Lying on the beaches of the Costa Brava, enjoying free tapas in a Granadian bar, exploring the art museums of Madrid or the boulevards of Barcelona — Spain is a large, varied and fascinating country, much-loved by overseas visitors.
If you’re planning on staying connected during your time there (and can drag yourself away from the ocean, mountains and vino tinto for long enough) the good news is it’s cheap and reasonably easy to get set up with one of the local cell companies.
Here’s what you need to know when choosing and buying a prepaid SIM card in Spain.
- We recommend Vodafone or Orange for most travellers
With four cellular providers, plus several resellers, Spain has plenty of prepaid SIM options. Movistar has the best coverage throughout the country, although Vodafone and Orange aren’t far behind.
There aren’t huge differences in prices and bundles between the main four providers, but there is some variation — it’s worth spending a little time doing some research if you’re so inclined. Orange, in particular, can have good rates for data.
No matter which company you choose, though, 10-20 euros per month will get you a useful amount of calls, texts and data.
I bought my SIM card at a Vodafone store in downtown Granada on the second attempt, after being politely advised the first time they were about to close for siesta. Ahh, Spain.
There was a queuing system of some sort at work, complete with machine spitting out tickets, but as nobody else seemed to be paying attention to it, I didn’t either.
I was fortunate to have a friend with me who spoke Spanish, but suspect I would have got by even with my very limited language skills. The staff member showed me a brochure with the various plans on offer, I picked one and, after handing over my passport, it was all set up within five minutes.
By law SIM cards need to be registered, so you won’t be able to buy one without a passport or national ID card.
I paid 15 euros (including tax) for a microSIM card on the “Superyuser” plan, which gave 1.2GB of data, 60 minutes of national calls and 60 national SMS, valid for a month.
It also included unlimited calls to anybody else on a similar ‘Vodafone yu’ plan in Spain.
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There are a range of ways to top up, but you’ll likely find the easiest option is just to do it in-store when you see a Vodafone logo.
Other options include calling 22132, at ATM’s, online or via the ‘Vodafone yu’ app, but you may struggle to use any of them without having a debit or credit card issued in Spain.
COVERAGE AND DATA SPEEDS
Coverage and speeds, at least in and around Granada, were very good. I rarely dropped below a full strength signal outdoors, and had 3G/HSPA data everywhere I went. It was both faster and more reliable than the cable Internet at my apartment, and I ended up using it for Skype and online conference calls quite regularly.
Speeds remained good in towns and cities of any size elsewhere in Spain, and I had coverage most of the time while travelling between them on buses and trains.
Vodafone is one of only two providers in Spain that offer LTE on prepaid plans — my phone doesn’t support the LTE frequencies used there, but if yours does, you’ll likely get even faster speeds than I did.