fbpx
Menu

Portugal Travel Guide

Portugal, Portugal Travel Guide

Portugal
Portugal

Any Portugese town looks like bride’s finery – something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue.”    

mary mccarthy
Portugal, Portugal Travel Guide

Top Five Destinations In Portugal

1. Duoro Valley Wine Region Is the oldest demarcated wine region in the world. The Douro Valley is a magical, enchanted landscape with so much beauty that your breath is taken away at every turn. This is where the Douro wines (Port wine and Portuguese Wine) are produced on its steep hillsides in a harsh climate, still handpicked to this day. The whole region is a designated Unesco World Heritage Site.

2. Porto Is a magnificent contemporary city on the River Duoro. Discover extravagant Baroque churches, rich cultural sights, neoclassical buildings grace the skyline, world-class museums, and picturesque squares. Wander Riberia, the historical heart of Porto. Do a Port tasting at one of the centuries-old Port Houses. Get lost in the maze of narrow streets. You will fall in love!

3. Lisbon Is the stunning capital city of Portugal. It is vibrant and bustling with life. Ancient and modern, at the same time, it is full of culture-rich history and charisma. Lisbon is a picture-perfect panorama of charming cobbled alleyways, ancient ruins, fascinating museums, and spectacular architecture. This is also one of the major economic centers of the continent. Wander the various Bairros de Lisboa (distinct neighborhoods) such as Belem, Alfama, and Mourana. Delve deeply into this amazing city.

4. Algarve Region is southern Portugal’s historical province bound by the Atlantic Ocean and the lower Guadiana River. This magnificent region has protected nature reserves rich with birdlife, pristine beaches, jagged cliffs, wild coastlines, and top-notch resorts.

5. Obidos Is a 13-century small village of whitewashed houses draped in bougainvillea with a well-preserved castle within Medieval Walls. There is an ancient aqueduct nearby. It is in our top five because we loved everything about it. It was our first stop after landing in Lisbon and on our way to Porto. Spend one euro and enjoy a cup made of chocolate filled with the famous Obidos Ginga liquor. This perfect little town has a unique charm that captured our hearts.  

Did you know?

Portugal Stats

  • Population: 10.3 million
  • Capital City: Lisbon
  • Currency: Euro (EUR)
  • Government type: Unitary Semi-Presidential Constitutional Republic
  • President Marcela Rebelo de Sousa
  • Ethnic groups: white homogeneous Mediterranean population; citizens of black African descent who immigrated to the mainland during decolonization number less than 100,000; since 1990, Eastern Europeans have migrated to Portugal.
  • Languages: Portuguese (official), Mirandese (official, but locally used)
  • Religions: Roman Catholic 81%, other Christian 3.3%, other (includes Jewish, Muslim) 0.6%, none 6.8%, unspecified 8.3%
  • US State Department Risk Level:
  • Terrorist groups: N/A
  • GDP is 237.7 Billion.
  • Portugal is the westernmost country of mainland Europe and makes up the Iberian Peninsula, along with Spain and Andorra. 
  • Portugal’s colonial empire spanned 600 years, the longest-lived of the modern European empires.
  • Portugal’s official name is República Portuguesa.
  • Portugal founded the first global empire.
  • The rooster is a symbol of Portugal.
  • There are 15 UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Portugal (ranking it 8th in Europe and 17th worldwide).
  • Fado is Portugals national music.
  • Portugal has the longest bridge in Europe. The six-lane, cable-stayed Vasco da Gama bridge, which crosses the Tagus River to the north of Lisbon, was opened in 1998 and is almost 11 miles long. 
  • Portuguese is spoken in nine countries; Brazil, Angola, Guinea-Bissau, East Timor, Mozambique, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde, and São Tomé and Príncipe.
  • Inventions originating in Portugal include the Green Lane toll pay system(Via Verde), Prepaid cell phones, ukulele, ocean navigational and coastal cartography, carracks black sword, marmalade, cerebral angiography, Japanese Tempura, and deaf-mute language.
  • Leading Industries in Portugal: cork, tourism, service, textiles, power, automotive, electronics, metals, cement, footwear, paper, chemicals, pottery, and processed food.
  • Portugal had poor economic conditions after years of dictatorship. In the past decade, the government has privatized many state-controlled firms and opened critical areas of the economy.
  • One of the first countries to adopt the euro was Portugal.
  • Portugal is a founding member of NATO and an E.U. member.
  • The highest mountain in Portugal is Mount Picoat, 7,713 feet.
  • Cabo da Roca is continental Europe’s westernmost point, located within the Sintra Mountain Range in the Portuguese municipality of Sintra. 
  • Life expectancy is 81 years old.
  • The literacy rate is 96%.

Fun Facts

  • Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe and was founded in 1139. Portugal is named after the city of Porto.
  •  Lisbon, the capital of Portugal, is also one of the oldest cities in Western Europe.
  • Portugal receives more than 300 days of sunshine annually!
  • The University of Coimbra, established in Lisbon in 1290, is one of the oldest universities in continuous operation in the world. It is traced back to the 13th century.
  • Portugal was once one of the world’s most powerful nations and owned half of the “New World.” When the Treaty of Tordesillas was signed in 1494, Portugal was given the eastern half of the New World, including Brazil, Asia, and Africa.  
  • The Douro wine region is the third-oldest protected region of its kind.
  • Portugal and England signed the Anglo-Portuguese alliance in 1373, which still is in place. It is the oldest diplomatic alliance in the world. They remain close allies.
  • The oldest bookstore, the Bertrand Bookstore in Lisbon, is the oldest in the world. 
  • One of the most powerful earthquakes in European history struck Lisbon in 1755, where 275,000 people were killed.
  • The country’s national drink is Port wine, a major export.
  • The Portuguese were the first Europeans to reach Japan in the 16th century.
  • In 1761, Portugal became the first colonial power to abolish slavery before Britain, France, Spain, or the United States.
  • The Portugal–Spain border is 754 mi long and the longest uninterrupted border within the European Union. 
  • Portugal’s dictatorship was the longest in Europe, 1926-1974, with António de Oliveira Salazar as dictator.
  • Portugal is the world leader in the production of renewable energy. It meets almost 70% of its energy needs through hydro, wind, and solar power. 
  • Portugal produces approximately half of all cork harvested annually worldwide. It is most commonly used as a wine stopper.
  • Porto has six bridges over the same river, more bridges than any other country in Europe.
  • Portuguese is the sixth most common language in the world, with 250 million speakers.
  • Napoleon occupied Portugal in 1807. The British fought him off.
  • Portugal has one of the most advanced ATM systems in the world.
  • Known as the country of tiles, you will find tiles decorating their walls, floors, and ceilings.
  • Millions of pilgrims journey to Fatima each year. This Catholic pilgrimage brings 6-7 million to Portugal. 
  • The Age of Discovery is a period in the history of Europe that occurred from the 15th century to the mid-17th century. 

Portugal Map

Good to know before you go – Portgual

  • Tipping etiquette in Portugal is a bit inconsistent, but it is customary to tip in most places. The minimum wage is relatively low in Portugal, so they appreciate tipping. We found that high-end establishments expect tips while lower-end ones do not when the workers likely need them more. Tipping is usually between 5-10% at restaurants. Since food is relatively inexpensive, we always leave at least 10%. Servers tend to be engaging and helpful. Though it is uncommon in Portugal, check if the service charge is built into the bill. In hotels, tip the bellman a couple of euros and housekeeping 1-2 euros per night. Taxis and car services expect 10%. Concierge and spa services do not expect tips. 
  • Shops and restaurants accept credit cards almost everywhere. Have cash for markets, street vendors, and small cafes.
  • The Portuguese dress conservatively. Women usually wear dresses, and men’s clothing is based primarily around a jacket and tie. People are fashion-conscious and believe that clothes indicate social standing and success. Therefore, they take great pride in wearing quality fabrics and clothes.
  • The main highways in Portugal are remarkable. Wide-open, modern, and with barely anyone on them because the tolling system scares people away. Infrastructure was clearly a priority in the rebuilding of this beautiful country. The drive is often breathtaking. The signage is excellent. The speed is fast but doesn’t go above it as there are cameras everywhere, and they ticket you. We got one upon our return to the U.S. They are pricey!!! The country roads are good overall and easy to navigate. Be careful in the cities; there were spots we could barely get our car through, and we scraped it once. These are old cities with very narrow roads.  
  • All major roads have tolls, which has become a major issue of frustration for tourists. This is done electronically, and it seems every few miles. It is subtle too, and you may miss it unless you know what you are looking for. It is small amounts each time but often. When you rent a car, make sure you get a toll pass as part of your rental. It will be based on your days, and the charge will give you unlimited use of the Toll Service. Other ways include pre-purchase credits, paying at the post office, or renting a Via Verdie device. We did not want to think about it, so we had the pass added to our rental car bill, and it worked flawlessly. Portugal monitors its roads aggressively to catch violators. They will track you down while driving, and you pay on the spot with a hefty fine. Check out portugaltolls.com for all your options.  
  • Keep your car fueled by at least half of a tank! You will discover long stretches of mountainous roads with no gas stations in Portugal, even in small towns. We had a near disaster during our trip. Heading to a castle, we forgot to get gas in the city. We weren’t too worried as we saw many small towns along the way. To our painful surprise, not one town had gas for us. After a couple of hours and 40 km to our destination in our hybrid rental car, we were at zero km left and had a very low battery on mountainous roads. We were coasting down the hills to give the battery a small charge while we prayed going up hills.
  • On top of that, we had no cell service in spots, and there was hardly a car on the road either. We finally got to this nice town with a tiny two-pump station. I am sure it has limited hours, too! It was some of the most stressful moments of any trip. Without cell service, we weren’t even sure how we would call for help—a hard-learned lesson that did not end in disaster. Yes, the castle was worth it.   
  • Portugal is full of cities with hills! We mean hills, real hills. Steep hills. We can not say this enough; plan accordingly. Bring two pairs of good walking/hiking shoes. Swap shoes often. Our feet have never been so impacted than on this trip. Weeks later, they still felt bruised, and a Podiatrist said, what did you expect? By the way, did we mention the hills?
  • The Portuguese are very family-oriented due to these strong Roman Catholic beliefs. Loyalty to the family comes before any other social or business relationship. Sundays are family days when everyone gathers to visit parents and grandparents.
  • An arm’s length is usually the appropriate amount of personal space during conversations. The Portuguese tend to touch a bit when conversing with good friends and family. But those displays are inappropriate in business or formal situations.
  • It is appropriate to shake hands with eye contact with everyone present in informal situations, which generally means that you haven’t met the person before; this applies to men, women, and older children. One should shake hands again upon leaving. When greeting acquaintances and friends, you will see men embrace and pat one another on the back and women kiss both cheeks, starting with the right.
  • The Portuguese are fatalists. They have deep faith in their destinies, which they believe cannot be escaped.
  • The Portuguese tend to be quite direct in their communication style. They usually tell you the truth, but not in a harsh way. They speak quickly and loudly. Their body language is conservative, as they feel it is not seen as classy to be overall expressive.
  • Seafood is a staple of the Portuguese diet. You will see it on all menus, and it is genuinely fresh and served with pride. Octopus is a favorite, and each region seems to have variations. In Lisbon, Joelle ordered a whole Octopus. It was an experience she won’t ever forget. When in Rome……..You can see pics of it here.     
  • When first arriving at your table at a restaurant in Portugal, you immediately receive some bread, mixed olives, and spreadables. This is known as Couvert and is brought as a convenience, so you don’t have to order them. Your first impression is how welcoming. Beware, these are not FREE; you will be charged for them if you do not want them to state it immediately. They don’t tend to be costly, but they can add up. This is done everywhere in Portugal. During our extended visit, only one place didn’t, and it was a Michelin Star restaurant in Algarve. 
  • Table manners are continental. While eating, hold the fork in the left hand and the knife in the right. Do not begin your meal until the hostess says bon appetit.
  • Café culture is also an important feature of the Portuguese lifestyle. They love their coffee along with pastry or bread drenched in olive oil.
  • You should seek out Pasteis de Nata, a delectable crispy, creamy, and sweet pastry. The original home is in Belem, a district outside of Lisbon. You will find long lines, but it is still well worth a visit.
  • Attending a national festival is a fantastic way to experience Portugal’s culture and traditions. Some include Carnival in February, Easter celebrations like Holy Week (“Semana Santa”), and the international sand sculpture festival in early Spring.
  • Portugal is one of the world’s top surf spots and occurs year-round. If you can make the time watch some of these talented surfers. The largest wave ever surfed was in Portugal.
  • Portugal has numerous sacred sites worth visiting; among them are the Sanctuary of Our Lady of Fátima (with the Chapel of the Apparitions, the Sacred Heart statue, and the Basilica of Our Lady of the Rosary), the Alcobaça Monastery, where the tombs of Pedro I and Inês de Castro are located, and the Cathedral of Braga, a Roman Catholic church.
  • Bring flowers, good-quality chocolates, or candy when invited to a Portuguese home for dinner.
  • Tourism is the backbone of this country. Due to that, you will find that most Portuguese speakers speak excellent English. Learn the basics, though; you are a guest in their country.
  • It is rated the 4th safest country in the world (2018).

Portugal Essential Info

U.S. Consular Emergency
The 24-hour number from a U.S. Phone is 1-888-407-4747
Outside of U.S. 011-202-501-4444

U.S. Embassy Lisbon
Av. das Forças Armadas, Sete-Rios
1600-081 Lisbon
Portugal
Telephone: +(351) (21) 770-2122
Emergency After-Hours Telephone: +(351) (21)-770-2122 or +(351) (21) 727-3300
Fax: +(351) (21) 727-2354
Email: conslisbon@state.gov

US Consulate Ponta Delgada
Av. Príncipe do Mónaco No, 6-2 F
9500-237 Ponta Delgada, Açores
Portugal
Telephone: +(351) (296) 308-330
EmergencyAfter-Hours Telephone: +(351) (21) 727-3300 
Fax: +(351) (296) 287-216
Email: ConsPontaDelgada@state.gov

Emergency Numbers
GENERAL 112


Country Code
+351

Time Zone
UTC

Driving
Right side

Adaptors
“Standard” Euro plug
Type C or F

Tourism Office
www.visitportugal.com/en

When to go to Portugal

Portugal’s climate is maritime temperate. It is generally cool and rainy in the north and dry and warmer in the south. There are 300 days of sun a year. It is a year-round travel destination. Summer is the peak season, and there could be lots of crowds. Since the weather is good year-round in Portugal, there is no traditional shoulder season. You will find the lowest crowds and best prices in the winter months.

In Portugal, the country has two main weather regions on the mainland, North and South of the River Tejo. Though smaller, there are also the Azores and Madeira islands. The Azores High, a high-pressure system that strongly impacts the weather, delivers nice weather both in winter and summer.

North of the River Tejo, along the temperate humid Atlantic coast, winters are usually rainy, and summers are mild and dry, becoming hotter the further east you travel. Plan appropriately by packing some light rain gear and an umbrella. The region south of the River Tejo experiences a Mediterranean climate, with drier winters and hot and dry summers.

The Azores and Madeira islands have subtropical climates with year-round mild temperatures.

  • Summer 62-83 °F (17-28 °C)
  • Spring 52-72 °F (52-72 °C)
  • Fall 53-80°F (14-27 °C)
  • Winter 47-62 °F (11-16 °C)

Our Favorite Portugal Resources

This resource section contains some Amazon affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Travel Books/Guides

Portugal was part of a two-week trip, including Spain. This is a perfect combination due to proximity. They are also very diverse experiences. This was our first trip to Portugal and Joelle’s second to Spain. We didn’t know much about Portugal, but we realized this would be amazing as we researched. It has turned out to be one of our favorite places. The guides and tools below helped build that excitement and made for the perfect trip.

Portugal Lonely Planet’s Portugal (Country Guide) by Lonely Planet

A passport to the most relevant, up-to-date advice that all Portugal has to offer and what hidden discoveries await you. Explore the alleyways and hidden courtyards in bustling Lisbon, discover Port Houses and the rich history in Porto, and play in the Algarve beaches’ waves. Let this beautifully illustrated guide be your travel partner. Great photography and lots of details to aid in planning. Discover this travel guide here.

Portugal Rick Steves Portugal by Rick Steves

Full disclosure, we are huge Rick Steve fans, it will be rare if we do not recommend one of his wonderful guides, and boy did we use his Portugal one. We love his travel style and perspective. His off-the-beaten-path approach and his independent travel philosophy match well with how we travel. The guides never disappoint. This book made the cut into our suitcase and was a fantastic resource. Find this must-have guide here.

Portugal D.K. Eyewitness Portugal (Travel Guide) by D.K. Eyewitness

The ideal travel companion is full of insider advice on what to see and do detailed itineraries, and comprehensive maps for exploring this vibrant country. Whether you’re looking for world-renowned beaches, serene hilltop villages, grassy islands, or captivating cities, everything you need to know is clearly laid out within color-coded chapters. Find this guide here.

Our favorite websites
  1. Portugal tourism site

2. U.S. Department of State: Bureau of Consular Affairs Portugal Country Info

We cannot encourage you enough to visit this website as you plan and prepare for your trip. This is the U.S. Federal Government addressing the safety, security, travel risk, entry, exit, visa documents mandates, emergency U.S. and Embassy contacts, health, local laws, special circumstances, threats, traveler vulnerabilities, government warnings, and transportation in Portugal. This is your best and most reliable resource for all this important info. Check back often before you go, as things can change quickly. Being prepared is essential in all travel, but especially internationally.

Portugal International Travel Information (state.gov)

3. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Travelers Health Resource

This CDC travel resource provides essential health info for your specific destination. Using their tool, you can determine which vaccines, medications, and health advice recommendations are needed for Portugal.

CDC’s Travelers Health Page for Portugal

Our favorite maps

Portugal Portugal and Spain National Geographic Adventure Map, 3307

Easy-to-read maps with practical road and travel information. These maps are meant for the adventure traveler. Major sites and landmarks are well-marked. Mapped road network with distances and designations for major highways to the off-the-beaten-path roads. Waterproof and tear-resistant, it holds up well. Great for planning your route before your trip. Though we default to Google Maps, this came in handy when service was poor or during construction detours. Find this essential map here.

Our favorite apps

Google Maps Trip and Holiday Organizer. Enter any address, landmark, or city in the app, and it will instantly display all your travel options and booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. We love it when using public transportation, it is spot on! Find it on your local app store.

Rome2rio: Trip Planner Trip and Holiday Organizer Enter any address, landmark, or city in the App will instantly display all your travel options, and booking info, along with accommodation providers and things to do. Find it on your local app store.

Duolingo-Language Lesson Audio lessons that help improve your listening and speaking skills. Find it on your local app store.

Rick Steves Audio Europe This App includes a vast library of Rick Steve’s audio content. Get cultural and travel info. Includes self-guided tours of top attractions and historic walks. Amsterdam options. A must-have. Find it on your local app store.

Portugal News English Portugal news and radio. Learn what is happening before you and while there. Find it on your App Store.

Google Translate We often use this to practice the proper pronunciation of Portuguese words. As we always encourage, learning the basics of greeting and thanking people in the local language is essential. Google Translate was an easy app to use. If needed, you can enter text in English, and it will speak back in Portuguese to aid in communicating with locals. Furthermore, it came in very handy to translate text into images instantly.

Do you have a favorite Portugal travel resource? Share your favorites in the comments section at the bottom of this page or

Check out our Portugal Posts

© 2024 Wanderers Compass All Rights Reserved

Travel Insurance

Squaremouth.com
Our favorite travel insurance site!

We could not be stronger advocates of being well-insured—not just for the little stuff but for the big things like medical emergencies. We never leave home without it. Our go-to place is Squaremouth.com. It does a fantastic job with its user-friendly interface and uses top-rated and reputable insurance carriers. They also mediate on your behalf if you have problems.

To empower you as a consumer, we suggest you read our blog post on the importance of travel insurance and how to get the best coverage from top-rated companies for an affordable price.

MedjetAssist
Medical transport back home from anywhere in the world

They are the premier global air medical transport. One caveat to travel insurance is that medical evacuation usually gets you to the closest facility to care for you. Medjet gets you back to the U.S. to the hospital of your choice once you are stable enough to fly. A Medjet membership is only for medical transport. Medjet Horizon offers expanded coverage. They have individual trip policies starting at $99 and annual policies for around $300. Most of their policies limit the age to 74.

To learn more about how Medical Evacuation membership with Medjet Assist works, check out our blog post for a more detailed review.  

Accommodations & Experiences

Expedia.com and VRBO
Hotels, home rentals, BNBs, flights, and other transportation & tours 

Expedia is a US-based company whose mission is to power global travel for everyone and everywhere. Wanderers Compass focuses on independent travel, and using sites like Expedia makes that possible. Every aspect of travel you need, from airfare, accommodations, rental car, and cruises to activities to do at your destination, can be booked on Expedia.  

Booking.com
Hotels, Home rentals, BNBs, Flights, and other Transportation & Tours 

Booking.com connects millions of travelers to memorable experiences, various transportation options, and incredible places to stay – from homes to hotels and much more. It is one of the world’s largest travel marketplaces for established brands and entrepreneurs of all sizes. It is our preferred booking site.

Viator
The leading marketplace for travel experiences

Viator believes that making memories is what travel is all about. And with 300,000+ experiences to explore—everything from simple tours to extreme adventures (and all the niche, interesting stuff in between)—making memories that will last a lifetime has never been easier. We use them often during our travels and love their liberal cancellation policy.

Shopping

Wanderers Compass Amazon Storefront
An excellent source for all travel essentials and guides

Amazon is one of the most comprehensive online shopping sources in the world. Teams worldwide provide lower prices, better selection, and rapid delivery on behalf of customers. They offer a vast inventory, and their 1.7 million small and medium businesses worldwide selling on Amazon.com offer extensive options to customers.

HYDAWAY

This is not your ordinary drinkware company. The HYDAWAY difference is what their products do when you’re not using them. Practical and portable, HYDAWAY doesn’t take up unnecessary space in your already-packed life or pile up in landfills. We have used their collapsible water bottle, carrying case for the water bottle, and collapsible insulated drink tumbler. They are all lightweight and durable. This is a conservation-focused product you can be proud to buy.

Use our Promo Code. WANCOM15, at checkout for 15% off your Hydaway order

This article contains affiliate links. If you use these links to buy something, we may earn a small commission at no additional cost to you. Thank you!

Want to learn about Wanderers Compass?

Check out our most recent blog posts

Do you have a question for us or have a comment?

Portugal

No Comments

    Leave a Reply

    IMG 8134 scaled

    Passionate about travel? Subscribe to our Wanderers Compass Community

    Our quarterly newsletters will inspire your wanderlust

    No spam, unsubscribe at any time, no more than one email a month