How Do You Get a Sim Card in Spain?
Getting a Sim Card in Spain is Cheap and Easy
July 24, 2018
Sept. 1, 2018
This post makes the following assumptions: You are a digital nomad who works online while traveling internationally, you change countries frequently (every other month or more), and you need large amounts of data (more than 10 Gbs per month). If these assumptions do not apply to you, this advice may not, either.
May contain affiliate links.
Greetings, from sunny Barcelona!
I just got here yesterday, and my German sim card is not giving me data. I don't know why. But the good news is, getting a sim card in Spain has always been cheap and easy, and now that supposedly all EU countries should allow roaming, I'm excited to try it out as my new general-purpose European sim card.
UPDATE:Two months later I'm still using my favorite sim card described below, and not only did it offer free roaming in all of the EU and Switzerland, but the USA as well! This was a great pick!
Getting Online as a Tourist in Spain
Before I go any further: if you are just a tourist planning on going to Spain for two weeks to a month, you don't need to read this entire post. All you need to do is decide
- Do you need 14 or 30 days?
- Do you have an unlocked GSM phone or do you need to buy/rent a device?
- Will you need data only, or data, talk, and text?
Then, knowing all this about your plans, either read the ultimate guide to buying an International Sim Card in 2018, or find the appropriate section in the simplified post with helpful diagram, then make sure the sim/device you've chosen works in the country or countries you're going to (click here to go directly to the Spain section). Then buy what you've decided on, and you're ready.
If you're short on time, don't worry. You can also buy a sim card at many airports in Spain, and sometimes you'll see them in vending machines at the bus station, as well. I wasn't lying when I said it's cheap and easy to get a sim card in Spain.
Getting Online as a Digital Nomad or Long Term Traveler in Spain
There are three main carriers in Spain:
If you are local they are all pretty equal in coverage, speeds, and price, but there are a few reasons why they are not all equal to digital nomads. If you are not local, go ahead and forget about Orange, because as of the point of this writing their web site will not allow tops ups with non-Spanish credit cards, so you will only be able to pay for service if you physically remain in Spain.
Movistar is acceptable for a digital nomad, but you should know that If you go 6 months without filling your balance, your credit will be lost and the SIM will only be able to accept incoming calls. 54 days after that, without a recharge, you will lose your phone number. This is okay if you plan on topping up often, but not do great if you plan on say, leaving Europe for 6 months and hope to still have a functional sim card when you get back.
Which brings us to the best digital nomad phone and data option in Spain: Vodafone.
Why Vodafone is the Best Phone Carrier for Digital Nomads in Spain
With Vodafone, you can add credit to your phone service locally all over Spain in supermarkets, kiosks, service stations, but more importantly, you can also use most international credit cards for online recharges on their website, with a minimum top-up amount of only 5 €. You do need to top up your sim card every 6-7 months to keep your number, but since you can do it online from anywhere, that's no problem. Just know that there is a small fee of 0.50 € per month after 3-4 months of outgoing inactivity, but a few Euros is a small price to pay for the flexibility they offer. To get a Vodafone sim, you just need to bring your passport and around 20 Euros with you to one of the many Vodafone shops, all over Spain. I can confirm this with real life experience, as I just got a Vodafone SIM card, and it only took me about 15 minutes of walking (the shops are all over Barcelona, so I just found one close t0 me), 10 minutes in the shop, and 15 Euros.
Vodafone has 4 general SIM cards to choose from, which I'll briefly describe here in order of my least-favorite to favorite, so I can spend just a little bit of time making you aware of the ones that I don't think are that great, and the delve into my favorite.
Internet Móvil Prepago (aka Data-only SIM)
I hate talking on the phone, so you'd think I'd be all over this plan (Sorry, you can't call me, my plan is data only), but this plan takes away without giving back. It costs 15 € pre-loaded with 1.5 GB valid for 3 months, and then you can buy 750 MB for 10 €, or 1.5 GB for 15 €, but you can only buy these vouchers in Spain, so I don't know why anyone would choose this. The prices aren't great and the PITA is high. Moving on...
International Smartphone (aka Tourist SIM)
This SIM costs 15 € and comes with 2 GB data up to 4G/LTE and 50 minutes domestic and international calls to 35 countries, valid for a month. This package is good for 30 days, renews automatically, (assuming you have enough credit), and allows unused voice or data to roll over, which I love. But be sure to buy more data if you need it, as data used outside of package charged with a daily fee of 3 € for 200 MB. Not bad, but could be better.
Vodafone fácil (aka "Easy")
Minimal, lightweight, basic. 10 € Sim comes with with 10 € credit. All domestic calls at 6 cents per minute, and 18 cents per call. You can activate a 30 day 500 MB data package for 5 €. There is no base rate is charged for at least 4 months, so this is a great way to get a phone number and keep it, even if you aren't going to use it much. As with the Tourist Sim, be sure to watch your data usage and top up if you need it, as default rate outside of package is 3 €/day for 200 MB.
This is the best SIM card, and you can tell it's the best one because they subdivide it into 3 more plans. You have to choose between:
- Yuser: 1.5 GB, 15 mins voice - 10 €
- Superyuser: 2 GB, 30 mins voice, Chat Pass, Social Pass - 15 €
- Megayuser: 3.5 GB, 60 mins voice, Chat Pass, Social Pass - 20 €
Less than one hour ago I purchased a Superyuser sim card and I can confirm, the entire transaction cost me 10 minutes and 15 euros.
What's all this Chat Pass and Social Pass business, you may wonder? Well I'm glad you asked. These Pass packages offer unlimited* (okay, well unlimited in Spain and up to 5 GB in the EU) use of various messaging, social media, and streaming services:
- Chat Pass: 2 € including WhatsApp, SMS, MMS, WeChat, Telegram, Line etc. (no VoIP)
- Social Pass: 3 € including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, LinkedIn, Tinder, Grinder, Flicker, Tumbler etc.
- Music Pass: 3 € including Spotify, Soundcloud, Deezer, Apple Music, Napster, Tidal
- Maps Pass: 3 € including Google Maps and Earth, Waze, iCoyote, Here, TomTom etc.
- Video Pass: 8 € for 480p, 17 € for 1080p including YouTube, Netflix, HBO, Amazon Video, Rakuten, Vimeo, Vivo, Fox, Vodafone, Orange and Movistar TV, RTVE etc.
Please note that all data consumption MUST be through the appropriate apps, not through the web browser versions. In other words, you have to use Google Maps app, you can't go to maps.google.com with the browser. The means that even though Vodafone does allow tethering —which I can confirm, I just used my Vodafone Yu sim card to set up a mobile hotspot —you will get charged regular data rates if you use maps, youtube, etc on your laptop.
All Vodafone yu packages last for 28 days, and packages will renew automatically after 28 days. Any unused data or minutes will roll over to the next month. As always, after the data volume is used up, bandwidth is reduced to 16 kbps as long the package is valid or 3 €/day for 200 MB beyond.
Why Vodafone is the Best Phone Carrier for Digital Nomads in Spain
Vodafone is easy to recharge from abroad and offers several options. If you're a super light user or plan on spending a lot of time not using your sim card, go with the Vodafone fácil (aka "Easy") plan. If you are a medium-to-heavy/regular user, go with one of the Vodafone Yu plans.
All information presented is accurate as of the date of writing, but it's always possible for it to go out of date without my knowledge. for more up to date information please consult carrier websites, or the Spain Sim Card Wiki.