Planning to visit Spain on your holidays? Find out the best value Pay As You Go SIM card for your smartphone.

Spanish FlagSpain is one of the top destinations for British holidaymakers every year. Some 12 million Brits visit each year with key destinations including the Canary Islands, Catalonia and Andalusia.

Whether you’re planning a trip to historical Barcelona or the beaches of Fuerteventura, you’ll need to have a suitable SIM card for your smartphone if you want to access maps, social networks and e-mail. You’ll also want a suitable SIM card for staying in touch with your friends in the UK.

In this article, we investigate the costs of using your smartphone in Spain. We’ll compare the costs of using a UK-based SIM card to the costs of using a local SIM card from Spanish networks. We’ll then help you to find the best value deal regardless of how long your trip to Spain is.

Using Your Smartphone In Spain

Park GuellIn Spain, there are four mobile networks operators: Movistar, Vodafone, Orange and Yoigo. There are also a number of virtual network operators using coverage from these networks.

A visitor from the UK to Spain doesn’t need to worry about handset compatibility. The mobile networks operating in Spain use the exact same frequencies we use in the UK. Hence, any smartphone that’s compatible with UK networks will also be compatible with the networks in Spain.

For visitors travelling to Spain but originating from another country, you’ll need to make sure your handset supports one of the following bands or frequencies:

Network 2G bands 3G bands 4G bands
Movistar GSM 900/1800 WCDMA 2100 LTE bands 3 (1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 20 (800MHz)
Vodafone GSM 900/1800 WCDMA 2100 LTE bands 3 (1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 20 (800MHz)
Orange GSM 900/1800 WCDMA 2100 LTE bands 3 (1800MHz), 7 (2600MHz), 20 (800MHz)
Yoigo WCDMA 2100 LTE band 3 (1800MHz)

Supported frequencies and bands used by mobile networks in Spain. Your handset needs to be compatible with one of the frequencies or bands listed in the table. Smartphones purchased in the UK should work in Spain without any problems.

There are two ways of using your smartphone in Spain:

  • You can roam on your UK-based SIM card. If you’re visiting Spain for a fairly short time, you’d probably be better off with a UK-based SIM card. Your UK network operator will have a commercial roaming agreement in place with the Spanish networks. This allows you to use your normal UK SIM card through international roaming. The costs of roaming on a UK-based SIM card will often be slightly higher than using a local Spanish SIM card. However, it’s much less hassle (there’s no need to visit a phone store on arrival in Spain). With Feel At Home, a UK-based SIM card can sometimes even be cheaper than a local Spanish SIM card.
  • You can buy a new SIM card locally in Spain. For longer-term visits and for frequent trips to Spain, you might be better off buying a SIM card locally in Spain. The SIM card will slot inside of your existing unlocked smartphone. You’ll get a phone number in Spain and you’ll be charged the same rates as a local resident.

In the rest of this article, we’ll explore the two options in greater depth.

Roaming on Your UK SIM Card

Going Abroad
Because of EU legislation, there’s a maximum amount the networks are allowed to charge when you’re roaming in Spain.

For occasional calling and texting, the costs of using a UK-based SIM card are fairly reasonable in Spain. This is because EU legislation has set a maximum cost on using your smartphone in Europe. Typically, you’ll be charged 18.8p/minute to make a phone call in Spain. It’s 4.9p/minute to receive an incoming call and around 5.9p to send a text message.

Unfortunately, the costs of using mobile internet abroad are still fairly substantial (you’ll need mobile internet to access social media, e-mail and maps on the go). On most mobile networks, you can expect to pay around £2/day to £3/day. For a one-week holiday, the data roaming costs can easily add up to more than £20.

Roaming Charges By Home Network Operator

The cost of roaming in Spain depends on your home network operator.

The following table shows the cost of using a UK-based SIM card whilst abroad in Spain:

Network Making a Phone Call Receiving a Phone Call Sending a Text Accessing the Internet
EE 18.8p/minute* 4.9p/minute* 5.9p/text* £3/day for 50MB
giffgaff 18p/minute 4p/minute 5p/text 19p per MB
O2 18p/minute 4.8p/minute 5p/text £1.99/day for 50MB
Orange UK 18.8p/minute 4.9p/minute 5.9p/text £3/day for 50MB
T-Mobile 18.8p/minute 4.9p/minute 5.9p/text £3/day for 50MB
Three Included Included Included Included
Vodafone UK 18.7p/minute 4.9p/minute 5.8p/text £3/day for EuroTraveller

Roaming charges on a UK-based SIM card when abroad in Spain. Costs are shown for calling and texting a number in the EU (includes both UK and Spanish numbers). It’s always free to receive an incoming text message anywhere in the world. * Calling and texting is free in Spain on 4GEE Extra.

Various offers are currently available for cheaper roaming in Spain. For instance, Vodafone has a £3/day EuroTraveller offer where you’re able to use your normal UK allowances. However, for any trip longer than a couple of days, the best option is Three’s Feel At Home offer. With a Pay As You Go SIM card from Three, you can use your smartphone in Spain for up to 30 days for only £10.

Three’s Feel At Home Offer

ThreeAmongst the UK network operators, Three is by far the cheapest network for roaming in Spain. This is due to the Feel At Home offer: you can use your normal UK allowances when abroad in Spain at no extra cost. The offer is available to both Pay Monthly and Pay As You Go customers.

If you’re not currently a customer of Three, you can still benefit from the offer by signing up for a Three Pay As You Go SIM card. A £10 top-up will give you 100 minutes, 3000 texts and 1GB of internet (all available to be used when in Spain). A £20 top-up gives you 300 minutes, 3000 texts and 12GB of internet.

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Three 100
to UK
3,000
to UK
1GB £10.00
Three 300
to UK
3,000
to UK
12GB £20.00

The “All in One” Pay As You Go bundles can be used on Three’s Feel At Home offer. The inclusive minutes, texts and internet can be used abroad in a Feel At Home country. The £20 bundle has a fair usage policy of 12GB/month when travelling abroad.

With a SIM card from Three, you’ll still have a UK-based phone number (so your friends pay the normal rate to call you when you’re abroad). You can also order and set up the Three SIM card before you leave home (no need to visit a phone store on arrival in Spain).

Order Three All In One SIM card (£10 for 30 days) →

A SIM card from Three gives you coverage from Movistar, Orange and Yoigo (your phone automatically selects the network with the best coverage). You might need to unlock your handset before using it on Three.

The Feel At Home offer is designed for short-term visitors to Spain. If you’re planning to live in Spain for an extended amount of time (more than 2 months per year), it may not be possible to use the Feel At Home offer. For more information, see the Feel At Home fair usage policy.

Spanish SIM Cards by Network

For longer trips, the cheapest way to use your smartphone in Spain is sometimes to buy a local SIM card on arrival. You can buy a Pay As You Go SIM card from one of Spain’s major networks (Movistar, Vodafone, Orange and Yoigo).

Tree in SpainFor the SIM card to work in your phone, your smartphone needs to be unlocked before you leave the UK. For more information, see our in-depth guides to unlocking an iPhone and unlocking a Samsung Galaxy handset. It’s worth noting that Spanish mobile networks are treated separately to UK networks for the purposes of locking. For instance, a Vodafone UK handset must still be unlocked before it’ll accept a SIM card from Vodafone in Spain. The same goes for other UK networks (e.g. handsets on O2 or Orange in the UK).

When buying your SIM card in Spain, you’ll need to visit a mobile network store. By law, you must provide photo identification when buying a SIM card (for this reason, you should bring your passport). It’s also worth being aware you may need to converse in Spanish when doing this.

N.B. In Spain, a sales tax of 21% is charged on the Spanish Peninsula and on the Balearic Islands (the tax is known locally as IVA). In this article, we’ve assumed you’re visiting a place where IVA is charged. If you’re visiting the Canaries Islands, a local sales tax of 7% is charged instead of IVA (the local sales tax there is known as IGIC). Hence, if you’re visiting the Canaries, the actual price you’ll pay for the SIM cards will be slightly lower than is shown in this article.

Movistar

Movistar LogoIn Spain, Movistar is the largest network operator. It’s part of the Telefónica group (the same company that owns O2 and giffgaff in the UK).

Because Movistar is the largest network operator, it has the widest mobile coverage of all networks in Spain. You can use their online coverage map to check the coverage where you’re staying. Movistar also has a large number of retail stores all across the country: use the store locator on their website to find the nearest branch to your hotel or resort.

Unfortunately, a downside is that Movistar provides poor value on Pay As You Go. Furthermore, it’s often difficult to actually get a Pay As You Go SIM card from their stores (most retail stores will prefer selling you a Pay Monthly contract).

If you’re able to obtain a Pay As You Go SIM card from Movistar, there’s a minimum top-up of €10 (the SIM card itself is provided for free). It’s then €5 for 400MB of 3G internet (the data lasts for a maximum of 30 days).

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Movistar 400MB €5.00

In order to access the internet, you’ll need to text ALTATARIFA5 to 1200. The €5 add-on gives you 400MB of data for up to 30 days. If you need extra data beyond the initial 400MB, it’s €1 for 75MB of additional data (text ALTABONO to 1200 to get this extra data). Further information can be found in the tariff FAQ (available only in Spanish).

It’s worth noting that calls and texts made back to the UK are incredibly expensive (it’s €4.56 for a 5 minute call back to the UK).

Setup Fee Rate Typical Cost for Comparison
Call to UK: €0.6050/call €0.79/minute €4.56 for 5 minute call to UK
Text to UK: €0.726/message €0.726/message
Call to Spain: €0.1815/call €0.10/minute €0.68 for 5 minute call within Spain
Text to Spain: €0.15/message €0.15/message
Mobile Internet: €5 for 400MB data bundle (3G speeds)

Full tariff details can be found on the Movistar website (available only in Spanish: click Tarjeta on the left-hand column for Pay As You Go).

Due to difficulties obtaining a SIM card from Movistar and comparatively high costs compared to other networks, we’d recommend readers against choosing a Movistar SIM card.

Vodafone

Vodafone

Vodafone is the second largest network operator in Spain. The sister network of Vodafone in the UK, Vodafone also has extensive coverage across the whole of Spain (check their online coverage map for the place where you’re staying).

Vodafone currently offers two different types of Pay As You Go SIM card: Vodafone Yu and Vodafone Tourist. Both can easily be obtained in any Vodafone retail store – use the store locator to find the nearest one to your hotel.

Vodafone yu

The first type of Pay As You Go SIM card is Vodafone yu (where yu means “youth”). Vodafone yu is fairly good value for calling locally and for browsing the internet. You get 800MB of 4G data for €10/month on the “Yuser” bundle. There are also 20 domestic minutes and 20 domestic texts included every month (perfect for calling a taxi or for booking a restaurant).

There’s a choice of three bundles on Vodafone yu:

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Vodafone 20
to Spain
20
to Spain
800MB €10.00
Vodafone 60
to Spain
60
to Spain
1.2GB €15.00
Vodafone 100
to Spain
Unlimited
to Spain
1.6GB €20.00

Unfortunately, calling and texting a number in the UK is exceptionally expensive on the Vodafone yu tariff. For calls, there is a €0.593 set-up fee. There’s also a per-minute rate of €0.605 (reduced to €0.424/minute if you’re calling from 10pm to 8am). This means a 5-minute phone call back to the UK could cost you up to €3.62.

Setup Fee Rate Typical Cost for Comparison
Call to UK: €0.5930/call €0.605/minute (peak)
€0.424/minute (10pm-8am)
€3.62 for 5 minute call to UK
(€2.71 between 10pm-8am)
Text to UK: €0.726/message €0.726/message
Call to Spain*: €0.1815/call €0.242/minute €1.39 for 5 minute call within Spain
Text to Spain*: €0.1815/message €0.1815/message
Mobile Internet: From €10 for 800MB with a Vodafone yu bundle (4G speeds)

* The rates shown here will only apply once you’ve used the allowances in your Vodafone yu bundle.

Vodafone yuTo buy one of the Vodafone yu bundles, you’ll need to top-up your SIM card with the relevant amount of credit. You should then call the relevant phone number to activate your bundle:

  • Yuser (€10 bundle): Call *525*51#
  • Superyuser (€15 bundle): Call *525*52#
  • Megayuser (€20 bundle): Call *525*53#

For more information, see the Vodafone yu webpage and the Vodafone yu help article (both are available only in Spanish).

Vodafone Tourist SIM Card

For a short-term visit to Spain, Vodafone Tourist probably offers better value. For €15, you can get a prepaid SIM card with 1GB of 4G internet and 60 minutes of calling. Notably, the 60 minutes of included calling can either be to Spain or to the UK. This makes it a great value option for staying in touch with friends at home.

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Vodafone 60
to UK & Spain
1GB €15.00

Your allowances will last for up to 30 days. If you use up the inclusive allowances on your plan, you’ll be charged the following for out-of-bundle usage:

Setup Fee Rate Typical Cost for Comparison
Call to UK: €0.3025/call €0.10/minute €0.80 for 5 minute call to UK
Text to UK: €0.726/message €0.726/message
Call to Spain: €0.1815/call €0.242/minute €1.39 for 5 minute call within Spain
Text to Spain: €0.1815/message €0.1815/message
Mobile Internet: N/A, speeds are reduced to 32kbps after the first 1GB of data

More information can be seen on the Vodafone website (the details for Vodafone Tourist are available in English as well as in Spanish).

Orange

OrangeOrange is another major network operator in Spain. Unlike rival companies, Orange has a full website available in English (this makes it much easier to research the available options). You can check for coverage in the area where you’re staying and you can also search for a store with English-speaking staff.

Orange has a number of Pay As You Go tariffs you can choose from in Spain. Their SIM cards are free when obtained from an Orange store but you’ll need to make a minimum top-up of at least €10.

SIM Mundo

For visitors, the SIM Mundo tariff will offer the best value for short-term trips. You can buy a package of mobile data from €6 for 500MB (the data allowance lasts for up to 30 days). Any calls made to other SIM Mundo customer are absolutely free (ideal for staying in touch with your family providing everyone has their own SIM card from Orange).

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Orange 500MB €6.00
Orange 1GB €9.00
Orange 2GB €15.00

You can buy the relevant data pack by texting Alta Mundo 500Mb, Alta Mundo 1GB or Alta Mundo 2GB to 1470.

For seven days after each top-up, domestic phone calls have a flat-rate of €0.18 per call. For calls to the UK, there’s a €0.30 connection charge followed by €0.11/minute for UK mobiles and €0.01/minute for UK landlines.

Setup Fee Rate Typical Cost for Comparison
Call to UK: €0.30/call €0.11/minute (UK mobile)
€0.01/minute (UK landline)
€0.85 for 5 minute call to UK
(€0.35 to UK landline)
Call to Spain: €0.18/call Free (7 days after top-up)
€0.08/minute (after)
€0.18-€0.58 for 5 minute call within Spain
Mobile Internet: €0.50/day for 10MB (or buy a new data bundle early)

For more information regarding SIM Mundo, please see the Orange website (available in English and in Spanish).

Ballena & Ardilla

Orange Ballena and ArdillaOrange also has a number of other tariffs including Ballena (Whale) and Ardilla (Squirrel).

On Ballena, you’ll pay €8.95 for 1GB of data (lasts for up to one month). Domestic calls have a flat rate of €0.18 and domestic text messages are €0.12 each.

On Ardilla, data will cost you €3/month for 200MB. You’ll pay €0.18/call plus €0.06/minute when calling domestically inside of Spain. Text messages are €0.12 each.

Unfortunately, it’s fairly expensive to call the UK on both of the tariffs. There’s a €0.54 set-up fee followed by a €0.57 per-minute charge (this is reduced to €0.50/minute between 10pm and 8am). For a 5-minute phone call to the UK, expect to pay around €3.39. It also costs €0.72/message to send a text to the UK. Given the difference in price for calling the UK, we strongly recommend choosing SIM Mundo whenever it is possible.

Yoigo

Yoigo LogoYoigo is Spain’s fourth network operator. Having launched only in 2006, they still have limited coverage compared to other networks. At present, Yoigo is estimated to have 80% coverage. Where coverage isn’t available, it will sometimes be possible to roam on Movistar. Yoigo only provides 3G and 4G coverage. As such, it’s not possible to use a 2G-only handset on the Yoigo network.

You can get a Yoigo Pay As You Go SIM card from any of their stores (find the nearest store to your hotel). The SIM card will cost you €20 but this is returned to you in the form of credit.

La del uno

To use your smartphone on Yoigo, you’ll need to buy the La del uno bundle. With this, it’s €7.26 for 600MB of 4G internet (your allowance will last for up to 30 days):

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Yoigo 600MB €7.26

Phone calls and text messages will be charged additionally on Yoigo:

Setup Fee Rate Typical Cost for Comparison
Call to UK: €0.3630/minute €1.82 for 5 minute call to UK
Text to UK: €0.1210/message €0.1210/message
Call to Spain: €0.1815/call €0.0121/minute €0.24 for 5 minute call within Spain
Text to Spain: €0.1210/message €0.1210/message
Mobile Internet: €1.45/day (up to 384kbps)

For full details on all applicable charges, please see the Yoigo website (available only in Spanish).

Other Networks

Masmovil and SimyoAs well as the big four networks, Spain also has a number of virtual network operators (MVNOs). They include Másmóvil and Simyo. Unlike the four major networks, MVNOs don’t have their own network infrastructure. Instead, they piggyback on one of the four network operators to provide the coverage for their service (it works in a similar way to MVNOs in the UK).

As a visitor in Spain, it may be possible to obtain a SIM card from a virtual network operator. However, it can be more difficult to actually find a store where you’re able to get a SIM card (you might need to find a local kiosk or newsagent). The options for topping up may also be limited. For a short-term trip, you’d probably be better off either choosing a major network or roaming on your UK SIM card.

Our Recommended Deal

SIM cardFor short trips (around 2 to 3 days), the best value option is probably to roam on your normal UK SIM card. Expect to pay around £2/day to £3/day to access the internet when you’re out in Spain. You’ll also need to pay around 18.8p/minute to call the UK and around 5.9p/message for texts to the UK. This can approximately be budgeted as £1 for a 5-minute phone call.

For longer trips, a SIM card from Three may offer better value. You get lots of minutes and texts for contacting the UK. There’s also a decent allowance of mobile internet. A major advantage when choosing Three is you’re able to set up your SIM card before you even leave home (that’s one less thing to do when you’re out there in Spain). A £10 top-up gives you 1GB of internet for up to 30 days. Meanwhile, a £20 top-up gives you 12GB of data in Spain.

Network Minutes Texts Internet Monthly
Cost
Three 100
to UK
3,000
to UK
1GB £10.00
Three 300
to UK
3,000
to UK
12GB £20.00

The “All in One” Pay As You Go tariffs can be used with Three’s Feel At Home offer. The inclusive minutes, texts and internet can be used abroad in any Feel At Home country. The £20 bundle has a fair usage policy of 12GB/month when travelling abroad.

Order Three All In One SIM card (£10 for 30 days) →

If you’re planning to stay in Spain for a longer period of time, Vodafone Tourist and Orange SIM Mundo are also worth a look.

With Vodafone Tourist, you get inclusive phone calls to both Spain and the UK. It’s €15/month for 60 minutes and 1GB of internet. Phone calls back to the UK are also fairly reasonably priced outside your allowances: it’s around €0.80 for a 5-minute call.

With SIM Mundo, you’ll get 500MB of 3G internet for only €6/month on the Orange network. A 5-minute phone call back to the UK will cost you €0.85 (€0.35 if you’re calling a UK landline).

More Information

For more information about using a UK SIM card abroad in Spain, please see the EE, O2, Three and Vodafone UK websites. For general information about using your smartphone in another country, see our guides to using your smartphone abroad and using your smartphone in the EU.

For more information about SIM cards in Spain, please see the Movistar, Vodafone Spain, Orange Spain and Yoigo websites. Most of these websites are only available in Spanish.

Your Comments 89 so far

We'd love to hear your thoughts and any questions you may have. So far, we've received 89 comments from readers. You can add your own comment here.

  • Hi Ken.

    I am heading to France and Spain for 7 weeks to do the Camino de Santiago. My carrier (Freedom Mobile Canada) has a world traveller option. That is $8 per month, plus $.25cdn to call per minute, $.20 to text and data $.25 per megabyte. Here to jail break my phone would be $30 cdn then buy a SIM card and two months of service. I will only turn data on say if I am lost and need a map… the odd text, as my friends will think I cannot be reached, a call ahead to an albuergue once a day, maybe one to book a train and Air B&B in Madrid and a couple to change my flight home. Calls home to Canada are at the same rate as the others. Seems like it is not worth it at all to buy a SIM card? I have no idea how big a meg of data is but that will be used sparingly… wait for wi-fi. So Ken do you imagine at all that I am barking up the right tree here?

    • Hi Grant,
      For a 7-week trip, I’d personally try to get a European SIM card. This will potentially give you lots more flexibility, and should cost you in the region of €10 to €15 per month. If you think you can get the required service & flexibility from using a Canadian SIM card then this should be the benchmark against which you compare the cost (if the charges on your Canadian SIM card will still be lower than using a European SIM card, then it may not be worthwhile getting another SIM card).
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

    • Thank you Ken for a most informative article.
      I am from Canada & will be spending a week in Spain followed by a week in London,
      my question is, can a Vodafone Tourist SIM card purchased in Spain function in the UK?

      • Hi Shane,
        Many thanks for your comment. Unfortunately, I don’t have a definitive answer to your question! I believe it should probably work in the UK (I’m assuming this because most UK-based Pay As You Go services will allow you to roam when abroad). For a definitive answer, it might be worth checking with Vodafone directly (e.g. when buying their SIM card after your arrival in Spain). Alternatively, someone else reading this article might have the answer to this?
        Ken

        • The Tourist Card I acquired from Vodafone in Puerta del Sol/Madrid functioned flawlessly in Spain. I didn’t realize that the card I purchased allowed phone calls to Spanish numbers only. Regardless, in London it provided steady 4G signal for internet access/surfing, Facebook, Messenger etc. In Kent the signal was much weaker, video chat was not possible.
          So, the take-away message is verify all chip characteristics before you purchase.

  • Hi Ken,

    Thanks for the informative site.

    I live in the USA and will be traveling to Spain and other EU countries.

    Do you happen to know if I purchased a Vodafone SIM card which would make more sense for return trips?… i.e. do the “Yu” SIMS make more sense (as compared to the Tourist SIM) if the card will sit dormant for a bit? Or is it necessary to pay a monthly fee for each of these?

    I’m accustomed to in the past needing to merely recharge the card every few months, but that was a few years ago.

    Any tips appreciated.

    — madison

    • Hi Madison,
      Many thanks for your comment. I’d recommend confirming the details with the local Vodafone store, but I believe it is also possible to top-up and recharge a Vodafone Tourist SIM card. I think, therefore, it’s simply a matter of which tariff is better for you (though of course, there could be additional terms that I’m not aware of).
      Ken

      • Thanks again, Ken.

        I’ll check with Vodafone when I get to Spain, and if I have anything interested to report back later, I’ll post here again.

        Regards,

        — madison

  • i have an unlocked mobil and i’m with Three in UK. I’m in Spain for 2 weeks this July. I want to use the net on my laptop by tethering to my mobile. I dont think this in included on Three’s Free to Roam? please confirm? also, if not, which prepaid deal ca i buy and take with me which will allow tethering? thanks, will need to do some work whilst im there..

    • Hi Dom,
      Many thanks for your comment. As of June 2017, it’s possible to tether in Europe if you have an Advanced Pay Monthly plan on Three (just like as if you were using the handset in the UK). If you’re a customer on Pay As You Go, tethering is available for 1p/MB. My review of Feel At Home here has a summary of the latest tethering policy post-June 2017.
      With regards to tethering on the Spanish mobile networks, unfortunately I’m not an expert on this topic (probably best to ask on an online forum for people living in Spain!)
      Hope this helps!
      Ken

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