While living in Spain, it will be necessary to have a Spanish phone number. Just like opening a bank account, getting a Spanish phone number should be one of the first things you do upon arriving in Spain.
You need a Spanish phone number for the following:
- Getting an appointment reservation for bureaucratic processes in Spain.
- Opening an online bank account with a Spanish IBAN.
- Using 2 factor authentication for Spanish websites, accounts, and processes.
- Accessing commonly used apps such as Bizum.
- Making and answering normal phone calls while in Spain.
I’ll guide you through the process of getting a Spanish phone number. It’s not too difficult, and you should be able to do everything in an hour.
Step 1: Before You Leave for Spain – Unlock Your Cell Phone
Make sure your phone is unlocked before you go to Spain. If you aren’t sure, call your provider and ask!
The easiest and least expensive way of getting a Spanish phone number is through changing your American SIM card for a Spanish SIM card. This is a quick and easy process if your phone is unlocked beforehand. It is much more difficult to unlock your phone while in Spain. Do it in America!
This process also has the benefit of allowing you to keep and access your American phone number if you so wish. For those that only plan on staying for a year, it’s a great advantage because you get to keep your old phone number, and you won’t have issues with two factor authentication for things like banking apps and financial accounts that are still connected to your American phone number.
Make sure to get all of your accounts with 2 factor authentication sorted beforehand if you are going to cancel your American phone number.
- Cell-phone unlock: T-Mobile
T-Mobile gives instructions on how to unlock your cell-phone based on your cell-phone’s manufacturer.
- Cell-phone unlock: Verizon
In their official policy, Verizon states that their phones automatically unlock 60 days after purchase. Check with your provider to confirm it is unlocked.
- Cell-phone unlock: AT&T
AT&T lists the requirements to have your phone unlocked. At the bottom of the page they offer the option to unlock your device and check its unlocked status.
Make sure you are able to remove the SIM card from your phone. Check if you need to purchase a special tool. For my android phone, I am able to open the SIM card slot with a bent paperclip. Other phones might not be so simple.
Step 2: Upon Arrival – Get a Temporary Phone Plan
When you arrive in Spain, you’ll need to start off with a temporary phone plan. These prepaid plans allow you to get a Spanish phone number as soon as you arrive. They may be a bit more expensive than signing up for a contract, but the prices will still be surprisingly low compared to the rates we pay in America. Regardless, you won’t be able to sign up for a contract until you have a Spanish bank account, a Spanish address, and your TIE or NIE, so the prepaid plan is always your best bet when starting off in Spain.
Spain has 4 operators for providing phone plans. All of the options are great with reasonable rates and good service. You can easily find physical locations in city centers, at international airports, and throughout Spain.
Check the links below to decide on which plan and provider works best for you. There is a large variety of options to choose from with varying services and rates. This is a personalized decision based on your cellphone habits, so choose what works best for you.
Prepaid plans and rates:
After you decide on a plan, the process is very simple. Go to the store, request your plan, show proof of ID, take out your American SIM card, and insert the new Spanish one. As long as your phone is unlocked, everything should load quickly and be functional within the hour. As a security measure, many SIM cards have a passcode you need to enter when turning on your phone. It will be given to you by your provider. Don’t forget it, and don’t lose it!
After getting your new number, you can easily change your Whatsapp account to use your new Spanish phone number instead of your old American number. It’s a very simple process. Just follow the guide below.
How to Change Your Phone Number (Whatsapp)
Step 3 (optional): Save Money – Get a Phone Contract
It isn’t too expensive, and it is quite reasonable to just continue with the prepaid plan. If you want to save some money and not deal with the hassle of recharging your account with funds though, it might be a good idea to get a phone contract while in Spain. There are always a variety of special plans and discounts.
Before you get a phone contract, you first need to have the following:
Residency Card (TIE) or NIE, Spanish address, Spanish bank account
Once you have all of the required items, it is exactly the same process as getting a prepaid contract to getting a normal phone contract. I highly recommend you get a contract “sin permanencia”. You do not want to be stuck trying to cancel a phone contract when you are trying to leave Spain.
I personally have a phone plan with 20gb, unlimited call and text along with free roaming use in all of Europe, the U.S., and U.K. for 15 euros a month through Vodafone. This plan is “sin permanencia”, so I would have no issues cancelling it whenever I want.
For those that want to shop and check out the various phone plans, I will link them below:
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