Learn how to keep in touch with friends and family while living abroad with our guide to getting a SIM card, mobile number, and more, in Spain.
If you’re a fresh arrival in Spain, then getting a local mobile phone number is probably one of the top items on your checklist in setting up your new life. After all, this will help you stay in touch with your loved ones back home, access mobile banking, navigate your way on local public transport, and much more.
Thankfully, Spain has a well-developed mobile network and plenty of operators to choose from, so you won’t be left disconnected. However, as an expat, knowing how to get a SIM card in Spain, or which mobile operator to choose, can be a challenge. To help you out, read on for information on the following:
- The Spanish mobile network
- Can I use my mobile phone in Spain?
- Spanish mobile phone operators
- Prepaid vs mobile contracts
- Mobile contracts in Spain
- Spanish SIM cards
- Spanish phone numbers
- Repairing a mobile phone in Spain
- Making a complaint about a Spanish mobile operator
- Useful resources
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The Spanish mobile network
New arrivals to Spain will be pleased to know that the beautiful Iberian nation has an excellent mobile network that is accessible for expats and visitors alike. Like other European countries, the Spanish use the GSM network for mobile communications. This makes it easy for most people to connect on arrival. However, even if you’re coming from somewhere that uses the CDMA network, your smartphone will still likely work in Spain.
Spain has a well-developed 4G network, with much of the country having access to 4G and 4G+ connectivity. Furthermore, 5G is increasingly available throughout the country, particularly in more built-up areas around major cities and resorts. That said, Spain is a surprisingly mountainous country, and, therefore, connectivity can vary significantly throughout the regions. So be sure to check your options ahead of time to avoid being left without a signal.
Wi-Fi connectivity in Spain
If you’re looking for public Wi-Fi, you’ll find plenty of free hotspots across Spain. These are typically concentrated in areas with higher levels of tourism, such as major cities and coastal resorts. You’ll also find Wi-Fi in some public buildings, such as libraries, museums, and public transport hubs. These are often free, but you may need to complete a brief registration process before you can get online. If you’re looking to set up Wi-Fi at home, then make sure to read our guide on setting up the internet, home phone, and TV in Spain.
Can I use my mobile phone in Spain?
If you’re arriving from a country that uses the GSM network, you’ll be able to use your mobile phone in Spain straight away. However, even if you’re coming from a country that uses the alternative CDMA network – such as Japan, Canada, and parts of the US – your smartphone will still likely be able to connect to the local network. That said, you should always check your options before you travel to avoid any unforeseen connection issues when you arrive in Spain.
Thanks to an EU-wide agreement on international roaming fees, arrivals from EU countries can enjoy free roaming when spending time in Spain. This is also the case for arrivals from the UK, although this could be subject to change following the UK’s exit from the European Union. If you’re unsure, then check with your home operator before traveling to avoid being left with any unwanted bills.
If you’re moving to Spain – or planning to stay a little longer – then you’ll probably want to buy a Spanish SIM card or sign up for a local mobile contract. Getting a SIM card will probably be the cheapest option in terms of up-front costs, but you’ll need to provide proof of identity to get one. However, whether you opt for a SIM card or contract, you’ll find that you have a host of Spanish mobile operators to choose from. Some also offer home internet and TV packages, so it’s a good idea to check if there are any bundle discounts available.
Spanish mobile phone operators
As you might expect from a country as big as Spain, the local mobile phone market is a competitive place. There are four network operators to choose from: Movistar, Orange, Vodafone, and MásMóvil/Yoigo. In addition to these, there are a number of MVNOs (mobile virtual network operators) that use these four networks. This means that consumers have an ever-increasing number of choices, so it pays to shop around. This is particularly true if you’re looking for home internet and TV in Spain, as many operators offer discounts if you take out more than one service.
Spanish mobile operators include:
When it comes to subscribers, Movistar leads the way with around 30% of the market share in 2019. Operated by the former state-controlled Telefónica, Movistar has historically been dominant in this market. However, other operators aren’t far behind, with Orange (25%) and Vodafone (23%) closing the gap. This is followed by MásMóvil/Yoigo (14%), and many MVNOs. Although some MVNOs struggle to match the coverage of the larger networks in rural regions, there is often very little difference in large towns, cities, and resort areas.
Comparing Spanish mobile operators
If you’re unsure which Spanish mobile operator to choose, then don’t worry because nowadays, it’s easier than ever to compare the market and find the right mobile deal for you. Comparison websites can give you a better idea of your options as well as make it easier to see if you can add any additional services to your packages, such as internet or TV channels.
Mobile phone coverage in Spain
Spanish mobile phone coverage can vary significantly throughout the country. For example, in the large towns and cities – and, indeed, much of the more populated coastal regions – coverage is typically very good. In these areas, you’ll find that 4G and 5G are accessible, depending on your mobile plan. Coverage in the largely mountainous regions and some more remote parts of the interior, on the other hand, can be temperamental. Therefore, if you’re planning on moving to one of these areas, be sure to check the coverage ahead of time.
Prepaid vs mobile contracts
If you want to get connected in Spain, then you have two main options: a prepaid SIM card or mobile phone contract. Prepaid SIMs are typically the easiest way to get yourself a local phone number and data access without committing to anything long-term. This is probably the best option if you’re simply after something that lets you make calls and get online. Many operators also offer pay-as-you-go bundles that provide a certain allowance of calls and data per month which can then be topped up should you go beyond this. This can be great if you’re looking for more flexibility.
If you’re settling in Spain long term, however, then signing up for a local mobile phone contract might be a good alternative. Typically, phone contracts work out much cheaper than prepaid SIM cards, especially if you spend a lot of time using data. Mobile contracts are also a good choice if you’re thinking about getting the latest smartphone. Generally speaking, contracts are often for 18-month periods, which is something to consider depending on your circumstances.
Mobile contracts in Spain
Spanish mobile subscriptions typically offer cheaper rates for calls, texts, and data usage than prepaid SIMs, making them an attractive alternative for many new arrivals. Contracts include an allowance of call minutes, texts, and mobile data. They might also include other allowances, and the amount you pay will depend on which tariff you end up choosing. Be aware that you might be able to get discounts should you combine your mobile contract with your home phone, internet, and TV connection. For more information on this, read our guide to setting up home phone, TV, and internet in Spain.
Spanish mobile contracts are either SIM-only or include a handset and are traditionally 18-months in length. That said, this is slowly changing and some are available without commitment. To avoid signing up for a contract you can’t see out, look out for deals labeled “sin permanencia“. While these might not offer the best rates, they may be the best option for you, depending on your circumstances.
How to get a mobile phone contract in Spain
Signing up for a Spanish mobile phone contract is fairly straightforward. The major networks all have retail outlets in many towns and cities across the country. Therefore, you can either do it online or at your local telecoms shop. That said, should you wish to do it in person, you’ll need to brush up on your language skills first as sales assistants likely won’t be able to speak English. Because of this, many expats prefer to sort it out online. To set up your mobile phone contract, you’ll likely need to provide the following:
- Valid ID
- Proof of address
- NIE (Foreign Residency Permit)
- Local bank account details
Monthly payments are collected by automatic collection (direct debit) and you’ll need to provide payment details when you sign up. If you don’t already have a Spanish bank account, then you might want to set one up before you sign up for a contract. One of the easiest ways to do this is with a mobile bank account, which you can apply for in minutes. You can read our guide to opening a bank account in Spain for more information.
Spanish SIM cards
Prepaid SIM cards typically offer more freedom than a lengthy Spanish mobile phone contract. However, they are often more expensive when it comes to calls, texts, and data usage. That said, they might be a better option if you don’t use your phone much, or if you are only staying in Spain for a short period of time. All major Spanish mobile operators offer prepaid SIM cards, so you’ll want to shop around to find the best SIM-only deal for you.
You can buy a Spanish SIM card at a number of places, including the mobile operator’s retail outlets, certain convenience stores, and online. Simply look for the operator signs on the shop window if you are unsure. To sign up for a Spanish SIM card, you’ll need to provide proof of identity (such as a passport) as this is a legal requirement. You’ll also need to complete a short registration process but this should only take a few minutes.
In Spain, prepaid SIM cards usually come with credit already loaded onto them (€5, €10, €15, etc.), which means that you can choose the right amount of credit for your immediate usage. Depending on your service provider, you’ll have plenty of ways to add credit, including online, in-app, at an ATM, in selected stores and outlets, and more. However, bear in mind that this process may require you to have a Spanish bank account. For more information on this, read our guide to opening a bank account in Spain.
Spanish phone numbers
All mobile numbers in Spain have nine digits. Spanish mobile numbers are prefixed with either a 6 or a 7 and followed by eight digits. Personal numbers start with 70. Phone numbers are not allocated to specific mobile phone networks in Spain so there is no grouping that identifies the carrier.
The international dialling code for Spain is 0034 / +34. Unlike in other countries, no additional 0 is added or subtracted when calling internationally or locally: 0034 6xx xxx xxx (from abroad); 6xx xxx xxx (from Spain).
If you need to make an emergency call, for example to the pan-European number 112, then you’ll be able to make the call from your mobile phone, regardless of whether you have a functioning SIM or coverage. It’s a good idea to save this full list of Spanish emergency numbers and keep it handy.
Repairing a mobile phone in Spain
Have you lost your phone to a fresh pitcher of sangria while enjoying the Spanish sunshine? Or maybe you’ve dropped it while wandering around one of the many beautiful Spanish cities? Whatever happened to your phone, you’ll probably need to get it repaired pretty quickly. Thankfully, there are plenty of repair options in Spain. Some operators and manufacturers offer in-store repair services at their outlets, so check online to see if your local store has this. Alternatively, there are mobile phone stores in most towns that will offer repairs.
Making a complaint about a Spanish mobile operator
Every Spanish mobile operator has its own complaints process should you encounter any difficulties. You should use this if you have problems or feel that the service has not been what you expected. You’ll be able to find this information on their website, although you may need to brush up on your Spanish beforehand. However, should you want to complain about the operator itself, you can do so by contacting Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC), Spain’s telecoms regulator. Through the agency, you’ll be able to submit your complaint along with any relevant supporting documents.
- Comisión Nacional de los Mercados y la Competencia (CNMC) – Spanish mobile telephony regulator