Communications

DESTINATIONS spain communications-58

TRAVEL TIPS

Communications

Internet

Internet cafés and locutorios (cheap international phone centers) are most common in residential and student precincts. If you can't find one easily, ask at either the tourist office or a hotel's front desk. The most you're likely to pay for Internet access is about €3 per hour. You'll also find free Wi-Fi in many cafés and bars, although you may have to ask for a code (or buy something) to access it.

Internet access in Spanish hotels is now fairly widespread, even in less expensive accommodations. In-room dial-up connections are gradually getting phased out in favor of Wi-Fi; some hotels will still have a computer somewhere in the lobby for the use of guests (either free or with a fee), but Wi-Fi hot spots are common.

Phones

The good news is that you can now make a direct-dial telephone call from virtually any point on earth. The bad news? You can't always do so cheaply. Calling from a hotel is almost always the most expensive option; hotels usually add huge surcharges to all calls, particularly international ones. In some countries you can phone from call centers or even the post office. Calling cards usually keep costs to a minimum, but only if you purchase them locally. And then there are cell phones, which are sometimes more prevalent—particularly in the developing world—than landlines; as expensive as mobile phone calls can be, they are still usually a much cheaper option than calling from your hotel.

Spain's phone system is efficient but can be expensive. Most travelers buy phone cards, which for €5 or €6 allow for about three hours of calls nationally and internationally. Phone cards can be used with any hotel, bar, or public telephone and can be bought at any tobacco shop and at most Internet cafés.

Note that only mobile phones conforming to the European GSM standard will work in Spain. If you're going to be traveling in Spain for an extended period, buying a phone often turns out to be a money saver. Using a local mobile phone means avoiding the hefty long-distance charges accrued when using your own. Prices fluctuate, but offers start as low as €20 for a phone with €10 worth of calls.

A cheap and usually free alternative to using a phone is calling via your computer with a VOIP provider such as Skype or FaceTime, or installing a free messager/call app on your smartphone, such as LINE.

The country code for Spain is 34. The country code is 1 for the United States and Canada.

Calling Within Spain

International operators, who generally speak English, are at 025.

Most area codes begin with a 9 (some begin with 8). To call within Spain—even locally—dial the area code first. Numbers preceded by a 900 code are toll-free in Spain; however, 90x numbers are not (e.g., 901, 902, etc.). Phone numbers starting with a 6 or 7 belong to mobile phones. Note that when calling a mobile phone, you do not need to dial the area code first; also, calls to mobile numbers are significantly more expensive than calls to land lines.

Pay phones are increasingly less common nowadays, but you find them in individual booths, in locutorios, and in some bars and restaurants. Most have a digital readout so you can see your money ticking away. If you're calling with coins, you need at least €0.50 to call locally and €1 to call a mobile phone or another province. Simply insert the coins and wait for a dial tone. Note that rates are reduced on weekends and after 8 pm during the week.

Calling Outside Spain

International calls are awkward from coin-operated pay phones and can be expensive from hotels. Your best bet is to use a public phone that accepts phone cards or go to the locutorios. Those near the center of town are generally more expensive; farther from the center, the rates are sometimes as much as one-third less. You converse in a quiet, private booth and are charged according to the meter.

To make an international call, dial 00, then the country code, then the area code and number.

Before you leave home, find out your long-distance company's access code in Spain.

General Information

AT&T. 800/331–0500; www.att.com.

MCI. 800/444–3333; 888/624–5622; www.mci.com.

Sprint. 888/211–4727; www.sprint.com.

Calling Cards

Pay phones require phone cards (tarjetas telefónicas) which you can buy in various denominations at any tobacco shop or newsstand. Some phones also accept credit cards, but phone cards are more reliable.

Mobile Phones

If you have a multiband phone (some countries use different frequencies than those used in the United States) and your service provider uses the world-standard GSM network (as do T-Mobile, AT&T, and Verizon), you can probably use your phone abroad. Roaming fees can be steep, however: 99¢ a minute is considered reasonable. Overseas you normally pay the toll charges for incoming calls. It's almost always cheaper to send a text message than to make a call, as text messages have a very low set fee (often less than 5¢). If you just want to make local calls, consider buying a new SIM card (note that your provider may have to unlock your phone) and a prepaid service plan in the destination. You'll then have a local number and can make local calls at local rates. If your trip is extensive, you could also simply buy a new mobile phone in your destination, as the initial cost will be offset over time.

If you travel internationally frequently, save one of your old mobile phones or buy a cheap one on the Internet; ask your phone company to unlock it for you and take it with you as a travel phone, buying a new SIM card with pay-as-you-go service in each destination.

Contacts

Cellular Abroad. Rents and sells GSM phones and sells SIM cards that work in many countries. 800/287–5072; 310/862–7100; 800/3623–3333; www.cellularabroad.com.

Mobal. Rents cell phones and sells GSM phones (starting at $29 a week) that will operate in 190 countries. Per-call rates vary throughout the world. 888/888–9162; www.mobal.com.

Planet Fone. Rents cell phones at $21 a week, but discounts can cut that fee by 10%. 888/988–4777; www.planetfone.com.

Telestial. Sells Spanish SIM cards online for $19, which includes $10 worth of calling credit. 888/310–4168; 800/098936; www.telestial.com.

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