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Travel eSIMs are pretty dang sweet.
It makes getting internet on your phone 100x easier while traveling abroad.
After testing out different travel eSIM companies for almost 24 months on 5 continents, the idea of using a physical SIM feels like going back to the stone age.
That said, during my eSIM research and experiments, I discovered that not all travel eSIM companies are created equal.
So, in this BNESIM review, I tested their service in Thailand to compare how it stacks up with other popular travel eSIM providers.
Note that BNESIM did not pay me to write this or provide me with free service. I paid out of my own pocket for the sake of science.
Through these tests, I found that BNESIM eSIMs are legit — as in, they worked just fine. But I can’t say I’d recommend it as the best option.
Before we get into why, it’s important to understand a little background info.
👉 I purchased an eSIM from BNESIM, tested it abroad, and it worked (i.e. it’s legit).
👉 The design, user interface, and instructions aren’t super beginner-friendly.
👉 This isn’t my favorite eSIM company, but they do offer one advantage over competitors — lifetime data plans.
Table of Contents
- What is BNESIM?
- Best eSIM for international travelers?
- How to set up BNESIM eSIMs without pulling your hair out
- BNESIM review: How it actually worked
- Limited plan options
- Automatic renewals
- BNESIM eSIM review: Is it worth it?
- The BNESIM discount code
- BNESIM vs Airalo (and other competition)
What is BNESIM?
BNESIM stands for Best Network Ever, which made me giggle.
Unlike other popular travel eSIM providers, BNESIM provides several other services like phone numbers, VPNs, international calls, pocket wifi, etc.
This makes the website slightly more confusing and harder to navigate.
But back to the eSIMs. For anyone new to BNESIM and travel eSIMs, they’re essentially a convenient way to get a data plan on your phone when traveling.
They solve the headaches that come from:
- International data roaming charges, and
- Having to hunt down a physical SIM card when you arrive at a new destination.
The best eSIM providers enable you to easily connect your phone to a data signal as soon as you touch down in the country.
No more hassle calling an Uber or finding your hotel without data.
No more hassle trying to figure out how to buy a SIM in another language.
And no more opportunities for scams, like what happened to us in Cambodia and Brazil.
In theory, it’s awfully convenient. But let’s see how it actually works in practice.
Best eSIM for international travelers?
I’ve tested over 10 different eSIM companies for 21 months (and counting) across 5 continents.
I share the results of this experiment in my mega comparison of the best eSIMs for international travelers.
But to sum it up:
👉 Holafly is by far the best option for heavy data users who don’t need to tether (use link for discount).
👉 Airalo is a better option for light data users who don’t want unlimited data (use discount code MITCH9827).
👉 Nomad is an alternative to Airalo for light data users, with more plan options in certain regions of the world (use discount code UNTETHER).
BNESIM didn’t make my top 3 list, but there are some scenarios when it would be a useful option, which I cover below.
How to set up BNESIM eSIMs without pulling your hair out
Step 1: Search for the country and plan you want on the website or app.
Step 2: Read the details of the plan, then scroll down to choose which plan length/data amount you want.
As you can see, the website looks a bit funky and doesn’t instill much confidence, but it works.
Alternatively, you can download the BNE eSIM mobile app, which is a little more user-friendly.
Step 3: Get 10% off your purchase
Whether you’re using the website or the app, you can enter the code 4R0S515B for a 10% discount on your first purchase.
But before checking out, make sure to read the directions carefully. That’s because the plan I bought (and many other plans I found) says that it auto-renews.
I don’t really like this auto-renew feature. More on that in a sec.
You can buy the plan early, but make sure to wait to activate the plan until you’re ready for your time to start.
After purchasing, they’ll send you an email with a QR code and some not-so-clear instructions (for both Android and iOS).
I’ll touch on these instructions in the pros/cons section — but on iPhone, here’s what you do:
Go to Settings > Cellular > Add eSIM > Other Options > Scan QR code.
Then scan the QR code in the email they sent you, follow the setup instructions that pop on your screen, and wait for activation to finish (this can take up to 10 minutes).
From there, select the new eSIM from your settings, and make sure the configurations match the settings listed inside the app (My eSIMs > Details).
The way they explain things is a bit confusing because you have a different set of instructions on the website, email, and app.
But if you’ve installed an eSIM before, it’s pretty straightforward.
BNESIM review: How it actually worked
Once I actually got the BNESIM travel eSIM installed on my phone, it worked as expected.
I had 5G coverage, 133mpbs download, and 22mbps upload in Chiang Mai, Thailand.
Keep in mind, the data speeds you get don’t have much to do with BNESIM (or any travel eSIM provider) — they are determined by the local carrier that your eSIM uses.
While the plan worked fine, I don’t think it’s the best option available (except for one specific use case).
Here are the pros and cons I found during my tests. Let’s start with the cons.
Limited plan options
A big difference between eSIM providers is the variety of plans they offer.
These usually vary from country to country, but with BNESIM, I found options quite limited.
I searched for eSIMs in 10 different countries, and I only found 7-day or 30-day plans.
Here’s an example of what I’m talking about:
Compare that to some competitors (which we’ll cover at the end), that sometimes offer 1-, 3-, 5-, 7-, 10-, 15-, 30-, and 90-day plans.
Perhaps BNESIM thinks they are doing a favor by turning on automatic renewals by default, but I don’t like it.
To avoid continued charges, you need to go into settings and manually turn off auto-renew, which I’m sure many travelers forget to do.
This might be handy for someone who is traveling long-term in one country. But most travelers are just on short trips.
It would make more sense to just send a notification when the plan is about to expire, then allow the user to top up if needed.
Update: After investigating further, I realized that it’s only turned on by default when you buy your eSIM from the website (like I did). If you buy from the app, you get to choose if you want a one-time eSIM or a subscription.
Confusing setup process
This is one big area for improvement.
I purchased my eSIM on the website, which sent me to a page with one set of instructions.
But I also received an email with slightly different instructions.
In the email, I was told to download the app, which had yet a different set of instructions.
Then within each of these instructions, there were links to other instruction and troubleshooting pages…so it just kinda felt like a rabbit hole of instructions.
I mean, it’s not rocket science. But they could do a better job streamlining the process so it goes step by step.
For someone who has installed eSIMs before, there should be no problem. But if this is your first time, it might feel confusing.
Also want to mention that there are actually two different BNESIM apps in the app store, which further adds to the confusion.
The data worked
I’m not really sure you can count this as a pro. It should be obvious that you get working data.
The reason I added it as a pro is because I was honestly a little surprised that it worked.
As mentioned above, I was a little weary about the website when I originally made my purchase. The design looked a little sketchy, so I had my doubts that it would actually work.
But it did end up working, so I guess that’s all that matters.
If it weren’t for my quest to test and find the best travel eSIMs, I probably wouldn’t have ever chosen this site over other more trustworthy-looking sites.
Just goes to show you can’t always judge a book by its cover.
Tethering worked just fine, and I was even able to watch YouTube videos from my computer while tethered to my phone’s data.
So BNESIM eSIMs work great as a mobile hotspot for travelers.
Not all eSIM providers allow tethering, so this is definitely a plus, especially for digital nomads who work online.
App is better than the website
The mobile app looks more professional and is easier to use than the website.
So if you do decide to go with BNESIM, I recommend just downloading the app and doing everything from there.
You can top up your plans here (if top-ups are available in your country).
You can also earn BNE coins for referring friends. These coins are tied to the Solana blockchain and appear to be exchangeable for euros.
If you want 10% off your eSIM, feel free to use my referral code: 4R0S515B
That way I’ll be able to test out how these BNE coins actually work.
Update: While writing this review, my phone prompted me to update the app. Now I can’t get things to load correctly. It says I need an internet connection, but I do have an internet connection…
It started working again when I tried a few days later. But honestly, if you’re on a short trip, you probably don’t want to have to worry about these types of bugs.
It may have just been a fluke, but for now, I’d recommend choosing an eSIM company that already has all the kinks worked out, like the ones I recommend in the alternatives section below.
Lifetime data plans
One unique advantage BNESIM has over other companies I’ve tested is their “lifetime plans”.
Basically, it’s a slightly more expensive chunk of data that never expires.
This probably wouldn’t be useful for the average traveler. But if you visit the same country or region frequently and don’t want to have to buy new plans all the time, this could be handy.
Keep in mind, according to one Redditor, you may lose this data if you break or change your phone:
Surprisingly responsive customer service
I’ve been testing different eSIMs abroad for almost 2 years straight now. And I’d say 95% of the time, they work pretty dang good.
But every few months, I’ve run into some issues and had to contact the customer service teams for different eSIM companies.
And let me tell you — there’s nothing more frustrating than dealing with unhelpful customer service that takes forever to respond.
Fortunately, the BNESIM customer support team was surprisingly responsive when I tested them out — responding within 3-10 minutes each time.
I didn’t really have a problem for them to fix, so I can’t speak to how helpful they are. But at least they were there!
BNESIM eSIM review: Is it worth it?
BNESIM travel eSIMs are worth it if you’re specifically looking to buy an international data plan that never expires. But if you’re just going on vacation for a set period of time, there are other eSIM options that are easier to set up and offer a better overall experience.
I cover those below.
The BNESIM discount code
You can get 10% off your first purchase by using the discount code 4R0S515B at checkout.
This is my refer-a-friend code. Once you sign up and have your own account, you will receive your own refer-a-friend code to share with others.
BNESIM vs Airalo (and other competition)
It seems like new travel eSIM companies are popping up by the day, and they’re not all created equal.
Airalo is one of the more popular options, but it’s not always necessarily the best.
After testing 6 popular companies throughout 15+ countries, I’d say BNESIM was tied for worst for ease of setup.
It also had slightly higher prices and fewer data plan options here in Thailand (but this could vary by country).
After testing all the most popular options, I’ve narrowed it down to three recommendations — each for different circumstances.
I honestly recommend just popping a window open for each of the following countries and doing a quick search for your destination to see what plans are offered. I’ve found that packages and prices can vary widely from country to country.
- Airalo (Use code MITCH9827 for extra free credit) – Best for light data users who want a cheap small data plan for the basics.
- Nomad (Use code UNTETHER for extra free credit) – In some countries, offers better deals than Airalo. Also has the smoothest setup process.
- Holafly (extra discount built into this affiliate link) – Best for heavy data users because they are the only company that offers unlimited data plans in many countries. Pretty easy setup, but app isn’t as nice as Airalo or Nomad.
It shouldn’t take more than 2 minutes to compare, and you’ll know exactly which one makes the most sense for your trip.
For a deeper look at each one of these companies, check out the full guides below:
I am testing new eSIMs all the time, so for my latest findings and comparisons, make sure to subscribe to the Project Untethered Youtube channel!
Mitch is your typical nomadic backpacker. Or at least, he was. But after stopping in Colombia to take “one week” of salsa lessons, his life took a sharp left turn. He met a cute Colombian girl in dance class, fell in love, and got married. Over half a decade has passed since he left his career to travel the world as a digital nomad, and he’s never looked back.
Nowadays, he’s the blogger behind Project Untethered — where he runs an awesome email newsletter and Youtube channel teaching adventure-craved wanderlusters how to escape the rat race, earn money from anywhere, and build an “untethered life”.
His advice has been featured in Forbes, USA Today, Yahoo, MSN, Reader’s Digest, Condé Nast Traveler, and more.
Mitch's Travel Recommendations:
Travel Planning Resources - Everything you need to plan your trip on one convenient page.
Going Cheap Flights Newsletter - Get flight deals from your airport up to 90% off sent straight to your inbox.
Safetywing Insurance - This cheap travel insurance has saved me over $15,000 in medical bills.
Booking.com - Book accommodation without adding your credit card (in case you need to cancel).
Trusted House Sitters - Take care of pets in exchange for free (sometimes luxury) accommodation.
Flexjobs - Find remote jobs without having to sift through crappy ones.
Skillshare - Free trial to take unlimited classes that teach digital nomad skills.
Wise - Send and receive money abroad cheaply (great for freelancers).