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Buying a SIM Card in Spain

In Get Connected by Dave Dean72 Comments

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.

 

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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.

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.

 

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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.

As a visitor to Spain, buying a local SIM card is both inexpensive and reasonably easy to do. Here's what you need to know to stay connected.
About the Author

Dave Dean

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Founder and editor of Too Many Adapters, Dave has been a wanderer for nearly 20 years and a geek for even longer. When he's not playing with the latest tech toy or working out how to keep his phone charged for just a few more minutes, he can probably be found sitting in a broken down bus in some obscure corner of the planet.

Comments

  1. 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!

    1. 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.

  2. 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.

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

  4. 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.

  5. 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

    1. Author

      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.

  6. 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.

    1. Author

      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.

  7. 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

    1. Author

      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.

  8. 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 ?

    1. Author

      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.

  9. 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 ????

    1. Author

      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!

  10. 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

    1. Author

      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.

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

    1. Author

      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.

  12. Hi Dave

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

    1. Author

      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.

  13. 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.

    1. Author

      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. 🙂

      1. Hi Dave,

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

  14. 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

    1. Author

      Via Skype or any other Voice over IP (VoIP) app, yes, but not by making a normal call from your phone.

  15. 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.

    1. Author

      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.

      1. 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.

  16. 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.

  17. 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

    1. Author

      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.

    1. Author

      That’s a good point. If you need loads of data, it becomes a more affordable choice for sure.

  18. 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?

    1. 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!

    2. Author

      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.

  19. 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?

    1. Author

      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.

  20. Can you recommend a sim card (unlocked Samsung Galaxie) for a 35 day stay on Costa Blanco that will give cheap calls back to Canada data and text messaging. Last year we were not able to get texts.
    Great site, thanks.

    1. Author

      If you’re happy to use Skype Calling (cheap) or Google Voice (free) to make your calls to Canadian phone numbers, then any SIM card and package that comes with a reasonable amount of data will do the job. You’ll probably need to top it up just before the end of your stay, though, as most are monthly packages. If you want to call via the usual method, you’ll need to check with the various providers (Vodafone, Orange, Movistar, etc, plus the various resellers of their service like Lebara and Lycamobile) to see which one has the best calling rates to Canada — they change regularly, but the resellers are often most competitive.

      1. Thanks Dave. What is your view on the provider store fronts Vodaphone, Orange vs the independent ‘Phonestores’.

      2. Author

        I’ve always used an official store in Spain, just because they’re so easy to find in any decent-sized town or city, and the staff know all the details of current offers. I’ve used random phone stores, convenience stores, even a currency exchange place elsewhere in the world, though. It just depends on what’s around, and whether I’m buying a SIM for a major company, or a smaller service reseller that doesn’t necessarily operate its own stores.

  21. Looking to buy a data only sim to use in my mifi TP-LINK M7350 for use in my apartment in Spain near Malaga, Fuengirola. Want data only as iphones can be routed through wifi for calls. Also for email and web browsing but most likely to connect up a Kodi app on a firestick to stream TV . Will only be there for 12-15 weeks a year on and off so ideally need a large 12-24GB SIM data only over 12 months. Seen that 3 did an offer of 24GB for 12 months last Christmas 2016 in the UK but i think the best you can get now is 12GB at £27.00 with the long 12 month expiry that i would like. Fibre not installed yet in the street in Spain and most neighbours seem to get a Vodaphone 4G router but you then go on contract for 12 months at 15 euros per month rising to 30 euros a month. My question is where can i get the best PAYG large capacity SIM – UK or SPAIN with which provider?

  22. my friend who lives in spain finally convinced me to buy a spanish sim, instead of paying £5 a DAY for roaming on my EE plan, I can get the sim you mentioned and pay €15 for my two weeks there. It makes sense because Watsapp still works and that is important.

    thanks for the useful info.

  23. We leave shortly for a month in Spain, including 5 days in Morocco. I plan to use my iPhone 7 there, buying a sim card either from Vodaphone or Orange. Will I still have Kiri to provide directions?

    1. Author

      Hi Alan,

      Kiri? Maybe you mean Siri – if so, yes, it will work whenever you have a data connection (cell or Wifi) anywhere in the world.

      Note you’ll want to buy a SIM in Morocco as well, or at least check the roaming rates with whichever Spanish company you decide to use.

  24. Hi Dave,

    I am planning to visit Spain in May 2017.

    Travelling to cities like Madrid, Barcelona, Seville, Granada.

    As I am travelling with my wife, like most other trips, I use a portable wifi router. That way, both of us have access to internet and whatsapp, etc.

    Which prepaid SIM card can support my usage ?
    Trip will be about 2 weeks.
    We tend to use internet more than making phone calls.

    Steven

    1. Author

      Vodafone (and several resellers) offer data-only SIMs for tablets and routers, although you don’t have to use one — any SIM will work. You’ll need to figure out how much data you think you’ll use, and pick an appropriate package for your two weeks.

  25. Hi, we’re heading to Spain, Morocco and England for a total of 5 weeks. Ideally I’d like to get a SIM on arrival at Madrid Airport so we can get an Uber to the hotel. I’ll need some data for when I cant get wifi (Uber, maps and directions etc) and possibly a couple of calls within Spain and within the UK to arrange our pick ups with family. Could possibly survive with just the hotel wifi in Morocco.
    What do you think would be our best option. An international SIM or local SIM?
    Thanks

    1. Author

      It really depends on how disciplined you are, and how much you’re paying for whatever international SIM you’d want to go with. If the cost isn’t completely unreasonable, you download maps for everywhere you plan to go and only use them offline, and are disciplined about leaving cell data turned off unless you really need to use it, an international SIM card might do the job for you at an acceptable price. Depending on how long you’re in each country for, though, you won’t pay much for local SIMs either, and you’d have more data to use, at the cost of a bit more effort to purchase them.

      We rounded up some of the best international SIM card options recently, which would be a good place to start figuring out the best option for your trip.

  26. Hi Dave, I’m just looking for a local sim and have just looked up the Orange website for Spain and it isn’t clear. They seem to have two payg plans, Ballena and Ardilla, but you can’t see exactly what you get for each. I can’t see how to email them with questions, only a phone number. Do you have any contact details for them, or do you understand their plans?

    1. Author

      This page should help — it’s from the English-language section of the Orange site. At the moment, it’s 9 euros/month for 1GB of data, plus 12c/text and 20c per local call. If you run out of data before the package expires, you just renew it for another nine euros. If you’ll be using a bit of data, it’s a better option than the Ardilla package.

  27. Hi Dave,
    Thanks for all the up-to-date info. We’ll be in Spain for 3 weeks, hiking part of the time in the mountains (Picos and Cadi-Moixero) plus time in Barcelona and the Costa Brava. I plan to get a prepaid SIM for my Galaxy S3, mostly for data but some text and local calls. Would you know which company has the best coverage for the rural/mountain areas? The 9-euro Orange Ballena plan with 1G data might be enough for 3 weeks but do I add in extra euros at the start to cover the text/calls? My partner will be using an I-phone but not changing his Cdn. Bell SIM card. If I need to text or call,, I would think that might be an international call, correct?. How do international calls to Canada, US and other European countries fit i with any Spanish plans and at what cost? Thanks very much for your help..

    1. Author

      Movistar has the greatest coverage (and is more expensive), but Vodafone and Orange aren’t too far behind. I don’t know what coverage is like specifically in those mountains, but I had no problems getting service with my Orange SIM while walking the Camino de Santiago across northern Spain, including in some pretty rural areas at times.

      Yep, you’d just add some extra credit when buying the Orange SIM and Ballena package, to cover texts and calls. You can always top up later if you run out. It’ll be an international call or text to your husband’s phone if he’s roaming with his Canadian SIM. Each provider has different costs for international calls and texts — you’ll need to check with whichever provider you decide to go with. Orange’s rates, for instance, are here. They’re quite expensive, so in general if you have data service, I’d be using something like Skype Calling (which can be to any phone number in the world) to keep the costs down.

  28. Just a tip for Kevin M. – I had the same issue with Vodafone Greece, they told me I would be able to use my my SIM with no issues in Romania so I topped up my data the day before leaving. Low and behold, when I arrived I couldn’t use data so I messaged their facebook page “Vodafone Greece” (they seem to have one for every country). Within an hour they were able to help me change the APN so it worked in Romania. Their customer support was very helpful. I’m heading to Valencia later this week, hopefully they still allow tethering as mentioned in the article. Great guide! It’s my go-to when changing countries 🙂

  29. I’m going to be in the Basque Country in Spain – in and around Bilbao and San Sebatian. I’ll need a phone while I’m there mostly for emergencies. My basic phone doesn’t have a SIM card so I’m hoping I can get an inexpensive pre-paid phone there. What are my options and how much will I need to pay? (I’d get a phone with a SIM card before I leave the states, but I alrady have an iPhone on order that probably won’t get to me in time for the trip.). Thanks!!

    1. Author

      You can certainly get a cheap phone in Bilbao or San Sebastian, and stick a local SIM card in it (as per this post). As for what phone options are available there, however, I’m afraid I can’t answer that — it’ll depend on what models the retailers are stocking. Alcatel is a popular brand in Spain, for instance, and typically inexpensive.

  30. Vodafone offers a “tourist” SIM with talk and a good amount of data, but its website states it will automatically renew after 30 days. Orange has a similar offering, also with automatic renewal. Assuming I do not need service for more than 30 days, I assume I should avoid these offerings? I haven’t been able to find more information about how to avoid the automatic renewal.

    1. Author

      If you pay in cash when you buy the SIM, the company has no way of charging you anything extra after 30 days. I imagine it’s meant more as a convenience than anything else — in other words, if you top up with extra credit beforehand, it’ll renew the package for another 30 days, rather than you losing service or having to do it manually.

  31. Dave: We are traveling to Spain from USA. When I buy a SIM card in Madrid (from Vodaphone or Orange) for 10 day use, can I have an option to add that my USA mobile number automatically gets connected there? That way, my children can call us on our USA verizon number, and don’t need a spain or UK number to dial?
    Please advise. My wife and I are leaving next week.
    We may buy a sim card for her iphone also.
    Thanks.

    1. Author

      Typically, no. The only way I can think of to make that work is by porting your US phone number to Google Voice ahead of time, but there are other complications with that and I seriously doubt it’s worth the effort for a short trip. Just ask your kids to use Facebook / WhatsApp / Skype calling instead.

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