Egypt is the most visited destination in Africa.
This should not be surprising because the country has a lot to offer.
From pyramids to temples and beaches to tasty cuisines, there is no reason to be bored in Egypt.
But the majority of Egypt is just desert and sand.
Therefore, it is crucial to have a stable connection in Egypt if you suddenly need assistance.
That is why I tried out seven travel eSIMs from various eSIM providers, such as Airalo's Giza Mobile (Egypt) eSIM, and four Egyptian SIM cards to find out which option is the best.
In most countries, getting a local SIM card is the cheapest way to stay connected (and you will have a local phone number, something you often do not get with a travel eSIM).
But installing an eSIM is quick, easy & convenient, as you do not have to queue up upon landing (after a long flight) or deal with SIM card registration requirements (such as getting your passport details captured in Egypt – mandated by law).
And travel eSIMs, like Airalo's Menalink, are relatively affordable (especially compared to international roaming).
But did the Giza Mobile eSIM perform well in Egypt? Let's find out.
Original publication: 5th 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 Menalink (Middle East) eSIM, 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:
Now we can actually focus on the Menalink eSIM (in Egypt).
You can get the Airalo Menalink eSIM for 1 GB (7 days), 2 GB (15 days) & 3 GB (30 days) for 15 USD, 28 USD & 39 USD, respectively. The eSIM can be used in 15 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, including Egypt.
While Turkey is considered to be part of the Middle East by many, the Menalink eSIM does not cover the country. You will need the Airalo Eurolink (Europe) eSIM instead, which I have tested in Turkey).
The prices shown in the screenshot above were during a sale.
It was the first time I had seen Airalo discounting the Menalink eSIM – let alone by 70%.
But at the time of writing, each variant is half off (and has been for weeks, which is impressive).
In fact, I wish the Airalo Middle East eSIM was always priced at these numbers – it would be highly competitive.
Especially with the country-specific eSIMs, like the Airalo Giza Mobile eSIM for Egypt (review), being more expensive than eSIMs for more popular destinations (the ones for Asia, Europe & North America).
Let alone buying an eSIM for each individual Middle Eastern country.
Anyway, the links above will bring you to the product page of the Menalink 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.
What if you buy the 3 GB Menalink eSIM, as I did, and realize you need another 3 GB of data close to exhausting your data allowance (because 3 GB is nothing)?
Would you need to purchase a new eSIM? Not at all.
You can top up your Airalo Menalink eSIM for the same amount of data and prices as listed earlier.
The 3 GB top-up would still cost 39 USD (or whatever promotional pricing) as if you bought the 3 GB eSIM from the start.
And you can purchase as many top-ups as you wish/need.
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 Menalink eSIM – so worry not.
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 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 data (which is not the case with all travel eSIMs).
The Airalo Menalink (Middle East) eSIM can be used in 15 countries in the Middle East and Northern Africa, including Egypt.
Below is a complete overview of countries where the Airalo Menalink eSIM works:
- Saudi Arabia 1
- United Arab Emirates
1 while not officially mentioned or confirmed by Airalo, you get 5G NR access with the Menalink eSIM in Saudi Arabia (at least, I did in December 2023)
With the Airalo Menalink eSIM, you can save a lot of money by skipping the initial SIM card costs per country you visit.
So if you plan on visiting two or more countries in the Middle East or Northern Africa, getting the Airalo Menalink eSIM will be convenient AND will save you a lot of money.
I used my Egypt Menalink (Middle East) eSIM mostly in Alexandria and a bit in Cairo.
Travel eSIMs, including the Middle East 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 Egyptian mobile networks while using another network to make this system work.
Airalo's Middle East eSIM uses the Orange Egypt network while being powered by Singtel from Singapore (so your phone, some apps, or sites you visit may claim you are on Singtel instead of Airalo – that is correct).
First things first… 5G NR was unavailable when I was in Egypt (November 2023).
So the numbers and results later may seem (embarrassingly) slow if you are used to 5G NR speeds.
The Egyptian mobile operators cover practically all populated areas of Egypt, with an availability of 95.3% or more, according to Opensignal.
But if we focus on 4G/LTE availability, Vodafone Egypt is leading the pack (87.5%), followed by WE by Telecom Egypt (86.6%), Orange Egypt (85.5%) & Etisalat Egypt (78.1%).
How are speeds in Egypt?
According to Speedtest/Ookla, the differences are minimal.
Etisalat was the fastest mobile operator in Q1 of 2023, with a median download speed of 27.14 Mbps.
It even won the Speedtest Fast Mobile Network Q1-Q2 2023 award.
It was followed by Vodafone (24.37 Mbps), We by Telecom Egypt (24.28 Mbps) & Orange (22.62 Mbps).
The ranking changes slightly when we focus on median upload speeds.
Etisalat is still on top (9.83 Mbps), but We by Telecom Egypt is #2 (8.68 Mbps), Orange #3 (7.78 Mbps) & Vodafone the slowest (5.82 Mbps).
The report also looked at speeds in Alexandria specifically, where the order for median download speeds was almost the same: Etisalat (34.37 Mbps), Vodafone (24.58 Mbps), Orange (18.44 Mbps) & WE by Telecom Egypt (17.83 Mbps).
Let's see if I could replicate or outdo these results in Alexandria 😎.
I did speed tests with the Speedtest app throughout Alexandria and Cairo.
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.
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.
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).
All underlined results are on 5G NR, while results in italics are on 3G – results without additional formatting are on 4G/LTE.
That should clear up the colorful speed test results in the next section.
For now, let's see how the Airalo Menalink eSIM performed in Alexandria and Cairo.
I used my Airalo Menalink (Middle East) eSIM in Alexandria and Cairo.
But I tested it mainly in Alexandria because I was supposed to stay there only.
We, Jakub and I, were supposed to fly into Alexandria and leave from its airport (HBE). Turkish Airlines canceled our original arrival flight and pushed it by a day. As we already had a short time in Egypt, we decided to fly to Cairo International Airport (CAI) instead. But it is a three-hour drive from Cairo to Alexandria, so the arrival day was mostly wasted. The same happened in terms of departure, making us lose out on another precious three hours (driving back to Cairo) and having to deal with a much longer process time at CAI airport (HBE is much smaller, so the queues are short). So I was not supposed to be in Cairo. Hence, the fewer number of tests done there.
All Airalo eSIMs, Menalink, Giza Mobile (Egypt – review) & Discover+ (global – Egypt review), used the Orange Egypt network (although all were powered by different providers).
The same applies to Nomad Egypt (product page).
So, the next section will mainly compare the Airalo Menalink eSIM with Orange, Airalo Giza Mobile, Airalo Discover+ & Nomad Egypt.
Below are the results:
Poor speeds with the Airalo Menalink eSIM.
First, mobile speeds are not fast in Egypt (although the big cities, like Alexandria, Cairo & Giza will have reasonable speeds).
The United Arab Emirates, Qatar & Kuwait dominate the leaderboard, having median download speeds of 303.21 Mbps, 244.44 Mbps & 183.83 Mbps, respectively (December 2023 data).
Egypt was on spot 109 (22.22 Mbps) of 146, which makes it one of the worst.
It was not even close to the global median of 49.25 Mbps (only 50 countries did, and none were African).
The network the Menalink eSIM uses, Orange, was the second-fastest in terms of speeds I got (behind We by Telecom Egypt), with an average of 40.35 Mbps.
What about the Menalink eSIM? 9.12 Mbps.
So… what happened? I am not too sure.
Airalo's Egypt eSIM, Giza Mobile (review), also used Orange as its network, and it was the fastest eSIM I used.
The difference between the two eSIMs is that Menalink is powered by a Singaporean provider (Singtel), while Giza Mobile is powered by an American one (Edge Mobile LLC).
Latency and distance could be factors (New York to Alexandra is closer than Singapore to Alexandra by about 2500 kilometers).
But not entirely – Airalo's global eSIM, Discover+ (Egypt review), was even worse than Menalink, and its provider is even closer in terms of distance ((Drei) Austria).
To make things more interesting, Nomad's Africa eSIM is powered by Drei Austria too, and its performance was alright for Egyptian standards 🗿.
So, what went wrong in Egypt? I still cannot tell.
If Orange also sucked at the locations Menalink underperformed, we could blame Orange (because the foundations are bad).
For example, at Citadel of Qaitbay, the Menalink eSIM got a download speed of 4.35 Mbps.
Airalo Giza Mobile 73.95 Mbps (the fastest among eSIMs) and Orange 81.17 Mbps (fastest among all).
You will also notice that some Menalink results were missing.
That often happened when the upload speed was so slow that I could not upload the results for record-keeping).
Perhaps the download speeds would have been somewhat fast at Circle K Nubaria and La Gourmandise because Orange got 75.82 Mbps (fastest) and 71.67 Mbps (fastest).
Even the Airalo Giza Mobile eSIM did okay well at these spots: 14.42 Mbps and 13.25 Mbps.
Do not get me wrong; the Menalink eSIM has done me well in various other Middle Eastern countries (for their local standards).
Only in Egypt, so far, has the performance of the eSIM been lackluster 😔.