First things first. The 5G infrastructure in most of Portugal is great. The fiber service you can get in Lisbon is awesome. And everything, relative to us estadunidenses (Americans), is dirt cheap.
So one of the first things we will do when we get there is sign up with a Portuguese cell phone provider.
We’ve used Vodafone pre-paid data-only SIM’s for our last two trips, and so we think we like them and are going to stick with them. But you will notice whenever you fill out a Portuguese website that has any field where you can put in a phone number is going to only take a Portuguese phone number, so to live there, you’re going to want one. I’ve been doing some research, and it looks like I can get “Red Infinity Giga 5G” for me and Alison for €86/mo. This is gigabit line-speed, 5G, unlimited SMS, voice, data. When roaming throughout the rest of the EU or the UK, we apparently can use 47GB of data in a month. I can’t find the hotspot limitations, so I hope there’s no gotcha there. If so (or if not) I’ll update this. There is a 24-month contract, but I don’t see us giving up on Portugal that fast if things go south.
Regardless of that, you probably want to keep your US-based number – it’s hooked into banks, credit cards, probably even the government for some things. I just want to hold onto the number, and am not planning on sending a ton of text messages or having long phone calls, I just need enough to be able to say “My new number is +351 123 123 123” (or whatever format they use there). Another interesting wrinkle – go take a look at your phone, in your text messages, and look for any messages that come from ‘short codes’ – I get messages from various businesses, from Uber, Verizon, my bank, my mortgage broker, my health insurance…tons of things. If you pick some kind of ‘clever’ phone-forwarding package, you can easily find that they will treat your phone as a ‘land-line’ – and you won’t be able to get those short-code SMS messages any more. So you’re going to need to be smart.
The way we’re currently leaning is that we’re going to switch to Mint Mobile once we get there. It’s a real mobile phone service, that *does* have international service in Portugal (for additional fees). We can sign up for their cheapest deal (all of our data, and texts, and voice is going to be going through Vodafone; we’re just going to want to have the odd text messages or phone calls or whatever come through for us when we need them to). So that’ll be $15/mo for each of us, plus a couple more bucks to cover any text messages or voice calls we need to send. But receiving text messages internationally seems to be free!
The one thing I’m worried about here is whether we can actually make the swap when we’re over there. Will they geolocate us and say “nah, you can’t switch while you’re in Europe?” I don’t know!
I’ve looked into some other options too – Google Fi being one that’s quite well regarded. But they will pretty abruptly turn off your service if you use it ‘too much’ while you’re in Europe. How much is ‘too much’? I don’t know! I’ve heard of people trying to lean on it for a few weeks and then get turned off, and I’ve heard of people using it for months and being just fine. Seems like too much of a risk to me.
We’ll definitely update more once we get there and figure out how everything goes.