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SIM Cards in Portugal

Past OR future Camino
Francés and Portugal
Hello Everyone:

There have been quite a number of threads about SIM cards (which networks to use, where to buy them, cost, etc.), but for those like me that are not technologically savvy, I have not seen anything that explains what actually happens when you purchase and install a local SIM card. For example, I understand that you will now have a local phone number, so assuming you are in Spain, you would have a Spanish number. This has obvious implications for making/receiving telephone calls. The implications for text messages are presumably the same. I also understand that you receive a data package that makes browsing the web much more affordable than many domestic networks would charge for roaming. However, I hope that someone could help explain the following:

1. What happens with e-mails? Can you send/receive messages using your regular e-mail address? Is it a seamless process, or do you need to somehow install your e-mail address on the new SIM card?

2. Same question with apps: Are any apps that you already have on your phone (MAPS.ME, Booking.com, Kindle, etc.) still on your phone, or do you need to somehow download them again?

3. Is there anything else important to know?

Thanks in advance for any help!
I have another related question. We’re walking the Camino Portugues in September. Flying into Madrid with a long layover to Porto. I planned on getting our sim at the airport. Does that sim work in Spain and Portugal? Are there additional charges to call Portugal while in Spain and vice versa?
 
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peregrina2000

Moderator
Staff member
I planned on getting our sim at the airport.
Here is some information that looks reliable about buying Sim cards at the Madrid airport.


And yes the card will work equally well in Spain or Portugal. Some forum members have advised me that the only difficulty may be adding to the card. That is, if you buy it in Spain, you won’t be able to add money in a shop in Portugal and vice versa. But I think that can be done online. Hopefully someone with a clearer understanding will jump in here.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
Here is some information that looks reliable about buying Sim cards at the Madrid airport
❤️ Amazing website. Even lists the plans and prices by terminal number and vendor.
And yes the card will work equally well in Spain or Portugal. Some forum members have advised me that the only difficulty may be adding to the card.
If you buy the card in Spain then you will have to call places in Portugal as international calls with the prefix. You probably won't have extra charges for the calls though. Check the plan.

If you wait to buy in Portugal then you have the same problems when you reach Spain. Since you will likely be in Spain by the time you need to renew I think picking up the card in Madrid is as good a choice of any.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
I have another related question. We’re walking the Camino Portugues in September. Flying into Madrid with a long layover to Porto. I planned on getting our sim at the airport. Does that sim work in Spain and Portugal? Are there additional charges to call Portugal while in Spain and vice versa?

Your email and your apps run on the operating system on your phone, and do not rely on which SIM, which provider, which network etc....

Your phone might be configured to connect to some networks as a feature that you can select in the preferences to "remember WiFi networks". That is useful if you are in the habit of connecting to WiFi at the same cafe every day.... some of us have Eduroam accounts and can find that when we land in towns or locations with Eduroam that we are automatically connected. I have realized myself connected in Santiago, in Pamplona, and at the Stockholm airport (which was the most surprising Eduroam convention of all). If you have that sort of thing on your phone, you might find that in the COV era it's more convenient to turn it off as just being on the proximity of an Eduroam server can prompt your phone to ask you to fill out a COV security screening -- which is annoying if you're just walking past a building or a campus. I think there are primate companies that have similar global networks... so if this is you, just be aware of it.

Your mail will still be routed through your home servers and you are unlikely to see any difference on your phone as a user.

Your Apps are embedded in the operating system of your phone. You won't see any change there, although some are real data-hogs so you might want to turn off your cell connection while you are walking (use airplane mode to do this). Things like weather apps and messenger apps can really eat up your data so if you don't need them while you are walking, I would turn them off.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
You won't see any change there, although some are real data-hogs so you might want to turn off your cell connection while you are walking (use airplane mode to do this).
That will work but airplane mode will also keep you from getting or making phone calls. Some pilgrims like this. In airplane mode calls made to you will go to voicemail if the caller doesn't hang up first. You can shut off cellular data but still allow cellular calling.
 
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Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
That will work but airplane mode will also keep you from getting or making phone calls. Some pilgrims like this. In airplane mode calls made to you will go to voicemail if the caller doesn't hang up first. You can shut off cellular data but still allow cellular calling.

Yes, that’s an option that I like to keep open, so I actually shut down data access on Apps one at a time (keeping things like What’sApp and WisePilgrim open, and data calling, but nothing else). The easiest way to do that is “turn off data for all apps” and then just select the few that you want to turn back on.
 
Past OR future Camino
Us:Camino Frances, 2015 Me:Catalan/Aragonese, 2019
And more yet for the airplane mode. This afternoon I misplaced my phone either at my neighbor's or near my car. My neighbor dialled my phone and we found it easily. If it were in airplane mode it would not ring. That might be a good enough reason to not have the mode on when on camino. Might come in handy if you left the phone at the last albergue too. With luck someone might pick up the call and carry your phone to a nearby bar to trade for a meal and drinks.
 

Faye Walker

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
CF 2014, CF 2018, CP 2019 from Coimbra
And more yet for the airplane mode. This afternoon I misplaced my phone either at my neighbor's or near my car. My neighbor dialled my phone and we found it easily. If it were in airplane mode it would not ring. That might be a good enough reason to not have the mode on when on camino. Might come in handy if you left the phone at the last albergue too. With luck someone might pick up the call and carry your phone to a nearby bar to trade for a meal and drinks.
For those who have an iPhone and watch that are paired, you can still ping your iPhone when it is in Airplane mode.
I think that might be possible with at least some of the fitness watches that go with Android but I"m not sure.
Anyway, as more and more people do have watches paired with phones... that feature -- to ping your phone -- can be *very* useful. I probably use it once a day!
 

stevelm1

Recovering Perigrino
Past OR future Camino
CF 2015, CP 2019, Jakobswege Germany 2022 or 23.
I tried to get a Portuguese SIM card at the Lisbon airport only to find out that my phone was locked and would not accept a new SIM card. The tech told me that I needed to get my phone unlocked before I left home and could not do it out of country. Now that I am home I still do not know how to do this, but if you plan to get a SIM card overseas I suggest you look into this issue before you leave home.
 

trecile

Camino Addict
Past OR future Camino
Francés (2016 & 2017), Norte (2018), Francés-Salvador-Norte (2019), Portuguese (2019)
I tried to get a Portuguese SIM card at the Lisbon airport only to find out that my phone was locked and would not accept a new SIM card. The tech told me that I needed to get my phone unlocked before I left home and could not do it out of country. Now that I am home I still do not know how to do this, but if you plan to get a SIM card overseas I suggest you look into this issue before you leave home.
You need to ask your cell phone provider how to unlock your phone.
 
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Past OR future Camino
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lindam

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Frances, VDLP, Invierno, Portuguese, Madrid, Ingles, Fisterra, Muxia, Catalan/Aragones/Loyola Norte
That is, if you buy it in Spain, you won’t be able to add money in a shop in Portugal and vice versa. But I think that can be done online. Hopefully someone with a clearer understanding will jump in here.
Based on my experience, I was unable to add money to a Spanish Movistar SIM while in Portugal a few years ago. This was specific to Movistar as they do not offer service in Portugal.
 
Last edited:

lt56ny

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
2021
Here is some information that looks reliable about buying Sim cards at the Madrid airport.


And yes the card will work equally well in Spain or Portugal. Some forum members have advised me that the only difficulty may be adding to the card. That is, if you buy it in Spain, you won’t be able to add money in a shop in Portugal and vice versa. But I think that can be done online. Hopefully someone with a clearer understanding will jump in here.
I just checked this out. It is convenient for sure but wow are they alot more money than if you go to a Vodafone or Orange store.
The website shows at Vodafone - €50 = 10 + 8 GB data in Europe + 800 minutes worldwide.
If you go to a store - 15Euros gets you 40 GB and 800 minutes worldwide for 28 days
Orange i saw €25 = 10 GB data in Europe + €10 calling credit.
€35 = 30 GB data in Spain
Another offered this: €40 = 10 GB data in Europe + €10 credit for calls. €60 = 20 GB data in Europe + €10 credit for calls. €75 = 30 GB data in Europe + €10 credit for calls.
If you go to an Orange store for $20 Euros you get 35 gb and unlimited national calls and Europe calls.
 

Doughnut NZ

From Aotearoa New Zealand
Past OR future Camino
2022
Here is some information that looks reliable about buying Sim cards at the Madrid airport.


And yes the card will work equally well in Spain or Portugal. Some forum members have advised me that the only difficulty may be adding to the card. That is, if you buy it in Spain, you won’t be able to add money in a shop in Portugal and vice versa. But I think that can be done online. Hopefully someone with a clearer understanding will jump in here.
Yes, all network providers will allow you to deposit additional funds against you account using their website. Just watch, some cheap deals are aimed at tourists on package tours and can't be topped up. You would have to buy another SIM (and get another phone number).

The other option is to pre-pay the additional amounts needed for the top up when you buy the SIM and then provided that your pre-pay account is set to automatically renew then it will simply renew itself. You may still get a SMS TXT from the network saying that you need to top-up your balance but they send those out regardless of how much money is in your account.

It is also useful to learn how to check your account balance from your phone (each provider has a special SMS number to txt to get a reply with your current balance) and how to check it online.
 
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LesR

Active Member
Past OR future Camino
Camino Frances 2017, 2018; Camino Portuguese 2019
And yes the card will work equally well in Spain or Portugal.
Maybe not....

Walked CP from Lisbon 2019 - bought data card in Lisbon (Orange, I think) and all worked fine until I crossed into Spain when it ceased to work.

Went to an Orange store in the next major population centre (possibly Vigo) and was told by the store attendant that "it happens all the time..." and bought a Spanish SIM card and all went well from there. This card even worked well in Portugal at the end of my Camino. Inconvenient for a short time, but not world shattering...

I know the advice on-line is that EU requirements are for SIM cards to work anywhere in the EU - but it seems this is not always the case.
 

David Tallan

Veteran Member
Past OR future Camino
1989
Maybe not....

Walked CP from Lisbon 2019 - bought data card in Lisbon (Orange, I think) and all worked fine until I crossed into Spain when it ceased to work.

Went to an Orange store in the next major population centre (possibly Vigo) and was told by the store attendant that "it happens all the time..." and bought a Spanish SIM card and all went well from there. This card even worked well in Portugal at the end of my Camino. Inconvenient for a short time, but not world shattering...

I know the advice on-line is that EU requirements are for SIM cards to work anywhere in the EU - but it seems this is not always the case.
When I walked from Porto in 2018, I also had problems with the card (Vodafone, I think) which worked fine until I crossed into Spain. At that point, I think the data still worked well, but I had difficulties making phone calls.
 

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