Even if you are coming to Spain for a holiday it’s best not to use your UK phone – roaming charges can be expensive. Either buy a new phone with a Spanish network or buy a new SIM card and put it in your existing phone. You’ll find more info here on how to make cheap phone calls from Spain, this page deals specifically with mobile phones and mobile calls.
Buying a mobile phone
Like everywhere there are many mobile phone shops in Barcelona, so you can go direct to the supplier such as Movistar, Vodafone or Orange etc, a mobile phone shop (of which there are many in Barcelona), or go to a large store such as El Corte Inglés.
As soon as you’ve entered the PIN (which comes with your new mobile) you can switch the language to English. The messages from your service provider will be in Spanish though. Accessing your voicemail messages can be a bit tricky if you don’t speak Spanish, and sometimes you have to set up your own message before you can access any voicemail messages. Ask the shop assistant to help you with those things when you buy a phone or simply switch of the voicemail service option.
Recommended Mobile Providers in Spain
tuenti are a relatively new mobile provider in Spain. They are offering some great deals, so I would check them out first. They don’t do internet, just mobile phone tariffs.
You can choose pay-as-you-go or a contract deal. Their contracts don’t have a minimum period. They send you a new SIM card and calls are made via their phone app.
happymobile.es has been set up by The Phone House and they give very good mobile phone rates without a contract.
National calls, calls to fixed lines and calls to other Happy Mobile users are currently 0.06€ per minute. Some international mobile calls to other Happy Mobile users are free of charge, with certain limits such as up to 60 minutes a day and with certain exceptions (check out the Happy Mobile website for the latest tariffs).
There are other services available, such as ‘Internet Mobile’ and ‘Roaming’. Their ‘Roaming’ deal gives you better rates if you’re travelling outside Spain.
You need to purchase a Happy Mobile SIM card, which you can do from any The Phone House shops in Spain as well as kiosks, locutions, internet cafés, etc. If you go to the Happy Mobile website there is list of all their shops in Spain. You can buy a SIM card, or you can by a new mobile phone with a Happy Mobile SIM included. The SIM card costs €15, but it includes €15 of calls.
Topping up is easy as you can add credit at any Happy Mobile shop, at the cash points of La Caixa, Bancaja, Servired and 4B, any El Corte Ingles shop as well as Hipercor, Supercor, Telecor, Opencor or Post Offices; and locutorios, kiosks, all the usual places. www.happymovil.es
Buy an unlocked mobile
I found that one of the best things to do was to buy an unlocked phone. I bought one from the UK because mobile phones are now cheaper to buy in the UK than they are in Spain. You can then swap a Spanish SIM card with a UK SIM card in the same phone depending on whether you’re in Spain or the UK.
As you can now buy very cheap unlocked mobiles or sim free phones, I keep two mobiles on the go. Surprisingly it’s much cheaper to send text messages to the UK using my UK phone with it’s UK sim card, than it is to send SMS via my Spanish network.
There’s also the option of unlocking your current mobile phone so that you can put a Spanish sim inside. Nokia phones are easy and free to unlock, but you sometimes need to pay to unlock Motorola and other brands.
Another thing worth keeping in mind is whether you’re going to have an internet connection. Sometimes the all-in-one internet packages that come with a mobile contract, landline and TV are a good deal – although will only give free minutes within Spain usually.
Buying a new SIM card
If you have an unlocked phone you can buy any new SIM card. However, if your mobile is locked to a certain network, such as Vodafone, you need to buy a SIM on the same network that you’re locked to.
Any mobile phone shop will be able to sell you a SIM card. It’s a good idea to put your new SIM card into your mobile whilst you’re in the shop, then if you have problems understanding what to do, or things aren’t working out, you can ask for help then and there.
Topping up on pay-as-you-go
It’s very easy to top up your mobile if you have a Spanish credit or debit card. You can simply go to any cashpoint and credit your phone.
Otherwise you can top up your mobile easily in any of the Tabac shops; buy pre-paid cards from newsagents, Tabacs, supermarkets and petrol stations; or go to any mobile phone shop for your network. You always need to know your mobile number to top up.
Alternative Providers and Apps
Mobile voip is simply being able to make internet calls directly from your mobile phone. To do this you need to use an ‘over-ride provider’ by dialling an access number, or to have an app on your mobile device.
This is really only cost effective when making international calls. But you can save yourself a significant amount of money by bypassing your standard mobile call provider (such as Vodafone, Orange or Movistar) and accessing a different network with cheaper call charges.
Accessing a cheaper network
Even if you have an older model mobile phone, you can still make internet calls directly from your mobile (and landline). There are many over-ride telecom services which give you local numbers or access numbers to dial in order to access their network.
For example, localphone.com give you a local number for every one of your regular contacts, and you store these numbers in your phone. When you want to call someone, you dial their localphone number rather than their landline or mobile number.
Localphone charge you a rate per minute which is much cheaper than making an international call from your mobile. I can make a call to the UK from Spain from my mobile and be charged about €0.01 per minute. So that’s a 10 minute international call directly from my mobile that costs me around 10c.
With most over-ride providers you need to create an account online at their website and add credit. That credit is then used up as you call, and you can either top up manually by going back to the website, top up by calling their access number from your phone, or arrange an automatic top up.
My recommendations are:
- Rebtel.com save up to 90%. Supported in over 50 countries and you can call worldwide. Their smartphone app makes it very easy to use from mobiles as you can set it to automatically send international calls via Rebtel’s network.
- Localphone.com – It works worldwide and is cheap. You can dial from landlines and mobiles, and there is a smartphone app for iPhone and Android.
These apps also work with an iPod Touch and iPad, but you have to be connected to a wi-fi network in order to make calls unless you have a SIM for those devices.
Just as when you use voip (such as Skype) to call from your computer, if you call to other users on the same network, your calls are free.
Other Spanish mobile operators
While Movistar and Vodafone are the biggest mobile operators here, there are a couple of others worth considering: Yoigo and Simyo.
www.simyo.es offer various mobile phone tariffs without having to sign a contract, so this can be a good option if you’re only in Barcelona for a short time. They also have special tariffs for calling overseas. Their mobile internet for smartphones, portables, or tablets also comes without a contract.
www.yoigo.com also offer mobile tariffs and mobile internet at competitive prices, and they have pay-as-you-go plans and contracts.