My boyfriend had been telling me for years that he wanted to show me around his home country, Hong Kong (and Indonesia), early on in our relationship.
And I thought that would be a great idea – being guided by a local.
That way, you can see the city-state from a different lens than as a regular tourist.
Unfortunately, the pandemic hit, and the city-state was closed off from the world.
Following its neighbor up north, it imposed a strict zero-COVID policy, so we had to postpone our plans for a while.
Until the country announced it would reopen (without quarantine requirements) in December 2022.
So in January 2023, we went to Hong Kong and stayed for two weeks.
And my boyfriend, and many repeat Phone Travel Wiz readers, know that I do not go to a country without testing its SIM cards and various travel eSIMs before I recommend them.
So I tested out eight travel eSIMs, including Airalo's Discover Global eSIM, four Hong Kong SIM cards & one travel SIM card to be used here.
This resulted in me spending about 2560 HKD (≈ 326.15 USD) for my Hong Kong SIM card and travel eSIM review series – yeah… I went all out for you 😎.
In many countries, getting a local SIM card will be the most cost-effective way to stay connected.
But in the same countries, getting a travel eSIM will be much more convenient because you do not have to deal with SIM card registration requirements (which can be stringent).
As of March 2022, SIM card registration rules came into effect in Hong Kong after avoiding it for many years, making the country the final East Asian country to do so.
So, is the Airalo Discover Global eSIM a good option for Hong Kong? Is it cheap compared to the local options and its travel eSIM competitors? How is its reception? And is it fast?
I will answer all those questions in this review. Let's do this.
Original publication: 29th of January 2023. Last updated: 19th of September 2023.
Table of Contents
Which Phones are Compatible with Airalo eSIMs?
Before discussing the Airalo Discover Global eSIM to be used in Hong Kong specifically, you must know whether your phone can even support Airalo's eSIMs.
Sure, your phone may support eSIM, but the local mobile operator and travel eSIM provider, like Airalo, first needs to certify a phone before the users can use their products.
As of August 2023, the phones shown in the infographic below are compatible with Airalo eSIMs:
With that out of the way, let's talk more about the Airalo Discover Global eSIM!
How Much Does the Airalo Discover Global eSIM Cost?
You can get the Discover Global eSIM for as little as 9 USD for 1 GB of data (7 days) up to 89 USD for 20 GB (180 days). The eSIM can be used in Hong Kong and 84+ other nations with five options: 1 GB/7 days, 2 GB/15 days, 3 GB/15 days, 5 GB/30 days, 10 GB/60 days & 20 GB/180 days).
Below is an overview of how much each Airalo Discover Global eSIM costs:
- Discover 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 9 USD
- Discover+ 1 GB (with 10 minutes and 10 SMS) eSIM for 7 days, costing 15 USD
- Discover 2 GB eSIM for 15 days, costing 17 USD
- Discover+ 2 GB (with 20 minutes and 20 SMS) eSIM for 15 days, costing 27 USD
- Discover 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 24 USD
- Discover+ 3 GB (with 30 minutes and 30 SMS) eSIM for 30 days, costing 36 USD
- Discover 5 GB eSIM for 60 days, costing 35 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Discover+ 5 GB (with 50 minutes and 50 SMS) eSIM for 60 days, costing 50 USD
- Discover 10 GB eSIM for 180 days, costing 59 USD
- Discover+ 10 GB (with 100 minutes and 100 SMS) eSIM for 180 days, costing 79 USD
- Discover 20 GB eSIM for 365 days, costing 69 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
- Discover+ 20 GB (with 200 minutes and 200 SMS) eSIM for 365 days, costing 89 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
Note: Phone Travel Wiz reader popularity ranking was updated in September based on data up to the 7th of September (2023 data only).
Regardless of the currency used in your country, Airalo will always charge you in USD (US Dollar).
If your credit/debit card charges you foreign exchange fees, get yourself a Wise Borderless Account and Debit Card.
Their fees are MUCH lower than banks and credit card companies charge you (and Wise is transparent about their fees, unlike banks).
I have saved literal THOUSANDS of Australian Dollars and Euros, my main currencies, when using Wise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards.
Moreover, regardless of which Airalo Discover Global eSIM you choose, you can always top it up for the same amount of data and prices as listed above.
For example, suppose you buy the 5 GB Airalo Discover Global eSIM (30 days, costing 35 USD) but realize you need more data.
You can top it up with the 3 GB top-up (15 days, costing 24 USD) or the 10 GB top-up (30 days, costing 59 USD).
Many eSIM providers out there do not allow you to top up or extend the validity of your eSIM, so it is cool that Airalo allows you to do so.
In Which Countries Can the Airalo Discover Global eSIM Be Used?
The Airalo Discover Global eSIM can be used in Hong Kong and 84+ other countries in all continents (so Africa, all of the Americas, Asia, Europe & Oceania).
Below is a complete overview of countries the Airalo Discover Global eSIM works in:
- Argentina 1
- Bosnia & Herzegovina
- Cyprus 1
- Czech Republic
- Dominican Republic 1
- Ecuador 1
- Georgia 1
- Hong Kong
- Iraq 1
- Israel 1
- Jersey 1
- Kuwait 1
- Liechtenstein 1
- Macau 1
- Malaysia 1
- Moldova 1
- New Zealand
- North Macedonia
- Panama 1
- Paraguay 1
- Peru 1
- Puerto Rico
- Saudi Arabia
- Singapore 2
- South Africa
- South Korea
- Sri Lanka 3
- Sudan 1
- Tajikistan 1
- Ukraine (new)
- United Kingdom
- United States
- U.S. Virgin Islands
1 on 3G only
2 currently, newly bought Discover Global eSIMs cannot be used in Singapore. Airalo is working on re-including Singapore in its Discover Global offering
3 select the Dialog Sri Lanka network for 4G/LTE access. If you choose/leave it on Hutch Sri Lanka instead, you will be restricted to 3G
In most cases, getting a regional eSIM (like the Airalo Asialink eSIM for Asia or the Airalo Eurolink eSIM for Europe) is more affordable than getting the Airalo Discover Global eSIM if you plan on visiting two or more countries in the same region.
My Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Hong Kong Experience
I used my Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon & New Territories.
As Hong Kong does not really have cities (in the sense of the Government of Hong Kong not using them for administrative purposes and only as geographical limits), I could not visit multiple ones.
Before we continue, I do want to let you know how travel eSIM providers like Airalo work.
It is impossible for Airalo, or any other mobile operator, to operate in every country (and do not trust any company saying otherwise), so they set up roaming agreements.
What Airalo does, and basically all (actual) mobile operators do, is partner up with a local mobile operator so that their customers can still stay connected when abroad.
In the case of Hong Kong, the Airalo Discover Global eSIM uses the CSL Mobile network with the help of FL1 from Liechtenstein (formerly Mobilkom Liechtenstein – so your phone, some apps, or sites you visit may claim you are using a FL1/Mobilkom Liech(ten)stein eSIM instead of an Airalo one – that is correct).
Note: in some countries, Airalo uses multiple local networks (which often applies to regional or global eSIMs, like the Airalo Asialink eSIM).
Just like how I tested the Airalo Discover Global eSIM on my Hong Kong trip, I also tried all the local Hong Kong SIM cards excluding the MVNOs (China Mobile Hong Kong Mobile, CSL Mobile, 3 Hong Kong & SmarTone Hong Kong) and various other eSIMs (Airalo Hkmobile, Airalo Discover Global (in Hong Kong and worldwide), Holafly, Nomad (in Hong Kong and various countries in APAC – Asia and Oceania), Simify & Ubigi + the 3 (UK) Travel SIM Card by Holidaysimcard in Hong Kong Review (also used in Australia and Singapore)).
Yeah, I went all out 😏.
Because of this, I could also assess how CSL Mobile performed compared to its competitors.
Well, not entirely. CSL Mobile did not allow prepaid customers to use its 5G NR network (but that may have changed now).
So in reality, I could only compare CSL Mobile with 3 Hong Kong… and it was more than twice as fast!
When looking at 4G/LTE availability in Hong Kong, the four mobile operators cover practically all of the country (mostly because it is a small city-state), with an availability of more than 98.6%.
4G/LTE reception is so good in Hong Kong that I thought 3G did not exist anymore (until 3 Hong Kong was stuck at 3G a handful of times 😩).
In terms of speed, CSL Mobile has the second-worst download speed, with a median download speed of 45.95 Mbps, ahead of 3 Hong Kong (Three – 32.52 Mbps) but behind SmarTone Hong Kong (48.14 Mbps) and China Mobile Hong Kong (66.11 Mbps).
Okay, that is enough background information – let's compare the Airalo Discover Global eSIM to CSL Mobile in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon & New Territories.
Airalo Discover Global eSIM Speed Test Results in Hong Kong Island, Kowloon & New Territories
Hong Kong is one of the most densely populated countries, or Special Administrative Region (SAR) if we want to be correct, worldwide behind Macau (also a SAR), Monaco & Singapore.
There are not many countries where you struggle to walk on the pavement because there are so many people around as Hong Kong without getting constantly pushed.
And I was there during the winter and when the China-Hong Kong border just opened – imagine how crazy it is during summer 😳.
But the country has a lot to offer: fantastic food, Ocean Park (attraction park) & even Disneyland for those who want it.
And of course smaller attractions, such as the Central–Mid-Levels escalator – the longest outdoor covered escalator in the world, The Peak (with the peak tram) & the Big Buddha (Ngong Ping) cable car.
The latter is 5.7 kilometers long and takes 25 minutes – and you even have a clear (called crystal) car option if you dare.
I am not fond of heights… but I actually enjoyed being in the crystal car… so I bet you will too!
Anyway, let's finally talk about my Airalo Discover Global speed test results, right?
Decent speeds with the Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Hong Kong.
Because most travel eSIMs I used in Hong Kong used the CSL Mobile network too, I shared the results of the relevant eSIMs too in the image above.
And what makes these results even more interesting is that the Hkmobile and Asialink eSIMs are powered by Singtel from Singapore.
In contrast, the Discover Global eSIM is powered by FL1 from Liechtenstein (formerly Mobilkom Liechtenstein).
So I guess the two mobile operators have similar roaming agreements on the CSL Mobile network.
Anyway, I had an average download speed of 39.05 Mbps and a median download speed of 30.82 Mbps with the Airalo Discover Global eSIM: it passed the 4K video streaming test in Hong Kong (minimum of 25 Mbps).
The same can also be said for the HD live streaming test in Hong Kong – the Airalo Discover Global eSIM had an average and median upload speed of 13.34 Mbps and a median upload speed of 10.68 Mbps, making it pass the HD live streaming test (minimum of 10 Mbps).
The Airalo Discover Global eSIM performed at its best at Kennedy Town Station, with a download speed of 155.18 Mbps.
But no other travel eSIM was faster than the Airalo Discover Global eSIM was at Lai Chi Kok Park Chinese Garden (146.72 Mbps).
Oh, and the eSIM was also faster than 3 Hong Kong.
For fast uploads, you want to go to Shui Yuet Kung in Tai Ping Shan, as I got an upload speed of 43.92 Mbps there.
Remember when I said that the Airalo Discover Global eSIM is powered by a mobile operator fron Liechtenstein?
Because of that, it performed quite well in Hong Kong International Airport (HKG), while the other two Airalo eSIMs, powered by Singtel, struggled.
My Overall Experience with the Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Hong Kong – Is It Any Good?
I would recommend the Airalo Discover Global eSIM for Hong Kong, and it would be one of my top recommendations for anyone wanting to buy a global travel eSIM (but not if you only visit Hong Kong).
While I had a good experience in Hong Kong with the Airalo Discover Global eSIM, you are better off getting the Airalo Hkmobile eSIM if you only visit Hong Kong.
That is because you pay a premium to be able to use one eSIM in more than 84 countries.
So it would not make sense to get the Airalo Discover Global eSIM for Hong Kong specifically in this case (but it can be in some countries, so read my ongoing Airalo Discover Global eSIM review too).
Instead, if you somehow need 100 GB of data – in that case, getting the Airalo Asialink eSIM will be more convenient than buying nine 10 GB top-ups.
And unlike the Airalo Discover Global eSIM, which would bill you 445 USD for that much data, the Airalo Aisalink would cost you only 185 USD (instead of 190 USD with the Airalo 10 GB Hkmobile eSIM + nine 19 USD 10 GB top-ups).
And contrary to the Airalo Hkmobile eSIM, you can use your Airalo Asialink eSIM in 13 other Asian countries instead of Hong Kong only (and yes, I tried that eSIM during this trip too!).
Of course, 14 countries are not the same as 84+ countries, but if you plan to visit two or more countries in East- and Southeast Asia, the Airalo Asialink eSIM will be better value for your money than the Airalo Discover Global eSIM.
However, if you visit two or more countries on multiple continents within a 180-day time frame, I would recommend the Airalo Discover Global eSIM, as you will save money when you do so.
Okay, back to Hong Kong specifically, getting the Airalo Discover Global eSIM, and any other Airalo eSIM for that matter, is easy and straightforward (even though I did not spend any time on how to install Airalo eSIMs – you will manage… promise!).
Airalo's Discover Global eSIM is the most affordable global eSIM I know of, and it offers quite some options too (1 GB, 3 GB, 5 GB, 10 GB & 20 GB).
In Hong Kong, it uses the CSL Mobile network, which has practically excellent 4G/LTE availability (just like the other Hong Kong mobile operators… so CSL Mobile ain't special 🤪).
And your speeds will often be fast enough for general data browsing and video streaming, but do not have crazy expectations.
Taking all 56 speed tests I did in Hong Kong into account, I had an average overall download speed of 39.05 Mbps and a median download speed of 30.82 Mbps with the Airalo Discover Global eSIM.
And that was… decent. The global median was 36.74 Mbps in December 2022, so the Airalo Discover Global eSIM did alright.
When looking at upload speeds, I had an average upload speed of 13.34 Mbps and a median upload speed of 10.68 Mbps with the Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Hong Kong.
That was… decent again. The global median was 9.66 Mbps.
The Airalo Discover Global eSIM was a bit slower than CSL Mobile itself (39.05 Mbps vs. 53.01 Mbps).
Usually, I consider a margin of 20% or 10 Mbps-15 Mbps similar and acceptable (because the travel eSIM roams on the network of the local mobile operator, which is almost always slower).
By using a near-perfect 4G/LTE network, offering affordable data plans & offering reasonable download speeds, you should have a smooth browsing experience with the Airalo Discover Global eSIM in Hong Kong.
Interested in using the Airalo Discover Global eSIM in another country or countries? Read my Airalo Discover Global eSIM review (tested in numerous countries and counting).
Other Hong Kong eSIM Reviews (Airalo, Holafly, Nomad, Simify & Ubigi)
As mentioned earlier, I also tried out (other) eSIMs from Airalo (Hkmobile and Asialink), Holafly, Nomad (Hong Kong and APAC), Simify & Ubigi + 3 (UK) travel SIM card by Holidaysimcard.
You should read those reviews too.
>>> Airalo Hkmobile eSIM Review | Airalo Asialink eSIM in Hong Kong Review | Holafly Hong Kong eSIM Review | Nomad Hong Kong eSIM Review | Nomad APAC eSIM in Hong Kong Review | Simify Hong Kong eSIM Review | Ubigi Hong Kong eSIM Review | 3 (UK) Travel SIM Card by Holidaysimcard in Hong Kong Review (also used in Australia and Singapore) <<<
- Check out my eSIM reviews page if you want to read all the other eSIM reviews I have written, including other eSIM providers in Asia.
I also tried out various local Hong Kong cards: China Mobile Hong Kong, CSL Mobile, 3 Hong Kong & SmarTone Hong Kong.
If your phone does not support eSIM (but felt like reading this Airalo review in full anyway – awesome) or want to have the best network experience possible, you want to go directly with the local mobile operators instead of roaming on their networks (as you do with travel eSIMs).
So I encourage you to read the Hong Kong SIM card reviews too.
Check out my reviews page if you want to read all the other reviews I have written, including other Asian SIM cards.
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