There are no roaming charges within the EU. However, following Brexit, if you’re from the UK, check how much your Spanish mobile phone provider will charge you when travelling back to the UK. And vice versa – if you have a UK mobile, you’ll probably be charged roaming fees in Spain now.
If you’re planning to live in Barcelona for any length of time, it’s worth considering the options for mobiles in Spain.
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 if you’re from a non-EU country – especially for data roaming. Either buy a new phone with a Spanish network or buy a pay-as-you-go SIM card and put it in your existing phone.
If you’re moving to Spain on a long term basis the best option is often to get a package (fusion) which includes fibre optic internet and a mobile deal as an all-in one-package (this comes with a landline too, if you want to use it). These deals can also include TV.
Buying mobiles in Spain
As everywhere there are many mobile phone shops in Barcelona, so if you’d rather not buy online, go direct to the supplier such as Movistar, Vodafone or Orange etc, or go to a mobile phone shop, or a large store such as El Corte Inglés or FNAC.
Buying a dual SIM mobile is a great way to have access to two networks in different countries without having to carry two mobiles everywhere. Dual SIM phones are not as bulky as they used to be, and are not necessarily more expensive.
You can switch the phone language to English, but messages from your service provider will be in Spanish though (unless you use Lobster – see below). Accessing your voicemail messages can be a bit tricky if you don’t speak Spanish. Ask the shop assistant to help you with those things when you buy a phone.
Recommended Service Provider in Spain
Lobster is a Spanish mobile network built for expatriates, and in particular English speakers who want to call their home country on a regular basis. Lobster’s website, customer support and billing are 100% in English.
They offer unlimited calls and texts in over 10 countries including the UK, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, Denmark, Norway, Gibraltar, Portugal, Ireland and USA. Therefore, you can travel back and forth to those countries knowing that there will be no additional charges.
Lobster uses the Movistar mobile network, so gives great coverage. Additional offers are available from time to time, to give you even more savings, so keep an eye on their website: lobster.es. Importantly, Lobster’s promotions can be accessed by both current customers and new customers.
There are no contracts – you can join and leave at any time without penalties. Lobster’s plans run for 28 days at a time. You can also pause your service at any time if you don’t need it for a while, making it the perfect mobile network for expats and English speakers who travel regularly to and from Spain.
The service requires that you use their SIM card, which you can order from their website, calling them for free on 1661, or by contacting them through their website.
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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. Swap between a Spanish SIM card and other SIM card in the same phone depending on whether you’re in Spain or abroad.
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
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 these days online. 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 (cigarette) 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 access a different network with significantly cheaper call charges.
Over-ride your phone provider to Access 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 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 that person’s landline or mobile number.
These providers charge a minute rate 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.Read more about cheap international phone calls from Spain.
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.