSmith convenience stores, SIM card vending machine, Travelex Currency Exchange
  • Manchester International Airport (MAN): SIM Card Vending Machine

1.2. Three shops & authorized dealers

Three has a wide range of shops located in busy shopping centers, street stores, and malls. Besides, thousands of other shops also sell Three phones and plans. You can commute to the main cities and large towns in London, Manchester,… to buy Three SIM cards. These stores offer Three SIM cards at more budget-friendly rates.

Buy Three SIM cards at Three stores
Three UK Macclesfield offers Three SIM cards

2. Where to Buy Three eSIM for the UK?

Here are the ways to buy Three eSIM:

  • Online service on Three’s official website
  • Use the Three app
  • Commute to the nearest Three shop

Pro Tips:

  • Bring your driver's license/ passport and NZD cash/ credit card for smooth SIM purchase and registration.
  • Get to the city stores to buy Three SIM cards for better deals.
  • If you want instant Internet, you may buy Three SIM cards at UK airports, depending on your destination.

VII. How to Activate Three SIM/eSIM in the UK?

It is straightforward to activate and use Three SIM cards and eSIM for your UK trip. Here is how:

1. How to Activate Three SIM Cards in the UK?

To activate Three SIM card:

  • Insert Three SIM into your unlocked cell phone
  • Turn on your cell phone
  • Follow on-screen guides to activate Three SIM – The Three SIM should automatically activate
  • Check data settings if the cellular data does not work
  • Now you can enjoy Three seamless mobile services 

2. How to Activate Three eSIM?

To activate Three eSIM:

  • Ensure your cell phone is compatible with Three eSIM
  • Buy a Three eSIM online, Three will send you a QR code via your email
  • Scan QR code using the Three app or your phone settings (Settings > Mobile Service > Add eSIM > Use QR code) 
  • Set up Three eSIM profile
  • Now your Three eSIM are ready for use

VIII. Alternatives to the UK Three SIM cards

In addition toThree SIM cards, visitors can get SIM cards from other operators such as EE, O2, vodafone for their trip to the UK.

  • EE SIM card plans are reasonably priced with suitable data and SMS/call bundles
  • O2 plans are affordable and include free EU roaming on some plans
  • Vodafone plans provide generous data, calls, and texts, and offer value for money
  • Gigago: Buying a digital SIM (eSIM) from Gigago for the affordability and flexibility.

IX. FAQs about Three SIM cards and eSIM

Can tourists from the US buy Three SIM cards for a trip to the UK?

Yes, tourists from the US can purchase Three SIM cards and eSIM online before their trip or upon arrival.

Is 4G or 5G coverage included with Three SIM cards and eSIM?

Yes, Three SIM cards and eSIM include access to Three’s high speed 4G and 5G networks, providing fast data speeds in many major cities and towns across the UK.

X. Conclusion

In conclusion, Three SIM cards and eSIM deliver a hassle-free and affordable way for tourists to get the Internet while traveling in the UK. Their extensive 4G/5G network lets tourists use data, talk, and text no matter where they go. If you prioritize flexibility and best value option, downloading a UK eSIM plan from Gigago. Just pick the plan that best suits your preferences, length of stay, and budget. 

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