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A Funny Story & Cell Phones
You Won't Believe This...
As I will always try to be transparent, let me begin with a funny story. It was about 1500 (3 pm for you non-military or non-medical Americans) Wednesday afternoon when I got an email from our realtor, Elizabeth. She explained that a pipe had burst in the apartment we were to rent and it had done significant damage…so much so that our move-in date would need to be delayed one to two months. I’m telling you folks, you just can’t make this stuff up!
We now have two realtors feverishly looking for alternatives for us. I will update you when we have decided what to do.
Cell Service in Portugal
Now on to the main theme of today’s post. From what we can tell, there are three major cell service providers in Portugal:
We found all three, in a nice neat row, in Cascais Shopping (mall) when we arrived. Denise got a temporary SIM card from NOS which was the cheapest, and I got one from Vodafone. Since we would have to switch them out in 30 days, we thought we would just do a side-by-side comparison. Each SIM card and service was about 20Euros. The Vodafone plan was 1-2Euros more but it included more data.
When we rented our “new” (now flooded) apartment we learned that the owner had MEO installed as their internet and “cable TV” provider. Like Verizon, and I assume others in the US, cellphone carriers are in the business of offering cheaper prices if you bundle all services through a single provider. The rental agent explained that MEO had installed fiber throughout the country and that in her experience the quality of their service was superior in this neighborhood. Since the speed of the internet is very important to me when it came time to switch out our SIM cards we headed off to MEO. There we found a young man that spoke perfect English. What a gift.
To be honest, we didn’t do any price comparison between the 3 providers. We were told NOS is cheaper. We have NOS internet and TV in the D7 apartment and it is generally reliable and fast. The advantage of Vodafone is that it offered a plan with international minutes. MEO also offers international minutes, but only between 2100 and 0900 local times. Since we can buy cheap Skype minutes that will allow us to call US landlines or cell phones when absolutely necessary (e.g. we must speak to a bank representative), we decided just to go with MEO.
So here is the point, let’s compare the cost of our cell, internet, and cable TV service in the US vs now in Portugal. Let me admit, as it relates to these services we were never the most budget-conscious. I did go through the painful exercise of calling our cable provider every year on our anniversary and threatening to switch to another provider until they reduced our bill. Often times the adjusted bill included more premium channels for a few dollars less than the prior year. Explain to me how this makes sense! So as a result we had unlimited minutes and data on our two Verizon cell phones, and high-speed (100 Mbps) internet, and 400 channels (most of which we never watched) on our three TVs. When we left the US we were paying:
Verizon: $107/month (we already owned our cell phones and were receiving a military discount)
Time Warner/Spectrum: $241.25 (including 2 DVR boxes that often failed)
Yes, I am sure we could have done this more cheaply. And often I asked friends who had cut the cord, what it was like. Finally, I am somewhat embarrassed to admit that we were paying $350/month for this crap.
But let’s compare that to our new MEO bill. 80.98Euros (at today’s exchange rate that is $97.10) we have:
200 channels and a DVR box (Okay, so we won’t ever watch most of these channels as our Portuguese is still very limited. But we will get CNN, BBC and there are a few movie channels and US TV series in English with Portuguese subtitles.);
400Mbps Download/200Mbps Upload speed internet at the apartment (includes router. Note amounts shown on the photo above are doubled since we have two phones.);
Unlimited cell minutes within Portugal and 1000 international minutes as described above on each phone;
9GB of cell data each month on each phone.
Before a Portuguese resident screams, “You are paying too much!”, let me admit that I have spoken to many, many people that are only paying 30-50Euros a month. I am not the greatest bargain hunter.
Speed, baby, Speed
During one of the Covid updates that the former President absconded in April or May, for no apparent reason other than his propensity to lie, he said something like:
They are really having a problem with the internet in Europe from all these people being home. Our internet is so much better.
No Mr. Former President, that is not true! First, let me say it is such a relief to refer to him as the Former President. Second, let me explain that in all our travels, throughout Asia and Europe, the internet is faster, more available, and cheaper than in the US. There are huge swaths of America that do not have fiber today.
My point is not to bash the US…though it does seem that way as I re-read the paragraph above. Rather, this post is in response to emails I have received from readers wanting to know what it costs to live in Portugal. This is one of, what I expect will be, many posts that compare the cost of living in the US to Portugal. If you are considering a move…this is just our experience. We hope it helps!