If you’re moving to Portugal, one of the questions you may have is: what’s the internet like there? And, secondly: is it expensive?
Fibre optic broadband (called internet fixa or banda larga) is available throughout Portugal, and both coverage and speeds are better than many other European countries: at least two providers promise speeds of up to 1 GBPS (1,000 mbps per second).
However, the speeds and options depend a lot on the location – and sometimes the very specific location of your house or apartment. Even if broadband internet is available in that area or postcode, it may not necessarily be available at your property. It’s not uncommon for a town to have internet, but for the cables to only reach a mile or two outside of the town. Similarly, an internet service provider (e.g. Vodafone, MEO, or NOS) might offer their services on one street within a town or city but not necessarily the next street along.
If fibre isn’t available at your particular address, you’ll normally be able to get a 4g connection of some sort. Depending on the location, 4g can be perfectly suitable for browsing, streaming videos, and phone calls over Skype, WhatsApp, or Zoom, but fibre broadband is always more reliable. There are also some internet blackholes, but these tend to be rare.
In terms of cost, internet in Portugal is very averagely priced: expect to pay around €30-40 per month, although this can vary depending on whether your package includes things like tv channels, a mobile phone contract, and a landline as well.
So, despite the generally great coverage Portugal has, it’s a good idea to research what internet options are available before renting or buying a property. There are a few ways to do that.
Checking internet options
Use an agent
An agent will take your details and find out what options are available. They typically work on commission, so there is usually no additional cost to using their service and it means you have a much more personal service – ideal if you’re not a confident Portuguese speaker or are new in Portugal. They’re also useful to use if you want the internet set up in your property for when you arrive.
Doing it yourself
The main providers in Portugal are Vodafone, MEO, and NOS, and there are smaller companies like Nowo as well. While there are some comparison sites that promise to show you what options are available in your area, it’s a good idea to physically speak to someone from each of the companies, particularly if you live in a rural area. This is because:
- Fibre may be available in that postcode (but not necessarily at your address) and so you may be told that broadband is an option when it’s actually not
- If you live in a rural property your official address may not be the location of the property but a postbox nearby or at the local post office
- Many streets in rural Portugal are unnamed so it often requires a salesperson or agent to look at a map to determine what coverage is available there
You can also phone each of these companies, but while English is widely spoken in Portugal, it can sometimes be hard to get through to an English speaker and things can often get misunderstood or lost in translation.
Ultimately, what you’ll need to do is visit the MEO, Vodafone, and NOS shops and speak to a person at each shop. You’ll probably need to dedicate around half a day for this and it’s best to go outside of weekends and evenings as this is when the shops are usually busiest.
Asking the current owners/landlord
When renting or buying a property it can be a good idea to ask what internet service provider the owners currently use. However, don’t take their answer as the gospel truth. Most people aren’t technical and may not know exactly what type of internet service they have. It’s also not unusual for people to think they can only get 4g or satellite and not know that fibre is now available. It only takes a minute to ask, though, so it’s definitely a good starting point.
Choosing your package
In Portugal, it’s common to get an internet package or bundle that includes other things like TV, a mobile phone contract, and a landline. You may only be thinking about internet right now, but it is worth considering some of these other options, particularly a mobile phone contract as it’s often cheaper than getting these things separately. It’s even better value if you need several contracts (e.g. one for mum and one for dad). A landline may also seem unnecessary and old-fashioned, but it can offer free or cheap international calls and often with better audio quality than Skype or WhatsApp.
Should you get a phone contract or just a pre-pay sim? It really depends on you, but a contact is better if you use mobile internet a lot as it’s more likely to offer unlimited data, which can be useful if you’re travelling around Portugal a lot (as some hotels and Airbnbs won’t have great internet). You’re also more likely to be able to use your data when roaming within the EU.
Two years is the standard contract length in Portugal. You can get a shorter contract – MEO offers a one-year contract, for example – but for shorter contracts, the tariffs are higher and the setup fee isn’t usually included, which can make them quite expensive. If you opt for a two-year contract and decide to move after a year or so, you have a few options:
- You can move your existing contract to your new address (the price might change slightly, and there maybe be an installation fee of around €25-50, but you won’t pay an exit penalty. Your two-year contract will, however, start again)
- You can ask the new tenants or owners to take on the contract
- You can continue to pay (which may be cheaper than paying an exit penalty)
You will need
To get internet installed in Portugal, you will normally need three things:
- An address (either somewhere you’re living in or somewhere you’re moving to)
- Proof of that address (e.g. rental contract, sales deed, utility bill, or promissory contract)
- A NIF or Número de Identificação Fiscal (Don’t have this? Try Bordr or E-Residence or read more about getting a NIF here)
- A Portuguese bank account (Don’t have this? Again, try Bordr or E-Residence or read more about getting a Portuguese bank account here)
It is possible to use a non-Portuguese bank account and pay by IBAN or pay manually but this is usually more hassle and adds a few euros to the monthly fee.
Help! I Can’t Get Fibre Internet At My Property
It’s always a good idea to check that you can get fibre internet at a property before renting or buying anywhere. Don’t assume that it will be available. Although fibre coverage in Portugal is good, there are lots of parts of rural Portugal where fibre broadband isn’t available yet.
Many properties are only able to get home internet through a 4G connection which comes in through a receiver that’s placed on the outside of the property. This is usually faster than the internet you will get through your phone or through a dongle as the box is larger and, because it sits on the outside of the property, isn’t obstructed by walls.
According to telecommunications agent Fernando Mendes, if you can only get internet this way, it’s a good idea to check the signal quality before signing up for a contract with any one company. Ideally, you should get a sim card from MEO, Vodafone, and NOS to see which company has the best signal and then sign up with that company for your home internet. At the very least, check the coverage maps to see which networks have the best coverage in your area.
More flexible options
If you aren’t a heavy internet user, you may find that a mobile WIFI hotspot is good enough for browsing the net, WhatsApp calls, and watching Netflix. These boxes, available from Vodafone or NOS for example, cost around €30 per month or €15 for 15 days (+ the cost of the portable router). As well as use them at home, you can take them with you when you’re out and about. There’s no contract and you simply recharge every month (you can also buy up credit in advance).
Improving your connection
Getting internet installed is sometimes only part of the equation, particularly if you live in an old, rural property. These properties can be quite large and often have thick stone walls, which means that your wifi signal may not travel throughout the property. It’s a problem you can tackle once you have internet installed, but just be aware that you may need to purchase another piece of technology like a wifi repeater to ensure the wifi reaches distant rooms.