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.



COMPANIES

  • 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.

HOW

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.

COSTS

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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TOPPING UP

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.

Vodafone 3G speeds in Granada — fast and reliable!
Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.
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45 Responses

  1. Jeff Bronson *Kraven*

    Your Vodafone experience is the opposite of the deal in Goa, India where I’m staying now from the U.S. The 3G rarely works.

    They take a copy of your passport, jump on a scooter to leave and say “come back in 3 days to activate my friend”, and even then getting data to work can take a few more days!

    Glad it worked out for you!

    Reply
    • Peter Wuebker

      Vodaphone was a most terrible experience in Fiji. Used up our time sending us unsoliciated texts, phone calls from people we did not know and our data got used up without us doing it.

      They were no help at the store and when we tried to change over to another provider, it seems they had locked any other Fiji provider out of our phone.

      We return in a few months and we will most definitely NOT be repeat buyers.

      We avoided them like the plague in Australia and will do so in Spain.

      Plus I give them the finger.

      Reply
  2. Mihai

    Orange SIM in the Canaries Island of Fuenteventura. 10EUR (they have different VAT jere) got me a 1GB of data, usable for 30 day (I have a 3G MIFI so I don’t care about the talk/SMS part). Passport and about 10 minutes of “paperwork”. Got an SMS later saying I get 2GB, yey! Connection is mediocre at times, but better than nothing.

    Reply
  3. L Leung

    Can I buy a prepaid Vodafone sim card in the airport of Barcelona? my mobile phone is I phone 6, can it support? thanks.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      I’m pretty sure you can, but if not, pick up a SIM from Orange instead — I remember seeing that store in BCN airport, and prices are similar. It’ll work in your iPhone 6 just fine, as long as it’s not carrier locked (ask your phone company if you’re not sure about that).

      Reply
  4. Anoop

    I am on a tourist visit to spain for 10 to 12 days between this I will b on cruise which will touch the italy and france so I need a sim which can work fluently. Please suggest the better option. Should I buy a matrix services or buy any services like matrix in India. please suggest cost effective better connectivity solution.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      I’ve no idea what a matrix service is, but given that all EU phone operators now have to offer inexpensive roaming services to other EU companies, I’d suggest just buying a Spanish SIM card from Vodafone or Orange, putting a little extra credit on it to cover you for the time you’ll be in France and Italy, and using roaming. Tell the person at the Vodafone/Orange store what you want to do, and they’ll be able to give you an idea of how much extra it will cost.

      Reply
  5. Roberta

    I’m going to Spain next month for about a week. Planning to buy an unlocked GSM phone before I leave (not sure which one). If I buy a prepaid Orange or Vodaphone SIM Card while in Spain, will it come with a Spanish phone number? Most of my calls will be to/from family in the U.S. Will I be able to call them and will I be charged for incoming calls from them? I am new to this and not particularly tech savy. If I buy the SIM at the Madrid airport what is the chance that someone at their store will speak English and help me get my phone working? Thanks for any advice

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Yep, any prepaid Orange or Vodafone SIM in Spain will come with a local number (well, unless it’s a data SIM, when it may not have a number assigned). You’ll be able to call US numbers, and they’ll be able to call you. You won’t be charged for the incoming call from them.

      I haven’t bought a SIM at Madrid airport, so can’t comment specifically on the amount of English spoken at the kiosks there, but it seems like one of the more likely places you’d find some degree of English spoken. I also found that one of the staff members at the Orange store in Puerta del Sol spoke reasonable English, if you don’t have any luck at the airport.

      Reply
  6. Robin

    Thank you for all the information. We’re going to Alicante. Do you know if they sell SIM cards at the airport there? We get in at 9:30 at night.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      I don’t know, sorry — it’s been many years since I last flew into Alicante airport, and I wasn’t looking for SIM cards at the time. There seem to be plenty of Vodafone and Orange stores in Alicante itself, if that’s where you’re staying or travelling through.

      Reply
  7. ricci

    Hey thank you for your useful information. .
    I’m on a business trip to denia Alicante for 2 weeks .. and i might go to paris for the weekend .
    I need 4g lte. What company sim do you think i should buy ?
    Thank you

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Orange has decent prices, offers LTE data on prepaid plans, and has a simple and inexpensive EU roaming option, so that would be my pick.

      Reply
  8. pedro

    am spanish resident with samsung galaxy nexus phone currently with tesco sim ( ex uk) ( uses vodaphone)
    Use some data eg translate, google maps etc when out of range of wifi (plenty of hotspots though)
    mostly spanish calls
    keeping to vodaphone as well rated in my area
    whats best
    paygo or package ?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      We focus on prepaid SIM options for travellers on this site, so you’re probably best to ask at the Vodafone store if you’re looking for alternatives.

      Reply
  9. Darlene Uhrig

    Hello
    Canadian retiree flying into Barcelona and torn travelling up to the edge of France to walk the Camino. Not very tech savvy ..taking my Galaxy phone for taking pictures, listening to tunes, texting, and the other stuff..
    Will someone help to install a SIM card ….and I will need to purchase a two month plan. When my SIM card is taken out of my phone, I will still have pictures, tunes that I have downloaded ????

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      When I walked the Camino last year (from SJPdP), I also used a Spanish SIM card, from Orange, that I’d bought in Madrid. I just put enough money on it to cover the data plan I wanted for two months, plus a few calls and texts, and it automatically renewed once the first month was up.

      You should have no problem finding an Orange store in Barcelona, and I’m sure the person behind the counter will install the SIM for you if you ask. You’ll still have all your photos, music etc, regardless of which SIM you’re using. Buen Camino!

      Reply
  10. DARREN

    Good Day I’m Moving to Spain but leaving the business in the UK to run online

    Ill be taking incoming calls routed from a landline diverted to the mobile in Spain

    Can you suggest the best option for me to return calls and get Data for out of WIfi areas.

    Sim only

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Either of the two companies mentioned in this article will be fine, but feel free to check their sites for the latest international calling rates to see if there’s a marked difference for the countries you want to call.

      Reply
  11. Katrina

    Does anyone know how to change the language settings for Orange (receiving messages, etc.)? Thank you.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      I don’t, I’m afraid — I just ran the text messages through Google Translate as needed. That said, it might be worth stopping by an Orange store and asking if it’s possible. They’ll be able to do it for you if so.

      Reply
  12. Steve

    Hi Dave

    Do you know if there is a Vodafone store in San Sebastián & if they speak English. Thanks Steve

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Hi Steve,

      It looks like there are at least a couple of Vodafone stores in the San Sebastian downtown area. I have no idea if the staff speak English, I’m afraid, but I’ve always been able to buy SIM cards in Spain even with my (very) bad Spanish.

      Reply
  13. Kathryn

    Hi Dave,

    We are going to Spain and Portugal early next year for 2 weeks and will be driving around with a rental card that will equip with a GBP. So I am thinking I should have a Spain SIM card when we are not in the car. We won’t be making local or international calls as we can do that back in the hotel on SKYPE or Whatsapp. So the Sim card is more for Data i.e. google map. So what will you suggest? Our first stop is Madrid.

    Many thanks and look forward to hearing from you soon.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Hi Kathryn,
      There’s so little difference between Orange and Vodafone for most travellers that it doesn’t matter which one you choose. Take a look at their respective sites (or just ask instore/look at the brochures) and pick a package that has enough data for your needs.

      Unless you’re heavy users, 1GB or so should be enough for two weeks, but it may cost very little extra to get more. If a data SIM is noticeably cheaper, get it, but otherwise there’s no harm in being able to call and text with a normal SIM if you find you need to. Just don’t pay extra for a package with loads of calls and texts included.

      I’ve been into a couple of Orange stores in Madrid — the one in the heart of the city (Puerta del Sol) is where you’re most likely to find someone who speaks English if you need that. The other one I went to required my best (bad) Spanish and advanced charades skills. 🙂

      Reply
      • Kathryn Young

        Hi Dave,

        Thanks for your prompt reply and the additional information on Orange. Have a great day!

  14. Daniel Allaire

    We will be in Spain for 2 months early 2017. I have my own Mifi2 Novatel. I will need to call in Canada and USA, with a Orange Sim Card, on my Mifi, will I be able to call to Canada and USA while my cell phone is connected to the Mifi?????
    Thank you

    Daniel

    Reply
  15. MJT

    This is extremely helpful for my upcoming trip to Andalusia, starting in Seville. I need a plan for three weeks in the big cities and the white villages. Most of the data usage will be for walking tours with Google Maps. Will a plan like yours work for me? Would I need to communicate in Spanish once the sim is installed?
    I had mixed experience with T-Mobile’ s free international roaming. Could be very slow, especially outside the cities. Once the internet connection was lost, and remained so through the trip. I want to play it safe in Spain this time, and the cost seems very reasonable.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      That plan or something similar should work well for you, and there’s no need to communicate in Spanish after the SIM is installed unless you’re topping up or changing plans.

      Reply
      • MJT

        Great. After activating that sim card, do the phone’s (mine’s an android) APN settings need to be entered manually? I had to do that with a sim card bought in Canada.

      • Dave Dean

        I don’t recall manually entering APN settings with this SIM, so either it didn’t need them, or it was done by the staff member as part of the setup process.

  16. ZZ

    Hello
    Thanks for the useful information. I’m travelling soon to Seville from the UK and would like a data only SIM (any network but Vodafone preferred). I’m going with a group so won’t have time to stop by the Vodafone shop at the airport so would like to get a SIM (the Vodafone Tourist tarrif or the Superyuser tariff you mention) in advance of my trip. Any comments on the best way to do this? As it is for a tablet, not a phone, I won’t be able to activate via SMS which the ones on the usual auction site seem to require. Thank you for your time.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      It’s not something I’ve had to do, unfortunately — I’ve always just walked into a store in whichever city I arrive at. Unless you know someone in Spain who can do this for you and then post you the activated SIM, it may be difficult. If you’re with 3 in the UK, you get free roaming in Spain. Failing that, you may need to look at other international roaming options, at least until you can make the time to head to a mobile store or kiosk in Spain. Sorry I can’t be more help than that.

      Reply
  17. Paulo

    Hi Dave,

    Just to let you know. There is now a company in Spain that rents Wifi hotspots, and prepaid data SIM cards, specifically to tourists and non-Spanish residents, that don’t require any contract.
    Traffic options goes from 1GB to unlimited.
    They are called Spain Internet, and you can find them at https://www.spaininternet.com
    They deliver to the hostel or it can be picked-up at the airport.

    Regards

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      That site doesn’t exist — I guess you mean http://spaininternet.net ? There’s quite a few companies like this, in Spain and elsewhere, but I don’t typically mention them unless their prices are particularly competitive. At €29 for a week or €50.50 for two weeks, they don’t really fall into that category. 🙂 Still, for short trips, or if the convenience overrides the cost, they might be worth a look.

      Reply
  18. Kevin M.

    Hey Dave – Excellent article, and I really like your responses to the various questions. Thanks!
    Just an FYI… I bought a Vodafone hotspot in Spain this spring to use w/ my iPod Touch and my wife’s tablet. 29 euro which included 1.5 gig of data. Pretty good deal actually except for one thing. I bought it to use 2 weeks in Spain and 2 weeks in Portugal and was told by Vodafone that that wouldn’t be a problem, we’d just be on roaming in Portugal and would use data a little faster.
    Turns out that was not correct. It worked great in Spain but not at all in Portugal. No roaming available.
    Then, when I went to Vodafone in Portugal to buy a Portuguese sim they told me the device was locked to Vodafone Spain, that they couldn’t unlock it (they’re separate companies), and that I couldn’t use anything but a Spanish sim in it so I was out of luck. Oh well… just lived off free wifi from hotels, coffee shops, etc until we got back to Spain.
    As much as I love my iTouch, next trip I’ll leave it at home and bring an unlocked gsm phone. I’m looking at a Motorola Moto Play or G4. What do you think?

    Reply
    • Kevin M.

      Sorry – I forgot to ask… if I can get my wife to let go of her beloved Nexus 7 (2nd gen)… do you have a recommendation for a 7″ tablet that accepts a sim?
      Thanks!

      Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Thanks for the info, Kevin! I’m surprised the Spanish Vodafone hotspots aren’t automatically enabled for EU roaming. Sounds like the sales rep would have been surprised too! It could have been a glitch, I guess, but it’s a pain in the butt when you’d planned to rely on it in Portugal. 🙁

      Good choice on either the Moto Play Z or G4. The G4 is actually my pick for a budget smartphone for travel, and the two-day battery life on the Play Z is pretty damn handy on long travel days. 🙂

      It’s definitely a shame the Nexus 7″ tablets have been discontinued, since they were the right mix of size, price and quality for travel. There’s sadly not much worth talking about in the 7″ range these days, especially with 3G/4G. Maybe consider going up to an 8″ tablet, and check out something like the Samsung Galaxy Tab E.

      Reply
  19. Maria P.

    Just got my first cell phone, Andoird unlocked, I’m 65, going to Torremolinos next month. Plan to drive from Malaga to Javea and would like to have a phone for emergencies and call friend in Javea. Don’t plan to use phone otherwise. Suggestions?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      I believe the Crystal Media store at Malaga airport sells SIM cards from the major cell companies — if you’re only using it for emergencies and the occasional call, just pick up the cheapest package available. If you can’t buy one at the airport, head to central Malaga before you start driving, as there are plenty of cell stores there who can sell you the same thing.

      Reply

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