Expat Essentials

Mónica Da Silva’s guide to the do’s and don’ts of shopping online in Portugal


My first times shopping online in Portugal were almost like a nightmare but yours don’t have to be. In this post you’ll find all the information you need to make your life easier if you love shopping online or even if you don’t love it but need to do it. In my case, I tend to shop local but I don’t like paying for overpriced items, so I use Amazon several times per year when I’m not in a hurry.

Portugal doesn’t have its own national Amazon site, so there are a few options from other European Union countries. I have seen a lot of expats asking which is the best option, and I must say that I have shopped from Amazon ES, FR, DE and UK and had good experiences with all of them. In the end, my problems were related to the couriers.

Amazon’s customer service has always been incredibly helpful; the courier services not so much.

Postal service in Portugal

The postal services were working so well in Germany that when I moved to Portugal, I was extremely disappointed with the CTT. I am aware this is a generalized complaint from expats. It must be something in the Portuguese water, but parcels often don’t arrive on time – and in the worst cases – don’t arrive at all. I’ve also received messages from couriers saying they couldn’t reach me while I was at home the whole day.

So, as general advice, if you are shopping for something you need urgently, don’t buy it online.

This takes me to the next point: if you decide to shop online, make sure to register on the CTT website and create an account so they know how to contact you if necessary. A lot of people told me they would leave a notice in my postbox saying they tried to deliver the package if I wasn’t home, but this has never happened to me in three years.

I had to go to several offices, send emails, call and work all sorts of magic to finally get a small parcel.

Shopping from Amazon

As I mentioned, Amazon ES, FR and DE have worked fine for me until now. Of course, because of Brexit and custom fees I don’t shop on Amazon UK anymore.

The most important tip I can give you is, be aware there are products that are not available for international shipping. So, before you shop for anything, make sure to choose the option “send to Portugal” in the upper-left corner of the Amazon website.

Shipping can get pricey, but there are a lot of products eligible for free shipping to Portugal if your order totals more than 29 euros. More good news is that since last month, Amazon offers its premium service in Portugal. It includes free shipping on many products plus 2-day delivery and access to Amazon Prime for 3.99 euros monthly, or 36 euros yearly.

I haven’t tried it yet, so I can’t tell you if the 2-day shipping works properly.

Shopping from Amazon UK

Even though I have avoided Amazon UK, there are things I need to buy from the United Kingdom. I recently went through the process of customs clearance called desalfandegamento with CTT. And although it was easy because everything was online, it took a long time and was quite pricey. The item was dispatched on 26 March, arrived in Portugal on 12 April, and the notification was sent to me on 17th. I paid on that day but my payment was processed on the 22nd and I finally received my package on 25 April.

In total, I had to wait one month for the package!

Besides that, I spent 25 euros for customs clearance, which I find quite expensive if we take into account the price of the item was just 43 euros. So, if you can find a way to avoid shopping online from the UK, I’d definitely do it to save money and time.

In conclusion, I’d say that shopping online in Portugal is an option if you have the time and energy to wait for your order. Otherwise, I wouldn’t recommend it given the inefficiency of the postal services here. This might be more annoying for expats coming from countries with reliable postal services, because I’ve noticed expats used to dealing with slow services in their countries don’t find this matter too relevant.

About the author:

Mónica Da Silva was born in Venezuela but her parents and grandparents are Portuguese. She’s a teacher and translator. Mónica lived in Bonn, Germany for six months and has been in Lisbon for almost three years.

She speaks Spanish, Portuguese, English, French and a bit of German.

Read more of Mónica’s posts for Dispatches here.

Read more about Lisbon and Portugal in our Dispatches archives

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