Getting a cell phone for Spain
If you are moving to Salamanca, to save money, bring with you an ‘unlocked’ cell phone that accepts SIM cards. We had a little trouble getting our phone to work, the dated Google phone we brought from the States wasn’t much of a help. Unlocked phones can be purchased online on Amazon, eBay and Craigslist to name a few, but there are now usually stores that you can find that sell unlocked cell phones.
In Denver, we have a store in the Aurora mall that will unlock your phone for a small fee (depending on the phone and carrier) or that sells phones already unlocked.
Activating your phone in Spain
Pay as you go or cell plan?
Stores that will activate your phone with a pay-as-you-go plan in Spain aren’t very hard to find. You can buy your phone service from a store such as Orange or Movistar, but they don’t offer very competitive pricing. Although these phone plans are already pretty cheap, you can find even cheaper service at a general cell phone store, they’re located throughout the city. We saw a service that had a phone plan at 10 euros a month.
Even if you decide to jut pay per minute and get prepaid cards, you’ll be amazed at how far €10 worth of minutes will take you.
Once you get your sim card, it’s pretty easy. Insert it into your phone, and reset, and kablooey! It’s ready to use.
Money saving tricks for calling and texting from Spain
There are some tricks around a phone if you really want to save money. Aim allows texting to mobile numbers (but only in the U.S.), TextNow is an app that accepts voicemails and can send and receive text messages (we have to verify if this still works in Europe though). Most of our European friends use WhatsApp for texting, also because they can text from country to country.
We know for sure that you can use your Gmail to make phone calls to friends and family in the US. Lame in 2011, the make a call option from your gmail email account used to be free. Now it costs and you have to have credit.
You can also be on the lookout for apartments that have telephones inside so that you can reach your new Salamanca friends. If your unactivated/activated iphone can still send receive iMessages, continue to take advantage of that functionality too while overseas. We text our iPhone friends and family all the time from here.
Here’s an article that we found from Forbes on switching mobile carriers. While the app specifically talks about the iPhone5s/5c, it has a lot of information about dealing with locked phones from each carrier. For example, we found that the all Verizon phones already come unlocked.
In fact, we have to give props to Verizon for being surprisingly helpful for our transition to Spain. The guy at the counter not only was honest in telling us that Verizon was already unlocked and ready for use in Spain, he also told us how to get our phone’s activated in Spain and he recommended the cheapest way to work through our current contract, since Kyle had just purchased his phone.