Navs and Coms

Spain is generally very well connected and up-to-date with telecoms – at least technically if not commercially, Telefonica, the ‘state’ telecoms company, has a monopoly over the whole terrestrial infrastructure including regulating the GSM, a privilege that they exploit to the full! The locutorio, a Spanish institution, offers everything and gets a paragraph to itself!


Obviously SatNavs function in Spain. But many problems exits in their use for route planning.  This seems to be a problem with the SatNav’s GIS software applying one-size-fits-all paradigms in their logic. The result f this is that they can’t don’t take into account the subtleties of the Spanish roads classification system (see ‘Georaphy/the road network for details) so that drivers miss optima routes and riders miss fantastic rides! If it’s any consolation Google Maps does the same: one has to go all round the houses to make Google Maps follow a route that goes – er, all round the houses!

As readers may have already guessed, this site, and the routes herein are aimed very much for the ‘Anti-SatNav’ navigator!

Mobile phones

Spain operates the GSM systems standard, so CDMA phones will not work at all in Spain. The mobile infrastructure supports 3GA but the infrastructure itself is weak in some areas, especially in the mountains. Telefonica does not share its monopoly of the cell network readily so rival suppliers often have worse service in these areas than its subsidiary, Moviestar, and this seems to hold true for roaming ‘foreign’ phones. Hence the advise, repeated elsewhere (see Health and safety/Emergencies) to try other people’s phones if your doesn’t work in an emergency. It’s also a good idea to switch off your mobile while riding, or at least put it into flight mode, as constant searching flattens the battery. Another point worth repeating: cover for emergency service – tel. 112 – is much wider than normal service.

Internet and Wi-Fi

There is very good Internet access even in quite remote places.  Internet cafés exist even in small towns although WiFi is taking over much of the sector. Hotels that offer an actual computer often charge their guests. Free access exists in so-called ‘telecentros’, which are run by the town halls, and libraries may let you use their facilities depending on how generous the librarian is feeling – normally one has to be a member of the library -. especially if you have your own computer and want WiFi.

WiFi access is extremely widespread. Even very humble bars have it and the spread has made a big impact of the Internet café sector. Most bars restrict access, however, and sometimes it’s difficult to get the password, accurately, from the waiter/ress – this is the world of the bit of scrap paper under the change tray in the till! Glossary: Wifi is pronounced. “Wee-Fee” and the Spanish for password is, contraseña.

The ‘locutorio’

These are telephone, internet and money transfer ‘shops’. They used to be very common in pre-democracy Spain when few people had a phone. Cheap international calls via the Internet and immigration has led to a renaissance of this ‘institution’. The main customer base of locutorios is immigrants both calling and sending money home. Hence they ted to be in low rent neighbourhoods in cities and small towns where thee are lots of immigrants – anywhere with well-developed agribusiness, but this can be surprisingly widespread. Whilst riding, especially in cities, it’s useful to keep half an eye open for the money transfer companies like Western Union, who advertise with their familiar yellow logo.

Phone calls within Europe are especially cheap during the mornings as I think locutorios set their internet phone contracts for peak times in Latin America, where the majority of their customers are from.

Many locutorios also sell various pay-as-you-use phone cards and will unblock phones too.