How To Use Airalo eSIM In Thailand (And Asia)

You’ve got your trip to Thailand and perhaps other parts of Asia planned, so the next thing you need to figure out? The logistics. Where you’ll stay, how you’ll get there, how you’ll get around, etc.

At some point, you’re going to start thinking about how you’ll stay connected. You’ll have the option to choose from physical SIM cards, eSIMs, pocket wifi’s, and all that good stuff.

To be honest, I’ve never had to think about this much in the past. While I’ve traditionally gone with the free international data my cell phone plan gives me, I’ve noticed this free data getting slower and slower, to the point that it BARELY works internationally.

For my most recent trip to Thailand and Japan, I needed a solution for data/internet. Instead of going with physical SIM cards, I opted for the eSIM option via Airalo and it was the easiest breeziest thing I did to get access to the internet internationally.

If you are debating whether to go with an eSIM or a physical SIM, my vote goes to the eSIM option all the way. It’s so easy to set up AND so easy to use. And by “easy to use”, I mean that I didn’t have to think about it at all after setup! It just WORKED.

Because I had so much trouble understanding the logistics behind how Airalo worked (when to buy, when to set up, how to set up), I decided to help everyone else out by creating an easy-to-understand guide to it all… made just for people who aren’t techies!

Here’s my guide on how Airalo works and what you need to do to get set up with reliable internet abroad.

This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!

👉 Helpful Links: eSIM for Thailand | eSIM for Asia (covers 14 countries) | See eSIMs for 200+ countries on Airalo

DEAL ALERT: For a limited time, use the above link + the promo code DEC10 for an additional 10% off your Airalo eSIM purchase. This code is valid for any Airalo service in ANY country!

What Is Airalo?

Embarking on international adventures? Meet Airalo, your smartphone’s travel sidekick. Think of it as a global connectivity wizard, making sure your phone stays seamlessly connected across borders.

Airalo is the world’s first eSIM store that solves the pain of high roaming bills by giving you access to eSIMs (digital SIM cards). With eSIMs from Airalo, download and install a digital data pack from 200+ countries/regions and be connected anywhere in the world the second you land.

Because Airalo is an eSIM data service, you’ll basically be able to unlock data everywhere you go — with just a few taps on your smartphone.

Airalo eSIM Service

What do I love most about this service? The simple and painless activation process. No more puzzling over complex network setups. Airalo simplifies the process with an easy activation mechanism.

Just follow the step-by-step guide, make a few taps on your phone, and you’re ready to explore without worrying about language barriers or complicated procedures.

In essence, Airalo is your go-to solution for hassle-free international connectivity. Whether you’re navigating new landscapes, sharing your journey online, or simply staying in touch, Airalo ensures your phone is ready for the adventure.

How An eSIM Differs From A Physical SIM Card

You can think of it like this:

  • a physical SIM card is the thing we’ve been doing for decades. It’s a tiny, removable card you buy from a store and inserts into your phone to make it work with a specific local carrier
  • an eSIM is like having a smart, adaptable key inside your phone that allows you to seamlessly switch carriers on-the-fly (whenever you want to), stay connected, and enjoy your journey without the hassle of buying and installing physical cards.

Let’s break it down in simpler terms:

Card or No Card

Physical SIM (Old School Method): Think of it like a tiny, removable card you insert into your phone to make it work with a specific carrier, much like a key to unlock your connection while abroad.

eSIM (New Kid on the Block): There’s no need for a physical card. It’s like having a built-in key inside your phone that can be programmed to work with different carriers.

Changing Carriers

Physical SIM: Imagine needing a new key (SIM card) every time you want to switch carriers. It’s a bit like changing the lock on your door. One key is allowed at a time. If you want to change back to your original carrier, you need to change out the SIM cards again.

eSIM: With eSIM, it’s like magically changing the lock settings on your existing key. No need to fiddle with physical cards; you can switch carriers using your phone settings.

Getting Started

Physical SIM: You’ll need to stop by a SIM card store or a cell phone store in the destination you’re visiting. Or, you can purchase them online ahead of time and pick them up at the airport. Stick the SIM card into your phone, follow some instructions, and you’re good to go.

eSIM: Purchase an eSIM package online. Activate your phone’s eSIM by scanning a QR code or following some easy steps on your phone. It’s a digital setup without the need to go into any store for a physical card.


Physical SIM: Unless you purchase a SIM card that covers multiple countries, you’ll need a new SIM card every time you visit a new country or want a different service. To go back to your original service, you’ll need to keep your existing SIM card in a safe place (don’t lose it!) and stick it back in once the trip is over.

eSIM: The eSIM lets you switch between carriers with a few taps on your phone. It’s like having a universal key that adapts to different doors as you travel. You can iMessage/Facetime with your original SIM, and make local calls / use data using the eSIM package you purchased. It’s super duper flexible!


Physical SIM: Not the most secure. If you lose a SIM card, someone else could use it. Plus, you’ll need to make sure you keep your original SIM card in a safe place so you can put it back in at the end of your trip.

eSIM: Much more secure. Since it’s built into your phone, there’s nothing physical to lose. It’s like having a super-secure, invisible key that’s always with you.

How To Set Up Airalo eSIM On iPhone

I’ll walk you through what I did to set Airalo eSIM up on my iPhone for my trip to Thailand/Japan.

First what you’ll want to do is purchase the package on the Airalo website or app. You can purchase your eSIM package anytime before your trip.

Don’t worry, completing your purchase will NOT activate the eSIM. There’s a separate step to do that.

As you can see from the screenshot above, it says “The validity period starts at the installation” (not at the time of purchase).

Since I purchased my Thailand eSIM on the first night I arrived in Thailand, I was able to activate my eSIM immediately.

The Airalo app does a really great job of walking you through the steps on how to activate the eSIM. Here are screenshots from the process:

STEP 1: Read through a quick tutorial and heed the warnings: make sure you have internet connectivity (wifi preferred), do not interrupt the installation process, do not remove your eSIM plan until you’re done with your travels and have no need for it.

STEP 2: Start the activation process. Scan the QR code that pops up with your phone. This will trigger the activation.

  • 1. Go to Settings > Cellular/Mobile Data > Add eSIM or Set up Cellular/Mobile Service > Use QR Code on your device.
  • 2. Scan the QR code available on the Airalo app, then tap “Continue” twice and wait for a while. Your eSIM will connect to the network, this may take a few minutes, then tap “Done”.
  • 3. Choose a label for your new eSIM plan.

From there, you’ll see two phone numbers: your Primary (original number) and your eSIM one (local number). You can create a new label for your new eSIM. Mine was defaulted to “Cellular Data” but I eventually changed it to “Travel” because the naming convention was confusing me.

STEP 3: Update the Cellular Settings so that your eSIM number is the one being used for cellular data + default voice line.

You’ll also see a pop-up about choosing a number for iMessage and Facetime. You’ll want to keep iMessage and Facetime tied to your original number (Primary).

Below is how my settings looked when I got everything to work properly.

  • Reminder: “Primary” is my USA line and “Cellular Data” is my new Thai number.

Your setting should look like this:

  • Cellular Data: Your new eSIM number
  • Default Voice Line: Your new eSIM number
  • iMessage and FaceTime: Primary 
  • Click on “Primary”: Turn Roaming OFF
  • Click on your new eSIM number: Turn Roaming ON

If you messed up the iMessage and FaceTime settings and accidentally set it to the new eSIM number, all hope is NOT lost. You can still update it!

To do that, go to SettingsMessagesSend & Receive. From that page, change the phone number used for iMessage and FaceTime.

And with that, your eSIM is all set up! At this point, you should disconnect from the wifi and test out the internet connection. If your eSIM package comes with free local calls, you can try calling your travel buddy (assuming they also have an eSIM or physical SIM card installed on their phone too).

In my case, I had 15 days of unlimited 5G internet, texting, and local calls. Once the 15 days were over, I received a text that let me know that my 15-day package has been expired.

So what do you do if your trip is longer than the allotted eSIM duration? You can top up — check out the next section below on how to do that.

Need More Days Of Data? How To Top Up Airalo eSIM

With a traditional SIM card, you have to contact your carrier or purchase a new SIM to top up your data. With an eSIM, it’s much simpler.

Many Airalo eSIMs come with a top-up option, allowing you to add data or time to your plan when you run low. You can do it right from the Airalo app or on their site (just be sure you’re logged in).

Here’s how to top up your eSIM:

  • Login to your Airalo account.
  • Go to My eSIMs.
  • Tap the eSIM you want to top up.
  • Tap Top Up.
  • Select a top-up package.

The section to Top Up will look something like this:

Airalo Top Up Options - How To Top Up Airalo eSIM

NOTE: If you don’t see a “top up” button, your eSIM has no top-up package available. If you find yourself in this boat, you’ll have to download another eSIM to stay connected for the remainder of your trip.

Downloading another eSIM just as your current eSIM is nearing or at completion will make the transition super simple.

I actually encountered this issue during my 18-day trip to Thailand, and it wasn’t the end of the world! It was actually quite easy to re-purchase another eSIM and extend my data coverage.

Because I had purchased the 15-day unlimited data + calls package for JUST Thailand, it was set to expire during my time in Thailand. In order to stay connected for the remaining 3 days of my trip (so that I could GPS around and call Grab rideshare cars to get around), I purchased another eSIM to get by.

This is when I changed things up just a little.

Knowing that I was headed to Japan for 3 days after Thailand, I actually opted for a Regional eSIM for Asia (which covers 14 countries in Asia) instead of a Local eSIM (which only covers Thailand) for my eSIM #2.

The total price to cover my 18 days in Thailand and 3 days in Japan = $19.95 USD (Thai eSIM #1 for 15 days) + $5.00 USD (Asia eSIM #2 for 10 days) = $24.95 USD

I also used a 15% off promo code for both eSIMs, which brought the total down to $21.20 USD!

Not too bad for 21 days of eSIM usage, right?!

DEAL ALERT: For a limited time, use the above link + the promo code DEC10 for an additional 10% off your Airalo eSIM purchase. This code is valid for any Airalo service in ANY country!

Can You Use Your eSIM As A Personal Hotspot?

The answer is yes!

I personally found myself in a lot of situations where there were unsecured networks that I didn’t want to access my blog and financial websites on. Think coffee shops, airports, and hotels.

My solution to this? Connect to the internet via a personal hotspot!

Just as you would with your normal SIM (setup is the same whether you use a SIM or eSIM to access data), you can set up your eSIM as a hotspot. If you are unfamiliar with how to do that, here are the 3 easy ways to do so below — you can do it with Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, or USB tethering.

From Wi-Fi 

How to set up a personal hotspot:

  • Go to your phone’s Settings
  • Tap Cellular
  • Turn on your Personal Hotspot
  • Name your phone and create a password

How to connect another device:

  • Open your other device’s list of Wi-Fi networks.
  • Pick your phone’s hotspot name
  • Enter your phone’s hotspot password
  • Tap Connect

From Bluetooth

How to setup a Bluetooth connection:

  • Go to your phone’s Settings
  • Tap Bluetooth
  • Turn on your Bluetooth connection
  • Pair your devices and ensure Bluetooth is turned on for each one

How to connect another device:

  • In your list of paired devices, tap the device you want to share your connection with (e.g., your tablet)
  • Once it’s linked, it will show as a “Connected” device

With a USB Cable

  • Plug your phone into the device you want to connect via a USB cable
  • Go to your phone’s Settings
  • Tap Portable Hotspot or Personal Hotspot
  • Find the menu that says USB Tethering and turn it on
  • Your connected device will now share your phone’s data connection

Hope this article has helped you set up Airalo for your trip to Thailand/Asia. Once you learn it, it’ll be so easy to do the next time around!

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Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

1 thought on “How To Use Airalo eSIM In Thailand (And Asia)”

  1. I really like to travel to Thailand and Southeast Asia. I also liked your article. Thank you


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