Portugal Travel Tips
Portugal has been popular with European vacationers for years and it’s easy to see why. The country is blessed with excellent sandy beaches and rugged coastline as well as cosmopolitan and architecturally-stunning cities. Throw in great food, lots of wine, and cheap prices and it makes for a perfect holiday spot. Because it is on the tip of Europe and isn’t as centrally-connected as other countries, not a lot of people visit. Fewer crowds mean a better experience. I fell in love with Portugal when I went and I can’t wait to get back. It’s a very underrated country.
- Accommodation: Overall, you’ll find accommodation very affordable in Portugal, especially if you are staying in hostels. Most dorm rooms cost around $13 USD per night (sometimes as low as $10). Double rooms with a private bathroom cost around $50 in a hostel. A double room in a hotel begins at $35 for a cheap, two star hotel.
- Food: You can find snacks in bakeries for around $2, light meals and sandwiches for around $8, and fast food for around the the same price. If you want sit-down meal with drinks, you’re looking at spending closer to around $20 per a meal. After that, the skies the limit. However, that being said, you can find some great bargains. I once had a full meal with wine for $14! If you’re cooking, groceries will cost around $40 for a week’s worth of food.
- Transportation: A city metro ticket will cost from $1.75 USD. Inter-country trains and buses are inexpensive. For example, the train between Porto and Lisbon is only $32. A taxi in one of Portugal’s city’s should cost no more than $13.
- Activities: Activities are not that expensive in Portugal. Museums and UNESCO sites charge about $7-12 entrance fees. Wine tours are about $55 for a whole day tour.
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 E.U. 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.
- Free museum visits - Most museums are free on Sundays.
- Skip the taxis - Taxis are super expensive in Portugal, often adding fees for luggage and airport pick ups. Simply use the metro or bus system to go where you need to.
Top Things to See and Do
- Be Amazed by Lisbon - Portugal’s capital is a gem of a city. It’s a city I instantly fell in love with when I visited. It’s got mystique, history, beautiful and friendly locals, and great food. It is compact so it is easier than other cities walk around. Take a trip to the Castle of St Jorge. Explore the churches. Listen to Fado. Enjoy Lisbon. I came for a few days and spent a week.
- Visit Batalha - Built in 1388 and protected as a World Heritage Monument, Batalha is one of Europe’s greatest Gothic masterpieces and is a popular day trip from Lisbon. On walking through the gigantic and impressive gothic doorway, you’ll see that the interior of the church features 16th-century stained-glass windows. The building has seven chapels that are unfinished and therefore roofless.
- Wander the Abbey of Santa Maria - The Abbey of Santa Maria is Europe’s largest building of the Cistercian order. You can wander around the abbey at your leisure and find out more about the different parts of the building: its five cloisters, seven dormitories, a library, and huge kitchen.
- Journey to Evora - Another one of Portugal’s World Heritage sites is Evora, a small town that offers an array of beautiful and historic buildings. Its most famous landmark is the Temple of Diana but there is also the Praça do Giraldo, the town’s main square. This is small-town Portugal at its best.
- Kick Back on the Azores islands – These nine islands lie about 930 miles (1500 Km) from Lisbon (a two-hour flight) in the Atlantic Ocean. Each of the islands offer a peaceful and 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.
- See the Religious Monuments in Braga - The beautiful city of Braga provides many Baroque monuments, including one of the country’s best-known sights, the Bom Jesus Sanctuary. The old and the new city are connected by the main square, Praça da Republica. The city’s cathedral is also very much worth a visit, as it is the country’s oldest!
- Party in Lagos - Lagos, a small town on the Algarve is the place people go to party rather than see historic sites or sit in pretty squares. It is an excellent place to soak up the sun and truly relax on the beaches and then go out for dinner and on to a bar. During the summer months, this is one of Europe’s premier party destinations with young travelers coming here to take part in bar crawls that last until the morning.
- Head to Sintra - Lord Byron, writing in the 18th century, said that the town was “perhaps in every respect the most delightful in Europe.” If you are visiting Lisbon you should definitely make an effort to come here with its palaces, wonderful views, and museum collections.
- Sample Port in Porto - Porto is where the world famous port wine orginates so take the opportunity to visit Cais De Gaia’s port wine cellars as well as taking in some of the cities beautiful architecture by renowned architects before taking a stroll along the port to admire the boats. For even more wine, visit the surrounding Duoro Valley and its many vineyard. I spent a boozy week traveling through the region.
- Learn about the Knights Templar in Tomar - The big attraction in the town of Tomar is the Templar Castle and Convent of Christ on the hill. It was the headquarters for the Knights Templar in the 12th century and contains one of the country’s most impressive monuments, the Convent of Christ.
- Get in Your Watersports - Aveiro, around 70 km south of Porto, lies on what’s known as the silver coast. This is a small university town, and part of the historic center is built on canals, giving rise to the name “the Venice of Portugal.” The winds here create good opportunities for windsurfing and surfing.
- Lose Yourself in Coimbra - Another university city, Coimbra is home to the world’s ninth-oldest campus. There is a famous, beautiful old library that you can tour, but the real thing to do in Coimbra is just to wander through the many old streets. There are many churches and gardens to visit. Tuesdays and Thursdays are the student party nights here.
- Attend a Fado Performance - Whether in Lisbon or somewhere else, you shouldn’t leave Portugal without getting a sense of the country’s musical culture. Fado is a very important Portuguese tradition, with at least 200 years of history. It’s very haunting and emotional music, sung by an individual. Most of the songs follow a theme of loss and mourning. Performances normally take place in restaurants during dinner.
- Check out Faro - Faro is a common starting point for tours of the Algarve region, which is an area full of great beaches, 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 hit the real resort areas.
- Stand at the Edge of Europe – Cape Sagres is the most southwestern point on the European continent. It was here that Henry the Navigator had his famous navigation school, which gave birth to the careers of some of the most famous explorers in history.