A guide to connecting to electricity, water, gas and rubbish collection in Portugal, plus information on drinking tap water in Portugal and Portuguese electrical outlets and voltage.
When you first relocate to Portugal, setting up your utilities might seem like an intimidating task – especially if you don’t speak the Portuguese language. The processes are relatively straightforward, although the systems vary a little between electricity in Portugal, gas, drinking water and recycling.
While cost transparency and price comparison websites for utilities aren’t as common as in some countries, the removal of the electricity monopoly a few years ago means consumers can at least compare providers and easily switch between them if unhappy. You can also get a general idea of the cost of living in Portugal before moving.
The quality of your utility supply will depend largely on where you live in Portugal. The major towns and cities are generally up to high standards in terms of their networks, but more rural places remain slightly behind.
This guide explains how to connect to basic utilities in Portugal including:
- Electricity in Portugal
- Portuguese electrical outlets
- Voltage in Portugal
- Electricity providers in Portugal
- Can you drink the tap water in Portugal?
- Water providers in Portugal
- Gas in Portugal
- Recycling and rubbish collection in Portugal
Since January 2013, Portuguese citizens and residents have been able to choose from a competitive range of electricity suppliers. Previously, they had been required to use the national operator EDP.
Under these regulations, any company that pays the access charges set by the Portuguese Energy Services Regulatory Authority (Entidade Reguladora dos Servicios Energeticos) is allowed to supply electricity.
Portugal uses the two-pin power plug adapters commonly used in much of Europe. If you have appliances with foreign plugs (such as the three-pin UK version) you should be able to buy a suitable Portuguese power adapter in most supermarkets and electrical shops.
The standard electricity supply in Portugal is 220V, although some older properties still have 110V supplies, and some very isolated areas have no mains electricity supply.
You can find a range of Portuguese electricity providers, including green energy providers. Below are some of the main energy providers in Portugal:
- Endesa: Endesa claims it is ‘the clear alternative’ in a deregulated energy sector, and offers what it calls an ‘Anniversary Tariff’, which allows consumers one free payment of their bill for each year they have their contract.
- Galp Power: Part of the multi-billion euro Galp Group. Offers discounts for customers taking out energy bundles.
- Iberdrola Generacion: Offers three plans – connect, basic and social – for users with different energy needs and in different financial situations.
- Union Fenosa Comercial: One of the largest gas providers in the country – also started providing electricity services in 2004.
How to connect to electricity in Portugal
If the previous owner hasn’t cancelled their supply in your accommodation in Portugal, you might be able to transfer it in to your name. This is often considerably easier than setting up an account from scratch.
When the previous occupant leaves the property, they should provide final utility bills and readings so you know you won’t be paying for energy from before moving into the property.
When transferring the policy to your name (or setting up a new policy), you’ll usually need the name and contact details of the previous occupant, proof of your residency and identity, bank details and meter readings (Leitura do Contador).
While power cuts aren’t incredibly common in major cities, the supply you’re given will be based on the power rating system in your area, so if you’re using several major appliances at the same time your power could cut out.
Paying your Portuguese electricity bills
You can pay your energy bill by direct debit or by making one-off payments when your bills arrive. It’s also possible to pay your bill at a Multibanco ATM.
Meters are generally only read annually, and estimated bills are sent out either monthly or bi-monthly. You can, of course, read your own meter and phone up your supplier with readings if you’d rather your bills were exact rather than predicted.
If you live in a newer property and fall behind on payments, your provider could limit your supply for a period while it awaits payment. This can lead your electricity tripping out when you use appliances.
If you are unhappy with your provider and decide to switch, you can usually do this via email, letter or online.
Where to complain about Portuguese electricity
Electricity services in Portugal are regulated by the Portuguese Energy Services Regulatory Authority, so if you have any issues or disputes with your provider, you should contact the ESRE in the first instance.
Tap water in Portugal is hard and can cause limescale build ups, so in some areas purchasing a water softening machine can be a good idea to extend the lifespan of your appliances.
While much of Portugal has access to mains water, as the country conforms to EU standards, some rural areas instead have a borehole or water tank.
Can you drink tap water in Portugal? The answer is yes according to the The Water Quality and Services Regulating Entity.
If you’re renting a flat, water bills may be factored in to your service charge, which will relieve you of the hassle of sorting out your water supply.
*Language tip: agua (water in Portuguese)
Water in Portugal is provided by local water boards as part of Grupo Aguas de Portugal. In Lisbon, for example, water is provided by Aguas de Lisboa e Vale do Tejo, which deals with the water supply of around 3.8 million people across 86 municipalities, while in the Algarve water is supplied to 450,000 people by Aguas do Algarve.
Portuguese households pay a fixed, metered amount for their water, and then extra for any usage that exceeds the limit. While bills are estimated bi-monthly, they are adjusted when a meter reading is provided, so it makes sense to also take your own readings too.
To sign up to receive a water supply in Portugal, you’ll need to provide your tax number, personal details, proof of address and telephone number.
Where to complain about Portuguese water
If you need to speak to your local water board, you can find their details on the Aguas de Portugal website. Alternatively you can visit a Citizens’ shop (Loja do Cidadao), which is a one-stop service that helps residents with administrative services in Portugal, such as car registration, licences, health services, taxes, and connecting and disconnecting services. The Citizens’ shop is an initiative that seeks to minimise the bureaucracy and cut waiting times in many of Portugal’s public and private organisations.
Here are also some contact numbers for dealing with water in Portugal:
- Supply problems: 800 222 425
- Burst pipes: 800 201 600
- Meter readings: 800 201 101
Gas in Portugal comes in three forms – mains gas (gas domicilio), bottled gas (botijas) and outdoor tanks (contentores de gas). Gas central heating systems in Portugal aren’t commonplace, and natural gas distribution remains unavailable in some of the more rural areas of the country. The gas prices in Portugal from 2014–2016 can be seen here.
To register your gas supply, you will need to sign a contract and have a technician visit to install your system (or read your meter if it already exists) and to turn the gas supply on.
Ideally, it can help to have the contact details of the previous occupant if possible, as you may not need to completely reconnect the supply. In addition to this, you’ll need the meter number (if applicable), proof of residency and bank account details
Gas prices in Portugal are charged on usage, based on how many megacalories (MCAL) you consume. You’ll usually be invoiced on a monthly basis and, as with other utilities in Portugal, you can either set up a direct debit, visit a Multibanco ATM or pay bills at your local post office.
Here are some important numbers to remember in the event of emergencies regarding gas in Portugal:
- Report a gas leak: 800 201 722
- Report a gas emergency: 808 241 107
Buying bottled gas in Portugal
Bottled gas in Portugal is usually available at petrol stations and larger supermarkets, though some gas suppliers may also offer a delivery service. Bottles are usually available in three sizes: 10kg, 15kg and 20kg.
When buying bottled gas for the first time, as well as paying for the gas itself you’ll also have to pay a deposit for the bottle. Then, in future you can simply exchange the used bottle for a full one when it’s empty.
Gas tanks in Portugal
Gas tanks tend to only be used in rural areas. These tanks are usually installed next to your property and have a capacity of around 1,000 litres. This gas can be used to generate hot water and for heating the property.
If you need a gas tank, you’ll need to sign a supply contract with a gas company, and you should also inform your home insurance provider, as having a gas tank installed can increase your premiums.
Household waste and recycling in Portugal is managed by your local council. Household waste is collected from your property in a grey bin, and recyclable products should be taken to your local recycling point.
Before going to the recycling point, you’ll need to sort your materials and learn about the rules of sorting recyclables. As a general guide, recyclable materials are split in to the following categories:
- Brown bin – organic waste
- Green bin – glass
- Yellow bin – plastic bottles and packaging
- Blue bin – paper and cardboard
- Clothing bank – clothing
- Red box – Batteries
If you need to dispose of old electrical appliances, you may find that your local recycling centre has a suitable place. Alternatively, some councils offer pickup services for large items, but the exact details of how this works varies from area to area. Alternatively, you can dispose of usable items by giving them away to someone else using certain services available in Portugal such as Freecycle.