With the recent ‘roam like at home’ rules, if you have a mobile service from a European country, there are no longer roaming charges when using your mobile in any other EU country. However, if you’re planning to live in Barcelona for any length of time, it’s worth considering the options for mobiles in Spain.
European roaming rules cover mobile calls, SMS and data usage within the fair use policy. Therefore, if you use your mobile abroad in a similar way than at home, there are no additional charges when 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 for 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 service providers.
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 include TV too.
Buying mobiles in Spain
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 Service Providers in Spain
Firstly, tuenti are offering some great deals, so I would definitely check them out. 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.
Happy Mobile to MásMóvil
Happy Movil were bought out by MásMóvil. They offer competitive internet and mobile phone call prices, but no longer specialist in international calls.
Buying unlocked mobiles in Spain
If you can, buy an unlocked phone, then you have much more choice for the best network deal. I bought an unlocked phone from the UK because I found much cheaper mobile deals in the UK compared to in Barcelona. 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 cheap unlocked mobiles or sim free phones, you can keep two mobiles on the go. Depending on your mobile service charges, it’s often cheaper to send text messages to the UK using a UK SIM card, than it is to send SMS via a 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
With an unlocked phone you can easily change SIM cards between networks. However, if your mobile is locked to a certain network, such as Vodafone, you can only change to a Spanish SIM with the same network.
Any mobile phone shop will sell you a SIM card. It’s a good idea to put your new SIM card into your mobile whilst still in the shop. That way if you have any problems, 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 buy credit online from your mobile phone service provider’s website and at any cashpoint.
Otherwise you can top up your mobile credit easily by buying pre-paid credit top up cards at Tabac shops, from newsagents, supermarkets and petrol stations.
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 or use the provider’s app. Most over-ride providers now have mobile phone apps which access your contact list and route international calls through their network automatically.
If you don’t have international calls included in your Spanish deal, these alternate providers can save you a lot of money on phone calls. They simply bypass 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 which is not compatible with apps, you can still make calls directly from your mobile. Many over-ride telecom services let you create local numbers or access numbers for individual contacts.
For example, localphone.com give you a maximum of 10 local numbers for your regular contacts. Store these numbers in your phone contacts. When you want to call someone internationally, dial their Localphone number rather than their landline or mobile number.
Localphone charge a rate per minute which is much cheaper than making an international call from your mobile. They clearly show all their rates on their website and within their app.
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 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 they also have an app for both iPhone and Android.
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.