Mobile Telephones

Find out how to get yourself a mobile cellular phone in Spain...

Many choices exist for mobile phone service in Spain. Spanish mobile phone service operates on a GSM network, so phones from elsewhere in Europe, including the UK, will probably function, although roaming charges may apply. For those spending some time in Spain, buying and installing a Spanish SIM card in the phone (and therefore obtaining a Spanish mobile phone number) is a less-expensive option. Phones from North America that operate on the CDMA system will not work in Spain.

Smartphones and iPhones are commonplace in Spain. Mobile cellular telephone service providers offer various tariffs which incorporate air time, texts and GB data. 3G and 4G networks are widely available.

Prepaid and contract phones

For those opting for a Spanish SIM card and/or phone, phone service can be obtained on a pre-paid or contract basis.

Identification such as a Número de Identificación de Extranjero (NIE), or passport and proof of address are required when buying a new SIM card. This identification is required to comply with Spanish anti-terrorism laws.

Contracts: Connection, services offered and monthly service charges vary depending on the provider and it is recommended to compare the prices and services offered. Service on a contract is generally less expensive per minute than the pre-paid service and billing is usually on a monthly basis. Service providers offer various tariff plans. A minimum contract of 12 months is usually required.

Pay as you go: The pre-paid card (tarjeta prepago) provides a number and a certain amount of call-time ("credit"). The credit must be used within the expiry period, or the number may be reissued by the service provider. No contract with the service provider is required.

Cards can be bought at a number of places: tobacconists (estancos), newsagents, supermarkets, petrol stations and from telephone card machines.

Pre-paid calling plans require credit to be bought at a mobile phone store, tobacconist, grocery store or newsagent. Some banks offer an account top-up service available from ATMs.

Credit on prepaid phones usually has an expiry date, after which the number will only receive limited service. If the phone credit is not topped up after this expiry date, the number may be reassigned by the service provider. The expiry period varies between providers.


There are several mobile service providers in Spain. Some operators do not own mobile networks but rent capacity from larger networks and sell it on to their customers at a competitive rate. They are known as Mobile Virtual network operators (MVNO)