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As a travel photographer who needs Internet access to run my business, I can’t rely on slow Wifi connections or no signal when traveling round Funchal trying to photograph the old town or the Eucalyptus forests and waterfalls in central Madeira on one of the PR hikes, and that’s where eSIMs come in.
You could use your home SIM card and network and roam internationally of course, but this usually costs an absolute fortune, and I definitely do not like spending more money than I have to!
So when I was last in Madeira, I scouted out the actual best eSIMs that would be reliable, fast and wouldn’t throttle my data or kick me off if I hit some arbitrary cap.
So that you don’t have to go through these same hours of research, my quick recommendations for eSIMs in Madeira that you can set up in seconds are below.
The best value for money is the Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM, while AloSIM is top for 5G connections. Nomad have a fantastic Europe-wide eSIM offer for anyone wanting 20 GB in 30 days, and Holafly offer unlimited data plus 60 minutes of calls.
If you want to know why I’ve recommended each eSIM, then full details on each of them are below, as well as info on why I would not recommend a local eSIM from one of the Portuguese national operators.
Quick eSIM Picks for Madeira
I’ll cover the differences between the performance of each eSIM in detail further on in this article, but if you just want a quick top pick, then choose one of these three depending on the length of your trip and your expected data use.
My Top 3 eSIMs for Madeira are:
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM is the best value for money if you’re happy with 4G. They have options ranging from 1GB to 30GB of data and validities from 7 to 30 days, and use NOS for 4G, the fastest overall network in Portugal. Their 5G Meo eSIM is the best value eSIM in Madeira.
- AloSIM eSIMs use the NOS 5G network, which has the best coverage in Madeira and the most consistent experience, and they have the cheapest 5G eSIMs.
- Holafly eSIMs offer unlimited data, plus 60 minutes of calls from 5 to 90 days validity, and offer a Europe-wide eSIM for the same price.
Any of these can be an excellent choice, but I would personally recommend Airalo for price and speed. It’s very easy to set up with their app, as well as being the best value option out there.
You don’t need ID or any KYC checks for these eSIMs, so you can use them immediately after purchase if you need to.
Contrast this with physical SIMs, where you need to provide proof of identity to buy them.
eSIMS for Madeira Only
There are also a few other options of eSIMs which make sense for Funchal, Ponta do Sol and Madeira as a whole, which are included in the tables below for completeness.
The main Portuguese telecoms networks for eSIMs are MEO, NOS and Vodafone, and you can get 5G from all three in Madeira in Funchal and along the populated areas of the south coast.
Nomad is not a very good option in Madeira, unless you only want a few GB of data and have a much longer trip.
|eSIMs for Madeira||Validity||Data Usage||4G/5G?||Coverage||Includes Calls/Texts?||Check Price|
|Airalo Fofo Mobil||7 days – 30 days||1GB – 20GB||4G||Portugal Only||No|
*Best eSIM for Madeira*
|15 days||30GB||5G||Portugal Only||No|
|AloSIM||7 days – 30 days||1GB – 20GB||5G||Portugal Only||No|
|Holafly||5 days – 90 days||Unlimited||4G/5G||Portugal Only||60 mins calls included|
|Nomad||7 days or 30 days||1GB – 20GB||4G||Portugal Only||No|
eSIMs for Europe
If you are traveling to other countries in Europe or around the Med on your trip, then consider the regional eSIMs like the Eurolink from Airalo, which let you use your eSIM for the duration of your trip, for a slightly higher price.
Nomad offer the best value for a European eSIM, although they have 4 countries less than Airalo on this regional 35 country eSIM – missing Albania, Andorra, Montenegro and Serbia.
|eSIMs for Europe & Mediterranean||Validity||Data Usage||4G/5G?||Coverage||Includes Calls/Texts?||Check Price|
|Airalo Eurolink||7 days – 180 days||1GB – 100GB||4G/5G||39 countries||No|
*Best European eSIM*
|7 days or 30 days||1GB – 20GB||4G/5G||35 countries||No|
|Holafly Europe||5 – 90 days||Unlimited||4G/5G||30 countries||60 minutes calls|
|AloSIM Western Europe / Europe||7 days or 30 days||1GB – 10GB||4G/5G||4 or 32 countries||No|
Global eSIMs and Including Calls/Texts
For those on longer multi-country trips, then choose a global eSIM like the Discover from Airalo, which covers 130 countries.
Nomad also offer global plans, but these tend to be very bad value for money compared with the ones below, so I won’t cover them here.
|Global eSIMs||Validity||Data Usage||4G/5G?||Coverage||Includes Calls/Texts?||Check Price|
|Airalo Discover||7 days – 365 days||1GB – 20GB||4G/5G||130 Countries||No|
|Airalo Discover+||7 days – 365 days||1GB – 20GB||4G/5G||130 Countries||10min/SMS – 200min/SMS|
|AIS eSIM2FLY Global||15 days||6GB||4G/5G||120+ Countries||No|
Should You Get Calls/Texts eSIMs?
In general, eSIMs only offer data and not calls and texts.
In practise this is not a problem, as you can still use WhatsApp with an eSIM. You may need to receive a code by text to your existing number to confirm your identity with your new eSIM, but either way you will be using WhatsApp within seconds without any problems.
You should also be able to keep using Uber and the like, as you keep your existing physical SIM card active, meaning that you keep your current phone number and can still receive texts to it for ID confirmation.
Even if you do need to call a business, most now offer WhatsApp calling, and of course you can still use it to connect with friends and family.
If you do have a definite need for calls and texts, then you should look at the Discover+ from Airalo which you can set up prior to leaving for your trip, or a local SIM card when you get to your destination, but the latter adds a lot more hassle.
How Easy Is It To Use An eSIM?
First, you will need to make sure your phone is not locked to a carrier. If you got your phone at a reduced price under a monthly contract, then your phone may well be locked. You can usually request a code to unlock it from your carrier at the end of your contract.
If you bought your phone without a SIM or use a pre-paid card, then it is almost certainly already unlocked.
You can also check if your phone is compatible from Settings on Android or iOS.
Once you know that your phone is compatible, it’s as simple as scanning a QR code from your eSIM operator, or do it all through the app for providers like Airalo.
You will then be able to set your eSIM up in seconds once you have made your purchase.
Local eSIMs from Portuguese Operators
eSIM companies do not own their mobile networks – they instead piggyback on local providers.
The potential problem with this is that some local providers will prioritize their customers in times of high traffic load, meaning that eSIM customers (and anyone internationally roaming) could suffer from slower speeds.
But there’s another variable to take into account – local provider’s pre-paid customers.
Because the local providers will make more money from contract customers than from pre-paid, pre-paid customers get pushed to the bottom of the pile, and it’s them that get deprioritized first during high network traffic.
This means that an eSIM from someone like Airalo can actually offer faster data speeds than pre-paid eSIMs from local operators.
The other advantage of eSIMs is that you can set them up in seconds, usually using the provider’s app, and you don’t need to wait until you are in the country in question to do this.
Buying a local SIM often has you jumping through bureaucratic hoops, queueing in shops and getting worse deals than locals purely because you are buying the SIM in the airport.
Personally, after a long flight that’s the last thing I want to do.
In Madeira, you need to provide proof of identity and fill in a form to get a physical SIM, so eSIMs are by far the better option.
Now, let’s get into it and see exactly why I recommend these particular eSIMS.
Airalo eSIMs for Madeira (Fastest Speeds)
Airalo are one of the most highly regarded global eSIM operators, as not only are they often the cheapest and best value for money for short trips, but they also almost always offer 5G network speeds if they are available in the country in question.
They use local provider networks, but unlike other similarly priced subscribers, Airalo seems to choose the fastest of these networks.
In Madeira, they use NOS for their 4G connection, who have the fastest overall experience and also offer a single 5G eSIM using MEO, who have the fastest 5G download speeds and which is exceptionally good value for money. Just be sure you are happy with their more limited 5G coverage before buying.
Airalo has seven plans depending on your trip length and data usage:
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM 1 GB in 7 days – 4G
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM 2 GB in 15 days – 4G
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM 3 GB in 30 days – 4G
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM 5 GB in 30 days – 4G
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM 10 GB in 30 days – 4G
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM 20 GB in 30 days – 4G
- Airalo MEO eSIM 30 GB in 15 days – 5G – best value 5G eSIM in Maderia
The 4G plans from Airalo are priced pretty much the same as the AloSIM 5G eSIMs, so AloSIM are better value for money in this case.
You can buy the plan now and set it up using the Airalo app in seconds without affecting the validity. The timer only starts when your eSIM connects to any one of the supported networks, meaning that it will start as soon as you get in-country.
You can also easily top-up your data if it’s running out from the Airalo dashboard, so you can buy a lower capacity card then upgrade if you’re not too sure how much data you’ll be using.
If you are only looking for the cheapest eSIM for Madeira, then it’s the 1GB Airalo, but their offers are not that compelling if you are looking for higher data usage.
If you are travelling outside of Madeira, then you should consider the Eurolink eSIMs, which cover 39 countries across Europe for a slight price increase over the single country cards.
Eurolink offers are:
- Airalo Eurolink eSIM 1 GB in 7 days
- Airalo Eurolink eSIM 3 GB in 30 days
- Airalo Eurolink eSIM 5 GB in 30 days
- Airalo Eurolink eSIM 10 GB in 30 days
- Airalo Eurolink eSIM 50 GB in 90 days
- Airalo Eurolink eSIM 100 GB in 180 days
As with the Fofo/MEO eSIMs, the validity period starts when you first connect to one of the supported networks, which include a range of 5G and 4G networks depending on country.
Airalo Eurolink eSIMs cover all countries geographically in Europe EXCEPT:
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- (North) Macedonia
- Monaco (but you often can connect to French networks here)
- San Marino (but you often can connect to Italian networks here)
Given that these are only a few dollars more than the Fofo Mobil eSIMs at the lower data levels, it’s a no-brainer if you are visiting more than one country and is much cheaper than buying separate eSIMs for each.
For completeness, there’s also Airalo Discover and Discover+ cards that offer global coverage (130 countries) with much longer validity periods. These are the best global eSIMs out there if you want long validity and don’t use too much data.
The Discover eSIM offers only data, while the Discover+ adds calls and texts into the mix, using a +43 (Austrian) phone number (which can be used to call any other country code).
The Airalo Discover and Discover+ offers are:
- Airalo Discover eSIM 1 GB in 7 days and Discover+ adding 10 mins + texts.
- Airalo Discover eSIM 2 GB in 15 days and Discover+ adding 20 mins + texts.
- Airalo Discover eSIM 3 GB in 30 days and Discover+ adding 30 mins + texts.
- Airalo Discover eSIM 5 GB in 60 days and Discover+ adding 50 mins + texts.
- Airalo Discover eSIM 10 GB in 180 days and Discover+ adding 100 mins + texts.
- Airalo Discover eSIM 20 GB in 365 days and Discover+ adding 200 mins + texts.
I’m not sure how useful a global eSIM lasting 7 days is, but if you have access to a private jet then you might find it useful!
There’s a variety of 5G and 4G/LTE networks used by the Discover eSIMS. You can check which networks each country uses by following this link, then clicking the Buy Now button for one of the eSIMs and then Check Available Networks as in the screenshot below.
AloSIM eSIMs for Madeira (Cheapest 5G)
AloSIM offers very similar prices to Airalo, but can sometimes offer deals taking them below Airalo’s prices, so are always worth checking.
They’re also a little more fiddly to set up because you have to change your APN (Access Point Name) for the eSIM, otherwise it won’t work.
AloSIM use NOS at 5G, even at their lowest levels, which has the best coverage in Madeira, with all the most populated parts of the island covered.
In Funchal, coverage is very similar to Airalo’s MEO connection, but in Punta do Sol and surrounding areas, NOS has much better availability.
AloSIM packages are:
- AloSIM Portugal eSIM 1 GB in 7 days
- AloSIM Portugal eSIM 2 GB in 15 days
- AloSIM Portugal eSIM 3 GB in 30 days
- AloSIM Portugal eSIM 5 GB in 30 days
- AloSIM Portugal eSIM 10 GB in 30 days
- AloSIM Portugal eSIM 20 GB in 30 days
These 5G eSIMs are highly recommended if you only want a few GB of data and have a phone that can benefit from 5G.
They also offer regional eSIMs for 32 countries in Europe.
- AloSIM Europe eSIM 1 GB for 7 days
- AloSIM Europe eSIM 2 GB for 15 days
- AloSIM Europe eSIM 3 GB for 30 days
- AloSIM Europe eSIM 5 GB for 30 days
- AloSIM Europe eSIM 10 GB for 30 days
These are comparable in prices to Airalo, but offer fewer countries (32 vs 39). The countries that Airalo offers that AloSIM does not are:
- Andorra (although you should be able to get Spanish and French networks here)
So if you are wanting a European eSIM for the above, then look at Airalo, not AloSIM.
The one area where AloSIM might be good for you though, is in their 4 country Western Europe eSIM.
This covers Spain, Portugal, France and Italy, for a much cheaper price than the Europe-wide eSIM, and with 5G from NOS in Portugal.
The Western Europe plan has:
- AloSIM Western Europe eSIM 1 GB in 7 days
- AloSIM Western Europe eSIM 3 GB in 30 days
- AloSIM Western Europe eSIM 5 GB in 30 days
- AloSIM Western Europe eSIM 10 GB in 30 days – excellent value for money.
Nomad eSIMs for Madeira (Excellent Europe-Wide Offer)
Nomad targets those travelers who want long validity on their eSIMs but are willing to take a smaller data cap for a lower price.
As the name might suggest, they’re aimed more at longer term travelers than those only away from home for a week, but if you do have a longer trip lasting up to 30 days in Europe, then Nomad are the best value for money.
Nomad uses a variety of networks, with some eSIMs Vodafone only, and a few using multiple carriers in Madeira. The multi-carrier cards are best if you’re going off the beaten track following the PR hikes in the Madeiran interior, but any should be fine for Funchal and the south coast towns.
Generally speaking, these are not very good value for Madeira, but they’re worth checking in case they are running one of their frequent sales.
Nomad eSIMs include:
- Nomad Portugal eSIM 1 GB in 7 days – two versions.
- Nomad Portugal eSIM 3 GB in 30 days – two versions.
- Nomad Portugal eSIM 5 GB in 30 days – two versions.
- Nomad Portugal eSIM 10 GB in 30 days – two versions.
- Nomad Portugal eSIM 15 GB in 30 days
- Nomad Portugal eSIM 20 GB in 30 days – two versions.
You should note that Nomad eSIMs must be activated within 30 days of purchase. If they are not activated by the 30 day mark, then their validity will start to count down even if you haven’t activated it yet.
So, as long as you don’t buy it more than 4 weeks ahead of your trip, you’re fine.
The real value for Nomad eSIMs comes from their European plan though.
They have a 30 country plan on 4G/LTE, or a slightly more expensive 35 country plan on 5G/4G which also offers access to different mobile networks in each country.
Nomad’s 30 country plan misses out the following which are included in the 35 country plan:
- Aland Islands
Nomad’s 5GB, 10GB and 20GB Europe plans are the best value European-wide eSIMs out there.
The 35 country plan includes:
- Nomad Europe eSIM 1 GB in 7 days – same price as Airalo.
- Nomad Europe eSIM 3 GB in 30 days – same price as Airalo.
- Nomad Europe eSIM 5 GB in 30 days
- Nomad Europe eSIM 10 GB in 30 days
- Nomad Europe eSIM 20 GB in 30 days– best value European eSIM.
This 35 country plan is the same as the 39 country plan from Airalo, except Nomad misses:
Holafly eSIMs for Madeira (Unlimited Data + Calls)
Holafly are my go-to operator if you use a ton of data, as they offer unlimited data on all eSIMs (with some caveats).
Some users have reported throttling of connection speed after using a few GB of data in a short space of time, and it is likely that there is some upper limit given the relatively low cost, but there is no official word on this, other than “the carrier may reserve the right to apply a Fair Usage Policy” in their terms and conditions.
For normal usage (if you’re not streaming 4K movies all day), then you are unlikely to be throttled.
As Holafly are the only operator with unlimited data, they are my first choice for longer trips or where I know that I will need lots of data.
They use Vodafone, NOS and MEO in 4G/LTE mode and 5G when available.
In Madeira, they also give you 60 minutes of making and receiving calls with each eSIM. This is a fixed 60 minutes per eSIM and doesn’t increase for the higher numbers of days cards.
It comes with a +43 Austrian phone number, but this can be used to receive calls from anywhere in the world, and make calls to most of Europe, excluding the UK, Ukraine, Switzerland, Turkey, Iceland and Norway.
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 5 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 7 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 10 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 15 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 20 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 30 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 60 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Portugal eSIM unlimited GB in 90 days with 60 minutes calls
Holafly also offer a Europe-wide eSIM that is the same price as their Portugal-only eSIM, making this the best eSIM for unlimited data in Europe.
The plans are:
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 5 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 7 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 10 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 15 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 20 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 30 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 60 days with 60 minutes calls
- Holafly Europe eSIM unlimited GB in 90 days with 60 minutes calls
The 30 countries included with this plan are every EU country plus Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Ukraine and the UK.
Remember that you can’t extend your Holafly eSIM, so you’re better to buy a plan that offers longer coverage than you need rather than less, as otherwise you will have to buy another eSIM from them to cover your trip.
AIS Global eSIM (Great for 2-Week Trips)
Although a global eSIM rather than a specific location eSIM, AIS offers the best value for money option for medium data use over two weeks.
They only have one eSIM suitable for Madeira, which is the 6GB for 15 days global eSIM.
I only include it here because AIS offers the most 5G networks of any global SIM, so if you are on a two week trip to even a couple of different countries, the extra 5G capabilities of the AIS card can make it worthwhile.
The Best eSIM for Madeira: Conclusion
In my opinion, the best eSIMs for Madeira are those from Airalo, as they give you the lowest price and most flexibility with topups possible, which is unbeatable in the current climate.
AloSIM offer the cheapest 5G, but this is only limited to built-up areas in Madeira.
Holafly are my next choice if you want unlimited data and need access to calls, plus they are fantastic for Europe-wide trips.
Nomad are best for European trips if you are not visiting the Balkans, with fantastic value for money on their 30 day / 20 GB Europe-wide eSIM.
My Top 3 eSIMs for Madeira are:
- Airalo Fofo Mobil eSIM is the best value for money if you’re happy with 4G. They have options ranging from 1GB to 30GB of data and validities from 7 to 30 days, and use NOS for 4G, the fastest overall network in Portugal. Their 5G eSIM is the best value eSIM in Madeira.
- AloSIM eSIMs use the NOS 5G network, which has the best coverage in Madeira and the most consistent experience, and they have the cheapest 5G eSIMs.
- Holafly eSIMs offer unlimited data, plus 60 minutes of calls from 5 to 30 days validity, and offer a Europe-wide eSIM for the same price.