If you're planning a trip to Portugal, getting a local SIM card is a smart choice to stay connected while on the go. With a Portugal SIM card, you can easily make calls, send texts, and use data without worrying about roaming charges. However, with so many options available, it can be confusing to choose the right one. This article will help you understand everything you need to know about Portugal SIM cards, including how to purchase one, the types of SIM cards available, the top providers, and more.
A SIM card is a small chip that you insert into your phone to connect to a mobile network. It stores your phone number, contacts, and other information, and allows you to make calls, send texts, and use data. When you travel to a different country, your home network may not work, and you'll need to purchase a local SIM card to connect to the local network.
In Portugal, there are several options available, including prepaid and postpaid SIM cards, as well as data-only SIM cards for tablets and other devices. There's also eSims that are downloaded to your phone.
To purchase a Portugal SIM card, you can either buy one online before you arrive or purchase one at the airport or a local store.
You May Also Like..
Tips To Know Before Buying a Sim Card
Remember your ID when buying the sim card: You'll need to provide your passport or ID to register the SIM card, and you'll need to activate it before you can start using it. Once you have a SIM card, you can choose from a variety of packages and plans based on your needs, including data-only plans, voice and text plans, and combo plans that include both.
Check your phone compatibility: Before purchasing a sim card, make sure your phone is compatible with the frequencies used in Portugal. Most modern smartphones should work without any issues, but it's always best to double-check.
Remember to monitor your data usage: Portugal has some of the fastest mobile data speeds in Europe, but data can still be expensive if you go over your limit. Be sure to monitor your data usage regularly to avoid unexpected charges.
Make sure to bring a sim ejector tool: If you are buying a physical sim card rather than an eSim, you need to bring a sim card ejector tool with you.
Look up at how to activate your sim card: Once you have your sim card, you'll need to activate it before you can use it. This usually involves calling a specific number or visiting the provider's website. Follow the instructions provided by your provider to activate your sim card.
Consider a data-only sim card: If you primarily use your phone for data, consider purchasing a data-only sim card. These sim cards are typically cheaper than traditional voice and data sim cards and offer larger data allowances.
Consider an eSim: eSims are digital sim cards, that you download. Most phones from 2019 onwards support eSims but check this list of support devices before buying an eSIm.
Coverage and Network Quality
Overall Portugal has good coverage and network quality, with a reliable and fast network. All major cities and towns have good coverage. Even in rural areas, the signal is usually strong. The three main providers, NOS, MEO, and Vodafone, have a combined coverage of over 99% of the population.
NOS has the best 4G/5G network in Portugal, with the fastest data speed, while MEO and Vodafone are also reliable options. If you're planning to travel outside of the main cities, it's a good idea to check the coverage maps of each provider to see which one will work best for you.
You can expect good coverage and network quality in Portugal, with NOS being the top choice for fast data speeds.
Types of Portugal SIM Cards
When it comes to getting a SIM card in Portugal, there are two main types to choose from: prepaid and postpaid. Each has its own advantages and disadvantages, so it's important to consider your needs and usage habits before making a decision.
Prepaid SIM Cards
Prepaid SIM cards are a popular choice for travelers or those who want more control over their phone bills. With a prepaid SIM card, you pay in advance for a certain amount of data, calls, and texts. Once you've used up the allotted amount, you'll need to top up your account to continue using your phone.
One benefit of prepaid SIM cards is that you can avoid unexpected charges or overages. Since you're paying in advance, you won't be surprised by a large bill at the end of the month. Additionally, prepaid plans are often more flexible and don't require a long-term commitment.
In Portugal, you can find prepaid SIM cards from a variety of providers, including MEO, Vodafone, NOS, Lycamobile, and more. Prices and plans will vary depending on the provider, but most offer options for both short-term and long-term use.
Postpaid SIM Cards
Postpaid SIM cards, also known as contract plans, are a good choice for those who use their phone frequently or need a large amount of data. With a postpaid plan, you'll pay a fixed amount each month for a set amount of data, calls, and texts.
One advantage of postpaid plans is that they often come with more perks and benefits than prepaid plans. For example, you may be able to get a discounted phone or access to special features like international calling or roaming.
However, postpaid plans can also be more expensive and require a long-term commitment. If you're not sure how much data or usage you'll need each month, a postpaid plan may not be the best choice.
In Portugal, the major providers for postpaid SIM cards are MEO, Vodafone, and NOS. Each provider offers a variety of plans with different amounts of data and features, so be sure to compare options before choosing a plan.
Best SIM Card Providers in Portugal
If you're looking for a SIM card in Portugal, you have several options to choose from. Three of the most popular providers are Vodafone, MEO, and NOS. Here's a brief overview of each provider:
Vodafone is one of the largest mobile network operators in the world and has a strong presence in Portugal. They offer a range of prepaid and postpaid plans, including options for data-only SIM cards. Vodafone's prepaid plans start at €7.50 for 500 MB of data and 200 minutes of talk time, while their postpaid plans start at €15 per month.
One of the advantages of Vodafone is their extensive network coverage, which includes 4G and 5G speeds. They also offer a mobile app for managing your account, which is available in English and Portuguese.
MEO is another popular provider in Portugal and is owned by Altice Portugal. They offer a range of prepaid and postpaid plans, including options for international calling and data-only SIM cards. MEO's prepaid plans start at €7.50 for 500 MB of data and 200 minutes of talk time, while their postpaid plans start at €15 per month.
MEO is known for their high-speed internet, with coverage across the country. They also offer a mobile app for managing your account, which is available in English and Portuguese.
NOS is a Portuguese telecommunications company that offers a range of prepaid and postpaid plans. They offer some of the most affordable prepaid plans, starting at just €5 for 500 MB of data and 50 minutes of talk time. Their postpaid plans start at €12.99 per month.
NOS is known for their fast internet speeds and extensive network coverage. They also offer a mobile app for managing your account, which is available in English and Portuguese.
Overall, Vodafone, MEO, and NOS are all reliable options for getting a SIM card in Portugal. Consider your needs and budget to determine which provider is the best fit for you.
Buying a prepaid sim card online
One of the easiest ways to purchase a Portugal SIM card is online. You can buy it from the official websites of mobile operators like MEO, NOS, and Vodafone.
You can also purchase it from online retailers like Amazon, eBay, and SimOptions. Buying a SIM card online allows you to compare prices and plans, and you can get it delivered to your doorstep before you arrive in Portugal.
Three Mobile's prepaid sim card works for 30 days within Europe, including Portugal as well as the USA, Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore, New Zealand & more. The offer may vary at times but you'll receive the equivalent of their £10 pay-as-you-go sim card offer. Remember to ask the seller to activate the sim card before you leave the USA.
Orange's prepaid sim card offers 14 days of 20GB 4G data in Europe including Portuga. You also get 120 international minutes and 1000 international texts for use within Europe. While the credit only lasts 14 days, you can top up the Orange sim card online. This sim card only includes 4G data.
Another option is SIM2ROAMs Prepaid Europe Data Sim card that gives you 10GB of data for 30 days. This sim card lets you use 5G or 4G data. Plus you'll be able to continue roaming in other countries in Europe.
Buying a prepaid sim card In-Store
If you prefer to purchase a Portugal SIM card in person, you can visit the mobile operator stores or authorized resellers.
You can find them in major cities and towns across Portugal. Buying a SIM card in-store allows you to get assistance from the sales representative, and you can activate the SIM card on the spot.
Vodafone sells tourist sim cards in their stores, and you can pick between two options.
Unlimited mobile data (no minute or SMS texts) for 35 euros. Lasts for 30 days but you can extend the duration if needed.
Or, 10GB data, 500 minutes/SMS texts for 25 euros for 30 days. This sim card works in the EEA, Portugal and the UK!
MEO sells a tourist sim called “Connected Holidays”. They offer two different plans:
- Connected Holidays Smartphone plan: 60 minutes, 500 SMS txts, 2GB mobile data for 14.99 Euros. Lasts 15 days.
- Connected holidays data plan: 30GB data for 14.99 Euros, last 15 minutes.
NOS has sim cards available in their stores throughout Portugal that start at 9.90 euros for a credit-only sim card. I don't recommend getting these ones as they're hard to top up. You have to use a Portugese bank account to top up their sim cards, or go to Payshop store. Which is annoying.
Instead, go for one of the NOS tourist sim cards. They sell two different sim cards for travelers. For 10 euros you can get 5GB of data, and for 12.50 euros you can get 10GB of data. These sim cards last for 30 days.
Another good option is UZO, which is a cheap network that uses the MEO network. UZO offers a weekly pay-as-you-go sim card plan. You can get 6GB Data for 4.50 euros, for 7 days, or 1GB data for 3.50 euros that lasts 7 days. These plans don't auto renew so you can top them up as required to control your spending.
Buying a sim card at the Airport in Portugal
eSims are a great alternative to a physical sim card so you just download them onto your phone. I love them, they're so convenient and I don't have to remember my sim card ejector tool.
It also avoids the hassle of getting a sim card at an airport and paying the stupidly high fees they charge at a Portugal Airport for low data plans.
If you're in a hurry and need a SIM card immediately, you can purchase one at the airport. But, I don't recommend this as the prices are usually higher, and the data offers are limited. You can find mobile operator stores and vending machines at the airport.
At Porto-Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport, you'll be able to buy a Vodafone sim card for 20 or 30 euros in the Vodafone store which offer these plans:
- The 20 Euro sim card gives you 5GB data, 500 minutes and 30 international minutes.
- The 30 Euro Sim card gives 60GB data for 30 days. Doesn't include minutes/texts.
They also have sim card vending machines in Porto airport! You can find them opposite the Vodafone store in the Xpress Market.
Flying into Lisbon? They have a Vodafone store in Terminal 1, which is open from 7am to 10pm each day. This store also sells the 20 Euro and 30 sim cards, so you can pick either 5GB data for 20euros or 60GB data for 30 euros.
Lisbon airport also an Exchange kiosk that sells Lycamobile sim cards. These are 10 euros for 500 international minutes, 100 SMS texts, and 4GB of local data. This sim card does not include data roaming. If you do buy a sim card from the Exchange Kiosk, you'll need to put it on your phone yourself. So make sure you have a sim card ejector tool.
Both options at Porto + Lisbon airports are overpriced, and you'll get a much better deal buying online, in a store in the city center, or an eSim. I personally recommend the eSim option if you don't need calls.
Getting an eSim Card for Portugal
I recommend using Airalo. They're the best eSim provider I've used so far and have local eSims for 200+ countries. They also have regional eSim cards, and global eSim cards that both work in Portugal. eSims start at $4.50 for 1GB for their local Portugal sim card so they're affordable. If you need a lot of data, you can easily renew the eSims through their app when your data has run out.
Airalo offers the following plans for their Portugal eSim cards:
- 1GB Data – Valid for 7 Days for $4.50
- 2GB Data – Valid for 7 Days for $7
- 3GB Data – Valid for 30 Days for $9.50
- 5GB Data – Valid for 30 Days for $10
- 10GB Data – Valid for 30 Days for $17
- 20GB Data – Valid for 30 Days for $32
If you're visiting other EU countries you could get one of the Airalo regional e-Sim cards. Their European regional sim card goes up to 100GB of data as well so if you're a high-data user, you won't need to renew the card so often.
Their European regional eSim has the following plans available:
- 1GB data, valid for 7 days for $5.
- 3GB data, valid for 30 days for $13
- 5GB data, valid for 30 days for $20
- 50GB data, valid for 90 days for $100
- 100GB data, valid for 180 days for $185
Alternatively, you could pick up a global sim card if you're visiting non-EU countries as well. This could save you money on buying separate local sims or eSims for each country/region.
Airalo has the following eSim global plans available:
- 1GB data, valid for 7 days for $9
- 3GB data, valid for 15 days for $24
- 5GB Data, valid for 30 days for $35
- 10GB data, valid for 60 days for $59
- 20GB data, valid for 180 days for $89
How to active a Portugal Sim Card
Activating your Portugal SIM card is a simple process that can be completed in just a few steps. Here's what you need to do:
- Purchase a SIM card: You can purchase a Portugal SIM card from any of the major mobile operators in the country. Some of the popular mobile operators include NOS, Vodafone, and MEO. You can purchase a SIM card from their retail stores or online.
- Register your SIM card: Once you have purchased your SIM card, you will need to register it with your personal details. This is a legal requirement in Portugal. You can register your SIM card online or at a retail store. You will need to provide your passport or ID card, as well as the address where you will be staying in Portugal.
- Activate your SIM card: After registering your SIM card, you will need to activate it. This can be done by inserting the SIM card into your phone and following the activation instructions provided by the mobile operator. You may need to restart your phone after activating your SIM card.
- Top up your SIM card: Once your SIM card is activated, you will need to top it up with credit. You can do this online, at a retail store, or using an ATM. Most mobile operators offer various top-up options, including prepaid plans and data bundles.
- Start using your SIM card: Once your SIM card is topped up, you can start using it to make calls, send messages, and use data. Make sure to check the mobile operator's coverage map to ensure that you have good network coverage in your area.
Overall, activating a Portugal SIM card is a straightforward process that can be completed in just a few steps. By following the above steps, you can get your Portugal SIM card up and running in no time.
Using a Pocket WiFi in Portugal
As an alternative to a sim card, you could get a pocket WIFi/mobile Wifi. If you’re traveling as a group, or have multiple devices you might find a portable Wifi is cheaper than buying multiple sim cards. You will be able to use your main sim card as normal. Which is handy as you will still be able to receive authentication texts from your bank, calls/txts from friends/family etc.
You can hire a 4G pocket WiFi in Lisbon, which lasts been 3 to 14 days. You'll be able to connect up to 10 devices and you'll get unlimited 4G data. So you can save a decent amount of money if you have multiple deviecs needing mobile data. Check availability & hire the pocket WiFi here.
You can also hire a GlocalMe portable WiFi. They have a minimum 5-day rental starting at $8.99 a day for 1GB 4G data and unlimited 3G.
You could also buy a Pocket WiFi. Whilst expensive upfront, if you travel a lot you can save money over time.
Here's the plans and devices I recommend below:
Traveling outside the EU? Check my international sim card guide here.