What to know before visiting Portugal

In recent years, Portugal has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world. Travelers come to Portugal to experience our culture and history but also to enjoy the beautiful beaches, delicious cuisine, and warm weather.

This article will explore everything you need to know before traveling to Portugal. To help you better understand, we have organized the article into the topics that most tourists ask about Portugal, including the best destinations, the people, the food, the costs, security, and how to travel in Portugal.

We want to make your next trip to Portugal an experience that will not be forgotten! So, let’s answer the question of what to know before traveling to Portugal.

What to know about Portugal and the Portuguese

Where is Portugal

Portugal is located in Southwest Europe, on the Iberian Peninsula, occupying the western part of it. Thus, Portugal only shares borders with Spain (to the North and East) and is bathed by the Atlantic Ocean to the West and South.

The Azores and Madeira, located in the North Atlantic, are also part of the Portuguese Republic. The Azores are an archipelago composed of nine islands (all inhabited), while Madeira is formed by two main inhabited islands and three more uninhabited ones, called Ilhas Desertas. Portugal also claims the Selvagens islands, but they are a natural reserve with no inhabitants.

Things to known before visiting Portugal
Beautiful coastal village – Azenhas do Mar Sintra, Portugal

About the Portuguese

Portugal has a population of around 10 million, with the coast being much richer and more populated than the interior. Historically, Portugal has always been a country facing the sea.

Lisbon is the capital and the largest city, and its metropolitan area has almost 3 million inhabitants. Porto is the second largest, with less than 2 million, and all other cities are much smaller.

The Portuguese population is quite homogeneous, with no major cultural, linguistic, religious, or racial differences across the country. Nevertheless, a major influx of foreigners in recent years may change this reality.

Portugal trave guide
Nazarenes with traditional costumes

What language to speak in Portugal

The official language in Portugal is Portuguese, and the entire population speaks Portuguese.

An interesting and fun fact about Portugal is that Portuguese is one of the most spoken languages in the world. It is considered the 9th most spoken language in the world and the 5th with the most native speakers.

So if you speak Portuguese, you won’t have any problems in Portugal, and the Portuguese love it when foreigners try to speak their language.

Those who don’t speak Portuguese won’t have big problems communicating either, as a good part of the population speaks at least a few words in English. In addition, any Portuguese person can understand quite a few Spanish words with some effort.

In this regard, younger people speak foreign languages better, and people involved in tourism often speak several languages, including English, French, and Spanish.

Everything about Portugal
View of the Pena Palace from the Moorish Castle with one of the old Portuguese flags.

How are the Portuguese

The Portuguese are known to be naturally very welcoming to tourists. Portugal is a relaxed and informal country with people who are usually very friendly with foreigners.

Tourists shouldn’t have problems communicating and interacting in Portugal if they are also friendly. The Portuguese are very understanding and patient and are used to dealing with tourists.

There are no big faux pas in Portugal, although many people don’t like to confuse Portugal with Spain or Portuguese with Spanish. There is also a slight rivalry between the North and South and Porto and Lisbon, but it doesn’t go beyond that.

Portugal travel tips
Póvoa Beach in the North of Portugal

Tourists in Portugal

As originally said, Portugal has been trending recently and becoming one of the most popular tourist destinations. However, Portugal has long been a well-known destination and is, therefore, quite used to dealing with tourists.

In 2019, Portugal received around 16 million foreign tourists, with the majority being European, with the Spaniards at the top (about 3 million). In addition to Europeans, Brazilians, Americans, and Chinese are the other nationalities in the top 10.

After the COVID restrictions, the number of tourists reached values similar (but slightly lower) to those of 2019 in 2022.

Lisbon, Algarve, and the North (mainly Porto) are the most popular tourist regions.

Things to know about traveling to Portugal
Famous square in Lisbon- Praça do Comercio

Weather in Portugal

Portugal is characterized by a Mediterranean and temperate climate with very distinct seasons. Winters are humid, rainy, and colder, while summers are hot, sunny, and dry.

It is also easy to notice that the north is globally cooler and wetter, and the south is warmer and drier throughout the year. Also, the interior has more extreme temperatures; the summer is hotter and the winter colder than on the coast.

On the west coast (from north to south), a fresh northerly wind is usual, especially in summer.

The sea water is much warmer on the south coast of the Algarve than on the west coast, which also warms up from north to south. However, due to the wind, the west coast of Portugal suffers from upwelling, and therefore, the sea water is colder than expected.

It is rare to snow in Portugal and even rarer on the coast. When snow does fall, it is usually on the mountain peaks, especially in Serra da Estrela. Apart from Serra da Estrela, where snow accumulates, it is rare for snow to remain for more than a few days.

beautiful beach in Peniche
Famous surf beach in Portugal – Superturbos Beach in Peniche

What is the best time to travel to Portugal?

If we only consider the climate, the best time to travel in Portugal would be in the summer. However, this is also the high season, and therefore, the best attractions and monuments tend to be overcrowded.

During the summer, Algarve, Lisbon, Porto, and Sintra (and a few others) tend to be full of tourists, so the experience may not be as pleasant.

In these places, it will be much more pleasant to travel in the intermediate season, that is, in April, May, and June, and then in September and October. Early September will probably be ideal for going to the beach.

On the other hand, if you plan to travel mainly to less touristy areas, you will probably not have big problems with overcrowding, even in summer. You’ll see quite a few tourists, but nothing special.

Finally, if you travel in the low season of winter, you risk getting a lot of rain (especially in the North), but you will have much fewer tourists.

Therefore, the best time to travel in Portugal is a balance between the best climate (summer) and the number of tourists (July and August are the busiest times).

Portugal travel costs
The University of Coimbra in Portugal is one of the oldest in Europe

Is it safe to travel to Portugal?

Yes, in general, it is very safe to travel in Portugal. As Portuguese people who travel constantly in Portugal, we never have any kind of problem, and this is an issue that we don’t even think about on a day-to-day basis or when planning to travel in Portugal.

Schemes and scams involving tourists happen everywhere, and Portugal is no exception. More violent crimes are indeed very rare.

Thus, most travelers to Portugal will never suffer any kind of threat to their security. However, it is always advisable to pay attention to areas with more people and more tourists, such as near large monuments or on public transport.

Is it safe to travel to Portugal?
Almourol Templar Castle in Portugal

What to visit in Portugal?

One of the reasons for Portugal’s popularity is that the country has the most varied tourist attractions spread across the country.

We usually divide the country by regions (North, Centre, Lisbon, Alentejo, Algarve, Madeira, and Azores). Therefore, we will use this same structure to explore what each region has to offer.

Northern Portugal

The North of Portugal is a very mountainous and green region due to the rains that are felt mainly in winter and spring. Porto is the largest city and the one that attracts the most tourists, but there are many other attractions in this region, such as:

  • Peneda-Gerês National Park – the only national park in Portugal and a region not to be missed for lovers of hiking, waterfalls, and rural tourism.
  • Braga – a beautiful historic city known for its churches and sanctuaries.
  • Guimarães – the birthplace of Portugal, and with a historic center that is a UNESCO Heritage Site.
  • Viana do Castelo – a beautiful coastal town, very pleasant to visit in summer.
  • Vila do Conde – beach town with a historic center and riverside area. Great for visiting by public transport from Porto.

Despite not being famous for its beaches, northern Portugal has many quality beaches. The water is cold, but the sand is nice and less crowded.

Click here to see all our articles about Northern Portugal

where to go in Portugal
Homem River Waterfall Peneda-Gerês National Park

Center

The central region of Portugal is sometimes a secret only the Portuguese know. Despite this, its popularity is increasing, and foreigners are increasingly traveling there.

This region also has a very mountainous interior, where the highest point in Portugal is located, Serra da Estrela. Check the best attractions of Serra da Estrela.

  • Paiva walkways – By far the most famous and popular walkways in Portugal. If you like outdoor walks, these are walkways not to be missed.
  • Coimbra – the city of the famous university is also the most important in the region. It has loads of things to see and do.
  • Aveiro – a city known for its canals, typical boats, art-deco, and egg sweets.
  • Peniche and Nazaré – are both known for their beautiful beaches and extraordinary surf. Peniche is also the starting point for the fabulous Berlengas Islands.
  • UNESCO Heritage – the western region has three fabulous monuments, all of which are UNESCO heritage: The Convent of Christ in Tomar, the Monastery of Batalha, and the Monastery of Alcobaça.

Click here to see all our articles about Centro Region

everything to know about traveling to Portugal
Colorful houses of Costa Nova in Aveiro, Portugal

Lisbon

Lisbon is not only Portugal’s largest city and capital but also the region that attracts the most tourists. The center of Lisbon is absolutely fabulous, full of monuments and historic buildings. The streets with Portuguese pavement and tiled houses make the city unique and attractive for tourists.

However, the Lisbon region also has other points of interest, such as:

  • Sintra – a historic village full of palaces, palaces, and castles. It is one of the most popular tourist destinations in Portugal.
  • Cascais – sunny city by the sea. One of the most pleasant places in the country.
  • Mafra – The Palace, Basilica, Convent, and Gardens of Mafra are UNESCO heritage.
  • Beaches – although Lisbon itself has no beaches, the region has some of the best beaches in the country.

Click here to see all our articles about Lisbon Region

beautiful panoramic view of Lisbon
Portas do Sol Viewpoint in Lisbon

Alentejo

Alentejo is located between the Tagus River and the Algarve, a vast and sparsely populated region. It is known for its expansive plains and agricultural production, namely olive oil, wine, and black pig. It is important to note that the interior of Alentejo is incredibly hot in summer.

Alentejo is one of the regions that tourists visit least often. However, it also has many interesting attractions, such as:

  • Évora – It is the main city of Alentejo. It is full of monuments ranging from a Roman temple to its beautiful university. The historic center is a UNESCO heritage site.
  • Elvas – traditional and historic Alentejo town located near the border. Its fortifications built over hundreds of years are UNESCO heritage.
  • Alqueva – Largest dam and artificial lake in Portugal. Great for water sports.
  • Castelo de Vide and Marvão – two beautiful typical Alentejo villages known for their castles and white houses.
  • Alentejo Coast – The Alentejo Coast has gained popularity recently, and with good reason. The beaches are fabulous and much less developed than in the Algarve. See the best beaches in Alentejo.

Click here to see all our articles about Alentejo

Marvão is one of the most underrated destinations in Alentejo
The impressive castle of Marvão in Alentejo

Algarve

Despite receiving fewer tourists than Lisbon, the Algarve is considered the most touristic region in Portugal.

It is known for its beautiful beaches and the country’s warmest sea water. It’s a region with hotels and resorts to suit all tastes and is especially popular with those looking for the beach, good weather, and nightlife.

Check here the best beaches in the Algarve.

Despite that, it has a lot more to offer than just that:

  • The fishermen’s trail crosses the Alentejo and Algarve coasts to Lagos.
  • Lagos – is perhaps the most historically important city and is therefore especially interesting as it combines beautiful beaches with a center full of history and charm.
  • Silves – an inner city known for its beautiful castle and Muslim past.
  • Algar de Benagil – one of Portugal’s most famous natural monuments– is a unique cave and one of the country’s postcards.
  • Ria Formosa – a natural reserve formed by channels and islands. Here you will find white sand beaches and one of the warmest waters in Portugal.
  • Cabo de São Vicente and Ponta de Sagres – the most southwestern part of Europe, with high cliffs and rough seas. It’s very beautiful.

Click here to see all our articles about the Algarve

Algar de Benagil, one of the most famous attractions in Portugal
Famous Algar de Benagil in the Algarve | photo by cristovao via Depositphotos

Madeira

The Madeira archipelago is formed by the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo. Due to the great year-round weather, this region is very popular with tourists and people looking to move to Portugal.

The island of Madeira is very mountainous, and despite the spectacular weather, it is not known for its beaches. In fact, there are very few beaches on the island. Porto Santo is much smaller but has a fabulous 8-km beach.

Some of Madeira’s attractions are:

  • Laurel forest – native wood forest and one of the world’s last examples of this type of forest. That is why it is considered a relic and is a UNESCO natural heritage site.
  • Levadas – irrigation canals or aqueducts flanked by a pedestrian path. There are hundreds of kilometers of levadas in Madeira, and many are open to the public. They are some of the best hikes in Portugal.
  • Waterfalls – the rain and the relief make Madeira have immense waterfalls. Check out some of the most beautiful waterfalls in Madeira.
  • Funchal – the largest city and capital of Madeira, is full of monuments and interesting attractions.
  • Carreiros do Monte – unique transport that goes from Monte almost to Funchal. Today it is a tourist attraction, but in the past, it was how people used to go to Funchal.

Click here to see all our articles about Madeira

Madeira is a fabulous destination in Europe
Miradouro dos Balcões Madeira Portugal

Azores

The Azores are a group of 9 islands, each with unique characteristics and attractions. We could write an entire website just about each island’s attractions, curiosities, and characteristics.

The Azores’ islands are volcanic, and therefore, there is a lot of volcanic activity on them, from streams of hot water to petrified lava.

The main island of the Azores is S. Miguel, where almost all tourists start, but there is much more to explore. Some of the best things to see and do in the Azores are:

  • Lagoa das Sete Cidades – Fabulous divided lagoon, in which one part has blue water and the other green water
  • Pico Mountain – The highest point in Portugal, with 2351 meters of altitude.
  • Ilhéu de Vila Franca – One of the most beautiful places in Portugal – a small island with a crescent shape and interior creates an almost closed lagoon.
  • Flores Island – the whole island is fabulous, with waterfalls, lakes, and forests. The only problem (or is it an advantage?) is being so remote.
  • Algar do Carvão – volcanic chimney 90 meters deep located on Terceira Island.
  • Angra do Heroísmo – another UNESCO heritage city center in Portugal.
Things to know before going to Portugal
Lagoon of the seven cities São Miguel in the Azores in Portugal | photo by javarman via Depositphotos

What to eat in Portugal

Although Portuguese cuisine is not as famous as Italian, Spanish, or French, it has gained popularity recently.

Travel Portugal - what to eat? Grilled sardines
Grilled Sardines, one of the traditional foods of Portugal

About Portuguese food

The most traditional Portuguese food is quite heavy, especially in the north and interior of the country. However, on the coast, we have many typical dishes based on fish and seafood, such as grilled fish, seafood rice, clams à Bolhão Pato, etc.

One important thing to know about food in Portugal is that, in addition to the typical national dishes, there are a lot of regional dishes. Alentejo food differs from Porto and Northern Food, and coastal food differs from the mountains.

The most striking element of Portuguese cuisine is probably cod. There is an immense history of cod in Portugal, and it is said that there are hundreds of recipes. Consequently, it is very difficult to choose the best one. As it is an ingredient rarely used in other cuisines, it became a distinctive culinary experience for anyone traveling to Portugal.

Another ingredient that is used and abused in Portugal is olive oil. Portugal is a great producer of olive oil, most of which is of excellent quality. Finally, we have to mention that Portuguese bread is also excellent.

what to eat when visiting Portugal
Bacalhau à Brás one of the most typical dishes of Portugal

Main dishes of Portuguese cuisine

Some of the main dishes we recommend trying in Portugal include:

  • Cozido à Portuguesa – a popular from north to south. It is a heavy Sunday dish as it includes several types of meat.
  • Feijoada à transmontana – Typical dish from the interior of northern Portugal made with red beans and various meats and vegetables.
  • Francesinha – Typical Porto dish consisting of a meat and sausage sandwich with sauce on top and fries.
  • Carne de Porco Alentejana – fried pork meat served with clams and diced fried potatoes.
  • Migas à Alentejana – A typical Alentejo dish made with two fabulous regional ingredients, black pork meat and Alentejo bread.
  • Polvo à Lagareiro – an octopus dish in which it is cooked and then grilled. Served with copious amounts of olive oil and accompanied with punched potatoes.
  • Bolhão Pato clams – Clams cooked in olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper until tender. Delicious with bread on the side.
  • Arroz de Marisco – rice made with various types of seafood (shrimp, clams, crab, lobster, mussels, cockles). Recipes vary a lot, but one of the fundamental characteristics is that the rice is very moist.

And, of course, the various types of codfish. Check out our 15 favorite codfish recipes here.

best foods in Portugal
Francesinha is one of the obligatory dishes to eat in Porto, Portugal

Desserts

Portugal is also known for having some of the best desserts and pastries. Some of the ones we recommend trying are:

  • Pastel de Nata – the most famous pastry in Portugal
  • Pudding Abade de Priscos – a very special silky pudding from Braga
  • Pão de Ló – Cake made with lots of egg yolks, flour, and sugar. It can be more or less humid.
  • Cream milk – Sweet made with milk, egg, and flour. It’s a Portuguese version of Crème brûlée
  • Doce de ovo e ovo moles (egg candy) – sweets made with only egg yolk and sugar. Egg candy is also used in many other cakes and pastries.
  • Pão de Rala – Sweet based on eggs and almonds, typical of the Alentejo.
  • Sericaia – Alentejo dessert made with flour and egg.
  • Queijadas – small pastries made with cheese. There are many different varieties and types of queijadas, from Sintra, Évora, and even Graciosa (Azores).

And then, of course, we have all the other convent sweets. These are typical in Portugal and have a curious origin and history. If you are thinking of traveling to Portugal for Christmas, there is another type of sweet to try, the Portuguese Christmas sweets.

everything you need to know to enjoy Portugal the most
The best Portuguese sweet – Pastel de Nata

Drinks in Portugal

Wines

One of the things Portugal is known for is its wines. The most famous internationally is undoubtedly Port wine, produced in the fabulous Douro Valley.

This is a liqueur wine with a high alcohol content as it receives the addition of brandy during the production process. It is mainly enjoyed as a dessert or an aperitif.

In addition to Port wine, there are many other wines and wine regions in Portugal, some of which are already well-known internationally, such as Madeira wine, Alentejo wine, and Verde wine.

wines to try in a trip to Portugal
Red Verde Wine, Portugal

Coffee

The Portuguese love to drink coffee, especially espressos. Portugal has a huge coffee culture, but it mostly revolves around espressos.

In Portugal, a coffee is an espresso. If you want any other type of coffee, such as meia de leite, cappuccino, or galão, you should ask for it specifically. If you order a coffee, you will invariably get an espresso.

If you like coffee and milk drinks, we suggest you try the Portuguese “meia de Leite” and “galão.” The galão is a drink served in a tall glass and made with espresso and hot milk, while the “meia de leite” is similar but served in a large cup. Since the cup holds about half of the milk in the gallon, the name was meia de leite, meaning half milk.

What to drink when visiting Portugal
Espresso with a Pastel de Nata

Is it possible to drink tap water in Portugal?

Yes, tap water in Portugal is suitable for human consumption; it does not need to be filtered or domestic equipment for water treatment.

How to travel in Portugal

Portugal has excellent infrastructure for tourists, and it is perfectly possible to visit the country by public transport, car, or using a mixture of both.

Madeira Portugal travel
Monte Madeira trails, Portugal

Public transport in Portugal

Mainland Portugal has three international airports in Lisbon, Porto, and Faro. The one in Lisbon is by far the largest and most used, so it is very likely that you will arrive in Portugal via Lisbon.

All three airports receive a lot of flights from low-cost companies (Ryanair, Easyjet, Wizzair, Transavia), which is great for those traveling from Europe as there are quite cheap flights.

We advise you to use public transport to visit Lisbon, Porto, and other cities. Although it will take longer, public transport allows you to visit many of the country’s most hidden places.

  • Both Lisbon and Porto have a metro system, so this is the ideal solution for visiting these cities.
  • Whenever an attraction does not have metro access, it is equally easy to use a bus or Uber to get there.
  • Uber or Cabify are quite cheap in Portugal, so traveling in a group can be even cheaper than with other solutions.
  • The train is an extremely pleasant way to travel in Portugal, and it reaches many of the biggest cities: Lisbon, Porto, Sintra, Coimbra, Braga, Guimarães, Aveiro, Faro, etc.
  • The bus is a good alternative as the train does not reach everywhere. We advise you always to check the Rede Expressos and Flixbus websites to see the expected cost and time.
  • The train is also relatively cheap and easy to use in almost all destinations. The journey between Lisbon and Porto, for example, is simple and even allows you to stop to visit other attractions.
  • Finally, we must highlight the Douro line, an attraction in itself, as it is one of the best ways to visit the Douro Valley.

Although public transport can reach many places, it’s much easier to go by car if you want to visit more natural landmarks, take the best walks, or visit hidden beaches and waterfalls. Plus, sometimes, it really is the only option.

Portugal travel with Public transportation.
Douro Line – Tua train station in Douro

Rent a car in Portugal

Car hire in Portugal is similar to any other country in the world. Always pay close attention to the contract and the cost of insurance. Although expensive, we advise you to cover the deductible for peace of mind and enjoy the trip better.

One important thing to know before traveling to Portugal is that most cars in Portugal (including rented ones) are not automatic. If you are not used to driving manual cars, make sure you rent an automatic; otherwise, you will likely receive a manual car.

If you are planning to drive on motorways (very likely), confirm with the rental that you have the chip for payment.

Road in Serra da Estrela - traveling in Portugal by car
Mountainous stay in Serra da Estela, Portugal

Driving in Portugal

As in any other country, traveling by car in Portugal allows us enormous freedom to go wherever we want, stay as long as we want, and explore the country much more intensely.

In general, driving in Portugal is quite easy, and if you’re used to driving in other countries, you won’t have any major problems. There are some peculiarities, but nothing preventing you from traveling and having a good experience.

So, here are some tips on what to do and not to do when driving in Portugal:

  • Avoid driving in the historic centers of Lisbon and Porto as much as possible. It’s a mess, difficult to park and lots of traffic.
  • The rest of the country is tranquil because the cities are much smaller. Even so, avoid taking your car to the historic centers, as they usually don’t have enough space and parking spots.
  • Drive with some caution. Despite driving much better today, there are still impatient and careless drivers in Portugal.
  • Most motorways in Portugal are paid, and some only have electronic payments.
  • Make sure the car has the chip to pay for them. If so, you don’t need to worry about paying, the rent-a-car will charge you the amount at the end of the trip.
  • There are lots of roundabouts in Portugal. Remember that those using roundabouts have priority.
  • You cannot turn right when the light is red.
  • The speed limits are:
    • Highways – 120km/h
    • National roads – 90km/h
    • Cities – 50 km/h
    • These values can be reduced when the respective signage is present.
Driving in Portugal - 25th of April Bridge
25th of April Bridge in Portugal

Currency and payments in Portugal

Portugal is one of the founding members of the Euro and consequently uses the Euro as its currency. The Euro makes life much easier for travelers, whether Europeans or non-Europeans.

Portugal has a vast network of ATMs (around 55,000), so you shouldn’t have problems finding them and withdrawing money anywhere in the country. Note that Portuguese ATMs do not charge a withdrawal fee.

Euronet ATMs are not part of the ATM network. These charge very high withdrawal fees. If you want to save money, avoid using them as much as possible.

It is also possible to pay directly with your card almost anywhere. Only small shops, fairs, and the occasional restaurant won’t accept card payments. We always advise you to have some cash with you for these occasions, but 90% of the time, you can pay by card.

Currency and payments in Portugal
Monastery of Batalha in central Portugal

How much does it cost to travel to Portugal?

Portugal is one of the cheapest countries in Western Europe and the European Union to travel to. Naturally, travel costs are higher in the high season and more touristic areas.

It is very difficult to define general travel budgets as these depend as much on the type of traveler and what is sought in a destination as on the price levels. Even so, an independent traveler in Portugal should spend between 60 and 70 Euros daily. At the same time, a couple will spend around 120 Euros per day.

It is possible to reduce these values, especially in the low season, and if you don’t spend too much on food and accommodation. However, if you want to do a lot of tours, stay in more luxurious accommodations, and always eat in restaurants, the costs will increase exponentially.

How much does it cost to travel to Portugal
One of the most visited monuments in Portugal – Pena Palace

Accommodation cost

One of the biggest chunks of the cost of any trip is accommodation. Portugal is no exception. Accommodation in historic centers and tourist areas is much more expensive than in the rest of the country.

Thus, a private room in Lisbon or Porto in a cheap hostel or hotel will cost between 50 and 100 Euros, in a mid-range hotel, between 100 and 150 Euros, and in a luxury hotel, it will hardly cost less than 150 Euros per day. In the high season, prices will be higher.

Travel costs in Portugal
Iconic Aveiro train station in central Portugal

Food Cost

Despite prices having increased considerably in recent years, food in Portugal is still relatively cheap. As in everything else, it is much more expensive in tourist areas than in the rest of the country. So expect:

  • Breakfasts – are quite affordable but excellent—up to 5 Euros (usually much lower) per person in any pastry shop.
  • Lunches and Quick Meals – You can easily eat for around 10 Euros per person if you eat in a small local restaurant or have the dish of the day/menu of the day.
  • Restaurants – If you want a better, more elaborate meal, the prices are much higher, but even so, a traditional dish or a dish of international food will cost between 15 and 25 Euros. More if it is a luxury or highly regarded restaurant.
Where to eat in Portugal
A traditional dish from Serra da Estrela

Car rental costs

If you decide to travel by car, note that costs can quickly add up. If not in your own car, you must:

  • Renting a car – estimate 150 to 200 Euros per week minimum. On the islands, it will be much more.
  • Mandatory Insurance – There’s no way to avoid it here; taking no-risk insurance may also be advisable to avoid stress during travel.
  • Paying for fuel – it’s quite expensive in Portugal;
  • Pay tolls – Practically all motorways in Portugal have tolls paid. See here how much your trip costs (it has the cost of fuel and tolls);
  • Parking – It is quite difficult and expensive to park in big cities and especially in historic centers. Don’t overlook this cost. It adds up quickly.
Portugal destinations for adventurers - Berlengas
Fort in Berlengas near Peniche in central Portugal

How to save on a trip to Portugal?

As we mentioned, Portugal is not a very expensive country. However, you can still reduce costs even more by paying attention to some details and following our recommendations below.

  • Use and abuse outdoor activities, which are mostly free in Portugal.
  • One of the best ways to save on food is to have the day’s menu at restaurants. These include main dishes, drinks, coffee, and often even dessert. They are usually under 10 Euros per person.
  • Another way to save is to book accommodation with a kitchen and eat a supermarket meal daily, as they are much cheaper than in restaurants.
  • Avoid tours and travel independently. Most activities in Portugal can be easily done without a tour. There are lots of examples of that on this site.
  • Still, some tours and activities can be worthwhile. We suggest you book them here. It’s the website we use to book tours in Portugal.
  • Public transport is quite cheap in Portugal, so we suggest you use it whenever possible.
  • Avoid using a car in the center of Lisbon and Porto, as it will not bring you any advantage, and you will have to pay rent and parking.
  • Tolls are quite expensive in Portugal; if you have time, use the national roads. Sometimes the time to reach the destination is not very relevant.
  • There are many cheap and quality hostels in Portugal, take advantage and book this type of accommodation whenever possible.
  • We always use booking to book accommodation in Portugal, as it has many offers and always at low prices. We advise you to do the same.
  • Never accept the exchange rate suggested by ATMs, as they are always worse than the banks.
Portugal guide travel
Sanctuary of Our Lady of Peneda Geres.

Is it customary to pay a tip in Portugal?

In Portugal, it is not customary to pay high tips in restaurants. In fact, there is no tipping culture in Portugal, or at least it is very different from the US.

In restaurants, it is normal to round up the bill or leave a maximum of 1 to 2 euros as a tip. Any amount above this is only used to reward outstanding service.

The only exception is in travel guides or tours. It is more usual to pay a tip there, but this is mainly because the customers are foreigners and are used to paying the same. Tipping is not supposed to be the main part of the guide’s income.

In all other services, it is extremely rare to tip.

the outstanding cloister of Alcobaça monastery
Monastery of Alcobaça in central Portugal

What to take on a trip to Portugal?

Despite being small, Portugal has a vast diversity of attractions and destinations, offering lots of things to see and do. Therefore, each trip requires a particular list. In addition, the type of traveler you are will also greatly influence what you need to bring to Portugal.

But let’s explore some of the basic things that we believe any traveler to Portugal will need.

  • Casual and comfortable clothes – Even in the summer, don’t forget to bring some pants and a light jacket, as it can be cool at night by the sea.
  • Comfortable shoes – you will likely walk a lot, so it is essential to bring comfortable shoes, namely sneakers. Don’t worry, the Portuguese people are very informal, you can use sneakers everywhere.
  • Sunglasses – In case we haven’t been clear about this, Portugal is a sunny destination.
  • Sunscreen – It is absolutely mandatory in the summer, but we suggest you always take it, regardless of the time of year you go.
  • Havaianas and/or Sandals – these will come in handy almost every day, whether going for a walk, taking a shower, going to the beach, or walking on the hot sand…
  • Hat – for the same reasons as sunglasses.
  • Power Bank – While traveling, you may be without access to electricity for long periods of time, as a power bank can become your best friend.
  • Travel pillow – this will be especially useful during the flight to Portugal, as it can be long and overnight.
  • Small backpack – Portugal is great for short getaways, trails, tours, etc. We strongly advise you to take a small and lightweight backpack to use on these days and not have to carry the larger suitcase/backpack.
What to pack to Portugal
Costa Vicentina on the Alentejo coastline in Portugal

Best souvenirs to bring from Portugal

One of the best things about traveling is bringing a little of the trip back home. So choosing the souvenirs to buy is an important issue in how we remember the trip.

Some of the best souvenirs to buy on a trip to Portugal include:

  • Barcelos Rooster – One of the most iconic symbols of Portugal, and with a very curious legend.
  • Vinho Verde – A unique wine in Portugal that is becoming increasingly popular internationally.
  • Pasteis de Belém – The original Pastel de Nata can only be bought at Jerónimos pastry shop. See the difference between Pastel de Nata and Pastel de Belém.
  • Port Wine – the most famous of Portuguese wines.
  • Olive oil – Portugal loves olive oil and produces excellent quality olive oil.
  • Cork products – Cork is one of Portugal’s most famous and popular products.
  • Azulejos – Azulejos has become a symbol of Portugal and one of the things most appreciated by tourists.
  • Heart of Viana in filigree – Another symbol of Portuguese craftsmanship, it creates beautiful earrings or pendants.
  • Portuguese Ceramics – There are hundreds of traditional and handcrafted ceramics typical of the most varied villages in the country.
best souvenirs to buy in a trip to Portugal
The famous Rooster of Barcelos in Barcelos, Portugal

Do I need an adapter in Portugal?

Portugal uses type F electricity inputs (the so-called Schuko), while the standard voltage is 230v and the frequency is 50Hz. Type F inputs also work with both type C and type E devices.

The plugs in the Azores and Madeira are the same as in mainland Portugal.

So, if you come from most of Continental Europe, you don’t need an adapter, as the sockets are the same or compatible with ours, type F. If you come from Brazil, the United States, Canada, United Kingdom, among others, you need an adapter.

If you need to buy an adapter, we suggest this one

How to have Internet in Portugal

In principle, any accommodation you book in Portugal will have free WIFI, so this shouldn’t be a big concern. Even so, we always advise you to check the comments about the quality of it, as sometimes it may not be excellent.

In addition, many restaurants, cafes, shops, and even some public spaces have free WIFI.

If you want to use international mobile data, remember that if you use roaming, the costs can be very high, so we advise you to buy a SIM card from one of the Portuguese operators: Vodafone, Meo, or NOS.

To buy a card, visit one of the many stores across Portugal. The network quality is very similar between the three operators, and mobile data is available in practically the whole country.

Offers vary a bit over time but tend to be very similar between operators, so we advise buying the first one that comes along and not wasting too much time on it.

If you have an EU SIM card, you can use it freely in any EU country without paying for roaming. So, if you have data in Portugal, you have data in the rest of the EU. If you have data from any EU country, you have data in Portugal at the same price.

How to have internet in my trip to Portugal
The Palace of Mafra in Central Portugal, close to Lisbon

Garbage and Pollution in Portugal

Portugal is a very clean country with relatively little pollution. Of course, in the biggest cities, there is some air pollution, but it is relatively low.

The tourist areas are very clean, and the parks and nature reserves are virtually litter free. There are exceptions and places with rubbish, but this is an issue where Portugal has evolved a lot.

how is pollution in Portugal
Carvalhal Beach on the Alentejo coastline, Portugal

What documents do I need to enter Portugal?

Portugal is an EU country and part of the Schengen area, which means freedom of movement for people within the area. If you come from another country in the Schengen area, you do not need a passport and can use your national identification document.

If you don’t come, we advise you to check which passports need a visa to enter Portugal. Most visitors (USA, UK, Canada, Australia) do not need a visa, but they need a ticket to leave the country.

Documents to travel to Portugal
Senhora da Boa Estrela in Serra da Estrela Portugal

Is any vaccine required to enter Portugal?

No. Unless you come from an infected area, you do not need any vaccine to obtain authorization to enter the country.

However, as in any other country, it is advisable to have your tetanus vaccine up to date, especially if you expect to be in contact with nature. But no one will ask you about any kind of vaccination at the entrance.

What to I need to visit Portugal
Karst landscape of Algarve, Portugal

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