Will my cellphone work in Spain? Will my hotel have free wifi access? How can I connect to the internet without incurring roaming charges? These are just some of the queries we receive from our clients about mobile phones and other devices in Spain.
Our first piece of advice relates to the phone. We tell clients to check with their own service provider to confirm that the phone will actually work abroad – some companies require their customers to enable international access before travelling. And ask what roaming packages are available to you with your provider. You can do this online if you have actually left for Spain.Almost all service providers publish their tariffs for receiving and making calls, receiving and sending SMS messages and data on a country-by-country basis.
Sample Roaming Tariffs from Great Britain and the USA
To give you an idea of what that might be – we checked out the standard rates for a British traveller on Vodafone‘s British network travelling to Spain. That person will pay:
- 18.7p a minute to make a call in Spain
- 4.9p to receive a call in Spain
- 5.8p to send a text in Spain
- 19.8p to send a message in Spain
- 19.8p/MB for data in Spain
And a US traveller on Verizon‘s US network will expect to pay:
- 1.29 USD per minute for making & receiving calls in Spain
- 50 cents to send or receive an SMS message in Spain
- Data rates vary from $25/100MB to $20.48/MB in Spain
Alternatives to Roaming 1: Bring or buy another Phone and get a SIM in Spain
If the roaming charges from your network provider seem a bit pricey – and you are expecting to make or take many calls, one option is to bring an extra unlocked mobile phone (one that works with any carrier) and pick-up a SIM card in Spain. That way, you can provide the local Spanish number to those callers so you aren’t paying international roaming rates. If you haven’t brought an extra phone from home, you can also buy a pay-as-you-go handset when you get to Spain which often comes loaded with credit. Either way, you’ll have the inconvenience of carrying two phones and charging two phones and having to top up the second phone if you go over your credit– but you won’t return home to any surprises. Please bear in mind, that if you wish to buy a mobile phone in Spain, you need to bring ID when you purchase the handset. We usually recommend going to the department store El Corte Ingles where staff tend to be quite customer friendly and will usually have a staff member who can speak English.
If you are planning to make a lot of calls (rather than just receive them) make sure to research which network provider is best for your destination. And unless you specifically ask the staff member in the phone store for the best international calling rate, you will be given the standard rate, which may not be much more expensive than you’ll be paying on your own network. For example, on the Spanish network for Orange – you’ll pay 0.57 EUR/min to call Great Britain and 0.94 EUR/min to the USA on its standard pay-as-you-go package. But those calls reduce down to 0.01 EUR/min if you get on their Simundo package. So do make sure to ask for the best deal for making international calls. If this sounds like a lot of research – perhaps mobile internet is the option for you!
Alternatives to Roaming 2: Rent a device and use Skype, Viber or WhatsApp on your SmartPhone or Tablet
If you use a smartphone, and can channel your calls and messages through VoIP applications such as Skype and Viber or WhatsApp, you should consider mobile internet access. All the service providers allow multiple devices to connect to their pocket-sized modems – which is very handy for family trips and small groups. And the device can also be accessed by tablets and e-books, so if you like to travel with your iPad or Kindle – you can enjoy browsing on a large screen and you can purchase that e-book on Amazon that you didn’t have time to download before you left.
There are quite a few Mifi providers in Spain – we like the simplicity of alldayInternet which is actually based in Cantabria near our HQ. The mobile device is couried to your hotel at no extra cost before you arrive. The pack comes with a charger and cable and when you are ready to leave Spain, you pop it all in the stamped and self-addressed envelope provided and drop it in a mailbox before you depart. Your hotel will be able to tell you the nearest place to do this and may even arrange to drop it off for you. Based on a week’s rental taking place within the next calendar month, you’ll pay 7 EUR per day for 1GB of data – which can be accessed by up to 5 devices – and you can add in up to another 10GB for the duration of your stay if you need it.
If you are going to be a lighter internet user – TEP charges 5 EUR per day for 150/mb per day. Up to 5 devices can be connected simultaneously. If you think you need more, you can upgrade to get unlimited internet for an extra 4.95 per day. If you’re travelling via London you can collect the device at the main airports for 6.95 EUR, if not it can be sent by FEDEX to any location in Europe for a fee of 15 EUR.
Barcelona-based WifiVox is a good option for small groups or large families. It does charge a fee of 7 EUR to deliver the device outside Barcelona which brings its rates to 9 EUR per day if you don’t fly into the Catalonia capital but it allows up to 10 devices to connect simultaneously and offers unlimited internet access.
Still not sure which option is best for you? These questions might help identify which option is best for you:
- Are you staying in just one hotel or are you moving around? If it’s just one, you can check whether your hotel has free wifi and where that wi-fi is located e.g. in a lobby or in your bedroom. If you are moving around, you should consider mobile internet.
- Do you run a business and need to stay in touch? Go for mobile internet and channel as much as possible through Viber and Skype. If that’s not an option for you, get a Spanish SIM card and bring a separate handset – issue the number to your deputy and other key people to avoid roaming costs.
- Are you travelling for your birthday and will be taking calls from friends and family? Get mobile internet and encourage birthday greetings be made via Viber, Skype, Whatsapp or the Facebook phone app.
- Are you a keen user of social media such as Facebook, Foursquare or Twitter? You’ll need mobile internet
- Do you have teenage kids travelling with you? Get mobile internet with unlimited access and enjoy seeing them share their experiences with their friends.
- Is this a last-minute trip? Do you need to research your itinerary on the go? Get mobile internet so you can book your restaurants, order tickets to museums, and book tour guides on the fly.
- Are you using your holiday to switch off social media and the phone? Go for it! We can’t do it in this line of business but we are in awe of anybody brave enough to try. Switch it all off. Leave your hotel contact details with your loved ones. And enjoy the silence
Need our help?
We can’t take your calls but we can make sure you have the smoothest trip possible. So good in fact that you might want high speed mobile internet to share your photos and update friends and family. Your camera will be bursting with the images from the cookery class in the Boqueria food market so you’ll need to upload the images to Dropbox. You’re probably keen to download the book your tour guide recommended about Sephardi cuisine while you are on the high-speed train from Madrid to Toledo. And you want to check the recipe for bacalao al pil pil that you tasted yesterday in Bilbao and want to see whether the ingredients really are as straightforward as the chef said they were. You might want to email the wine store you usually order from back home to see whether the owner stocks the wines you tasted a few days ago in La Rioja. Sounds like mobile internet might come in handy really…
Tempted to arrange an Insider tour of Spain? Get in touch with the experts at Totally Spain. Phone Spain on +34-942-637358, from the USA on 1-888-717-4514, and from the UK on 0871-6660214 or SEND US AN EMAIL or REQUEST A QUOTE
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