Scotland SIM card for tourists [2024]: tips for the best to buy and how to use

When planning a trip to Scotland you’ll want to make sure your mobile phone is all set up to see you through your time there. But will you need a new one before you get there and if so, which is best?

This article will help you go through the options for traveling through Scotland and hopefully get it all clear in your head whether you’re super organised and are thinking about this well before you travel or you’ve left it a bit late and need to sort it on arrival.

Read on for my tips to keep yourself connected on your trip to Scotland!

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Not got time to read the article? I recommend GiffGaff for a sim card – you can buy from Amazon and set it up for when you arrive in Scotland.

A note from the writer: Hey! I’m Kirsty and I’m a UK travel expert – while I grew up in Scotland, as an adult I now return to visit almost every year – there’s so much to see! Shout (or comment below) if you have any questions about your next trip and I’ll get back to you ASAP.

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Scotland sim card
If you want to stay in touch in Scotland you’ll want to make sure your phone, and sim, is ready.

What is a SIM card and do you need one for Scotland?

The SIM card is the small piece that sits inside your phone and contains information which connects your phone to the local networks.

While your phone, with your home country’s SIM, should work in Scotland when you get here it can be an expensive way to call, message and access the internet.

If you’re not careful you may return home to a very expensive phone bill!

And that’s if your usual company will work at all – if you’ve forgotten to let them know you’re abroad then you might find the whole thing doesn’t work. Ask me how I know! (we found out at the start of 3 months out of the country – fun!)

It’s often a good idea to get a specific SIM card for the country you’re planning to visit – it’s the best value and you can be sure it will work there.

If you’re planning to explore more of the UK you’ll also be pleased to know that this Scotland sim card recommendation will also work fine in London, the rest of England and Wales too.

Best SIM card for Scotland

When figuring out the best SIM card for Scotland you want to make sure you’re using a network that is well known in the UK.

  • Vodafone
  • Three
  • O2
  • EE

Some SIM cards will use the network of these bigger companies so you can get the benefits of the reliability with a cheaper cost. For example GiffGaff uses the o2 network.

If you can get a SIM in advance, and I recommend doing so, I suggest the GiffGaff sim card. I’ve been a customer of this company and found them easy to use and inexpensive for a decent amount of data and calls.

  • uses the o2 network and has good coverage
  • you can top up or buy ‘goodybags’
  • goodybags will give you a set amount of data for a period of time PLUS calls and messages.
  • Downside – online company so if you need any help there aren’t any physical shops.

Tip – some sim cards will have a great headline rate of data that you can use but will not have any call and text allowance. Be aware of what you’ll want with your phone when in Scotland.

About e-sims – You might have heard about e-sims, which are fairly new, and wondering if they would work in Scotland. E-sims are an electronic way of using a different sim in your phone without needing to have that physical SIM card.

We’ve recently had to use an e-sim for our phone when we travelled in the USA and found the experience to be quite easy and it worked well for us as a back up (especially because I thought our phones would work over there and then they didn’t!). It’s perfect if you’ve left it too late to buy one or are having issues with your data provider.

One positive about an e-sim is that you can use it at the same time as your original SIM card so you don’t need to have one or other. You do need a compatible phone though but most recent ones will use them

Check them out here they are a little technical but there are instructions to use them and now I have some experience I’m not hesitant to recommend them!

How much does a SIM card cost in Scotland?

Sim cards can be bought for around £5 for the base card when you’re in Scotland. Then you’ll need to top up the card to use as a ‘Pay as you go’ (PAYG) or buy a bundle that will give you some data and calls to use.

You can also pay less than $5 for the GiffGaff sim from Amazon to be shipped to you in advance. (You can also get it direct from GiffGaff itself but the time it take to be delivered can be unreliable)

What size SIM card

You might be wondering which size SIM card you’ll need for Scotland. Each phone handset is slightly different with some taking a standard, micro or nano size.

Most SIMs are able to be used in all phones regardless of the size that you need since they ‘push out’ from their plastic surroundings in different sizes.

How to set up a sim card

Each company you use will have different ways to set up your sim. Most will automatically text you instructions as soon as you add in the sim card to your phone. Or you might need to follow the instructions given when you purchase it.

Sometimes you’ll need to register online – if this is the case it’s definitely worth doing in advance.

You may need a paper clip or little tool to access your sim card slot – don’t forget this and make sure you bring one when you’re packing for Scotland.

You’ll have a different phone number when you insert the sim so be sure to let anyone who may ring you have your new number or remember to use messaging apps instead while abroad.

Why you should buy a SIM before your trip to Scotland

You might be wondering if it’s worth trying to get your sim before you arrive in Scotland. I say ‘YES’ if you can!

I love to have as little admin stuff to do as possible when I arrive in a new country so having to find sims, set them up and find a good deal as well doesn’t appeal to me!

I like to know what I’m doing in advance!

If you’re like me and want to know that you’re connected as soon as you land in Scotland, and knowing how much it will cost you, then getting the card in advance is so worth it.

Where to get a prepaid card when in Scotland

If you’ve left it too late to get your SIM before you arrive then you’ll need to find somewhere to pick one up.

If you’re arriving at Edinburgh airport, then look out for a chain of shops called WHSmith. It’s a newsagent which sells newspapers, books, snacks and sim cards!

You should be able to pick up a SIM for any of the bigger networks here – they’ll have different offers so you’ll need to figure out what is best for you and your time there.

Sometimes there’ll be a charge for the sim card itself and then you’ll need to top up to be able to use it. Sometimes there will be an offer for free credit – it all depends which one you choose.

Outside of the airports in Scotland you should also be able to pick up SIM cards at specific mobile phone shops (some owned by the phone networks and some selling all of them) small newsagent type shops and at supermarkets.

phone in scotland
Old fashioned telephone boxes might be needed if signal is bad in rural areas

Will my phone work in Scotland?

Most phone networks will work in Scotland although do be aware that if you’re heading to any of Scotland’s islands or deep into the Highlands that the signal may not be very good.

It’s important to check with your provider before you travel if you’re wanting to use your existing plan.

You’ll want to make sure that:

  • they are aware that you’ll be abroad so they don’t block your phone
  • you know the costs of using your existing plan abroad

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🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿 Scotland Travel FAQ 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁳󠁣󠁴󠁿

Do I need insurance for traveling to Scotland?

YES! I always recommend people take travel insurance when exploring the world!

Check Travel Insurance Master for quote comparisons from different providers.

Do I need a car for visiting Scotland?

YES – If you’re wanting to explore Scotland fully then a car is worthwhile. It will get you to all the best sights and on your own timetable

I recommend DiscoverCars to compare car rental prices in Scotland

How to book accommodation in Scotland?

For hotels I recommend

For apartments and cottages check out VRBO

Will my phone work in Scotland?

Perhaps – it depends if you have roaming enabled and beware this can be an expensive way to use your phone.

If you need a SIM for use in Scotland I recommend GiffGaff which you can get and set up before traveling.

What to pack for Scotland

Keep yourself dry be prepared for any weather is my motto for Scotland! A rain jacket and comfy shoes are a must.

See my post about what to pack for Scotland

Do I need midge spray for Scotland?

YES – if you’re traveling in the summer months to any of the west coast, highlands, islands or lochs it’s recommended.

Locals swear by Avon’s Skin So Soft!

If you’re sticking to the cities or traveling in winter, early spring or late fall then you likely won’t need it.

What’s the best guidebook for Scotland?

I really like the Lonely Planet Guidebooks

Where to get flights for Scotland

Skyscanner is my first port of call for finding cheap flights to Scotland.

Do I need a visa for Scotland?

Many countries don’t need a visa for visiting Scotland as tourists (USA, Canada, Aus, NZ and Europe) – it’s always best to check first though.

Photo of author

Kirsty Bartholomew

Kirsty Bartholomew is a travel expert and has been getting lost around the world for over 30 years and writing about it for over 10 of those. She loves to help people explore her favourite places in Scotland, England and beyond. She cannot stay away from historical sites.

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