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Moving To Lisbon Guide

Planning to move or maybe staying in Lisbon for a while? Even if the beauty of this city excites you, we know how stressful change can be. So here is the guide which will hopefully make the transition of moving to Portugal easier!

Transportation in Lisbon

We will start the moving to Portugal guide by suggesting a few ways to get around this beautiful city. Most people here use the public transport with a Via Viagem Card, which can be used for the Metro, Bus, Tram, Ferry and Inter-city Trains.

Viva Viagem card is valid for travelling on the metro, ferry and inter-city train. For a bus, tram and funicular, you can either use your Viva Viagem card or, if you don’t have one, buy a ticket from the driver. Keep in mind that on-board fares are more expensive. If you aren’t sure what means of transport you will be taking, we recommend ‘zapping’ – topping up your card with any amount of money to be used across all transportation methods.

Getting to know the city

The best way to discover Lisbon is, of course, walking its fascinating streets. Every area in central Lisboa has something unique and beautiful to offer, from Botanical Gardens in Príncipe Real to breathtaking restaurant views in Alfama. However, if you want to find out what is happening in the city, we recommend using Timeout Lisboa or Facebook Local apps. They are free to download! They are always updating their database with the latest and most relevant events according to your location.

Moving to Lisbon and looking for activities to suit your lifestyle? Wish to continue your routine with Yoga, Pilates or any other sport? Would like to get to know Portuguese culture by taking a ceramic tile painting class or learning how to make Pastel de Nata? For learning activities and events, visit SkillsGorilla page. We are constantly working to bring a variety of interesting and beneficial opportunities to our friends in Lisbon.

Getting a local phone number

Mobile networks in Portugal

Will my mobile work in Portugal? That’s a question often asked. All Portugal mobile networks are GSM networks, much like the rest of Europe. If your phone is GSM-enabled, you can continue to use your current mobile phone in Portugal. In such circumstances, all you have to do is buy a Portuguese SIM card and insert it into your phone.

In some cases, especially for very short trips, it can sometimes be cheaper to use your current phone and SIM card. It is important to know that mobile phone companies charge high fees for international roaming, although roaming charges are abolished for EU mobile users since 2017. If you think you will use your mobile phone on a regular basis for calls, texts and online data, several alternative options are discussed below.

Comparing Portuguese mobile operators

There are currently three main Portuguese mobile operators that will sell a Portuguese SIM card to visitors and other non-residents:

  • MEO (previously TMN)
  • Vodafone (previously Telecel)
  • NOS (previously Optimus)

The most popular Portuguese mobile operator is MEO, which boasts the best coverage and is the market leader in terms of sales.

Vodafone comes in second among the top Portuguese cell phone companies, with NOS coming a close third despite being a much smaller network than the other two. NOS coverage isn’t as consistent as the leaders’, although has good credentials with customer satisfaction.

Portuguese SIM cards

There are a few providers in the world that offer great international roaming rates, but it is not the norm. While you might not need to buy a new mobile in Portugal, buying a pre-paid SIM card can offer some savings. These are easy to find in local stores and readily available even for short-term visitors.

If your trip will be longer than a month, getting a Portuguese SIM card or mobile plan are the best options. Newcomers typically start on a prepaid SIM card until they can provide the necessary proof of residence for a mobile phone plan. Services on prepaid SIM cards are slightly more expensive than mobile phone contracts but are the most convenient and cost-effective option when you first arrive.

MEO SIM cards cost around EUR 9.99 and can be bought at MEO or Phone House stores. If you can provide a Portuguese address, you can order one online for free. MEO SIM gives you a 5 credit for calls. Top-up credit vouchers are available in multiple shops as well as online. The minimum top up amount is EUR 5.

Vodafone SIM cards only cost a few euros and can be purchased in Vodafone shops as well as in many others, including Payshop. Top-ups are from 5 up to 100.

NOS SIM cards are available in their stores as well as Payshop, and can be topped up for between 5 and 30.

When buying a SIM card in Portugal, you will be asked for your:

  • name
  • address
  • valid ID, such as a passport or national ID card.

Requirements for mobile plans in Portugal

If you are moving to Lisbon for good, you should know that signing up for a monthly mobile phone contract in Portugal is a little more complicated than the prepaid process. You need three things in order to sign a monthly contract:

  • Tax number (NIF)
  • Valid ID
  • Proof of address.

This is something expats can only look into after they officially register and receive their residency permit. Read Expatica’s guide for more details on visas and permits in Portugal.

What is NIF and why you need it?

Photo: https://pplware.sapo.pt

Newcomers to Portugal soon learn that they need one particular number for a whole range of everyday transactions in the country: The NIF (Número de Identificação Fiscal), also known as Número de Contribuinte.

A few examples of transactions where you’ll be asked for a NIF include:

  • Getting a phone contract
  • Opening a bank account
  • Buying property or often for renting property long term
  • Signing up for utilities
  • Getting items through customs

Getting your NIF, step by step

Luckily, getting a NIF is a quick and mostly painless process, even as a non-resident. It’s also free and will not in itself make you a tax resident in the country. There are three simple steps to getting a NIF number:

  1. Locate your closest Finanças. These are the government offices where you go regarding anything tax-related, that includes getting your NIF.
  2. Get a proof of address from your “home country”. This isn’t hard. Just bring a bank statement that lists your non-Portuguese address. If you are not registering for a NIF as a non-resident, but rather a Portuguese resident moving to Portugal, just bring similar proof of your Portuguese address.
  3. Bring the proof of address and ID to Finanças. Finanças has no less than stellar reputation in Portugal, kind of like the DMV in the US. If you don’t time your visit right you might stand in line for hours. So do yourself a favor, get up early enough to be there 10-15 minutes before they open. This way you will probably only have to wait 10-20 minutes once they open their doors. Remember to bring your passport! If you’re an EU citizen, a national ID card should also be accepted. (Note: The button you press to get your number in the line might not say NIF. If not it will most likely say Número de Contribuinte or something along those lines.)
  4. Get your NIF on the spot!

Once it’s your turn, just head up to the counter, let them know that you would like to register for a NIF and give a friendly employee whatever information they ask for. You shouldn’t need to justify why you want the NIF, but if they do ask, opening a bank account would be a perfectly good reason.

Most of the staff will speak at least basic English, so you’ll be fine even without a translator. From our experience, staff is serious but friendly if you greet them with a smile.

What’s next?

Once you’re done you will receive a single A4 sheet of paper with the information you provided and your shiny new NIF. You should keep this paper. If you’re opening a bank account it’s a good idea bring the original with you.

Note: These steps are valid for EU/EEA citizens. Citizens from other countries need a tax representative as well.

We hope the moving to Lisbon guide will help you with the transition of moving. Not everything might go as you plan and it might not be easy, but you can count on us when we say this: Lisbon is worth it. 

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