Travel eSIM vs Roaming vs Local SIM Card


Written by: Circles.Life

Last updated: 19 February 2024

Key highlights

● Travel eSIMs offer seamless connectivity without the need for physical SIM cards, providing travellers with local network rates and eliminating the hassle of finding and inserting a local SIM upon arrival.

● Roaming services have evolved to offer more cost-effective packages, with providers like Circles.Life leading the way in offering attractive roaming plans that help travellers avoid high usage rates traditionally associated with international roaming.

● Local SIM cards remain a reliable option for travellers, offering friendly rates and a selection of usage bundles. However, they come with the inconvenience of managing an extra physical item and potential coverage limitations.

Exploring connectivity options abroad

Travelling offers memories and souvenirs, but one unintended memento we might collect is a bunch of local SIM cards for our overseas comms. But with roaming and eSIMs, do we really need the hassle of swapping to a local SIM?

Let's dive into eSIMs, roaming, and local SIMs to find the best connectivity option for you.

Hopping on a flight soon? Sign up for Circles.Life Borderless plan and experience seamless connectivity within minutes.

Understanding the trio: eSIM, Roaming, and Local SIM

Travel eSIM

An eSIM, short for embedded SIM, is part of the integrated circuit of a phone. It’s a hidden, permanent chip that allows you to make calls, send SMSes and go online without the need to take it in or out. In other words, it’s a digital or virtual version of the traditional physical SIM that works just the same.

Since there’s no physical SIM, plugging to a network takes place remotely. Usually, this involves scanning a QR code from the carrier, or via its app or website.

An eSIM for travel hooks up your mobile with a local network at your destination, often with some simple navigation. You get to enjoy local rates, minus the fuss of searching for and inserting a physical SIM into your device.


Roaming occurs when your phone leaves the comforts of your home network and hops on another carrier in a foreign country. This carrier recognises your handset as a “foreigner” and therefore charges you very uncomfortable usage rates, which show up on your bills upon returning home.

Pay-per-use was the default for international roaming for a long time, based on per minute or second for calls, per megabyte for data and SMS. More and more, though, carriers are working with overseas partners to offer attractive roaming packages for travellers.

Local SIM

One of the signage that arriving travellers often look for in an airport is that of a local SIM card dealer.

Buying a physical local SIM remains a common way of tapping on cellular service abroad. It’s a trusted method with rates that are typically much friendlier than the usual roaming charges. You get a local number and have a selection of different usage and duration bundles.

One obvious downside is that there's an extra tiny piece of plastic to handle.

Read more: eSIM vs Physical SIM: Differences, Benefits & More

What you should consider

Needless to say, an overseas connection should give you the most bang for your buck, with minimum fuss.

All of these options provide voice, text, and data services to keep you connected while travelling. But each has its nuances:


Historically, local SIM cards were the most affordable choice for international travellers. But with technological advancements, travel eSIMs have emerged as competitive digital alternatives.

Plus, roaming services have also evolved with more cost-effective packages. Circles.Life is leading the charge on this front, offering stellar international roaming plans. And if you thought those were great, wait until you explore our travel eSIM. With competitive calling, texting, and data rates, we ensure that your savings allow you to indulge in that dreamy holiday activity instead. And the cherry on top? Unlimited data!

All these mean more choices for a traveller. But which one should you go for?


As thrilling as venturing off the beaten path can be, being left with zero connectivity isn't ideal. Local SIMs are often tied to one service provider, which means that you may experience dead zones. Step outside your provider's coverage area, and you could find your signal bars rapidly shrinking to zilch.

In contrast, travel eSIMs and roaming plans offer more extensive coverage, partnering with multiple providers to ensure continuous connectivity. Journeying to a remote area? No worries, Circles.Life's network partners ensure you’re always within reach of a strong network.


Remember the hassle of searching for a local SIM vendor in a new airport? Or juggling luggage and fumbling over a tiny SIM card?

With eSIMs and roaming plans, those days are over. Activating Circles.Life's travel eSIM is as easy as scanning a QR code. Do it from anywhere - whether you're lounging at the airport or en route to your hotel.

Read more: eSIM and Travel: Why Digital Nomads are Making the Switch

The verdict

Travelling is now simpler with eSIMs and roaming plans. So, consider how you want to stay connected as you plan your next adventure. With Circles.Life’s travel eSIM, you can now bid farewell to exorbitant bills, infuriating queues, and connectivity woes. Stay connected wherever you go.

Ready for a hassle-free travel experience? Sign up for Circles.Life's Borderless plan or check out our affordable roaming add-ons!





Published 2023-09-15

Written by Circles.Life


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