Your guide to Portugal mobile operators, including information on Portuguese mobile codes, prepaid SIM cards, country and area codes, WiFi and more.
Portugal’s mobile coverage is on par with its European neighbors. Connecting to Portuguese mobile networks is relatively straightforward for most visitors. The only mobile owners who may experience issues are travelers with locked phones or if your handset isn’t compatible with GSM.
Most Portuguese mobile operators offer excellent coverage. The majority of the country receives a strong signal on all the leading Portuguese mobile providers. However, there are a few areas that do not get any coverage in the countryside.
Whether you’re visiting for a short holiday or planning to live in Portugal long-term, this guide explains the process of how to get a mobile phone in Portugal, including:
- Mobile networks in Portugal: Can I use my mobile in Portugal?
- Comparing Portuguese mobile operators
- Getting a Portuguese SIM card
- Requirements for cell phone plans in Portugal
- Dialing Portuguese mobile numbers
- Using your mobile in Portugal
Mobile networks in Portugal: Will my mobile work in Portugal?
All Portugal mobile networks are GSM networks, much like the rest of Europe. If your phone is GSM-enabled, you can continue to use your current mobile phone in Portugal. In such circumstances, all you have to do is buy a Portuguese SIM card and insert it into your phone.
In some cases, it can sometimes be cheaper to use your current SIM card. However, mobile phone companies charge high fees for international roaming; the EU abolished roaming charges for EU mobile users in 2017. If you use your mobile regularly, several alternative options are available below.
If your current handset is only CDMA compatible, you won’t be able to use your phone even with a Portuguese SIM card. Your only options are to buy a new mobile that is GSM compatible or rent a mobile with a Portugal SIM once you arrive in the country. The latter is a good option for short-term stays.
If you’re staying longer than 30 days or moving to Portugal as an expat, it can be cheaper to buy rather than rent a mobile. You can buy new and used phones for reasonable prices if you’re not too bothered about having a premium model. Once you have a Portuguese mobile, it’s an easy step to get a Portuguese mobile number.
Before you leave for Portugal, check that your current phone is GSM compatible and that the SIM is unlocked. If your phone is unlocked, switching to a Portuguese SIM card is straightforward.
If your SIM is locked, you won’t be able to use a SIM card from a different provider. This only happens if you enter into a contract with a mobile phone company. The usual policy is that you pay out the contract for 12–24 months before the company unlocks your phone. It is advisable to check with your current mobile phone company and ask about their unlocking policy.
Some mobile providers will give you the unlock code once you pay a small fee. However, not all companies are forthcoming with an unlock code. In such situations, you may have to pay out your full contract.
Comparing Portuguese mobile operators
There are currently three main Portuguese mobile operators that will sell a Portuguese SIM card to visitors and other non-residents:
The most popular Portuguese mobile operator is MEO. MEO boasts the best coverage and is the market leader in terms of sales.
Vodafone comes in second among the top Portuguese cell phone companies. NOS comes a close third despite having a much smaller network than the other two. NOS coverage isn’t as consistent as the leaders, although has good credentials with customer satisfaction.
There are also a handful of MVNOS, or mobile virtual network operators, offering mobile services in Portugal. These companies use one of the top three networks but tend to specialize in providing package deals and slightly lower call costs on prepaid SIM cards. Lycamobile offers a popular prepaid SIM card, which is affordable but doesn’t yet offer 4G/LTE coverage.
Portuguese SIM cards
There are a few providers in the world that offer great international roaming rates, but it is not the norm. While you might not need to buy a new mobile in Portugal, buying a prepaid SIM card can offer some savings. These are easy to find and readily available even for short-term visitors.
If your trip is longer than a month, getting a Portuguese SIM card is the best option. Newcomers typically start on a prepaid SIM card until they can provide the necessary proof of residence for a monthly plan. Services on prepaid SIM cards are slightly more expensive than mobile phone contracts but are the most convenient and cost-effective option when you first arrive.
Portuguese SIM cards enable you to make calls, send texts, and browse the Internet. Some prepaid SIMs in Portugal also allow international calls, but fees are high; otherwise, consider an international SIM card, which typically allows affordable calls. On a mobile contract, you have more choice of cheap or free international calls included in package deals.
MEO SIM cards cost around €9.99 and are available at MEO or Phone House stores. If you can provide a Portuguese address, you can order one online for free. MEO SIMs offer €5 credit for calls. Top-up credit vouchers are available in multiple shops and online. The minimum top-up amount is €5.
Vodafone SIM cards only cost a few euros and are available in Vodafone stores as well as in places such as Payshop. Top-ups come in increments of €5, from €5 up to €100. NOS SIM cards are available in their stores as well as Payshop, and can be topped up for between €5 and €30 in €5 increments.
When buying a SIM card, you must provide your:
- valid ID
Requirements for mobile plans in Portugal
Signing up for a monthly mobile phone contract in Portugal is a bit more complicated than the prepaid process. You need three things in order to sign a monthly contract:
- Tax number
- Valid ID
- Proof of address.
This is something expats can only look into after they have officially registered and received their residency permit. Read Expatica’s guide for more details on visas and permits in Portugal.
Dialing Portuguese mobile numbers
The mobile code for calling Portuguese mobile phone numbers depends on which network the person uses. Since 1999, the Portugal mobile code has been 9T, with T being either 0,1, 2, 3 or 6 depending on the mobile operator.
Portugal has a closed telephone dialing plan, so all numbers have nine basic digits including the Portuguese mobile code.
Calling Portuguese mobile numbers from abroad needs to include the country code. Start with your country’s exit code of ’00 or +’ then Portugal’s country code ‘351’, followed by the mobile code and seven-digit number: 00 351 9T XXX XXXX
For calls between Portuguese mobile numbers, you do not need the country code: the number will start with the 9T mobile code. When calling a landline from a Portuguese cell phone, the number will have a different two-digit code in place of the 9T code.
Using your mobile in Portugal
Visitors and expats should know that SIM cards in Portugal do not need to be registered as they often do in some other European countries. This gives a bit more freedom to visitors.
Another thing to keep in mind is the fact that a tax number is needed for many things in Portugal, from opening a bank account to signing up for a monthly mobile contract. While a Portuguese bank account isn’t always required to sign a monthly contract, you will need a tax number, which is not commonly asked for in other countries. Read Expatica’s guide on taxes in Portugal to get a tax number before considering a monthly mobile plan.