First, do I need a Spanish phone number?
There are two compelling reasons to have a Spanish phone and mobile data plan while living in Spain:
1. You’ll want to be able to access the internet with normal 4G or 5G speed when you’re not connected to Wi-Fi. For that, you’ll need a Spanish data plan.
2. While it’s true that many Spanish people are heavy users of WhatsApp for both texting and calling, you’ll still need to provide a regular Spanish number in more formal contexts. When your child needs to be picked up early from school, for example, the school secretary is going to call you from the school landline.
3. You’ll also want to be able to make phone calls to Spaniards, for example to make a restaurant reservation or call for a taxi, without paying fees or having your call go unanswered because it shows up as a foreign number.
Second, do I need to keep my home-country number active while I’m in Spain?
You’ll want to keep your home-country number active while you’re in Spain so you can receive SMS messages for two-factor authentication used to access your financial accounts. You may also want to be able to make free voice-over-internet calls to your home country using your home-country number. Two ways to have your cake and eat it too – Google Voice or dual SIM cards
There are two good ways to effectively use your home-country number and a new Spanish phone number on one phone, depending on your particular circumstances. In both cases, your phone will need to be unlocked.
If you have a U.S. phone number and you’re able to suspend or end your U.S. phone and data plan while you’re in Spain, Google Voice is definitely worth exploring. The biggest advantage is that you won’t be paying for phone and data plans in both the U.S. and Spain. Importantly, you can port your current U.S. phone number into
Google Voice and then port it back to a U.S. carrier when you leave Spain.
One disadvantage of Google Voice is that you will be using a virtual phone number
(even though you ported it from a regular carrier), and virtual numbers are
sometimes rejected by two-factor authentication systems. Also, you’ll want to set up Google Voice in the last days before you leave the U.S. This is because your Google Voice account will only work when connected to Wi-Fi until you get your Spanish mobile data plan. At the same time, you’ll also want to ensure that you can access all of your accounts that require two- factor authentication.
Ma French Life and Too Many Adapters both offer thorough descriptions of how to
set up Google Voice and the different factors to consider.
Dual SIM Phone
Newer smart phones can accommodate two SIM cards at once, which means you can leave your home-country phone and data plan in place while adding a second phone and data plan. Newer iPhones function with one physical SIM and one eSIM, and many newer Android phones have a SIM card tray with two slots.
Once you get the second SIM card set up, you can easily toggle in your phone’s settings between your home-country and Spanish phone number. But that’s only relevant for making phone calls. You don’t have to do anything special to receive text messages. For example, let’s say that your WhatsApp account is affiliated with your home-country number and you’ve selected your new Spanish number as “primary” in your phone’s settings.
You’ll still continue instantly receiving all WhatsApp messages and calls sent to your home country number. The disadvantage of using two SIM cards is that you’re paying for two phone and data plans simultaneously.
Setting up a Spanish phone and data plan
There are lots of options for month-by-month Spanish phone and data plans. A plan that we like for its ease of use, generous data, free international calls to the US and price is the British company Lobster. This plan comes with a physical card that we can activate and mail to you or have waiting for you the day you arrive in Spain.
Have more questions or want our help setting up your Spanish phone and data plan?
Your Year in Spain team can help you !