If you’ve just moved to Portugal, getting a Portuguese SIM card is the first step to getting involved in your new life. It allows you to download food delivery apps, access mobile banking, and more. The good news is that Portugal has a well-developed mobile network with a variety of operators to choose from.
Mobile operators in Portugal
Portugal boasts a competitive mobile telecommunications market with several major operators providing a range of services to meet diverse consumer needs. Here’s an overview of the prominent mobile operators in Portugal:
MEO (formerly TMN)
MEO is one of the largest and most established mobile operators in Portugal. They offer a wide range of prepaid and postpaid plans, including voice, text, and data services. MEO also provides television and internet services, making them a comprehensive provider.
Vodafone is another well-known operator with a significant presence in Portugal. They offer various mobile plans with options for international calls and roaming. Vodafone is known for its network coverage and quality.
NOS (formerly Optimus and ZON):
NOS is a major player in the Portuguese telecom market, providing mobile, fixed-line, and internet services. They offer competitive mobile plans and bundles, often combining mobile services with TV and broadband.
NOWO is a relatively newer entrant in the market, focusing on competitive pricing and simplicity.They offer straightforward mobile plans with competitive rates for both calls and data.
Lycamobile is popular among international residents and tourists. They specialize in affordable international calling and data plans, making it a convenient choice for those needing to stay connected internationally.
Wi-Fi connectivity in Portugal
Wi-Fi connectivity in Portugal is generally widespread and reliable, especially in urban areas and popular tourist destinations. Here’s what you need to know about Wi-Fi connectivity in Portugal:
Public Wi-Fi: Many public places in Portugal offer free Wi-Fi access. This includes airports, train stations, cafes, restaurants, hotels, shopping malls, and public transportation hubs. You can often find signs indicating the availability of Wi-Fi, and you may need to register or log in to access the network.
Hotels and Accommodations: Most hotels and guesthouses, particularly those catering to tourists, provide Wi-Fi access to their guests. The quality of the connection can vary, so it’s a good idea to check with the accommodation provider about the availability and speed of their Wi-Fi.
Cafes and Restaurants: Many cafes and restaurants in Portugal offer free Wi-Fi to their customers. This is especially common in urban areas and tourist destinations, allowing you to stay connected while enjoying a meal or a cup of coffee.
Shopping Malls: Large shopping malls often have free Wi-Fi available for shoppers. It’s convenient for staying connected while shopping or taking a break.
Transportation: Some public transportation options, such as trains and buses, offer Wi-Fi on board, particularly for longer journeys or in premium class services. Check with the specific transportation provider for availability.
Co-Working Spaces: If you’re a digital nomad or remote worker, Portugal has a growing number of co-working spaces in cities like Lisbon and Porto. These spaces typically offer high-speed Wi-Fi, comfortable workstations, and a productive environment.
Portugal 5G network
In Portugal, mobile communications predominantly rely on the GSM network, aligning with European standards. This allows most expats and travelers to connect seamlessly using their existing mobile phones upon arrival.
Portugal boasts a well-developed 4G network, offering widespread access to 4G and 4G+ connectivity throughout much of the country, including the island communities of Madeira and the Azores. While 4G coverage is extensive, the adoption of 5G is steadily growing in Portugal, albeit primarily in the largest cities for the time being.
Prepaid vs mobile phone contracts
Prepaid and mobile phone contracts are two different payment models for mobile phone services, each with its own advantages and disadvantages. The choice between prepaid and a contract depends on your specific needs, financial situation, and preferences. Here’s a comparison of both options:
Prepaid Mobile Plans in Portugal
No Long-Term Commitment: Prepaid plans do not require a long-term contract. You pay for services in advance, typically on a monthly basis, and can switch or cancel your plan without penalties.
Cost Control: With prepaid, you have better control over your spending. You pay for a specific amount of minutes, texts, and data upfront, so there are no unexpected charges or overage fees.
No Credit Check: Prepaid plans do not usually require a credit check. This makes them accessible to individuals with no or poor credit history.
Flexibility: You can easily change plans or carriers to suit your needs. If you only need a phone for occasional use, prepaid can be a cost-effective choice.
No Subsidized Phones: Prepaid plans typically require you to purchase your phone at full price, as there are no subsidized devices. This can be more expensive upfront.
Limited Features: Prepaid plans may have fewer features, such as international roaming, compared to some contract plans.
Mobile Phone Contracts in Portugal
Subsidized Phones: With a contract, you can often get a high-end smartphone at a reduced upfront cost or even for free. You pay for the phone over the course of the contract.
Bundled Services: Contract plans may include additional services like device insurance, international calling, or premium content subscriptions. If you’re considering home internet and TV services, you could potentially enjoy cost savings by bundling them through a single service provider.
Higher Data Allowances: Contract plans may offer larger data allowances, making them suitable for heavy data users.
International Roaming: Some contract plans include international roaming options, allowing you to use your phone while traveling without significant additional charges.
Credit Check Required: Contract plans typically require a credit check, and approval may depend on your credit history.
Long-Term Commitment: Contracts usually require a commitment of 12, 24, or even 36 months. Early termination can result in penalties.
Higher Monthly Costs: Contract plans often have higher monthly fees compared to prepaid plans.
Getting a Portugal SIM Card
Acquiring a Portugal SIM card, particularly a prepaid one, provides you with greater flexibility, although it can be relatively more expensive for calls, texts, and data compared to contract plans.
This option is especially handy while you’re in the process of obtaining your NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal), which is necessary for signing up for a contract. All major mobile operators in Portugal offer prepaid SIM Portuguese cards, so it’s advisable to explore your options to find the best fit for your needs.
When signing up for a Portuguese SIM card, you’ll usually be required to provide:
- Your name
- Valid ID
Notably, prepaid SIM cards in Portugal often come preloaded with credit (e.g., €5, €10, €15, etc.), giving you the flexibility to select the appropriate amount of credit based on your immediate usage needs.
Where to buy a Portugal prepaid SIM card?
You can purchase prepaid SIM Portuguese cards from various locations, including:
Getting Mobile Phone Contract in Portugal
Getting a mobile phone contract in Portugal is a straightforward process. Major network providers have retail stores in numerous towns and cities across the country. However, due to language considerations, many expats prefer to complete the sign-up process online.
To set up your mobile phone contract, you will be required to provide the following documentation:
- Valid ID: Ensure you have a valid identification document, such as a passport or identity card.
- Proof of Address: You will need to provide proof of your current address in Portugal. This could be a utility bill, rental agreement, or official document with your name and address.
- NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal): The NIF, it is equivalent to a tax identification number and is required for various legal and financial transactions.
- Bank Account Details: You will need to provide your bank account information. This includes your bank’s name, your account number, and your IBAN.
It’s important to note that you won’t be able to sign up for a Portuguese mobile contract without a valid NIF. While some providers may allow you to use a foreign bank account for payments, the process is usually smoother if you already have a Portuguese bank account. Having a local bank account simplifies billing and payment procedures, as well as other financial transactions in Portugal.
Portuguese phone numbers
Portuguese mobile phone numbers, like fixed-line numbers, also follow a specific format. Here’s how Portuguese mobile phone numbers are structured:
Country Code: Portugal’s country code is +351.
Mobile Prefix: Mobile phone numbers in Portugal start with a specific prefix that identifies the mobile network or operator. Different operators have their own prefixes. For example:
- MEO: Prefixes may start with 96 or 92.
- Vodafone: Prefixes may start with 91.
- NOS: Prefixes may start with 93.
Local Number: Following the mobile prefix, there is a local number. The length of the local number can vary but is typically 6 to 7 digits long.
So, a standard Portuguese mobile phone number would look like this: +351 XX XXX XXX
Making a complaint against a mobile operator in Portugal
If you encounter problems or have complaints about your mobile operator in Portugal, the first recommended step is to contact their customer service. Reach out to them by phone or visit their physical store, and clearly articulate your concerns, providing as much detail as possible about the issues you’ve faced.
However, if you find that your complaints remain unresolved or if you are not satisfied with the resolution offered by the mobile operator, you have further options. You can escalate your complaint to ANACOM (Autoridade Nacional de Comunicações), the regulatory authority for the communications sector in Portugal, or DECO (Associação Portuguesa para a Defesa do Consumidor), a consumer rights organization.
Frequently asked questions about Getting a Portugal SIM card
How do I get a Portuguese SIM?
Prepaid SIM cards are available from all mobile operators in Portugal. They are typically accessible at Portuguese supermarkets, convenience stores, and through online channels. Registering for a prepaid SIM card typically only requires your name and identification card.
Can I buy a SIM card in Portugal?
Portugal offers numerous options for purchasing prepaid SIM portuguese cards tailored for tourists. Simply search for the nearest MEO, Vodafone, or NOS store using Google Maps. Additionally, many larger convenience stores and supermarkets often stock Portugal prepaid SIM cards.
What is the best SIM card for Portugal?
For the best Portuguese SIM card experience in Portugal, you may opt for either MEO or NOS. These two providers are the biggest Portuguese telecoms and offer the most extensive coverage across the country, including the Azores and Madeira.
Do you need a passport to buy a SIM card in Portugal?
Acquiring Portugal SIM cards is a breeze – you can purchase them at the airport, official stores, convenience shops, and even through online channels. However, it’s essential to remember that having your passport with you is crucial when buying a SIM card.