Last updated: 15 June 2016.

As a travel destination, Portugal has a lot going for it. Blessed with great weather, beautiful architecture, relatively low cost of living and a long coastline that provides high-quality beaches and even higher-quality seafood, it’s surprising that areas outside the Algarve aren’t even more popular with international visitors

While public Wi-fi is available, it’s not especially widespread. The good news that if you want to stay connected during your time in the country, picking up a local SIM card is reasonably inexpensive and extremely straightforward.

Here’s what you need to know.

 

COMPANIES

  • We recommend Vodafone for most travellers

There are three cell networks in Portugal, operated by MEO, Vodafone and NOS. The best coverage is with MEO, followed by Vodafone. NOS has the smallest network.

All three networks offer LTE to prepaid customers on the 800,1800 and 2600 bands, as well as 3G on the standard 2100 band used throughout Europe.

HOW

Purchasing was incredibly simple — in fact, it’s possibly the easiest SIM card purchase I’ve ever made.

Flying into Porto airport, there was a small Vodafone store in the arrivals hall. The woman behind the counter spoke excellent English, and offered various options depending on whether I wanted calls, texts and data, or just data.

Within about two minutes, I had purchased a micro SIM card, installed it in my phone and had a working data connection. The card came with 100MB of data included, and I received an SMS within fifteen minutes informing me the main data package had been added. There was no need to show my passport or other identification.

Lisbon airport also has a Vodafone kiosk in the arrivals area, and stores are readily available in the downtown areas of Lisbon, Porto and other major centres.

The APN settings were pre-filled, and I didn’t need to touch them. If you do need to enter them, they’re as follows:

Name: Vodafone Net2

APN: net2.vodafone.pt

Proxy: iproxy.vodafone.pt

Username: vodafone

Password: vodafone

COSTS

Back in June 2015, I paid €2.50 for the data-only SIM card, and €12.50 for 1GB* of data, valid for 30 days. If I’d wanted calls and texts as well, the SIM card would have cost 10 euros (including the same amount of call and text credit), and a 1GB data package would have set me back another €10.49.

A couple of other data-only packages were available for those on short trips — 10 euros bought 2GB of data over three days, €12.50 got you 4GB over seven days.

A year later, in June 2016, the deals have improved. You can now ​get 500 SMS or national call minutes, plus 1GB of data, for €13.49 with the 'Up' package. If you need more data, you'll pay an extra four euros to get 3GB instead.

Check the latest packages and pricing here (Portuguese).

*An important note: Vodafone Portugal aggressively rounds up per-session data usage to the nearest MB. Over time, this makes a big difference — I received an SMS saying my “1GB” of data had run out when my phone told me I’d only used 613MB!

 

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TOPPING UP

You can buy top-ups at any Vodafone store, which you’ll find one or more of in major towns and cities (there’s a store locator here). Payshop locations, of which there are approximately 4000 in Portugal, can also help you out.

COVERAGE AND DATA SPEEDS

I was very impressed with Vodafone’s 3G network anywhere I tried it — the download speed was similar to that shown in the screenshot below no matter where I tested it, and I rarely had less than full signal outside.

Inside stone buildings the data network would occasionally drop to EDGE, but I always had signal of some sort.

Portugal SIM card speed

Vodafone 3G speeds in Porto

Check out our guides to buying SIM cards in many other countries here.

41 Responses

  1. Mihai

    If you’re after data only and know you consume a lot, better go for the Meo SIM. They offer 15GB/7 days, supposed to be 25EUR! I found the package when looking for Portugal data packages, but I didn’t try it on site, as our location was supposed to have WIFI (what a joke :(), so I left my MIFI at home.
    Meo link: https://www.meo.pt/internetfortravellers/en

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      That looks like a good deal if you’re not in the country for long and use a lot of data, or if you’ll be sharing it with other people via a hotspot/Mifi.

      As I discovered when I had to top up near the end of my three weeks in the country, Vodafone also has a 7 day/4GB offer for €12.50, for short-term visitors with more moderate data needs that don’t want to spend quite as much — but since it’s subject to the same aggressive rounding-up as the other plans, you won’t get the full 4GB out of it. On the other hand, I was very surprised to see that data kept working for a few days when I went to Spain — so that’ll be a bonus for some travellers.

      Thanks for the info!

      Reply
      • Dave

        Without knowing which airport you’re flying into, I can’t answer your question with certainty. As mentioned, I picked mine up at Porto airport on arrival.

        If there isn’t a kiosk at the airport you arrive at, use the store locator I linked to in the post to find your nearest Vodafone store.

  2. Scott B.

    I’m flying into Lisbon Airport for a week in Lisbon. I’ll come in on a Saturday, and leave the Sunday of the following week, 9 days. I expect I will use more data than voice/text, as it is primarily for looking stuff up on the go, GPS, email and booking/checking in for reservations. What’s the best deal for me, and can I get it at Lisbon Airport or is it better outside the airport? I have a Motorola Droid Razor M I will be using for this.

    Reply
    • Jose

      With many different data only options for voice calling (facebook, bbm, skype etc.) a data only plan could be feasible and it saves you 7.50 euros on the sim card. And obviously the more data the better. If you feel the need to have calling and texting as an option, you can buy the sim for 10 euros and have that fee becomes available as credit for calling and texting. You would then need to add the data plan on top. Again, the more data the better but too much is overkill as you can’t get a refund. I would suggest to start with the 10 euro 1gb data plan and if needed find a vodafone store, they are pretty easy to find in Lisbon (head to the big shopping mall and there are 2 or 3 in there alone), and add some more data. Thats what my plans are for this summer anyways.

      Reply
  3. Jorge Ferreira

    Hi Dave,

    Just to let you know. There is now a company in Portugal that rents Wifi hotspots, and sells prepaid data SIM cards, specifically to tourists and non-Portuguese residents, that don’t require any contract.
    Traffic options goes from 1GB to unlimited.
    They are called Portugal Internet, and you can find them at http://www.portugalinternet.com
    They deliver to the hostel or it can be picked-up at the airport.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      The pricing for short trips (8 days or less) seems reasonably competitive with buying the card yourself, so it could be a good option for those on a shortish vacation. Even though buying a local SIM at the airport was super simple, picking it up from your hotel in Portugal is even easier, so that’s a nice touch. The company doesn’t say which carrier(s) it uses, though — as long as it’s one of the main ones and/or you’re going to a city or other popular destination, you should be fine, but it’d be worth asking about that if you were going to use this company and your trip takes you elsewhere in the country.

      Reply
  4. Roxanne

    Hi,

    Do you know if I can find a Vodafone store in Lisbon airport to buy a sim card or MEO ?

    Thank you !

    Reply
    • Jose

      I know its a bit late but yes, the airport in Lisbon has a Vodafone store. I was there in 2012 and bought 2 sim cards from the Vodafone store in the airport.

      Reply
      • Dave Dean

        Funny, I flew into Lisbon last night, saw the Vodafone store in arrivals (Terminal 1) and remembered this comment — and then Jose had replied while I was in the air! Just to confirm, yes, there’s still a Vodafone store there, as of May 2016.

  5. Carrie

    I am flying into OPO and will be spending 18 days in Europe, 5 of which will be spent in Portugal. Will a Vodafone SIM purchased in Portugal still work for the same rates in the other countries I will be visiting (Germany, Czech Republic, Denmark)? I don’t need much, just would like to be able to access a map with my data and make a few in-country phone calls. Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      You won’t get quite the same prices in those countries, but this page suggests you’ll only pay an extra 3 euros/day to roam in Germany and Czech Republic — after that, you’re on the same rates as you would be in Portugal.

      Denmark isn’t listed on that page, and it’s much more expensive as a result — 6c/min for incoming calls, 23c/min for outgoing, 7c/min for outgoing SMS and a painful 25c/MB for data. Those are euro cents by the way, not US cents.

      Reply
  6. Bex

    Thanks for this – this is great.
    I’ll be spending about 6 weeks in Porto and Minho region in March/April 2016 and am looking at SIM options.
    It’s good to know Vodaphone have a store at the airport and are helpful.
    I’m sure they have deals going on all the time, so I will check what’s the best option for me when I get there; for phone, text and internet.

    Thanks once again for sharing.

    Reply
  7. Lucie

    That’s the best article I could find, this is brilliant, first search, first hit! We are going to Portugal for 5 days and need data, and we land in Porto. It’s great to have it all prepared already!

    Thanks!

    Reply
  8. Charlie O.

    We will travel to Lisbon then to Porto in May and will purchase a SIM card for our unlocked Motorola MOTO G phone. The SIM card needs to be cut to fit into the SIM slot on the phone. We were able to find a place that cut the card when we were in Copenhagen, Denmark last year.

    Will it be easy to find a place to cut the SIM card to fit in Lisbon, Cascais, Estoril area?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      You may not need to get the SIM card cut down. I believe all models of the Moto G so far have used micro SIMs, which is the same as what I was using at the time I wrote this article. The Vodafone salesperson at Porto airport asked which type I needed, and provided the correct one without needing to cut it down. I’d be very surprised if other official Vodafone stores didn’t offer the same thing, and probably any other store that sells Vodafone SIMs as well. I can’t speak for other SIM companies, though.

      Reply
  9. Phil Reinboth

    Dave,
    My wife and I are traveling to Portugal for about 10 days, Spain for 3 days, Italy for 13 days and France for 14 days. We plan on using SIM cards for our iPhones. I was wondering; can we use SIM cards from one country in another country or do we have to buy new SIM cards for each country?
    Phil

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Some prepaid SIM cards let you roam internationally with them. Usually it’s not cost-effective to do so, but some of the providers in the EU do offer cheap (1 or 2 euros/day) roaming to other EU countries. Given you how long you’ll be in Portugal, Italy and France, it probably makes sense to buy local cards there anyway, but if you can roam in Spain, you should.

      If you’re going from Portugal to Spain, you may find you can roam with a prepaid Vodafone Portugal SIM. That’s what I did — I didn’t expect it to work, but it kept going for a few days after I arrived in Madrid. I think it was burning through the data allowance I already had, with some kind of surcharge compared to if I’d have been using it in Portugal, but either way, it was a welcome surprise!

      Don’t rely on this without checking, though — my experience was around a year ago, and anything can change. Ask the person at the Vodafone store/counter specifically about roaming in Spain (and I guess elsewhere too).

      Reply
  10. Ben Dover

    Hello there fellow travelers. Just to give my 2cents here, I recently traveled to Portugal (Feb 16) and I flew with TAP. The inflight magazine had,as one of many offers, an only Data SIM card from MEO. €15 for 15gb during 15days. Easy to remember. And I from what I can tell and remember from previous times there, prices went down amazingly. I had it with me when I got of the plane already but I assume it’s easy to find anywhere else. OPO doesn’t have MEO store unfortunately. While inflight I inserted card on my iPhone and as soon as I landed and turned it on I had 4g conectivity. Easy, effortless and speed is very good. For those visiting more than one country there was also another offer from another company I don’t remember the name, that gives us internet connection no matter where you are. But of course is more expensive. Although It relieves us the bother of checking for data plans in every country we go to. But I remember doing the math and it was very expensive compared to any offer you can get locally. What I don’t know is if it’s worth, comparing that product vs local SIM card plus roaming fees.

    Reply
  11. Louis

    Hi Dave,

    Thanks for your efforts so we all benefit from your postings. I am planning to spend about 45 days in Northern Spain and Portugal this coming Spet. (2016). I am not sure how up to date your postings are since technologies changes so fast.

    I am from Canada and using iPhone 5 and 5S (my wife’s), any suggestion how we should go about getting text, some data and international voice at the least expensive way. Any suggestion would be appreciated.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Thanks Louis! The good news is that my posts about Spain and Portugal in particular are up to date — especially as I’ve been in Portugal for the last three months. 🙂

      In Spain, I’d check out both Orange and Vodafone (run their sites through Google Translate if necessary), and see what the right mix is for you. Base packages are pretty similar, but depending on what you need in the way of international text and calls, that might swing you one way or the other.

      In Portugal, it’s between Vodafone and MEO. It’s easier to get set up with Vodafone, since there are kiosks in (at least) the Lisbon and Porto airports, but at the moment, you’ll get a slightly better deal on data with MEO, and somewhat better coverage.

      You’ll be happy with either of the options in either country, however, and base prices will be similar. You can also roam between Spain and Portugal with some, if not all, of the companies listed, for 1-3 euros a day. If you’re spending most of your time in one country and only a few days in the other, that might also be an option.

      Reply
  12. Jackie

    Hi Dave,
    Thanks for the super helpful post! I will be in Portugal/Europe starting Sept. 2 until around mid January spending a semester abroad. Would the data plan you spoke of work outside Portugal? I would only be interesting in the data package. If so do you know if there is a more affordable package for more long term as opposed to month by month? Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      All of the cell providers in Portugal will let you roam elsewhere in the EU, usually at a cost of 1 or 2 euros per day for a certain amount of data. That’s fine for shorter trips, or if you’re going to several countries in quick succession, but otherwise you may as well buy a local SIM wherever you are.

      If you’ll be doing a lot of roaming, check the exact details with all the main providers (MEO, NOS, Vodafone) to see which is best for your needs.

      I can’t imagine there’s a substantially cheaper package for 4 months vs just going month-by-month with any of them, but you can always ask.

      Reply
  13. Jo

    Hi

    Thanks so much for all this info.

    I am arriving in Lisbon (from Australia) next Saturday and touring around Portugal for just over 3 weeks. I want a SIM card for texting and making calls within the country but also to text home. But I also want some download for looking up info and maps etc. I have an iPhone 5. Will the Vodafone sim work for me?

    Will replacing my current sim mean I lose all the info on my phone?

    Thanks for the help.

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Hi Jo,
      Yes, as long as your phone is unlocked, the Vodafone SIM will work for you. If you’re not sure whether it’s unlocked (especially if you bought your phone at a discount from your mobile company in Australia), it’s best to get in touch with them to check that out. Most will unlock phones that are off-contract without a problem.

      Your apps etc won’t be affected by changing SIMs. Your contacts should be saved on the phone rather than your Australian SIM, so they shouldn’t be affected either.

      Reply
  14. Sam

    Hi!
    I’m flying into Seville in 2 weeks via Lisbon (originating from Boston) on TAP. I have a 70 minute layover between flights in Lisbon, and will likely be picked up within an hour of landing in Seville by a shuttle to go to a retreat center an hour south in the countryside. I would like to get a SIM card so I can call my family back home in the states, if needed (my father in terminally ill), but don’t think I’ll be able to get one on the ground in Spain. Would it be a good idea (or a financially bad idea) to get the SIM in Lisbon for my trip during my layover? I can’t find anything online telling me there’s a vodafone or other SIM card retailer within the Seville airport (if you know, please inform me!), so this may be my chance. I was recommended to get the “Welcome to Spain” SIM from vodafone on amazon, but I can’t justify paying $44 in express shipping to ensure I get it before my trip. I’ve been looking on eBay, but am unsure of reliability. Please help me, if possible.

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Hi Sam,
      I’m not aware of any SIM stores at Seville airport, so if you can’t get definite confirmation of that, you’ll need a different approach. Vodafone Portugal has a basic cheap roaming plan across the EU – 90c per day for “a daily 10-minute package for outgoing calls, 10 minutes for incoming calls, 10 SMS and 50 MB to access the Internet on your phone.” That’s on top of whatever the SIM and local call/text/data package costs, and there’s no mention of international call costs, so you’d need to ask about that (or use Skype etc).

      Failing that, I suspect your other options are to ask the retreat to sort out a SIM for you, get a local SIM shipped to the retreat, or find an international SIM company that can get a SIM to you in time and has cheap calling rates to the US, and use it sparingly!

      Reply
  15. Oleg

    Hi Dave,
    Thanks for the helpful post!

    We’ll visit several places, starting from Lisbon, afterwards Nazare, Porto, Syntra, car already rented, as well as apartments booked.
    All we need, during the trip, is to make several calls to property holders and get internet for GPS use only.
    Tell me please, what kind of SIM we need to buy in such case, if 3GB package will cover our needs?
    Thanks in advance,
    Oleg

    Reply
  16. matt bauer

    Hi Dave,
    Traveling to Porto for 10 days – we will have an iphone 4S and 5S.
    i expect some call to US while we are there, but also in country call, and lots of map/translate/uber/internet usage.

    Wifi at hotel.
    I’ll be using thethe 5s at work location for 5 days 4s will be used extensivly around porto by wife to get around..

    plan to take your advice and purchase SIMs upon landing at OPO. Any specifc advice or reccomendations for that scenario?

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Nope, nothing special about this scenario. Ask what the best deal is when you’re purchasing — you may find a cheaper option if you only need it for a week, for instance. In any case, you shouldn’t need to pay more than 20 euros for a SIM and call/data package regardless.

      Reply
  17. Diana C Kullman

    I’m traveling to Lisbon in May with friends and will take a train/bus to Santiago (& return to Lisbon). I have an Android one plus phone from China which uses T-mobile, but not really supported by them. We’d like to have coverage just for train and bus reservations while in Lisbon and Santiago. From these posts it seems an MEO via vodaphobe is the best option. Our flight arrives at 5:55 am so airport acquisition is probably out of the question. I was hoping to have phone service (texts/E-mail) available before landing. Guess I’ll see if senior citizens can muster sympathy from the local community.

    Reply
  18. Pat

    Hi Dave,

    Hope you can help me. It seems I can’t find this information anywhere. My family will visit Portugal and I recommended them to take the Vodafone Up Total package. In addition to few local phone calls and mobile internet, they will most likely need to make calls to Canada quite few times for short amount of times. What is the price for calls to Canada from Portugal on that package ? And how does it work to put additional money in your Vodafone account once you activated the Vodafone Up Total package ?

    Thank you so much of you can help. Your website is a great source of information, and very useful, keep it up !

    Regards,

    Pat

    Reply
    • Dave Dean

      Hi Pat,

      This page suggests your family will pay 1.65 euros/min to call Canada (and several other countries). That’s expensive, so I’d strongly suggest using Skype Calling or Google Hangouts to reduce the cost to a fraction of that. Google Hangouts, in fact, should make calls to US and Canadian numbers free. We wrote about setting that up here — it’s a couple of years old, so some of the screens may have changed, but the basic approach remains the same.

      Adding extra credit can be done at time of purchase, or at any time afterwards from a Vodafone store or Payshop location in Portugal.

      Reply

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