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Nomad eSIM Review: Pros & Cons Testing Abroad (2024)

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I’ll admit it…

I’m a travel eSIM addict — and I’m not ashamed. 

I’ve been researching and testing travel eSIMs for 1.5+ years of constant travel throughout 15 countries (and counting!). And in this Nomad eSIM review, I wanna share my first-hand experience with the company. 

I’ll share both the good AND the bad (yes, there’s both). 

Plus, I’ll show you step by step how to set it up in like 90 seconds. 

But first, a quick refresher in case you’re new to the wonderful world of eSIM Land.

What is an eSIM (and why they’re the bomb)

An eSIM stands for “embedded SIM”. Without getting too techy on ya, it’s basically a digital SIM card that doesn’t require those annoying tiny plastic chips. 

They allow you to instantly install and activate your own data plan from wherever you are — no need to go to a cell provider shop. 

In fact, you can get travel eSIMs that aren’t tied to a single provider at all. With these eSIMs, your phone automatically switchs to whichever provider has the strongest signal in your area. Pretty cool, huh?

Best of all, using a travel eSIM is usually WAY cheaper than roaming on your home plan, and you won’t have to rely on crappy wifi connections. 

It also protects you from getting scammed trying to buy a physical SIM once you arrive in your destination (this has happened to us TWICE). 

Now, before we dive into my review of Nomad eSIMs, let’s make sure it’ll actually work for your situation. Please don’t skip this section unless you like wasting money!

Hold up! Just to let ya know — this post is sponsored by Nomad but as you’ll see, I tested the crap out of this eSIM and share my unfiltered opinions below.

How Nomad eSIMs work and where they are available

First things first, Nomad offers eSIMs in 165+ countries. Odds are they cover the country you’re traveling to, but it’s worth checking out their full list of countries to make sure. 

We just traveled to the Maldives, and they didn’t have coverage there, so always good to double check.

After you determine Nomad has eSIMs in your destination, you need to see if your phone is compatible.

Nomad eSIM compatible phones

Nomad eSIMs work on both Android and iOS devices, but not all phones are eSIM compatible. 

If this is your first time using an eSIM, make sure your phone is on this list.

I cannot stress this enough — if you buy an eSIM but your phone is not eSIM compatible, you will lose your money!

If you’re phone is on the list, you’re safe to start browsing the eSIM options they offer in your destination. 

How to set up a Nomad eSIM and get connected in 3 minutes

Out of all the travel eSIMs I’ve tested over the past 1.5 years, Nomad has the most beginner-friendly set up process. 

You can follow my step-by-step instructions below or check out their instruction guide here.

1. Find your destination and compare plans

Go to this page and search for your destination. 

You can either choose a “Local eSIM” that covers one specific country. Or you can choose a “Regional eSIM” that’ll work throughout multiple countries in a region. 

Regional plans are handy if you’ll be visiting multiple countries and don’t want to bother with buying and setting up a new eSIM every time you switch countries. 

When comparing plans, make sure to always note the network and read the plan details before checking out.

Don’t forget to type in the code UNTETHER at checkout if you want $3 off your first purchase.

2. Follow eSIM installation instructions in email

After checking out, you’ll receive an email with your setup instructions. 

Here’s how to set up Nomad eSIMs on iPhone (for Android, see these instructions). 

First, make sure you have a stable internet connection. This is important. 

Then, go to Settings > Cellular > Add eSIM (or Add Cellular Plan) > Use QR Code.

There are two ways to install — (1) with a QR code or (2) the “manual” way (copy and pasting two codes). 

The QR code method

Choose the second option.

If you have two devices with you, the easiest way to set up your eSIM is to scan the QR code that comes in your email. 

If you don’t have two devices, you can take a photo of the QR code. Then go into your settings and tap Add eSIM > Use QR Code > Select Photo. Choose the photo you took with the QR code in it. (Note: This only works in the latest version of iOS). 

The manual method

If your camera is not working for some reason, you can also copy and paste the eSIM details manually. 

To do this, follow the same process above. After you tap “Use QR Code”, choose the option “Enter Details Manually”.

Then go back to your Nomad email and copy and paste the two codes that they give you. Easy peasy.

3. Set up your eSIM

While you’re installing your eSIM, you’ll be prompted to configure some settings (these can all be adjusted after installing as well). 

  • If you’re prompted to label your new eSIM, just write “Nomad” so it’s easy to recognize.
  • When prompted to select a “Default Line”, Nomad recommends choosing Primary.
  • When prompted to choose which line to use for Cellular Data, choose your Nomad eSIM if you’re ready for your plan to start and want to be connected now. If you’re still at home, choose your home line for now, then remember to switch the Nomad eSIM on when you arrive in your destination.

Finally, go to Settings > Cellular and select your Nomad eSIM. If you’re ready to use your data now, make sure the settings here match the settings in the Nomad instructions email. 

It might sound a little confusing, but they walk you through it step by step. After you do it once, you see that it’s actually pretty simple.

Please note that sometimes it takes a while when the eSIM is activating and connecting to the network for the first time.

In my experience, it takes between 30 seconds and 15 minutes. So don’t panic if it stays on the “Activating” screen for a while — just be patient and let it do its thing. 

4. Download the Nomad app

Once you’re up and running, I recommend downloading the Nomad app to your phone. 

This lets you see how much data you have remaining on your eSIM and lets you easily top it up if you’re ever running low.

Nomad eSIM promo code

To get a free $3 credit towards your first eSIM purchase, sign up with this link and use the Nomad eSIM referral code UNTETHER.

After your account is up and running, you’ll get your own refer-a-friend code to share with your fellow travelers. 

You can refer up to 5 people, and when someone signs up with it, you each get a $3 credit. 

Nomad eSIM hotspots: Does tethering work with Nomad?

If you need to work on the road or you travel with multiple devices, you may be wondering if you can use Nomad eSIMs to hotspot. 

The answer is yes. Tethering works with most Nomad eSIMs, so you can use it as a hotspot to share data with your other devices. 

That said, the ability to hotspot isn’t actually controlled by Nomad — it’s controlled by the local service provider. 

So while it works in most places (including Thailand where I don’t have wifi in our apartment and have been tethering every day), it’s important to read the carrier information before buying.

You can read the nitty-gritty details straight from Nomad’s mouth on this page

Nomad eSIM review: My experience testing their service

Do you want the good news or the bad news first?

Let’s start with the good.

The GOOD

From the second you start using Nomad, you can instantly see it’s better designed and more user-friendly than other eSIM competitors.

There also seems to be just an overall more variety of eSIM options for each country.

Keep in mind, all countries are different. But during my research, I noticed Nomad eSIMs had the most variety and cheapest options for North America, Europe, and Asia destinations. 

I also noticed that in some countries, you can choose plans based on the local cell provider (and in some cases, they offer eSIMs with multiple providers). 

screenshot of nomad esim carrier options
Here are just a few of several options for Spain eSIMs.

So if you know that one carrier has stronger coverage in the area you’ll be traveling in, you can specifically choose a plan with that carrier. 

Again, many other eSIM companies don’t give you this level of flexibility. 

Lastly, they seem to offer a wider range of plan lengths than some competitors (again, country-dependent). This can end up saving you money. 

For example, when I signed up for my Thailand Nomad eSIM, I saw they had plans lasting 1-, 3-, 5-, 7-, 8-, 10-, and 30-days (and 45- and 60- days on their APAC regional plan). 

The more options you have, the easier it is to buy exactly what you need and not pay for days you won’t use.

For comparison’s sake, one of their top competitors only offers a 10-day and 15-day plan in Thailand. That means if you’re only passing through for a quick 7-day trip, for example, you’d have to pay for a bigger plan and let three days go to waste.

Ok, but how did the service actually work?

It worked almost perfectly. (I’ll explain the “almost” in a sec).

My connection fired up as soon as I activated the eSIM. There were no glitches forcing me to toggle airplane mode or restart my phone, which happens sometimes with other eSIMs.

I’ve been using my plan every day for Google Maps, watching Youtube videos, and I’ve spent a lot of time tethered to my laptop for work because our apartment doesn’t have wifi. 

Last night I even watched a movie via my laptop using the eSIM as a hotspot. (I know, I know…our TV is as old as dirt.)

Apart from that, it was a really nice touch that I received a phone notification and email when I had 20% of my data left. 

These top-up reminders help you avoid unexpectedly running out of data when you’re out in the middle of nowhere and need it the most. 

The BAD

I told you up front that I’m not one to sugar coat things. 

And while my experience with Nomad has been practically all positive so far, there is one thing to note. 

Sometimes my data slows down for a couple minutes at a time. 

For example, the other day I was walking outside my apartment building in the middle of Chiang Mai, Thailand (where I usually have full 4G), and my video call started losing connection.

I ended the call, switched airplane mode on and off, and it started working again.

HOWEVER, I’ve noticed something interesting…

This doesn’t seem to be an issue specific to Nomad eSIMs.

How do I know?

Well, because my wife is testing an eSIM from a different company (yeah, we’re eSIM nerds), and she is experiencing the exact same thing. 

Her eSIM is also using a different network, so it appears like the local carriers are the problem in this case, not Nomad.

Overall, these hiccups haven’t been a big deal, and I only notice them for a minute or two per day. 

One other thing I want to mention.

In some countries, Nomad offers the cheapest eSIM option compared to popular competitors. In other countries, it’s not the cheapest option. 

Like I mentioned earlier, Nomad seems to have great deals in North America, Europe, and Asia. But when I searched for Colombia, for example, the prices weren’t very competitive. 

There’s nothing wrong with pinching your pennies, but keep in mind that sometimes saving a few bucks isn’t worth the time and hassle it takes to figure out how to set up an eSIM with a different company. 

Once you find a company you like, I recommend sticking with them — whether that be Nomad or otherwise. 

It just makes life easier. 

(Speaking as a psycho with eSIMs from 5 different companies currently loaded onto my phone).

Nomad has the slickest app and set-up process that I’ve tested so far. So if easy setup, modern interface, and competitive prices are important to you, you’ll be happy with this option.

How long before your trip should you buy a Nomad eSIM?

When I was setting up my eSIM, I got a message saying I should install it immediately and activate it within 30 days or it will activate automatically.

That means you can buy your eSIM within a month of traveling, install it on your phone, then just activate it right before you leave (or right when you arrive). 

This is kinda handy — one less thing to remember at the last second when you’re scrambling to get ready.

So, if you’re less than 30 days out and wanna knock it off your to-do list while it’s fresh in your mind, don’t forget to use this link and the code UNTETHER for a free credit. 

Hope you found this helpful — happy travels!

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).

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