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Mobile Phones in Spain
Even if you are coming to Spain for a holiday it’s best not to use your UK phone – it will cost a fortune – roaming charges are expensive. Either buy a new phone with a Spanish network, buy a new SIM card and put it in your existing phone, or rent a mobile or SIM card.
Buying a mobile phone in Spain
Like everywhere there are many mobile phone shops in Barcelona, so you can go direct to Vodafone or Orange etc, a mobile phone shop, or to a large store such as El Corte Inglés.
As soon as you have 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.
Buy an unlocked mobile
I found 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, for about £30, I keep two mobiles on the go. 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're already in Spain, buy a cheap unlocked phone online... Mobile Phones Direct do a good choice of sim free phones.
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 often 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 ADSL packages that come with a phone contract are a good deal. I have a mobile contract with Vodafone as well as Vodafone ADSL. I pay one invoice monthly which includes a certain amount of free minutes on my mobile, my ADSL and mobile internet in my flat at the same price. With this deal I also get Vodafone En Casa, which means I can call any Spanish landline from my mobile, as long as I'm in Barcelona, for 1c per minute.
Happy Mobile – Cheap Pay-As-You-Go Mobile Phone Calls
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 Phone 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 does include €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
If you are regularly moving between the UK and Spain and have a Vodafone account you can contract to Vodafone Europe for an extra £20 a month, this allows you to make and receive calls and texts as normal – without roaming charges. For example, a contract with 3000 minutes to landlines and 3000 minutes to mobiles (that's UK or Europe landlines and UK or Europe mobiles) is included in a package for approximately £100 a month. A £45 pound package, with say 1500 minutes per month, would cost £65 per month including Vodafone Europe.
This can work out much cheaper than the more advertised Vodafone Passport, because with Vodafone Europe you don't pay to receive calls when abroad.
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.
Internet cafés and telephone booth shops also sometimes sell SIM cards.
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 (you need to know your mobile phone number).
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.
One of the best ways to save money on mobile phone calls...
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 a voip application on your mobile device. In both cases you can save yourself a significant amount of money by bypassing your standard mobile call provider (such as Vodafone or Movistar) and accessing a voip network.
Here's how you do it…
1. Dialling through to another cheaper network
Even if you have an older model mobile phone, you can still make internet calls directly from your mobile. 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 say, their landline number. Localphone charge you a rate per minute which is much cheaper than making a standard call from your mobile. I can make a call to the UK from Spain from my mobile and be charged less than €0.01 per minute. So that's a 10 minute international call directly from my mobile that costs me less than €0.10.
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 automatic top up.
If you want to find an override provider, take a look at GetDialing.com. It's a directory and review site of telecom providers worldwide. Search for a cheap phone service in the country where you are living, or use one of the services that operates worldwide: www.getdialing.com
My recommendations are:
- Localphone – works worldwide and is very cheap, can dial from landlines and mobiles. Open an account with Localphone.com
- Dialabroad.co.uk – good service, not as cheap as some (currently 4 cents per minute from Spain to the UK). DialAbroad.co.uk
- Rebtel.com – Cheap international calls with Rebtel – save up to 90%. Supported in over 50 countries and you can call worldwide.
2. Voip apps for your mobile phone
If you have a fairly modern mobile phone including an iPhone (and even and iPod Touch or iPad), Blackberry or Smartphone, you can download a voip app for your mobile device.
Some of the most well-known voip services offer apps for mobile phones, such as Skype and Vonage. With one of these apps installed on your mobile you can call using voip wherever you are simply by accessing the app and dialling. You will pay a small charge to your existing mobile provider for the time it takes to connect to the voip network, and from then on you pay the cheaper voip rates.
Just the same as when you use voip to call from your computer, if you call to other users on the same network, your calls are free. For example, I can call my brother's Skype username in Australia using Skype on my mobile for free, and if he's not online, I can call his Australian landline at Skype's cheap international call rates. You may also be charged a data transfer charge from your mobile provider if you go over your allocated data usage, so you need to check out your contract details.
It's very easy to install applications on your mobile. All of the voip providers give detailed information on how to install their app and usually there is customer support if you have any problems.
Note: concerning the iPod Touch, most of the void apps for the iPhone also work on the iPod Touch but you have to be connected to a wi-fi network in order to make calls.
My voip app recommendations are:
- Localphone – With a Localphone account you can also use their mobile app (for iPhone and Android) and dial your Localphone local numbers either from your contact list or very easily from the Localphone app. The app also supports wi-fi calls for when you're in a wi-fi zone. For me Localphone is the best, for ease of use and value for money.
- Skype – If you already have a Skype account all your contacts will automatically be available from your mobile too. With Skype you can make mobile calls over the internet. Go to the Skype website where the whole world can talk for free.
- Fring – Talk to other Fring users for free, with cheap rates to landlines and other mobile phones: www.fring.com
- Vonage – App works on all Apple mobile devices, Blackberry and Android - Free calls to all Facebook users who also have the app. Mobile voip with Vonage.
Truphone Local Anywhere
Another option to avoid expensive roaming costs when you travel abroad is Truphone Local Anywhere. With Truphone Local Anywhere you have a new sim card which gives you local rates in supported countries, which means no roaming charges. In countries which aren't currently supported you get discounted roaming rates. At the moment the Truphone Local Anywhere SIM only covers the US, UK and Australia, but Truphone are a developing company and are working on expanding their network. www.truphone.com
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.
Simyo 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.
Yoigo also offer mobile tariffs and mobile internet at competive prices, and they have pay-as-you-go plans and contracts.