Getting 3G in Spain is not as simple as getting prepaid 3G in France. There are two main providers in Spain – Movistar (pronounced “Mobistar”) and Vodafone (pronounced “Bodafone”).
How to ask for a prepaid 3G SIM
Asking for something in a foreign language can be a confronting experience, but there is a short cut!
For iPhone users: if you follow my advice on translating on your iPhone, you can “star” a translation in Google translate, then, without an internet connection, bring that translation back up to show the shop assistant.
Everyone else: you could write the below down and hand it to the shop attendant. Lo-fi, and old-school!
“Hola, hablas ingles?”
This is a fairly non-formal translation, but will suffice. It will let them know you speak English.
“Necesito una tarjeta de prepago con Internet para mi iPhone. Tengo una iPhone 3GS (or iPhone4 or iPad or whatever)”.
This will let them know you need prepaid internet on your phone.
What To Look For
Not all Vodafone stores will have all SIM cards. The one I went to on the Basque coast (Eroski in Zarautz) didn't have any iPhone 4 SIMs, and the lady swore there was no such thing as prepaid 3G for iPhone 3GS/other phones (which there is).
Vodafone sells 3G USB dongles; 39 Euro for 1GB for 3 months. Be warned, this product is extremely flakey. I could not get it working on my MacBook Pro running Snow Leopard.
The Vodafone Dongle Hack
Whilst mucking around trying to get the 3G dongle working, I pulled the sim out and put it in my iPhone, and, voila, internet!
Twitter worked, http traffic worked and Mail.app mail worked for about 3 hours, then they all stopped working. However, tethering still worked, so I could blog and check back on my web businesses.
I still don't have a clean solution that lets me use Internet on a phone, AND tether in Spain (or France), but I am hoping that by the time I head back in 2012, there will be prepaid iPad plans.
- iPhone 3GS
- Tethering (MacBook Pro)
- Gmail using Safari
Prepaid 3G in France
Check this info page out for information on getting prepaid 3G in France.