By Expedia, on January 9, 2020

10 Things to Know for Traveling to Portugal

Portugal is a vibrant coastal European country that draws beachgoers, history buffs, and culture enthusiasts from all over the world. If you’re planning a vacation to Portugal, here are some travel tips for visiting this beautiful country, and advice to make the most of your stay.

Getting to Portugal

You can find direct flights to Lisbon, Porto, and Faro from many U.S. cities and Europe, but you might find cheaper airfare flying into London and then connecting to airports in Portugal. If you’re adding Portugal to a trip to France or Spain, you can take a ferry or railway to get into Portugal. If you’re planning to visit more than one region of Portugal, plan your travel times and distances in advance. You can take short flights between regions to save time and money.

Statute in Quinta da Regaleira in Lisbon, Portugal
Quinta da Regaleira

Driving in Portugal

If you’re driving, know that many of Portugal’s roads aren’t in the best condition, so it’s best to take the toll roads. These roads are free from traffic and are well-maintained. Keep in mind that some toll roads have license plate recognition systems, so check with your car rental company on how to pay your tolls. There are also cheap rail routes between Portugal regions, but they can be slow. You’ll be glad to know that coaches offer cheap and efficient services to the main cities and towns.

Best time to travel to Portugal

With its famous beaches, Portugal is at its busiest and most expensive during the summer months of July and August. This is also when the weather is hottest. If you want to save on your trip and avoid the masses, it’s best to travel during the off-season. May, June, and September are still warm and sunny, and you’ll be free from throngs of tourists and high accommodation and airfare rates. One of the best travel tips is to visit from October to April. The weather may be more rainy and cooler, but you’ll still have plenty of warm, sunny days.

Green boat at Camara de Lobos in Portugal
Camara de Lobos

Pack a range of clothing

Because Portugal is a coastal country, the weather and temperatures can vary, so it’s important to bring a range of clothing to prepare. Be sure to pack several thin layers and a few warmer pieces such as sweaters and jeans in case the weather gets cold. Lightweight, natural fibers are a good choice for staying cool in the hot summer months, but bring a lightweight jacket to prepare for colder days and evenings. If you’re planning to spend time hiking or biking in the outdoors, be sure to pack the appropriate outdoor gear like waterproof hiking boots and outerwear.

Bring comfortable shoes

Portugal is known for its cobblestone streets and walking-tour options, so it’s best to bring comfortable shoes that will allow you to spend hours on your feet. Hilly cities such as Lisbon can be unstable and slippery, and it’s common for the wind to blow sand onto the streets and walkways. You should bring flat shoes with non-slip soles to avoid tripping on uneven cobblestone. Sandals are a good choice if you plan to spend a lot of time on the beach.

Bring the right documentation

If you’re traveling to Portugal from the United States, you’ll need a current passport that’s been valid for at least 6 months. Before you leave, make some copies of your passport to carry with you. Portuguese law requires that you carry photo identification at all times. A good tip is to keep your passport safely stored in your hotel and only carry the copy and your driver’s license or state photo identification with you. American citizens can visit Portugal visa-free for up to 90 days. You don’t need vaccinations to travel to Portugal from the United States.

Exchange your money

Before you leave for Portugal, it’s a good idea to anticipate what you’ll need and exchange your money for some local currency, which is the euro. Try to avoid getting a lot of large bills, but if you do, you can exchange them at a bank in Portugal for smaller notes. There are plenty of ATMs throughout the cities and international airports as well, so you can easily withdraw money in euros from your bank. If you use a currency exchange, be sure to check the rates, because many charge exorbitant prices. Many establishments take credit cards, but smaller businesses may be cash-only, so be sure to carry some currency.

Use common-sense travel safety

Portugal is known as one of the safest countries in the world, but it’s still best to exercise common sense and caution when traveling. One thing to know before you go is to keep your personal items and valuables close or safely stowed away in your hotel safe. Theft isn’t common, but pickpockets are still a possibility. If you’re going to enjoy some of Portugal’s famous nightlife, try to stay in groups and avoid dark, empty roads at night. If you need police or emergency medical assistance, Portugal’s emergency number is 112, and you can dial it from any public phone.

Wear sun protection

Regardless of when you’re traveling to Portugal, it’s important to bring sunglasses, hats, an umbrella, and strong sunscreen to avoid burning. If you’re visiting the beach, strolling around a park, or just walking around outside, be sure to cover your skin and apply sunscreen liberally, especially in the middle of the day. This is true of any area of Portugal, but it’s even more important in the Algarve region, where the sun is strongest and many of the activities are outdoors.

Experience local food and drink

Portuguese food and drink are known for their flavor, quality, and value. When you dine during your trip, look for restaurants and eateries that serve fresh-caught seafood, locally grown produce, and home-raised meats. In many restaurants, you’ll have the option of a ‘catch of the day’ that’s grilled and presented in a bed of rice. The local pork and dairy offerings are excellent as well. For drinking, choose local wines, beers, and spirits, which are cheaper than international brands and give you a little touch of local culture.

Tray of pastries in the foreground at a busy Pasteis de Belem in Portugal
Pasteis de Belem

Plan your trip with Expedia

Now that you have all the essential information before visiting Portugal, you can plan your trip with some help from Expedia. Check out Portugal vacations to book your hotel and flight, and get ready for an unforgettable experience!