The best mobile phone carrier in Spain
This article lists the major mobile phone companies, explains their pros and cons and gives our opinion of which is the best mobile phone carrier in Spain.
New to Madrid?
If you have just arrived in Spain, we do not recommend immediately commiting to a long term contract. Your new lifestyle means you likely do not know what kind of consumption you will have. Moreover, if you do not have a Spanish NIE/TIE, you will not be able to enter into a long-term contract until you obtain legal residency.
In the beginning, we recommend a “Pay As You Go” solution. This will give you time to establish your residency, understand and stabilize your consumption pattern.
The easiest way to do this is to buy a Spanish SIM and put it in your phone. The budget carrier Tuenti has the cheapest pay as you go SIM cards. They charge 6.95€ for 3GB of data and unlimited phone calls. Since they are part of Movistar, they use its network so there is no concern about the quality of reception. You can go to any Movistar store to purchase a Tuenti SIM and get it installed in your phone.
- Make sure to bring your passport, as Spanish law requires you to present a photo ID when you purchase any SIM.
- Ideally, purchase a phone that allows two SIM cards, such as an iPhone XS, iPhone XS Max or Huawei 10. Then you can keep your current phone number, plus have a Spanish one.
- If you are coming from the US, your phone is probably locked. If this is the case, you need to get it unlocked before you arrive in Spain. Many small mobile phone shops (not branches of the big carriers like Verizon and Sprint) will do this for you. It costs, on average, $100 and will take a couple hours.
If you want to enter into a contract immediately, we recommend you get professional help. It can save you, on average, 200€ a year just on bills, or 2000€ including your time and temporary accommodation fees. Email us today to arrange your free relocation consultation!
After you get your NIE, and/or have lived here at least three months, you will likely want to switch to a long term contract. It’s much easier than constantly re-filling your SIM and they offer much better data options.
Who are the main mobile carriers?
There are four main mobile carriers in Spain, all of which have good coverage in Madrid:
Vodafone has the best coverage in Spain. Its 4G/LTE network covers 96.5% of the country. Orange’s (the rebranded France Télécom) network covers 91.7% of the country. Movistar and Yoigo’s (Yoigo uses Movistar’s network- they are Movistar’s budget carrier) covers 89% of the country.
What should I consider when choosing my mobile phone carrier?
This largely depends upon your needs. We think it is important to consider three things:
1–English speaking customer service
Although Movistar is the most popular carrier with locals, according to the English speaking website The Local, it is not popular with expats. Most likely this is due to the lack of English speaking customer service. In almost five years of living in Spain I have never, EVER, heard anyone at Movistar speak English (and they are this author’s carrier). I am very pleased with their service, although their roaming fees are high, particularly for data. It is rumored they have English speaking sales attendants at their flagship store on the Gran Vía, but who wants to go all the way down there and brave the crowds? If you want English speaking customer service, we recommend Vodafone or Orange.
2–Price per call
The overwhelming majority of Spaniards uses Whatsapp to place and receive calls. This is true even for business purposes. Once you live here a few months you will likely follow suit. Not only will you be able to speak with people in Spain without using your minutes, but it is also much cheaper to call your friends and family back home using Whatsapp or another VOIP carrier. Therefore, we do not recommend using call minutes included as a major determinant in choosing your optimal mobile phone carrier.
3– Amount of data included
As mentioned above, most of your calls will take place over VOIP so you should focus on data provided by your plan, NOT call minutes provided. This is especially true if you are coming from the US and are accustomed to unlimited data. If you are a heavy data user, it is shocking how quickly you can run through the 5-10GB of data provided by most low cost plans in Spain.
What is the best mobile phone carrier in Spain?
Again, this depends upon your preferences. We have compiled the following table of different plans offered by the major carriers (data as of June 13, 2019):
|* Both Yoigo and Orange offer initially discounted pricing. The above prices are standard prices|
|**This enables downloads of large files, high res videos and games|
As you can see, there is a great deal of variation amongst plans. That said, in our opinion, the best mobile phone carrier in Spain is Vodafone.
Unless you are on an extreme budget, 40.99€ is not much to pay for unlimited data. If you choose a plan with limited data, such as those offered by other carriers, you will likely end up incurring additional charges for data overages. These can add up dramatically if you travel outside the European Union, if you use the navigation system on your phone whilst driving, watch Netflix, etc.
Moreover, it has English speaking customer service that is, allegedly, pretty good.
Finally, and arguably most importantly, Vodafone is rolling out its 5G network in Spain this summer in 7 major cities (obviously this includes Madrid). This will be a game changer. If you have a phone that can handle it (ie: not an iPhone), the uptick in speed and functionality will be well worth the few extra euros you pay per month.
Do you need help relocating to Madrid? If so, we can help you find the best mobile phone carrier in Spain, the best TV and more. Arrange a FREE CONSULTATION TODAY to learn how our relocation services can save you time and money.