With the recent ‘roam like at home’ rules, if you have a mobile from a European country there are no longer roaming charges when using your mobile in any other EU country. That covers mobile calls, SMS and data usage within the fair use policy. Basically, if you use your mobile abroad in a similar way that you do at home, there are no additional charges for roaming.
Countries outside of the EU are still subject to roaming charges. Therefore, even if you’re coming to Spain for a holiday it’s best not to use your mobile – especially data roaming. 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.
If you’re moving to Spain on a long term basis the best option is often to get a package which includes fibre optic internet, a landline and a mobile deal as an all-in one-package. These deals now include TV too.
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 offering some great deals, so I would check them out first. They offer value for money packages that cover mobile calls, data and messages.
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 good mobile phone rates without a contract.
Again you can opt for pay-as-you-go or a fixed monthly fee. They offer national and international phone packs, deals with voice calls only or deals with calls and data.
You need to purchase a Happy Mobile SIM card. Depending on which pack you choose, you either request the SIM online or go to any The Phone House shop in Spain. SIMs can also be purchased for pay-as-you-go deals in kiosks, locutorio shops, internet cafés, etc.
Topping up is easy as you can add credit at any Happy Mobile shop (Phone House), at cash points, any El Corte Inglés shop which includes Hipercor, Telecor and Opencor and at Post Offices.
Buy an unlocked mobile
If you can, buy an unlocked phone then you have much more choice for the best network deal. 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.
If you have a locked phone it’s often possible to unlock it to change networks. Many of the mobile phone shops – not the main networks but the independent small shops selling mobiles and international call packages – will help you to unlock your phone.
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, or unlock your phone.
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
By using an ‘over-ride provider’ especially for international calls you can save yourself a good deal of money. Simply register online, add credit and then dial an access number. Most over-ride providers now have mobile phone apps, so you don’t even need to dial an access number – the app simply accesses your contact list and routes the call through their network.
This is really only cost effective when making international calls (outside Europe now). 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 significantly 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. At current rates, to make a call from Spain to India from a mobile is €1.2 per minute.
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.
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.