Data Roaming in Portugal & Alternatives to Get Internet for Tourists

Portugal is a popular tourist destination known for its picturesque coastal towns, historic castles, and delicious cuisine. However, when visiting Portugal, many travelers encounter the issue of expensive data roaming charges on their cell phone plans. Getting mobile data access while traveling internationally can quickly add up and ruin your vacation budget.

In this guide, we will break down everything you need to know about cell phone data and roaming when visiting Portugal. We will cover:

I. Phone Roaming in Portugal – Quick Facts for Tourists

About data roaming in Portugal
About data roaming in Portugal
  • No roaming charges within EU for other EU citizens. Calls/texts/data at domestic rates.
  • Check rates with your carrier for outside EU. Many offer roaming packages.
  • Major networks are Vodafone, MEO, NOS. Good coverage nationwide including tourist areas.
  • Turn off data when not using WiFi to avoid accidental roaming charges.
  • Buy a Portuguese SIM for affordable local number/data. Ensure phone is unlocked.
  • Emergency number 112 dials 911 from any phone. Keep local contacts handy outside coverage.
  • Texting generally cheaper than calling when roaming internationally. Use WiFi calling apps.

Read more: What is data roaming?

II. Understand Roaming in Portugal – How It Works

When you travel outside your home country, your cell phone connects to local carrier networks in the places you visit. This is called phone roaming.

Roaming allows you to continue using your regular number and plan abroad. But it often incurs costly roaming fees and charges, especially for data usage.

Here’s an overview of how cell phone roaming works in Portugal:

What Networks Are Available

  • Portugal’s main mobile networks are MEO, NOS, Vodafone, and Lycamobile.
  • These networks use standard 3G, 4G/LTE, and 5G coverage.
  • Portugal has excellent nationwide mobile infrastructure and connectivity.

International Roaming Rates

  • Roaming rates are set by your home carrier in agreement with networks abroad.
  • Within the EU, roaming is capped at €0.032 per minute, €0.01 per SMS, and €2.5 +VAT per GB (2022 rates).
  • Outside the EU, there are no roaming caps, so charges are much higher.
  • Typical roaming rates from outside Europe to Portugal are $2-10 per minute, $1 per SMS, and $10-20 per megabyte.

Note: Roaming rate can be adjusted/different at the time of writing.

Enabling Roaming on Your Phone

  • Contact your carrier to add an international roaming plan to your account before travel.
  • Ensure your phone is unlocked and compatible with foreign networks.
  • Turn on cellular data roaming once in Portugal to connect to local networks.
  • You will automatically incur roaming fees for calls, texts, and data usage.

III. Is Roaming in Portugal Expensive?

Data roaming prices will be different for tourists from EU and other regions
Data roaming prices will be different for tourists from EU and other regions

In short, yes – roaming in Portugal can be quite expensive, especially for travelers coming from outside Europe.

However, as long as staying within the EU, roaming rates in Ireland are inexpensive thanks to regulated pricing. Some planning is needed outside the EU to avoid expensive bills, but overall roaming in Portugal are reasonable.

Here are the key expenses to watch for:

Incoming Calls & Texts

  • Incoming calls usually cost $1-3 per minute.
  • Incoming texts can be $0.50-$2 each.

Outgoing Calls & Texts

  • Making calls back home averages $2-5 per minute.
  • Sending texts is around $0.50-$1.50 per text.

Mobile Data Roaming

  • This is usually the biggest roaming expense in Portugal.
  • EU roaming data is capped at €2.50+VAT per GB (about $2.60/GB).
  • But for non-EU visitors, data roaming can cost $10-$20 for just 100 MB in Portugal. Going over a few hundred MBs could result in a shockingly high phone bill.

Other Fees

  • There can also be daily access fees, connection fees, and other surcharges that add up.
  • Billing from roaming is often delayed, so you may not realize how much you racked up until you get home.

Recommendation: If you move to Portugal from any country in Europe, you can use roaming services to save money. However, if you move to Portugal from other countries outside Europe, roaming service price can be extremely high.

IV. How to Activate Roaming for Portugal on Your Cell Phone?

If you do want to use roaming on your regular number while visiting Portugal, here are the basic steps to get set up:

Contact Your Carrier

  • Call your cell phone carrier and ask to enable international roaming in Portugal.
  • For the EU, roaming is automatically included on most plans. But confirm the rates.
  • For outside Europe, you’ll likely need to add a roaming package. Pick one that fits your trip length and data needs.

Unlock Your Phone

  • Most carriers will unlock your phone for international use upon request.
  • This allows you to swap out SIM cards and connect to foreign networks.
  • There may be an unlocking fee. But it’s a one-time cost that enables roaming.

Turn On Cellular Data Roaming

  • Once in Portugal, go into your phone settings.
  • Under the connections or network settings, turn on “Cellular Data Roaming” or “Data Roaming”.
  • This will connect you to local Portuguese networks and start incurring roaming fees.
  • You can also manually select a Portuguese carrier like MEO or Vodafone.

Be Aware of Roaming Rates

  • Try to minimize usage of data, calls and texts to control roaming charges.
  • Apps like Skype, WhatsApp, FaceTime are better options to avoid roaming fees.
  • Set email and social media to only update when on WiFi to cut data costs.

V. How to Avoid Roaming Charges When Traveling in Portugal

To avoid paying expensive roaming fees in Portugal, here are some handy options to get affordable cell phone service and data:

Get a Portuguese SIM Card

Portugal SIM card is a good option when traveling to Portugal
Portugal SIM card is a good option when traveling to Portugal
  • This gives you a local Portuguese phone number and data plan.
  • SIM cards can be purchased at Portugal airports, electronic shops, and phone carriers.
  • Prices are very affordable, often starting from €5-15 for the SIM card with some prepaid data.
  • Top up the SIM with more data during your trip as needed.

Use a Portugal eSIM

  • An eSIM provides data for your phone without swapping out the physical SIM.
  • Options like Gigago have a Portugal eSIM with data and free calls across Europe.
  • An eSIM makes it easy to get cheap, short term data easily.

Notes: If you're planning Portugal eSIM as your data roaming alternatives, you should check the eSIM compatibility of the device first. Check out eSIM compatible device list

Only Use Data on WiFi

  • Connect to free WiFi hotspots around towns, cafes, restaurants, hotels to avoid roaming charges.
  • Be sure to switch your phone to only update apps and services when on WiFi.
  • Download maps, translation apps, music etc via WiFi before heading out.

Switch Cellular Data Off Completely

  • To avoid accidental roaming fees, turn off cellular data fully when abroad.
  • Limit usage to only WiFi and connect when you have access to stay in budget.
  • Forward calls to apps like WhatsApp or Skype when out if needed.

VI. Portugal eSIM – Alternative to Data Roaming in Portugal to Get Internet

Using an eSIM plan is an excellent alternative to pay-per-use roaming when traveling in Portugal. Here are some top options:

Data
Validity
Price
1GB
3 days
$3.50
3GB
3 days
$8.30
5GB
3 days
$16.90
10GB
3 days
$24.81
15GB
3 days
$36.54
20GB
3 days
$48.11
1GB
5 days
$3.61
3GB
5 days
$8.50
5GB
5 days
$17.07
10GB
5 days
$25.04
15GB
5 days
$36.87
20GB
5 days
$48.55
1GB
7 days
$3.71
3GB
7 days
$8.59
5GB
7 days
$17.24
10GB
7 days
$25.27
15GB
7 days
$37.21
20GB
7 days
$49.00
1GB
10 days
$3.82
3GB
10 days
$8.67
5GB
10 days
$17.41
10GB
10 days
$25.50
15GB
10 days
$37.56
20GB
10 days
$49.45
12GB
14 days
$21.90
30GB
14 days
$43.90
1GB
15 days
$3.94
3GB
15 days
$8.76
5GB
15 days
$17.59
10GB
15 days
$25.76
15GB
15 days
$37.90
20GB
15 days
$49.90
1GB
20 days
$4.06
3GB
20 days
$8.85
5GB
20 days
$17.76
10GB
20 days
$26.01
15GB
20 days
$38.28
20GB
20 days
$50.40
1GB
25 days
$4.18
3GB
25 days
$8.93
5GB
25 days
$17.94
10GB
25 days
$26.27
15GB
25 days
$38.66
20GB
25 days
$50.90
1GB
30 days
$4.30
3GB
30 days
$9.02
5GB
30 days
$18.12
10GB
30 days
$26.54
15GB
30 days
$39.05
20GB
30 days
$51.41
50GB
28 days
$54.90
50GB
3 days
$117.98
50GB
5 days
$119.07
50GB
7 days
$120.16
50GB
10 days
$121.26
50GB
15 days
$122.38
50GB
20 days
$123.50
50GB
25 days
$124.74
50GB
30 days
$125.98

VII. How to Turn Off Data Roaming When Traveling in Portugal

To avoid unwanted data roaming charges, here are quick steps to disable roaming on your phone:

Turn Off Data Roaming on Android Phones

  1. Open Settings and go to Network & Internet > Mobile Network.
  2. Turn off International Data Roaming. This prevents connectivity abroad.
  3. You 3. You can also turn off cellular data entirely under Data Usage settings. This blocks any data usage unless on WiFi.
  4. Set your preferred network to WiFi in Connections > WiFi Calling settings. This makes calls/texts over WiFi the default.
  5. Consider getting a local SIM card or eSIM which are cheaper alternatives for connectivity.

Turn Off Data Roaming on iPhones

  1. Go to Settings > Cellular > Switch OFF Data roaming.
  2. Switch Cellular Data to Off. This disables all data connectivity.
  3. Under Voice & Data settings, turn off LTE so you can’t connect to local carriers.
  4. Enable WiFi Calling to route calls & texts via WiFi networks when available.
  5. You can also disable Push Email and Background App Refresh under Data Usage to prevent auto updates.
  6. Alternatively, get a Portugal eSIM as a budget option for short term data.

VIII. FAQs

Q: Is it free to receive calls and texts while roaming in Portugal?

A: No, there is often a charge for incoming calls and texts while roaming in Portugal, ranging from $1-3 per call/text.

Q: How can I monitor my data usage to avoid roaming fees?

A: Track your data under cellular settings. Set low data limits and get alerts. Manually switch data on/off when needed.

Q: Is roaming or getting a local SIM card better in Portugal?

A: Getting a local Portuguese SIM is much cheaper overall than paying high roaming rates, especially for longer trips.

Q: Do I need to unlock my phone to use a SIM card in Portugal?

A: Yes, you will need to request your carrier to unlock your phone for international SIM card use before travel.

Q: Can I use roaming on multiple networks in Portugal?

A: Yes, your phone will automatically connect to whichever Portuguese network has the best signal – MEO, NOS, Vodafone etc.

IX. Conclusion

In summary, data roaming in Portugal can become very expensive for tourists, especially from outside Europe. To avoid bill shocks, opt for WiFi, get a local SIM card or an eSIM plan for affordable connectivity instead of paying standard roaming rates. With a few steps, you can easily disable roaming and only connect via free hotspots or cheap local data during your trip. This allows you to stay connected on the go in Portugal without the huge roaming fees.