I took the ALSA bus from Santiago, Spain to Porto. The scenery was beautiful, and the bus was well-equipped. Like many modern buses it had wifi and outlets for charging your phone. When you’re in the midst of travels you’ll take a charge any chance you get.
I plugged my charger into the USB outlet, and my phone shut off. I tried to turn it back on to no avail. I couldn’t even press the home button to try to do a reset.
I pulled out my laptop to connect to wifi. I hoped I could Google a solution, but nothing would load.
At that point I tried not to freak out. There was nothing else I could do before arriving in Porto, so I tried to relax and enjoy the rest of the ride.
Once I got to Bluesock hostel in Porto I used their wifi to solve the problem. None of the answers online worked.
I turned to the front desk staff at Bluesock for help, and they were wonderful. Since there are no Apple stores in Portugal they helped me find the closest authorized repair place, which was at NorteShopping. They gave me directions via the Metro, taught me how the Metro fare validation worked, and even gave me directions once inside the mall.
I made it to the iStore and explained my situation. I can speak (Brazilian) Portuguese, but luckily the staff spoke enough English for me to explain myself clearly.
After examining my phone they told me it had short-circuited. So that burning scent I smelled on the bus and assumed was the tires was actually my phone. Great.
They said the phone couldn’t be fixed and had to be replaced. They also told me I would lose everything on the phone. Everything. Including my pictures.
At this point I started crying right there at the counter. I told them I just completed the Camino de Santiago, and ALL of my pictures were on that phone.
They asked when the phone had last been backed up. The girls at Bluesock asked me the same thing, and I started to feel like Carrie on Sex and the City when her computer crashed.
Wifi isn’t always reliable along the Camino, so I wasn’t sure when my phone had last backed itself up. (Cue Juvenile.)
I pleaded and asked if there was any possible way my photos could be salvaged. It was Saturday, so I was told to return on Monday when the main repair tech would be in. Hopefully he could figure something out.
In the meantime I would be in the BEAUTIFUL city of Porto without a camera.
The day before in Santiago I mailed a bunch of things back to the US, including my DSLR camera. I figured with the picture quality of my brand new iPhone 7 I could get by without it. What’re the odds?
I went to the FNAC store in the mall to buy a camera. I figured I wouldn’t be without my phone for long, so I just wanted something cheap. I found a waterproof camera at a decent price, so I bought it and moved on.
It turns out this was a TERRIBLE idea! The picture quality was garbage! Porto is one of the most beautiful cities I’ve ever seen in my life, and all I have are rinky-dink pictures that don’t capture it at all.
By the time I left the mall it was night. I never got my massage, and I didn’t get to see very much of the city on that first day; but I was already in love with it.
I went back to the mall on Monday hoping for good news that never came. I was told that the only solution was a total replacement. They are not an actual Apple store, so they couldn’t replace my phone onsite.
Since there are no Apple stores in all of Portugal the new phone would have to be shipped. My next stop was Lisbon, so I’d have to go to an authorized repair shop there so they could start the process.
I was given the name of the best shop in Lisbon, Tou Aqui Tou Aí, and the faint glimmer of hope that if anyone could find a way to salvage my pictures it would be them.
The first thing I did after putting my stuff down at my hostel in Lisbon was to find the repair shop. This didn’t go as smoothly as in Porto. I had to stop in quite a few places to ask for directions, including a police station.
I finally made it and was greeted by a surly employee. He quickly and unsympathetically dashed any hopes of recovering photos that hadn’t been backed up. I would simply have to wait for my new phone to arrive from the Netherlands.
A few days later I picked up the phone. Thankfully most of my pictures had been backed up, but I’d lost those I took after arriving in Santiago.
Once I got back to the hostel I noticed the phone still wasn’t working quite right. I still couldn’t use data or wifi. I could at least take pictures and call T-Mobile customer service. I spent a couple hours on the phone with no results.
My next destination was Lagos, Portugal, where I went the next day.
The phone still wasn’t working to its full capacity, so I spent more time on a useless call to T-Mobile customer service. I was once again directed to an authorized Apple repair store. I wouldn’t have access to one until I got to Sevilla, Spain a few days later.
It was becoming a routine: arrive in a new city, find the Apple repair store. As such, my first stop in Sevilla was Nervión Plaza to try to find a fix for my phone.
My time at Rossellimac in Sevilla was a little more challenging than my experiences in Portugal. In this scenario communicating in English wasn’t much of an option. I can get by in Spanish, but I don’t know “help my phone isn’t working” terms like backup, restoration, and short-circuit.
We did the best we could to communicate. Hours later after multiple rounds of wiping my phone clean and restoring from the cloud we still hadn’t made any progress.
One of the staff members had an idea of a possible solution, but since we had reached closing time I would have to return the next day with my laptop.
Another day, another attempt at repair. This time José Carlos had figured it out!
He discovered that the iCloud backup I was using to restore my phone was corrupt, so every time the phone was wiped clean it still wouldn’t work. He instead used my computer to reset my phone, which did the trick. He was truly my hero!
After two weeks of touring the Apple repair shops of the Iberian Peninsula I finally had a fully-functioning phone.
Although I spent half of my entire time in Portugal tending to phone woes, it’s still one of my all-time favorite countries.
Here’s how I managed without my phone:
- Maps: Navigation apps are helpful for getting around cities, but paper maps are great too. The tourist-focused maps you’ll find at hostels/hotels and tourist information offices are especially useful.
- Directions: I talked to people! In addition to the maps I stopped more often to ask for directions. A great way to practice language skills too!
- Laptop: There’s always a debate about whether or not to bring a laptop on a trip. When I didn’t have a phone it was the only way I could communicate with my family back home. I had been calling them on WhatsApp, so I turned to FaceTime on my laptop and emails.
- Regular Camera: While I was glad to have a camera I would NOT recommend going with a cheap no-name brand the way I did. I’m really upset with the pictures I have from Porto and Lisbon.
- Personal Alarm: MAJOR shoutout to the staff at Bluesock Hostels, who were such a big help throughout my whole time in Porto. I had an early train from Porto to Lisbon that I was afraid I would miss. Since I couldn’t even get my phone to turn on I couldn’t use it as an alarm. Thanks to the AMAZING staff at Bluesock someone came into my room to physically wake me up the morning of my train. That’s going above and beyond!