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Control the cost of using your mobile in Spain


NOTE: This page is somewhat out of date, but the point about buying a sim abroad is still valid. Changes in EU legislation have significantly reduced costs of using your mobile in the EU, so that (unless you adopt a roaming package from your provider) costs should not exceed 38p a min for calling and 19p for receiving, irrespective of who your provider is. Receiving texts is free but sending can cost up to 50p. The EU has just (summer 08) announced plans to control costs of texting too.

A convenient feature of the modern mobile phone is the ability to remain in contact whilst abroad. Mobile operators refer to this service as international roaming. However, this convenience comes at a cost and if you don’t pay attention to how much you use your mobile you could be paying your phone bill off long after your tan has faded.


This article has been written to help you avoid extortionate mobile roaming charges however the potential to reduce costs greatly depends on your usage pattern.


Important differences to note whilst in Spain;

bulletYou will have a choice of different networks to use. However, the call charges will vary dependent on the network you select.
bulletYou will pay for receiving calls
bulletYour call charges will be different to those when using your mobile at home. Expect an increase of 300-1000%.
bulletThe peak and off peak times of the foreign operator may differ from your UK operator.
bulletYou may be billed in different increments i.e. per minute instead of per second.
bullet There will be a surcharge for calling free phone numbers and customer care lines.


Considerations before travelling


Check the cost of calling with your mobile operator and the network coverage whilst in Spain.  A full list of the current operator prices can be found at the end of this article.


Let potential callers know that you will be in Spain

In order to avoid receiving unnecessary and costly call, advise potential callers that you will be Spain. If you have a standard UK contract you may be paying as much as 75ppmin to receive a call.  


If you travel frequently to different destinations ask about special roaming tariffs

Your mobile operator may offer an International Traveller Service (ITS). In general this is offered if you roam on a partner network whilst abroad and typically in return you will receive flat rate calls. The savings can be as much as 80% however there may be an additional subscription fee, so make sure your usage justifies the extra charge.


Considerations when travelling

There are several steps that you can take to use your mobile in the most cost effective way.


Send TXT messages instead of calling

A typical text message will cost 30-40p while abroad however a voice call will cost in excess of 60p. And remember whilst roaming you are charged per minute so if your call only lasts twenty seconds you will still get charged the price of a full minute.


Bar incoming calls or set up a UK divert

If you are confident that no one will want to speak to you then you can bar incoming calls. Alternatively, divert all calls to a UK number and ask people to contact you via SMS or call if it is urgent.


Use your voicemail service

You can divert all incoming calls directly to your voicemail so that you do not need to pay to receive that call. You can then make one call to your voice mail and decide what calls require your attention. However, please note that conditional diverts such as diverting calls to voicemail when you are on the phone can be extremely costly. This is because you often pay to receive the call and then send it back to your voicemail in the UK


Manually select the cheapest network to roam on

When arriving in Spain your mobile phone should automatically select the cheapest network (partner network) to roam on. However, to avoid any costly mistakes, it is worth discovering the correct network before roaming and then manually selecting that network once you arrive.


Phoning Home

All phone numbers in your mobile’s address book need to be preceded with the correct international dialling code. For UK numbers it is +44 followed by the national code minus the first 0.


Foreign SIM cards

For longer or repeat visits to Spain consider purchasing a foreign Pay-as-you-go sim card. The SIM is an electronic chip that ties you to a particular network. By changing the SIM, you are no longer roaming, you are considered to be a local number on a particular network. This brings considerable advantages; you are no longer charged to receive calls and you can make calls at a fraction of the roaming cost.


You can buy Spanish prepaid sim cards online at www.0044.co.uk for £29.99 before you go and then simply pay as you go when abroad. This has the added benefit of providing you with your new number before you travel and a set of English instructions. However, please be aware that your handset may need to be unlocked before it will accept a sim card from another network, often this will cost around £10. Thankfully 0044 provide a free Nokia unlock with the purchase of a sim card.


Tips for saving money

Depending on how often you travel and where you go you could save money by following these simple guidelines.


Annual Holiday Maker – Holiday phone bill is less than £20

If you head overseas once a year and take your mobile with you please try the following;

bullet Subscribe to an international saver scheme and you could benefit form significant savings if you intend to use the phone for more than just emergencies.
bullet Whenever possible TXT rather than phone but be aware it will cost around 30p/txt
bulletUse local payphones to make national calls and buy a calling card to call home


The business traveller / jet setter – Monthly phone bill exceeds £200

If you visit several destinations a year and roaming is second nature;

bullet Subscribe to an international saver scheme
bullet Ensure that the scheme has flat rate calling charges for all networks that operate in that country to avoid complications
bullet Consider purchasing a global roaming sim card this innovative service that allows you to roam with just one sim card throughout the world and can save you up to 80% (e.g., oneroam.co.uk).




A home in the sun / spending more than 3 weeks abroad

If you are lucky enough to have brought a home in the sun, regularly visit Spain every year or are intending to spend more than 3 weeks in Spain;

bullet Purchase a foreign sim card for a local network. You should quickly recuperate the costs even if you have to pay for an unlock. You will be able to receive calls for free and make call at local rates. For a UK supplier of  Spanish sim cards please visit www.0044.co.uk. There are some alternatives discussed on main page (2010 update).



For further information regarding international mobile roaming call charges please click on the following links:


Vodafone - http://www.vodafone.co.uk/


Orange - http://www.orange.co.uk/international/



T-mobile - http://www.t-mobile.co.uk/Dispatcher?menuid=phones_cua_flash



Call comparison charts



Calling Back to UK


Calling "incountry"










































Spanish Sim









All UK call charges include VAT and are charged on a pence per minute basis.

Whilst we have ensured that the call rates are as accurate as possible they are subject to change. Therefore we would recommend only using this table as a guide. For the latest and most accurate information please visit the website of your UK network.




                                                                                          The Owl and the Sparrow


                                                      Revision 2012


 The Owl and the Sparrow is a book about a battle that takes place in a forest. The battle is between the birds on one side of the forest,  which they themselves  call the good side of the forest, and the birds (vultures) on the other side,  the dark side of the forest.

 Owl is the leader of the good forest and his adversary is the Condor, reputed as being the darkest force in the forest.  Into  the story enters an apparently naive sparrow who is seduced by Condor into the dark side of the forest against the rulings of Owl. Owl refuses to send help because he does not want to endanger the lives of more birds, but also because he is furious with the sparrow. He says that  sparrow was asking for trouble.

 Also on the good side of the forest are an incredibly silly group of finches who like to play games and torment the vultures. But their silliness  and game-playing skills are no match for the profound darkness of the vultures, and some are captured, and terrorised.

  Golden Eagle rules over the whole forest, but he gets little involved because he has left Owl a set of rules. Finally he gets angry with what he sees happening on both sides of the forest, and  realises that rules are not enough. So  out of his concern and love for the birds , he sends his  son, Silver Eagle, to the  forest.   The book covers the events that follow including  a bitter battle and the discovery that there is an unknown traitor within their camp.


Author Ruth Thomas

Editor Joan  Mitchell

First version typed up and suggestions made by Deborah van Welie



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