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Airalo Discover eSIM in Turkey Review (+Speedtests)

Turkey (Türkiye) is one of the largest countries in the Middle East.

But it is one of the most popular destinations in the region.

The country has everything from stunning mosques to bustling bazaars, from baking at beaches to skiing from mountains.

Therefore, it is crucial to have a stable connection in Turkey in case you suddenly need some assistance.

That is why I tried out seven travel eSIMs from various eSIM providers, such as Airalo's Discover (global) eSIM, and three Turkish SIM cards to find out which option is the best.

Airalo Discover+ eSIM
© Airalo

Be aware that Turkey has an IMEI (phone serial number) registration scheme.

You do not have to worry about this if you stay in the country for 90 days or less in a 120-day window.

If you do, you have to pay a registration tax of over 31 000 TRY (more than 1000 USD) as of 2024!

Only if you bought your phone abroad. Turkey-bought phones do not have to pay this fee. This tax was “only” about 2000 TRY (65 USD). But it has risen over the years. From 6000 TRY in January 2022 to 20 000 TRY in July 2023. The government really wants your money 🗿.

And this applies to anyone using the Turkish mobile networks directly or indirectly, such as a travel eSIM (because they roam on Turkish networks).

Enough about that – is the Airalo Discover(+) eSIM worth your time and money?

Let's find out.

Airalo Discover eSIM in Turkey Review by Phone Travel Wiz

Original publication: 3rd of February 2024. Last updated: 29th of February 2024.

Table of Contents

Airalo's List of Compatible eSIM-Supported Phones

Before I even focus on Airalo's Discover(+) eSIM (in Turkey), does your phone support Airalo eSIMs?

If you have an eSIM-compatible smartphone, it is almost guaranteed that you can use an Airalo eSIM.

While Airalo had to certify phones in the past, almost all are supported nowadays.

As of December 2023, the phones shown in the infographic below are compatible with Airalo eSIMs:

Airalo eSIM Compatible Devices List Infographic (December 2023 Edition) by Phone Travel Wiz

Now we can actually focus on the Discover(+) eSIM (in Turkey).

Airalo Discover (Global) eSIM Prices

You can get the Airalo Discover (global) eSIM for between 9 USD (1 GB for 7 days) and 89 USD (20 GB with 200 international minutes and 200 international SMS for 365 days).

You should know that Airalo's Discover eSIM has two variants: Discover and Discover+.

Airalo Discover eSIM
© Airalo
Airalo Discover+ eSIM
© Airalo

The Discover eSIMs are your standard data-only Airalo eSIMs – but they can be used in 125+ countries globally.

The Discover+ eSIMs, the ones I always get, can also be used in the same 125+ countries. Still, you also get an Austrian (+43) phone number, an international call allowance (up to 200 minutes) & an international SMS allowance (up to 200 SMS).

And you can call and text to any country you want. It does not have to be one of the 125+ supported countries. I confirmed this by calling a random airport in Russia (you cannot use the allowance from the Discover+ eSIM in Russia) from Australia, and it went through.

The eSIM has been a lifesaver in case I need to contact a foreign-based airline or hotel before arrival.

Or even calling back to Australia or the Netherlands while overseas (both my Australian and Dutch mobile operators would charge me an arm and a leg for calling back home!).

The price difference between the two variants is up to 20 USD, and the data allowances will stay the same.

This is an incredible deal, especially when you remember that the previous global offering by Airalo, Discover Global, charged about the same prices as the new one.

Discover Global eSIM Airalo
© Airalo

But you only got data (up to 20 GB), validity was up to 180 days (instead of 365 days/1 year) & was restricted to 4G/LTE (compared to up to 5G NR access).

Here is a list of all the 12 Airalo Discover(+) eSIM options:

  1. Discover 1 GB eSIM for 7 days, costing 9 USD
  2. Discover+ 1 GB (with 10 minutes and 10 SMS) eSIM for 7 days, costing 15 USD
  3. Discover 2 GB eSIM for 15 days, costing 17 USD
  4. Discover+ 2 GB (with 20 minutes and 20 SMS) eSIM for 15 days, costing 27 USD
  5. Discover 3 GB eSIM for 30 days, costing 24 USD
  6. Discover+ 3 GB (with 30 minutes and 30 SMS) eSIM for 30 days, costing 36 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
  7. Discover 5 GB eSIM for 60 days, costing 35 USD – very popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
  8. Discover+ 5 GB (with 50 minutes and 50 SMS) eSIM for 60 days, costing 50 USD
  9. Discover 10 GB eSIM for 180 days, costing 59 USD
  10. Discover+ 10 GB (with 100 minutes and 100 SMS) eSIM for 180 days, costing 79 USD
  11. Discover 20 GB eSIM for 365 days, costing 69 USD – most popular with Phone Travel Wiz readers
  12. Discover+ 20 GB (with 200 minutes and 200 SMS) eSIM for 365 days, costing 89 USD

>>> Get your Airalo Discover(+) eSIM now! <<<

Note: Phone Travel Wiz reader popularity ranking was updated in December based on data up to the 30th of December (2023 data only).

Airalo Discover+ eSIM with Prices
See the list above for up-to-date prices and allowances. The figures in this image may be outdated.

In general, purchasing a Discover(+) eSIM does not make sense if you plan to visit only one country (only Turkey, for example).

For example, 3 GB of data for Airalo's Turkey eSIM, Merhaba (review), costs 8 USD.

Airalo Merhaba eSIM in Turkey Review by Phone Travel Wiz

This would be 24 USD (Discover) or 36 USD (Discover+).

However, the eSIM becomes interesting if you visit multiple countries within the same region during your trip or numerous globally within a year.

If you stay within the same region, regional eSIMs will be much more exciting and cheaper (in the case of Europe, Airalo's Eurolink eSIM (Turkey review) covers Turkey and 38 other countries).

Airalo Eurolink eSIM in Turkey Review by Phone Travel Wiz

While only a small part of Turkey is part of mainland Europe, Airalo's Asialink (Asia) and Menalink (Middle East) eSIMs cannot be used in Turkey.

Airalo Asialink eSIM Review by Phone Travel Wiz
Airalo Menalink eSIM Review by Phone Travel Wiz

But none of them give you a phone number for global use.

If that is important for you, the Discover+ eSIM is for you.

Anyway, the links from earlier will bring you to the product page of the Discover(+) eSIM.

And if you already have the Airalo app installed on your phone, the links will open the respective app (Android or iOS).

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 THOUSANDS of Australian Dollars and Euros, my main currencies, when using Wise abroad when traveling compared to my debit and credit cards.

Open a Wise account for FREE!

Wise Currency Exchange Banner
© Wise

What if you buy the 20 GB Discover+ eSIM, as I did, and realize you need another 10 GB of data close to exhausting your data allowance or need more minutes/SMS?

Would you need to purchase a new eSIM? Not at all.

Airalo Discover Global Usage by Adu from Phone Travel Wiz

You can top up your Airalo Discover(+) eSIM for the same amount of data and prices as listed earlier.

The 10 GB top-up would still cost 50 USD (or 35 USD for Discover) as if you bought the 10 GB eSIM from the start.

And you can purchase as many top-ups as you wish/need.

Airalo Discover Global Purchases by Adu from Phone Travel Wiz
I sometimes get insanely fast download speeds in countries with 5G NR access. Those tests take up a lot of data, which is why I have to top-up again, even though I have plenty of minutes and SMS left 🫠

That way, you will never run out of data.

A handful of Airalo eSIMs do not allow for top-ups. But that does not apply to the Discover(+) eSIM – so worry not.

Airalo Discover+ Global eSIM Top Ups

You can top-up on the Airalo website or its apps.

And if you buy a top-up before you have fully exhausted your data, call, or text allowance, Airalo will not use your top-up yet.

As a result, the validity of the top-up will not start until you start using the top-up (which is not the case with all travel eSIMs).

But if you run out of data, the top-up will start, regardless of whether you still have enough minutes or SMS left if you have the Discover+ eSIM, like in my case. Just be mindful of this, though.

>>> Get your Airalo Discover(+) eSIM now! <<<

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Airalo Discover (Global) eSIM Country List

The Airalo Discover (global) eSIM can be used in 125+ countries worldwide, including Turkey.

Airalo Discover Global Eligible Countries Map Infographic by Phone Travel Wiz (October 2023 Version)

The eSIM can also be used in some of Turkey's (in)direct neighboring countries (Armenia, Azerbaijan, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Egypt, Georgia, Greece, Romania, Tunisia & Ukraine – not in Iraq, Iran, Lebanon, Libya, Russia, Syria).

Below is a complete overview of countries where the Airalo Discover(+) eSIM works:

  • Åland Islands 3
  • Albania
  • Argentina
  • Armenia (new)
  • Australia 5
  • Austria 3
  • Azerbaijan
  • Bahrain (new) 3
  • Bangladesh (new)
  • Belarus 1
  • Belgium 3
  • Bolivia (new)
  • Bosnia & Herzegovina
  • Botswana (new) 2
  • Brazil 5
  • Brunei (new) 1
  • Bulgaria 5
  • Cambodia
  • Canada 5
  • Central African Republic (new) 1
  • Chad (new)
  • Chile
  • China 3
  • Colombia
  • Congo, Democratic Republic of (new)
  • Congo, Republic of (new)
  • Costa Rica (new)
  • Croatia 3
  • Cyprus 5
  • Czech Republic 3
  • Denmark 5
  • Dominican Republic 1
  • Ecuador
  • Egypt (new)
  • El Salvador (new) 1
  • Estonia 5
  • Eswatini (new) 1
  • Finland 5
  • France 3
  • French West Indies (new) 3
  • Gabon (new)
  • Georgia
  • Germany 3
  • Ghana (new)
  • Gibraltar 1
  • Greece 3
  • Greenland (new) 1
  • Guatemala (new) 1
  • Guernsey (new)
  • Guinea-Bissau (new) 1
  • Honduras (new) 1
  • Hong Kong 3
  • Hungary 5
  • Iceland 3
  • India
  • Indonesia 3
  • Ireland 3
  • Isle of Man (new)
  • Iraq 1
  • Israel 5
  • Italy 5
  • Ivory Coast
  • Japan 3
  • Jersey
  • Jordan (new)
  • Kazakhstan (new)
  • Kenya (new)
  • Kosovo
  • Kuwait 3
  • Kyrgyzstan (new)
  • Latvia 3
  • Liberia 1
  • Liechtenstein 4
  • Lithuania 5
  • Luxembourg 3
  • Macau
  • Madagascar (new)
  • Malawi (new)
  • Malaysia
  • Mali
  • Malta 3
  • Mexico 5
  • Moldova
  • Monaco (new)
  • Montenegro 5
  • Morocco (new)
  • Netherlands 5
  • New Zealand
  • Nicaragua (new)
  • Niger (new) 1
  • Nigeria (new) 2
  • North Macedonia
  • Norway 5
  • Oman (new)
  • Pakistan (new)
  • Panama
  • Paraguay 1
  • Peru
  • Philippines 3
  • Poland 3
  • Portugal 3
  • Puerto Rico
  • Qatar 5
  • Réunion (new)
  • Romania 5
  • Russia
  • Saudi Arabia 5
  • Senegal (new) 1
  • Serbia
  • Seychelles (new)
  • Singapore
  • Slovakia 3
  • Slovenia 5
  • South Africa
  • South Korea 3
  • Spain 5
  • Sri Lanka
  • Sudan
  • Sweden 5
  • Switzerland 3
  • Taiwan 3
  • Tanzania (new)
  • Tajikistan 1
  • Thailand 5
  • Tunisia (new)
  • Turkey 3
  • Uganda (new)
  • Ukraine (new)
  • United Arab Emirates (new) 3
  • United Kingdom 5
  • United States 5
  • Uruguay (new)
  • Uzbekistan (new)
  • U.S. Virgin Islands
  • Vietnam
  • Yemen (new) 1
  • Zambia (new) 1

* “(new)” is compared to the previous Discover Global eSIM (discontinued) or recently added countries
1 on 3G only
2 check the networks section on the Airalo website or app because at least one of the available networks is on 3G only (while the others are up to 4G/LTE)
3 5G NR access for all available networks
4 even if your phone does not support 5G NR, select FL1 Telecom/Telecom Liechtenstein for 4G/LTE access because Salt Liechtenstein is restricted to 3G only
5 check the networks section on the Airalo website or app because at least one of the available networks is up to 4G/LTE (while the others are up to 5G NR)

As I mentioned, you can save a lot of money by skipping the initial SIM card costs per country you visit, especially if you explore several countries on multiple continents during your trip or within a year.

Moreover, you will save a lot of time and do not have to deal with each country's individual SIM card registration requirements.

SIM Card Registration Worldwide Tool by Phone Travel Wiz

>>> Get your Airalo Discover(+) eSIM now! <<<

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My Airalo Discover+ eSIM in Turkey Experience

Flag of Turkey

I used my Airalo Discover+ (global) eSIM only in Istanbul.

Travel eSIMs, including the global eSIM, roam on the networks of local mobile operators.

Airalo is not a mobile (network) operator (MNO), so it partners with various MNOs, which roam on local MNOs' networks.

Okay, that may sound a bit confusing – all you need to know is that you will be treated as a guest on one of the Turkish mobile networks while using another network to make this system work.

Airalo's global eSIM uses the Turkcell and Türk Telekom networks while being powered by Drei Austria (so your phone, some apps, or sites you visit may claim you are on Drei instead of Airalo – that is correct).

Three (3) Logo
© Three (3)

In my case, the eSIM defaulted on Turkcell.

Turkcell Logo
© Turkcell

Somehow, all other eSIMs, except for Airalo's Merhaba (Turkey) eSIM (review) and Eurolink (Europe) eSIM (Turkey review) – the other two were on Türk Telekom.

So, which Turkish mobile operator is the best?

First things first… 5G NR was unavailable when I was in Turkey (November 2023).

Although the three mobile operators, Turkcell, Vodafone Turkey & Türk Telekom, were holding trials.

But none were calling their 4.5G networks (LTE-A Pro) 5G Evolution or nonsense like that (as the American mobile operators did).

Anyway, the Turkish mobile operators cover practically all populated areas of Turkey, with an availability of 98.3% or more, according to Opensignal.

However, Turkcell has the best coverage experience (7.1 on a ten-point scale). Followed by Vodafone (5.9) and Türk Telekom (5.2).

What if we look at speeds?

Turkcell was the fastest mobile operator in Q4 of 2023, with a median download speed of 56.73 Mbps, according to Speedtest/Ookla.

It was followed by Türk Telekom (30.78 Mbps) and Vodafone (20.36 Mbps).

When looking at consistency of performance, which Speedtest considers to be a download speed of at least 5 Mbps and an upload speed of over 1 Mbps, Turkcell is the most consistent (91.3% of all the results Speedtest processed).

Followed by Türk Telekom (85.7%) and Vodafone (83.7%).

While Speedtest did not focus on upload speeds in-depth in its report, Opensignal did.

And it was found that Turkcell had the fastest average upload speed (13.1 Mbps).

Ahead of Türk Telekom (11.1 Mbps) and Vodafone (8.2 Mbps).

I did speed tests with the Speedtest app throughout Istanbul (Asian and European sides).

Speedtest Logo
© Ookla

For reference, I consider an average download speed of 25 Mbps and an average upload speed of 10 Mbps fast enough.

Why is that? A more than 25 Mbps download speed is enough to video stream content @ 4k resolution.

Social media sites that do live streaming, like Facebook Live, recommend an upload speed of at least 10 Mbps.

I have way higher standards, but not everyone demands a download speed of 500 Mbps 🤪.

In the section below, you will find various colors and formatting.

Results in dark green mean that the result was the fastest download or upload among all SIM cards and travel eSIMs I tested at that location.

Fastest Result (Dark Green) Among All Example for Speed Test Results

Whereas results in light green were the fastest download or upload within the category (among all SIM cards OR all travel eSIMs) but not the fastest when considering the other category.

Fastest Result (Light Green) Within Category Example for Speed Test Results

The same applies to dark red and light orange results – the slowest download or upload among all (dark red) or the slowest within a category (light orange).

Slowest Fastest Result (Dark Red) Among All Example for Speed Test Results
Slowest Result (Light Orange) Within Category Example for Speed Test Results

All underlined results are on 5G NR, while results in italics are on 3G – results without additional formatting are on 4G/LTE.

Underlined (5G) Result Example for Speed Test Results
Italics (3G) Result Example for Speed Test Results

That should clear up the colorful speed test results in the next section.

For now, let's see how the Airalo Discover(+) eSIM performed in Istanbul.

>>> Get your Airalo Discover(+) eSIM now! <<<

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Airalo Discover (Global) eSIM in Istanbul Speed Test Results

Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality
© Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality

I used my Airalo Discover+ (global) eSIM only in Istanbul.

Most travel eSIMs can use the networks of Turkcell and Türk Telekom.

This applied to the Discovere+ eSIM too.

In my case, the eSIM defaulted on Turkcell.

Turkcell Logo
© Turkcell

Besides the other two Airalo eSIMs, Merhaba (Turkey – review) and Eurolink (Europe – Turkey review), all others were also on Turkcell.

And I did not realize until I started writing the Turkey travel eSIM reviews 🗿.

Otherwise, I would have changed the networks of some eSIMs to Türk Telekom for more meaningful comparisons.

I guess I was having too much fun in Istanbul 🤪.

So, I will compare the Discover+ eSIM to Turkcell and all other eSIMs I used in Turkey.

Below are the results:

Fast speeds with the Discover+ eSIM.

I would have gotten the same/similar results if I used the Discover eSIM instead of the Discover+ eSIM. There is no difference between the two, except for the + variant having call and text features.

I am not sure how or why, but the eSIM performed much better than my Turkcell SIM card.

Perhaps Turkcell throttles the speed of its prepaid customers… or something else was going on.

The only consistent thing I can see is that almost all eSIMs powered by Drei Austria, Airalo Discover(+), Nomad Turkey (product page) & Nomad Middle East (product) page had great performances in the country.

While the Holafly Turkey eSIM (product page) was also powered by Drei Austria, its performance was fair.

Anyway, let's focus on the Discover+ results.

The best result it got, which was impressive, was 151.40 Mbps around the A-gates at Istanbul Airport (IST).

Not bad at all, but I managed to get something faster: 463.57 Mbps at Çamlıca Tower with the Airalo Eurolink eSIM.

And remember… that was on 4G/LTE 😳.

Anyway, the other location where the Discover+ eSIM was the fastest was 76.95 Mbps at my Airbnb (Asian side).

Somehow, my Turkcell SIM card only got 4.57 Mbps here.

While Türk Telekom got 65.96 Mbps.

Perhaps the eSIM was on Türk Telekom instead of Turkcell at this location 🤔.

That would not have been unlikely, as the has access to both networks.

Anyway, another location where Discover+ was the fastest was 115.71 Mbps at Nusr-Et (Bebek Branch).

Other noteworthy results where the eSIM got speeds of over 100 Mbps but was not the fastest were at Acıbadem Metrobüs (156.55 Mbps), Çamlıca Tower (147 Mbps), Panzarotti Kadıköy Halitağa (118.44 Mbps).

All other results were acceptable, except at Topkapi Palace Museum (8.56 Mbps – slow), Pierre Loti (2.30 Mbps – slowest) & Semoti Cafe (8.49 Mbps – slowest).

Overall, I got an average download speed of 69.05 Mbps with the Discover+ eSIM.

That was the third-fastest average I got with any eSIM, so that was impressive.

In terms of upload speeds, there is not much to say.

They were acceptable or fast at most locations.

However, it underperformed at my Airbnb (2.29 Mbps), Dolmabahçe Palace (3.82 Mbps), Pierre Loti (2.58 Mbps) & Semoti Cafe (2.51 Mbps).

In most countries I use the Discover+ eSIM, it is often one of the worst performers (then again, it can be used in 125+ countries, so compromises have to be made).

In Turkey, however, it did extremely well – it was one of the best.

Of course, cheaper options are available for Turkey, so I would not recommend getting the eSIM for Turkey only.

But if you already have the eSIM because you are a world traveler or are just curious on how it works in Turkey, I can say it exceeded my expectations (in Istanbul).

>>> Get your Airalo Discover(+) eSIM now! <<<

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