Cell phone in Spain

cellphone1Whether you plan on coming to Spain to study Spanish for a handful of weeks, a couple of months or for an entire academic year, or even longer – a cell phone would be something essential to have. Almost everyone these days has a cell phone, or even sometimes two. A cell phone helps facilitate the running of both mundane and important tasks in your everyday life, and perhaps even more importantly, having one is sure way of having a social life in Spain and also keeping in close touch with your family and loved ones from afar. This article will serve as a brief guide to setting yourself up with a cellphone in Spain so that you can get started sending your text messages in Spanish as soon as you arrive in Spain!

Now in Spain, it is rare to find people who call each other (with their cellphones) to have long drawn out discussions. Most people have cellphones which they primarily use to send text messages or communicate via an application called Whatsapp -which requires an internet connection.

There are two sorts of cellphones that you could have while in Spain:

A Prepaid Cell Phone
For most international students, this option would be the most simple and straightforward, but unfortunately, also the most expensive relatively speaking – if you emit calls sparingly it could prove to be a cheaper option for you. You will not need an NIE or a Spanish bank account since you will be paying as you go and will have no contractual restraints. However, you would need to show basic identification (passport) and register your basic information (date of birth, nationality etc.)  in order to acquire a SIM card (sometimes offered for free, other times for a minimal fee). This registration process can be done on-line or in a store (depending on the company) and is often required by Spanish law to avoid terrorist practices.cellphone3

Once this initial step is done, you would need to purchase Phone credit i.e you would buy a set number of minutes for making calls or sending text messages or a set amount of Internet data for browsing on your cellphone. The pricing will depend on the company, and sometimes you will need to have a minimum amount of money on your cellphone in order to access the phone line, and other times the minutes or data that you buy expire after a time. The pricing and the nature of the phone usage will depend on the company so be sure to shop around and read between the fine print (use Google translator if you have to).

And then you will be all good to go and ready to use your phone! If there is an additional SIM card activation process, it will be specified by the company with clear instructions, and even sometimes there will be multi-lingual customer assistance (by phone or email) in the event that you need extra help.

A Cell Phone Contract
This is exactly as it sounds. If you decide to go this route, it may be a little more complicated in the beginning. Most contracts in Spain are for 9 months, to a year, to two years depending on the company and the nature of the phone plan. And like elsewhere you would need to provide a little more paperwork in order to enter into such a binding contract.

For starters you would need the Spanish Identification Number NIE mentioned above and a Spanish bank account that is linked to this ID number. And of course other basic information such as your birthday, nationality, address etc. – but the first two would be an absolute must.

In general, the extra effort is worth the hassle as the best sorts of phone plans are on contractual agreements where you get much more talk time and data privileges for your money at a fixed rate per month. And even a brand new phone depending on the contract.

You could sign up for the contract on-line or in person to the company store  of your choice. Sometimes the best phone cellphone4plan deals are offered uniquely on-line and you get mailed your SIM card free of charge. Before the contract can take effect you must give a form of written confirmation to the company that you have read, understood and agree to the conditions of the contract.  Certain contracts do not come with financial constraints i.e sin permanencia – you will not have to pay a huge sum if you terminate your contract prematurely, but others will fall into the later category. Be sure to make the distinction between the two and if you will only be in Spain for a duration that is greatly shorter than the length of a particular contract, it may be better to pass up on it and avoid paying heavy later.

And the same notion always applies as far as customer service is concerned as most company websites have an FAQ (frequently asked questions) sections that could possibly address any concerns that you might have and also claim to have multi lingual customer assistance by phone and email to assist in registration process.

Whether prepaid or contract, each company and its various cell phone offers has its own perks and setbacks depending.
If you will be browsing more on your phone than making calls, or texting often, or calling long distance to family – certain plans may be better for you than others. It will be up to you to decide what your cell phone needs will be while you are in Spain and what kind of budget you are looking at. I advise that your shop around on different company websites and stores before you make a decision.

A few more Tips
In Spain, unlike certain other countries, in general you do not pay if you receive a phone call or a text message on your cellphone (depending on your plan and service provider) – with several prepaid plans being the exception to this rule. And I am yet to see a free nights or weekends deal but often times it is less expensive (or with extremely special deals – even free!) to call or text someone else who is on the same Telecom service provider.cellphone5

A common practice in Spain to call someone else with the intention of letting it ring only once and having the call be missed which is called a “Toca.” It is a way to communicate without using up any of your cell phone minutes – like letting the person know you have arrived at a meeting point for example.

NB If you plan on using the same phone handset that you have in your home country be sure to get it unlocked before you arrive  so that it can function with any Spanish SIM card. In the worst case scenario, you could get it unlocked here in Spain at majority of Locutorios or Phone shops who offer this service (with the fee ranging from expensive to cheap depending on where you go – do your research!).

Here are a few of the most popular Cell phone Company Telecom Service Providers in Spain – there are a couple of others which are derived from these major four.

Take a look around and you just may see something you like!
Remember the country code for Spain is (34) and to dial out from within Spain you must dial (00) before the country code that you are calling to and then the telephone number.

Happy Texting Calling and Browsing…. and don’t forget to budget!

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