tips to travel to portugal

30+ Portugal Travel Tips for First Timers & Must Knows Before You Go

Last Updated: July 20, 2023

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Take a single glance at Portugal and you’ll soon leap to the same conclusion as its millions of doting visitors: this is one of those destinations that seems to have it all.

From verdant valleys and golden beaches to fairytale castles and buzzy cities, visitors are swimming in choice as much as they are in sweet, custardy pastries.

But it’s not all custard tarts and photo opps. The truth is, Portugal often catches first time visitors off guard with random culture shocks, unexpected tourist traps and (sadly) even pickpockets and scams.

Luckily, I’ve learned all these the hard way (over 3 week-long trips) so you don’t have to.

So, from tactical tips for itinerary planning to assorted mistakes to avoid, here are my top Portugal travel tips and must knows for first time visitors. I hope you find them helpful!

tips to travel to portugal

Save this list of Portugal Travel Tips for later!

You’ll be very glad you did.

1. Go beyond the most famous Portuguese destinations

We’ll start with the basics: when planning your trip to Portugal, remember that there’s a lot to see beyond the coastal hotspots of Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve.

Portugal is a (satisfyingly rectangular) country composed of 18 districts and two autonomous regions, with a myriad of places to visit beyond the most frequented, from its many historic cities up North (e.g. Braga, Guimares, Lamego) and inland (e.g. Coimbra, Evora, Elvas), to its spectacular nature in Peneda-Gerês National Park and on their many islands.

SO, all that to say, if time permits, definitely expand your itinerary beyond the most famous sights, because this will allow you to experience a bit more of the country, while dodging some of the popular areas’ notorious crowds at the same time.

tips to travel to portugal

2. Public transport is fine for city to city travel, but you’ll need a car for more remote areas

I’ve never rented a car in Portugal, and have found the public transport system to be simple and easy for getting from city to city.

But, truthfully, the most flexible way to get around and potentially explore off the beaten path is renting a car. Doing so will give you the best opportunities to control your own schedule, and find more remote areas like quieter nature spots or beaches (especially in the Algarve).

I did find the lack of car to be quite limiting when we wanted to get out to less popular areas, so if exploring more offbeat spots is a priority to you, then a car rental is something to consider.

This Portugal tip comes with a big disclaimer however: beware that driving in Portugal involves many tolls and a lot of close encounters with the country’s most notorious danger….. Portuguese drivers.

For a potential ‘in-between’ option then, I’d suggest looking into taxis/hiring a driver. I’ve found these services to be quite affordable in Portugal, with Uber being an especially easy option.

tips to travel to portugal

3. Consider flying in/out of different airports

In terms of arriving in Portugal, there are 3 international airports: Lisbon (LIS), Faro (FAO) and Porto (OPO).

And after personal experience at each of these airports, I have the following planning tip to offer: if you are visiting multiple destinations, consider booking flights into one city and then out of another (provided the price difference isn’t eye-gougingly painful).

This is because Portugal is small, but many of its most popular destinations aren’t that close together, so getting around does still take time, hence why you’d ideally want to avoid having to double back.

In the past, I’ve flown into Porto for instance and then spent 10 days going from there down to Lisbon, then down to Lagos in the Algarve and then departing via Faro Airport.

This made for a much smoother journey than going all the way back up to Porto, which meant more time spent soaking in views like these:

tips to travel to portugal

4. On a budget? Look into Europe’s low cost airlines

If you’re travelling Europe on a budget, then here’s a big Portugal travel tip: Portuguese airports are very well serviced by budget airlines like RyanAir and easyjet .

SO, if you’re planning a big Europe trip involving other countries, it may be worth looking into whether you can find cheaper flights into other European destinations, then flying into Portugal through a budget airline. This could potentially save you hundreds of euros!

You might want to check out my cheap flights to Europe guide for more.

Ryanair planes at sunset

5. Use the TAP Portugal Stopover to Save Money

Another potential money saver is looking into a TAP Portugal Stopover.

TAP Portugal is an airline that offers a really great deal where you can organize a free stopover in either Lisbon or Porto for up to ten nights en route to another destination.

So, if you plan properly, you can essentially get two destinations for the price of one!

NOTE: While this tip could potentially save you money, beware that TAP Portugal doesn’t have the best reputation, and is notorious for delays/other issues. One of my friends living in Portugal even told me that people say TAP stands for ‘Take Another Plane’ so be sure to keep these potential drawbacks in mind before booking.

tips to travel to portugal

6. Avoid visiting Portugal in July and August

Now as for when to visit Portugal, a good rule of thumb is to avoid July and August. I say this in my general Europe tips post for pretty much every destination.

This is when the crowds and heat are at their worst, with hyper inflated prices to match.

The same applies for major school holidays like Easter because Portugal is a very popular family vacation spot among Europeans.

Instead, aim to visit between May – June or September – October. I’ve been to Portugal before in both March and April and found it to be quite rainy both times, so shoulder season would be more ideal for dodging both crowds and biblical downpours.

tips to travel to portugal

7. Beware that there will still be crowds in shoulder season

On that note though, I don’t want you to underestimate how crowded it can get in Portugal, even in shoulder season.

Portugal may still be seen as an up and coming destination among North American travellers, but it has been a go-to vacation spot among Europeans for YEARS and years and years…

So don’t be surprised when there’s a lot of people around. Even in March. or April. Sadly, there’s no true ‘off-season’ in Portugal these days!

tips to travel to portugal

8. Book popular day trip destinations as overnight stays instead

Of course, in spite of the country’s frightening popularity, there are still ways to avoid crowds and outsmart your fellow tourists.

One of my top Portugal travel tips for this is booking popular day trip destinations as an overnight stay instead.

This will allow you to wake up really early to see the busiest sites before the day trip crowds arrive, and then enjoy them properly after they leave.

I did this for instance in Sintra, opting to stay for two nights instead of going as a day trip from Lisbon as most visitors do. The result? I was able to enjoy many of Sintra’s palaces without feeling like I was in a selfie stick mosh pit.

… So, I’d highly recommend doing popular day trips as overnight stays instead. Book early enough and sometimes accommodation in these areas is cheaper than in big cities!

tips to travel to portugal

9. Learn some Portuguese basics & have Google Translate handy

For first time visitors to Portugal, an immediate culture shock is often that English is not as widely spoken here as other tourist areas in Europe, especially among older residents.

And while getting with English is usually fine in larger cities, once you venture out into smaller towns, speaking no Portuguese can be a challenge… so I’d advise having Google Translate (one of my must-have Europe apps ) ready to go.

BUT more importantly: at the very least, you should learn how to say hello and thank you. So, memorize these! Tattoo them on your wrists:

  • Hello is Olá, but it’s more common to greet according to the time of day so Bom Dia (Bong Dia) for good morning, Boa Tarde (Boa Tarht) for good afternoon and Boa Noite (Boa Noit) for good night
  • Thank you in Portuguese is gendered, and the way you say it depends on if YOU are a man or woman. So men say Obrigado, women say Obrigada

tips to travel to portugal

10. Note that there’s differences between European and Brazilian Portuguese

Now, if you decide to go all-out and learn some Portuguese for your trip, it’s probably a good idea to make sure you’re learning European Portuguese pronunciation, as opposed to Brazilian Portuguese.

Like with most languages, Portuguese has various accents/dialects/variations, but I’ve heard the difference between European vs. Brazilian Portuguese can actually be quite stark, so to maximize your chances of being understood, try to make sure you’re learning European Portuguese.

One channel I came across that was great for this was Practice Portuguese, so give them a watch.

tips to travel to portugal

11. And… remember that Portuguese and Spanish aren’t the same

It feels silly that I have to say this, but I’ve anecdotally heard of many visitors busting out Spanish in Portugal, expecting to be understood.

Therefore let me clarify this most obvious Portugal travel tip: remember, in Portugal, they speak Portuguese, which may share some similarities with Spanish, but is an entirely different language of its own.

So keep in mind that while you may be somewhat understood, it’d be pretty rude to just randomly speak Spanish at people. So… let’s all just make a pact right now to not do that.

tips to travel to portugal

12. Learn to pronounce destination names in Portuguese

Apart from learning the basics in Portuguese, another important Portugal language tip is to learn how to properly pronounce your destinations in Portuguese.

This will save your life when it comes to asking for directions, because many places are pronounced differently to how they may be pronounced phonetically in English.

I found this video to be super helpful for this purpose.

tips to travel to portugal

13. Beware of ‘Portuguese Time’

Another cultural difference is to beware of Portuguese time.

Unlike in some central European countries like Germany , Austria or Switzerland, punctuality isn’t really a huge priority in Portugal, and things tend to be more laidback in terms of time.

As a tourist, this probably won’t impact you that much unless you’re making plans with Portuguese friends, but just know that time is definitely a bit more flexible there, and so if you have tours that start a bit later than planned, just don’t be too surprised.

tips to travel to portugal

14. Be prepared to walk uphill a LOT

Now onto another Portugal travel tip that pretty photos fail to convey: prepare yourself for the leg workout of your LIFE.

Portugal is overall an incredibly hilly country, so you’ll be encountering plenty of ups and downs during your visit, especially if you visit Lisbon and Porto.

The cobblestones are also very slippery, especially when it rains so make sure you have good, solid footwear. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

tips to travel to portugal

15. Consider attraction passes/cards to save money

If you plan to visit a lot of museums and paid attractions while you’re visiting Portugal, you should also look into attraction passes like the Lisbon Card and the Porto Card which offer you unlimited public transport and also admission to multiple attractions for one set price.

This can work out to a lot of savings, although to be honest, I’ve found many of the best things to do in these cities are free!

Especially if you’re not super into museums, this option may not be worth it, so just crunch the numbers and total up the price for your must-see attractions to see if the pass works out to be cheaper.

tips to travel to portugal

16. Beware of tourist traps

Okay, now it’s time for me to get a little controversial. I love Portugal as a destination, but I have to concede there are a lot of tourist traps (many of which are perpetuated by online guides/influencers) so I’m going to quickly share my opinion on some to be mindful of in the country’s most popular destinations:

Here are some tourist traps in Lisbon to keep in mind:

‘The Pink Street’: In real life, it’s just a street with restaurants and bars, and the pink isn’t nearly as perfect or vibrant as the photos make it look. It’s also usually crowded in the evenings… so don’t get your hopes up too much!

Tram 28: Super congested, super busy, lots of pickpockets, and you can enjoy the views much better if you just walk along the same route.

The Santa Justa Lift: Nice to look at, with great view from the top, but the lines are insanely long and you can easily walk up to the viewpoint for free and not have to wait in line. The best part of this attraction is really just seeing it and enjoying the view, so don’t think it’s a must do to actually ride it. 

Here are some tourist traps in Porto to keep in mind:

Libreria Lello: Initially got famous because it was claimed that JK Rowling wrote Harry Potter there or was inspired by it (a claim she has now publicly denied). It is of course still a very pretty bookshop but unless you get there first thing in the morning or just before they close, it will not be magical at all because it is painfully crowded and almost impossible to get these nice photos without people in them because the shop is small. There’s also a 5 euro voucher you have to purchase to get inside, which gives you 5 euros off a purchase, but it’s not free to go in to take a look.

Private Property Viewpoints: Unfortunately, irresponsible Instagrammers have made a habit of taking photos from areas that are private property, so many of the most sought after views in the city aren’t actually open to the public. So, make sure you do your research before you set out!

tips to travel to portugal

17. Look beyond social media to find unique hidden gems

So, on that note, it’s important to look beyond social media to find fun places to visit and cool activities in Portugal.

Most travel content about Portugal focuses on the same spots over and over, but the flip side of that is there are TONS of cool gems just everywhere that you can kind of discover along the way for yourself.

I would recommend doing research on Portuguese language blogs or check out local Portuguese bloggers to get an inside scoop on more offbeat places because there are so many, and I can’t wait to go back and see more for myself.

tips to travel to portugal

18. Seek out Miradouros everywhere you go

On that note, one really easy way to find beautiful places in Portugal is searching for Miradouros.

This is Portuguese for viewpoints and there are SO many of them especially in Lisbon.

So if you ever feel bored, just search Miradouro and go – guaranteed you’ll find a good view.

tips to travel to portugal

19. Beware that free museum days aren’t free for everyone

A lot of travel guides online have been perpetuating the Portugal travel tip that many museums are free on the first Sunday of each month in Portugal…

BUT it’s important to note that actually when you look at the fine print, many of these offers are only valid for residents of Portugal (e.g. here ) so keep that in mind and double check on official websites before you head out expecting your freebie.

tips to travel to portugal

20. Make sure you try Vinho Verde

Moving onto Portugal tips for food and drink – AKA the most delicious and valuable section.

My first recommendation is to try Vinho Verde or green wine. I know it sounds weird, but the ‘green’ part of the wine has less to do with the wine’s colour, and more with its age.

In short, Vinho Verde is a young drinkable wine that’s not aged, and often a little fizzy, making it THE most delicious and refreshing accompaniment for a sunny terrace. I warn you though: this is some dangerously drinkable stuff, and you’ll be swallowing it by the gallon throughout your trip.

tips to travel to portugal

21. And avoid ordering Port wine with your meal

On the topic of wine, if you find yourself wanting to try the famous Portuguese Port wine, know that it’s a very sweet dessert wine that is usually enjoyed on its own after a meal (though sometimes before) and not one you sip during your meal.

… So avoid pairing your dinner with Port. That’s not the best way to enjoy it!

tips to travel to portugal

22. Research regional specialties before you go

Food-wise, Portuguese cuisine is super hearty and delicious, with many regional specialties depending on where you are in Portugal so be sure to Google the particular must-tries of your destination.

Of course, I can’t resist sharing a few quintessential recommendations.

First off, if you’re by the coast, fresh seafood is abundant and delicious, especially Bacalhau or Codfish which is available in literally hundreds of ways, including Pastéis de Bacalhau which are deep fried balls of potato and cod. So good!

In Porto, one very gluttonous must-try is the incomparable Francesinha – a thick sandwich stuffed with all kinds of meat and cheese then topped with more melted cheese, a dreamy sauce and often a fried egg.

tips to travel to portugal

And, a specialty of Belem and Lisbon is the almighty Pastel de Nata. These are egg custard pastries that come in a crispy crust. They are absolutely incredible, and sure to be one of the highlights of your trip (and possibly life).

tips to travel to portugal

23. Consider ordering Petiscos to sample a variety of flavours

Not sure where to begin with Portugese cuisine? A great way to try a lot is by ordering Petiscos, which are small shareable bites similar to Tapas.

Of course, what is served as Petiscos can vary regionally as well, so be sure to do some research or ask for local recommendations, but overall, ordering a bunch can be a nice way to try a lot of different dishes and it can also be a more affordable alternative to getting full main dishes as well. 

tips to travel to portugal

24. Prepare for late meal times

In terms of dining out, there are a few things you should know. First off – mealtimes in Portugal may be later than you’re used to.

It’s not uncommon for dinner time to be around 8 or 9pm or even later. Meals often last longer here too, taking several hours, so don’t feel any need to rush. Remember, Portuguese time is relaaaaaxed and fluid.

tips to travel to portugal

25. Do not expect continual service in restaurants

Another Portugal must-know is you should not expect continual service in restaurants here.

Often smaller local restaurants (or their kitchens) will be closed in the late afternoon to early evening, so from 2 or 3pm until 7pm, during which they only have some snack items or might not be open at all.

In larger cities, you’ll probably still find some places open but often these will be the ones that cater more to tourists.

So, keep these timings in mind so you can manage your hanger accordingly.

tips to travel to portugal

26. Learn how to spot tourist trap restaurants in Portugal

Speaking of restaurants that cater to tourists, there are a few easy ways to spot touristy restaurants in Portugal.

The first is if they’re in a particularly touristy area near a big attraction, you can probably expect prices to at least be a bit higher, and the value for money to be worse. A huge red flag is any place where there’s a host actively trying to get you to eat at their restaurant, as well as places with huge pictures or where the menu is a bunch of languages. 

Often you can escape these by just walking a few blocks away from the main sights so be sure to look around a bit before committing.

Or if you want to enjoy the atmosphere because sometimes these touristy restaurants do have some great views and locations, just pop in for a drink, rather than a full meal. 

tips to travel to portugal

27. Know that your table snacks will probably cost extra

Another important Portugal must-know is that often when you arrive at a restaurant, there will be snacks like olives or bread put on the table.

To the surprise of many first time visitors, these aren’t actually included and come at an extra cost, known as “Couvert”, which is usually 1-2 euros per person.

Just know this isn’t a scam, it’s just a cultural difference in the way they charge for things so keep that in mind if you’re eating at a restaurant, and feel free to say ‘no thank you’ if you don’t want any, and you will not be charged for them. The price of the Couvert is also usually listed on the menu, so you can double check the cost before committing.

tips to travel to portugal

28. Learn Portuguese tipping etiquette

Tips aren’t expected in Portugal to the same extent as in North America, but if you want to, usually rounding up or doing 10 percent is fine.

tips to travel to portugal

29. Bring cash (in smaller denominations)

Another important Portugal must-know once you arrive is that you should make sure you have cash on you.

While many places are taking card now, paying with cash is still the norm in Portugal, especially with smaller bills. The smaller the denominations you can get the better, because I’ve found that smaller places like cafes don’t like to break large bills. Ideally, keep to ten euro bills or below.

tips to travel to portugal

30. Don’t carry too much cash at once

That said, do not bring too much cash out with you at once, especially in touristy and busy areas in Lisbon, because pickpockets can be a an issue.

I’ve only been pickpocketed twice in my life and Lisbon was one of them so I’m still a bit sore about that.

So, go by my rule of thumb, which is to not carry more cash than you can stand to lose.

tips to travel to portugal

31. Beware of sketchy dealers

Another scam to look out for is dealers offering to sell you ‘illicit substances’ when you’re just out and about, minding your own business on the street. 

This is of course mainly an issue in high-traffic tourist areas, as they always target silly tourists who don’t know better.

Here’s how it works: someone will come up to you and ask if you want something innocent like sunglasses, then they’ll follow up with whether or not you want said illicit substances. Apart from the fact that this already sounds sketchy, they’re also not selling real illicit substances, so no matter what, make sure the answer is no.

tips to travel to portugal

32. Be mindful of later opening times

Another thing to be mindful of when visiting Portugal is opening times.

(I’m talking of course about actual shops and restaurants, not those aforementioned dealers)

Overall, things run on a later schedule in Portugal relative to most of central Europe, so you can expect supermarkets to not open until 8am and close later as well, usually at 9 or 10pm.

tips to travel to portugal

33. Pack warmer layers no matter when you visit

Okay final Portugal packing tip for you, be sure to pack some warmer layers, even if you’re going in the summer because the wind in Portugal (particularly along the coast) is vicious .

No – seriously. My trauma can attest! Portuguese wind can be really biting, especially when temperatures drop at night, so having at least one warm layer in your suitcase is a must.

tips to travel to portugal

I hope this list of Portugal Travel Tips was helpful!

Congratulations on making it through the longest ever list of Portuguese travel tips. I admit this was already a VERY long list of tips for Portugal, but if you have any more questions, let me know in the comments.

My Go-To Travel Favourites:

🧳 Eagle Creek: My favourite packing cubes

💳 Wise: For FREE travel friendly credit cards

🍯 Honey: For finding coupons automatically

🏨 Booking.com: For searching hotels

📷 Sony A7IV: My (amazing) camera

✈️ Google Flights : For finding flight deals

🌎 WorldNomads: For travel insurance

🎉 GetYourGuide: For booking activities

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bePortugal

Top 20 Portugal Travel Tips Every Visitor Should Know

Travelling to Portugal is exciting and intriguing because the culture and the language might not be what you are used to.

Here you will find the 20 most useful tips for planning your trip to Portugal.

I’ll give you tips on moving around the country or the city, what to do and what to eat, staying safe and what to do when you have to sadly leave the country.

Top 20 Portugal travel tips

Do's and Don'ts when visiting Portugal

When and where to go

1. avoid july and august.

Due to Portugal’s mild climate and proximity to the ocean, the summer vacation season is by far the most popular among travellers. You can clearly witness this in July and August, especially in Lisbon and in the Algarve, as the city centres get packed to the point that it is almost impossible to pass through the narrow Portuguese sidewalks (“calçadas”).

A good time to travel to Portugal is around May, June, September and October, when the sun is not excessively hot, but the weather is warm enough to go to the beach or simply visit the historical sites without overheating.

Moreover, the amount of tourists will be significantly lower and you will be able to enjoy the sights without having to queue up for ages.

queue Belem tower Lisbon

2. Book accommodation and flights in advance

Partially due to the previously discussed reasons, but also due to the size of the main attraction points, such as Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, the number of accommodation options is rather limited compared to the amount of visitors, especially during the peak season.

Therefore, we highly recommend you to arrange a place as much in advance as possible. You will also save money by booking a rare and affordable find which is usually occupied throughout the year.

The same go for long-distance transport and international flights to Portugal .

Momondo , the travel comparison website, offers an insight tool that indicates the cheapest periods to travel to Lisbon (or any other worldwide destination), how many days in advance you should book and what’s the best day of the week to travel.

The website is available in several languages and from different destinations by changing the settings on the bottom right corner of the page.

3. Ask for a ventilator (fan) in the summer and a heater in the winter

While this might seem like an obvious add-on for any tourist accommodation, don’t take this for granted when visiting Portugal! Most of the houses were built to stay cool in the summer and keep the heat in the winter, therefore it’s not customary to have central heating or air-conditioning installed in most buildings.

Usually modern hotels will include this service, though if you’re staying in a rented apartment it is best to double-check with the landlords if air-conditioning or a ventilator are provided during the hot months and a heater is available during the winter months. This way you will avoid unpleasant stays in overly hot or cold apartments!

4. There is more to Portugal than Lisbon

We know, we know… Lisbon is highly spoken of on many media channels and strongly recommended by almost anyone who visits it. However, it is not the only great place that Portugal has to offer.

Other very worthwhile destinations in the north of Portugal are:

  • Guimarães ;
  • Vila Real ;
  • Bragança ; and

For the south, you should try:

  • Costa Vicentina; and

And of course not forgetting the stunning archipelagos of Madeira and the Azores in the Atlantic Ocean.

Since these alternatives are usually smaller cities compared to Lisbon, you could opt for organising a multi-city trip with one day stays, rather than spending an entire week in the same place.

Continental Portugal is well-connected with smooth highways as well as long-distance train and bus routes.

However, there are some hard to reach places such as Gerês and Costa Vicentina, for which we suggest renting a car or a van .

The same goes for the archipelagos, which do not have a well developed public transport system, though would require at least three days for visiting.

Azores Portugal

5. If you still decide to go to Lisbon…

…then be prepared for massive amounts of people in the city centre and the tourist attractions especially in the warmer months and peak season. Lisbon is definitely a must-visit place in Portugal and in recent years it has gone through a lot of changes due to increased tourism, which has also contributed greatly to the local economy.

However, the streets and houses weren’t built to host such large crowds, so you will very likely find yourself queuing just to cross the street.

How do you escape the tourist crowds?

Here are some not so well-known areas where you can enjoy the same cultural spirit of Lisbon.

Start from the area called Avenidas Novas with its wide avenues and neoclassical architecture style until you reach Fundação Calouste Gulbenkian , where you can enjoy a beautiful garden and fascinating art galleries; continue walking westbound until you reach the top of the vast Parque Eduardo VII, from where you can admire an endless viewpoint across the city, the river and Almada .

Then take the yellow (“amarela”) Metro line from Marquês de Pombal to Rato and walk up to Jardim da Estrela, a lovely oasis in the middle of old Lisbon, and then go to the nearby Basílica da Estrela, one of the most beautiful churches in Lisbon.

The next stop is the lookout (“miradouro”) at Panorâmico de Monsanto, a restaurant built in the 1960s on top of a large green hill, then abandoned due to bankruptcy and recently reopened to the public. We recommend taking a taxi up there, the view is really worth it.

When you head back down, finish off the day by visiting the Palácio Nacional da Ajuda , which stands at the foot of the hill and is the former residence of the Portuguese royal family.

Bonus tip for the tireless ones is the Museu Nacional do Azulejo , also known as the National Tile Museum. It is surprisingly one of the most interesting and beautiful museums in Lisbon, which tells the story of the traditional Portuguese tiles, their production and style over the centuries.

Getting around the country or the cities

6. rent a car if you’re planning a multi-city trip.

This tip is partially related to visiting more than just Lisbon, but it’s also valid if you want to want to organise a road trip across continental Portugal.

Those who live here will know that having a car can unlock many hidden gems that would otherwise be hard to reach with public transport.

Some of the suggested routes are:

A southbound journey along the coast from Lisbon all the way until the Algarve .

A city-hopping trip among the northern Portugal cities like the ones mentioned in tip number four.

A tour through one of the several natural parks, such as:

  • Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês ;
  • Parque Natural do Douro Internacional;
  • Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela ;
  • Parque Natural da Serra de S. Mamede; and
  • Parque Natural do Vale do Guadiana.

Visiting a vineyard for a day in the Setúbal, Alentejo or Douro region. You may need to find a designated driver for this trip if you plan to taste some of the sumptuous Portuguese wines .

You can easily rent a car directly from any Portuguese airport, however there are some restrictions which you can check in our article:  Car Rentals in Portugal: Expert Advice to Save You Time and Money

Geres waterfall Portugal

7. Get a rechargeable Metro card if in Lisbon or Porto

If you’re visiting Lisbon or Porto, which happen to be the only two cities in Portugal with a Metro system, we highly advise that you to use local public transport to move around the city rather than driving a car, as traffic can get pretty intense and finding parking may turn into an Odyssey.

The main advantage of the rechargeable Metro card is that you can use the same one on the Metro, local trains, buses, trams and even the ferry in Lisbon.

The disadvantage is that you can only charge it in specific authorised points, such as newspaper kiosks and Metro stations.

However, if you know someone in Portugal, they can charge your card at a Multibanco machine or for Lisbon’s Viva cards, they can charge it at home via the  Viva website.

So make sure to top it up with some extra cash or simply pick the daily pass. Just keep in mind that you can use only one card per person and ticket controls are rather frequent.

In Lisbon, it is worth buying a  7 Colinas or a Viva Viagem  card, which can be bought in any Metro station. The reusable 7 Colinas card can be purchased for one or five days. Both of these cards are valid for a whole year so hang on to it if you are planning on coming back to Lisbon. Each trip is about Є1.45 by using these cards and an average price per day would be about Є3.15.

8. Relax and learn how to be patient

This might sounds strange to some of you, but it actually is a very important tip: be patient and do not put other people in a rush. Portuguese people like to take things easy (especially in the countryside) and do not have an elaborate concept of doing things in a fast manner, which might be irritating for some people at first.

Instead try to embrace the slow pace of the Portuguese culture and use it as an excuse to unwind from the fast city life rhythm.

You’ll find yourself slowly strolling through the streets while embracing the magical light of Portugal, spending three hours at the restaurant finishing off a delicious meal with a glass of Port wine or a brandy (“aguardente”), or simply enjoying an espresso at a viewpoint while gazing into the horizon.

One thing is guaranteed: going back to work will be very, very hard upon your return.

9. Pack comfortable shoes

We previously mentioned the sidewalks in Portugal (“calçada portuguêsa”), so here’s a little tip related to it: it’s not the most friendly type of pavement, so pack your sneakers and leave your high heels at home.

Pavements in Portugal are usually made of small square cobblestones. The streets are covered in beautiful mosaic patterns symbolising the elements of nature and history of the country.

This type of construction has the purpose of being highly resistant to direct sunlight and heat, however, they get extremely slippery when wet or just on a steep hill.

We recommend you watch your step and wear your most comfortable pair of shoes while in Portugal.

10. Be careful of the strong sun

This tip is especially directed to the fair skinned traveller, like myself, who easily burn in the sun. Be prepared: the Portuguese sun can be very strong even in the winter!

So if you’re one of those who become red as lobsters after five minutes in direct sunlight, we suggest to stay in the shadows, use sunscreen with protection 50+ in the summer, and wear a hat and sunglasses especially if you’re spending the entire day out.

You can usually buy sunscreen at any pharmacy, supermarket or night shop, however a flask of 200 ml can cost more than €10, so it might be better to bring some from home in your checked in luggage.

Cascais beach Portugal

What to do and what to eat

11. museums are free on the first sunday of the month.

Many Portuguese cities have great museums with unique collections of art from ancient history to modern art. We recommend you to check their schedules beforehand as they’re often closed on Mondays and stop admitting visitors between 5 and 7pm.

What’s good to know is that many of them are free on the first Sunday of the month, though you should still check this information per museum as they do have exceptions.

For visitors to Lisbon, you might like:  Top 15 Museums in Lisbon: For Lovers of History and Art

12. Avoid the tourist trap restaurants

This is particularly true for bigger tourist destinations, such as Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, however with the increasing amount of visitors, you can notice the prices rising in many parts of Portugal.

How do you recognise a tourist trap restaurant?

They will usually have a very insistent host who will chase you down the street just to get you to eat at their restaurant, they will have a poorly translated menu with pictures of the food hanging at the door and completely inflated prices for drinks and side dishes or no prices displayed at all.

If you’re not sure whether the restaurant that you want to go is a tourist trap or not, always ask the price of anything that you order or is brought to your table and thoroughly check the bill at the end of the meal.

Tourists traps are easily spotted in the city centres and crowded streets and squares.

13. Couverts are not for free

As a continuation to the previous tip, you should know that the bread, cheese and olives waiting for you at the table at not for free. Ever!

If you decide to touch any of it, it counts as a consumption, so if you don’t want to pay for them, kindly ask the waiter to take them back. Some restaurants will count the couvert per person, so make sure to check the prices on the menu in case you can’t keep your hands away from these tasty little appetisers.

couverts Portugal

14. Tascas are a lifestyle

Tasca is a Portuguese word for “tavern” or “bar” which is very specific to our country due its distinguishing traits. For example, a Tasca is usually a small family run business with a grumpy, yet charming older lady as the cook and a seemingly rude but caring husband running the front bar.

The type of food you can expect is what a Portuguese person eats at their grandmother’s house in a small setting that resembles a living room.

Another recognisable element of a Tasca are the incredibly cheap prices. In Lisbon you can easily find a Tasca with a lunch menu for €7 including a main dish, a drink and a coffee!

While in Porto and other cities, the price can get as low as €5.

Disclaimer: if you’re not a meat or fish lover, then you’re probably going to have to settle with an omelette or a salad!

15. Vegetarians be careful!

As mentioned in the last point, unfortunately there aren’t that many options when it comes to vegetarian (not to mention vegan) food. While this type of cuisine is gradually evolving more and more in the bigger cities, don’t expect to find any vegetarian options in the countryside or small towns.

Moreover, be sure to ask for the ingredients of any dish that you order, because even vegetable soups are sometimes made with “chouriço”, a traditional Portuguese sausage used to give flavour.

Great vegetarian and vegan options can be found in the supermarket/cafeteria chain “Celeiro” in the main cities.

For more on vegan food, you might like:  Being Vegan in Lisbon, Your Plant-based Food Guide for Portugal’s Capital

16. Enjoy the fresh fish and seafood

If you’re ok eating fish and seafood , don’t miss the chance to try them in Portugal! It’s the paradise for foodies thanks to the ample choice of products freshly delivered on the day even to the smallest Lisbon restaurants .

The most commonly known dish is “Bacalhau à Brás”, made from shredded salted cod, which is ironically imported from Norway yet considered to be the national Portuguese dish eaten throughout the year and especially on Christmas Eve.

Other options include:

  • Creamy seafood risotto, usually made with the catch of the day such as shrimps and varieties of fish;
  • Orata or bream, known in Portuguese as “dourada”; and
  • Snook, called “robalo” by the locals.

If you happen to be in Lisbon around June, you must try grilled sardines, the symbol of the city and typically consumed on a piece of bread during the Popular Saints festivals (“Festas dos Santos Populares”).

Staying safe in Portugal

17. beware of pickpockets.

This is strongly notable in Lisbon, but can also happen elsewhere, that pickpockets are wherever the tourist goes. In order to avoid unpleasant situations, make sure you do not put any valuables in the pockets of your pants or jacket, avoid using open handbags, and keep an eye on your backpack.

Pickpockets in Portugal are not likely to be aggressive, but in case you catch one during the act, the best thing to do is not to fight them and simply call for help.

In the unfortunate event of losing a valuable belonging, immediately go to the local police. In some cases they might be able to retrieve a stolen wallet with your documents inside (though it will be cashless).

18. Parking helpers expect money

So you decided to rent a car in the city and now you’re on the Odyssey of finding a parking spot.

First of all, we wish you the best of luck!

Secondly, be careful of the people who volunteer to help you park. They are expecting money in return for their kind gesture. Unless you really can’t find any other place where to park, our personal advice is to give them some coins to avoid any bad reaction from their side, such as a scratched car or a broken window.

When you are leaving Portugal

19. avoid long queues at the airports.

It’s the end of your stay and you’re already starting to miss your vacation in Portugal. Oh, how much “saudade”!

Be prepared though, the airport controls are still ahead. Many flights connecting to the Lisbon , Porto and Faro airports are operated by low-fare airlines, which means they’re located in small and not so efficient terminals.

If you’re travelling during the high season, make sure to arrive at the airport at least three hours in advance as the queues for the security check in might be extremely long.

It often happens that visitors do miss their flight because of this and you definitely don’t want to be one of them (unless you’re subconsciously trying to remain in the county, in which case we totally get you).

check in Porto airport

20. The best souvenirs are cheese, wine and olive oil

Forget about fridge magnets and bottle openers, the best souvenirs you can bring back home are food and drinks!

We strongly recommend you to spend a little extra on the checked-in luggage and go crazy on your food shopping in a local market, rather than buying the same products at the airport for double the price.

Make sure, though, that the cheese is vacuum packed as it can be confiscated at the security check. Portugal produces great creamy and curated cheeses. A must-try is Queijo da Serra and Queijo da Ilha, both commonly available in the supermarkets.

Bonus tip: Learn some survival Portuguese

You’ll be positively surprised at the level of English the younger generations of Portuguese people speak. In fact, TV shows in Portugal are not dubbed and therefore their English language education starts at an early age, so you’ll have no problem communicating with the locals.

However, they will really appreciate it if you could say at least a few words in their language as it shows an effort of understanding the Portuguese culture.

Here are some useful words and sentences for your stay in Portugal:

Hello = Olá Good morning = Bom dia Good afternoon = Boa tarde Good evening/night = Boa noite How are you? = Tudo bem? Goodbye = Adeus or Tchau! See you later = Até já Thank you = Obrigado if you are a man or Obrigada if you are a woman You’re welcome = De nada Help me = Ajuda-me Please = Por favor Sorry = Desculpe Excuse me/Pardon me (to ask to pass by someone) = Com licença I don’t speak Portuguese well = Eu não falo bem português I don’t understand = Eu não percebo Do you speak English? = Fala inglês? How much is it? = Quanto custa? Where is…? = Onde é…? Today = Hoje Tomorrow = Amanhã Yes = Sim No = Não One = Um for a masculine object and Uma for a feminine object Two= Dois for masculine objects and Duas for feminine objects Three = Três Breakfast = Pequeno-almoço Lunch = Almoço Dinner = Jantar The bill please = A conta por favor

If you would like to learn a few more Portuguese phrases, check out:  Learning Essential Phrases in Portuguese for Your Visit to Portugal

Portugal is a top European destination

Portugal has become one of the most popular European destinations in the last years thanks to its favourable climate, affordable prices and timeless beauty. With over 23 million visitors in 2017, the main cities have quickly started to adapt for welcoming an increasing amounts of travellers.

That’s it for the 20 tips of travelling in Portugal! We truly hope that you will find them useful and enjoy your stay in this beautiful country.

Did this article help you plan for your trip to Portugal? Let us know in the comments below if you have any more tips for fellow readers.

Be sure to catch all the latest tips and advice from bePortugal for your visit to Portugal by subscribing to our FREE newsletter .

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Julie Dawn Fox in Portugal

HELPING YOU PLAN YOUR PERFECT TRIP TO PORTUGAL

25 essential tips for your first trip to portugal.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure policy  for further information.

What to see and do in Ponte de Lima

If you’ve never been to Portugal, you’re in for a treat. You might even fall a little bit in love, especially if you know what to expect. My insider Portugal travel tips can help you prepare and make your first trip go as smoothly as possible. 

Knowing a little about local customs, especially in restaurants, will help you feel more confident and avoid that nasty suspicion that you’ve been ripped off.

If you’re still trying to decide if Portugal is the place you want to visit then read my Portugal: 15 Reasons To Make It Your Next Destination post.

Read on for my insider advice on planning a trip to Portugal including what to bring, what to expect when eating out and how you can save money on accommodation, transport, food, shopping and activities. This practical travel guide is based on my 16+ years of travelling around Portugal, and helping other people plan their ideal Portugal vacation.

👉ALL THESE TIPS AND MORE IN ONE HANDY EBOOK 👈

I’ve combined these 25 tips with a wealth of other insider insights and practical information to help you avoid costly mistakes and plan your ideal Portugal trip.

Rabelo boat, Porto

Before you book your first trip to Portugal

1 . Try to avoid the hottest, busiest and most expensive months of July and August if possible. You’ll find great deals, good weather (most of the time) and fewer crowds if you travel to Portugal off-season .

Weather-wise, May, June and September are usually hot but not unbearably so and although the risk of rain increases from October to April, and it does get cold at night, it’s possible to get lovely sunny days any time of year. If you’re travelling with young children, these slightly cooler months would make life a little easier – see my practical tips for family travel in Portugal .

Get the full low down on the best time to visit Portugal in this post .

2. Check travel times and distances between places if you’re considering visiting more than one region. It makes far more sense to take your time exploring one area properly and come back later to see another place than to spend half your holiday travelling between destinations. 

If you feel you must cram as much as possible into one trip, you can save a few hours by flying between Faro and Porto. There are flights between Lisbon and Porto but when you factor in getting to and from the airport and security checks, I don’t think you save much time compared to train or road transport and it’s not great for the environment.

See my fully-managed Portugal itineraries if you don’t have the time or confidence to plan your own trip to Portugal.

3. If you’re making your own travel arrangements for touring Portugal, find out how to get from the airport to your accommodation before you book your flights. If you’re relying on public transport for transfers, especially between cities, you could get caught out if services finish earlier than you expected or don’t run at weekends.

You can pre-book an airport transfer if you’d rather keep things simple.

You may also want to get a SIM card on arrival so that you’re connected as soon as you arrive and can order an Uber/Bolt. You can buy data and normal SIM cards from the Vodafone shop at Lisbon and Porto airports or, if you intend to a lot of data-heavy work while travelling, an international SIM card may be a better option.

Read my post on why I believe it’s important to consult a travel expert when planning your trip .

Discounts on Portugal travel

4. More and more destinations in Portugal offer a tourist card, such as the Lisbon Card and Porto Card , which give free or discounted public transport and discounts on all manner of typical holiday expenditures.

That said, you need to make sure it’s actually going to save you money so find out which of the places you want to visit offer reduced entrance fees with the cards. If you are over 65, most museums give you 50% discount anyway.

Tip: Check the local tourist information website before you travel to see what’s available and start saving money from the moment you step off the plane.

My favourite sites for saving money on accommodation and car hire are here: Where To Find The Best Portugal Travel Deals .

See my Portugal accommodation guides to help you find a great place to stay

Note that major destinations in Portugal have introduced a tourist tax of €1-2 per person per night to cover the increased pressure on the local infrastructure. You pay this at your accommodation so budget accordingly.

Keep in mind that if you’re a non-EU resident you may be able to claim back the tax you’ve spent when shopping. For details check out my Tax free shopping in Portugal for Non-EU Residents post.

Documents to bring on your Portugal trip

5. Double check that your passport is in date – you may need it to be valid for at least 6 months beyond the date of travel if coming from outside the EU – and bring a couple of photocopies with you.

By law, you have to carry photo ID when in Portugal but won’t want to risk losing your precious passport so leave that in your hotel safe and keep a photocopy with you and carry some alternative form of photographic ID like a driving licence.

6. If you live in the EU, apply for and bring your European Health Insurance Card . It doesn’t substitute full travel insurance but will reduce the costs of emergency treatment. If you’re coming from elsewhere, you should make sure you have insurance to cover health emergencies as the costs can quickly soar. Get a quote from Yonder

7. The good news is that you don’t need any special vaccinations for visiting Portugal unless you’re coming from a Yellow Fever zone.

8. If you have an EU passport, you don’t need a visa to enter Portugal. Other passport holders should check Visit Portugal’s Entry Formalities  although American, Canadian and Australian citizens can travel visa-free for 90 days (total) within the Schengen area.

9. If you plan on renting a car, don’t forget your driving licence – if you’re coming from certain countries, you may need an International Drivers’ Permit so check with the rental company and, if necessary, get one before your trip. Drivers with licenses issued in the UK, USA and Canada don’t need an IDP.

You need to have your licence with you when driving in Portugal plus the paperwork for the car and your ID.

See these essential tips for renting a car in Portugal

Windows above souvenir shop, Alcobaça

Money matters when visiting Portugal

10. I always like to have some local currency on me when I arrive in a foreign country but if you do land in Portugal without euros, there are ATMs (look for Multibanco signs) in all international airports and towns so you can withdraw euros directly from your bank account or top up your cash if you run out. Avoid Euronet machines as their charges can be extortionate. 

11. Although credit cards are accepted in many places, smaller outlets, including some restaurants, only take cash. Note that if you pay by credit or debit card you will probably be charged for each transaction so check with your bank before deciding how you want to pay for purchases.

12. If you exchange money before travelling to Portugal, try to avoid bringing large bills, i.e. bigger than 50 euros. If your currency exchange provider has given you a stack of 100, 200 or worse, 500 euro notes, take them into a local bank when you arrive to get a stash of smaller notes.

Packing tips for a trip to Portugal

13. Clothes-wise, several thin layers are a good idea as they allow you to adapt to changeable temperatures. Loose, lightweight natural fibres will help you cope with the summer heat but you’ll need jeans/heavier trousers and sweaters in winter.

Bring comfy shoes or sandals, depending on the season, preferably with fairly thick non-slip soles. When you see the uneven cobbled pavements , you’ll understand why. Don’t wear spiky heels unless you want to ruin them or break your ankle.

For detailed advice about what to bring, read my guide to packing for Portugal .

If you’re coming to do a walking holiday, this article about what to pack for long distance hikes may be more relevant.

14. If you’re venturing deep into rural Portugal, you’ll need to be better equipped as local shops stock a more limited range of products. In the natural parks, shops of any description are few and far between.

15. It’s not standard practice for Portuguese accommodations to have tea-making facilities in guest rooms even if they do have a fridge. If you can’t live without your cuppa, pack a travel kettle and a few decent tea bags. Be warned that fresh milk is much harder to find than UHT in Portugal so you might prefer black or herbal teas.

16. Even if you’re travelling to Portugal in winter , you should bring sunglasses and use factor 30 sun cream as minimum if you have fair skin. Bring a fold-up umbrella too, just in case. You’ll need a hat in summer and insect repellent if, like me, you attract mosquitoes and other biting insects.

17. When visiting a major tourist destination like the Algarve, Porto or Lisbon, or basically any large town or city, don’t worry if you forget to pack something or are hampered by hand luggage restrictions. With the exception of obscure prescription medication, you can buy pretty much anything you’re likely to need in Portugal although some things, like sun cream and bug repellent, may be a little pricier.

Learn a little Portuguese

18. While it’s perfectly possible to get by in English in the major tourist areas, learning a few simple phrases in Portuguese will go a long way.

No one expects foreigners on holiday to be proficient in the language but just saying thank you in Portuguese is appreciated. It’s obrigado if you’re a man and obrigada if you’re a woman, by the way.

There are plenty of free and affordable resources to help you learn European Portuguese .

As for Portuguese phrasebooks , the best of the bunch is probably the Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary , which has sections on eating and drinking as well as all the functional language you’d expect and help with pronunciation.

Lisbon streets, cafe Brasileira

Eating out in Portugal – tips for travellers

The most common complaint I see on TripAdvisor is from people who think they’ve been ripped off by Portuguese restaurants. Most of the time, it’s simply a case of not knowing the local customs.

19. It’s standard practice for waiters to bring you little dishes of olives, bread, cheese and cold meats but they are not freebies unless they are part of a set menu.

If you don’t want them, just politely send them back untouched and you won’t be charged. Strictly speaking, you shouldn’t be charged for items you didn’t order but it avoids confrontation if you know how to deal with this in advance.

If you are tempted but worried about the creeping cost of your final bill, check the price before tucking in. The bread and olives are usually very cheap.

20. Super-fresh fish and seafood are among Portugal’s gastronomic highlights.

Seafood restaurants often have a selection of the catch of the day displayed on a bed of ice. You choose the fish and they grill it to perfection. In such cases, it’s hard to know how much it will end up costing as the fish is charged by weight. To get an idea of the price and avoid a nasty surprise at the end of a lovely meal, ask the waiter for an estimate during the selection phase.

Alternatively, order a Cataplana de Marisco (seafood casserole) or Arroz de Marisco (seafood rice) which are usually stuffed with ocean goodies for a fixed price.

Grilled fish and prawns

21. Don’t be surprised if your main course seems lacking in vegetables. Many Portuguese people get their greens and other vegetables by starting a meal with a soup. Ask what the main dish is served with and order a side salad or vegetables if you feel the need.

22. Unlike in the UK where a waiter will usually take your drinks order while you’re contemplating the menu, food gets priority in Portugal. The waiter may bring some unsolicited (but not free – see above) appetisers to your table before taking your order but will often not ask about drinks until the food has been dealt with. If you’re parched and need a drink while deciding, you’ll need to initiate the drinks order when the waiter brings the menu.

23. A great way of economising on eating out is to do what the locals do and have a main meal at lunchtime with a menu do dia (set menu of 2-3 courses) or prato do dia (dish of the day). Check what is and isn’t included before saying yes to everything the waiter offers you but generally speaking, you can get a 3-course meal with wine for under 10 euros.

See this post about Portuguese food you should try

Read about wonderful Portuguese drinks, beyond wine.

More information in How To Order Like A Local At Restaurants, Cafés & Bars In Portugal

The first two of these books about Portuguese food have lots of practical information to help you be more adventurous when trying local dishes.

Festivals and sightseeing in Portugal

24. It’s well worth checking out some of the local events while you’re here. Every town, village and city has at least one food or saint-related festival at some point during the year, especially during the summer months.

My guide to Portuguese festivals and celebrations gives you a seasonal sense of what’s on.

The Visit Portugal website has details of major events including music festivals, sports championships and film festivals.

For smaller events, look out for somewhat garish posters on lamp posts and bus stops or check with the local tourist information office or regional tourism websites such as Visit Algarve to find out what’s on during your stay but don’t expect the information to be published more than a few weeks in advance.

25. If you intend to visit museums and monuments, there are two important things to consider. One is that some offer free admission on Sunday mornings or discounts with the local tourist card.

The other is that most are closed on Mondays so you’ll need to check and plan around this if you have your heart set on seeing something specific.

If you need help with your Portugal itinerary, I can get you on the right track with a range of trip planning services .

Bonus tip: Getting through customs in Lisbon airport

Sometimes there is a very long queue at customs when you arrive in Lisbon airport, often early in the morning when international flights arrive (don’t ask me why they haven’t organised staffing to deal with this!).

If you have an EU passport you can use the EU passport line to avoid the longer “All passports” queue.

If you don’t have that option, the Priority Passport Line, which is mainly for crew, is also an option for anyone who is disabled, pregnant, elderly or traveling with children under two.

If none of those apply, you could be in for a long wait so go to the bathroom before joining the queue.

When it’s time to leave Portugal, you may be able to claim tax back on shopping you’ve bought. To find out what you need to do check out my Tax free shopping in Portugal for Non-EU Residents post.

Looking for a Portugal travel guide book?

Click on the links below to see my top picks via Amazon

My first choice would be a DK Eyewitness Travel Guide to Portugal , partly because I’ve contributed to them in the past and partly because I like the pictures, maps and layout.

The Frommer’s Portugal Guide  is written by two well-respected journalists who live in the Lisbon area, one Portuguese and the other British. Having met them both, I would certainly trust their recommendations.

I also like Rough Guides’ approach to travel guides and their Portugal travel guide is no exception.

You may also be interested in:

15 Fantastic day trips from Porto

How and when to explore the Douro Valley

25 things to do in Coimbra

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25 Essential Tips For Your First Trip To Portugal. Portugal travel tips for first timers to help you plan your trip with confidence

First trip to Portugal? Here are 25 essential tips.

104 Comments

We are a family of 5 traveling in June to Lisbon to spend 4 days then 3 days in Porto, than back to Lisbon for 1 more day before we leave. Wondering if public transportation is the way to go to get around- WE are a family of 5 and not if that is the most cost efficient. Our kids are older teenagers’ and will want to indulge in food and wine and culture. Any recommendations would great be appreciated- Your site is great too

Thanks Ricardo, that means a lot to me.

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view of a yellow tram approaching the camera next to a church in lisbon, one of the many typical views to look forward to when planning a trip to portugal

Planning a Trip to Portugal: Your Easy 11-Step Checklist

Traveling to Portugal for the first time and want to make sure that you’re planning the perfect trip?

After living in Lisbon as American ex-pats, we have lots of tips (spread across dozens of blog posts and counting) for planning a trip to Portugal!

We’ve compiled this simple checklist for planning your first trip to Portugal with the hope that it will help you fall in love with traveling the country as much as we have–and with any luck, you’ll have the chance to return again and again.

Here’s what to know about planning a trip to Portugal, organized with an easy-to-use checklist that will help you book your Portuguese vacation in no time!

kate storm and jeremy storm sitting on a wall overlooking lisbon portugal

Some links in this post may be affiliate links. If you make a purchase through one of these links, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. Please see our disclosure policy for more detail.

Your 11-Step Checklist for Planning a Trip to Portugal

Step 1: check visa requirements for visiting portugal..

Based on the geographic readership of Our Escape Clause, the odds are that the vast majority of you will not need a visa to visit Portugal for up to 90 days for tourism purposes.

This includes citizens of the USA, Canada, the UK, Australia, and of course, anyone from an EU member state.

Portugal is part of the Schengen Zone, and therefore, anyone who needs a Schengen Visa to visit the area will need one to visit Portugal.

In the future,  the ETIAS system –essentially an e-visa procured by filling out paperwork online before traveling–will come into effect for the Schengen Area.

After multiple delays, is currently slated to begin sometime in 2025.

It’s best to always confirm visa requirements through official sources before traveling!

praia da marinha from above, one of the most beautiful beaches algarve portugal

Step 2: Book your flights to Portugal!

When shopping for flights to Portugal, you’ll no doubt notice that Lisbon has–by far–the biggest international airport in the country.

Technically called the Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS), though I’ve never heard anyone refer to it that way outside of official signs, it’s the most likely first stop in Portugal for travelers coming from outside of Europe.

The Porto Airport (OPO, or Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport) also services a fair number of flights from outside the continent, and the number of international flights has been increasing over the years.

ranger storm in front of igreja do carmo sitting on the edge of fountain one day in porto portugal

If you’re visiting Portugal as part of a multi-country Europe trip and are arriving from within the continent, the Faro Airport (FAO, or Gago Coutinho Airport) may also be worth checking out–especially if you’re looking at budget carriers.

Planning to visit another destination before or after Portugal?

Be sure to check if the TAP Air Portugal Stopover program , which allows you to build a 1-10 day Portugal “layover” into a flight to a different destination, is right for you!

We actually took advantage of the program on our own first trip to Portugal several years ago and used it to add 4 days in Lisbon to our originally planned trip from the USA to Paris .

Kate Storm in Lisbon Portugal on a sunny day with tiled buildings behind her

Step 3: Narrow down your Portugal itinerary.

This might be both the most fun  and  most stressful part of planning a trip to Portugal: finalizing where exactly you’re going to go!

Our recommended 10-day Portugal itinerary systematically covers the top places to visit in Portugal (Lisbon, Sintra, Porto, the Douro Valley, and the Algarve), but ultimately, the sky’s the limit!

And, while you can easily extend that itinerary by simply adding more days to each destination (they all deserve it), there are also dozens of other options that might call your attention!

For less-crowded beach towns, head to the eastern edge of the Algarve (Tavira has lots to offer), or check out towns on the Silver Coast between Lisbon and Porto like Peniche (don’t miss the Berlengas Islands!), Averio, Ericeira, and Nazaré.

If wine, ossuaries, and underrated cities are your vibe, consider checking out Évora .

close up of column of skulls inside bone chapel evora attractions

Love city-hopping? Portugal’s third city, Coimbra, is an ancient university town with lots to uncover.

Are monasteries your thing? If so, don’t miss the UNESCO-recognized monasteries of Alcobaça, Batalha, and Tomar (if you head this way, the walled town of Óbidos  is another must-see in the area).

Want to get far off the beaten path? Consider a visit to Peneda-Gerês National Park or to Monsanto , which is not only historic, beautiful, and uncrowded, but served as a House of the Dragon filming location.

… And of course, not only do these options barely scratch the surface, but they’re all located on mainland Portugal.

With enough time, you can stretch your itinerary even further afield with visits to Madiera and/or the Azores Islands, though each of them offers enough to do that they can also be standalone trips in their own right.

kate storm and ranger storm standing in front of the chapel of st michael, one of the best things to do in monsanto portugal

Step 4: Finalize your Portugal travel budget.

Now that you know exactly when your Portugal vacation is happening, how much your airfare was, and the kinds of things you want to do there, it’s time to finalize your Portugal travel budget!

We recommend taking the total amount you hope to spend during your first time in Portugal, subtracting any splurges or major expenses you know are coming (a pricey tour, some souvenir shopping , etc), and then dividing the remaining amount by the number of days you’ll be exploring the country.

Just like that, you have your daily budget for traveling in Portugal, or the amount of money you should try to stay under each day when you add up what you spend on food, activities, and intra-city transportation.

We detail this strategy more thoroughly in  our travel budgeting guide , and we’ve been using the same simple method for more than a decade!

kate storm jeremy storm and ranger storm visiting one of the beaches near lisbon portugal

Step 5: Book some activities in advance.

Hoping to enjoy some incredibly memorable tours and experiences in Portugal?

If so, be sure to book them in advance–and the more popular they are, the earlier you’ll want to book (especially if you’re traveling during the summer).

This is especially true for day trips like Sintra ( this Sintra day trip is one of the most popular day tours in the country), as well as attractions like the Jerónimos Monastery .

view of pena palace from the cruz alta viewpoint

Sintra is, without a doubt, one of the most important places in Portugal to plan ahead for, whether you hope to visit on a guided day trip or simply by pre-booking tickets to places like Pena Palace and Quinta da Regaleira in advance.

( Our detailed guide to visiting Sintra can help you plan that experience in detail.)

Some other experiences we have loved in Portugal include this delicious food tour (perfect for learning about Portuguese cuisine at the beginning of your trip), as well as a sunset cruise on the Tagus .

If you’d like to visit the Douro Valley but don’t want to drive there (too much port to enjoy!), pre-booking a day trip from Porto is also an excellent idea.

kate storm holding up a glass of port in the douro valley portugal

Step 6: Decide where to stay in Portugal and book your accommodation.

Now that you have the backbone of your vacation sketched out, it’s time to decide where to stay in Portugal!

We have specific recommendations for where to stay in posts about each destination we’ve written about (like this blog post about Lisbon and this one about Porto ), but overall, our general recommendation is to search for well-reviewed and centrally located properties within walking distance of some attractions.

These days, we book virtually all of our hotels and apartments in Portugal (and beyond) through Booking.com .

We typically aim for staying somewhere with an 8.0 rating or better, though that can vary a bit depending on the season, availability, how many hotels are in the area, etc.

A couple of hotels that we have particularly enjoyed throughout our travels in Portugal include Tivoli Lagos in the Algarve and NH Porto Hotel Batalha .

view of gardens at tivoli lagos restort, one of the best places to stay in lagos portugal

Step 7: Learn a little bit of (European) Portuguese.

As you’re planning your trip to Portugal, be sure to take the time to learn a little bit of Portuguese before you go!

Is it entirely necessary?

No, but it will be very appreciated!

(And whatever you do, definitely don’t speak to a Portuguese person in Spanish because it’s “the same” unless you want them to potentially tell you all about how it is very much not the same!).

lighthouse and swimming hole on the sea in cascais portugal

For English speakers, Portuguese spelling and pronunciation don’t necessarily always match up in an intuitive way, but preparing a few phrases in advance (and maybe bringing along a phrasebook like this ) can help.

Keep in mind that many online resources teach Brazilian Portuguese pronunciation, which is a bit different from European Portuguese.

For a few phrases on a short trip, it’ll do in a pinch, but seek out specifically European resources if you can.

Here are a few phrases to add to your arsenal:

kate storm with a collection of pastries at majestic cafe -- ordering in cafes is a great reason to study portuguese when planning a trip to portugal

Basic Portuguese Phrases to Learn When Planning a Trip to Portugal

Bom dia. — Good day.

Boa noite. — Good evening.

Adeus or Tchau (Pronounced like “ciao”.) . — Goodbye.

Por favor. — Please.

Obrigado (if a male is speaking) or Obrigada (if a female is speaking). — Thank you.

De nada. — You’re welcome.

Fala inglês? — Do you speak English?

kate storm walking along the castle walls, one of the best things to do in obidos portugal

Step 8: Make a packing list for Portugal (and shop!).

Generally speaking, packing for Portugal is fairly simple: a standard Europe packing list will cover most of what you need (here are our suggestions for spring , summer , fall , and winter ).

However, you’ll definitely want to pay close attention to your footwear.

Not only does a typical Portugal vacation involve climbing lots of hills (both Lisbon and Porto are full of them!), but it’s also a bit hard on your feet in other ways.

The distinctive Portuguese pavement (or  calçada portuguesa ) that you’ll see throughout the country offers its challenges: these walkways are both beautiful and a bit of a hazard in the rain.

They’re  incredibly  slippery when wet, especially if they happen to have fallen leaves sitting on them.

Watch your step, especially on hills, and opt for shoes with some grip on them!

kate storm walking across wavy portuguese pavement in cascais, a fun addition to an itinerary portugal 10 days

Here are a few other useful odds and ends to add to your Portugal packing list:

Travel Adaptors for France  — If you’re coming from outside of Europe, you’ll definitely need adaptors for your electronics–don’t forget to add buying these to your to-do list for planning your trip to Portugal!

Comfortable Day Bag  — We currently use  Pacsafe’s sleek anti-theft backpack  and love it, but if you don’t want to shell out the cash for this trip, that’s totally understandable.

Just aim for something comfortable to wear, not flashy, and medium-sized–we used a  Northface Jester backpack  for years and loved it as well.

cloisters featuring azulejos inside the porto cathedral, one of the best places to visit in porto day trip guide

Reusable Water Bottle  — Save both money and plastic during your trip to Portugal and add a reusable water bottle to your packing list!

I love this metal one , and you’ll be glad to have it on you after snacking on the pastéis de nata  that you’ll undoubtedly pick up on the go!

Sea Bands  &  Non-Drowsy Dramamine  — If you’re planning to hit the water during your trip to Portugal and are prone to motion sickness like me, I strongly recommend adding Sea Bands to your packing list.

I use them on all boats and the occasional bus, and if things get really bad, take some Non-Drowsy Dramamine as well.

You don’t want to miss out on the joys of boating around the coast or rivers due to seasickness!

kate storm and ranger storm sitting along the seven hanging valleys trail, one of the best things to do in algarve portugal

Step 9: Purchase travel insurance for your Portugal vacation.

Don’t forget to  purchase travel insurance  before jetting off to Portugal! While Portugal is generally a perfectly safe place to visit, traveling, in general, opens you up to vulnerabilities that you simply don’t have at home.

If you miss a plane or train, have your luggage get lost, get pickpocketed, or worse, get injured, you’ll be glad that you have insurance.

Given how inexpensive travel insurance is when purchased in advance (especially as compared to the price of plane tickets to Portugal!), it’s well worth the investment.

Check travel insurance policy inclusions and prices for your trip here.

kate storm jeremy storm and ranger storm at a douro valley viewpoint

Step 10: Make an arrival plan.

This part of planning a trip to Portugal is as simple as it is important: make an arrival plan.

When you arrive in (most likely) Lisbon or Porto, you’re undoubtedly going to be exhausted, overwhelmed, and probably a bit jetlagged, too!

No matter how many times we arrive in a new place, it never stops being a tiny bit stressful, simply because there are a lot of variables at play in the first few hours of arriving somewhere new.

Make life easier on yourself by thinking ahead: when working on your plan for traveling to Portugal for the first time, figure out what your exact steps will be after the plane lands.

That means exactly how far away your hotel is, how you’ll get there from the airport (metro, taxi, airport transfer?), and if you’ll be traveling by taxi, what a reasonable price is.

line for taxi stand at lisbon airport arrivals, one of the best lisbon travel tips is that taxis are the easiest way into the city

Unlike some European cities, neither Lisbon nor Porto have regulated flat taxi fares from the airport, so you’ll likely need to negotiate (15 Euro or so is generally a solid rate in Lisbon).

Technically, taxis are expected to always use the meter–but traveling from the airport to the city center is often an exception to that rule when on the ground.

Though it’s not strictly necessary or the most budget-friendly option, if you’d like to make arriving in Portugal very easy for yourself, consider treating yourself to a private airport transfer when you arrive!

Here are well-reviewed airport transfer services for Lisbon , Porto , and Faro .

Book your airport transfer in Portugal today!

group of taxis parked in front of lisbon santa apolonia train station

Step 11: Enjoy an amazing trip to Portugal!

Once you’ve done the planning… it’s time for the fun part!

Enjoy every step of your first trip to Portugal, from the confusing parts to the magical ones–and yes, both will probably end up with a prominent place in your memories.

I vividly remember arriving in Portugal for the first time, jet-lagged, exhausted, and fresh into Lisbon off of a red-eye from New York City.

We were bleary-eyed and uncertain when getting a taxi from the airport and dropping off our luggage… but shortly thereafter grabbed a coffee at Fabrica da Nata (a place that would become a regular stop of ours in later years) before enjoying a Campo de Ourique food tour on our first morning in the country.

The thrill of enjoying a sunset cruise on the Tagus , taking a day trip to Sintra for the first of many times, tasting our first pastel de nata, and meandering the streets of Alfama left quite an impression on us: only a few years after our very first trip to Portugal, we moved to Lisbon for a beautiful, sun-soaked year.

I can’t guarantee that every first trip to Portugal will be quite as life-changing–but I can’t guarantee that it won’t, either.

kate storm in front of pena palace on a day trip to sintra from lisbon

Read More About Visiting Portugal

Excited to be planning your first trip to Portugal and want to keep reading?

We’d be thrilled to help!

You can  browse our dozens of Portugal blog posts here , or check out these guides:

  • 33+ Important Tips for Visiting Lisbon for the First Time
  • Portugal in Winter: Best Things to Do + Tips (What You Need to Know!)
  • 15 Best Things to Do in Belém, Lisbon (+ Itinerary)
  • 10 Exciting Portugal Road Trip Itinerary Ideas (+ Tips!)
  • Adorable Amarante, Portugal: Things to Do + Travel Guide

2 photos of portugal destinations, castle of the moors and porto cathedral cloisters. black and pink text reads "how to plan a trip to portugal your travel checklist"

About Kate Storm

Image of the author, Kate Storm

In May 2016, I left my suburban life in the USA and became a full-time traveler. Since then, I have visited 50+ countries on 5 continents and lived in Portugal, developing a special love of traveling in Europe (especially Italy) along the way. Today, along with my husband Jeremy and dog Ranger, I’m working toward my eventual goal of splitting my life between Europe and the USA.

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Travel Better, Cheaper, Longer

Portugal Travel Tips

Last Updated: September 1, 2023

beachfront views and villages in Portugal

I’ve been to Portugal many times over the years and I never tire of it . It’s one of the most unappreciated countries in Europe and sees a fraction of the tourists that its neighbors do.

Sure, in recent years Lisbon has become a hub for digital nomads, expats, and retirees thanks to its low cost of living. But, in the rest of the country, not much has changed.

Best of all, fewer crowds mean a better, more local experience that won’t break the bank.

This Portugal travel guide can help you plan your trip, save money, and make the most of your time in this stunning and underrated European gem!

Table of Contents

  • Things to See and Do
  • Typical Costs
  • Suggested Budget
  • Money-Saving Tips
  • Where to Stay
  • How to Get Around
  • How to Stay Safe
  • Best Places to Book Your Trip
  • Related Blogs on Portugal

Click Here for City Guides

Top 5 things to see and do in portugal.

Sao George castle overlooking the colorful city of Lisbon, Portugal

1. Admire Lisbon

Lisbon is gorgeous. I instantly fell in love with it. It has mystique, history, and great food. Take a trip to the Castle of St. George, see the 16th-century UNESCO Belem Tower, admire the churches (specifically the Sé de Lisboa Cathedral), listen to some traditional Fado music, and enjoy the delicious cuisine. It’s one of the most affordable and underrated capitals in Europe!

2. Visit Batalha Monastery

Batalha is a town located just 90 minutes by car from Lisbon. The town is home to Batalha Monastery, officially known as the Monastery of Saint Mary of the Victory. Built in 1388, it’s one of Europe’s greatest Gothic masterpieces and makes for a popular day trip from Lisbon. The monastery took 131 years to build and is now a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Walking through the gigantic gothic doorway and seeing the towering interior (which is lined with 16th-century stained-glass windows) is absolutely breathtaking. Admission is 6 EUR, but you can also purchase a combo ticket to see The Convent of Christ in Tomar and The Abbey of Santa Maria for 15 EUR.

3. Explore the Azores

These 9 islands lie 1,500 kilometers (930 miles) from Lisbon in the Atlantic Ocean. Each of the islands offers a slow-paced way of life, unique wildlife, and stunning beaches. These islands are very off the beaten track and a good “out of the way” place to go. São Miguel is great for hiking and road trips, Pico has great wine, and São Jorge has incredible nature, but you can’t go wrong with any of the islands here!

4. Party in Lagos

Lagos is the place people go to party in Portugal. It’s an excellent destination to soak up the sun. During the summer, this is one of Europe’s premier party destinations for young travelers. there are also incredible beaches, great surfing, and lots of historic churches here. The city is also home to Europe’s first slave market, a sobering sight that dates back to 1444.

5. Enjoy Porto

Porto is one of Portugal’s most colorful cities. Spend some time getting lost and meandering the narrow alleyways and steep staircases that lead to the scenic Douro River. Hop on a river cruise, visit the iconic Lello & Irmão bookstore, tour the museums, and visit the surrounding Duoro Valley and its many vineyards (this is the region where port wine comes from, hence the name). It’s also one of the main launching points for the famous Camino Portugues hike that leads to Santiago de Compostella in Spain (which takes 10-14 days, though you can definitely just do a day hike or a smaller section of the trail).

Other Things to See and Do in Portugal

1. journey to evora.

One of Portugal’s many UNESCO World Heritage Sites, Evora is a small town that offers an array of beautiful and historic buildings. Located 90 minutes east of Lisbon, Evora’s most famous landmark is the Temple of Diana, a Roman temple and UNESCO site from the 1st century. But there is also the Praça do Giraldo, the town’s main square, which is a charming spot to people-watch and embrace the local pace of life. This is small-town Portugal at its best.

2. See the Religious Monuments in Braga

Located one hour north of Porto, the beautiful city of Braga boasts numerous Baroque monuments, including one of the country’s best-known sights: the Bom Jesus Sanctuary (a Catholic shrine and pilgrimage site). The old and the new city are connected by the main square, Praça da Republica, which is a great place for a stroll. The city’s cathedral is also very much worth a visit, as it is the country’s oldest (construction started in 1509).

3. See the Abbey of Santa Maria

Located between Lisbon and Porto, the Abbey of Santa Maria is Europe’s largest Cistercian building (the Cistercians are a Catholic order of monks and nuns, founded in 1098). You can wander around the abbey at your leisure to learn more about its cloisters, dormitories, library, and more. The church is free to enter but the monastery costs 6 EUR. You can save money by purchasing a combo ticket to the Convent of Christ in Tomar and the Batalha Monastery for 15 EUR.

4. Head to Sintra

Lord Byron, an English poet writing in the 18th century, said that Sintra was “perhaps in every respect the most delightful [place] in Europe.” If you are visiting Lisbon, you should definitely make an effort to come here to see its palaces, wonderful views, and museum collections. It’s one of the most beautiful places in the entire country. The train takes about an hour from Lisbon and costs under 5 EUR.

5. Learn about the Knights Templar in Tomar

The big attraction in the town of Tomar is the Templar Castle and Convent of Christ. It was the headquarters for the Knights Templar in the 12th century (they were a Catholic military order founded in 1118 that fought in the Crusades). The castle, a UNESCO World Heritage Site, was an important defensive stronghold against the encroaching Moors (Muslims from North Africa who eventually conquered parts of Spain and Portugal). Admission is 6 EUR or 15 EUR with a combo ticket.

6. Hit the water

Aveiro, located 72 kilometers (45 miles) south of Porto, lies on what’s known as the Silver Coast. This small university town has a historic center built on canals, giving rise to its nickname “the Venice of Portugal.” The winds here create good opportunities for windsurfing and surfing too. You can rent surfboards for as little as 15 EUR per day, while kitesurfing and windsurfing rentals around 50 EUR. If you want lessons, most two-day courses cost around 130 EUR.

7. Get lost in Coimbra

Another university city, Coimbra is located between Lisbon and Portugal and is home to one of the world’s oldest universities (the university was founded in 1290 and moved to Coimbra in 1537). There is a famous and beautiful old library that you can tour, but the real thing to do in Coimbra is just wander through its many historic streets. There are plenty of churches and gardens to take in as you stroll around soaking up the history. It’s a postcard-perfect destination.

8. Attend a Fado performance

Fado is a local type of music that originated in Lisbon. It’s a rather haunting, mournful style often focused on the hardships of the poor or life at sea. The music first appeared in the 19th century and was popular with the working class (especially sailors). The word “fado” likely stems from the Latin word for fate, which is why many of the songs focus on the inevitability of misfortune and suffering. While melancholic, the music is also beautiful and poetic.

9. Check out Faro

Faro is a common starting point for tours of the Algarve region, a southern region brimming with great beaches, tasty seafood, and plenty of tourists. Faro itself isn’t a beach city, but has a lovely old town and is a great place to spend a day before you explore the coast. Don’t miss the cathedral and the municipal museum to learn more about the city.

10. Stand at the edge of Europe

Cape Sagres is the most southwestern point on the European continent. It was here that Henry the Navigator, one of Portugal’s most revered figures during its empire, had his famous navigation school. He was one of the central figures to kick start the Age of Discovery in the 15th century that put Portugal on the map (literally). His development of lighter caravel ships allowed explorations in West Africa, which also launched the slave trade.

11. Try a Pastéis de nata

This pastry is a Portuguese staple. You’ll find these delicious custard-filled tarts at every bakery. They’re a must for an authentic food experience and cost around 1 EUR.

12. Walk the Templar Stairs

Located in Sintra, Quinta da Regaleira is a UNESCO World Heritage Site composed of several historic buildings, including a huge palace and chapel. But the highlight is the Initiation Wells, two massive wells that stretch far underground. They were built by the Templars for their initiation rituals. Would-be knights would have to travel down a winding staircase into the massive wells blindfolded and navigate a labyrinth before coming back to the light. Today, you can tour the wells and explore them yourself. Admission is 10 EUR.

The Camino Portugues (The Portuguese Way) is a pilgrimage trail that stretches from Lisbon to Santiago de Compostela in Spain. It’s the second most popular Camino, after the main French Way, though it sees a fraction of pilgrims compared to the main route. Most hikers start in Porto, with the 280 kilometers (173 miles) journey taking around 10-14 days, though it’s also possible to start in Lisbon for a longer trek.

For more information on other destinations in Portugal, check out these guides:

  • Lagos Travel Guide
  • Lisbon Travel Guide
  • Porto Travel Guide

Portugal Travel Costs

A towering historic building perched on a mountain in Sintra, Portugal

For those traveling with a tent, camping is available around the country for 10-20 EUR per night for a basic tent plot without electricity.

A room in a two-star budget hotel costs between 40-75 EUR per night. Expect basic amenities like free Wi-Fi and TV. Free breakfast is sometimes included as well.

On Airbnb, private rooms start at 30-50 EUR per night while entire homes/apartments average around 100 EUR.

Food – Fish and seafood form the backbone of Portuguese cuisine (Portugal eats the most seafood per capita in Europe). Cod, sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines), sea bass, and shellfish are some of the most common staples. Other popular dishes include cozido à portuguesa (boiled stew), peixinhos da horta (breaded and fried vegetables), and cured ham. Be sure to also try the prego (beef sandwich) or the bifana (pork sandwich). You can find them at local cafes for just 5 EUR.

You can find snacks in bakeries for 2 EUR or less, light meals and sandwiches for around 8-10 EUR, and fast food for around the same price.

If you want a three-course meal with drinks, you’re looking at spending closer to 20 EUR. After that, the sky is the limit!

For a casual restaurant meal, expect to pay around 10 EUR.

Beer is around 3 EUR while a latte/cappuccino costs around 2.50 EUR. Bottled water is less than 1 EUR.

If you’re cooking, groceries cost around 35-45 EUR for a week’s worth of food. This includes staples like pasta, rice, produce, and some meat or seafood.

Backpacking Portugal Suggested Budgets

On a backpacker budget, you can visit Lisbon for around 45 EUR per day. On this budget, you’ll be staying in a hostel dorm room, cooking all of your meals, limiting your drinking, using public transportation to get around, and sticking to free activities like free walking tours, enjoying the beaches, and exploring the Old Town. If you plan on drinking, add 5-15 EUR per day to your budget.

On a mid-range budget of 125 EUR per day, you can stay in a private Airbnb or private hostel room, eat at cheap local restaurants and cook some meals, use public transportation and take the occasional taxi, visit paid attractions like the botanic gardens and Belem Tower, and enjoy some drinks at the bar.

On a “luxury” budget of 235 EUR or more a day, you can stay in a hotel, eat out for every meal, drink what you want, rent a car to explore the region, and visit as many museums and attractions as you’d like. This is just the ground floor for luxury though — you can easily spend more if you really want to splash out!

You can use the chart below to get an idea of how much you need to budget daily. Keep in mind these are daily averages – some days you spend more, some days you spend less (you might spend less every day). We just want to give you a general idea of how to make your budget. Prices are in EUR.

Portugal Travel Guide: Money-Saving Tips

For the most part, Portugal is an incredibly affordable destination. Food, accommodation, wine – it’s all very cheap (especially when compared to other EU countries). As long as you’re not splurging on a ton of booze or eating at the overpriced tourist restaurants, you’ll find it easy to save big while still enjoying yourself. Here are a few more ways to save money in Portugal:

  • Look for free museum visits – Some museums are free on Sundays. Check with the local tourism board or the museum’s website for more information on free/discounted hours.
  • Skip the taxis – Taxis add up so if you’re on a budget, skip the taxis and use the metro or bus system to go where you need to.
  • Say “no” to bread – When eating out, a selection of bread and olives may be brought to your table before your meal. These aren’t free, so just say no if you’re on a budget.
  • Stay at a pensão – These family-run inns offer decent lodgings for very little money and are a great alternative to hotels.
  • Get a tourist card – Certain cities, like Porto and Lisbon, offer tourist cards that provide unlimited access to public transportation (normally for one, two, or three days) and free or discounted access to museums and monuments. If you plan to see lots of sites, be sure to go to the local tourism office and pick up one of these cards!
  • Stay with a local – If you plan ahead, you can usually find Couchsurfing hosts all throughout the country. This way, you not only have a free place to stay but you can connect with a local who can share their insider tips and advice. Just send your requests early in the summer.
  • Cook your meals – Restaurants here are cheap, but eating out all the time adds up. Visit the local market to stock up on groceries and cook a few meals. You’ll save a ton!
  • Bring a water bottle – The tap water here is safe to drink so bring a reusable water bottle to save money and reduce your plastic use. LifeStraw is my go-to brand as their bottles have built-in filters to ensure your water is always clean and safe.

Where to Stay in Portugal

Budget accommodation is plentiful in Portugal. Here are my suggested places to stay:

  • Lookout! Lisbon Hostel (Lisbon)
  • Lisboa Central Hostel (Lisbon)
  • Yes! Lisbon Hostel (Lisbon)
  • Rising Cock Party Hostel (Lagos)
  • Gold Coast Calm Hostel (Lagos)
  • Casa D’Alagao (Faro)
  • HI Hostel Faro (Faro)
  • Rivoli Cinema Hostel (Porto)
  • Gallery Hostel (Porto)
  • Pilot Design Hostel & Bar (Porto)

How to Get Around Portugal

A quiet and narrow stone street in Faro, Portugal

Train – Portugal has a great rail system. Tickets are affordable, with a ride from Porto to Lisbon costing around 25 EUR. Even the high-speed rail is affordable (unlike in many other European countries); it’s about the same price between Porto and Lisbon as the regular train. A train trip between Braga (in the far north) to Faro (at the southern tip) costs between 65-75 EUR.

Bus – Buses are the cheapest way to explore, and they’re also not super time-consuming since Portugal isn’t a huge country. A cross-country bus from Lisbon to Lagos costs between 15-20 EUR, while an eight-hour journey from Braga to Faro costs around 30 EUR.

Lisbon is the main hub for budget-friendly Flixbus routes around the country. It’s the cheapest way to get from Portugal and into the rest of Europe. A bus to Madrid, Spain costs around 30 EUR.

Flying – Flying is the best way to get to the Azores, though it’s likely not worth it for getting around the mainland. A flight from Lisbon to the Azores costs as little as 50 EUR, while Lisbon to Madeira starts at about 40 EUR. TAP Air is Portugal’s official airline.

Taxis – Taxis start at 3.50 EUR and go up by about .80 EUR per kilometer. Skip them if you can as they add up fast!

Ridesharing – Uber is available in Portugal’s larger cities but it’s not much cheaper than taxis. I’d still skip ridesharing altogether if you’re on a budget.

Bike rental – Locals like to get around by bike and bike rentals are available in all the major cities. You can rent a basic city bike for around 10-15 EUR per day.

Car rental – Car rentals cost as little as 25 EUR per day for a multi-day rental. It’s a super affordable way to explore if you have someone to split the cost with (especially in the Azores). Drivers need to be at least 18. For the best rental car deals, use Discover Cars

When to Go to Portugal

Peak season in Portugal is during the summer months of June-August. Temperatures hover around 23°C (74°F) and popular destinations like Porto and Lisbon experience an influx of visitors. Prices increase during this time as well. But the overall atmosphere and weather are great, so it’s still worth visiting during peak season.

Personally, I think the best time to visit Portugal is the shoulder season in the spring and fall (April-May and September-October). Temperatures range from 18-22°C (65-71°F) so it’s still warm enough to explore and enjoy the outdoors. There aren’t as many crowds and prices are cheaper, making it an ideal time for budget travelers.

Winter is from November to February. It gets cold and tourist crowds thin out considerably. Temperatures vary quite a bit from place to place, but overall, the temperature averages around 12°C (53°F). I’d avoid visiting in the winter if you can, however, if you’re on the continent already Portugal is one of the warmer places to spend the winter.

How to Stay Safe in Portugal

Portugal is very safe for backpacking and solo travel as violent attacks are uncommon. Pickpocketing is the most common crime and can occur in touristy areas and on public transportation. Be aware of your surroundings when you’re in markets, on busy streets, and when using the metro. Always keep your valuables secure and out of sight just to be safe.

Drugs here have been decriminalized, but it’s best to avoid them as selling drugs is still illegal. If approached and offered drugs, politely decline and continue on your way

You won’t find a lot of travel scams in the country but read this article on common travel scams to avoid just to be safe.

Solo female travelers should generally feel safe here, however, the standard precautions apply (never leave your drink unattended at the bar, don’t walk home alone at night if intoxicated, etc.).

If you experience an emergency, dial 112 for assistance.

Remember: always trust your gut instinct. If a taxi driver seems shady, stop the cab and get out. If your hotel is seedier than you thought, get out of there. You have every right to remove yourself from the situation. Make copies of your personal documents, including your passport and ID. Forward your itinerary along to loved ones so they’ll know where you are.

The most important piece of advice I can offer is to purchase good travel insurance. Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong. I never go on a trip without it as I’ve had to use it many times in the past. You can use the widget below to find the policy right for you:

Portugal Travel Guide: The Best Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when I travel. They consistently have the best deals, offer world-class customer service and great value, and overall, are better than their competitors. They are the companies I use the most and are always the starting point in my search for travel deals.

  • Skyscanner – Skyscanner is my favorite flight search engine. They search small websites and budget airlines that larger search sites tend to miss. They are hands down the number one place to start.
  • Hostelworld – This is the best hostel accommodation site out there with the largest inventory, best search interface, and widest availability.
  • Booking.com – The best all around booking site that constantly provides the cheapest and lowest rates. They have the widest selection of budget accommodation. In all my tests, they’ve always had the cheapest rates out of all the booking websites.
  • HostelPass – This new card gives you up to 20% off hostels throughout Europe. It’s a great way to save money. They’re constantly adding new hostels too. I’ve always wanted something like this and glad it finallt exists.
  • Get Your Guide – Get Your Guide is a huge online marketplace for tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, walking tours, street art lessons, and more!
  • The Man in Seat 61 – This website is the ultimate guide to train travel anywhere in the world. They have the most comprehensive information on routes, times, prices, and train conditions. If you are planning a long train journey or some epic train trip, consult this site.
  • Rome2Rio – This website allows you to see how to get from point A to point B the best and cheapest way possible. It will give you all the bus, train, plane, or boat routes that can get you there as well as how much they cost.
  • FlixBus – Flixbus has routes between 20 European countries with prices starting as low 5 EUR! Their buses include WiFi, electrical outlets, a free checked bag.
  • SafetyWing – Safety Wing offers convenient and affordable plans tailored to digital nomads and long-term travelers. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those on the road.
  • LifeStraw – My go-to company for reusable water bottles with built-in filters so you can ensure your drinking water is always clean and safe.
  • Unbound Merino – They make lightweight, durable, easy-to-clean travel clothing.
  • Top Travel Credit Cards – Points are the best way to cut down travel expenses. Here’s my favorite point earning credit cards so you can get free travel!
  • BlaBlaCar – BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing website that lets you share rides with vetted local drivers by pitching in for gas. You simply request a seat, they approve, and off you go! It’s a cheaper and more interesting way to travel than by bus or train!

Portugal Travel Guide: Related Articles

Want more info? Check out all the articles I’ve written on Portugal travel and continue planning your trip:

The 4 Best Hostels in Lagos, Portugal

The 4 Best Hostels in Lagos, Portugal

The Best Walking Tours in Lisbon

The Best Walking Tours in Lisbon

Where to Stay in Lisbon: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

Where to Stay in Lisbon: The Best Neighborhoods for Your Visit

The 9 Best Hostels in Lisbon

The 9 Best Hostels in Lisbon

When Three Days Is Not Enough Time

When Three Days Is Not Enough Time

Lisbon: Even Better the Second Time

Lisbon: Even Better the Second Time

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  • Where To Stay
  • Transportation
  • Booking Resources
  • Related Blogs

We3Travel

Everything you Need to know when Planning a Trip to Portugal (2024)

Portugal has so much to offer as a destination — beautiful landscapes, vibrant cities, interesting culture, delicious food and wine, and friendly people. And best of all, it is affordable compared to other popular European destinations! Planning a trip to Portugal isn’t hard, but if you want to scratch below the surface, you will want to read these Portugal travel tips first.

I fell in love during my first trip to Portugal , but it wasn’t until I recently had the opportunity to spend a few weeks traveling through the country that Portugal really got under my skin and I developed a deeper appreciation for this special country.

waves crashing around rock formations off the coast of Lagos, Portugal

Read on for my Portugal travel tips about getting to Portugal , when to visit Portugal , how long to stay in Portugal , and Portugal travel tips , and get started planning your dream trip.

If you aren’t sure where you want to go in Portugal, I have put together four sample one-week Portugal itineraries that you can choose from.

If you would rather have someone else plan your trip and put together an amazing journey through Portugal with unique experiences, I’d highly recommend working with my partner EPIC Travel . EPIC will consult with you and then create a custom Portugal itinerary, designed especially for your interests.

Just mention that you read about them on We3Travel to receive a free VIP welcome gift or upgrade on arrival. (As a partner I will receive a small commission if you book a trip through EPIC Travel but I’ve traveled with EPIC twice and can’t recommend them highly enough!)

Getting to Portugal

tips to travel to portugal

Note: This post may contain affiliate links. If you click a link and make a purchase, I may receive a small commission. All opinions are my own.

Tap Airlines , Portugal’s flagship carrier, offers direct flights to Lisbon or Porto from many US cities including Boston, Newark, Washington D.C., Miami, Chicago, and San Francisco. Known as being an inexpensive option for flying to Europe, TAP Airlines really maximizes its free stopover program to encourage visitors to spend time in Portugal. When you book a stopover with TAP Airlines, you can stay from one to five nights in either Porto or Lisbon for no additional charge.

After flying TAP twice (note: my flights were complimentary as part of a media trip), I find them on par with other national carriers such as Aer Lingus or the old Alitalia. As part of the Star Alliance, you can also bid on upgrades or use miles to upgrade to Executive class or EconomyXtra. EconomyXtra seats offer spacious legroom and a generous recline, while Executive class seats deliver a full lay-flat bed for comfortable transatlantic flights. (See a full review of TAP Airlines Executive class .)

When to Visit Portugal

woman walking on a beach at sunset

The best times to go to Portugal really depends on the region(s) you plan on visiting, but in general, the shoulder seasons of May-June and September-October are going to be ideal . April and November are known to be rainy throughout the country and while winter temperatures in Portugal aren’t frigid (usually in the 40s and 50s), you will enjoy more time outside during those shoulder season months.

The cities of Lisbon and Porto are always going to be busy, especially during the summer and holiday breaks. But let’s talk about some of the other regions:

  • Douro Valley , and northern Portugal : late August through October are ideal in the north. Wine harvest typically runs from late August to late September, although when we were there in early October a few vineyards were still harvesting and it was a great time to visit to see the grape stomping in action.
  • Interior Alentejo: this dry region gets extremely hot in the summer, with temperature soaring above 40-45 degrees Celsius (above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.) The ideal time to visit would be in September or early October during the wine harvest when the temperatures are perfect for spending time outside or relaxing by the pool. May and June would also be pleasant, but July and August sound a bit unbearable to spend much time outside of the pool or air conditioning, and climate change is only making this more extreme. It also makes temperatures a bit less predictable. When I visited in October, the temperatures were in the high 70s or low to mid-80s, although this is unusually warm.
  • Coastal Alentejo: if you want to enjoy the beach, you should visit between May and October. While the beaches will be more crowded with locals coming down from Lisbon, just walk a few minutes down the beach and you will have plenty of space to enjoy this area’s gorgeous wide sand.
  • Algarve: the Algarve is really hopping in the summer when the tourists flock to the coast, but it really can be enjoyable year-round. You may not be swimming in the winter, but you can enjoy hiking the cliffs and exploring the caves and coastline. Plus the towns might be a little quieter during the off-season.
  • Azores: the ideal time to visit the Azores is May-July, when the hydrangeas are in full bloom and the islands are bursting with color and lush greens. It will also be the most crowded. But luckily, the Gulf Stream keeps the waters around the islands fairly warm year round. No matter what time of year that you visit, the weather in the islands is very temperamental and can change at a moment’s notice so it is best to be prepared for sun, rain, wind, and fog — all in one day!

How Long to Spend in Portugal

Douro River Valley with terraced vineyards and mountains

Portugal is actually a fairly small country, not even as large as Indiana. But don’t underestimate how much time you need to properly explore the country! I hear so many people talking about doing Spain and Portugal in one trip. Well, I can tell you that I have spent two weeks in Spain and altogether three weeks in Portugal and I have not come close to seeing everything that I’d like to see in either country.

If you can spare the time, I’d recommend spending at least two weeks in Portugal and exploring three to four regions in each trip. I have created four different, one-week Portugal itineraries in a separate post, but some possible 10-14 day itinerary ideas are:

  • Porto (3 days) + Douro (2-3 days) + Lisbon (3 days) + Sintra (1 day trip) + Cascais or Comporta (3 days)
  • Lisbon (3-5 days with day trips) + Algarve (5 days)
  • Porto (3 days) + Alentejo (5-7 days) + Lisbon (3-4 days)
  • Azores: São Miguel (5 days) + Pico (3 -4 days with day trip to São Jorge) + Terceira (3 days)

Planning a Trip to Portugal

Rainbow over green cliffs in Sao Miguel

Planning a basic trip to Portugal isn’t hard, there is a lot of information available to help you decide where to stay and things to do in Lisbon , Sintra , Porto , and Cascais. However, if you want to venture beyond the ordinary, you may want some help planning your trip. Full disclosure, my recent trip to Portugal was hosted by Epic Travel and its travel partners so that I could experience an EPIC Portugal itinerary.

EPIC Travel is a boutique agency that specializes in travel to Portugal and Morocco. Its travel planners live in-country and have close relationships with hotels, guides, drivers, and tour operators on the ground. EPIC specializes in planning custom itineraries for clients that want to journey deeper and enjoy adventure and cultural experiences along the way.

In my experience working with EPIC both in Portugal and when I hired them to help me plan my Morocco trip , there are a wealth of reasons to work with an agency like EPIC to plan your trip to Portugal, including:

  • Unique experiences — EPIC can arrange experiences that you couldn’t even think up on your own because you didn’t know they existed. These are sourced through close relationships on the ground and taking the time to really understand culture and engage with locals. Examples include cork trekking, bridge climbing, private tram tours with chef’s tasting menus, personalized farm visits and cooking classes, and so much more.
  • Boutique, upscale and luxury hotels — EPIC goes out of its way to find interesting hotels that offer high touch customer service instead of going with the typical offerings you find on tour itineraries. And more than that, they can perfectly match individual travelers with an appropriate hotel based on travel style and budget. Because EPIC stays in close touch with hotel management, they can also pair you with the best room type and have sought out hotels that offer great amenities for families including villas with kitchens and children’s activities.
  • High-touch service — the EPIC team works closely with clients to design a custom itinerary based on your travel tastes and interests. They are also on-hand to help adjust on the fly or handle any problems that arise. They even went so far as to greet us upon arrival at our hotel and arrange our COVID tests for the Azores.
  • Save tons of time — Could you find these unique experiences and hotels on your own? Maybe with enough digging. But why spend hours and hours researching and still not be sure if you are making the right choices. It is so much of a time and mental energy savings to work with an expert. And not someone who is just outsourcing it to a third-party, but someone with direct relationships in your destination.

If you would like help planning and booking your trip to Portugal, please reach out to EPIC Travel and let them know that you read about them on WE3TRAVEL and you will receive a VIP Welcome Gift as a thank you!

Money & Language Matters

Sunset on the hills of Alentejo dotted with cork trees

Traveling through Portugal is really quite easy, especially as an American. English is very widely spoken, although learning to say Bom Dia (good morning) and obrigado/obrigada ( thank you in Portuguese ) is a good idea [note: Duolingo only supports Brazilian Portuguese and the languages have a lot of differences.]

It is also a fairly cashless economy, with most restaurants and shops accepting Visa and Mastercard with a tap and pay chip, and many supporting Apple Pay. Just make sure you are using a credit card that doesn’t charge international transaction fees and contact your bank in advance to let them know about any international travel so they don’t block your transactions for fear of fraud (unless you have a travel card that doesn’t require this.)

However, you will find the few holdouts so it pays to either get some Euro from your local bank (be sure to order it at least a week ahead of your trip) or take some money out of an ATM (watch out for ATMs that charge high fees) when you arrive. Not all banks/ATMs will accept cards from other banks so it might be worth it to exchange some money before you arrive in the country for small purchases and tips (always request small bills.)

Before you go, be sure to check out my post on how much a trip to Portugal costs . In recent years, hotel and other expenses in Portugal have begun to creep up, so you have to search a little further for deals.

Tipping at restaurants isn’t customary and if you do leave a gratuity, it should be a small amount using just a few coins you have on hand. I always think it is a good idea to tip guides that provide great service, and those are usually happily accepted.

Food Matters

Picnic table set with glasses and plates and hats on the benches set in a vineyard in Alentejo

The food in Portugal varies from high-end, fine dining with Michelin-starred chefs to casual tabernas serving up inexpensive, authentic dishes. Some dishes you will see frequently include:

  • Pastéis de bacalhau – salt cod fritters or croquettes
  • Pastel de nata (or Belem) – classic egg custard tarts
  • Caldo verde – kale or cabbage soup (often served as a starter)
  • Sardines – typically grilled
  • Fresh seafood – from shrimp in garlic butter to seafood rice to sea bass, monk fish, and octopus
  • Bifana – the typical beef or pork sandwich
  • Francesinha – sausage sandwich slathered in cheese and gravy found in Porto
  • Piri piri chicken – roasted or grilled with spices from Mozambique
  • Iberian black pig – acorn-fed and similar to Spanish jamon iberico but served both cured and as a grilled tenderloin
  • Orange juice – don’t miss out on trying some of Portugal’s excellent oranges and other fruits
  • Local honey – when you see local honey on the breakfast buffet, make sure to enjoy some!

Eating out in Portugal can be very affordable compared to other countries. If you are eating at a casual taberna, you can often get a full meal for under 10 euros, 15 with a glass of wine to go with it. One thing to look out for is the “couvert” which is typically a small basket of bread and dish of olives brought to the table at the beginning of the meal. This is sometimes listed on the menu and needs to be ordered, but other times it is brought automatically (but that doesn’t mean it is free.) If you don’t want it, or don’t want to pay for it, just turn it away.

Getting Around

Yellow tram 143 in Porto

Getting from place to place in Portugal isn’t hard and in most cases, it is easy to self-drive throughout the country on a well-established highway system. I say that with a few caveats!

  • Do not attempt to drive in Lisbon or central Porto unless you are an experienced city driver and you have a place to park at your hotel
  • Portuguese drivers can be quite aggressive and like to tailgate and don’t necessarily stay within the lines
  • Driving through small towns can be a little nerve-wracking as the streets are extremely narrow (and often one-way so you will want a good navigation system)
  • There are a lot of roundabouts/rotaries so make sure you are comfortable with how to enter and exit

I would also very highly recommend hiring a driver or taking a tour when visiting vineyards. Not only do you not want to drink and drive, but some can be a bit tricky to find. Also, some of the roads in the Douro Valley, especially on the north side of the river are gravel, narrow, and closely grip the edge of the cliffs.

You can also fly from Lisbon to Porto or the Algarve, but honestly, the drive isn’t that long so I find it is easier to just drive. If you fly into one city you can pick up a rental car (if from outside of the EU you may need an International Driver’s Permit, check with your rental car company) outside of the city and drop it off outside of the city on the return. Uber is fairly easy to find in the cities and trams are also available for getting around town (although often full because they are popular with tourists.)

Packing for Portugal

Woman standing in front of yellow and blue tile wall in Lisbon

Choosing what to pack for Portugal will vary depending on when and where you are going, but there are a few items you need to put on your packing list:

  • Comfortable, non-slip shoes : the tile sidewalks are lovely but they are worn smooth and slippery, especially on the many hills in Porto and Lisbon and even more so when it rains;
  • Travel umbrella and rain coat: speaking of rain, you can expect to encounter some, especially if visiting the northern part of the country or between October and April;
  • Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat: when the sun does come out, it can be strong, even in October! Be prepared with a good sunscreen and a hat if you will be spending a lot of time outside;
  • Bug spray or lotion: if you are visiting the Alentejo region, especially around farms or rice fields, you will encounter some flies and mosquitos, so best to be prepared;
  • Travel-safe bag: Lisbon is known to have pickpockets, especially around crowded squares and scenic overlooks. Don’t lose your valuables, carry a bag that offers theft-protection. I bring my Travelon locking sling bag with anti-theft and anti-slash features.
  • Motion sickness meds or bands: if you are driving through the Douro Valley or the winding roads in the Azores, you will want to be prepared if you suffer from motion sickness.

Visiting Portugal? You may also be interested in….

  • How much does a trip to Portugal cost?
  • 1 week Portugal itinerary
  • 3 Days in Lisbon itinerary
  • Self-guided  walking tour of Porto
  • Tips for  visiting the Azores
  • Things to do on São Miguel
  • Best family hotels in Portugal

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Planning a trip to Portugal

Tamara Gruber is the Founder and Publisher of We3Travel. A former marketing executive and travel advisor, Tamara is an award-winning travel writer and recognized expert in family travel. Tamara is a member of SATW and the Adventure Travel Trade Association, and serves on the Board of the Family Travel Association. She is also the publisher of YourTimetoFly.com and the co-host of the Vacation Mavens travel podcast.

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Publish Date: November 26, 2023

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Portugalist

18 Portugal Travel Tips That Are Actually Useful

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The small print: Portugalist may generate a commission from mentioned products or services. This is at no additional cost to you and it does not affect our editorial standards in any way. All content, including comments, should be treated as informational and not advice of any kind, including legal or financial advice. The author makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, suitability, or validity of any information on this site and will not be liable for any errors or omissions or damages arising from its display or use. Links to external websites do not constitute an endorsement. [Disclaimer Policy]

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Embarking on a journey to Portugal? Prepare to be captivated! This charming country, with its rich history, stunning landscapes, and delightful cuisine, offers an experience like no other. But, as with any new adventure, a bit of insight can elevate your trip from good to unforgettable. That’s where my travel tips come in, guiding you to navigate Portugal like a seasoned traveller.

I have travelled to every part of Portugal. That’s right! From north to south, east to west. I’ve also visited Madeira and every single one of the 9 islands in the Azores. Based on all of that, here’s some of my top tips for making the most of your time in Portugal.

If you love it, you can move here

Did you know that Portugal is one of the easier places in Europe to move to? That’s right! Portugal offers a number of residency visas for retirees , digital nomads or remote workers , and entrepreneurs .

A lot of people who come to Portugal fall in love with the warm weather, beautiful buildings, and feeling of safety. Well, don’t just make it a travel destination: consider making it your forever home.

Want to know more? Check out my book Moving to Portugal Made Simple .

Try to Avoid Visiting in July & August

I don’t want to say avoid July and August completely because this is often the only time some people can travel. I’ve also travelled around a lot of Portugal during these months and it hasn’t been too hot, too crowded, or too expensive.

That said, it is the hottest and most expensive time of the year, particularly in places like Lisbon and the Algarve. If you’re visiting these places, consider visiting a little out of season (for example: September or June). Accommodation will be cheaper and the cooler weather is much better for sightseeing.

I personally love the shoulder months (June and September) or even to visit parts of Portugal, like the Algarve, in winter.

Avoid Speaking Spanish

While Spanish is widely understood, it’s important to remember that Spanish and Portuguese are different languages and that this distinction is important to the Portuguese. Saying ‘gracias’ instead of ‘ obrigado (for men) or obrigada (for women)’ can offend some people as it insinuates you see Portugal as just a part of Spain.

That said, Spanish is widely understood. If it’s your first language or you’re fluent in it, don’t be afraid to speak it. Many Portuguese people will reply to you in Spanish or in a Portuguese-Spanish hybrid that people often refer to as Portuñol .

Always Carry Some Cash

Although more and more places accept foreign bank cards, a lot still don’t (particularly outside of places like Central Lisbon and the Algarve). It’s even common for some machines in metro stations or on the toll roads to not accept foreign bank cards.

Basically, it’s always a good idea to carry some cash on you, just in case.

Watch Our For Euronet ATMS

These ATMs typically charge you between 7.5% and 20% of whatever you’re withdrawing, so avoid at all costs. They’re appearing all over Portugal, and are easily identifiable by their bright blue and yellow colouring. 

If you can, look out for ATMs that have the word ‘ multibanco ‘ on them as these are an easy way to identify the normal Portuguese ATMs.

Of course, if you don’t mind paying a big fee for convenience, feel free to use these ATMs. They’re located all over the country and it’s often easier to find one of these than it is a ‘normal’ ATM.

The ‘Couvert’ isn’t free but it’s cheap

At the start of a meal, the waiter will probably bring over bread, butter, and maybe cheese. This is known as the couvert . It’s normally quite affordable and will usually only add a few euros to your meal, but you don’t have to take it if you don’t want it.

Tip: You can check the prices inside the menu before deciding. 

Many Places Won’t Have AC

AC isn’t as common in Portugal as it is in other parts of the world, like North America and Asia. This means that if you rent an Airbnb or stay in a hotel, you should check that it has AC if this is a priority for you. Summer temperatures can get close to 40°C (around 104°F), particularly in the south of the country.

Similarly, most properties don’t have heating (or an AC with a heating option). This means that properties can be quite cold during the winter months, particularly if they don’t have an AC unit with a heating option.

Sunscreen is Cheaper in Lidl

Sunscreen (and most branded or medical products) is really expensive in Portugal, but you can get a bottle of sunscreen for around €3-4 in Lidl. Otherwise, expect to spend around €10 in supermarkets like Continente and Pingo Doce.

Tipping Isn’t the Norm But Is Always Appreciated

Tipping isn’t particularly common in non-touristy parts of Portugal but, as with anywhere, it’s always appreciated. Portugal has the lowest wages in Western Europe and with a cost of living that’s continuously increasing, every little helps.

There is a standard amount to tip if you decide that you want to, but most people either tip 10% or round up. Of course, if you want to tip the standard American 20%, that’ll definitely be appreciated.

Look Out for Restaurants with a Menu do Dia

To save on dining costs in Portugal, embrace the local custom of enjoying your main meal at lunch. Many restaurants offer a menu do dia (menu of the day) or “prato do dia” (dish of the day), which typically includes 2-3 courses.

More often than not, these lunch deals include a starter, a main course, and a dessert, sometimes even accompanied by coffee or a glass of wine as well. Remarkably, these complete meals often come at a cost of around €10, offering a substantial saving compared to evening dining prices.

Carry Photo ID

In Portugal, it’s a legal requirement to carry photo identification at all times, although you’re unlikely to be asked for it.

Of course, carrying your passport everywhere poses the risk of losing it, which can lead to a host of complications while travelling. A practical solution to this is to leave your passport securely in your hotel safe and instead carry a photocopy of it with you when you’re out and about.

Train Tickets Are Cheaper in Advance

Trains can be booked through cp.pt and can be very affordable, especially when compared to other European countries. Some of the longer routes have discounts of around 40% if you book in advance.

There are lots of Places to Store your Bags

If you don’t have somewhere to leave your bags for the day (i.e. your hotel), there are lots of apps (like Luggage Hero and Bounce) which allow you to store your bags in bars, restaurants, and cafes for a small fee.

These apps don’t operate everywhere in the country, but are common in popular locations like Lisbon and Porto .

Say Yes to the Toll Transponder

When you rent a car in Portugal, you’ll be asked if you want a toll road transponder. Say yes! Although you don’t need to have one, if you want to pay your tolls on the electronic toll roads you’ll most likely need to queue up in the post office and that can be quite time-consuming.

Although it’ll cost you a few extra euros, it’ll be much less time-consuming than queuing to pay the toll fees. It also means that if, for whatever reason, the post office doesn’t have a record of the toll usage when you go to pay, they’ll be able to charge your credit card later on.

Take advantage of Solo Travel Discounts

Traveling solo can be an enriching experience, and it also offers unique opportunities for savings, particularly when it comes to accommodation.

When using hotel booking platforms like Booking.com, it’s important to specify that you are traveling alone by selecting the “1 guest” option. This simple step can sometimes unlock discounted rates for solo travellers, which are slightly more affordable compared to rates for couples or groups.

Ask permission to take a photograph

A lot of Portugal is incredibly photogenic, and many of the things that make a great photo are of Portuguese people going about their daily life for example shopping in the markets, sitting on benches, and sitting at cafés (yes, there’s a lot of sitting down in Portugal).

It’s polite to ask people before taking a photograph. Most people, if you ask them, are more than happy to oblige, and even more happy if you support their business in someway (for example buying something from their stall).

Dress in layers

In Portugal, you’ll notice that the temperature can drop significantly in the evening. You might start the day in shorts and a t-shirt but while you’re having dinner, the temperature will drop to the point where you wish you were wearing at least another light layer. This happens in both summer and winter.

To get around this, be sure to pack a few layers. Pack trousers and a light top for the summer and warmer wear for the winter time.

Wear Practical Footwear

Most Portuguese streets are cobbled and don’t lend themselves well to high heels. In fact, they don’t lend themselves well to anything that isn’t practical and that doesn’t have a good amount of grip, particularly in hilly places.

Forgo the fashion demands and go for practical instead.

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Hi James, My family are traveling to Lisbon over Christmas/New years. I noticed you said it will be grey and wet in Porto. Is that typically the weather in Lisbon as well? Also any suggestions what to do New years eve? Not looking for a big bash as we are not big partiers, but would like an enjoyable evening. Children are 19 and 21. thanks!

Hi Jennifer,

It is impossible to predict whether or not the weather will be good, unfortunately, but Lisbon definitely gets much better weather than Porto. Last year was quite mild and didn’t rain.

As for things to do, I’ve written about NYE a little bit in this article: https://www.portugalist.com/new-years-eve-lisbon/

I would suggest going out for dinner and then going to Praça do Comércio to see the fireworks.

Hi James. Great website!!! very helpful for us, as first time travelers to Portugal.

My boyfriend and i are going to Portugal in december, and we’re not too sure about the weather… what kind of clothes to pack.

Also we planning on staying in Porto for a few days… where is the best place/area to stay in?. looking for more of a vibe, party area thats central to the main spots as well as the train station.

Hi Sevania,

For Porto, I would assume it would be cold and damp. You might get lucky and get a bit of winter sun, but it’s normally quite grey and it can rain during December. Hope for the best but plan for the worst 🙂

I really like Porto in December, but it’s always good to be prepared.

As for areas to stay in, Porto really isn’t that big. The last time I was there, I stayed at Vibrant Porto Apartments which I really liked and it was roughly a 20-minute walk from most of the city centre.

Hi James – – thank you for the fantastically useful site! We will be in Lisbon the first week of October (staying right near Alfama) and are planning to visit Sintra as a day trip. Should we expect Sintra to still be super touristy/crowded? what would be the best travel strategy (train, bus) and should we plan this to be a full day? Thank you so much!

I just discovered your blog and it’s been super helpful!

I’m going to be in Porto the first week of October. I would be interested in doing some hiking while I’m there. Can you recommend any hiking trails near Porto?

Just read your site and glad to learn the travel tips. Three of us will travel to Portugal for a couple weeks on next Thursday. We will rent a car and visit Lisbon, Sintra, Evora, Algarve, Obidos, Alcobaca, Fatima, Coimbra, Guimaraes and Porto. Do you think our itinerary is too aggressive? After leaving Evora, we are debating if we should visit the coastal route of Atlantic Ocean to reach to Lighthouse of Cabo de São Vicente or just take N125 highway. Your help is greatly appreciated. Obrigada.

hi i forgot to ask if we go with uber should we book it now from canada or wit until we get into porto airport thank you

hello we are flying into porto airport on sept 14, an have 3pcs of luggage with us, the hotel we are staying at is AC PORTO. how far away is the hotel from the airport, i heard uber taxis is the cheaper taxis to take,also we have a flight on sept 16th to barcelona an it is at 630am what time should we be at the aiport for this flight. thank you

Hi, we are considering a Spring 2020 holiday at Vila Gale Praia in Albufeira, any comments welcomed. Thanks Mike

Thanks James!!

I just discovered this site today and am wishing I had known about it a while ago. I leave on the 5th of Sept., heading to Porto/Amarante and Lisbon for a day. First part of the trip is for Habitat for Humanity and I’ll be in Amarante. Then my husband is joining afterwards for a week of sightseeing, around Porto, a train trip down to Lisbon for a long day, etc.

Of course we plan on wine/port tasting, the more the merrier. I guess my main question is: Do you have any idea how much port or wine we are allowed to bring back to the States? It would be for personal use, not for sale.

2nd question – where is the best place to exchange dollars for euros, as soon as I get there. (Am actually there 2 days early before joining Habitat people) Thanks for any input!! Really excited about this trip! Kristin

We are a family of 12 ages 5y to 75y that get together once a year and June 2020 it will be Portugal. My family of 4 plans to arrive in Lisbon then travel by train to Porto for 2 day then we will meet the rest of the crew somewhere in the southern region. There we are looking for a place (on AirBnB) we can get around to restaurants/sites without a car, is not “touristy,” has access to a beaches, and where the grandparents and kids can then travel to Spain for a few weeks while my husband and I return to work. Any ideas of this perfect town to relax and enjoy our family – so far I have searched around Lagos, Alvor, Conceição de Tavira (this one seemed very remote), Santa Luiza. Thank you in advance – any help narrowing down the search would be greatly appreciated.

Hello James

We are a party of 6 visiting Portugal this October and are based in Albufiera for a couple of weeks. Can you suggest any 1 – 2 day trips in and around this area and possibly to Seville and/or Gibralter. Thanks Brian

Hi James, My wife and I will be traveling to Lisbon and Porto in October. We will be staying at Hotel Riverside Alfama in Lisbon and The House Ribeira Porto in Porto (walking distance from the Sao Bento station). Can you recommend train station from Lisbon closest to our hotel with the shortest travel time? Also, would reserving train tickets online save any money? thanks, Ed

Many thanks James,

Yes, mixed results from rental company. Standard quick reply pointing me to their FAQs page instead of giving an answer to my specific questions.

I am 70 years old do I get the senior discount if I buy the ticket at the orients station in Lisbon on the day before I travel to Porto? I will be traveling there in late October.

I am flying with my family into Lisbon this Friday We are renting a car. Due to the petrol tanker strike have you or anyone heard of any difficulties vis a vis how the rental companies are dealing with this and how bad is the rationing(empty petrol pumps) is. Planning to drive to Colares.

thanks Michael

Love your site! We are visiting Porto for a week in September. In much of Europe we were advised to dress conservatively and to wear pants, not shorts. What do you advise?

Also I usually get euros at the airport atm on arrival. Good idea in Portugal or not?

Thank you! We are so excited!

We are keen to spend 5-6 days relaxing and visiting vineyards in the Douro Valley in August (staying in one or two places). We could either rent a car or use trains or busses from Porto. Any suggestions of areas to stay, vineyards to visit and how to get around would be welcome. Thank you

I have medical condition concerning my eye. The treatment requires an injection into the eye every 6 weeks. How would I find a qualified Retina specialists to perform this procedure. I speak English only. I’m positive my specialists in the US would coordinate if I could point him in the right direction.

Just discovered Portugalist. Love it. What’s the weather like in September?- we are visiting Lisbon/Coimbra/Fatima/Porto. Any tips regarding the weather and choice of clothes? obrigada Will appreciate a reply when you can.

Hi, We are 6 adults visiting Portugal in first week November. We have planned 4 nights each in Lisbon & Porto and 2 nights at serra de Estrela or Duoro valley. After this we push off to Seville. Since we are not self driving, can you please suggest the best way to travel from Estrela or Duoro to Seville (chauffered vehicle too expensive?). Or do you think we should spend 2 days in Lagos/Tavira (instead of Estrela) and onwards to Seville (better connections). Also, will the boat rides in Benagil caves be operational in mid November? Pooja

Ola, We will be a party of 5 adults traveling via train from CoimbraB to Lisboa Oriente and on to Sintra. Can you advise whether tis best to take Uber (would probably need 2 of them) rather than dealing with our suitcases on an urban train? Not a ton of luggage (3 of the 5 are carry on only, but still – could be stressful situation). Obrigada

Hi. We would like to visit Portugal for New Years, is it a good idea for about 10 days? We’d like to start from the North…Porto, Douro, Algarve, Lagos, Lisbon, Sintra and Faro. Visiting the Bengali caves is high on the itinerary and may give Portugal a miss if it’s not possible. Need genuine advice and any other must-dos that you suggest. Which could include high adrenalin sports. TIA, all help is much appreciated.

Going to Portugal for the first time in October. Actually first trip to Europe ever. You mentioned to carry cash, but not everywhere takes foreign bank cards. What is the best way to get cash in Portugal?

Definitely need a lot of HELP!! How many questions am I allowed? Is 1000 too many just asking.!!! Selling everything , moving to Portugal. Either by myself or with my sweetheart. Sent question previously re: visit and then apply for visa awaiting reply. Thanks in advance.

I am holidaying in Tavira 23rd August until 4th September to celebrate my 60th Birthday. I would like to know about any events,festivals during that time. Also I would like to have a lovely birthday dinner somewhere extra special,can you recommend somewhere.

Kind Regards Karen

Just discovering your site and finding it so helpful. Great tip on not trying to use my Spanish (I def would have done that). On the same token- I read your article about pesticos and it really had me wondering if the Portuguese have a similar social culture to the Spanish- I love how common it is for people to go out for tapas w friends any time any day. We would also be traveling w our 1 year old and hoped it is culturally acceptable to bring with to bars and restaurants.

Thanks for any insight!

Hi Find your love of Portugal inspiring We are looking to get an apartment in Faro City ( maybe even the old town ) but don’t seem to find much on traditional web sites even airbnb.any other ideas.please Katharine

ok so on your “Don’t speak Spanish” comment is it better to speak English? I am Spanish and traveling to Portugal and feel i can communicate better speaking Spanish as some of the words are similar. I don’t know how to speak Portuguese only a few phrases and common words. Is speaking Spanigh frowned upon in Portugal?

Are there any walking tours through the vintage/second hand shopping neighborhood of Lisbon? Thanks 🙂

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Portugal Travel Guide

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One of Europe’s oldest extant nations, Portugal’s landscape is crowned with castles and dramatic walled towns. Then there’s the mountains and beautiful broad beaches ; the hearty homecooked food and world-class wine (when you travel to Portugal, you’ll most likely be struck by how affordable it is).

Travel Facts about Portugal

Where to go in portugal - regions and areas, top attractions - what to see in portugal, best things to do in portugal, when is the best time to visit portugal.

  • How to get to Portugal

How to get around Portugal

Where to stay in portugal, food in portugal you need to try, culture and festivals in portugal, nightlife in portugal, plan your trip to portugal, things you need to know before going to portugal, typical cost and money saving tips for portugal, what to pack for a trip to portugal, is portugal safe for travel, what you should avoid in portugal, useful resources for your travel to portugal.

Meet your Portugal local travel expert

Joel, Local Expert

11 days  / from 1728 USD

A self drive to Portugal's North and Center

Starting in fascinating Lisbon, this trip allows you to discover Portugal both on your own as well as with guided tours. Driving further up north you'll explore Coimbra and Porto before heading to the Douro Valley and Alentejo.

Porto and the North of Portugal: off the beaten track

8 days  / from 1139 USD

Porto and the North of Portugal: off the beaten track

From Porto, you'll discover the most fascinating parts of Northern Portugal: go on a hike through unique biodiversity around the Paiva river, take a jeep tour through the slopes of the Serra da Arada and taste the wonderful wines of the Douro valley.

The best of Portugal: Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve

12 days  / from 1690 USD

The best of Portugal: Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve

Portugal offers many highlights but when you're short on time, this trip is ideal to cover all the highlights: the capital city of Lisbon, historic Porto, lush Douro Valley and the stunning beaches of the Algarve are all part of this trip.

Azores Wild Nature

7 days  / from 2662 USD

Azores Wild Nature

Get ready to discover what the largest island of the Azores, São Miguel, has to offer in this short adventure-packed 6-day trip. You will get to swim with wild dolphins, abseil or jump down waterfalls, ride a mountain bike through the Sete Cidades and relax in a natural spa. Adventure awaits!

Madeira and São Miguel - guided island adventures

9 days  / from 2916 USD

Madeira and São Miguel - guided island adventures

Visit two of Portugal's autonomous regions: Madeira, the island of eternal spring as they call it, as well as São Miguel, nicknamed the green island. Guided excursions will take you to the highlights of both islands and there's plenty of time to discover on your own or simply relax.

Lisbon and the South of Portugal: exploration and relaxation

11 days  / from 1771 USD

Lisbon and the South of Portugal: exploration and relaxation

Take your rental car and discover Lisbon, Sintra & Cascais before heading to Alentejo. This fascinating region features many historic gems to discover, as well as a unique cuisine to taste. Finish your trip with some beach days in Tavira on Portugal's Algarve coast.

Discovering the coast of Portugal

11 days  / from 3559 USD

Discovering the coast of Portugal

Explore the beautiful cities along the coast of Portugal. Start your journey discovering historic sites and wineries in Porto, from there you will head South to Lisbon. Along the way, you will get a chance to visit charming coastal towns, dramatic cliffs and national parks.

The cities of Portugal

9 days  / from 3154 USD

The cities of Portugal

Explore the two big Portuguese cities, Porto and Lisbon. Though you won't only be exploring the cities, this trip will take you to see the beautiful Duoro valley by bike, the Minho region (the birthplace of Portugal), learn more about winemaking, relax on the beach of Nazaré and much more!

Fascinating Azores - Terceira and São Miguel

10 days  / from 1836 USD

Fascinating Azores - Terceira and São Miguel

Two of the magic Azores islands await in this itinerary: drive your own rental cars across Terceira and São Miguel and join one of the many adventurous outdoor activities the islands have to offer: go whale watching or canyoning or simply enjoy the landscapes on leisurely strolls.

The information that follows is from The Rough Guide to Portugal , our in-depth Portugal travel guide - check it out for your all your Portugal travel needs.

  • Language - Portuguese, which has ten unique dialects.
  • Currency - the Euro (€)
  • Geography - including the perimeter of its islands, Portugal boasts 1793 kilometres of coastline. Its only neighbour is Spain.
  • Population - ten million, with ten times more Portuguese living overseas, the bulk of these in Brazil.
  • Exports - Portugal is the world’s eighth largest producer of wine and supplies fifty percent of the world’s cork.
  • History and heritage - Portugal is home to an impressive twelve UNESCO World Heritage sites, including towns like Évora and Guimarães .

For more facts about Portugal travel, read our full tips about travelling in Portugal article .

From the picture-perfect Algarve, to historic cities that combine old-time charm with contemporary buzz, to the green north, travel to Portugal serves up a rewarding range of landscapes and experiences across its regions.

Estremadura and Ribatejo

The south-facing coast of the Algarve is the country’s tourist epicentre – it’s here you’ll find the archetypal Portuguese cove beaches, fringed by rock stacks and cliffs. If it is beaches you are after, you have almost the entire west coast of the to choose from.

The south of the country is dominated by the Alentejo region, whose wide-open spaces, olive plantations and vineyards invite leisurely exploration. Here you’ll find a Mediterranean-type climate, whitewashed villages bedecked with flowers.

Lisbon and Around

Thanks to its waterfront location and quirky attractions that combine a place-that-time-forgot feel with a modern vibrancy, Lisbon is a fascinating place to spend a few days. Its hills and cobbled alleys are still served by ancient trams that rattle along streets. Nearby, the UNESCO heritage site of Sintra enjoys a cool mountainside location, which made it a favoured summer destination for Portugal’s royals.

Porto and the north

The north of Portugal feels far less Mediterranean - the rolling hills are green and lush, and the coastline cooler. At the far north of the Porto e Norte district lie the remote towns and villages of Trás-os-Montes, while to the west Peneda-Gerês is Portugal’s only national park, a verdant landscape of wooded mountains and gushing streams.

Rising up from the banks of the river Douro, Porto, is Portugal’s second city, and wonderfully atmospheric, particularly around the Ribeira, with colourful buildings lining the waterfront. For those looking for sunbathing, there are also a few beaches near Porto .

Colourful Sintra, Portugal palace Palácio da Pena © Shutterstock

Colourful Sintra, Portugal palace Palácio da Pena © Shutterstock

Discover more places in Portugal

Yellow tram in Lisbon, Portugal © Shutterstock

  • Beira Alta and Beira Baixa Travel Guide
  • Coimbra and the Beira Litoral Travel Guide
  • Estremadura and Ribatejo Travel Guide
  • Porto Travel Guide
  • Trás-os-Montes Travel Guide

Here’s a selection of famous landmarks, attractions and places in Portugal everyone should see in a lifetime - places that’ll hands down enhance your Portugal travel experience.

  • Cais da Ribeira , Porto - awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status for obvious reasons; charaterful line the riverside; medieval streets invite exploration.
  • Sintra - one of Portugal’s major attractions with UNESCO World Heritage kudos; a hilltop town of lavish palaces and gorgeous gardens
  • Alfama - Lisbon’s oldest quarter is an atmospheric tangle of narrow alleys.
  • Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerê - Portugal's only national park offers alluring trails past gushing streams and alpine scenery.
  • Praia da Bordeira - a secluded, beautiful Algrave beach backed by dunes and rugged hills, with a lagoon for kids to splash in, plus great surf.

Discover more great places to see in our ultimate list of things not to miss in Portugal .

Adventure activities

Internationally famed for its beaches, golf courses and tennis centres, Portugal also has an ideal climate for a variety of adventure activities, with many regions now offering paragliding, abseiling, rafting, canyoning, caving, mountain biking and 4WD expeditions. There’s most scope in the mountain areas - notably the Serra da Estrela and Peneda-Gerês parks - and on the major rivers (Douro, Mondego and Zêzere), but many of the smaller nature parks and reserves also have local adventure outfits.

Swimming, surfing and windsurfing

Chances are, when you visit Portugal you’ll make time to enjoy some of its amazing coastline. The Algarve has the country’s most popular sandy beaches, many of them sheltered in coves – and the sea is warmest on the eastern Algarve. The western coast has some stupendous stretches of beach, but they face the full brunt of the Atlantic Ocean, making for great surfing ad wind-surfing opportunities - Portugal travel at its most exhilarating. The more protected west coast of the Algarve is excellent for beginners and experienced surfers alike - don’t miss giving it a go when you travel to Portugal.

Hiking and walking

While Portugal only has one national park - the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês in the north -over forty other protected areas offer incredible walks. Special mention must be made of the lesser-trodden trails of the highest mountains in Portugal - taking in historic villages, waterfalls, windswept rocky plateaus and stupendous views, routes in the Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela are a must-visit for adventurous hikers who visit Portugal. You might want to hire a local Portugal guide with hiking know-how.

Some of Portugal’s other dramatic walking landscapes include the limestone caves of the Serras de Aire e Candeeiros, the island hideaway of the Ilha Berlenga (reached from Peniche ), and the lagoons, dunes and marshes of the Ria Formosa.

Culture, history and traditional entertainment

Whichever region you choose when you visit Portugal, you won’t be short of historic sights to soak up. From Alfama, Lisbon’s ancient heart, with its Moorish castle, to the sparsely inhabited medieval village of Monsaraz . Located near the Spanish border, it sits high above a plain of vineyards and olive groves, with a stunning castle, and charming streets speckled with handicraft shops.

Meanwhile, medieval charm awaits in Coimbra , one of the best places to travel in Portugal for history and contemporary culture. Home to Portugal’s oldest university, the old town exudes old world charm, and a liveliness generated by the student population, with plenty of opportunities to hear fado music - listening to this moving, melancholic traditional song accompanied by guitars is a Portugal travel highlight.

Meander markets

Most large towns have a daily municipal market to pick up fresh meat, fish, fruit, veg and bread, and these are often supplemented by a larger weekly affair, where you’ll also be able to buy clothes, shoes, ceramics, baskets, flowers, and a million-and-one other things you never knew you needed. Shopping in these markets is a wonderful way to experience Portuguese life, and pick up supplies and gifts to take home.

The best flea market in the country is Lisbon’s Feira da Ladra (held on Tuesday and Saturday), while the small town of Barcelos comes alive on Thursdays with one of the best open-air markets in Europe, held since medieval times. If you’re looking to take home some of the loucas de Barçelos, (local white and yellow pottery), traditional basketry and other crafts, you’re in the right place here - it’s a memorable highlight of any Portugal trip.

Beach of Camilo, Algarve, Portugal © Shutterstock

Beach of Camilo, Algarve, Portugal © Shutterstock

If you’re wondering what’s the best month to go to Portugal, the good news is that one of Portugal’s perks is its year-round sunshine. Although the winter months can be a little chilly, average daytime temperatures are still around 16 degrees. Overall, the best time to travel to Portugal is during late spring (March to May) when it’s warming up, and early autumn (September to October) when the searing heat is losing its edge.

Find out more about the best time to visit Portugal .

You can fly direct to Lisbon, Faro and Porto from airports around the UK and Ireland and from all over Europe, also from New York in the US and Toronto in Canada. Alternatively, you could consider a combination of driving, rail travel and ferry. Although this could work out more expensive than flying, it’s a great way to see more of the landscape, not to mention leaving a smaller carbon footprint.

Read on for the best ways to get to Portugal .

An essential part of any Portugal travel guide is arming travellers with a few pointers about getting around. If you’re wondering how to travel around Portugal, be assured that it’s pretty easy and cheap by bus or by train. Bear in mind, though, that stations can be some distance from a town - worth knowing if you travel to Portugal for an off-the-beaten-track trip. As for driving, roads are pretty good, although some rural roads provide a teeth-juddering ride. A top bit of Portugal travel advice is to avoid driving around packed popular resort regions in summer.

Learn more about transportation and how to get around Portugal .

Street and cobblestone floor in the old neighborhood of Alfama, Lisbon ©  David Evora Marquez/Shutterstock

Street and cobblestone floor in the old neighborhood of Alfama, Lisbon © David Evora Marquez/Shutterstock

When considering where to stay in Portugal, you’ll find accommodation is relatively low cost compared with other western countries, although Lisbon and Porto are pricier, as are resorts on the Algarve in summer. Pousadas are some of the most charming best places to stay in Portugal. Usually located in historic buildings, and with facilities and service often matching five-star hotels, these make for a memorable Portugal travel experience.

Discover how to find the best accommodation in Portugal .

Food in Portugal tends towards the simple and traditional, with meat usually grilled or slow-cooked into a stew, and seafood a feature along the coasts, for obvious reasons. Trying excellent regional cheeses is an absolute Portugal travel must - the Queijo da Serra from the Serra da Estrela, is a particular standout. And of course, Portugal is the birthplace of Port - true Port comes only from Porto so be sure to try some when you visit Portugal.

Read more about local food and drink in Portugal .

Portugal’s carnival celebrations are a match for those in Rio, with Lisbon and towns of the Algarve particularly good destinations for joining in the revelry. Almost every village in Portugal has its own festival (festa) or pilgrimage (romaria), usually to celebrate the local saint’s day or the regional harvest. Among major national events, Easter week and the Santos Populares festivities stand out - celebrated throughout the country with splendid religious processions.

To include a festival in your trip to Portugal, check out the month-to-month overview of festivals in Portugal .

Lisbon lives up to its reputation of having legendary nightlife, with the quiet streets of Bairro Alto (upper town) belying the area’s jumping nightlife credentials, where trendy bars, restaurants and nightclubs rub shoulders with traditional fado houses. Lisbon’s Alcântara area is also home to dockside warehouse conversions housing cool cafés, restaurants and clubs.

Thanks to its student population, historic Coimbra is also known for its nightlife, especially the bars around the Sé Velha cathedral. On the Algrave, picturesque Albufeira has a lively bar scene focussed around the pedestrianized Rua Cândido dos Reis. Late-night clubs can mostly be found in suburbs east of the centre, especially around Oura’s Avenida Dr. Francisco Sà Carneiro (aka The Strip).

Portugal's relatively small size allows you to discover much of the country within a short time while also giving you the chance for more in-depth exploration should you have longer to play with.

Ideas for a weekend in Portugal include booking a city break to Lisbon and taking in a day trip to stunning Sintra. Alternatively, Porto is also an excellent destination for a long weekend - it boasts beautiful architecture, boutique hotels - and then there’s the port. Among ideas for a week or more in Portugal, you could consider a coast-based itinerary, and beach-hop along some of the country’s finest spots to surf and soak up the sun. Alternatively, epicures might want to explore Portugal’s world-class wines through visiting vineyards.

For more inspiration see some of the Portugal itineraries from our Portugal travel guide and local travel experts.

Cavado river and Peneda-Geres National Park in northern Portugal ©  Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock

Cavado river and Peneda-Geres National Park in northern Portugal © Sergey Peterman/Shutterstock

  • Tipping - there’s is no hard and fast rule for tipping, which is not really a Portuguese custom. In a café, restaurant or for taxis, it’s customary to round up the bill to the nearest euro or, for big amounts, the nearest note.
  • Opening hours for shops, cafés, restaurants and museums in Portugal are a fluid concept. Many open late or close early (or don’t open at all) if the weather’s bad or if not many people are around.
  • On national public holidays transport services are much reduced.
  • LGBT travellers - though traditionally conservative, Portugal has become increasingly tolerant of homosexuality. As there is no mention of homosexuality in law, gays have the same rights as heterosexuals by default.

Practical travel tips for Portugal

From travel safety to visa requirements, discover the best tips for traveling to Portugal

  • Eating and drinking in Portugal
  • Getting around Portugal: Transportation Tips
  • Shopping tips for Portugal
  • Travel Tips Portugal for planning and on the go
  • Best time to visit Portugal
  • Portugal’s currency is the euro (€), and notes are issued in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros
  • Bank can be found in all but the smallest towns. In Lisbon and larger Algarve resorts, some also open in the evening, while others have automatic currency exchange machines.
  • By far the easiest way to get money is to use your bank debit card to withdraw cash from an ATM (known as a Multibanco), found in even the smallest towns.
  • Mains voltage is 220V, which works fine with equipment intended for 240V. Plugs are the European two round pin variety; adaptors are sold at airports, supermarkets and hardware stores.

For advice about practical matters when travelling in Portugal, check the travel advice for Portugal .

If you’re wondering whether Portugal is expensive to travel in, good news - Portugal remains one of the EU’s least expensive destinations. Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve are inevitably the most expensive places to visit, but even here you’ll get a better deal on most things than in many other European countries.

In terms of how much you should budget for a trip to Portugal, if you share a room in cheaper hotels, use public transport and stick to inexpensive restaurants you could have a reasonable time on somewhere between €50 and €80 a day. Stay and eat in fancier places in the main cities and you’re looking at more like €120 a day (but in five-star beach resorts, this figure won’t cover your room).

Coimbra, Portugal © saiko3p/hutterstock

Coimbra, Portugal © saiko3p/hutterstock

  • Portuguese phrasebook - while English is pretty widely spoken it doesn’t do any harm to have a few words and phrases up your sleeve. What’s more, giving it a go may well put a smile (or grin) on a few faces.
  • If travelling from outside mainland Europe, you’ll need a continental power adapter.
  • Pack comfortable shoes to make the most of exploring Portugal’s hilly towns and villages (they’re often cobbled, too), and decent walking boots if you’re planning to do any rambling.
  • Sunscreen - essential to avoid being blistered by the scorching summer sun.
  • Waterproof jacket, especially if you’re heading to the north outside the summer months.

By European standards, Portugal is a remarkably crime-free country - people still leave their cars and house doors unlocked in the countryside. However, there’s the usual petty theft in the cities and larger tourist resorts, particularly in the form of pickpockets on public transport and in bus and train stations.

For up to date information about safety and travel requirements for Portugal, check government guidelines. UK nationals should heed Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office advice , while travellers from the US should check governmental travel advisory guidelines for Portugal.

  • Unless you’re looking for packed bars and restaurants, avoid the main Algarve resorts areas at the height of summer. Better to travel in spring or early autumn to better appreciate the landscape, and get better prices, too.
  • Don’t be taken in by restaurants on main drags offering “tourist menus” - they’re invariably overpriced and there’s a reason locals don’t eat in them.
  • While Portugal is pretty safe, you might want to be wary in parts of Lisbon at night (around Cais do Sodré, at the top end of Avenida da Liberdade, on the metro, and on the Cais do Sodré–Cascais train line). In Porto take extra care in the darker alleys near the river.
  • Pick up The Rough Guide to Portugal - our exhaustive, in-depth Portugal travel guide that covers everything you need to know before you go, and while you’re on the road.
  • To make the most of a weekend break, consider booking a tour. There are tonnes of excellent options available, from enjoying an eco-friendly electric bike tour of Lisbon , to a skip-the-line palace experience in Sintra , to taking in the Douro Valley on a wine-tasting river cruise from Porto .
  • To take the hassle out of planning, Rough Guides’ tailor-made travel platform offers a range of fully customisable Portugal itineraries , created in consultation with local experts.

Related articles from the blog

Porto Ribeira, traditional facades, old multi-colored houses with red roof tiles on the embankment in the city of Porto, Portugal

The Rough Guides to Portugal and related travel guides

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Mani Ramaswamy

written by Mani Ramaswamy

updated 22.09.2021

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5 Things I Wish I Had Known Before Visiting Portugal

tips to travel to portugal

  • Destinations

Portugal is a very forgiving country in that the ambience of the people and culture is friendly and relaxed. People are open and willing to help, especially in hotels and shops, and there are plenty of tourist information centers in the larger cities. You will also find many people, especially in more metropolitan areas, who speak English.

The climate, although colder and rainier in the north, is basically Mediterranean, which means many days of sunshine and thus lots of opportunities to explore without sheltering under an umbrella or wearing a heavy coat. Dressing in layers is the best way to ensure that you are dressed for warm days and cooler nights.

In every city that we visited during our 5 weeks, we enjoyed the many restaurants and cafes with outdoor seating. It’s an enjoyable way to spend a couple of hours immersed in the scene around you. The Portuguese take their lunch hours seriously and do not rush through their meals. There are very few fast-food restaurants because most work environments include ample time for an afternoon break.

I have traveled extensively and there have been times that I wished that I had known certain things about where I was going ahead of time. Traveling with a little knowledge leaves one better prepared to deal with the unexpected and to plan ahead for the things to be expected. Using the internet and social media has made traveling easier, but it is always useful to hear some tips from a person who has travel experience in the place you plan to visit.

Here are five things I wish I had known about before we traveled to Portugal.

A highway running along the coastline of Portugal

1. Car Rentals

Portugal is a country blessed with an excellent transportation system, especially within and between the larger cities. If you have specific destinations in your travel plans, the train and bus system is extensive and reasonably priced, and you may buy your tickets ahead of time online. However, there are many lovely spots in Portugal less accessible by public transport, and you may choose to rent a car. We rented a car in Lisbon, and it was relatively straightforward.

What I didn’t know ahead of time is that most rental cars have manual transmission. If you are not familiar with driving a manual car, then practicing before you go is a good idea, especially since the cities we visited use roundabouts as the method to get from one part of town to another, and sometimes you need to shift gears quickly. When you rent your car, ask for a transponder, which allows you to pay the highway tolls without stopping. Your credit card will be charged automatically. It makes getting from one place to another so much easier when you don’t have to deal with stopping in front of a gate and taking a ticket. Make sure that you get in the lanes painted green and marked “via verde.”

There is a basic car insurance in Portugal that is mandatory and will be included in the price of your rental.

Pro Tip: Make sure you take both a credit card and debit card if you plan to rent a car. You will pay more for a rental car if you pay with a debit card.

A bustling street in Lisbon

2. Getting Around In Cities

We spent time in Lisbon, Porto, Guimaraes, and Coimbra and we did a good deal of walking to various places we wanted to see, such as castles, museums, monasteries, Moorish neighborhoods, parks riverfronts, and churches. 

The streets of many cities are a combination of different kinds of pavement, but many sidewalks, especially in Lisbon are made of small diamond-shaped tiles. They are often uneven and worn smooth, thus you should wear shoes that have good tread — the going can be slippery and a bit hazardous, especially after rain. If you need to get from one end of a city to another or want a guided tour, there are many “hop-on-hop-off” type buses, especially in Lisbon and Porto.

In the smaller towns such as Obidos, the narrow streets are lined with cobblestone, and often a few stones are loose, so be aware of where you step. Cars and taxis move very fast in cities, often even when a light has turned green for a go-ahead to walk, there are taxis coming through that ignore this. Don’t assume cars are going to stop.

It is easy to flag down a taxi, especially in Lisbon, Coimbra, and Porto because they are everywhere. The drivers signal that they are available with a green light on the roof of the cab. If you prefer, there are digital companies like Uber and Bolt as well.

3. Health And COVID

I would recommend a few things when it comes to medical issues that might arise in Portugal. First, make sure you have plenty of your necessary medications before you travel. Although there are plenty of pharmacies even in smaller towns, refilling a prescription is a bit of a hassle. I had to call my pharmacy in the states and have the pharmacist talk to the pharmacist in Portugal.

In addition to the above, I wish I had researched how the medical system in Portugal operates. My husband and I contracted COVID and had to stay for an extra 12 days in the country. I needed to see a doctor and was not sure how to go about this. I received help at a pharmacy and was able to make an appointment at a private hospital in Lisbon. Hotel managers in the larger cities may have helpful information as well. Do the research before you leave by accessing websites like this one .

Bring medical insurance and health records, especially if you have a chronic health condition. Expect to pay for services.

Pro Tip: Make certain about your own health insurance before you leave. Ask if they cover any medical expenses incurred on your trip. It’s a good idea to go to the State Department’s website for information on Portugal and medical issues.

Grilled sardines and chicken in Algarve, Portugal

The Portuguese love to eat and take their time when they do, so don’t expect speedy service when you dine out. In some of the more tourist-frequented parts of Lisbon, expect to be approached by waiters motioning for you to sit at the tables set out along narrow streets where cars are not allowed. Some outdoor cafes that cater to tourists have familiar foods such as pizza, hamburgers, and hot dogs, but the more traditional Portuguese menus feature dishes with fish and meat as the main part of the meal. The portions served in restaurants are large, so you may consider sharing dishes, and this way you get more variety in your meal.

If you are vegetarian or vegan, you may find it a bit challenging to enjoy a variety of foods, but almost every menu we perused during our 5-week stay had some vegetarian choices, especially in cities such as Porto, Coimbra, and Lisbon.

If you stay at an Airbnb and have a kitchen, there are small and large grocery stores and some specialty markets that carry produce, wine, fresh meat, and fish. There are plenty of pastry shops as well.

Humberto Delgado International Airport

5. Airports

Portugal has three international airports: Lisbon, Faro, and Porto. My husband and I flew into Lisbon from Paris and thus did not have to go through customs again in Portugal. Lisbon’s airport is extremely busy, and it was difficult to find an airport map that named the terminals and check-in areas by airlines.

Expect long lines at the airport. I had a few quick questions that I wanted to ask at the tourist information center, but the line was extremely long. If you plan to get a taxi to your hotel from the Lisbon airport, you will find the place cabs park outside the terminal. People wait in line for taxis, which pull into designated parking spots. The taxi drivers will gesture to the next person in line. 

If you plan to return to the U.S. from Lisbon, be aware that there is a passport checkpoint after a security check, and the queues are long. Also, the airport is arranged in such a manner that you are forced to go through duty-free shopping zones before security. We nearly missed our flight because there were far too few attendants checking people through.

When we left the country to return to the States, it took 90 minutes before we emerged from these areas to find our gate. I would strongly recommend arriving no less than 3 hours before your flight, perhaps even 4 if you plan to travel during the summer months. English is widely spoken in the airports, and most signs are in English as well as Portuguese, but Terminal 2 — where all passengers depart from — is a giant hangar and is confusing.

Pro Tip: Whichever airport you decide to fly into or from, I recommend studying the airport map online before you fly and plan to arrive 3 hours ahead of your flight.

For more on Portugal , check out these articles:

  • 5 Reasons You’ll Fall In Love With This 300-Year-Old Vineyard Hotel In Portugal
  • Our 9 Favorite Stops On A Road Trip Along Portugal’s Beautiful West Coast
  • Living In Portugal, We’ve Tasted Cheeses We Never Knew Existed, Here Are Our 11 Favorites
  • 10 Best Resorts in the Algarve Region

Image of Amy Brewster

Although she enjoys cities with museums, culture, and food, her favorite adventures are found in the natural world. She has kayaked among bat rays and dolphins, encountered gray whales, hiked among bighorn sheep, and snorkeled with tropical fish. She is a volunteer naturalist at Elkhorn Slough National Estuarine Research Reserve and Anza-Borrego Desert State Park.

The 11 best places to visit in Portugal

Regis St. Louis

Nov 17, 2023 • 7 min read

tips to travel to portugal

From the viewpoints of Lisbon to the beaches of the Algarve, here are the best places to go in Portugal © Gabriel Mello / Getty Images

Lisbon and Porto may get a lot of love, but there's so much more to Portugal than its captivating historic cities.

From  golden beaches  and mountainous peaks to lush river valleys, every region has its own diverse highlights across this small Iberian nation.

Finding the best places to go here depends largely on your own interests. If you’re after sun-kissed beaches and aquatic adventures, head to the Algarve ; for historic architecture-filled towns with a rich, traditional dining scene , aim for Évora. Start planning your itinerary now with our 11 favorite places to visit in Portugal.

Best for nightlife

Seven iconic hills overlook  Lisbon 's postcard-perfect panorama of cobbled alleyways, white-domed cathedrals and grand civic squares – a captivating scene crafted over centuries.

The Portuguese capital is packed with things to do , from browsing galleries (including the Museu Nacional do Azulejo with its trove of ceramic tiles) and exploring castles (such as the hilltop  Castelo de São Jorge ) to satisfying your sweet tooth with the city's incredible  pastéis de nata  (custard tarts).

By night, Lisbon’s party people take over, filling old-school drinking dens, brassy jazz clubs and open-all-night clubs that burst into life once the sun goes down.

Planning tip: Lisbon has an emerging craft beer scene that you can experience at the city's breweries and bars .

2. Douro Valley 

Best place to drink wine 

One of Portugal’s most beautiful areas lies just east of Porto. Here, the meandering Rio Douro flows past towering hillsides covered by the steeply terraced vineyards that make up Europe’s oldest demarcated wine region. Whether you come by boat, train or car to the Douro Valley , you’ll be rewarded with astonishing views at every turn, especially as you near the lovely village of Pinhão in the heart of the region. 

Planning tip:  Many travelers dash in on a quick day trip, but to make the most of the region, spend the night at one of the vineyard-surrounded guesthouses in the area, such as Quinta Nova or the Casa Cimeira .

An aerial view of the medieval houses, wall and tower of Obidos, Portugal. The street is filled with crowds of people.

Best hilltop village

Wandering the tangle of ancient streets in the historic town of  Óbidos is enchanting at any time of year, but come during one of its festivals and you're in for a special treat. Whether you fancy the idea of a mock-up jousting match at a medieval fair or delving into the written word at Folio – Portugal's biggest international literature festival – you couldn’t ask for a better backdrop.

Best for a fantastical escape

Less than an hour by train from the capital Lisbon,  Sintra feels like another world. It's a great day trip away from the city hubbub. Like a setting from a fairy tale, this historic hillside township is sprinkled with stone-walled taverns and lorded over by a  multicolored palace .

Forested hillsides form the backdrop to this storybook setting, with imposing castles, mystical gardens, strange mansions and centuries-old monasteries hidden among the trees. The fog that sweeps in by night adds another layer of mystery.

Planning tip:  Chilly evenings are best spent by the fire in one of Sintra’s many charming B&Bs.

5. Setúbal Peninsula 

Best for wild, cliff-backed beaches

South of Lisbon, the Setúbal Peninsula has long been the weekend playground of Lisboetas (Lisbon residents). A ferry ride, followed by a short bus or bicycle ride, takes you to the Costa da Caparica, a seemingly endless beachfront that gets wilder and less crowded the further south you go. If you want a surf lesson, some downtime on the sands, or a meal overlooking the lapping waves, this is the place to come. 

If you’re seeking a bit more solitude, head down to the Parque Natural da Arrábida at the southern end of the peninsula. Here, you'll find cliffs covered with thick vegetation, picturesque coves and beaches such as Praia do Portinho da Arrábida, with fine sand, azure waters, and the ruins of an ancient site that dates back to Roman times. 

Street view of the Historic Centre of Evora, Portugal. The street is narrow and lined by stalls, selling their wares outside.

Best for historical architecture 

The heart of the Alentejo region, Évora is one of Portugal’s most beautifully preserved medieval towns, and it's an enchanting place to spend a couple of days. Inside the 14th-century walls, narrow, winding lanes lead to striking monuments, including an elaborate medieval cathedral, Roman ruins and a picturesque town square.

But this isn't a musty museum piece – Évora is also a lively university town, and its many restaurants serve up some excellent, hearty Alentejan cuisine.

Best for urban exploring 

It would be hard to dream up a more romantic city than  Porto . Portugal’s second-largest urban center is laced with narrow pedestrian lanes, baroque churches and cafe-dotted plazas, leading the eye down to the Douro River and its landmark bridges. Needless to say, there's no shortage of  great experiences here . Start in the  Ribeira district – a UNESCO World Heritage Site – then cross the bridge to explore centuries-old port wineries in  Vila Nova de Gaia , where you can sip the world’s best port. 

You can also learn about Porto’s history (both the drink and the city) and other facets of Portuguese identity at the World of Wine , a sprawling complex of museums, restaurants and bars overlooking the city. Though Porto is defined by its air of dignified history, modern architecture, cosmopolitan dining, vibrant nightlife and artistic activity are injecting new life into the city.

8. The Minho 

Best for traditional villages and wilderness trails 

The Portuguese have a special fondness for the Minho , a verdant region of vineyard-covered valleys, mountainous wilds, isolated beaches and picturesque river towns that seem little changed by time. The gateway to the region is Braga , a city with Roman ruins, a fabled medieval cathedral , and tranquil flower-trimmed plazas sprinkled with outdoor cafes and restaurants. 

Further north, you’ll find Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês , a vast, rugged wilderness of dramatic peaks, meandering streams and frozen-in-time stone villages. Dozens of hiking trails crisscross the reserve, taking walkers past old Roman roads, castle ruins or sparkling waterfalls.

Planning tip:  If you're here in summer, cool down in the idyllic swimming holes – these are among the best places to be in Portugal during the hot weather.

Tourist woman enjoying a traditional meal and drinks in an outdoor terrace on a little street of Coimbra in Portugal,

Best for a student vibe

Portugal’s most atmospheric college town,  Coimbra , rises steeply from the Rio Mondego, and its handsome medieval quarter houses one of Europe’s oldest universities. Students roam the narrow streets clad in black capes, while the sound of fado (Portugal’s soulful traditional style of music) drifts through the Moorish town gates towards the stained-glass windows of the historic  Café Santa Cruz .

Planning tip:  Grown-ups may well appreciate the town’s student-driven nightlife and the medieval lanes of the steeply stacked historic center. Visitors with younger kids can keep busy at Portugal dos Pequenitos , a theme park with miniature versions of Portuguese monuments.

10. Parque Natural da Serra da Estrela 

Best for hiking and alpine activities in winter

The Serra da Estrela – Portugal’s  highest mountain range – is the place to come for rugged scenery, outdoor adventures, and glimpses of a vanishing traditional way of life. Hikers can choose from an expansive network of high-country trails with stupendous vistas, and the region's fascinating mountain villages make perfect bases for outdoor adventures.

At the country’s highest point – the summit of Torre, artificially pushed to 2000m (6561ft) by the addition of a not-so-subtle stone monument – you can slalom down Portugal’s only ski slope. Oh, and did we mention the furry sheepdog puppies that frolic by the roadside? You’ll long to take one home.

A young girl gazes down from a cliff towards a sandy beach filled with people and families enjoying the coastline

11. The Algarve

Best for a relaxing family holiday

Sunseekers have much to celebrate in Portugal. Along the south coast, the Algarve is famed for its gorgeous and varied coastline – you can either join the crowds on the people-packed sands at major resorts or find seaside peace on dramatic wild beaches backed by wind-carved cliffs. Days are spent playing in the waves, taking long oceanfront strolls, or surfing some of Europe's most memorable breaks. 

The Algarve is also one of the best places in Portugal for kids . You’ll find family-friendly beaches, water parks and plenty of outdoor adventures (from boating to hidden sea caves to exploring undeveloped islands).

Planning tip:  There’s never a bad time to visit this region, with its 300 days of sunshine each year, though you’ll find the best prices and thinnest crowds in winter. 

This article was first published June 2021 and updated November 2023

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13 Perfect Portugal Travel Tips for First-Timers

Posted on Last updated: January 28, 2024

Home » Destinations » Europe » Portugal » 13 Perfect Portugal Travel Tips for First-Timers

13 Perfect Portugal Travel Tips for First-Timers

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Are you planning a trip to Portugal for the first time and don’t know what to expect? Keep scrolling to check out my top Portugal travel tips for tourists!

This list of portugal travel tips was written by family travel expert marcie cheung and contains affiliate links which means if you purchase something from one of my affiliate links, i may earn a small commission that goes back into maintaining this blog..

Visiting Portugal on your next European vacation above the alternatives could be the best decision you make this summer.

If you compare it to the huge popularity of Spain and Italy, Portugal almost seems like a hidden gem. Like other places on the Iberian peninsula and southern Europe, it also offers a fascinating and storied history, equally beautiful beaches, and plenty of vibrant cities.

Except Portugal is much cheaper with fewer crowds! 

And with these essential Portugal travel tips, you’ll feel much more confident about planning a super fun Portugal trip that your whole family will enjoy.

You’ll avoid the common mistakes that others make when traveling in Portugal and will know the best cities to visit, how to get around, what to order at restaurants, and much more.

Dive into this travel guide to Portugal to learn everything you need to know.

Don’t have time to read a bunch of Portugal blog posts and reviews? Here are some of our top picks for visiting Portugal with kids.

Popular Portugal Tours/Activities

  • Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tour (this is an easy way to sightsee around Lisbon)
  • Day Trip to Pena Palace, Sintra, Cabo da Roca, & Cascais (includes skip-the-line passes)
  • Lisbon Card (great way to save money if you plan on doing multiple attractions)
  • Lisbon Food Tour (a fun way to try Portuguese cuisine)
  • Flytographer photo shoot (they are easy to book are really affordable)

Kid-Friendly Portugal Hotels

  • Radisson Blu Hotel (they have family rooms that sleep up to 6 people)
  • Blue Liberdade Hotel (it’s a great location plus they have family suites)
  • PortoBay Marquês (they have family rooms plus a pool)
  • Casas do Porto – Ribeira Apartments (in a great location and they have family rooms)
  • Catalonia Porto (in a great location and it has bunk beds)

Perfect Portugal Travel Tips

Planning your portugal trip.

Before diving into specific travel tips for Portugal, you need to have an idea of which destinations you want to visit. 

Let’s start with the cities. Lisbon is Portugal’s capital city and a great choice for a city break if it’s your first time in Portugal. There are tons of things to do in Lisbon for all types of travelers. You’ll want at least 3 days in Lisbon to see all the top sights.

Image of Porto, Portugal old town skyline on the Douro River with rabelo boats.

Porto is the second most popular city that visitors love and is similar to Lisbon in that they’re both colorful port cities.

If you’re an ‘off-the-beaten-path’ traveler then consider Coimbra , a cool university town. Braga is one of the oldest cities in Portugal so there are tons of historic buildings.

Like Spain’s Costa del Sol and Costa del Brava , Portugal also has a beach resort region and that’s The Algarve . Whitewashed villas, luxury high-rise resorts, and golf clubs litter this idyllic area between Lagos and Faro .

Image of Miradouro da Boca do Inferno overlooking the lakes of Sete Cidades on the Island of Sao Miguel in the Azores

And third, Portugal has two island archipelagos: Madeira and the Azores . Both are in the Atlantic Ocean miles from the African coast and have lush green and mountainous landscapes. Whilst Madeira is more built up with lots of amenities for tourists, the Azores is more remote. 

How Many Days in Portugal?

Once you know where you want to visit in Portugal, you’ll need traveling to Portugal tips that will help you figure out how many days to spend there.

For city breaks in either Lisbon or Porto , plan a minimum of three days in Portugal. You can always plan day trips to places like Sintra or Cascais if you have extra days.

Image of Pena Palace in Sintra Portugal

If you are visiting Portugal for a week, you could spend it soaking up some rays in the Algarve . Or, you could enjoy a more active vacation exploring the natural landscapes of either Madeira or the Azores . City lovers could easily spend one week exploring both Lisbon and Porto .

Want to spend two weeks or more in Portugal? You could do it all! Rent a car in Porto and drive south or hop on a train, hitting up Lisbon and Faro in the south and stopping at some smaller cities along the way.

It takes two to three hours to fly from Lisbon to either Madeira or the Azores so you can easily plan a side trip to the Portuguese islands.

Book a Family Photo Shoot

Whenever we travel, we almost always book a family photo shoot with Flytographer. They are super easy, affordable, AND guarantee that I’ll be in some photos. You can get $25 off if you book through this link or use the code HAWAIITRAVEL.

Public Transportation in Portugal

Figuring out how to travel in Portugal might be easier than you think as the country has lots of public transport options. 

Regarding tips for traveling in Portugal between major cities like Lisbon , Porto , Coimbra , Faro , and Lagos , use the train. It’s old but cheap and you can book tickets through the official passenger train company, Comboios de Portugal .

Image of Panoramic aerial view of Dom Luis Bridge in Porto in a beautiful summer day, Portugal

Portugal’s bus network connects everywhere else. Check out Rede Nacional de Expressos , the country’s national bus service, for tickets and timetables. FlixBus is another option for cheap bus travel around Europe.

Local city buses in Portugal can be quite old and confusing for tourists to use. However, most smaller cities and towns in Portugal are very walkable. Bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto have tram and metro networks.

Taxis, Ubers, and Car Rentals in Portugal

If you’re visiting Madeira or the Azores , public transport is scarce. It’s probably better if you rent a car in these two places if you’re planning an intrepid and jam-packed trip.

Image of Taxi in the capital city of Portugal - Lisbon

Uber is available in these places around Portugal: Lisbon , Porto , Braga , and The Algarve . 

Taxis are quite cheap everywhere in Portugal, including Lisbon . Your taxi driver might not speak English and there are always surcharges for evening, public holiday, and weekend rides. 

Money in Portugal

Portugal uses the Euro currency and, unlike the rest of Western Europe, cash is still king. Always carry a generous (but not unsafe) amount of cash on you to pay for small items and taxis and to leave a tip at restaurants.

Euro money: closeup of banknotes and coins

Hotels, restaurants, and larger stores will definitely take credit cards so you should still bring a travel-friendly credit card. Be aware that many European countries don’t accept American Express so have a Mastercard or Visa as a backup. 

You can exchange money before your trip (at your bank) or you can do it when you arrive in Portugal.

Dining in Portugal Tips

Portugal has 37 Michelin-starred restaurants, so you can eat really well in this country. If there are any restaurants you really want to try in one of the bigger cities, make reservations. Lisbon, in particular, can be very busy on weekends.

I highly recommend trying local food in Portugal.

You cannot visit Portugal without trying a pastel de nata , an egg custard pastry with cinnamon and vanilla. Grilled sardines and cod are also delicacies here. In fact, Bacalhau (dried or salted cod) is Portugal’s national dish.

Grilled Sardines Plate with Red Pepper and Potato in a Portuguese Restaurant

Look out for restaurants called Tascas as these are generally cheaper, more casual restaurants serving hearty meals and local wine in jugs.

Portugal is known for its port wine as well as Vinho Verde wine, so watch out for those on the menus.

Essential Lisbon Travel Tips

Some of the best insider Lisbon tips include buying a Lisboa card to save money on attractions and public transport. Visit as many panoramic viewpoints as you can and find a bar that plays Portuguese Fado music.

Image of Rossio square with fountain located at Baixa district in Lisbon, Portugal

Another one of the best tips for visiting Lisbon is to wear comfortable shoes. It’s a city built on seven hills as well as cobblestone, so you don’t want to pack anything with a heel.

Essential Sintra Travel Tips

Sintra is a fantastic day trip from Lisbon as it’s only 20 miles/30 km away. Book your ticket to the Sintra castles in advance as you might arrive to find that the next timeslot isn’t for a few hours.

Take Tuk-Tuks to avoid climbing up the monumentally steep hills.

Essential Porto Travel Tips

As the birthplace of Port, you cannot visit Porto without sampling a few glasses. Take the Gaia Cable Car to see beautiful vistas across the city, or climb the Luís I Bridge.

Image of Porto city and Douro River, cable car, view from Vila Nova de Gaia, Portugal.

Many people like to visit the Livraria Lello Bookstore because of its connections to the Harry Potter author and it is wildly popular. You’ll need to pay an entrance fee and probably wait in line.

Essential Madeira Travel Tips

Madeira is one of the most challenging places in Europe for pilots to fly into so be prepared for a rocky landing. Base yourself in Funchal or Monte to be close to all the amenities you’ll need.

Image of Scenic aerial sunset view of Camara de Lobos village, Madeira, Portugal

If you’re not planning on renting a car here, read the bus timetables carefully. There is only one bus a day on some routes. 

Essential Azores Travel Tips

Visiting the Azores isn’t a good idea if you are a social or party person who likes to meet new people when they travel. 

Image of Coastal path with ortensia in Sao Miguel, Azores Islands

Due to the lack of amenities and infrastructure, the Azores isn’t a great place for spontaneous travel, so book everything in advance. The weather can also change on a dime here so even if the weather looks sunny, pack a raincoat.

Get a Travel Adapter

Portugal uses the type F electrical plug which has two rounded prongs and two earth clips. The vast majority of their outlets also fit type C and L plugs too. These three plugs are very standard in many European countries.

Electric sockets in Portugal have 230 volts whereas the US, if that’s where you’re traveling from, only has 110 volts. Buy a travel adapter with a built-in voltage converter to protect your electrical gear when you travel. 

Safety and Awareness in Portugal

As of 2022, Portugal is in 6th place out of 163 on the Global Peace Index. It’s an incredibly safe country and there are few violent and dangerous crimes, particularly when compared to somewhere like the US.

Image of View from the back of a Portuguese policeman guards public order at a public event and in a crowded place

However, you should still remain vigilant to petty crime and travel scams when traveling in larger cities like Lisbon and Porto and hanging around near busy spots. Keep your money and valuables hidden away and out of reach. 

Keep in mind that Portugal is a Catholic country (over 80% of the population identifies as such). Keep your chest, shoulders, and knees covered when visiting places of worship.

While the cities have a diverse and generally progressive population, this may not be the case in rural parts of Portugal. For example, if you are part of the LGBTQ+ community, you may find Lisbon more welcoming than the Azores .

Tips for Traveling to Portugal FAQs

When is the best time to visit portugal.

Portugal has a Mediterranean climate which means the summers are hot and dry and the winters are fairly mild and a little rainy.

January is the coldest month with average temperatures ranging from 50°F/10°C in the north to 54.5°F/12.5°C in the south. August is the hottest month with average temperatures ranging from 70°F/22°C in the north to 85°F/30°C in the south. 

Portugal’s coast is often kept cool thanks to the breeze from the Atlantic, but heat waves in summer can mean that temperature climb as high as 94°F/36°C.

The best times to visit southern areas of Portugal like Lisbon and Faro are during the spring and fall shoulder seasons but the best time to visit Porto in the north is summer.

Easter and Holy Week in March or April are great times to visit Portugal as there are lots of parades and celebrations around the country. 

Is Portugal cheap or expensive?

One of the best things to know before going to Portugal is that it’s probably less expensive than you think it is. Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe and of all the countries using the Euro currency.

As long as you’re organized, you’ll have no problems finding cheap accommodations or activities. Food, public transport, private transport, and other expenses are generally lower than in nearby countries like Spain or France.

Can you use American dollars in Portugal?

No, you cannot use American dollars in Portugal. The official currency of Portugal is the Euro. While some places in Portugal (like hotels) may accept US dollars, be aware that they will set their own exchange rates between the Euro and the US dollar and it probably won’t be in your favor.

Do you need a visa to visit Portugal?

If you aren’t a U.S. citizen, you can check HERE to see if you need a Schengen Visa.

Should you tip at restaurants in Portugal?

Portugal doesn’t have a tipping culture and you don’t need to tip servers at restaurants, bars, cafes taxi drivers, or other hospitality workers. 

However, locals are more likely to give servers in restaurants and taxi drivers in Portugal tips. You’ll also find that both locals and tourists are more likely to leave hospitality workers in Lisbon tips since it’s the capital city and the most expensive city in the country.

But you don’t have to worry about committing a tourist faux pas . You can round up your bill, leave €1 for every person at your table, or tip 10%. There’s no hard and fast rule.

Which Portuguese cities are worth visiting?

Some of the most popular Portuguese cities include Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Faro, and Évora .

What are some popular Portuguese restaurants worth trying?

Adega da Cartuxa in Évora serves traditional Portuguese cuisine in a beautiful setting. Belcanto in Lisbon is a Michelin-starred restaurant that offers a modern take on Portuguese cuisine. Feitoria in Porto serves traditional Portuguese seafood dishes.

When is peak season in Portugal?

High season in Portugal is from June to August, when the weather is warm and sunny. This is also when most tourists visit Portugal, so expect crowds and higher prices.

If you want to avoid the crowds, consider visiting Portugal during the shoulder season (May and September) or the off-season of October to November or December to February.

Where can I hear traditional fado music?

Casa de Fado in Lisbon is a historic fado house that has been hosting performances since 1937. Páteo de Alfama in Lisbon is a small, intimate fado house located in the Alfama district. Clube de Fado in Lisbon is a popular fado house that hosts a variety of performers, including both established and up-and-coming artists.

What’s the local language in Portugal?

The locals speak Portuguese.

Is Portugal safe?

Yes, Portugal is relatively safe. It’s always smart to exercise caution and keep an eye on your belongings.

Do you need travel insurance to visit Portugal?

While it is not mandatory to have travel insurance to visit Portugal, it is highly recommended. Travel insurance can protect you in case of medical emergencies, flight cancellations, and other unforeseen events.

Best Portugal Travel Tips Wrap Up

Those are all the top Portugal travel tips that you need to plan a great vacation.

Although you might know less about Portugal than other European countries and think you need more Portugal travel advice, it’s really not that different.

And where there are differences (like money, public transportation, and destinations), this guide covers all the tips for visiting Portugal you need to have a fun and memorable trip!

Looking for more Portugal travel resources? Check out the best day trips from Lisbon , 11 Best Lisbon Hotels for Families Worth Booking , 11 Things to Do in Porto, Portugal for First-Time Visitors! , 15 Things to do in Lisbon with Toddlers , and Europe travel tips !

tips to travel to portugal

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Traveling to Portugal: 7 things to know before you go

Lisbon's Urban Slyline

Editor's Note

Chances are you know someone who has traveled to Portugal and is raving about it. After spending two weeks exploring Portugal with my family pre-COVID, I wholeheartedly recommend the country as a great destination for kids when the time comes. But even the best places have pitfalls that come with the highlights, so here is what I encountered while visiting Portugal with kids in tow.

Related: The best credit cards for family travel

tips to travel to portugal

Lisbon is a no-go for strollers

There's a lot about Lisbon to love. It's clean, safe and fun to explore. However, its streets are paved with cobblestones and it is remarkably hilly. Young kids might have trouble keeping up. Consider that one of Lisbon's major neighborhoods is named "Bairro Alto," which literally means "high neighborhood."

This is from a two-hour walking tour of the city, and only records stairs, not hills:

Lisbon Hills screenshot

Of course, you don't need to take a two-hour walking tour, but if you are visiting Portugal with an infant, I highly recommend a carrier over a stroller. With a toddler, you might want to limit your plans to neighborhoods that have public elevators and/or bring a stroller that is good with uneven terrain. On the upside, some of the elevators in Portugal, such as the Santa Justa Lift, are attractions in themselves.

Naturally, if an adult in your crew has limited physical abilities, some of these same terrain concerns would transfer to those situations -- so plan logistics accordingly.

We did discover that Ubers were cheap and plentiful. Most rides within the city were less than $7 for Uber X and many were under $12 for Uber Black.

Don't miss the Maritime Museum

A popular Instagram spot in the Belem District of Lisbon is the Monument of Discoveries. It's worth seeing for the view alone.

Read more: 11 best hotels for a beach holiday in Portugal

Lisbon Portugal Monument to the Discoveries and 25th April Bridge #lisbonportugal

But our favorite spot was actually across the street at the Maritime Museum (Museu de Marinha). It appealed to our kids much more than other museums as it took visitors through the adventures of Vasco da Gama and other Portuguese explorers. It even had artifacts from da Gama's voyages among its extensive collection. As a traveler, I was obsessed with the historical maps and globes displayed throughout the museum.

Younger kids will especially love the Galliot Pavilion at the end of the museum. There's a huge exhibition hall that houses royal yachts and brigs, fishing vessels and Portuguese ships with lots of room to explore.

tips to travel to portugal

Admission to the Museu de Marinha is $6 for adults and $3 for kids 4–12. The museum is open daily, 10 am to 6 pm, in summer; 10 am to 5 pm in the winter.

Lisbon's famous trams can get crazy crowded

If you have seen photos of Lisbon, you probably know about the iconic yellow trams weaving through the city's distinctive neighborhoods. That's not what we encountered in the days before COVID-19.

Read more: 13 of the most beautiful villages in Portugal

tips to travel to portugal

What we saw was a bit more crowded than the postcard image.

Lisbon Portugal trolley #lisbonportugal

I'm not sure when the photos of empty trams are taken, but during an entire week, we never saw a tram that wasn't standing room only. If a future visit is in the cards for you and your family, consider whether or not you'll be able to comfortable social distance before jumping on.

Visit Sintra on a sunny day

Prior to visiting Portugal, everyone we asked told us that we must visit Sintra, mainly because of views like this:

Palacio da Pena,Sintra,Portugal

This is another case where our reality was much different from our expectations. I mean, fog happens.

Sintra Cloudy day

Our moderately cloudy day obscured the views as a misty fog bank enveloped Sintra. We couldn't see the ocean even when we drove just a few yards away. In retrospect, I should have paid more attention and realized that Sintra was a weather-dependent destination because of its location about 25 kilometers (15.5 miles) from Lisbon near the ocean.

The Algarve's water is colder than the Mediterranean

Something to keep in mind if you're an ocean swimmer: Average water temperatures in the Algarve in southern Portugal top out in the low 70s in mid-August. In late June, when we visited, the ocean was 67 degrees according to Sea Temperature , which felt too chilly for more than a toe-dip for us. Those degrees made a huge difference in our ability to swim in the ocean.

If your kids are into building sandcastles and chasing seagulls, the beaches along the Algarve are ideal -- sandy compared to the rocky ones in Mediterranean hot spots. Just keep in mind that you might have to descend a long flight of stairs to get to a spot for your beach towel. Here are some more tips for navigating the Algarve with kids along for the fun .

tips to travel to portugal

A house with a private pool is surprisingly affordable

TPG wrote about the Pine Cliffs Resort, a great hotel for families or groups of friends. Although it's definitely worth considering, so is renting a house with a private pool . We rented this one for 30% less than a room at Pine Cliffs for a week in June. With three bedrooms, including one in a turret, two patios overlooking the ocean and furnishings that look fresh out of an HGTV shoot, I'd say $254/night (before discounts) was a steal.

Photo via Airbnb

It's easier than ever to get to Portugal (in normal times)

Portugal is not currently open to most Americans due to COVID. And, as of Jan. 26, 2021, everyone age two and older traveling to the U.S. from Portugal must show a negative viral COVID-19 test result taken within 72 hours of departure before being allowed to board their flights; documented proof from a licensed healthcare provider of recovery from the virus within the past 90 days will also be accepted.

However, Portugal's pre-COVID popularity has not gone unnoticed by the airlines. TAP Air Portugal has a number of routes including nonstops from Washington, DC, Chicago and San Francisco. TAP is a member of Star Alliance and I've found great availability using United MileagePlus for 30k each way in coach or 70k each way in business class. United is a Chase transfer partner . Air Canada's Aeroplan is another good option if you want to transfer from American Express . TAP tickets include a free stopover in Lisbon or Porto , which can help maximize your travel budget.

tips to travel to portugal

Bottom line

Believe the hype: In normal times, Portugal presents tremendous opportunities for a great vacation, though that doesn't mean it is perfect for every single traveler. My teen, who is notoriously hard to please , listed Portugal among his favorite countries. When I asked why, his understated response was simply, "I liked the vibe there." I understood what he meant: Between the maritime history, the expansive vistas and the friendly people, I liked the vibe there, too -- though I'm sure having a private pool didn't hurt.

Read more about planning a vacation to Portugal:

  • Tips for Exploring Portugal's Algarve Region With Kids
  • Why Families Will Love Marriott's Pine Cliffs Resort in Portugal's Algarve Region
  • Portugal Hotels on Points for Families of 4
  • Go Here, Not There: European Cities Edition
  • The Best Bucket List Points Trips to Beach Destinations

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11 Portugal travel tips to know before you visit

Sometimes, the smallest countries can pack the biggest punch—and that is definitely the case when it comes to Portugal. This gem on the Iberian Peninsula has all the history, food, and views your travel-loving heart could desire, which makes it one of the top destinations to visit in the year ahead. (We’re not kidding—you should add one of our Portugal tours to your bucket list before everybody else catches on!)

To help you make the most of your trip, here are 11 Portugal travel tips to keep in mind before touching down on tour, straight from our expert staffers who have visited the country. Here’s one, just to kick us off: “Before I went to Portugal, I wish I knew it was going to be my favorite country out of the more than 20 countries I’ve visited in Europe!” said staffer Gustavo.

Sightseeing tips while visiting Portugal

streets of lisbon portugal

Discover Portugal on tour

View of Algarve Portugal

4.7 out of 5 stars

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4.5 out of 5 stars

Sweet red wine served in Porto Portugal

5 out of 5 stars

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4.6 out of 5 stars

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4.3 out of 5 stars

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More Portugal travel inspiration

coastal caves along the ocean in lagos portugal

The Discoveries Of

Portugal Travel Tips: 16+ Things You Need to Know Before Travelling to Portugal

Planning a trip to Portugal and wondering what to expect? This comprehensive guide has got you covered, including all the Portugal travel tips and tidbits you need to know before you go.

If you’ve been following my travels for some time now, you probably know how much I love visiting Portugal . 

I remember my first trip to Portugal (many moons ago). And I also remember asking questions like when should I visit? What do I need to get ready before I go? 

Well, guess what? That’s why I wrote this handy article about the dos and don’ts in Portugal.

You’re welcome. Read on to discover the things to know before visiting Portugal.

Top 5 Portugal Travel Tips

Convert your cash to euro and carry some with you.

euro

One thing I like to plan well ahead of any vacay is the logistics of paying for my travels. And while many places in Portugal accept credit cards, carrying cash is always a good idea.

The currency in Portugal is the Euro, so if you’re visiting from the USA or other countries around the world, you’ll want to keep this in mind.

One of the best things to know when travelling to Portugal is that you should always have cash in case a restaurant, cafe, or tour doesn’t accept credit cards. This is especially true if you’re eating at tiny, local spots – which you definitely should.

You can find a cash machine in all major cities and most small towns, but do yourself a favour and monitor your cash inventory daily, so you’re never left without enough.

Portugal Doesn’t Require Visa Entry for Many Travellers

Portugal Travel Guide and Travel Tips

One thing I love about Portugal (OK, there are many things I love about Portugal) is just how easy a Portugal trip is to plan.

If you live in the United States or a country that’s a member of the European Union (along with a few other destinations ), you won’t need to worry about a visa if you’re planning a Portugal holiday, as long as it’s under 90 days (in a 180-day timeframe).

Brush Up on Your Portuguese

Porto

Some people speak English in Portugal; however, the official language is Portuguese. So do yourself a favour and learn the basics before you go. You know, things like “hello,” “please,” and “thank you.” 

Consult a guidebook or good old Google Translate, especially while visiting secret spots in Alentejo and other regions that are less touristy and more rooted in local cultures, traditions, and language.

I found this helpful when visiting smaller villages and ordering food in one of my favourite winter sun destinations , Madeira.

It’s one of my travel tips for Portugal that I can’t emphasise enough, as even knowing a little of a country’s language can come in handy. And, if you’re lucky, you may learn some new favourite destinations from locals you meet along the way.

Best Time to Visit

Sao Bento Station Porto-3

Looking for helpful tips for Portugal travel? Time your holiday around the activities you want to do.

When is the best time to visit Portugal ? Some of the most valuable advice I can give you is to take a long look at exactly what you want to do while you’re visiting Portugal and decide what time of year you want to go based on the activities you plan to do. 

For example, if you plan to go hiking in Portugal, you’ll want to do your best to figure out if that region experiences scorching summers or harsh winter weather. 

Or, if you want to see the top landmarks in Portugal , you’ll want to plan many of them during shoulder season when it’s not as busy to avoid long queues and higher prices at hotels.

Is Portugal Safe to Visit?

Portugal

Anytime I plan a holiday to somewhere I haven’t been, I like to get a good idea of potential safety issues. So if you’re wondering how to travel safely in Portugal, we think alike.

Luckily, Portugal is a very safe place to visit. Aside from some basic precautions you’d likely take in any destination, there isn’t much to add for security measures when visiting Portugal. 

If you’re visiting bustling areas, keep your purse or wallet close, as pickpocketing may happen from time to time. Similarly, don’t store your valuables inside when renting a car if you want to remain on the safe side.

You don’t need me to tell you to use common sense, I know.

Travelling to Portugal: Tips You Need to Know Before You Go

Aveiro Portugal

Visiting Portugal is a lot more fun when you prepare ahead of time. Reading a few Portugal travel blog articles like this is a great start (good for you). So let’s consider a few necessary things before planning your Portugal holiday. 

How to Get to Your Hotel

When you arrive on your Portugal trip by aeroplane, train, or cruise, you may be wondering the best way to safely get to your hotel, especially if you’re travelling alone.

Portugal is generally a safe country to visit and travel around via taxi, private transfer, and rideshare.

While taxis are perfectly fine and generally safe, I prefer using rideshare in Portugal since there are a few options to choose from; it’s reliable and safe.

When to Book Your Room 

You can book your resort or hotel room for your Portugal trip about six months ahead of time and get some great rates while knowing you have a place to stay. But if you want to get the best deal, I’ve found some surprisingly great deals in Portugal by booking at the last minute, but this strategy isn’t for the faint of heart.

Check Hotel Rates and Book Accommodation on Booking.com

Buy a SIM Card Before You Travel

While you can use your cellphone provider through roaming charges, those fees can add up quickly. I like setting up my SIM card ahead of time, and MEO has some great choices at reasonable prices.

If you decide to wait until you arrive, no worries. You can purchase a SIM card around town, often starting at around €10 for 5GB. There’s even a kiosk at the Lisbon airport if you want to take care of it upon arrival, but you’ll pay a higher rate.

What to See in Portugal

Portugal 

If you’re travelling to Portugal for the first time, choosing your exact destinations and activities might feel a bit challenging. 

Not to worry, there are loads of cool things to do in Portugal .

The best advice I can give about what to see when you visit Portugal is to research ahead. Then you can choose which city you’re going to travel to and plan which landmarks, hikes, and events you plan to see in Portugal around your home base. 

Where to Stay on Your Portugal Trip

Portugal Itinerary

Honestly, there are so many brilliant locations to choose from that it’s hard to go wrong when deciding which destinations to add to your Portugal itinerary .

Determining where to stay in Portugal depends on what you want to see while you’re here. So let’s look at a few of my favourite locations to start your Portugal trip.

Most international travellers will likely begin their journey in Lisbon (which, by the way, is one of my favourite cities and the perfect place to begin your Portugal holiday).

It’s a location where you can find some of Portugal’s best music, food, museums, and hotels – so clear your schedule and add some time in Lisbon to your Portugal holiday.

Maria Pia Bridge Porto

Porto is home to incredible culture, cuisine, and architecture, which makes it no surprise it’s on my list of where to travel in 2023 . 

It’s also near dozens of brilliant day trips you can reach via car, private transfer, and guided tours, making Porto a perfect home base when visiting Portugal. 

The Algarve

Praia do Camilho

Travelling in Portugal is loaded with unique destinations, but the Algarve is easily one of my top choices for a Portugal holiday.

The Algarve is a great choice to experience local food, nightlife, hiking, and beaches in Portugal.

Plan to Have Some Time With No Plans

Algarve

One thing I love to do, especially when visiting Portugal, is to have some free time to explore locations on foot and see what surprises I can discover on my own

I’ve found some of the most exciting restaurants , live entertainment, and open-air markets by walking around Portugal with no agenda other than to learn about whichever area I’m visiting. I can’t recommend enough that you do the same when travelling in Portugal.

Bring a Plug Adaptor 

If you’re travelling from the USA, you’ll need a voltage and wall plug adaptor. 

I love this adapter as it’s compact and works nearly anywhere I go. But any Plug C or F adaptor will work just fine.

Do I Need an International Driver’s Permit?

You can use your driver’s licence if you’re travelling from the USA, UK, or Canada, but if you’re on holiday from anywhere else, you’ll want to get an IDP ahead of time.

Best Travel Tips for Portugal: Frequently Asked Questions 

Planning a trip to Portugal and stuck trying to prepare for it? Well, this guide is a great starting point.  Start by booking early and choosing off-peak seasons for the best rates. Also, schedule tickets or tours to any must-see landmarks or museums in advance to avoid waiting in line or, worse yet, finding out they’re closed on a day you intend to go.

Generally speaking, when you visit Portugal, I recommend you stick with common sense rules and behaviour you’d practise, well… anywhere.  Don’t get blackout drunk, attempt to speak the local language (it’s Portuguese, not Spanish) , and be patient and friendly when you’re interacting with others. You also want to avoid walking in unfamiliar areas late at night, but it’s safe to say that applies to just about anywhere you travel to.

Choosing what to pack for your Portugal trip depends on where and when you’re going. In the summer, you’ll want plenty of options for staying cool, whereas you’ll need some jackets and warmer gear in the winter. 

Read More Portugal Travel Guides

  • When’s the Best Time to Visit Portugal?
  • Where to Stay in Portugal
  • Unmissable Landmarks in Portugal
  • Brilliant Hikes in Portugal
  • Lisbon City Break Travel Guide
  • Visiting the Algarve: What to Know
  • Tipping in Portugal: Your Go-To Guide

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Portugal Travel Tips

I’m Julianna Barnaby - a professional travel writer and geek extraordinaire. I started The Discoveries Of to help you to discover the best of new destinations from around the world.

Discovering new places is a thrill - whether it’s close to home, a new country or continent, I write to help you explore more and explore differently.

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  • 14 Top Travel Tips For Portugal That’ll Help You Plan A Better & A More Hassle-Free Trip

23 Mar 2023

Portugal is a stunning travel destination for all the travel enthusiasts out there with its magnificent beaches, stunning cityscapes, welcoming locals, and the delicious European cuisine. If you are travelling to Portugal for the first time, you will definitely fall in love with the place. It has many beautiful destinations that are worth visiting and with these best travel tips for Portugal mentioned below, your trip to the country will surely be more enjoyable and convenient. Take a look at our list of travel tips to Portugal to make the most of your Portugal vacation!

14 Top Travel Tips To Portugal

These 14 best travel tips for Portugal will come in quite handy on your next EuroTrip. Take a look and do take notes for planning an impeccable vacation with your loved ones.

1. Travel out of peak season

Travel out of peak season

Image Source

Though June till September is the best time to visit Portugal, but the beautiful beaches and tourist attraction spots are usually overcrowded during this time of the year, so the best thing to do would be to visit Portugal during the shoulder season like autumn when the beaches are generally less crowded during these times and so you can enjoy a quiet time at the beaches and unwind yourself at peace.

Must Read: 9 Best Churches In Lisbon That’ll Make Your Portugal Holiday More Memorable

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2. Keep important documents

Keep important documents

Before travelling to Portugal make sure that your passport is up to date and you might need at least six months if you are visiting from any part out of EU. Also by Portuguese law, you always have to carry a photo ID like driver’s license with you while on your trip to Portugal. If you are a resident of EU then you are required to bring your European Health Insurance Card.

Suggested Read: A 2022 Guide To Help You Plan Your Portugal Honeymoon

3. Be cautious at the beach

Be cautious at the beach

Towns in Portugal like Ericeira, Peniche and Nazare re famous surf destinations and that is not for nothing. The beaches in these locations are popular for producing gigantic waves and some of them could be detrimentally large so much that they can even knock adults over. So while on these beaches practice precaution and keep an eye on your kids and not let them go very near the water edge.

Suggested Read: Azores Islands: A Handy Guide To This Nature’s Gorgeous Marvel In Portugal

4. Travel light to Lisbon

Travel light to Lisbon

While travelling to the beautiful capital city of Lisbon, Portugal travel tips to remember would be to wear comfy footwear. Now, this might seem a bit absurd but especially if you are visiting the beautiful hilly city of Lisbon, the streets are cobblestone lined which might create an unstable footing and also makes the roads quite slippery. Also you need to carry on most of your outings on foot so be sure the most comfortable pair your shoes.

Another pro tip for travelling to a major destination like Lisbon, pack light. Carrying around a cumbersome luggage with you can be quite tiring. You can find pretty much anything you need in Lisbon, so the good idea is to carry only a travel backpack with the bare essentials.

Suggested Read: 10 Gorgeous Portuguese Islands That One Should Visit In 2022

5. Vegetarians – beware of the soups

Vegetarians

Vegetarian options in Portugal restaurants are actually quite limited. You have to be prepared to eat a lot of salads. A very famous soup that you’ll find in many restaurant menu is ’Coldo Verde’ a very famous, tasty and traditional dish in the country. Although the soup is considered vegetarian and the waiters will also tell you the same but mostly there are a few chunks of sausage in the soup.

Suggested Read: Lisbon Nightlife: 10 Best Places To Enjoy Portugal Nights To The Fullest

6. Use sun protection

Use sun protection

If you are visiting Portugal, you are definitely going to visit the beaches. Whether you are strolling around the sand or laying on the beach or simply wandering around the cities, don’t forget to use a sun block, especially between 12 P.M to 3 P.M. This is the hottest time of the day and you need to protect yourself from the heated rays of the sun.

7. Brush up your Portuguese

Brush up your Portuguese

Although English is widely used in many regions of Portugal including Lisbon, Algarve and Porto, but it is not possible that every person that you come across in Portugal is versed in English and as you go outside from these major zones, you’ll fewer people speaking English. So, it is recommended that before you go travelling around Portugal, brush up on your Portuguese speaking skills.

Suggested Read: 5 Best Villas In Portugal That Will Add Stars To Your Holiday Experience

8. Check travel time duration between locations

Check travel time

If you are planning to visit more than one location it is necessary to check the travel time and distance between the locations that you visit. It doesn’t make sense to spend your entire holiday rushing between destinations due to improper knowledge of travel itinerary.

9. Portugal Money

Portugal Money

Money matters in Portugal and it is a great destination for budget travelling. There are ATMs in all the international airports in Portugal that that you can directly withdraw euros from. Credit cards are accepted in majority part of the country but the smaller outlets prefer taking cash only. Also keep note of the fact that every purchase that you make from your debit card will be charged, so it is necessary that you keep a tab on your expenses.

Suggested Read: 11 Best Places To Visit In Portugal, The Hidden Gem Of Europe

Safety

Although Portugal is one of the safest place around the globe, but it doesn’t harm to take some precautions and know where to ask for help. If you are need of any emergency medical service or contact the police, dial 211. It is Portugal’s equivalent of 911 and this number is also toll free and does not incur any charges.

11. Make use of your G.P.S

Make use of your G.P.S

Portugal is hands down a beautiful location to explore. But also you need to be prepared for getting lost in the midst of nowhere, especially people travelling from abroad countries, who are not used to driving on European roads and can easily be confused by the road signs and signals. G.P.S comes in handy in such situations as you can weave out of nowhere and find the road to your destination again.

Suggested Read: 14 Terrific Things To Do In Portugal To Soak In The Rich Portuguese Flavor

12. Choose transportation wisely

Choose transportation wisely

If you are on budget travelling, you have to make wise decisions while choosing the mode of transport for your travelling. While car rentals and other such transportation modes can be quite costly, you can opt for travelling via the rail routes that are relatively cheaper and save a lot of your money.

Suggested Read: 17 Spots For Snorkeling In Europe Every Underwater Enthusiast Must Visit In 2022

13. Dine like the locals

Dine like the locals

Portuguese cuisine is generally of very supreme quality and high value so you can without any doubt stick to and anything that is grown or made locally. Also the fish and seafood in Portugal are fresh and very fine. Not to mention the equally excellent local wine. So while in Portugal you can rely on the local Portuguese food and drinks to enjoy a good meal.

14. Plan at the best time

Plan at the best time

Although you can visit Portugal all throughout the year as per your preference but if you want to enjoy a lot of outdoor fun and hanging around the beaches then you should avoid visiting Portugal during the winter months. The best time to visit Portugal would be in the summer months between June to September when weather is warm and the ocean temperature is also relatively warm, so that you can enjoy your visit to Portugal to the fullest.

Further Read: 31 Festivals In Europe That Will Up The Fun Factor Of Your Euro Tour In 2022

Travelling to Portugal can turn out to be a very exciting and worthwhile experience. You can relax in the scenic beaches and roam around in the major cities exploring the beauty that the country is. So, make sure you take a note of these tips to plan a perfect Europe trip with TravelTriangle with your loved ones.

Disclaimer: TravelTriangle claims no credit for images featured on our blog site unless otherwise noted. All visual content is copyrighted to its respectful owners. We try to link back to original sources whenever possible. If you own the rights to any of the images, and do not wish them to appear on TravelTriangle, please contact us and they will be promptly removed. We believe in providing proper attribution to the original author, artist or photographer.

Please Note: Any information published by TravelTriangle in any form of content is not intended to be a substitute for any kind of medical advice, and one must not take any action before consulting a professional medical expert of their own choice.

Frequently Asked Questions About Travel Tips For Portugal

Which is the best time to visit Portugal?

The best time to visit Portugal is between March to June and September to November. During these times, you can enjoy warm weather, fewer crowds and great deals on flights and hotels.

Which are the best places to visit in Portugal?

Some of the popular places to visit in Portugal for an amazing vacation are: 1. Jeronimos Monastery 2. The Lisbon Oceanarium 3. News Museum 4. Porto Bridge 5. Cais da Ribeira

What should I know before traveling to Portugal?

A few useful things that you should know before traveling to Portugal are: 1. Don’t assume starters to be free 2. Prefer local food as they would be fresh, healthier and more inexpensive. 3. Prefer traveling during the shoulder season as you can get better deals on hotels and flights. 4. Not all vegetarian soups in Portugal are actually vegetarian and you can find small chunks of sausages in it.

Should you tip in Portugal?

You are under no obligation to tip in Portugal and is a matter of your choice. If you wish to tip the attending staff for the restaurant for their excellent service, a tip amount of 10% of the total bill is what would be expected as a tip.

Which are the places to avoid in Portugal?

Places such as Libson are where you can encounter drug dealers, and it’s advisable that you avoid any conversation or eye contact with them and if possible avoid visiting this place alone at night.

Is traveling in Portugal safe for solo female travelers?

Portugal is considered the safest place for solo travelers, and if you are planning to travel all alone, there you can be assured that you have nothing to worry as the crime rates in Portugal is petty low.

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Portugal Travel Tips

Located at the edge of Europe on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal is a small country with a long history. Today’s Portugal still carries the influence of those that settled it through the ages: Iberian tribes, Celtic peoples, the Roman Empire, Germanic kingdoms, Moors, and more. As such, it’s a varied and fascinating destination to add to your bucket list!

The Age of Exploration saw the small country of Portugal build a vast empire, with territories on five continents. Adventurers set off from the Cape of St. Vincent, once thought to be the end of the world, at Europe’s westernmost point. Centuries later, the Azores, Madeira, and Savage Islands remain as overseas territories.

For a such small country, Portugal offers a wealth to travelers: old European cities, diverse culinary traditions, distinctive art and architecture, and stunning landscapes. It’s also a remarkably easy country to travel in, with several international airports, a well-connected train system, and easy-to-navigate roads via car.

I recommend Portugal for every type of traveler. Families with kids are drawn to the Algarve’s beautiful beaches, while culture vultures love the bustling cities of Lisbon and Porto and the romantic castles of Sintra. I think Portugal is especially suited for new international travelers and solo travelers, with its excellent public transit system and low crime rate compared to other Europe destinations.

Portugal is one of my favorite places to travel. So whether you’re looking to experience its cities, soak up sun on its beaches, or dig into Portuguese culture, here are my top tips to help you make the most of this bucket-list destination.

This article contains affiliate links. If you click through and make a purchase, I might earn a commission, at no additional cost to you. Thanks for your support in this way! Learn more in my Disclosure Policy .

Top Portugal Destinations & Experiences

Need travel inspo? These are some of my top recommendations for adventures in Portugal.

  • Explore all the sights of Lisbon, the second-oldest European capital city
  • Figure out which of the beautiful Algarve beaches is your favorite (perhaps Carvoeiro or the beaches of Lagos )
  • Learn to surf at the beaches of Odeceixe or Bordeira
  • Become a connoisseur of Portuguese wine and Port in the Douro Valley towns of Lamego or Pinhao
  • Discover Roman ruins, Celtic megaliths, and a bone chapel ossuary in the Alentejo city of Evora
  • Stay in a 17th-century starfort turned boutique hotel in Tavira
  • Hike the famous Rota Vicentina, either short circular routes or longer trails
  • Try scrumptious pasteis de nata, or Portuguese custard tarts, in Lisbon
  • See fairytale castles in Sintra, Obidos , and Tomar
  • Journey back in time to the historical village of Piodao

Portugal Booking Resources

Need the best booking resources for your itinerary? Check out these links and read on for more detailed tips.

Portugal flights

Portugal Travel Basics

Portugal’s currency is the euro (€), The conversion rate of 1 euro is currently around 1.09 USD. (Need a currency app for your travels? My favorite is xe . )

As a general rule, water is safe to drink from the tap in Portugal. Consider bringing a portable water bottle to reduce plastic waste. ( I travel with this bottle that rolls up and has a caribiner clip.)

Power + Converter Plugs

The electrical system in Portugal is 230V supply voltage and 50Hz, the same as most other countries in Europe. Travelers from North America will need a Europe Type C outlet converter or Type C USB plug for their electronics. For things like hairdryers, straightening irons, and shavers, a voltage converter might also be needed to step down the electricity voltage. Electronics like laptops and cell phones typically do not need this; check the item to see if it is rated for dual voltage.

Entry Requirements

To enter, you will need a passport valid for at least 6 months after your departure date. Nationals of many countries can enter for tourism without a visa for up to 90 days; but be aware that you may only spend up to 90 days in any country in the Schengen Area during a 180-day period. Read more about that requirement here .

Getting Around

The easiest way to get around Portugal is by train and via bus . Public trams and buses in Lisbon and Porto are quite easy to navigate using Google Maps. In cities, it’s easier to use public transit and avoid the narrow streets and searching for parking. (A warning: parking signage is only in Portuguese and I once got towed in Porto – oops!)

But for trips to the countryside or visiting beaches, a car is best. I’ve booked my rental cars in Portugal with Zest — see below for tips. (And be aware, TripAdvisor forums are full of bad rental car stories.)

Driving in Portugal - rental cars

Car Rental in Portugal

Thinking of renting a car for your trip? I’ve driven in Portugal many times and find it relatively easy, except in cities where roads can be narrow and parking limited! Another issue is that car rental agencies sometimes try to add on extra fees at the pickup counter or damage charges at the end of your trip. My last few trips I’ve booked with Zest, a car rental aggregator, to find the best availability and pricing. It’s also another level of customer service in case of issues, plus the agencies want to keep their good star rating on the platform. Be sure to read recent reviews from other travelers about their experiences with individual companies, but Zest is the website that I use and recommend for renting cars in Portugal. ⫸ Search Portugal rental cars on Zest

Taxis and Uber

Taxis in Portugal are metered. Uber is very common in cities and inexpensive. The Bolt rideshare app is also used, although I find it slightly less reliable than Uber and you are not able to add a tip to your ride.

Tipping in Portugal is not like in the U.S., but rather more in line with customs in other European cities. In restaurants, it’s common to round up or add 5-10%; upscale restaurants might add a service charge (serviço) , so check your bill. I tipped a little more in Fado restaurants, where the waiter attended to us through the entire meal and show. It’s best to tip in cash to be sure the waiter gets it.

In hotels it’s common to tip bellhops €1 per bag and leave €1-2 per night to housekeeping staff. I usually tip taxi and Uber drivers, too, especially if they have helped with bags (round up or a few Euros depending on how light you travel!) .

If you have a tour guide for the day, you might tip €5-10 per person; be sure to tip free walking tour guides in particular. Portugal has one of the lowest minimum salaries in the EU, so tips can make a big difference and are appreciated by service providers.

Cash and ATMs

ATMs are widely available in Portugal, even in small towns. In Lisbon, there are ATMs after you exit international arrivals in the Lisbon Airport; but be aware that the exchange rate is high . Still, it’s best to get cash or change some bills for taxi fare and incidentals upon arrival or during transit at an exchange desk.

In most international airports, you can pay with US dollars in shops and restaurants and get local currency as change. I’ve done this when I want to get small bills for taxi tips.

The Haphazard Traveler Tip: I have found that in Portugal, the Multibanco ATMs have the lowest fees. I remember this because when I see “ M ulti b anco,” I think my bank. (Silly, but it works.)

I do not carry large amounts of cash when I travel – usually some US dollars and any local currency I have leftover from a past trip. I prefer to pay a little extra in bank fees to withdraw cash in local currency.

Most U.S. banks will charge an international transaction fee AND conversion fee per ATM withdrawal. For example, I use Bank of America at home, and pay a $5.00 foreign transaction fee and 3% currency conversion fee for ATM withdrawals.

The Haphazard Traveler Tip: ATMs and credit card machines might offer to let you pay in your home currency. While this sounds helpful, it’s kind of a scam! This will add an extra fee on top of any transaction fee or conversion fee that your bank charges. If you have a credit card that doesn’t charge for international transactions, it’s better to pay in local currency . Also, always decline ATM offers to convert currency for you ; your bank’s fee will generally be better. On the screen, it might appear that you are canceling the transaction, but you can proceed after declining the fee. Sometimes you even need to decline the conversion twice .

Credit Cards

Visa and Mastercard are commonly accepted in Portugal in hotels, grocery stores, gas stations, shops, and larger restaurants. I am often able to use Apple Pay in most places. Businesses in small towns and “mom and pop” type restaurants might not accept cards, though, due to the added fees. I also needed to pay cash at a few sights for entry tickets.

In general, at restaurants the server will bring an electronic credit card reader to your table to run the charge. I try to always have enough cash to cover my bill, though, just in case there is an issue with my card.

In Europe, most credit cards also have a PIN. My US credit cards have always worked without one, though.

If possible, I recommend using a credit card without international transaction fees. If you’re a somewhat regular flyer, getting an airline credit card that includes free bags and free international transactions can easily pay for the annual fee. Check out a card like the Chase United Visa.

Phones, WiFi, and Cell Coverage

Portugal’s main mobile service providers include MEO, Vodafone, and NOS. It’s possible to buy a prepaid SIM for these networks upon arrival; look for kiosks after exiting international arrivals in Lisbon. Good WiFi is generally available at hotels.

Many people are now using eSIMs too like Airalo now when they travel internationally.

Forte De Sao Joao Da Barra - Cabanas Tavira boutique hotel

Accommodations in Portugal

Travelers are spoiled for choice when it comes to places to stay in Portugal! It really is a country full of boutique hotels, charming farmstays, and upscale resorts with great reviews for friendly service.

Backpacking + Budget Hotels

Hostels are available in cities and some beach destinations, as well as along the Rota Vicentina hiking route. Expect to pay $20-50 per person, per night. Budget hotels and guestrooms can be found in smaller towns at the upper end of that range. Hostels generally offer free Wi-Fi, central locations, lounge areas, and a shared kitchen. I saw many young people camping in the Costa Vicentina region.

Mid-Range Hotels

Boutique hotels and mid-range stays will generally run from $75-150/night. A complimentary breakfast is usually included. In this range it’s possible to find stays in historic buildings that have been restored or repurposed as hotels.

For a truly unique hotel stay in Portugal, see my article on Forte de Sao Joao da Barra , a 17th-century star fort turned boutique hotel.

Luxury Hotels + Resorts

Portugal also has luxury hotels and upscale beach resorts. Expect to pay $200-400/night or more for luxury hotels. Amenities can include suites with balconies, spa, gym, a fine dining restaurant, and a swimming pool.

Recommended Booking Sites

I always book my hotels with Booking.com , because I can manage the reservation and changes (like adding an extra night!) via the app. For vacation rentals, I generally use VRBO for the best deals and inventory.

Portuguese coffee and pasteis de nata

Food in Portugal

Portuguese cuisine is one of the ways that the country’s history of exploration is still evident in its culture. Seafood and fish – especially cod – are the basis of coastal cuisines in Portugal, hardly a surprise in a land with over 1,000 miles of shoreline. Rice, bread, spices, pastries, sausages, and pork are other staples of Portuguese cooking.

Want to experience Portuguese cuisine on a guided walking tour in Lisbon with a local culinary expert? Try a morning Lisbon Food Tour or evening out on a Petiscos and Wine tour .

Some of the must-try foods in Portugal are:

  • Bacalhau: salted cod prepared in a variety of ways, including grilled, stewed, fried, baked into casseroles, and cooked with scrambled eggs and potatoes. It can be found on many restaurant menus, but Solar Do Bacalhau in Coimbra is considered one of the best bacalhau specialty restaurants in Portugal. (It probably won’t be as salty as you might expect, as it’s generally soaked to remove the excess salt.)
  • Pastel de Nata: even if you haven’t been to Portugal yet, you might have met its most famous pastry, a custard egg tart known as pastel de nata . Tarts originating at the bakery Antiga Confeitaria de Belém are a protected recipe known as pastel de Belém . It’s said to have been kept under lock and key by the monks at the nearby UNESCO-listed Jerónimos Monastery and passed down since 1837. Anywhere you find them, pastel de nata are a rush of sweet, creamy custard inside a flaky pastry shell, finished off with a sprinkle of cinnamon. My favorite place to get them is late-night in Lisbon at Manteigaria after Fado and drinks in the Bairro Alto neighborhood.
  • Porco Prieto: Iberian-native black pigs ( porco preto ) are descendants of pigs originally brought to the peninsula by the Phoenicians.  Their meat is prepared many ways today, from charcuterie to fatty grilled secretos and in sausages as enchidos .
  • Fish and seafood: As you might expect from a country with this much coast, there are many Portuguese dishes based on seafood and fish, including grilled octopus, seafood with rice, seafood stew, and sardines. If you’re in Tavira , I recommend heading to Noelia & Jeronimo for fresh seafood – it was so good, we ate there twice during our short stay. Tinned sardines are also a popular souvenir: you’ll see entire shops devoted to them in Lisbon!
  • Francesinha: If you’re in Porto and want to hasten a heart attack, a dish known as Francesinha (“Little Frenchie”) is a local favorite. It’s made from cured ham, sausage, roast beef, melted cheese, and a fried egg, all served on thick bread and covered with a hot tomato and beer sauce. Oh, with a side of french fries, of course. I don’t even know how I first heard about it, but I definitely wolfed down an entire plate at Lado B and lived to tell the tale.

Port wine - wine and drinks in Portugal

Drinks in Portugal

A country that loves food as much as Portugal must also have good drinks to go along with it! Be sure to try some of these during your visit. (Or all, really. I vote all!)

  • Ginja: Locals will tell you this is a tourist thing, but it’s so fun, who cares? Ginja , also known as  ginjinha , is a traditional sour cherry liqueur. You’ll see it served all around bars in Lisbon, either in small shot glasses or in small edible chocolate cups. For a true experience, try it at A Ginjinha just off Rossio Square. You’ll know you’re in the right place when your shoes stick to the pavement outside. Traveling solo? Buy a few extra shots and make friends. (Disclaimer: watch for pits in the cherries and pickpockets that might try to give you a small gift as a distraction.)
  • Port: If you didn’t have Port in Portugal, did you even go? Head to Porto and take a tour of one of the port houses, with a stop in their tasting room afterwards. Or if you know you want to visit particular port house, you can often make a reservation ahead of time on their website to ensure an English tour. If you can’t decide on just one, book a walking tour that includes several port houses with an experienced guide. (Pro tip: Remember that port is fortified wine and has a higher alcohol content, around 20% — which seems even higher when cobblestone streets are also involved. Oops again!)
  • Vinho verde: This doesn’t refer to the color of the wine, but rather wine that is drunk young, just a few months after bottling. It’s popular served chilled in summer and has a light, spritzy taste.
  • Wine from the Douro Valley: The Douro Valley is where port is made, but the region produced wine long before that. It’s actually the oldest recognized region to do so as far back as Roman times, and is a designated a UNESCO World Heritage Site . You’ll find red and white wine including up to 80 different grapes. Plan to stay longer than just a day trip with my guide to the quaint towns of Lamego and Pinhao .
  • Port & tonic: My last trip to Lisbon, everyone was drinking porto tonic , including me. It’s exactly what it sounds like it is: replace the gin in a gin and tonic with red or white port wine. It’s most popularly made with white port and a garnish of lemon. They’re super refreshing!
  • Coffee: Be sure to have a coffee along with your pastel de nata. Like many European cities, Portugal has a cafe culture, and you’ll find one on nearly every block.

view of Praia de Carvoeiro

When to Visit Portugal

The best times to visit Portugal are spring (March – May), when the country comes to life after winter. I like to visit in fall (September – October) when the days are still sunny and warm, and the tourist rush is over. If you visit in the summer, it’s likely to be quite warm, especially in central Portugal. Definitely add in a stop at some beaches if you visit then!

For avid surfers, fall and winter can be a good time to visit the Costa Vicentina for the best waves. The waters along the Atlantic Coast remain warm into autumn.

What to Pack | Packing Tips for Portugal

Portugal is less dressed-up than some other European countries. In the cities here, people are rather casually chic. Bring a mix of comfortable clothing and a few “smart casual” options for nicer dinners out. It’s definitely a country where you’ll want to pack as light as possible, especially if traveling by train. I’d recommend a bag with sturdy inline wheels, since the cobblestone streets and hilly sidewalks are often uneven.

Be sure to bring a hat and sunscreen, an anti-theft backpack or cross-body bag for cities, and several pair of comfortable walking shoes. (Seriously, bring flats even for dinners out – remember there’s likely to be port involved!) If visiting in the winter months, also pack a warmer waterproof jacket/windbreaker and umbrella.

Pharmacies are often closed in the evenings and on Sundays, so be sure to bring along basic medicines as well as prescriptions.

a view of a narrow street in Tavira with pink flowers

Safety Tips for Portugal & Solo Travel

Portugal is considered one of the overall safest countries in Europe, in the #2 position right behind Iceland. The overall risk to travelers in Portugal is quite low.

The most common crime tourists experience is pickpocketing in cities, transit hubs, and busy areas. Use commonsense safety practices and be aware of your surroundings. Also keep an eye out for posted notices; the No. 28 tourist tram in Lisbon has many signs that warn about pickpockets.

In one of my Lisbon hotel stays, other travelers had a break-in at their room while they were out. This isn’t common, but be sure to lock passports and valuables in your room safe.

In restaurants, don’t leave purses over the back of your chair. Instead, keep them in your lap or on the ground with the strap through your chair leg, especially if dining outside.

I find traveling solo very easy in Portugal. Public transit is reliable and safe. Unlike some countries, no one has ever approached me in Portugal to sell me anything or bother me at all!

Portugal Tours

Want to visit portugal, but not sure where to begin.

Adventure travel tours are a great way to travel solo, on a budget, or to new destinations. In fact, I credit small-group tours with Intrepid Travel and G Adventures for making me into the traveler I am today! If you’re not sure that adventure travel tours are for you, be sure to read my guide here . (Spoiler: they are!)

  • Check out Portugal travel itineraries from G Adventures
  • See trips from Intrepid Travel
  • Atlas Obscura offers a few departures of Lisbon culinary trips
  • Experience Portuguese cuisine on a guided walking tour in Lisbon with a local culinary expert with a morning Lisbon Food Tour or evening out on a Petiscos and Wine tour .

Day Trips & Unique Experiences

If you’re looking for guided day trips in Portugal, I recommend Viator , Get Your Guide , and Airbnb Experiences . I’ve used all three and appreciate being able to read reviews and book and manage my reservations online with these sites. I find Airbnb Experiences in particular to offer unique local cultural experiences.

Be Sure to Read All My Portugal Travel Guides

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Best Lagos, Portugal Beaches: Visit Tips and Activities Guide

Carvoeiro Portugal - travel guide

Carvoeiro, Portugal: The Prettiest Beach Town in Algarve

Tomar Portugal

Ultimate Guide to Tomar, Portugal: History, Sights + Secrets Revealed

Magical Piodao Portugal schist village

Piodao, Portugal | A Visit to the Historical Village of Piodao

Vintage House Hotel - Pinhao Portugal

Pinhao, Portugal: Explore the Heart of the Douro Valley

Lamego Portugal - Douro Valley Hidden Gem

Lamego, Portugal: Hidden Gem in the Douro Valley

Things to do in Obidos Portugal

Visiting Obidos, Portugal: Things to Do + Travel Guide

Odeceixe Portugal - Odeceixe Mar village

Odeceixe, Portugal: Seaside Village + Hidden Beach Retreat

Sunset at Praia da Bordeira

Praia da Bordeira: Escape to the Wild and Beautiful Bordeira Beach

Forte De Sao Joao Da Barra - Cabanas Tavira boutique hotel

Forte De Sao Joao Da Barra: Algarve Boutique Hotel

photo of Praia do Camilo beach in Lagos Portugal

Best Algarve Beaches: 10 Stunning Beaches Of Portugal’s Algarve

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Chapel of Bones Evora, Portugal + San Francisco Church & Nativities

Tavira Portugal Things to Do

Tavira, Portugal: Things to Do & Travel Guide

Evora Portugal Things to Do

Things To Do in Evora, Portugal: Visiting Portugal’s Museum City

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PORTUGAL TRAVEL GUIDE

Plan your trip to portugal, choose a destination.

Portugal is an awesome place to travel to if you want to visit cities with a lot of character, spectacular beaches and towns with charming castles. Portugal is a perfect destination to do a road trip from north to south or to visit some of the country’s major cities or regions. In addition, it is one of the most affordable countries in Western Europe.

Get ready to marvel at the beautiful cities of Porto and Lisbon. Have fun discovering incredible palaces, such as Palacio da Pena and Quinta da Regaleira. And be amazed by the amazing beaches of the Algarve. All this while you have fun with friendly Portuguese people and delight in the amazing gastronomy. Be sure to try Port wine and Pastéis de Belém.

Portuguese.

BEST TIME TO VISIT

Spring and autumn.

TRAVEL TO PORTUGAL

viajar descuentos

In this Portugal travel guide you’ll find all my blog posts with information about the country. Thanks to the information and my experiences that’ll share with you, you’ll be able to plan your trip to Portugal.

PLACES TO VISIT IN PORTUGAL

Tips for every destination.

Lisbon and Porto are the two most visited cities in Portugal. Both cities are amazing in their unique way. Fátima, Braga, Aveiro, Óbidos, Coimbra and Sintra are all places that get their share amount of visitors.

Algarve is one of Portugal’s main tourist attractions. Its incredible beaches and cliffs attract tourist year round. If you are a nature lover, you must visit Peneda-Gerês National Park and Douro Valley.

The Azores Islands and Madeira are Portuguese territories in the Atlantic Ocean. All these islands are volcanic and have a very wild nature. You can expect to see incredible cliffs, waterfalls, coastlines and laurel forests.

Below you can find my published blog posts about the different areas of Portugal.

Algarve is one of the places that you must visit on your trip to Portugal, especially if you are looking for dreamy beaches. The Algarve’s coast has a 205 kilometer-long coastline with incredible cliffs and large beaches. Some beaches have calm waters and others with plenty of waves.

If you are going to visit Algarve, you must visit places like Portimão, Lagos, Sagres, Tavira, Faro and Silves. As for nature, I recommend visiting Praia de Dona Ana, Praia do Camilo, Praia da Marinha, Cueva de Benagil and Praia da Falesia. Don’t forget to enjoy a sunset at Cabo San Vicente.

HOTELS IN ALGARVE

Tours in algarve.

Its viewpoints with incredible views, local markets full of life and delicious pastéis de Belém, make Lisbon a very interesting city to visit. Located near the Tagus River, the capital of Portugal hides endless plans and places to see.

Some of the best places to visit in Lisbon are Plaza de Comercio, Lisbon Cathedral, Carmo Convent, Monument to the Discoveries, Castle of São Jorge, Belém Tower, Jerónimos de Belém Monastery, Time Out Market Lisbon, April 15th Bridge and Santa Lucía Viewpoint.

HOTELS IN LISBON

Tours in lisbon.

I recommend visiting Madeira if you are looking for a combination of rigged coast and mountains. It is an archipelago located in the Atlantic Ocean, with two inhabited islands, Madeira and Porto Santo, and several smaller uninhabited islands. They are all volcanic islands. In addition, the island of Madeira has a mountainous massif with a 1,862 meter high peak.

The island of Madeira offers several fun plans for those seeking adventure. Some of the places that should be part of your itinerary are Porto Moniz, Funchal, Praia da Calheta, Paul Do Mar, São Vicente, Madeira Natural Park, Cascada do Risco, Ponta do Rosto Viewpoint, Porto Santo, the Forest Laurisilva of Madeira, etc.

HOTELS IN MADEIRA

Tours in madeira.

que ver en oporto en 2 dias

Very few cities are as old and beautiful as Porto. This town in the north of Portugal has a lot to offer its visitors. From the magical atmosphere near the Douro River to the exquisite wine tastings in Vila Nova de Gaia wineries. Porto is a unique city and I am sure you will love it.

Some of the best places to visit in Porto are São Bento Station, Don Luis I Bridge, Clérigos Tower, Porto Cathedral, Chapel of the Souls, Church of San Ildefonso and Avenida dos Aliados. I am sure you will have a great time strolling through the magical streets of Porto while you discover stunning spots.

HOTELS IN PORTO

Tours in porto.

Travels With Elle

30 Lisbon Travel Tips To Make Your Trip So Much Better

L isbon, the capital city of Portugal, is one of the best places on Earth. This vibrant, colorful destination — a bit reminiscent of San Francisco in its better days — has so much to offer visitors!

From its rich history and laidback culture to its stunning architecture and delicious seaside cuisine, Lisbon is a city that is sure to captivate and inspire you to come back time and time again.

As with any travel destination, there are certain things to keep in mind when planning your trip to make the most of your experience.

In this post, I will share a handful of my lessons learned and travel tips for Lisbon to make your trip that much better. Whether you’re a first-time visitor or a seasoned traveler, these tips will help you navigate the city like a pro, help you save time and money, and ensure that you have an unforgettable experience in an even more unforgettable destination!

From where to eat and drink to how to get around and what to see, I’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into all the travel tip goodness.

This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!

LISBON IN A NUTSHELL

Here’s a quick overview of all the useful info you need to plan an awesome trip!

  • When To Go : March – May or September – October. During these shoulder season months, the weather is pleasant (cooler than in the summer), hotel rates are cheaper, and you’ll find far fewer crowds than during the summer.
  • Goodnight Hostel ($) – the best hostel in Lisbon! Comes with super spacious rooms and free breakfast as well.
  • Palácio das Especiarias ($$)- modern boutique hotel in an old palace
  • Solar dos Poetas ($$) – best for a cozy yet luxurious guesthouse experience
  • Nearest Airport : Humberto Delgado Airport (LIS)
  • How to Get Around : Public transportation or rideshare — both are super affordable compared to other European countries.
  • Must-Do’s : visit the historic Jeronimos Monastery , explore the charming Alfama neighborhood, day trip to Sintra , and try the local cuisine such as pastel de nata, bacalhau, bifana sandwich, and seafood!
  • Before You Go : Lisbon has so much good food. Make a list of all the restaurants you want to dine at — and try to make reservations for them so you can guarantee your seat!
  • ‘Hello’ and ‘Thank You’ in Portuguese : “olá” (hello) and “obrigado” (thank you) when addressing a man or “obrigada” (thank you) when addressing a woman
  • Currency : the euro (€) – click for current conversion rates

30 LISBON TRAVEL TIPS TO MAKE YOUR TRIP SO MUCH BETTER

1. everything airport-related takes longer, especially if you’re used to using tsa precheck. .

Be prepared for longer lines and wait times at Lisbon airport. This airport gets BUSY. We arrived into LIS on a Sunday, and throngs of people were everywhere — it was truly shocking how many people were walking around the airport.

Sure, it’s a Sunday, one of the busiest days of any airport. But when we left on a Wednesday, we were faced with not crowds, but long and slow security check lines! If you’re someone who’s used to getting through a security check line in under 10 minutes, this will NOT be your experience in Lisbon.

Just to me safe, I’d allocate at least an hour to get through security. Make sure you arrive early for your flight and have all your documents and boarding passes ready!

If you need some time to buy or swap out the SIM card in your phone, allocate some time to do that by showing up 10-15 minutes earlier than you intended.

2. Expect cobblestones, so be prepared with your footwear and luggage. 

Lisbon is known for its charming cobblestone streets, but they can be challenging to navigate with heavy luggage or inadequate footwear. Expect uneven tiles with gaps between them… if that sounds like a rolling suitcase nightmare, it is.

After about 3 minutes of rolling your suitcase on Lisbon’s cobblestoned roads, you’re going to be regretting your choice of luggage and telling yourself “RIP suitcase wheels”!

If you’re getting picked up and dropped off door-to-door from the airport to the hotel and vice versa, then feel free to use whatever luggage you choose! But if you’re going to be taking public transportation and have some long distances to walk with your suitcase, then I hope you have strong arms!

After about 30 seconds of rolling my luggage on the cobblestones, I decided to just carry my carry-on the whole way to the hotel. Never making that mistake again!

Be sure to wear comfortable shoes with good traction and consider packing a travel backpack or rolling suitcase with extra sturdy wheels (or at least a good warranty!).

Read more: 10 Best Carry-On Travel Bags For Your Next Trip

3. The currency of Portugal is the Euro (€). 

While most establishments take credit cards, it’s best to carry along with you a little cash for those smaller vendors who don’t take card.

4. Portuguese is the official language of Portugal but you should have no problem getting by with just English. 

You’ll find that most people speak at least a little English.

5. Traveling during the winter/shoulder season? Bring the right shoes for rain.

When packing footwear, you should pack a pair of comfortable shoes to walk around in, as well as a pair of boots in case there is rain in the forecast.

The one pair of shoes that kills two birds with one stone for me? For both guys and gals, I’d highly recommend getting a pair of  Blundstone boots !

These shoes are so comfortable — I find that I can wear them walking around town on a sunny day, on light hiking trails, and even in the rainiest conditions. They’re so, so, so versatile! Don’t forget to pack a thick pair of socks to pair with your boots!

If snow and rain are not in the forecast, then you can go with regular walking shoes.

My all-time favorite travel shoes these days are the tried and true  Ecco Soft 7  (they’re stylish, comfortable, and have been raved about for decades since they were first created)! The best part is that they have them for both  men  and  women .

The sole support on these is great for Europe travel — you’re not going to be feeling each and every rock under your foot if you happen to be walking on cobblestoned streets!

6. Be prepared for some steep hills and stairs when exploring Lisbon.

But don’t worry as there are plenty of lookout points to take in the view and catch your breath! Chances are, everyone else around you is probably also out of breath.

7. Tram #28 is especially popular with tourists, so it can be quite crowded.

On certain days in the high season, there can even be wait times to board at over an hour. If you want to try out the tram, aim to hop on board one of the earlier trams of the day. The early bird gets the worm!

Not only will you get the figurative worm, aka a seat on the tram, but you’ll also have a much more peaceful experience with fewer people chattering on board!

8. Portugal has a fairly low crime rate but you should still be vigilant. 

Portugal, including Lisbon, has a relatively low crime rate compared to other European cities. However, as with any big city, it is important to take precautions to protect yourself and your belongings.

One of the most common types of crime in Lisbon is pickpocketing, especially in crowded areas such as tourist attractions, public transportation, and busy shopping streets. To avoid becoming a victim of pickpocketing, keep your valuables (credit cards, ID, money, and phone), in a secure location such as a money belt or a cross-body bag.

Avoid carrying large amounts of cash and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Pickpocketing can be common in trams, particularly on Tram 28.

Read More: 10 Best Anti-Theft Travel Bags For Your Next Vacation

9. Many tourist attractions are closed on Mondays.

This is a common practice throughout Portugal, with many museums, monuments, and other attractions choosing to close on Mondays for maintenance and cleaning.

Some of the popular tourist sites that are closed on Mondays in Lisbon include the National Museum of Ancient Art, the National Coach Museum, and the Berardo Collection Museum. Other attractions, such as the Belem Tower and the Jeronimos Monastery, are open on Mondays but may have reduced hours or limited access.

With this in mind, plan your itinerary accordingly! Consider visiting attractions that are open on Mondays, such as the Lisbon Oceanarium or the Calouste Gulbenkian Museum.

10. Take elevators to Alfama instead of walking up the hills.

Alfama is a historic neighborhood in Lisbon known for its steep hills and narrow streets. Tourists who aren’t in the know will probably end up walking up alllll the steep inclines to get there.

To save yourself from a strenuous climb, take the free public elevators that are available in the area. Taking the right elevators can help you skip what feels like 7+ flights of stairs!

How to get up to Alfama by elevator : At the Baixa-Chiado metro station, walk straight across Baixa (toward Alfama, away from Chiado) until you can’t go further. Go inside the blue building that houses a set of public elevators. When you get off at the top, cross the street and turn left.

Head for Pingo Doce (the grocery store). Inside the Pingo Doce building, you will see elevators. Take them as far up as they go. From there, you’re pretty close to Alfama!

11. Buy a Viva Viagem card and load it with the carris to save money on rides.

Lisbon’s metro, buses and trams are among the cheapest in Europe, making them affordable ways to help you explore the city.

To use any means of public transportation, you’ll need to buy a Viva Viagem card. The Viva Viagem card is a quick and easy way to pay for rides on public transportation in Lisbon. It’s basically a reloadable card that contains all your tickets or transportation funds on there.

By opting for the 10-ticket carris instead of just loading your card with 1 ticket, your ticket price goes from €2 per ride to €1.65 per ride.

12. Rideshare like Bolt, Uber, and Freenow are super affordable.

The bus and metro are great, but sometimes you just want to get somewhere without having to do any walking or making a ton of extra stops. That’s where the convenience of rideshare comes in!

Rideshare services are a convenient and affordable way to get around Lisbon, especially if you’re traveling in a group or want to get somewhere quickly.

To give you a sense of how affordable it is, our ride from town to the LIS airport via Bolt came out to €4 (about $5 USD). Our rides around town were also never really more than €3 either. What. A. Steal! 

Especially since we were a group of 4 — each ride was basically €1 each, which is cheaper than what it would have cost us all to ride the metro.

For reference, the metro/bus cost to get from the airport to our hotel was €1.65. An extra couple of euros spent to save time and effort of lugging your suitcases to the bus/metro stop? 100% worth it!

13. If you’re planning to get by with public transportation, do note bus end times.

Buses don’t run all night long and there is such a thing as “the last bus of the night” here. If you’re going to be out and about late at night, then you’ll want to pay attention to bus end times.

If anything, you can always rely on the metro to get you closer to where you want to go. However, if your destination is not covered by the metro, then taking rideshare is a great option as well because it’s super cheap!

14. Buy a Lisboa Card to save money on attractions.

The Lisboa Card is a great way to save money and make the most of your time in Lisbon. This card offers free admission to over 37 museums and attractions in the city, as well as free public transportation on buses, trams, and metro trains.

The Lisboa Card is available in different durations, ranging from 24 hours to 72 hours, and can be purchased online or at various locations throughout the city. The card also comes with a guidebook and map, which can be helpful for planning your itinerary and navigating the city!

Some of the top attractions included with the Lisboa Card are the Belem Tower, the Jeronimos Monastery, the National Tile Museum, the Lisbon Zoo, and the Lisbon Oceanarium. The card also offers discounts on tours, restaurants, and other activities, making it a great value for travelers who plan on doing a lot of sightseeing.

In addition to the cost savings, the Lisboa Card can also save you time by allowing you to skip the ticket lines at many popular attractions. This can be especially helpful during peak tourist season when lines can be long.

During our last trip, we had only one day planned for sightseeing at paid attractions, while the other remaining days were reserved for walking around, sampling foods, and taking day trips out of Lisbon.

With our 24-hour Lisboa Card , we did the following:

  • National Coach Museum
  • Jerónimos Monastery
  • Belém Tower
  • ride around town with the Lisboa card – unlimited for 24 hours!
  • Museu Nacional do Azulejo (National Tile Museum) the next morning before the 24 hours were up!

We definitely got our money’s worth with the 24-hour pass!

15. Get your timed entry Pena Palace tickets ahead of time.

If you wait until the day-of to buy your ticket there, you might have a long wait ahead of you. That’s because admission is time-based. This means if all the time slots for your arrival time have already been sold out, you’ll be given the next available time slot, which could be 1-2 hours after you’ve already arrived.

To avoid long lines and unnecessary wait times, purchase your tickets for Pena Palace online ahead of time. This will help ensure that you get to see the palace at your desired time slot. No time wasted — easy in, easy out!

16. If you’re traveling outside of the summer season, bring warm clothes to Sintra.

Sintra can be significantly cooler than Lisbon, especially during the off-season. Be sure to bring warm clothing and dress in layers to stay comfortable. If the clouds and the fog are rolling through, it’ll feel a lot colder when the sun isn’t shining directly on you. 

17. For nightlife, go to Barrio Alto or Pink Street.

For night owls or people looking for a lively nightlife scene in Lisbon, two popular neighborhoods to grab drinks, party, and dance are Barrio Alto and Pink Street (or Rua Nova do Carvalho) .

Barrio Alto is home to a wide range of bars, restaurants, and nightclubs, catering to all tastes and budgets. Visitors can enjoy live music, DJ sets, and dancing until the early hours of the morning. Some popular bars in Barrio Alto include Pavilhão Chinês, Foxtrot, and A Capela. Round out the night with a gyro sandwich!

Rua Nova do Carvalho, is another nightlife destination located in the Cais do Sodré neighborhood. The street is known for its pink-colored pavement and is home to several bars and nightclubs. If you can, try to enjoy live music, dancing, and drinks at venues such as Pensão Amor, Musicbox, and Tokyo Bar.

Note: These areas can get quite crowded and noisy, especially on weekends and holidays! Be prepared to be chest-to-chest with people in some venues!

18. Make time to eat at a tasca and try local Portuguese food. 

Tasca is a Portuguese word for a small, casual restaurant that serves traditional food. These restaurants are a great way to try local cuisine and get a taste of the local culture.

There are lots of options within the city of Lisbon, but by far my favorite restaurant is Tasca Do Teimoso . This little restaurant is run by a duo comprised of a son and a mom. The son does all the cooking while his mother is doing all the serving and hosting!

They only take a set number of reservations per day, and when that quota is met, they turn everyone else away! Be sure to make reservations ahead of time if you want the chance to dine in here! The food was so good. I’m still dreaming about their beef cheek dish…

19. Bring cash if you plan on eating at tascas. 

Not all of them accept card, so be prepared with some cash money on hand to pay for your meal.

20. Make reservations for sit-down restaurants ahead of time.

This goes for any big city with a thriving food scene! Making reservations at restaurants you actually have on your travel itinerary will save you so much time and guarantee you get to eat at all the spots on your list.

I’ve seen my fair share of people getting turned away at smaller, more intimate tascas due to capacity constraints! 

21. Be aware of the couvert charge.

In many restaurants in Lisbon, it is common to be served a small appetizer called “couvert” before your meal. This may include items such as bread, olives, and cheese. While couvert is not usually expensive, it can add up if you are charged for it at every meal.

If you don’t want to be charged for couvert, one practice is to move it to the side of your table and not touch it during your meal. This signals to the server that you do not want to be charged for it. It is important to note that this practice may not be well-known or accepted in all restaurants, so it is always a good idea to ask your server if you are unsure.

Another option is to simply decline the couvert when it is offered. You can politely tell your server that you do not want it, and they will usually remove it from your table without charging you.

It is also worth noting that some restaurants in Lisbon may include couvert in the price of your meal, especially if it is a traditional or upscale dining experience. In these cases, it is unlikely that you will be able to avoid the charge.

22. Tipping is not mandatory in Portugal, but it is appreciated.

Tipping is not mandatory in Portugal, but it is considered a polite gesture to show appreciation for good service. While it is not expected, leaving a tip is a common practice in many restaurants, cafes, and bars throughout Lisbon.

In general, the amount of the tip is up to the customer and depends on the level of service received. A typical tip in Lisbon is around 5-10% of the total bill, but some people may leave more or less depending on the situation. It is also common to round up the bill to the nearest euro or leave small change as a tip.

It is important to note that some restaurants in Lisbon may include a service charge, or “serviço,” in the bill. This is usually around 10%, and it is not necessary to leave an additional tip in these cases.

If you do choose to leave a tip, it is best to do so in cash rather than adding it to the credit card payment. This ensures that the tip goes directly to the server and is not subject to any additional fees or processing time.

23. If you’re in a car, don’t speed and wear your seatbelts.

If you plan to rent a car or take a tour that involves traveling by car in Lisbon, it is important to follow all traffic laws and regulations. This includes wearing your seatbelt at all times and not exceeding the speed limit.

The Portuguese National Republican Guard, or GNR, is responsible for enforcing traffic laws and ensuring the safety of drivers and passengers on the road. They may conduct random checks of vehicles to ensure that all passengers are wearing seatbelts and that the driver is not exceeding the speed limit.

In fact, this is exactly what happened to our group when we were on a full-day tour outside of Lisbon. All of the members of my group were wearing seatbelts when the GNR pulled us over, but the rest of the tour members were not so lucky! All four of them ended up getting ticketed and find €120 per person!

What a steep price for not being vigilant and wearing a seatbelt in a car!

If you are pulled over by the GNR, it is important to remain calm and cooperative. They may ask to see your driver’s license, vehicle registration, and proof of insurance. If you are found to be in violation of any traffic laws, you may be subject to fines or other penalties.

To avoid getting pulled over by the GNR, it is important to obey all traffic laws and regulations. This includes staying within the speed limit, using turn signals when changing lanes or turning, and yielding to pedestrians and other vehicles when necessary.

24. Bring a bottle of water with you while out and about.

Bottled water can be expensive in Lisbon, so consider bringing a reusable water bottle with you to refill throughout the day.

Like most of Europe, bottles of water cost nearly as much as beer!

25. Wandering around on foot is the best way to see art all over Lisbon. 

The city is home to a vibrant art scene, with street art, galleries, museums, and installations scattered throughout its neighborhoods.

You’ll honestly find artwork all over the place (including all kinds of tile artwork unique to Portugal), so be sure to stop and enjoy these free sights!

One of the best places to start your art walk is in the Alfama neighborhood. You can explore the neighborhood’s many art galleries, including the Galeria de Arte Urbana and the Underdogs Gallery, which showcase some of the city’s best street art and contemporary art.

Another great neighborhood to explore on foot is the Chiado district. This trendy area is home to several art galleries, including the Bertrand Gallery and the Chiado 8 Contemporary Art Museum.

For those interested in public art, the Parque das Nações neighborhood is a must-visit. This modern area is home to several large-scale installations, including the Vasco da Gama Bridge and the Gare do Oriente train station. 

26. If you have the time, take a day trip out of Lisbon.

Taking a day trip out of Lisbon is a great way to see more of Portugal and experience different parts of the country. There are several destinations that are easily accessible from Lisbon and make for great day trips.

One popular day trip destination is Sintra , a charming town located about 30 minutes from Lisbon by train. Sintra is known for its beautiful palaces and castles, including the stunning Pena Palace and the Moorish Castle. Visitors can also explore the town’s historic center and enjoy the local cuisine.

Another popular day trip destination is Cascais , a coastal town located about 40 minutes from Lisbon by train. Cascais is known for its beautiful beaches, charming marina, and historic center. Visitors can stroll along the promenade, explore the town’s museums and galleries, or simply relax on the beach.

For those interested in wine, a day trip to the Douro Valley is a must. This region is known for its world-class wine and stunning scenery, with terraced vineyards and picturesque villages dotting the landscape. Visitors can take a guided tour of the vineyards and wineries, sample the local wine, and enjoy a traditional Portuguese lunch.

Other day trip destinations from Lisbon include the historic city of Évora , the fishing village of Setúbal , and the medieval town of Óbidos . Évora and Óbidos are some of my favorite destinations in Portugal!

27. Try the local ginjinha at least once.

Ginjinha is a traditional Portuguese liqueur made from sour cherries, sugar, and alcohol. It is a popular drink in Lisbon and can be found in bars and cafes throughout the city! When in Lisbon, you have to try at least one!

Ginjinha is typically served at room temperature or slightly chilled, and it has a sweet and slightly tart flavor. It is often served as a digestif after a meal, but it can also be enjoyed as an aperitif or as a refreshing drink on a hot day.

One of the best places to try ginjinha in Lisbon is at A Ginjinha, a historic bar located in the Rossio neighborhood. This bar has been serving ginjinha since 1840 and is a popular spot for locals and tourists alike. You’ll also find a ton of locals selling ginja in the Alfama area.

Don’t forget to say YES to the chocolate cup that it comes in!

28. Visit the local markets.

Visiting the local markets and food halls in Lisbon is a great way to experience the city’s vibrant food culture and sample some of its best local products.

One of the most popular food halls in Lisbon is the Mercado da Ribeira , also known as the Time Out Market . This historic market has been transformed into a trendy food hall, featuring some of Lisbon’s best restaurants and food vendors. You can find anything from handmade pastas, seafood dishes, local Portuguese entrees, and even pasteis de nata from Manteigaria .

Another popular market is the Mercado de Campo de Ourique , located in the Campo de Ourique neighborhood. This beautifully refurbished market features a mix of food stalls and artisanal shops, selling everything from fresh produce to handmade crafts. You can enjoy a meal at one of the market’s many restaurants or take a cooking class to learn how to make traditional Portuguese dishes!

The Mercado de Alvalade is another popular market located in the Alvalade neighborhood. It was once featured by Anthony Bourdain in his show “No Reservations”. This market specializes in fresh produce, with vendors selling everything from fruits and vegetables to flowers and herbs. While you’re perusing, you can also find a wide range of local products, including cheese, wine, and olive oil.

Other markets worth visiting in Lisbon include the Mercado de Santa Clara , known for its antiques and vintage goods, and the Feira da Ladra , a popular flea market held on Tuesdays and Saturdays.

29. Soak in the views at the miradouros.

Because of how hilly the city is, Lisbon is known for its stunning viewpoints, or miradouros , which offer panoramic views of the city. Some popular ones include Miradouro de Santa Luzia and Miradouro da Senhora do Monte.

The  Miradouro da Senhora do Monte  is hands-down the best place in Lisbon to catch a sunset. During sunset, it gets pretty lively as other locals and tourists gather to enjoy the views. You can even expect drink vendors and live music on occasion.

From the  Miradouro de São Pedro de Alcántara  (vista point), you’ll enjoy postcard-perfect views of Baixa, the Tagus River, and the São Jorge Castle on a hill.

30. Food and coffee are so much more affordable than in the USA / other parts of Western Europe.

One of the great things about traveling to Lisbon is that food and drink are much more affordable than in the USA. Whether you’re looking for a quick snack, a sit-down meal, or a cup of coffee, you’ll find that prices in Lisbon are generally lower than what you might be used to back home.

For example, a traditional Portuguese pastry called pastel de nata, which is a must-try when visiting Lisbon, typically costs around 1.25 euro (or less) at a local bakery. A sandwich or a salad at a casual cafe or bakery can cost between 3 to 5 euros. A sit-down meal at a mid-range restaurant can cost between 10 to 20 euros per person, depending on the type of cuisine and location.

In terms of coffee, a single espresso shot at a local cafe can cost as little as 0.60 euros. A cappuccino or latte typically costs between 1.20 to 2.50 euros, depending on the location.

This definitely beats the $6 cappuccinos of California or New York!

LISBON TRAVEL INSURANCE

This is a no-brainer. When traveling internationally, be sure to get yourself some travel insurance.

I’ve heard of too many unfortunate experiences where friends and family have had baggage lost/stolen, hotels canceled, or have had unexpected medical emergencies while traveling where they’ve had to cut their trips short.

True story alert — in 2022, my partner even had his shoulder completely dislocated while surfing in Mexico, resulting in a $950 USD emergency room bill that we had to pay out of pocket for! Not fun and not cheap.

Without travel insurance, you would have to pay out of pocket for these mishaps. This is why I get travel insurance for all my international trips now!

One of the best budget-friendly travel insurances for those traveling outside their home country is  SafetyWing .

SafetyWing Insurance provides coverage for unexpected illness or injury, including eligible expenses for hospital, doctor or prescription drugs. This means that if you get ill or injured, they will cover the medical expenses.

In addition, it provides emergency travel-related benefits such as emergency medical evacuation (much needed if you like to go hiking / trekking in the wild), travel delay, and lost checked luggage.

Click here to price out how much travel insurance would be for your trip .

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS: LISBON TRAVEL

Is lisbon safe.

The short answer is yes; Lisbon is considered to be an exceptionally safe city, especially when compared to other popular European destinations.

The crime rate in Lisbon is low compared to other major cities and most visitors report feeling safe while they are there. I’ve been to Lisbon twice and I’ve never encountered anything sketchy, other than the peddlers who try to sell you friendship bracelets by trying to tie them on your wrist as you pass them by!

Having said that, you should still take standard travel safety precautions such as being aware of your surroundings, not walking alone at night, and avoiding secluded areas.

And as with any major metropolitan city, pickpocketing can occur in tourist hotspots like on public transportation or near monuments. To avoid this potential issue, it’s best to keep your belongings in an  anti-theft travel bag , keep them close by, and always remain vigilant when out exploring the city.

With that in mind, you should have an enjoyable and safe experience while visiting Lisbon!

IS LISBON EXPENSIVE?

When compared with other major cities in Europe, Lisbon is definitely not expensive. I’d say Lisbon is cheaper than cities like Paris, Milan, and Rome, but more expensive than cities like Prague, Budapest, and Krakow.

A cup of coffee rarely costs more than 1 euro, and wine/beer is not too much more expensive. And on the food side, local Portuguese food is very high quality  and  inexpensive.

While you can certainly rack up some hefty expenses in Lisbon, such as accommodation costs and dining out at higher-end restaurants, there are also plenty of ways to explore this vibrant city without breaking the bank.

In fact, many activities can be done for free or very low cost – walking around the streets of Alfama, taking free walking tours around the city, exploring Parque das Nações, or enjoying free admission to paid attractions with a  Lisboa Card !

If you’re trying to do Lisbon on a budget, shopping at local markets, staying at hostels, and eating at cafés or casual counter-service restaurants can also help keep your costs down.

IS LISBON HILLY?

The answer is both yes and no, depending on where in Lisbon you are.

Lisbon does contain several hills, including many steep cobbled streets in its old quarter. However, for the most part, the streets are quite flat. This makes it easy to explore on foot or by bike without having to worry about tiring yourself out too quickly with all the inclines!

In some parts of Lisbon, you may come across quite hilly climbs, but this isn’t true for every area as there are plenty of parks and waterfront districts which offer great views without too much effort.

If you plan on taking public transport then don’t worry either; many buses and trams can make their way up steep hills with ease!

Looking for more Lisbon travel tips? You may also like:

  • 50 Fun Things To Do In Lisbon, Portugal
  • Where To Stay In Lisbon: 5 Best Areas To Consider
  • 3 Days In Lisbon: A Detailed Itinerary For What To See, Do, and Eat
  • The Ultimate Guide To Getting Around Lisbon By Public Transportation
  • How I Traveled Europe For 3 Months For Under $8,000
  • 50 Brilliant Ways To Travel Europe On A Budget

My Favorite Travel Booking Resources

These are my favorite companies to use when planning out a new trip itinerary. The sites/companies listed here typically have the best overall value, offer deals, beat out other competitors, and offer great customer service when needed.

  • DEAL ALERT! Use code ‘travelswithelle’ for 10% off WayAway Plus.
  • Booking.com | Honestly, this is my go-to accommodation booking site. This site has free cancellation and no prepayment required on reservations which is huge for me. It also has amazing abilities to filter accommodation options by rating and price. Honestly, it’s shaved off so many hours of endless research for me and has made booking hotels and other accommodations a breeze.
  • Viator | Viator is a huge online marketplace for all things tours and excursions. They have tons of tour options available in cities all around the world, including everything from cooking classes, ATV tours, sailing trips, walking tours, hot air ballooning, and more.
  • Go City | Go City offers great value-for-the-money attraction passes in various destinations around the world. Whenever I want to play tourist in a city, I always check to see if Go City operates in that city. The money you can save with this pass is unreal (as opposed to buying admission tickets for various attractions separately).
  • Bookaway | This is my go-to transportation resource when I’m traveling to lesser-known destinations and need to figure out how to get from point A to point B. Bookaway is super useful when you have absolutely no idea how to get around between cities or even between countries! Just type in your starting point and destination and it’ll show you options on how to get there by train, bus, ferry & more – as well as allow you to book your transportation right then and there!
  • SafetyWing | SafetyWing is by far one of the best travel medical insurance for travelers as they’ve got a large network and offer both short-term and long-term coverage. They have cheap monthly plans, great customer service, and an easy-to-use claims process that makes it perfect for those heading abroad.

Lisbon, the capital city of Portugal, is one of the best places on Earth. This vibrant, colorful destination — a bit reminiscent of San Francisco in its better days — has so much to offer visitors! From its rich history and laidback culture to its ... Read more

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Lisbon travel guide 2024: Discover the best things to do, places to visit, stay and eat with tips in Portugal's vibrant capital

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Lisbon travel guide 2024: Discover the best things to do, places to visit, stay and eat with tips in Portugal's vibrant capital Kindle Edition

Welcome to our comprehensive 2024 travel guide to Lisbon, your ultimate companion to exploring Portugal's vibrant capital city! Whether you're a first-time visitor or returning for another round of pasteis de nata and fado music, we have everything you need to make the most of your trip.

Our guide includes detailed descriptions of Lisbon's top attractions, such as the historic Belem Tower, stunning Jeronimos Monastery, and breathtaking views from Miradouro da Senhora do Monte. We also highlight off-the-beaten-path neighborhoods like Alfama, Belem, and Baxia where you can experience authentic Portuguese culture, cuisine, and hospitality.

But there's so much more to Lisbon than just sightseeing. That's why we've packed our guide full of practical advice on how to get around by scanning the QR Codes for directions on where to stay, what to eat, and how to navigate the local customs and language barriers. With step-by-step instructions and helpful tips to help you feel confident and comfortable during your travels. Everything is up to date

So whether you're planning a romantic weekend escape, a family vacation, or a solo adventure, let us be your trusted partner in discovering the magic of Lisbon. Order now and start dreaming about your next unforgettable journey to one of Europe's most captivating cities!

  • Print length 226 pages
  • Language English
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  • Publication date February 13, 2024
  • File size 33459 KB
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Product details

  • ASIN ‏ : ‎ B0CVNRSR2R
  • Publication date ‏ : ‎ February 13, 2024
  • Language ‏ : ‎ English
  • File size ‏ : ‎ 33459 KB
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  • Text-to-Speech ‏ : ‎ Enabled
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  • Sticky notes ‏ : ‎ On Kindle Scribe
  • Print length ‏ : ‎ 226 pages
  • #51 in Lisbon Travel Guides
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In 2024, Portugal, a nation rich in religious, historical, and cultural days will experience a series of national public holidays recognized by the government. These holidays play a crucial role in the Portuguese calendar.

The general rule is that every worker is entitled to 22 working days off for vacation. However, with public holidays that might lead to extended weekends, you can maximize your time off. 

Keep in mind that not only do you get days off, but expect shops and businesses to be closed as well. Moreover, Portugal’s public holidays, known as feriados , come with an interesting twist.

Unlike in some other countries, if a holiday falls on a Sunday, it doesn’t extend to the following Monday. The country features a range of both mandatory and optional holidays, with some being celebrated nationwide and others holding regional importance.

Let’s explore the list of national public holidays set for 2024. 

Nationwide Public Holidays 2024

  • January 1: The first day of the year, on a Monday.
  • February 13: Carnival Tuesday, and businesses might still decree a “ponte” (bridge) where Monday is also off.
  • March 29: Saint Friday
  • March 31: Easter Sunday 
  • April 25: Carnation Revolution, celebrated this year on a Thursday
  • May 1: Labour Day, which falls on a Wednesday
  • May 30: Corpus Christi Day on a Thursday
  • June 10: Camōes Day on a Monday
  • August 15: Day of the Assumption of Our Lady, the only holiday in August which falls on Thursday
  • October 5: Republic Day on Saturday
  • November 1: Day of All Saints on Friday, allowing for a long weekend
  • December 1: Restauration for Independence Day
  • December 8: Day of the Immaculate Conception
  • December 25: Christmas Day on a Wednesday

Local June Holidays

In the month of June, many cities in Portugal celebrate public holidays related to Catholic saints. These lead to celebrations all over the country, often known as Santos Populares. 

June 13: Lisbon’s Saint Anthony Day on Thursday

June 24: Saint John’s Day in Porto, Braga, and Tavira

June 29: Saint Peter’s Day in Évora

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Portugal. The Man: The Knik Country Tour

tips to travel to portugal

May 07, 2024 Time: 8pm

Region: Downtown

Address: 601 East Truman Road, Kansas City, MO 64106

Get Directions

Phone: 816-205-8560 Visit Website Send Email

Related Organization: The Truman

Over the past decade, Portugal. The Man has established themselves as one of rock’s most prized possessions and a live phenomenon, with over 1,600 shows under their belts and a storied reputation as festival favorites.

Originally heralding from Alaska, the Portland-based band soared to new heights in 2017 with the release of their now RIAA certified-Platinum album, Woodstock. The album was marked by the astounding success of their infectious single, “Feel It Still,” which earned the group a plethora of new accolades – including a GRAMMY for “Best Pop Duo/Group Performance,” a 7x RIAA Platinum certification, a record setting 20-week residency at #1 on alternative radio, and an inescapable presence on the Top 40 airwaves.

Alongside the shine of their myriad of musical accomplishments lies the group’s long-standing passion for social justice. In fact, this is precisely the intersection in which Portugal. The Man thrives; throughout their career, the band has consistently exemplified how to deeply commit to both artistry and activism. This ultimately inspired them to officially launch PTM Foundation in 2020, focused on universal issues related to human rights, community health, and the environment, with an emphasis on causes directly impacting Indigenous Peoples, including Alaska Native Health (providing the highest quality of health services for Alaska Native people) and Seeding Sovereignty (radicalizing and disrupting colonized spaces through land, body, food sovereignty work and more).

Portugal. The Man have also partnered with an array of organizations such as National Coalition Against Censorship, The Skatepark Project (helping communities build public skate parks for youth in underserved communities), March for Our Lives (Gun Reform), Keep Oregon Well (Mental Health), and Protect Our Winters (Climate Change), to name just a few. In 2022, the band furthered their passion for activism when they launched PTM’s NIGHT OUT initiative – supporting disabled fans requiring ADA access.

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