Cell phone in Spain

We will be traveling to Barcelona and the costa brava next week. I bought an inexpensive Samsung phone last year in Italy.Will I be able to use it in Spain if I purchase a Spanish SIM card and if so is there any place to buy a card at the airport? We are renting an apartment and have to call the owner when we land. Any help would be appreciated.

Posted by Jeff
Bend, OR, United States
1161 posts

You can buy a Mobal SIM for $9 with free 2-3 day shipping. It will be more expensive to use - about $1.50/ minute - but there are no prepaid minutes to expire and you can use it anywhere in the world. I have one and it works great. http://www.mobal.com/international-gsm-sim-card/

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5190 posts

If your phone is locked, it will only work with a SIM from the Italian provider it has now. If it is unlocked, you can in-sert a Spanish SIM, and get much lower rates that Mobal. How to find out? Get a hold of an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM. If you don't use one of these in the US, find a friend who does, and who has a phone that takes a standard "mini-SIM," not the smaller "micro-SIM" or the even smaller "nano-SIM." Put it into the phone and turn it on. If the phone starts up normally and says "searching for network" for a long time, it is unlocked (even if it never finds a network). If the phone almost immediately says "enter SIM PIN 2" and will not go any further, it is locked. Also, depending on the particular Italian provider you have, your Italian SIM may still work. It will be very hard or impossible to refill, and calls will cost more in Spain than in Italy, but if all you need is one or two, it may do the trick. I bought a SIM in Germany almost a year ago, and it's still working right now, in Poland; if my guess is correct and it lasts a year from purchase without being topped up, I expect it will expire in about a week, but I'll be back home by then.

Posted by Ken
Vernon, Canada
22545 posts

@Harold, "How to find out? Get a hold of an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM." That may or may not work. If the Italian phone is only a dual-band phone, it won't recognize the North American frequency bands. However, trying an AT&T or T-Mobile SIM in the phone is certainly worth a try. @Lynne, You could also consider using a SIM from one of the travel phone firms such as Roam Simple, Cellular Abroad, Telestial, Mobal, EuroBuzz or others. That way you'd have a working phone as soon as you step off the plane and wouldn't have to bother searching for a Cell shop. Many of them use U.K.-based numbers and some use post-paid billing (calls charged to a credit card), so no worries about topping up. Cheers!

Posted by Nancy
Bloomington, IL, USA
8562 posts

If the phone is unlocked, you also have the option of using Eurobuzz (Mobal's "little brother" company). Eurobuzz is $.79/minute in most places. Great call quality, and your number is permanent - you never have to worry about running out of minutes, since the calls are charged to your credit card.

Posted by Brad
Gainesville, VA
8054 posts

I'd be amazed if your phone, that you bought in Italy, is locked. I bought a similar Samsung in Spain. You should just need to pick up a SIM card at any of the Kiosks in the Barcelona airport or downtown arpund Placa Catalunya (I bought ours at El Corte Ingles, off the Placa, but there are hundreds of options). Do you recall who you purchased your Samsung from? I think mine was Vodaphone. If it is locked (which is the norm in the US but I don't think common in Europe), stop by the same company to have it unlocked/pick up a new SIM. Worst case scenario (and, I think, highly unlikely), just pick up a new phone for around 25 euro - complete with charger, SIM card and ten euros call credit. I saw 25 euro options from at least Vodaphone and Orange (with almost no time invested shopping around).

Posted by Harold
New York, NY, USA
5190 posts

@Ken: "If the Italian phone is only a dual-band phone, it won't recognize the North American frequency bands." Yes. But if it is locked, it won't even get that far; it will IMMEDIATELY ask for a "SIM PIN 2" and will not boot up. If it is unlocked, it will say "searching for network" for a long time. If the phone is dual band, it won't find a network; it it is quad band, it will (eventually). But as long as it boots up and starts searching for a network, it is unlocked. @Brad: I don't know about Spain or Italy, but phones sold in France are locked. However, stores advertising "deblockage" are everywhere, and charge about €20 to unlock a phone.