Where to Find a SIM Card at Edinburgh Airport, and Which One to Get
To locate a SIM card, and to figure out which one to buy, this guide intends to help the last minute traveller arriving at Edinburgh airport. I understand the confusion of landing in a new city and not knowing where to buy a SIM card or which one to get.
Hopefully by sharing my experience and research from the time I spent in Scotland and the UK, I can help others avoid the same confusion.
There are two shops at Edinburgh Airport that sell prepaid SIM cards:
|Shop||Location||SIM Cards Available|
4:15am - 8:45pm
(closes at 8pm on Sat)
|Near the currency exchange (smaller store), or near domestic arrivals (larger store)||
WH Smith is the only shop at Edinburgh Airport to sell prepaid SIM cards. There is a small outlet near the main international arrivals area, near the currency exchange. A larger store can be found near the domestic arrivals.
Three options are available here for prepaid SIM cards, depending on stock:
Each SIM card starts at £20, and has a slightly more expensive option with more included calls and data.
My favourite is EE, starting from £201, based on my experience visiting and working in the UK. EE seemed to have better coverage consistently at every location I visited. Three and Lebara do offer slightly more calls and data than EE, however the allocations are already generous and I found myself rolling over unused data at the end of the first month anyway.
In Scotland and the UK, prepaid mobile phone plans are often referred to as pay as you go
The cheapest SIM cards for use in Scotland and the rest of the UK are not sold at the airport. If saving £5 per month is important, Tesco Mobile offers better value than the providers at Edinburgh airport. For hurried travellers such as myself, it is not worth the hassle (even when I ended up staying nearly 6 months in the UK).
Which SIM cards are available at Edinburgh Airport?
At Edinburgh Airport, SIM cards should be available from these providers:
I took a look at which of these SIM cards is better for:
- Data (it’s EE),
- Coverage (also EE), and
- Calling back home (Lebara)
All plans offer generous amounts of calls to UK phone numbers. I usually look for a plan with at least some local call minutes to make it easier when dealing with taxis, hotels, and restaurants.
EE (from £20) is my favourite overall because it was the only provider to consistently offer coverage at the office I was working in and in the towns near the office. This isn’t a common experience though, every provider offers excellent coverage in Edinburgh and surrounding areas and so most people won’t notice a difference.
For data: EE, from £20
The £20 plan with EE currently includes:
- 10GB of data
- 750 mins of calls to the UK
- EU roaming (as of October, 2019 pre-Brexit)
For £30, this doubles to 20GB of data1. Plans are valid for 30 days.
Data rolls over at the end of 30 days if the plan rolls over. I missed this once and lost all the data that had rolled over, however the monthly allocation is so generous I was never using that amount anyway.
I used this data to watch two hours per day of high definition Youtube videos (had to take the staff shuttle bus to the office), and never came close to using 10GB per month.
If this is not enough data, Three offers 12GB of data for the same £20, or 36GB for £27.502.
For coverage: EE
EE offered me better and more consistent coverage when I was travelling outside the major cities.
In Edinburgh and Glasgow, I found all providers had excellent coverage. Coverage was also excellent on the train lines and motorways connecting Edinburgh and Glasgow.
Coverage wasn’t great outside of these areas, including roads and train travel elsewhere in the UK. I was working in a new business park with a village nearby, this also didn’t have great coverage (except for EE, and a little with Vodafone).
For coverage around Edinburgh, I found:
- Arthur’s Seat, hilly terrain usually inhibits mobile phone coverage. Arthur’s Seat is so close to the city that coverage is very good with all providers.
- Fife, EE consistently provides coverage throughout the county, Three is good in the villages and along the roads and coast.
- Queensferry, excellent coverage from all providers.
For international calls: Lebara, from £20
Lebara is excellent for calling back home with international calls, this is their selling point. Even on their cheapest plan (£10, but not always available at the airport), Lebara include calls to many common destinations.
On the £20 plan3 (typically available at the airport), unlimited international calls are available to:
- Most of the EU
- Australia and New Zealand
- China, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand
- United States and Canada
Many more countries (41 at last count) are included in the unlimited international calls.
I don’t like Lebara for data or coverage, but it is hard to beat their unlimited international call inclusion.
Is it better to buy a SIM card in Edinburgh city or at the airport?
Buying a SIM card at Edinburgh Airport is the best option for short-term visitors. If travelling for short work trips (like me), or tourism, it’s hard to beat the value of the SIM cards available at the airport. Buying at the airport is also quick and convenient.
Leaving the airport to buy a SIM card opens up a few more options, my favourite of which is Tesco Mobile. There are many other SIM card choices in Scotland and the UK (I used to use Vodafone myself, but now switched to EE). While EE is my favourite overall provider for Scotland and the UK meaning I usually recommend picking it up at the airport, Tesco Mobile can offer good value for the short-term traveller.
Tesco Mobile can be a good choice for those leaving the airport before buying a SIM. It’s widely available at Tesco outlets, the SIM card itself doesn’t cost extra, and there can be good value in the cheaper top-ups. I still recommend EE overall, particularly given the convenience of being able to buy it at the airport.
The best benefit of leaving the airport is that the cheaper options for top-up become available (from all providers, including those sold at the airport). Each provider has a £10 plan which is not always available at the airport, but can be found in their stores.
Tesco Mobile, a good value option
For only £10, Tesco Mobile offers4:
- 4GB of data
- 500 mins of calls to UK phone numbers
- 5000 text messages
There is no additional SIM card fee if buying this from a Tesco shop.
Where to buy Tesco Mobile
Many Tesco stores, including Tesco Express and Tesco Metro (more typically found in city areas) sell the Tesco Mobile SIM card.
If driving from Edinburgh airport, the nearest is Tesco Express attached to the Royal Bank of Scotland building, about 5 mins drive from the airport. This store is intended for use by office staff however, and is only open Monday to Friday 7am to 7pm.
The next closest are Queensferry, if driving north; or Corstorphine if driving towards Edinburgh city. The Corstorphine store is open 24 hours, and is a 15 minute drive from the airport.
If taking the tram or bus to the city centre there are Tesco Express and Tesco Metro stores dotted around the city, such as near the Picardy Place roundabout.
Getting to the city centre to buy a SIM card
Edinburgh airport is connected to the city centre by bus, tram, taxi, Uber, and by hiring a car.
Free Wi-Fi is available while travelling to the city centre on Airlink buses, Skylink buses, and Edinburgh trams.
Bus (with free Wi-Fi)
Airlink buses all have free Wi-Fi. Airlink is the express bus service to the city centre.
Skylink buses also have free Wi-Fi. Skylink connects the airport to other parts of Edinburgh, and can be a slower route if going to the city centre.
All these buses use the 4G network to receive internet, and then transmit it to passengers accessing the Wi-Fi. Coverage for 4G is good between the airport and the city centre, though I don’t imagine it will work well if everyone was watching Youtube.
SIM card shops can be found along Princes Street, between South Charlotte Street and Castle Street. Three, Vodafone, and EE are in this area.
Tram (also with free Wi-Fi)
The Edinburgh Tram includes free Wi-Fi. Connect to
Free Tram Wi-Fi and accept the terms and conditions to get started. There is no need to create an account (unlike at the airport).
SIM card shops can be found along Princes Street, similar to the bus routes above. EE, Vodafone, and Three shops are around the Castle Street - South Charlotte Street area.
Uber and ride-share, using the airport Wi-Fi to book
Uber appears to be available at Edinburgh Airport, though there is no dedicated pick up area. This means it’s a long walk to a carpark to find an Uber. I couldn’t find helpful information on Uber’s website for this, and I’ve never used Uber in Edinburgh myself (I usually walk like a local, or take a bus or train if I’m going further).
I don’t like to use Uber when it isn’t available at the terminal. Airport Wi-Fi often doesn’t stretch to remote Uber pick up locations (and I don’t like walking there with my luggage). If there is a problem finding the driver, it can be awkward walking back to the terminal to get Wi-Fi again.
I assume Wi-Fi is not available once in the car.
Edinburgh’s City Cabs have free Wi-Fi available. Connect to
CityCabs1 and type in the password of
#2281211 (don’t worry, instructions are available in cab). For more details, check out their website: https://www.citycabs.co.uk/services/city-cabs-wifi/
Is Wi-Fi available at Edinburgh Airport?
Yes, free Wi-Fi is available at Edinburgh Airport5.
Connect to the
Edinburgh Airport Wi-Fi network. Open up a web browser, and it will prompt for log in. Having an account is required to use the Wi-Fi, and a new one can be made here.
Free Wi-Fi is restricted to 2 hours per account per day.
Do I need ID to buy a SIM card at Edinburgh Airport?
Identification is not currently required to buy a SIM card at Edinburgh Airport, Scotland, or anywhere in the UK.
Can I roam with my Scottish / UK SIM card to another country
Most EU member states have a roaming agreement that allows use of one SIM card throughout. Scotland is included in this agreement, and a UK SIM card can be used in much of Europe (at time of writing, pre-Brexit).
A Scottish/UK SIM card will work in Northern Ireland (e.g. Belfast) and the Republic of Ireland as well.
Roaming rates are not charged extra, and usually include access to the amount of data and calls already included on the plan (with some quirks).
Calls to UK numbers should be included, but calls to EU numbers are typically charged at international rates.
United States and Canada
EE is very poor value for roaming to the US or Canada. Calls are charged at very high rates and data packs are expensive, 100MB for £7 with 24 hour validity for example.
Tesco Mobile and Lebara do not appear to even offer data packs to destinations outside the EU, so their roaming options are even more expensive.
Vodafone offers the best roaming options I’ve found, but only if you have a pay monthly plan. These plans are still prepaid (I used to use one), but assume monthly billing rather than pay as you go. Costs for pay monthly with Vodafone are similar to EE - roughly £20 for generous calls and data - and can be used for roaming at an extra £6 per day. For travellers spending less than 2 months in Scotland or the UK, this probably isn’t going to be good value; buying a SIM card on arrival in Canada or the States will be easier.
If travelling to Canada, I’ve written similar guides on where to buy a SIM card in:
Written by Chris who travels frequently for work and understands what it can be like to arrive somewhere new and unfamiliar.
I wrote Landing Last Minute to help the hurried traveler get necessary information about any destination.