Portuguese 3G Mobile Broadband Review for UK Holidaymakers

Portugal is a beautiful country. If youre lucky enough to soak up its magnificent weather and culture this summer (jammy sod), Id strongly recommend not wasting away in front of a screen. Seriously.

If, however, you do need to use the internet from time to time, perhaps to contact family, check social media or receive a grilling from your needy boss via email, you need to be careful if you dont want a nasty shock upon receiving your bill. Even the best broadband package on your mobile phone will hit you with charges that will take your breath away when you use your phone abroad.

The following is a guide to the major dos, donts and providers of 3G mobile broadband for your trip to Portugal. Please dont wear sunscreen. I want you to burn. Itll make me feel just a little bit better about being stuck in rainy old England.

Always pre-pay your mobile broadband package. Whether purchasing a 3G package for your phone, shiny new tablet or your laptop, its always best to pre-pay for your internet bundle. This will save you heaps of cash in the long run (which you shouldnt spend on sun cream).

The price per MB of data regardless of the provider tends to work out much lower if youre paying up front rather than on a pay-as-you-go basis.
Remember if youre purchasing your data roaming plan when you arrive in Portugal to turn off data roaming until you arrive. Always turn off data roaming until you arrive at your destination and youve purchased your pre-paid data roaming plan. You may have forgotten to turn off an application on your device which uses a fair amount of data and before you know it, you could be re-mortgaging the house to pay off your bill (maybe a bit exaggerated, but you know what I mean).

Dont be afraid to shop around for bundles if youre provider-independent. What may be the best package for your friend may not be the best package for you. Remember this when youre choosing your provider, there are many packages out there so dont feel trapped into sticking with the provider that youve always used. Always make sure do the necessary research. You could save a shed load of money by following this piece of advice alone.

Be sure to use Wi-Fi wherever you can. Most major tourist-focused hotels and B&Bs in Portugal tend to offer either free or paid (this will still be cheaper than your 3G plan) Wi-Fi. Be sure to jump at the opportunity to hook up to this whenever you can. Itll save you lots of cash. Alongside hotels, more and more coffee shops are starting to do this. This can be a real life-saver in itself.
When deciding on which bundle to go with, its important to at least have an idea of what sort of data user you are:

While the following data usage rates are per month, you can do the necessary math to figure out how much this would work out at per day or per week.

Small data users: These are your typical ‘average Joe users. If you only use your phone/tablet/laptop on occasion to update social media, download one or two songs a month and with the possibility of a cheeky online window shop thrown in for good measure, this is you. While actual MB usage may vary from company to company, this CatID normally falls under 500MB per month. Most holiday-goers will fall under this CatID. If not, it doesnt seem like much of a holiday to me.

Medium data users: On top of updating social media more frequently, this group may download photos and videos on a regular basis, and may run things on the cloud. Expect usage to span from around 500MB to 5GB per month.

Large data users: People who use much more than 5GB of data per month. Normally people who download/stream videos on a regular basis, along with frequent video calls. Unless you can get a frequent Wi-Fi connection, prepare yourself for heavy charges, regardless of providers.

Here are the best providers of mobile broadband if youre fancying a technology filled Holiday in Portugal:


If you already have a monthly contract which includes 3G connection with T-Mobile, the following are the costs of upgrading to a data roaming bundle in Portugal:
– £1 for 3 MB of data
– £5 for 20 MB of data
– £10 for 50 MB of data
– £35 for 200 MB of data

For most, 3MB (and definitely 20 MB) of data should last you if you only want to occasionally use the 3G connection on a weeks holiday. If you would like to use more while on your wonderful, sun-filled holiday, I suggest that you consider getting a life. While you may not be keen on shelling out any extra money, remember that it costs on average 50p per minute without the extra bundle.

Along with the various smart-phone 3G packages on offer, T-Mobile are also offering some pretty competitive dongle deals for if youre considering bringing your laptop away with you:
Pay per day dongle package:

£2 for 1 day & 250 MB of data
£7 for 7 days & 500 MB of data
£15 for 30 days & 1 GB of data

Pay up-front dongle package:

£29.99 for 90 days usage & 1GB data allowance, after which you pay per day if you dont renew the 90 day contract.
*There are many more packages available, however these are longer-term contracts not really suitable for a short week or two away with the family*

With Vodafone, the standard rate per MB if youre travelling to Portugal is around 50p per MB of data. If and when, however, you reach €50 worth of data, your data usage will be capped and youll no longer be able to use the internet unless you remove this cap. If youre required to exceed this limit on a one week holiday with your family, you must be a lot of fun to be around.

While this may seem like Vodafone looking out for you, its actually required by EU law to have a similar sort of system in place, so most providers should now be providing a similar service.
Bundle options for your smart phone are quite limited with Vodafone; the main package available being 100 MB of data for £8. Theyve obviously not considered that some may not want (or require this much data).

As a one-off fee however, limited in choice or not, it still works out considerably cheaper per MB than T-Mobile.

Vodafone also offers dongle packages with similar per-data prices of that for smart phones.

Summary: Now this is obviously a short and very limited list, however from my own research and experience these two tend to be over the long haul the best providers. Along with these two mentioned providers theres also a host of others willing to take your money.

The reason that Ive stuck with these two in particular is the superior levels of customer service if something should go wrong, and their competitive prices (also, Vodafone sponsor my favourite F1 team, so maybe I am a bit biased).

The main bit of advice that I could give is to shop around.


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