Mobile / Cell Phones in Spain
Posted by Dreamer
Information on mobile and cell phones in Spain, contract and pay-as-you-go phones and an overview of mobile phone service providers, including Movistar, Vodafone and Orange.
One of the first things to do when you arrive in Spain is get a mobile/cell phone. (In North America: cell or cell phones; in Europe and Spain: mobile phones. The same thing.) Almost everyone has at least one mobile phone in Spain and sending SMS text messages is extremely popular, as there are no periods of free calling on weekends or evenings available with any of the Spanish providers. So, just to communicate with your friends, texting can be a necessary skill to develop – how dextrous are your fingers?
You can also pay for a variety of services by sending an SMS text message to a vendor (wireless hotspots, contests, voting, etc.) that charges your phone account. It’s convenient and can save you from racking up credit card charges and providing those sensitive numbers. You’ll see the option available when paying for something or on advertising posters everywhere.
Unlike North America, but similar to the UK, whoever makes the call will pay the charges, whether that’s to or from a landline or mobile/cell phone – the receiving phone is not charged. But when you do make a phone call, you generally pay for the call connection (establecimiento de llamada) and the time you spend talking on the phone. This rate (tarifa) is generally quoted either per minute or per second, but all call time is charged per second. Most rates don’t include IVA (VAT tax), which is charged at 16%.
You’ll likely not be able to use a North American cell phone in Spain unless it’s GSM/GPRS compatible (AT&T and T-Mobile cell phones, for example) with a SIM card. This is the system in use here. If you’re bringing a mobile phone from the UK then you’ll be better off, as the systems here are compatible. In either case you’ll VERY likely need to have it unlocked. This means taking your mobile or cell phone to one of the smaller mobile/cell phone shops in Spain that offer this service (about €20, look for “se libran móviles”) where they remove whatever it is that made your mobile or cell phone work exclusively on your previous provider’s network.
Contract and Pay-As-You-Go Phones
If you’re buying a mobile or cell phone in Spain, consider whether you would be better off with a contract or pay-as-you-go phone. When you sign a contract, you’ll have a monthly bill to pay, but you can often get cheaper rates and a free or cheap mobile phone. This is similar to most countries. However, you’ll need to have a NIE to sign a contract.
Even with generally higher rates, if you don’t make many calls or send many text messages in any given month, a pay-as-you-go phone may end up being cheaper. As you would expect, you only pay for what you use.
You can “recharge” (recargar in Spanish) your pay-as-you-go phone with more credit (saldo) at grocery stores, tobacco shops, phone stores, bank machines and with online banking.