Where to Find a SIM Card at Glasgow airport, and Which One to Get
I wrote this guide based on my experience and research to help anyone arriving via Glasgow airport for a short UK visit figure out where to get a SIM card, and which one is useful. Looking for a SIM card when arriving at an airport can be confusing. If you can even find a shop then it’s still a decision to make on which one to buy. I understand what this is like, it happened to me when I first arrived in the UK.
There are two shops at Glasgow Airport that typically sell prepaid SIM cards:
|Shop||Location||SIM Cards Available|
4am - 9:15pm
|From international arrivals, to the right. The other outlet is near domestic arrivals||
WH Smith is the only shop at Glasgow Airport to sell prepaid SIM cards. There are two outlets in the arrivals area - one near international arrivals, and one near domestic arrivals.
Both stores are small and typically serve UK and EU passengers - not all SIM cards may be in stock all the time. Free Wi-Fi is available at the airport and on the Airport Express bus. I’ve included further details about this here.
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.
In Scotland and the UK, prepaid mobile phone plans are often referred to as pay as you go
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.
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 Glasgow 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).
Tesco Mobile is no longer available at Glasgow Airport (updated October, 2019)
Which SIM cards are available at Glasgow Airport?
Glasgow Airport should have SIM cards available from EE, Three, and Lebara, stock depending.
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 Glasgow and Edinburgh, I found all providers had excellent coverage. Coverage was also excellent on the train lines and motorways connecting Glasgow and Edinburgh.
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 Glasgow, I found:
- Stirling Castle, the castle’s position means that the most of it receives excellent coverage from all providers.
- Loch Lomond, EE has excellent coverage on and around the loch, Three’s coverage seems limited
- Dumbarton, 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 Glasgow city or at the airport?
Buying a SIM card at Glasgow Airport is the best option for short-term visitors, if stock is available. 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 Glasgow airport, the nearest is Tesco is at a service station in Paisley about 5 mins drive from the hire car collection point, open 24 hours. There is also a Tesco Superstore (more likely to sell SIM cards) in nearby Renfrew; this one is open 7am - 11pm.
If taking the bus to the city centre there are Tesco Express and Tesco Metro stores dotted around the city, such as near Glasgow Central Station. I’ve never been able to find a Tesco near the bus station itself, they’re always a bit of a walk.
Getting to the city centre to buy a SIM card
Glasgow airport is connected to the city centre by bus, taxi, and Uber. Hire car is also available.
Bus, it also has free Wi-Fi
Glasgow Airport Express bus service 500 runs 24 hours a day and has free Wi-Fi.
An EE store is located the Buchanan Galleries, near the Buchanan Bus station (the terminus for all airport express buses).
Uber and ride-share, using the airport Wi-Fi to book
Uber appears to be available at Glasgow 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 Glasgow myself (I usually walked around or took a train).
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.
Taxis in Glasgow do not have Wi-Fi.
Do I need ID to buy a SIM card at Glasgow Airport?
Identification is not currently required to buy a SIM card at Glasgow Airport, Scotland, or anywhere in the UK.
Yes, free Wi-Fi is available at Glasgow Airport5.
Connect to the
Glasgow Airport Wi-Fi network. Open up a web browser, and it will prompt for information to make an account.
The first hour of Wi-Fi is free, then it will ask for £5 for the next three hours.
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.