Buying a prepaid SIM card is the best way to get internet connection during your holiday in Madrid. Wi-Fi is common in Spain and you’ll usually find it in hotels and rental properties, as well as many coffee shops and restaurants.
But, if you want to be online everywhere you go, the cheapest way to stay connected when traveling around the world is to buy a local prepaid SIM card instead of international roaming or using an international SIM card.
The mobile operator market in Spain is highly competitive, which resulted in the prices for SIM cards and mobile data packages to be cheap compared to other European countries.
This is just one of the many reasons why I recommend you to buy local SIM cards when traveling to Madrid.
However, if you arrive late and the shop is close or you’re just too tired to sort that out, you can get yours later on.
You can buy your pay-as-you-go card (PAYG) from mobile phone shops and from some newsagents.
Alternatively, you can get them in certain grocery stores in the city center. Look for the Lycamobile, Hits Mobile or Lebara ads on display, as these operators specialize in PAYG.
The simplest option if you’ve just arrived to Madrid is to get a prepaid SIM card.
So what exactly are you buying with a Spanish SIM card? Essentially, you’re purchasing a small chip with a Spanish phone number on it and a certain credit that you can recharge or top up as often as you want. With that, you can make telephone calls, send texts, and use data on your phone just like at home until the credit runs out.
Prepaid SIM cards are totally rechargeable and perfect for short-term stays, or if you plan to be in Spain just for a couple of days.
Most plans will come with unlimited calls and messages but nowadays you should check the size of the data package first. Think carefully about how much data you are likely to use, and choose a package based on that.
What you’ll need?
The process is quick.
Just remember to ask for a “tarjeta prepago” (prepaid card). It takes 5-10 minutes to work out which package you need, then configure the new SIM. If you have any problem, the vendor will be glad to help you.
Your prepaid SIM card is valid for 6 months from the moment you activate it or from the moment you recharge it.
After 6 months without recharging it, your card will be deactivated. If your card is deactivated, you’ll lose this specific phone number.
To avoid it, you must recharge it at least once during this time period. Every time you recharge your prepaid SIM card, the 6 months of usage begins all over again.
There are two ways in which you can top up your card:
Most Spanish prepaid SIM cards will also work all over Europe thanks to European Union regulations about roaming charges across borders.
Roaming service and international calls are activated by default with your mobile fee. However, if you plan to travel around Europe after visiting Spain, check beforehand that
Once you turn on the service in the country you’re visiting (e.g. Portugal), your phone will connect automatically to the network with the best coverage amongst the ones who have roaming agreements with your SIM card telecom provider.
Telecom providers can be divided into two groups:
The only difference between them is that MNOs are the owners of the network they manage and use to operate while MVNOs are not, they actually rent the network to an MNO.
There are four operators with their own network in Spain:
In Spain, there are more than thirty MVMO. However, here is the list of the one that offer the best tariffs on a prepaid SIM card.
The situation with SIM cards, cell phone rentals and Wi-Fi in Spain is changing fast. The situation could change by the time you read this. I’ll try to keep this page updated, but always do your own research to make sure you get the best deal.