31 HELPFUL Portugal Travel Tips To Know for Visiting

Home » Portugal » 31 HELPFUL Portugal Travel Tips To Know for Visiting

Portugal Travel Tips to Know Before You Go

Is this your first time visiting Portugal, and you are searching for travel tips and additional information about planning your trip? Well, you have come to the right place, because this Portugal travel guide will cover just that!

Inside this Portugal travel tips guide, you will learn about practical information, some helpful tips to know before visiting, things to look out for, and some fun facts. I will also link to additional Portugal guides that will help you further plan your trip!

Portugal Travel Tips to know

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. I may earn a small commission at no cost to you. Disclosure.


Exploring Portugal Cities on Foot

When visiting Portugal, you will quickly find that exploring towns and cities on foot is the best way to get acquainted. This will allow you to discover beautiful alleys, and many times it is just easier than using public transportation.

Explore Portugal by Foot and discover lovely Corners and squares
Cute Square in Porto

Comfortable Shoes in Portugal is a Must

Considering that the best way to experience Portugal is on foot, having comfortable walking shoes is extremely important. Portugal is a very hilly country with cobblestone alleys. So, I would leave the heels and sandals with no grip at home.

I brought my cushioned Converse sneakers and Birkenstock Sandals. More times than less, I opted for the sneakers.

If walking up and down hills is difficult for you, there are Tuk Tuks that offer guided tours to the top attractions.

Or, you can use rideshare apps like Uber and Bolt. Just make sure you download the app before arriving in Portugal.

Portugal Travel Tips Sao Bento Train Station

Using Public Transportation in Portugal

You won’t be able to walk “everywhere,” and thankfully, Portugal has a really good public transportation system. They have fast trains, buses, the metro, and Trams (electric).

Using Google Maps, you should easily be able to figure out how to use public transportation. We used the most public transportation in Lisbon, which makes sense since it is Portugal’s largest city.

Taking the train from city to city is also popular (Porto to Lisbon) – especially if you don’t rent a car.

The official railway system is run by CP. You can find timetables and tickets on their site. Sometimes, you can get discounts on tickets depending on the time.

One of the most important Portugal travel tips to know about taking public transportation is that you need to wave buses down. If not, sometimes they will not stop.

Also, the buses in Sintra can be a real headache. Save your time and trouble, and just get an Uber.

Additionally, you have to press the button (Parar) for the trams and buses to stop. If not, they will go past your stop.

Lisbon Tram is a must on your Portugal itinerary

Be Aware of Strikes

Since we are talking about public transportation, you should also know that every so often, transportation workers strike. This can affect airport, bus, train, and metro lines.

You will find this information on the official CP website above. Every so often, some attractions will strike as well, namely in Sintra. Remember, these people are not striking to ruin your trip or for the fun of it. While it can be annoying, remember to be understanding.

Renting a Car in Portugal

If you are only staying in Lisbon or Porto, this is one of the Portugal travel tips you will want to pay attention to. You do not need a car to drive in these cities. In fact, I would recommend against it.

So why is renting a car so popular in Portugal? Because Portugal road trips are incredible, and if you plan any road trips, having a car is a great asset since the train will make stops in many of the smaller towns difficult.

For example, a road trip from Porto to the Algarve, or the Algarve to Lisbon, is very popular. Having a car in the Algarve is also really nice. In fact, we rented a car and did both of these road trips.

We picked up the car to leave Porto and dropped it off when arriving in Lisbon. You Definitely do NOT want a car for Sintra either.

So, to sum it up, rent a car for road trips to cities and small towns, but don’t rent a car just for city driving in places like Lisbon, Porto, or Sintra. Additionally, make sure to get insurance on your car!

Driving in Portugal

Portuguese in Portugal

It only makes sense that Portugal speaks Portuguese, but many don’t realize that there is European Portuguese, which is what is spoken in Portugal, and Brazilan Portuguese.

While they are similar, they are not the same. If you are looking to learn some Portuguese before your trip, you can use the free app/website Memrise, which has the correct Portuguese.

For first time visitors, another Portugal travel tip to keep in mind is although some Portuguese words are similar to Spanish, they are two different languages, so don’t try speaking Spanish while in Portugal either.

Many Portuguese people speak some English, so you can always politely ask, “do you speak English?” and have your Google Translate app just in case.

Read: Ultimate Portugal Travel Guide

It is Much Cooler in Nothern Portugal

When people think of Portugal, many times they picture the country to be warm all year round, and while Portugal does have mild winters, it still gets cold in Northern Portugal, and even Lisbon.

During winter months, it can go down to 35°F, even lower. It does not snow, but we were surprised by how much cooler Porto was than the rest of the country.

Porto Travel Tip: Porto is also one of the country’s wettest cities.

Livraria Lello Bookstore Red Staircase with Sam Opp standing in the middle in Porto

Port Wine Comes from Porto

Ok, this Portugal travel tip is more like a fun fact, but I thought I’d still share it. If you didn’t already know, Port wine is a product of Porto. Well, to be more accurate, a product of the Douro Valley.

This fortified wine can only be considered port wine if it is grown in the Douro Valley and aged in Vila de Gia, the city just across the river from Porto. If you love wine, make sure to plan a trip to the Douro Valley or, at the very least, taste the wines throughout your trip.

Port Wine also has a higher alcohol level, so be responsible when drinking. The wine is so sweet you might not realize how drunk you may be getting!

Oh, and Portugal also has a wine called Vinho Verde (green wine), which refers to making wine with premature grapes. The wine can be any color, and it is just divine, so try it!

Miradouro São Leonardo De Galafura in the Douro Valley
Miradouro São Leonardo De Galafura in the Douro Valley

Water Safety and Water at Restaurants

Portugal is considered to have clean drinking water, but it is not as clean as other European countries such as France, the Netherlands, or Belgium. Those with sensitive stomachs might want to opt for bottled water or using a filtered water bottle.

Therefore, restaurants also don’t serve tap water. If you order water at the table, they will bring out water bottles and charge you for it. It is honestly cheaper to buy a water bottle from a souvenir shop or market and bring it.

Portugal Travel Tips at Restaurants

There are a few Portugal travel tips I want to share with you regarding restaurants. The first one is that if you’re used to eating in the USA, you will find the service is lacking in comparison.

The waitstaff is not checking in on you constantly, and it can take a while for them to even come over and ask for your order. Therefore, I would be ready with everything you want to reduce wait time.

Also, you usually need to ask for a check.

Another thing some restaurants do in Portugal is try to pull you in and hand you their menu. In my opinion, restaurants begging for business are usually subpar. So, if they are trying to convince you to eat there, I would steer clear.

Dinner also starts later in Portugal. You can expect dinner to start around 7-8 PM.

My last travel tip is about tipping at restaurants. Portugal does not have a tipping culture, so it is not necessary to tip. If you feel inclined to tip for excellent service, 5-10% is fine.

Vila Nova de Gaia Waterfront
Vila Nova de Gaia Waterfront

Currency and Credit Cards in Portugal

Portugal uses the Euro, and while credit cards are widely accepted in Portugal, smaller towns and shops may only accept cash. Therefore, it is important to have some euros available.

Look for the Multibanco (MB) sign, which means they will accept credit cards, mainly Visa and Mastercard. Usually, if they accept credit cards, that means they accept mobile wallets.

For items over 50€, you might need to insert your credit card instead of tapping.

Credit Card Travel Tip: Every so often, the credit card machine may ask you for a pin. If you’re from the USA, you know we don’t have pins for credit cards. I just pressed enter, and the transaction went through.

Crossing the Street in Portugal

I always find pedestrian street rules interesting when traveling. Some countries have walk signs everywhere, in others, you are playing leapfrog, and Portugal is the latter.

So, it can feel a little nerve-racking to start walking in front of oncoming traffic, but pedestrians have the right-of-way to walk. Some cars may even see you standing there and just stop. As always, use common sense and precaution before just walking!

The only time you should not “just cross” is if there is an actual walk or no walk sign. When there is a sign indicated for pedestrians, you need to follow it.

If you’re driving in Portugal, make sure you always stop for pedestrians crossing the street.

Parking in Porto near Clerigos Tower in Portugal

Have a Portugal Itinerary in Mind

When visiting Portugal, just exploring on a whim will probably feel chaotic unless you’re spending a lot of time in the country. Instead, make sure you have a plan and itinerary – especially during busy season (summer).

For a starter, you can view my 10 days in Portugal itinerary, or my 3 days in Porto Itinerary (more itineraries coming soon)!

Visiting Portugal Travel Tips

Purchase Tickets Well in Advance

This Portugal travel tip actually ties in with having a plan and itinerary. Purchasing tickets in advance is important for some of the more popular attractions. This includes tours to the Douro Valley, seeing Benagil Cave, and Sintra to see the Pena Palace.

If you don’t go on a tour and just show up at some of the most popular UNESCO World Heritage Sites, you will find yourself greeted with an insanely long line.

Portugal Travel tips - Inside Jeronimos Monastery get tickets ahead of time
Inside Jeronimos Monastery

Attractions Closed on Mondays

Another one of the most important travel tips to keep in mind when visiting Portugal is that a lot of attractions close on Mondays – especially in Lisbon. So, when planning out your days, make sure to check what is open on Monday.

Belem Tower is a must on your Portugal Itinerary

Lisbon Illegal Street Vendors

I am singling out Lisbon because it really did not happen to us anywhere else, but it can. While in Lisbon, there were a lot of people on the street asking us to buy drugs – even when we were sitting down eating. ALWAYS say no, as it is illegal in Portugal.

Open Container in Portugal

If you’re from the United States, you are already familiar with the fact of not walking around with alcohol. Well, in Portugal, you can buy a bottle of beer or cup of wine right on the street and enjoy it.

It is very popular for people to enjoy drinks around sunset at the miradouros (scenic viewpoints).

The Smoking Culture in Portugal

This is one of those Portugal travel tips you should just be aware of. While not as bad as the smoking culture in, say, the Netherlands or France, Portugal, like most of Europe, has a cigarette smoking culture. There is tons of outdoor seating, and people might be smoking next to you.

Long Days of Sun in Portugal

Between the end of March to the end of October, you can expect the sun to set close to 9 PM and rise around 6:30 AM. Therefore, you have a ton of daylight to explore. This is great if you only have a couple of days in each city.

Miradouro de Santa Luzia Viewpoint
Miradouro de Santa Luzia Viewpoint

Abandoned Buildings

While not necessarily a bad thing, you will recognize abandoned buildings throughout Portugal. From small homes to entire apartment buildings. Often, there will also be graffiti all over them as well.

Portugal travel tips - abandon building are all over Portugal

Beggers with Pets

I noticed this the most in Lisbon, and it made me sad. We saw a handful of homeless people with dogs and signs saying “money for dogs.”

The thing is, it almost seemed like many of these people were using the dog as a prop, and did not necessarily care about them. I distinctly remember a man in Belem. His poor little black chihuahua was emaciated and heavily panting. This man chose to sit in the direct sun (there was shade a few feet over) while begging.

I am sure it is not the case for everyone, just something you might see while in Lisbon.

Coffee in Portugal

This one is for the Americans because it makes me chuckle when I see the question, “How do I get a large coffee?!”

Across Europe, you generally will not find “American Style” drip coffee. Instead, it is usually cappuccinos, lattes, espresso, lungo, and americano.

The closest thing you will get to an “American Style” coffee will be an americano. This is a shot of espresso with extra hot water. I would suggest asking for a double shot of espresso to be close to your caffeine intake amount at home.

The Ocean is Always Cold

Can’t wait to jump into that beautiful turquoise blue ocean in the Algarve? Even in the heat of the summer, just know that this part of the Atlantic Ocean is on the cold side.

Park of the Valley Hike from Marinha

Pickpocketing in Portugal

We felt very safe our entire time in Portugal, but know pickpocketing sometimes happens, so I want to mention it to you. Make sure to keep your valuables safe and not dangling in your pockets – especially in busy areas and on public transportation.

It is said that pickpocketing happens most in Lisbon on public transportation.

Consider Purchasing One of the Portugal Passes

If you’re on a budget or just a fan of saving money, looking into the city passes is a smart idea while in Portugal. There is the Porto Card and the Lisboa Card.

I personally believe the Lisboa Card gives you way better value than the Porto Card, and the reason is that you likely won’t use too much public transportation in Porto.

However, in Lisbon, you will want to ride the historic trams, and all transportation is included with the card. Just the ease of not having to buy tickets with the Lisboa Card made it worth it. You can find the official tickets for the Lisboa Card here.

If you want to see the Pena Palace in Sintra, it is worth getting The Lisbon-Sintra Pass, because if you don’t purchase a timed ticket for the Pena Palace, you will either be waiting in line for hours or you won’t be able to get in that day. Pick the earliest entry for the fewest crowds.

Also, if you want to visit Jerónimos Monastery, which is included free with the Lisboa Pass, get here before they open, because you will still have to wait in line. We arrived when they opened and waited about 40 minutes to get in. Bring a hat with you, there is no shade, and it is hot!

Riding the Tram in Lisbon Portugal
Riding the Tram in Lisbon Portugal included in Lisboa Card

Getting Cellphone Service in Portugal

This Portugal travel tip is for anyone who would like to have cell phone service. We had excellent service throughout the entire country, so you should, too. We have finally switched over to T-Mobile, which allows us to have free international data, but before that, I used an e-sim.

E-sims are great because they start working once you land. I like using Holafly. If you have a smartphone, it should be able to use an e-sim. You can always double-check with your carrier.

Getting Through Customs at the Airport Faster in Portugal (One of the Best Portugal Travel Tips!)

When arriving and departing from Portugal, you will have to clear customs. If you don’t mind not getting a stamp in your book on the way in, you may have the opportunity to use the Passaportes electrónicos (electronic passport) line. This can save you a ton of time because many people still don’t know about this.

To use this line, you must have an electronic passport. It is indicated by a little symbol that kind of looks like a camera. All USA passports are electronic.

Additionally, your passport must be from an approved country which will be depicted in the sign, and everyone in your group or family must be over 18 years old to use it.

You just go in the line that has your approved country (UK residences with go with EU currently), and just scan your passport on the screen.

Use the Bathroom at any Attraction/Restaurant You Visit

While exploring Portugal, you will not find too many free public toilets to use. Even Starbucks needed you to purchase an item before being able to use their restroom.

When we were in Cascais, we even found porter-potties that you needed to enter change in to use. Therefore, take advantage of using the restroom when you can!

Portugal travel Tips - walking is the best way to get around
Porto

Book Accommodations in Advance

While Portugal may not be as crazy as, say, the Greek Islands or Italy in the Summer, the best accommodations go fast. Therefore, booking in advance will give you the best opportunity to score a nice hotel/rental.

Places I recommend include:

Lisbon:

Porto:

Lagos:

Obidos:

Related: Best Things to Do in Óbidos (One of Portugal’s Most Charming Towns)

View from our Lisbon Hotel Terrace
View from our Lisbon Hotel Terrace

Souvenirs in Portugal

Portugal is known for having some really cool souvenirs, so, as a travel tip, I’d like to share some with you.

Portugal is one of the largest producers of Cork, so you will find authentic cork products everywhere.

Another great gift to bring home is ceramic tiles. While they are almost always made in Portugal, not all tiles are created equally. There are tiles that are stamped and tiles that are hand-painted.

You can find stamped tiles for as little as €3 in Lisbon. Painted tiles will be closer to €15 euros and up.

Some additional authentic Portugal souvenirs include the Barcelos Rooster, ceramic sardines, the Fátima statue, and embroidered linens.

Apps to Have for Your First Time Visiting Portugal

We discussed a ton of travel tips, including some apps to download, but I figured having a dedicated section would be the best.

Google Maps: Also, download the “offline”map of the country under settings (top right photo bubble). This will give you directions even when you don’t have cell service.

Google Translate: This will help you with any language barriers and translating signs and menus. You can even use the camera option.

Whatsapp: If you need to get in touch with anyone, Whatsapp is the most popular way to do it.

Nord VPN: Having a VPN when using public wifi is important to protect your personal information.

Tiqets App: This will be helpful if you decide to get the Lisboa Pass.

Your Airline App: This will allow you to get a digital passport so you don’t have to go to the ticket counter if your only doing carry-on.

Portugal Travel Tips - Lisbon
Lisbon

Portugal Travel Tips Wrap-up

This concludes some of the top travel tips to know before visiting Portugal! I hope you have found this list of tips and tricks helpful in planning your trip to this incredible country.

Do you have any questions about these Portugal tips and tricks, or have one for me to add? Let me know in the comments below.

If you found these Portugal Travel Tips helpful, I’d appreciate it if you could share it below!

Portugal Travel Tips to Know Before visiting
Photo of author

Samantha Oppenheimer

Samantha Oppenheimer (Sam Opp) quit her corporate marketing job in 2018 to travel the world and become a travel writer, blogger and content creator. She loves experiencing authentic travel experiences, photography, and nature. Sam shares helpful travel itineraries, travel tips, budget tips, and travel advice from her personal experiences. You can also find Sam's words featured in large publications including Mirror, Thrillist, and Well + Good.

1 thought on “31 HELPFUL Portugal Travel Tips To Know for Visiting”

Leave a Comment

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.