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India has banned my eSim app – how can I roam on my trip?

Woman tourist texting in India
Our expert advises how to use local sims to avoid large roaming charges - Getty/iStock

Gill Charlton has been fighting for Telegraph readers and solving their travel problems for more than 30 years, winning refunds, righting wrongs and suggesting solutions. 

Here is this week’s question:

Dear Gill,

We are travelling to India next week. We’ve discovered from previous visits that WhatsApp is essential when travelling around as a tourist: drivers, hotels and guides all want to communicate with visitors this way. We are worried because a friend who’s already there says that he can’t download the Holafly eSim, which we’ve always relied on to get affordable local data roaming.

Of course, we could switch on roaming – but our operator, O2, charges astronomical fees in India: data is £7.20 a megabyte and I know, from experience, that you can swallow that up in a few minutes online. Please can you let us know why this issue has arisen and whether there’s any other way of accessing a local data package during our forthcoming trip?

– Alan Bond

Dear Alan,

Apparently, the Indian government discovered that apps like Holafly and Airalo were being used by fraudsters to obtain unauthorised eSims with international phone numbers, and using them to commit cybercrimes. They insisted that Apple and Google take down access to the apps in India, which they have done.

You have a couple of options if you have an “unlocked” phone. You can buy a physical Sim card from any branch of Airtel in India if you show your passport, or buy an eSim data package. I know of two providers which offer these: Singapore-based Nomad (getnomad.app) and Canada-based aloSIM (alosim.com). But first check that your mobile will support these apps, as older models (before iPhone 11, for example) may not.

My understanding is that while the banned apps provided an eSim attached to a specific international phone number, these apps are data-only and hence allowed by the authorities.

I downloaded a data package using Nomad and it was simplicity itself, with very clear instructions for installing the QR code needed to access the data package and activate the connection.

A spokeswoman for aloSIM says it’s best to install a travel eSim at home, as it requires a good strong internet connection for several minutes to complete the set up. You can activate it once you’ve arrived at your destination.

Nomad and aloSIM offer a wide variety of data packages in over 170 countries, and the savings are considerable. A 5GB package should be sufficient if you’re using data for mapping, WhatsApp, email, checking tourist websites and reading The Telegraph online. It costs US$12-$15 (£9.50-£12) for 30 days in most countries including India, Turkey, South Africa and Japan – all expensive places if using your network provider’s data roaming. Some countries cost a little more: a similar 5GB data package for the US, Mexico or Kenya comes in at around £25.


Your travel problems solved

Gill takes on a different case each week – so please send your problems to her for consideration at asktheexperts@telegraph.co.uk. Please give your full name and, if your dispute is with a travel company, your address, telephone number and any booking reference. Gill can’t answer every question, but she will help where she can and all emails are acknowledged.

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