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Cell Phone Question


Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2009, Portuguese 2012
Frances 2016, (Frances 2019)
My husband is insisting that I carry a cell phone because I am walking alone--as much to remain in contact but more particularly to obtain assistance if I need it. I am nearing retirement age so while I am generally healthy, I did break my leg on the AT and it was a cell phone that enabled a mountain top rescue. I know there are lots of folks on the Camino but having a cell phone on me seems to be the assurance that my husband and my congregation need that I will be able to make contact wherever I am.

What is the best way to accomplish this? I have Verizon service in the USA and it apparently has a cooperative arrangement with Vodafone. Should I go that route? It seems like the roaming rates are fairly high. And I may need to change out my phone. Or should I rent a short term phone in Spain? If so, from whom? If renting in Spain is a good solution, do I do anything prior to arriving? I will be starting in Pamplona on September 3rd. Thank you for your help. I know I am asking lots of questions early in the game but planning is important to my being able to let it all go once I begin.
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If you are using the phone in an emergency and so that you husband can feel he can contact you if he has to I would take your own phone and leave it switched off most of the time. Get used to texting if you are not already and tell people that your phone will be switched off most of the time and because of time zones to contact you by text but that you may not reply straight away.

If you are going to use the phone more (which I would try to avoid) get one locally. If your phone allows it is sometimes possible to get a local sim card only which works on a pay as you go basis.

Buen Camino



Active Member
Year of past OR future Camino
Frances 2009, Portuguese 2012
Frances 2016, (Frances 2019)
I do not anticipate making many calls--at least two or three per week to check in with my family. Then there is that occasional call to make reservations, to check on something, etc. Then we will be traveling around Spain after my Camino for two weeks.

Has anyone used You buy an internationally capable phone for $49 or $99 (this one includes $40 free calling) with an international phone number (UK) that never expires. You own it. Period. Then you pay $1.25 a minute for incoming calls; $1.95 per minute for calls to the US; and $1.50 per minute for calls within the country where you are. You recieve an itemized bill with all calls listed. The phone includes international recharger.

With Verizon, I'd have to purchase a new phone(my present one is not GMA) for $200 (and make a two year commitment) and be charged $.99 per minute for all calls incoming to Spain and outgoing to the USA. Again I would get an itemized bill. And I would have to purchase an international recharger.

With SIM phone rentals, you get a local number and no charge for incoming calls. You pay a rental fee which varies by the length of the rental but can be as much as $5 per day plus a deposit and handling fees. But there is no way to track what you are being charged for your calls as it operates like a pay in advance debit card--and you get no refund if you don't use what is on the card. The plus is that the SIM cards are available in pharmacies, etc. Like prepaid calling cards but for cell phone usage.


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Year of past OR future Camino
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Cistercian Way (Wales) 2016
I'll be getting either a pay as you go sim card or phone when I go in April. I wonder if there is a way of letting other members of the list borrow the phone when they go to Spain? I don't anticipate being able to make another camino for a few years and it seems a pity for the phone just to sit in a drawer.



Active Member
I used Mobal and found it to have excellent coverage everywhere in Europe. If you have an unlocked GSM phone (I found one cheap on e-bay)you can currently get a Mobal SIM card free. Sine Mobal also has coverage in the US anywhere there is a cell signal I keep the phone in my car for use in emergencies or when my other phone has no coverage.
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John Brierley Camino Frances Guide
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Deleted member 3000

I bought a used, unlocked Motorola GSM cell phone on eBay for under $10. In Pamplona I bought a Vodafone SIM chip from the Vodaphone store (closed daily from about noon until 1400 or 1500) for about 30 Euro with about 20 Euro of calling time. Text messages to other Spanish phones are dirt cheap (my brother did the same thing, so we could send text messages to each other each night as we walked at different speeds). Calls to Spanish numbers were .50 to .75 Euro (I have forgotten the exact amount). Calls to the U.S. were three to four times that amount.

You can top off at supermarkets and tobacco shops (and Vodaphone stores in big towns). The phone number expires after a year. I have renewed twice on subsequent visits to Spain, but the next renewal will require identification by passport, so I cannot do it over the internet (some change in security to make anonymous phone numbers disappear).

I could never find out how much time I had left. I do not speak Spanish, but I had two Spanish speaking fellow pilgrims do their best with Vodaphone to find out, and they did not succeed. A message does get sent to your phone when you are about to run out. My voice mailbox never got set up because there are no instructions in English.

As an aside, in the U.S. everything cellular is bilingual in Spanish, usually by pressing "2". Would it kill the pride of Spain to offer the same capability in English? Only a few of the screens on the Vodaphone website are in English. ... /index.jsp


Active Member
An advantage of Mobal is that it is "pay as you go" with the charges billed to your credit card. No prepayment, no expiration date. You also have the same phone number. The downside is the higher cost.
My husband had similiar concerns when I waked the Camino last May...he just wanted to hear my opposed to emails make sure all was ok....I found the easiest and least expensive way to go, was to buy a cell phone in Spain...I happened to buy from the Orange store ...but the others are likely just as buying local I avoided all the hassle of sim cards and whether or not my carrier will work...and if I'll have a huge bill when I get home!!

For 25 euro I purchased a nice little LG phone and charger....they weighed next to nothing..which is an important issue when on the Camino...and came with a 20 euro calling credit....the clerk set the menus up in English for me....I called home and gave my "Camino" phone number. I did not keep the phone on all the time.... and with the time difference...6 pm local time was noon at we set up some days/times for him to call me at 6 pm. This time of day seemed to work the best from both ends.

Great news...there is no charge at all for incoming calls on the cell...of course the call had long distance charges on the phone at home (Nova eastern Canada)...but no costs on the cell phone end....

As I was walking in that awful crush of pilgrims during May 2008, I also found the phone was useful for booking private accomodation..on those days when I wanted to walk later than noon and still have a place to stay....

To add more calling simply go into the local tiende and give them your number and how many more minutes you want to buy...and within 10 seconds those minutes are on your phone.
Being from North America....we are used to long term contracts and plans with our cell phones....Spain has a much better worry about sim cards etc...and the price is so low....I will be taking mine back on the Camino with me....this fall or next I must find where I wrote my number down!!!

Hope this is useful,


Active Member
I too, bought 2 phones from Orange, one for my son who was walking the Frances, and one for me, as I was on the Via de la Plata. They were 35euros each, also lightweight, and it came with a sim card, which I could refill as needed, and you can refill all over Spain, in many different types of shops, including some tobacco stands.
I also bought for 5euros a calling card for calls back to the States; the most expensive part being the actual call (like 39cents) and then 100 minutes talking time! It was great. You can get those in many places as well, and shop well, for there are some that are better than others.
Have fun
Hello Lillian,
Where ie what type of store did you buy the calling card in....we used similiar cards the year before in Italy..and they were very inexpensive for calling back to North America...but I could not find them in Spain....maybe as I do not have any Spainish I did not know how to ask what should I have asked for?...which brand/name are the best for calling North America?

Also...can you use the calling card with the cell....or just with a land line?

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Active Member
I used it with my cell. No extra minute charges on the cell, just the 1 minute charge for the original phonecall. I got my first cards in internet cafes. Most of them tape posters of different calling cards on the storefront window.
But Orange itself had 5euro cards that I ended up using. It was the best deal I found. And those you can get in bigger towns that would have Orange stores. Although there are some kiosks that represent Orange in smaller towns.
I would just buy a couple of them. They weigh next to nothing (remembering JW's mantra, "weight, weight, weight").
For me it was a great, inexpensive service.
I did use Skype a couple of times, but that has to be in the internet cafes. Worked well, but the convenience of the phone and calling cards was the best combo.
Hello?? :)
Thanks...real glad to hear they work with the cell...I will be sure to get some of those calling cards when I return to the Camino....boy that will save a small fortune in costs....likely enough for two more weeks of walking...!!!


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Year of past OR future Camino
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I was in Italy last year for 4 months and wanted to carry a cell phone but couldn't see the point + waste of buying a new one for a temporary stay, so I contacted my carried (ie. AT&T), asked them for the phone's 'unlock' code, then I unlocked my phone so that I could put any old SIM card in to use on any network. The carriers sometime have a policy that you must be a customer of a certain length before they'll do this but its usually not a problem.

I went to Italy, walked into a Vodafon store, bought a SIM card and prepaid 20 euros on it and away I went. I just added more euros as needed. Keep in mind that in Europe it costs different amounts to call another cell phone vs. a landline, and text is much cheaper than outgoing calls.

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