Go Back  Fodor's Travel Talk Forums > Destinations > Europe
Reload this Page >

SIM card purchase at MAD (Madrid airport)?

SIM card purchase at MAD (Madrid airport)?

Oct 2nd, 2012, 04:16 AM
  #1  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,708
SIM card purchase at MAD (Madrid airport)?

I will be arriving in Madrid after an Iberia flight from NYC. For the very first time, I am bringing my (new) unlocked cell phone, and will need to purchase a SIM card. I am a total novice, never having done this before, and actually never (gasp!) having used a cell phone in Europe before.

What is the most convenient place to do this at the airport?

Is there anything I need to know before buying the card? (In case it is pertinent, I expect that my use of the phone will be very limited..during a two-week-plus visit to Spain, I expect to use it only to book restaurant reservations, call for directions, and any unforeseen emergencies during the few days that I will have a rental car...).

Thanks!!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2012, 10:18 AM
  #2  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
For get getting one at the airport. You should wait until you get into the city. I don't know where you are staying (Salamanca?), but there is a MoviStar store at Porta de Alcalá, Plaza de la Independencia, 6, where you can purchase the sim and they will help you set it up. All you'll need is your passport and credit card. There is another MoviStar store at Calle de Serrano, 61 (www.movistar.es), as well as smaller stores around the city.

Vodafone is also a good option, but MoviStar seems to have better coverage.

You can also order a sim through Spain Sim (www.spainsim.com/index.htm) and have your number before leaving home.
Robert2533 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2012, 10:32 AM
  #3  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,211
Another option which I used earlier this year is getting a Spain Orange sim card on Ebay. The seller registered it for me (I think I had to provide passport info).
cruiseluv is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2012, 11:43 AM
  #4  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,786
I compared several different services this spring with internet. The answer might be different if you are only looking for voice.

With internet, Yoigo was the best choice. 20EU with 500mb and 20 free SMS and I forgot how many min of voice.

Movistar claimed they did not offer prepaid internet SIM. I wondered, however, if they say this if they don't want to deal with tourists.

Vodafone offered prepaid SIM with internet. But they add this fee and that fee and I thought they wanted 50EU for less MB than Yoigo.

Yoigo demanded a real passport to activate the SIM. A copy of passport was no good.
greg is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2012, 03:46 PM
  #5  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Yoigo, a minor player in the market, is in the process of being bought out by Orange or Vodafone. And yes, they are cheap, but don't have the coverage of MoviStar or Vodafone.
Robert2533 is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2012, 05:37 PM
  #6  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,708
I would much prefer to buy at the airport, since I will need to phone the rental agency upon arrival.
I need only the phone calls, not Internet, as it is a basic phone.....is there no place at MAD that will sell me the card? What is the advantage of waiting to buy in the city? I arrive early Sunday morning.
ekscrunchy is offline  
Oct 2nd, 2012, 08:00 PM
  #7  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Yes, there are people selling sim cards in baggage claim, but you might want to check Spain Sim to have your sim card and telephone number before leaving home. Since I've never used the services offered by the hustlers at the airport, there is nothing I can tell you about them or the sims they sell.
Robert2533 is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 12:09 AM
  #8  
 
Join Date: Feb 2003
Posts: 3,211
ekscrunchy,

I want to give you the link of the Ebay page where I bought my Orange Spain Sim card a few months ago:

http://www.ebay.com/itm/SPANISH-ORAN...item4aae1dc96b

It costs around $20 and it comes with a credit of 9 euros (about$12). ust be aware that of that credit 4 euros is "promotional" and will expire 30 days after card is activated. When you buy it the vendor will activate it for you (you need to give him passport info). I received it within a few days, free delivery.

I had the same issue as you, wanted to have the Sim as soon as I arrived Spain, preferably before. This way you dont have to waste time looking for a vendor at the airport.
cruiseluv is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 01:33 AM
  #9  
 
Join Date: Oct 2006
Posts: 4,760
I personally would not give my passport information to any seller on fleabay, they are an unknown quality and you will never know where the information will end up.
Yoigo at the moment uses Movistar’s infrastructure where they do not have their own coverage.
Robert is correct in saying Movistar has the best coverage. However do not expect 100% of Spain to be covered by a signal.

There are sellers of SIM cards on seemingly every street corner. Even supermarkets sell them.
ribeirasacra is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:48 AM
  #10  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,708
I'm sorry, but I was not asking about buying from a "hustler at baggage claim!" Are there not many legitimate booths selling these cards at the airport? I seem to see so many phone sellers every time I walk through any airport, that I thought this would be a simple proposal. Apparently I am confused here! I have never bought a SIM card before.

To be clear: I do not need to "phone home" from Spain. I will use the phone only a few times, in Madrid, Seville, and perhaps Malaga, to phone for restaurant bookings and in case of an emergency on the road between Gaucin and Malaga. I will probably make 10 calls, if that, and I will not need internet, texting, or anything else.

I do need a phone to call the rental agency so that they can meet me at the apartment soon after my arrival in Madrid, early on a Sunday morning. Would it be better to try to locate a pay phone to make this call, and then buy the card the following day? Are there pay phones at MAD arrivals area?
ekscrunchy is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 03:53 AM
  #11  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,708
PS. I do not want to order in advance because I have no idea how to insert the card, or how to set up the phone. Please keep in mind who you are dealing with on this thread!!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 08:58 AM
  #12  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
If you purchase the card ahead of time, from Spain Sim, you can ask just about anyone over the age of 6 to install it in your cell phone. The card will already be activated. You'll just need to dial a number when you arrive in Spain.

Otherwise, those selling sim cards in baggage claim area at Barajas are licensed and not hustlers, I've just never paid attention as to which service providers they represent.

There are public telephones at the airport, in the arrivals terminal, once you clear passport control and customs.
Robert2533 is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 10:03 AM
  #13  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,708
Thanks, Robert. I took a look at the SpainSIm site and was surprised by how pricey those cards are! It looks like the price is in the range of 50 euro for the basic cards....am I missing something, or is this the going rate? Just want to be aware the general range of prices. I can't imagine that I will make more than 10-15 local calls, if that many. Do not expect to make any long distance. Most of the restaurant bookings in Madrid can be done online but there are a few that accept bookings only by phone. I've not yet looked at restaurants for Sevilla, but imagine the same holds true there.


Again, sorry about the degree of my ignorance here and thank you for your patience!

If there are pay phones in arrivals, I can make the call and deal with setting up the phone once in the city. Do you happen to know the charge for local calls (so I can prepare by having the correct change)?
ekscrunchy is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 11:32 AM
  #14  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Sorry, but I haven't used a pay phone in years, so I have no idea of the cost.
Robert2533 is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 11:52 AM
  #15  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 5,786
For your type of usage model, do you even need to use a cell phone? If your primary usage is making reservation, there seems to be more options:

1. Make reservations from home using VOIP or something that lets you call 2-3c/min.
2. Make reservations straight from your hotel phone after checking how much your hotel charges.
3. If you have an internet device of some kind, laptop, smartphone, a tablet, etc, you can make VOIP call from your room using Wifi, for example Skype on Android.
4. Use your home phone in international roaming mode. Yes, it is expensive, but if your usage is really low, you might actually come out ahead over buying a local SIM. You can get month of international plan, then use your phone at 0.99/min.
greg is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 12:36 PM
  #16  
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 8,827
Nice advice, but rather useless in this instance.

"I do need a phone to call the rental agency so that they can meet me at the apartment soon after my arrival in Madrid, early on a Sunday morning."
Robert2533 is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 12:45 PM
  #17  
Original Poster
 
Join Date: May 2005
Posts: 21,708
Greg, thanks, but:

1.. No idea of what VOIP even means, but willing to learn! For the record, this will likely be one of the only times this year that I will need to phone overseas.

2. I am staying in apartments in 3 Spanish locations; probably no land-line phone in the apartments

3. See #1

4. Home cell phone is not usable in Spain


Which brings up: If I want to phone Spain from my home (US) landline phone, is there a way to do this for a few dollars or less? (Just want to make a few restaurant bookings at places not bookable online)
Years ago, one could dial some kind of code and then the foreign phone number, and that would be cheaper than using one's home provider, in my case, Verizon. I've no idea what they charge for international calls; a few years ago, someone at my home had to contact me in Laos. We were billed about $200 by our carrier, but that call was a long one, to Laos!! We currently have no LD plan, so I am looking for a way to phone and not pay an arm and a leg!

Please be kind to your tech-adverse brethren!! Eye rolling is ok, however!
ekscrunchy is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 01:29 PM
  #18  
 
Join Date: Jan 2003
Posts: 4,038
OK, why not simplify things. Email your rental agency and tell them to meet you at a nearby cafe/restaurant at a certain time. Give yourself plenty of time to get there. If they don't show, borrow the phone of the cafe and call them. You speak Spanish so there should be no problem. Then once you're in the apt, you can go to Corte Ingles, wherever, and sort out your SIM, phone, whatever. Simple, easy.
Bedar is offline  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 01:31 PM
  #19  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,450
I was in the same situation last year in France and found help at the Phone House. After I described my needs which were similar to yours, they set me up with a SIM and enough time to keep the phone active for a month and 15-20 local calls. This cost €20. They activated the phone and tested it to make sure we could both make and receive calls.

Phone House has stores in Madrid. If you can't get it done on your arrival day, you might want to see if they could help you.

http://www.phonehouse.es/app/searchStore.do

Good luck!
MaineGG is online now  
Oct 3rd, 2012, 01:39 PM
  #20  
 
Join Date: Apr 2009
Posts: 1,450
Oh, I meant to add that someone recently recommended this for calling Europe from the US -

http://www.1010987.com/
MaineGG is online now  

Thread Tools
Search this Thread

Contact Us - Archive - Advertising - Cookie Policy -

FODOR'S VIDEO

All times are GMT -8. The time now is 10:30 AM.