Immigrating to Portugal is always accompanied by a series of everyday problems, which often seem very difficult to newly arrived immigrants, mainly because they do not know the language and do not understand how things work in the new country.
After moving to Portugal, one of the first tasks you will have to face will be purchasing a SIM card. In the 21st century, it is hardly possible to exist comfortably anywhere in the world without mobile communication and a smartphone. So in this article, we will briefly overview mobile operators in Portugal and explain how you can use their services immediately after you arrive in this wonderful country.
What is the difference between mobile communications in Portugal and other countries?
Probably the first and most significant difference that is important to understand before choosing a particular operator offer is that in Portugal, you are unlikely ever to have problems with the quality of communication, which can usually be related to the coverage of a particular telecommunications company. If you come from a larger country, you are probably afraid that the network might not get a good signal or that you might buy a SIM card from some "bad operator" and the quality of communication will be terrible.
Given the small size of Portugal, you should understand that, firstly, there is no roaming between regions (as happens in large countries). Secondly, the quality of communication here is equally good for all mobile operators. Of course, if you plan to live in a deserted forest in the mountains, you may have problems, but if you plan to live in a populated area, you won't have any problems with the connection or the Internet, and it does not matter if it is Lisbon or a small village in the interior of the country. Considering this point, you should not worry about making a mistake with a mobile operator, because the biggest problem that can happen to you is that you'll buy an unprofitable package in terms of conditions or price while the quality of communication will always be excellent. So when choosing your first mobile operator after immigrating to Portugal, just look for the best offer based on your needs and budget.
Also, an interesting feature is that following the EU rules in the countries of the European Union, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein, you can safely use minutes, SMS, and mobile data within the limit provided by your tariff without additional charge. That is, there is no roaming not only between the regions of Portugal but within the entire EU.
Regarding potential risks, it is essential to mention the term "Fidelização,". So, if you conclude a contract with a mobile operator with a "Fidelização" clause, it will mean that some strict conditions with this company will bind you. Most often, customers are obliged to use the services of this organization for a year or two without the possibility of early termination of the contract, so be very careful with contracts of this type. In the case of mobile communications, signing a contract with "Fidelização" is inappropriate, as many operators offer to buy SIM cards without an agreement and binding obligations.
An important tip: even if you make a mistake in choosing a mobile operator and later want to change it, in Portugal, it is possible to do so while keeping your cell phone number. This process is called "Portabilidade" (Portability of telephone numbers) and allows you to change operators without losing or changing your telephone number. Very convenient, but you can only do this at any time provided you do not have a signed contract with a "Fidelização" clause.
Mobile operators in Portugal
Well, having gotten acquainted with the interesting features of mobile communications in Portugal, it is time to get to know about Portuguese mobile operators, which include:
Above, you can see a list of Portuguese telecom operators with websites, many of which even offer eSIM (digital SIM) cards. Also, many new brands have been appearing recently, which are not separate mobile operators, but a branch of the business of large companies. Often such "subsidiary brands" are aimed at young people, and they include, for example, Yorn (owned by Vodafone) or WTF (owned by NOS). Since these are just brands and not individual operators, we will not examine them in the context of this article. Still, it is definitely worth checking out their websites, as there are often good deals, especially if you are looking for packages with a lot of mobile Internet.
Let's take a closer look at each operator from the list above.
About the company: NOS is one of the largest telecommunications companies in Portugal, which was formed in 2013 when ZON Multimédia and OPTIMUS Telecomunicações merged.
Services provided: the company offers the broadest range of services for both individuals and organizations, including mobile communications, wired and wireless Internet, television, fixed telephones, etc. There is also an eSIM option.
Mobile communication tariffs: you can get acquainted with the current mobile communication tariffs here. There are various fixed-price packages and the "Tarifário Livres" package, where you pay only upon the fact of calls made (€0.05 per minute). As of July 2022, the cheapest "Tarifário Mundo" package costs €7.50 per month, including 500 MB of mobile Internet. The calls to other countries in this tariff will be at a reasonably attractive price. For example, the cost of a call from Portugal to Ukraine will be 17 cents per minute.
About the company: Vodafone is a multinational company founded in 1982 in London. Until 2002, the company was the number one mobile operator globally, but now it ranks second after China Mobile.
Services provided: the company offers a wide range of services for individuals and organizations, including mobile communications, wired and wireless Internet, television, fixed-line phones, etc. There is also an eSIM option.
Mobile communication tariffs: you can get acquainted with the different tariffs of the company on this page. One of the most popular tariffs of the operator is "RED Infinity," which differs from others in the absence of any restrictions in terms of mobile Internet, calls, or SMS. The cost of this package will start at €35. In terms of calls abroad, the company offers more favorable conditions than the NOS, and according to the "Vodafone World" tariff, the cost of calls abroad will be 9.9 cents per minute.
Where to buy: as one of the largest operators in the country, Vodafone has offices in any city or major shopping center. You can find a complete list of offices here, and lots of immigrants buy their SIM cards at the Vodafone office at Lisbon airport. From what many people say, it can be done in just 5 minutes (if there is no queue) without having to present any documents.
About the company: MEO was established in 2000 and is currently the largest telecommunications company in the country.
Services provided: the company offers the broadest range of services for both individuals and organizations, including mobile communications, wired and wireless Internet, television, fixed phones, etc. There is also an eSIM option.
Mobile communication tariffs: the company offers various packages for mobile communication (see details here). The cheapest package costs €13.99 per month, including 250 MB of mobile Internet, 500 minutes, and 500 SMS within the country. Calls abroad will cost you from €0.23 to €1.60 per minute. Interestingly, as of July 2022, MEO reduced the cost of calls from Portugal to Ukraine to a minimum rate of 23 cents per minute, which is still more expensive than the two operators we have already written about above.
Where to buy: as the largest operator in the country, MEO has offices in any city or major shopping center. You can find a complete list of MEO offices here.
About the company: Lyca Mobile is the biggest virtual mobile operator in the world. The company was founded in 2006 and has been operating in Portugal since 2012. Currently, this mobile operator has 16 million users in 23 countries around the world. Every 2 seconds, a new customer joins Lyca Global network.
Services provided: the company provides services exclusively in mobile communications.
Mobile communication tariffs: the Portuguese website of Lyca Mobile offers various mobile bundles, the cheapest of which starts from €8 per month (the "Lyca Nacional XS" tariff). The company also has bundles that already include free minutes for calls to Ukraine (bundles "Lyca Globe" and "Lyca Globe S"), which can be found not often. An excellent advantage of the company is that there is no need to enter into a contract and bind yourself with strict obligations, which we wrote about above. Just buy a SIM card and start using it. Also, you can connect 2 bundles and use them simultaneously (for example, Globe S with minutes to Ukraine and National M with 15 GB of Data), which is also very rare in Portugal.
Where to buy: Lyca Mobile's points of sale are located in major subway stations, train stations, and shopping malls. See a complete list of sales points here. In addition, an offline store will be opened in Alameda metro station soon. You can also order a SIM card with a few clicks on the official website.
Important: Lyca Mobile supports Ukraine in connection with the Russian invasion and full-scale war. The company has already given Ukrainians in Portugal more than 2,000 SIM cards recharged for 30 days. They can be found in volunteer centers for Ukrainian refugees in Lisbon, as well as in other cities. Below we provide a list of organizations with addresses where free SIM cards are still available:
- HelpUA, address: Lisbon, R. Prof. Mira Fernandes 20 21
- Help Ucrania, address: Loures, R. Cidade Rio de Janeiro 57
- Help Ukraine, address: Paco D’Arcos, Av. Sr. Jesus dos Navegantes 18B
About the company: NOWO is a relatively young telecommunications company formed in 2016 with headquarters in Lisbon.
Services provided: the company offers the broadest range of services, including mobile communications, wired and wireless Internet, television, fixed telephones, etc. The problem is that the company cannot wire Internet to any part of the country. That's why the website has a special field where you can enter your postal code and see whether it is possible to wire the Internet (preferred by many Portuguese) in this area.
Mobile communication tariffs: as of July 2022, the company's cheapest tariff costs €7.5 per month and includes 1 GB of data, 5000 minutes, and SMS. If you sign a 2-year contract with Fidelização, the cost will be exactly two times less (€3.75 per month), which so far is the lowest price on record among all operators from this article. In this tariff, you will be charged 49 cents per minute for calls abroad within Europe.
Where to buy: the company's points of sale are located mainly in shopping malls, and you may find a list of them with addresses here.
About the company: WOO is a new and the only 100% virtual mobile operator in Portugal. WOO uses the NOS network infrastructure and has 4G coverage in more than 90% of Portugal with speeds up to 150 Mbit/s.
Services provided: WOO provides exclusively mobile communications and mobile Internet services.
Mobile communication tariffs: the company's website offers various tariffs that do not imply a contract with conditions limiting you. At the same time, the cheapest tariff costs €10 for 4 GB of data, 1000 minutes, and SMS. Interestingly, the company provides the first month as a free trial, i.e., in all tariffs, you start paying only from the second month.
Where to buy: the company has no physical points of sale, but you can order a SIM card with a few clicks from the official WOO website. You will need to fill out a form requesting a SIM card for the tariff of your choice and attach a scan of your residency. The card will arrive at your home in the mail within 3 days.
Buying a SIM card in Portugal is easy!
And it's true. You don't have to look for an official office or point of sale of a mobile operator in Portugal. You can buy pre-paid SIM cards anywhere: in mobile operators' offices, newsstands and newspaper kiosks, Chinese or Indian eateries, at the post office, or the checkout of grocery supermarkets - in general, you will not have any difficulties with the local cell phone connection.
Pre-paid cards in Portugal are called "Cartões Pré-Pagos," and it means they already have a certain amount (€5, €10, €15, etc.) in their balance, which you can spend after purchasing the card. You may even buy such cards online. For example, on this website, you can see how different kinds of pre-paid cards there are and what they look like.
It's easy: you buy a pre-paid card, insert it into your phone, activate it, and use it. In the beginning, such a card will be enough. Then, once you have settled in Portugal, you can choose another tariff and conclude a contract because usually, Portuguese people immediately connect their home internet, television, and cell phone service under certain conditions. Although this is not necessary, you can separately connect the Internet to your home with one provider and use the mobile connection and the Internet of another operator.
We hope this article will help you understand the diversity of mobile operators in Portugal and that making the right choice will be easier. We wish you always stay in touch and on a wave of positivity!