In Southern Europe, sharing a border with Spain to the east and the Atlantic Ocean to the west, you’ll find the charming country of Portugal. For a small country, Portugal offers quite the punch. With beautiful sandy beaches, rock formations, and blue waters to the south; and rolling hills, deep valleys, and vineyards for days in the north; Portugal is a country that has something to offer everyone. Whether you’re an adventure seeker looking to surf huge waves in Nazaré, or you’re a wine lover looking to relax and enjoy a slow paced vacation in the Douro Valley, Portugal is the place for you.
After spending two-weeks slowly road-tripping through the country, I came to really understand the way of life and culture of the Portuguese. And while I have an immense appreciation and a good understanding of how things work in Portugal, I can only hope to revisit one day and explore Portugal more in depth. But until then, I’ve rounded up all of my knowledge into one post, giving you the ultimate Portugal travel guide.
Before reading further, make sure to check out my Instagram page/highlight reel and search #ppinportugal or look for the highlight “Portugal” for a visual representation of the country and suggestions on things to see and do!
The Ultimate Portugal Travel Guide
Brief History of Portugal
The history of the country of Portugal dates back more than 400,000 years. In the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal was considered a world power, building a vast empire all across the globe reaching from South America, to Africa, and Asia. However, throughout the years Portugal’s grasp slowly declined as they lost war after war, colony after colony. In 1910, the monarchy fell during a revolution, and in 1975 a new democratic government granted independence to the last of Portuguese colonies in Africa. Portugal is a founding member of NATO and joint the EU in 1986.
General Safety Tips to Follow
According to the 2020 Global Peace Index, Portugal is ranked as the third safest country in the world and the second safest country in Europe behind Iceland. And while I felt comfortable and safe visiting, there are still general safety tips to follow – especially if you’ll be traveling the country solo. Below you’ll find my go-to safety tips when traveling!
- Make two copies your passport; keep one copy in a separate place from where you keep your passport, and leave the second copy at home with a loved one
- Make a copy of your vaccination card and keep pictures of it on your phone
- Forward all hotel/Airbnb reservations to a family member/friend so they can track where you’re supposed to be at all times
- Know the number and address of the US Embassy (or whatever country you’re from). In this case, the US Embassy is located in Lisbon, the number is +351 21 727 3300 and the address is U.S. Embassy Lisbon Avenida das Forças Armadas 1600-081 Lisboa
- Know how to dial out – the code for Portugal is +351
- Know how to contact the police – 112
- Travel with travel insurance to ensure that you’re covered in case anything were to go wrong – I prefer to use World Nomads
Best Time to Visit Portugal
Depending on what you’re planning to do in Portugal, will depend on the best time to visit. Portugal follows American weather – cold in the winter months (November-February), and hot in the summer months (June-September). If the reason you’re visiting Portugal is to explore the country’s pristine beaches, then visiting during June-August will be the best time; but if you’re looking to avoid the crowds, then shoulder season, when the weather is still nice- April-May, September-October – might be your best bet.
In Portugal, the average weather varies from 47°F to 83°F with January being the coldest month, November being the wettest month, and July being the hottest month.
I visited Portugal from the end of April to the beginning of May and thoroughly enjoyed it. The crowds weren’t too bad, and while it was pretty chilly when I arrived in April, by May the weather really warmed up.
Portugal uses the euro (€), and you can find ATMs all over the city. There were some tourist attractions and restaurants throughout the country that were cash only, so I do recommend pulling cash from an ATM when you arrive. Otherwise, you can use your credit/debit card in most places. Remember, if given the option to pay in euro or your home currency, choose euro for a better exchange rate.
As far as tipping goes, Portugal doesn’t rely on tips as much as America does. I believe it’s best practice to tip around 10% at a nice restaurant or when you’ve experienced exceptional service. You can also leave a few coins to show your appreciation. Generally no tip is expected for beverages, coffee, etc.
Getting Around Portugal
Portugal is an easy country to get around with buses, trains, rideshares, and great roads – you can customize the trip to whatever you’re looking for!
- If you want to travel by train – click here
- If you want to travel by bus – click here
- If you want to rent a car – read this post
Know that rideshares are cheaper than taxi’s in Portugal, but if you do take a taxi make sure that the meter is on. For ridesharing Portugal uses both Uber and Bolt.
Traditional Food and Drink
Sitting on the Atlantic, Portugal is well-known for its seafood-friendly cuisine, especially cod. Below you’ll find some of the most popular, custom dishes and drinks of Portugal.
- Sardinhas Assadas – Classic, grilled sardines; usually served with the bone intact
- Francesinha – This dish originated in Porto and is the ultimate Portuguese sandwich with bread, ham, sausage, roast meat, and covered with melted cheese and a thick tomato, beer sauce
- Polvo – All around Portugal you can find polvo on the menu, or octopus. It can be served a variety of ways – grilled, fried, canned, and more
- Pastel de Nata – This traditional Portuguese dessert is a sweet and creamy egg tart. It’s typically made of flour, eggs, butter, sugar, and cinnamon
- Bacalhau – Bacalhau is cod, and it’s one of the most famous dishes in Portugal. You can order it a variety of ways, but I suggest trying pasteis de bacalhau (with cheese)
- Port – Port wine originated and comes from Portugal. If you’re visiting the north of the country, where port originates from, you definitely have to try a glass
Language/Simple Phrases to Know
In Portugal the main language is Portuguese, but English is widely spoken, especially by the younger generation. And don’t confuse Portuguese with Spanish, while it’s a common misconception that the languages are similar, but they are two different languages. When traveling, I like to learn simple terms and phrases to help me get by and show that I’m trying to learn the local language.
- Hello – Ola
- Thank you – Obrigada (say it this way if you’re a girl), obrigado (say it this way if you’re a boy)
- Goodbye – Adeus
- Cheers – Felicidades
Portugal is an incredible country whether you’re it’s your first trip to Europe or your tenth. It’s easy to navigate, the locals are helpful and friendly, and aside from being beautiful, there’s so much to see and do in the country. It’s a place that stole my heart, and I hope it steals yours too.
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