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Leaving for Portugal in 2 weeks - need phone help before we go!


We are leaving for Portugal in 2 weeks. The two cell phones we have are going to be useless to us other than using as a camera. We have prepaid plans on both phones, so we don't have a contract. One phone with Tracfone which won't cover us outside North America. The other phone is prepaid minutes through T-Mobile which does not offer international options for those with our type of plan.

So what to do? Is there a cheap phone here in the US someone could suggest that we could purchase and a cheap plan that we could get that would work in Portugal? I've read that one could purchase a phone and SIM card at the airport in Lisbon at a Vodafone store but it would have a Portugal number. We would prefer to get something here and figure it out before we go. We are not big texters but want to be able to have data availability as all our tickets for things these days need to be on the phone, etc.

Thanks for any advice!

Posted by
6104 posts

We are also going to Portugal in a couple weeks. Generally, we travel to Europe twice a year. We have Verizon and unless we do a SIM card swap, we pay $10/phone/day for cell service in Europe. Our strategy was and still is, to not use data and make use of wifi (which is everywhere) unless something arises and then we pay the $10/day. We have done at least 7 trips with this strategy and have yet to really need cell service. We plan ahead and download maps for navigation in advance or when we have wifi.

I imagine at some point, we'll have to change our strategy, but so far so good. Something to consider.

Posted by
5688 posts

The other phone is prepaid minutes through T-Mobile which does not offer international options for those with our type of plan.

Could you change to a T-Mobile post-paid plan such as Magenta before you leave? That would let you keep your US phone # while you travel and give you free text and data. I don’t think T-Mobile requires you to sign a contract so you could always cancel in future.

Alternatively, are either of your phones unlocked smart phones? If so, you could remove the SIM card and just buy a SIM card in Portugal.

Another option is to just buy an unlocked phone here. When you return from your trip, you can use it to replace one of your existing phones..

Posted by
11368 posts

We get Verizon International for husband’s iphone and I buy a SIM for my i phone. This has worked well for many years.

Posted by
186 posts

Our strategy is: my dad signs up for the $100 Verizon monthly plan and is always connected. I stay on airplane mode and, other than emergencies, connect only on Wi-Fi.

Posted by
381 posts

Are you able to use your phone with Wi-Fi, and thus store tickets, boarding passes and the like? Once your tickets are loaded onto your phone, you shouldn’t need data to access them.

Posted by
79 posts

A simple and cost effective method (eg~10$ for 5gb for 30 days) is to buy an esim from airalo at home. We used an esim in Portugal last November and in Spain in May. When you leave home turn off your main phone plan and when you land turn on your esim data plan. Everyone in Portugal and Spain seem to use WhatsApp so having easy full time access is a no brainer!! You use your own number on WhatsApp but only have access to data for texting and video calls and email. Good luck!!

Posted by
133 posts

I think T-Mobile offers the best plan . I use it all the time and have free wifi calls to USA, internet. Call and find put about an international plan for a month.

Posted by
847 posts

Obviously you need a new and better phone. Go on Amazon and buy an unlocked phone for less than $200. That is all you need if you are going the Wi-Fi only route. Otherwise you buy a SIM card for Portugal when you get here. Just find a mobile phone store.
$10 a day for a US a plan coverage overseas is not necessary at all. Most European prepaid SIM cards you can get for 30 days with 10GB data for about $30.

Posted by
6104 posts

I was poking around on the web doing trip planning and noticed that there is free wifi in the historic part of Sintra. I did more searching and supposedly Lisbon and Porto do as well. I can’t attest since I haven’t been to Portugal but I thought I’d pass on.

Posted by
1265 posts


The type of cellular plan you have at home should not affect your ability to use your phone in Portugal. Signing up for a post paid plan with international use included or as an option would be the most expensive option.

What is important is the type of phone you have and whether it is unlocked.. Please tell us the make and model of your phone and whether it is unlocked.

Buying an esim would be best, but that would depend if your phone supports that option. Otherwise just buy a sim for portugal and swap it into your phone (if it is unlocked).

The easiest way to determine if your phone is unlocked is to borrow a sim for a different cellular provider from a friend and swap it into your phone. If you can make and receive a call with your friend's sim, your phone is unlocked. Good luck.