Barcelona – Internet, Wifi and Phoning – Where to buy a Local SIM ?

Internet Access in Barcelona

Internet access is good in Barcelona.
Wifi is available in most cafés, restaurants, malls and hotels and also the Internet speed is OK. There are several cellular companies operating in Barcelona and they give you good wireless Internet access. You can buy a local Sim (with your passport) with a pre-paid plan and you will also receive roaming for most Europe (for the same price).
To get Internet in Barcelona you have basically 3 options :

1. With a Wi-Fi (or cable) Connection :

Your hotel, restaurant or café may provide you with a Wi-Fi connection (or a cable connection). Most of the times the wifi is free if you consume a drink or you stay at the hotel, other times the business asks for a special fee.

2. With a Local Sim of one of the cell phone Networks

sim cardIf Internet access is important for you and you want to be independent from the wifi networks in cafés and hotels, then buy a local SIM from one of the local cellphone (cellular) networks and make a pre-paid Internet subscription.

3. With the Sim Card of your country

It depends which contract you have with your cellphone operator regarding using your phone abroad. In some cases, the prices are the same as using the phone in your home country but in other cases the cellular operator charges high prices for phoning or using internet from abroad. If you are not sure about the prices that your operator will charge you, buy a local SIM for your stay in Barcelona.

Roaming with a European SIM  :

In Europe, by law, if you have a European SIM (a SIM card bought in a European country), then you can use your phone in most central Europe, with the same prices, like at home. It is also applicable for the pre-paid plans. So, for example, as a tourist, you can buy your SIM in Italy, make a pre-paid plan for one month, then after 1 week you arrive to Barcelona and continue to use it normally.
Your smartphone will connect automatically to one of the local cellular operators, usually the one with the strongest signal (sometimes, the operators have contracts between them, so you will be connected automatically to a specific operator).
From my experience, the roaming works OK, but sometimes there are delays in the connection. A local SIM is better, technically.
Don’t forget to “turn on” the roaming option on your smartphone (configuration menu), otherwise it won’t work.

Who are the cellular operators in Barcelona ?

The 3 big cellular companies are:  Orange, Vodaphone and Movistar.
From my experience Orange is the most friendly to tourists, they have a good pre-paid plan.

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Where to buy a local SIM and where to charge pre-paid credit ?

  • For Orange : One of the shops is in plaza de Cataluña.
  • For all cellular operators : 7 floor of the big department store “El Corte Ingles” in plaza Cataluña.
  • There are many shops of all the cellular companies in central Barcelona.

When you buy the SIM, the assistant will already fix the pre-paid plan.
If later you want to charge credit again, you can return to the shop or via the website (credit card) or via the phone (credit card).

Passport : Don’t forget to bring your passport in order to buy the local SIM.

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How much does it Cost to use Internet in Barcelona ?

Example of cellular Prices :

  1. Price of using wifi in a café or hotel : usually free.
  2. There are also some Internet cafés in Barcelona (with computers), they are called “Locutorio” (they have almost disappeared because people are using their smartphone).

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How is the Internet speed in Barcelona ?

See this worldwide connection speed comparison.

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General Useful Information about cellular Internet

Understanding the Pre-Paid packages of the cellular companies

They play with 3 factors:

  1. The total amount of data that you can get (the more you use
    Internet, the more you consume data)
  2. The speed that you will get the data (How fast the Internet pages will be displayed on your device)
  3. For how long (days, hours) you will be entitled to get internet.

The amount
of Data :
The cellular companies charge you by amount of data used. If you are viewing a simple page on a website, you use a small amount of data. If you are viewing a youtube video, you use a big amount of data, so you should restrain yourself from high consuming datas if you are connected via a cellular company, otherwise it will get expensive (or move to a wifi connection).
The Speed :
As long as you are within your Data allowed in your package, you get it at the maximum speed that the company can deliver, and it is pretty fast. When you have finished your Data, they don’t cut you, but they deliver the internet at a very low speed, one that may be enough to view a simple Internet page but not to make, comfortably, a voice call with Skype.
The Time : When you buy a pre-paid package, it fixes the amount of Data you can use and the total length of time that you can use it.
For example, lets say you have bought a package including 6 GigaBytes of Data and valid  for 1 month. If one month has passed and you have used only 5 Gigas, you have lost 1 Giga.
On the other hand, if you have finished your 6 Gigas in just 1 week, you have 3 weeks left of Internet at low speed.

Note 1: If your package is finished and you have credit (money) in your pre-paid account, you may still use Internet but they can charge you by minute. Beware of that option, it may be very expensive. Protect yourself from this by disabling the Data Transfer on your smartphone.
Note 2:
Don’t get confused :
Megabits per second (Mbps) and Kilobits per second (Kbps) is about speed
Megabytes (MB) and Gigabytes are an amount of data.

If you need Cellular Internet on your Laptop or Tablet – Tethering

Your laptop can receive wifi, but unlike your smartphone, it usually cannot get cellular reception. Thankfully it is possible (and very easy) to transfer the internet of your smartphone towards your laptop, it is called Tethering.
tetheringYou can do it with a cable or wireless (wifi). The speed you get is like the one you get on your smartphone. Wireless is the easier option because with a cable you may miss a driver.
Here are the general steps:
1. Make sure you receive internet on your smartphone.
2. It depends on your smartphone, if it is an Apple or Android and which version, but generally you should go to the “settings” and search for a menu with a name like “tethering” or “hotspot” or “transfer of data”.
3. You will find an option to make it wireless or with a cable.
It is easier wireless. If you choose the cable option, then the one you use to charge your smartphone may be fine.
4. You will also find a menu in which you can see the wifi password (and change it if you want), you will need that password in order to connect your laptop to this wifi network.

aircardAnother option to get cellular Internet on your laptop is with an Aircard, but I don’t see why you would do that, if you have a smartphone. An Aircard is a small device (looks like a thick USB key) that can get internet from a cellular company (wireless), it is connected to the
laptop via a USB socket. Inside the Aircard, you should put the SIM of the cellular company you want to use. You can buy an Aircard from one of the cellular companies or on the free market (but then make sure it can work with any SIM and not just a certain cellular company).

What to check on your phone if you can’t get

When you are abroad, the best is to get human assistance when
you put a new local SIM. In case you prefer to do it all alone, make sure that :

  1. You should have a valid pre-paid or post-pay subscription with a
    cellular company, the same company of the SIM you inserted into your smartphone.
    If you are using the SIM of your country make sure it includes International use. If it is a pre-paid plan, check that your have credit (with the special number the company provides for that). Make sure the plan includes also Internet (usually it does).
  2. Make sure the “allow cell phone data receiving” is enabled on your smartphone (this is different than wifi reception). You should find it in the “settings” menu of your smartphone.
  3. Make sure your smartphone is not in a “flight mode” (the mode that cuts all communications)

Phoning from Barcelona

Lets assume that you have your own phoning device like a Smartphone (you are human, right ?).
Two options :

1. Via an Internet connection :

If you are connected to the Internet, you can make phone calls with a software like Skype. A software like Skype lets you make free phone calls in case your destination has also Skype or you can call to regular phones and mobiles for very low rates.

2. Via traditional cellular voice with a cellular company :

You can buy a local SIM from one of the local cellular operators, choose a  pre-paid plan, and then you can make international phone calls. You can also use a SIM from your country (roaming).

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