Whether you’re coming to Spain to study, work or just to visit, you’re probably wondering how to ensure that you can keep your phone connected during your time away. But which Spanish SIM card is best to choose or do you really need a SIM card for Spain? It’s certainly possible to invest in an international plan from your current provider back home, but you’ll notice very quickly that it can be quite expensive, especially if your are from outside the European Union or if you are staying for several months or even years in Spain.

In this comprehensive article we will go over everything you need to know about setting up a SIM card for Spain. It will answer questions like do you really need a Spanish SIM card? What are the most popular Spanish mobile phone operators? And which SIM Cards in Spain are the best for foreigners? Additionally we will review if you should be looking for a prepaid SIM card (pay as you go SIM card) or a Spanish phone plan with a contract and how to set everything up upon your arrival.

While we review the most popular mobile phone operators in Spain we will give you also our current top recommendations regarding the best prepaid SIM card deals for Spain and phone plans for international students and expats.

If you’re interested in learning all we have to share, simply keep reading through this article. If you have some specific questions you need answered, just take a look at our content overview and select the topics that interest you the most.

If you are an international student or expat moving to Spain and you are here because you are looking for a popular SIM card for your time in Spain that offers great deals to internationals; then jump directly to our chapter called Most Popular Mobile Phone Operators in Spain & Top Recommendations to see the most popular prepaid SIM card deals in Spain as well as recommended phone plans.

Important: The Citylife team has collected & compiled the information on this page via intense research and investigation. It does not replace your own research!

1. Things to Keep in Mind Before Choosing a SIM Card for Spain


In general, getting a SIM card for Spain with one of Spain’s mobile operators is quite easy. You’ll also find that it’s usually more affordable in comparison with other countries. The hardest part is actually selecting the right SIM card and best Spanish mobile phone operator. The first thing to get clear right away, is to determine whether or not you really do need a SIM card for your time in Spain.

1.1 EU Roaming vs Non-EU Roaming

In 2017 the European Union brought an end to roaming charges and introduced EU wide roaming regulations. What this means is that if you are from an EU country and use a SIM card from there, you will be able to travel within the EU without any disruption to your contracted services and you will not need to pay any additional fees to stay connected.

There are some exceptions to the EU wide roaming rules of course, specifically when it comes to long-term travel and large consumption of data. So if you currently posses a European SIM card and you’re planning to move to Spain for a longer period of time, you will most likely still benefit from getting a SIM card for Spain. But for those who will be visiting Spain for only a few days or weeks, you will probably find that you do not need to get a SIM card for Spain.

All that said, we do recommend that you speak directly with your current mobile service provider and ask them to explain their rules about EU roaming. This way you can make a fully informed decision before you head to Spain.

If you are from outside the European Union, then you do need to take extra care when planning your trip in regards to your cell phone service and data plans. If you travel to Spain and simply continue using your original SIM card as if you were at home, you will be charged extremely heavy roaming fees. Most providers offer international plans of some kind, but once again this can get quite expensive if your stay in Spain lasts longer than a few days.

Overall, the best and cheapest option for you would be to set up a SIM Card for Spain. Prepaid SIM cards are incredibly easy to get and very cost effective as well. The only thing you need to keep in mind is that your phone must be unlocked to use a foreign SIM card. We’ll cover more on what that means and how to do it below.

1.2 Using your Current Phone vs Getting a New Phone

There is nothing wrong with using your current phone when abroad – but it’s important to keep in mind that in order to use a SIM card from Spain in your current phone, you will have to make sure it’s unlocked.

When a phone is locked it means that the phone has been programmed to only work for a SIM card provided by a certain company. This is a very common practice especially for cell phones that come from North, Central and South America. If you get to Spain and your phone is still locked, you will not be able to insert a SIM card from Spain and you will need to call the provider from which you bought the phone and request them to unlock it or visit a shop in Spain to unlock your phone. This process can be a simple and easy, but it could also require a few extra steps or even will not be possible, so it’s always easier to get this topic sorted out before you leave your home country. If you are moving to Spain for a few months only, you could also get an already unlocked, secondhand phone once in Spain. You can then use it with your new Spanish SIM card during your time abroad.

If you’re looking to buy a secondhand phone in Spain, or you’re unable to unlock your phone via your original provider, take a moment to check out CEX WeBuy. They are a great second hand shop with locations all over Spain’s major cities.


2. Prepaid SIM Card or Contract in Spain – What’s Best?


Once you’ve decided that you need to get a SIM card for Spain, you’ll need to decide what kind of service you’re looking for. The two options you have available to you are a mobile contract with fixed monthly payments for a minimum duration of time (usually 12 months), or a prepaid SIM with a pay as you go approach. Remember, for either of these options to work, you’ll need to ensure that your phone is unlocked!

2.1 Contracts (cell phone plans)

Contracts offer a lot of flexibility in terms of services. They usually provide some sort of “unlimited data” options and certain bundles that include various other services offered by the provider. The payment system is usually automated so you essentially will not need to think about it after you sign up.

The most important thing to note is that contracts are for long-term use. Most providers offer contracts for a minimum of 12 months which means that you will be stuck with the service and unable to cancel without paying penalty fees. Some few providers will have contracts without a minimum duration which are called “contratos sin permanencia” in Spanish. You should inquire about this option when checking out the different providers.

Contracts are a great option for expats or international students who know they will be moving to Spain for at least a year. Unfortunately Spain is infamous for the time and the painful paperwork it takes to set up a phone line, but once it’s done you typically don’t have to think much about it again.

Some important things to keep in mind when signing up for a cell phone plan contract, besides the paperwork, are that you will need to have both a Spanish bank account established and a NIE/TIE (foreigner’s ID card) to even be eligible for the contract. These requirements immediately make these contracts less attractive for internationals who are staying in Spain for less than a year. However, as we mentioned above, the hassle is worth it if you’re planning on moving to Spain for a long-term period.

Check our guideline on how to apply for a NIE/TIE in Madrid as well as our guide to best banks in Spain to open a Spanish bank account.


When it comes to choosing and signing up for a contract with one of the many mobile service operators in Spain, we recommend visiting their shops upon your arrival. To check out our recommendations, skip ahead to our chapter called “Most Popular Mobile Phone Operators in Spain & Top Recommendations“.

2.2 Prepaid SIM Cards (pay as you go)

By far, prepaid SIM cards are the most common and widely preferred option for young internationals and expats in Spain. Especially for those moving to Spain for a period of 12 months or less. They are quick and easy to set up, require almost no paperwork, are more affordable and much more flexible than contract plans. All these benefits make them the perfect option for international students and expats.

Prepaid SIM cards can be used on a pay as you go basis where you simply top up your SIM with some money and use your phone until the money runs out. Or they can be used by activating data and call packages that run for 30 day periods without any kind of contract – the later is the most popular and cost effective way to use them. After each 30 day period you can either activate the same plan again or try a new one – there is very little commitment involved. Once you’re done with the prepaid SIM card, you can simply throw it away and the mobile service provider will “recycle” the phone number within a few months of not using it.

Registering and activating a prepaid SIM card in Spain is a rather simple process as well. You’ll only need your passport or national ID and the registration takes only a matter of minutes. You can either sign up for a Spanish prepaid SIM card online, at various major Spanish mobile phone operator locations, or even at kiosks in the airport (not recommended as you usually will need to buy the SIM card there at very high prices). However, the easiest option is to visit any shop here in Spain known as a “Locutorio” (“Internet shops”) and they will do it all for you. Just keep in mind that many of these locations listed will usually charge a service fee in addition to the money you spend on the 30 day plan.

If you are moving to Madrid, then visit the Citylife office for further free advice and to get a free Spanish prepaid SIM card with our top recommended prepaid SIM card provider Lycamobile!

We will explain how it all works and help you choose and activate a plan as well! Learn more about Lycamobile and all the great deals they currently have to offer to internationals moving to Spain so you can pick your plan right upon your arrival in Madrid!


Lycamobile Prepaid SIM Cards – Special Deals for Internationals

Lycamobile is a mobile service operator that specializes in pay as you go SIMs for Spain & Europe. They are since many years now one of the most popular prepaid SIM card providers offering a great variety of cheap bundles (voice and data packs that include EU roaming). They are very popular amongst internationals moving to and living in Spain due to their competitive prices and simple service.

Besides being one of the cheapest prepaid SIM cards in the market today, Lycamobile uses one of the best networks in Spain to guarantee best coverage everywhere. They are also one of the few operators with an English speaking hotline which might come in handy too, especially if your Spanish is not yet at its best.

Speaking of your Spanish, get a head start on improving your Spanish level by checking out our Learn Spanish page.

As we shortly mentioned before, if you are coming to Madrid, then you can get your new Spanish prepaid SIM card for free in the Citylife office! It would be great to let us know that you are interested in activating a free Lycamobile SIM card by filling out our reservation form. This way we can ensure to always have enough SIM cards on stock.

3. Most Popular Mobile Phone Operators in Spain & Top Recommendations


There are four principal Spanish mobile networks: Movistar, Vodafone, Orange and Yoigo. Movistar has the best coverage throughout the country followed by Vodafone and Orange. Differences in prices and bundles between these main providers are not big (except for Movistar which typically is the most expensive option). Vodafone and Orange tend to have good promotions, especially if you opt for a phone plan contract paired with internet for your new home.

There are also several low-cost mobile phone operators in Spain who operate with one of the four Spanish mobile networks mentioned above and who offer great prepaid SIM card deals especially for internationals moving to Spain for less than 12 months. Regardless which one you choose, you’ll find great deals on calls, texts, and especially data for roughly only 5-30€ per month.

Below you will find an up to date overview about popular mobile phone service providers in Spain. Every year at Citylife we speak to different providers to learn about potential new services and updates. Our focus lies on cheap prices & deals, easy activation process, flexibility, network coverage as well as good service quality and service in different languages. Additionally we base our recommendations on the feedback collected from thousands of young internationals every year.


3.1 Lycamobile – Our Recommended Prepaid SIM Card Provider in Spain

Lycamobile is a British based mobile network company that is currently operating in 23 countries around the world. They’ve quickly earned their place among the top providers for prepaid mobile services and are the preferred choice of the majority of internationals traveling to Spain.

Lycamobile – Our Recommended Prepaid SIM Card Provider in Spain (Click to open)

Spanish Mobile Network

  • Lycamobile operates with Movistar

What They Offer

  • Prepaid SIM card
  • 30 day prepaid national & international plans with varying amounts of data for internet and minutes for calling. Check out Lycamobile’s prepaid mobile plans for a better idea on what they offer.

SIM Card Costs / SIM Card Price Ranges

  • 5€ – 30€ per month
  • Lycamobile does not charge to order or activate a SIM card. Any additional service fees might be charged by independent locations who offer Lycamobile.

Good to Know

  • Customer support and webpage available in English
  • EU Roaming included in all data plans
  • No NIE/TIE or Spanish bank account required to sign up

Activate your Lycamobile prepaid SIM card for free and receive a free powerbank in the Citylife office in Madrid! Learn more about Lycamobile and all the deals they have to offer so you can pick your plan right upon your arrival!



3.2 Vodafone – One of the Largest Network Operators in Spain

Vodafone is a massive telecommunications company based in the UK that sits among the top 4 most powerful in the world. It was introduced to Spain in 2001. Its acquisition of various Spanish telecommunication companies gives it access to amazing mobile, internet and television networks, making it one of the most well rounded provider in the country.

Vodafone – One of the Largest Network Operators in Spain (Click to open)

Spanish Mobile Network

Vodafone operates with its own mobile network

What They offer

  • Unlimited data & minute contracts
  • Limited data contracts with no minimum duration
  • Mobile + data packs
  • Home internet contracts
  • Cable television packs
  • Contract + mobile device contracts
  • 5G network access

SIM Card Costs / SIM Card Price Ranges

  • 20€ – 60€+ per month. All depending on what packages and combinations you take.

Good to Know

  • EU Roaming included in all mobile data plans
  • NIE/TIE & Spanish bank account required to get a contract with Vodafone
  • Vodafone does offer a monthly prepaid SIM card plan for around 20€ per month. However you usually get less data / minutes included in their prepaid SIM card plans and thus is quite pricey compared to operators who focus primarily on prepaid options. (As promotions constantly change, please make sure to check the Vodafone webpage for further details)


4. Other Spanish Mobile Phone Operators Worth Checking Out


Now that you’ve seen our two top choices, it’s time to check out some more reliable mobile network operators in Spain that we think you might like. We’ve selected these providers based on prices, customer service experience and usability. If you’re already feeling confident about the mobile operator that you’d like to choose, feel free to skip ahead to our next chapter about setting up Internet in your flat.

Upon your arrival to Spain, we recommend you visit any of the Phonehouse shops that are available all over Spain’s major cities. They offer all services/products of most of the top mobile phone operators in Spain. This way you can feel even more confident when it comes to choosing the right SIM card for Spain.


4.1 Orange España – Another Well Known Mobile Network Provider in Spain

Orange España is a popular Spanish mobile phone operator and is among the top 4 telecommunication companies in the country. It’s parent company is the 10th largest mobile network operator in the world and these connections have helped Orange España offer quality service and a wide range of products in Spain since around 2006.

Orange – Another Well Known Mobile Network Provider in Spain (Click to open)

Spanish Mobile Network

Orange España operates with its own mobile network.

What They offer

  • Prepaid SIM card options with limited data and minute packs
  • Mobile + data packs
  • Home internet contracts
  • Cable television packs
  • contract + mobile device contracts
  • 5G network access

SIM Card Costs / SIM Card Price Ranges

  • 15€ – 60€+ per month. All depending on what packages and combinations you take.

Good to know

  • EU roaming included in all mobile data plans
  • Prepaid SIM cards can be ordered with only a passport
  • NIE/TIE & Spanish bank account required to get a contract with Orange


4.2 Movistar – The Largest Mobile Network Operator in Spain

Movistar is officially the largest telecommunications service provider in Spain and Latin America. It was founded in 1995 and since then has been providing mobile networks to several smaller companies and offering a very wide range of services to its clients.

Movistar – The Largest Mobile Network Provider in Spain (Click to open)

Spanish Mobile Network

Movistar operates with its own mobile network.

What They offer

  • Unlimited data & minute contracts without minimum duration*
  • Prepaid SIM card options with limited data and minute packs
  • Limited contracts without minimum duration
  • Mobile + fiber packs
  • Home internet contracts
  • Cable television packs & soccer tv packs
  • contract + mobile device contracts

*prices and conditions vary depending on the promotions they are hosting at the time

SIM Card Costs / SIM Card Price Ranges

15€ – 60€+ per month. All depending on what packages and combinations you take.

Good to Know

  • SIM card and Internet contracts without minimum duration (“sin permanencia”)
  • EU Roaming included in all mobile data plans
  • NIE/TIE & Spanish bank account required to get a contract with Movistar



4.3 Yoigo – The Fourth Largest Mobile Network Operator in Spain

Yoigo has been around for just as long as some of the other mobile network providers on this list but it is still sometimes seen as the newcomer to the major league of telecommunications. It has had a few makeovers and is now here to provide great and affordable mobile phone services to its clients.

Yoigo – The Fourth Largest Mobile Network Operator in Spain (Click to open)

Spanish Mobile Network

Yoigo primarily uses its own mobile network, but in some cases it will share the Movistar mobile network.

What They offer

  • Prepaid SIM card options with limited data and minute packs
  • Limited data contracts with no minimum duration*
  • Mobile + data packs
  • Home internet contracts
  • Cable television packs
  • contract + mobile device contracts
  • 5G network access

*prices and conditions vary depending on the promotions they are hosting at the time

SIM Card Costs / SIM Card Price Ranges

10€ – 60€+ per month. All depending on what packages and combinations you take.

Good to Know

  • EU Roaming included in all mobile data plans
  • NIE/TIE & Spanish bank account required to get a contract with Yoigo


Other providers that are worth talking a look at are Pepephone, Lebarra, Más Móvil and Llamaya.

And those are our top picks & recommendations! We hope you find our information helpful. If you’re still unsure, you can get a quick and instant idea about available SIM card deals across different companies by using the Rastreator comparison tool. Unfortunately it is only available in Spanish, however it will show you a wide variety of results within seconds (not necessarily special offers for international students and expats, so be careful).

5. Internet Providers in Spain – Your Options

Much like cell phones, Internet at home is a must have for everyone. If you are still on the hunt for a new place to live in Spain, make sure to check if Internet is established before renting a room or apartment. As contracting Internet for your new home is a big hassle, it’s recommendable to look for flats with Internet already established and ideally included in your rent. Most student apartments, especially those offered by rental agencies, will already have wifi set up for you and your roomies to use, this is the quickest and easiest option to having internet at home.

To read everything there is about how to rent a room in Madrid, check out our Ultimate Guide to Student Housing in Madrid.


However, if you find a place without internet you will need to set it up yourself. This can be quite difficult as the Spanish move a little “slow“. Below we’ve shared some of our insights in hopes to help you prepare you expectations for the process of setting up internet in your Spanish apartment.

5.1 Internet for your Home

As we said above, the Spanish can move a little slow when it comes to setting up internet for your home – so this process can take a few weeks. Like the mobile phone contracts we discussed in earlier chapters, you will need to apply for a NIE or TIE and open a Spanish Bank Account before you can actually sign an internet contract with one of the Internet providers in Spain.

Another similarity between mobile phone contracts and home internet contracts is that they mostly come with a minimum duration of 12 months. If you end the contract early, you will have to pay a penalty fee. So before signing up with any of Spain’s internet providers, always check if they offer contracts without a minimum duration (“contrato sin permanencia”). This way you can cancel at any time.

To find the best or cheapest Internet providers in Spain, we recommend to check one of the various internet comparison portals like the one below from Rastreator. It will give a great first overview. Additionally, once you are in Spain, visit a Phonehouse shop available in many major cities in Spain. They are a specialized in mobile phones, mobile phone plans and home internet contracts.

5.2 Portable Internet Routers

Portable internet routers are the best option for people who need internet fast and for short-term periods. By using a portable router you can avoid the process of setting up internet in your apartment while also enjoying the benefit of taking internet with you wherever you go. These routers are also a great option for people who are waiting for their internet to be installed and need quick and easy access to a connection.

WifiAway offers small portable Wifi routers Spain wide which connect to the 4G network (high speed, similar to fiber)! You can connect up to 10 computers, tablets or smartphones to the mobile Wifi network and do not need a NIE or Spanish bank account. Read more here.

6. Rastreator Comparison Tool

Feel free to use the Rastreator comparison tool below to compare SIM card and Internet prices and offers from the different mobile network operators in Spain. It will give you a quick and instant idea about available SIM card & Internet deals (not necessarily special offers for international students and expats, so read carefully).

Rastreator Comparison Tool (Click to open)

Stay tuned, we are working hard to integrate the platform into our webpage so you can conveniently use it.

7. FAQ


More Articles About Moving to Spain:

Leah has been living in and exploring Madrid since 2013 when she moved to the city for a simple summer abroad. After falling in love with Madrid, she started the Citylife Blog in 2014 with the goal to share everything there is to know about her favourite place on earth! In her spare time you will find Leah at some of Madrid's many museums and cultural exhibitions.

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