5 Things Nobody Tells You About Traveling in Portugal 

Portugal is one of the must destinations for those who love colours, beaches, and delightful wine! These things are often what attract visitors from all over the world to one of Europe’s oldest countries.

Portugal has much to offer, from the nightlife city of Lisbon and the historic castles and palaces of Sintra to the renowned Porto city of wine. If you’re thinking about booking a self-guided tour with us, there are a number of things you should know about traveling in Portugal. 

Castle of Sintra - Portugal
Castle of Sintra

Currency and Paying for Things in Portugal

Like many European Union countries, Portugal uses the Euro as currency. If you’re traveling from the United States, you’ll want to figure out how you plan on exchanging currencies for your trip.

There are ATMs scattered throughout major cities in Portugal, and you can also exchange your currency at international airports. It’s best to keep smaller bills on you. While some places may accept international credit cards, it’s always a good idea to keep cash on you.

Local Portuguese shops, restaurants, and cafes may not accept international credit cards. Some places only accept Portuguese credit cards, which only citizens can obtain. Having cash on hand can prevent you from being turned away from a place that doesn’t accept foreign credit cards.

The Rich History of Portugal

Portugal was founded in 1143 and later recognized in 1179 as an independent kingdom, making it one of the oldest European countries. There’s such rich history lying within the walls of castles, palaces, and cathedrals scattered throughout the country.

If you make Sintra one of your Portugal destinations, you can explore the medieval Moorish Castle that overlooks the town. There’s even a reason for all the vibrantly colored buildings that you’ll probably see during your trip.

Lisbon and Porto are known for their decoratively colored buildings, some of which are made with polished tiles called azulejos. Another art form that presents itself on Portugal homes, restaurants, and other infrastructure is the Italian majolica painting technique.

If you travel farther inland, you can discover the rural mountain Schist Villages. This region is known for its small villages with houses made of schist that date back to the 12th century.

Torre of Belem
Torre of Belem

Driving and Transportation

Portugal is known to have a pretty good public transportation system. Getting around major cities in Portugal isn’t very difficult because of easy public transportation access. However, you’ll want to familiarize yourself with various public transportation and direction signs. This can help prevent any confusion if some destinations lack bilingual signs to help you get around.

If you’re planning on driving in Portugal, rental car facilities might have different requirements. You have to be over 21 years of age to rent a car in Portugal, but some places might have a higher age restriction.

You should also carry your passport and identity card with you at all times. To keep your passport safe, you can make a copy of it and leave your original passport at the place you’re staying and carry the copy with you.

You don’t need an international driver’s license to drive in Portugal as long as your stay is shorter than six months. Another important thing to note is many vehicles in Portugal have a manual transmission. If you plan on driving yourself around, you should make plans to request an automatic vehicle or be comfortable driving a manual before arriving.

Yellow vintage tram on the street in Lisbon - Portugal
Yellow vintage tram on the street in Lisbon

Best Time to Visit Portugal

Summer is the most popular time to visit Portugal. This means that popular tourist destinations are crowded and prices will be higher than the off-season. Exploring Portugal in June is one of the best times to immerse yourself in the many different celebrations that cities hold for their history and culture.

If you take our self-guided Lisbon City Tour in June, you might be visiting just in time for the Festa de Santo Antônio in Lisbon. Historic neighborhoods, such as Alfama and Castelo, hold colorful parades and parties along the cobblestone streets. On June 23, the city of Porto holds the São João festival.

Although summer in Portugal has a gleaming nightlife and makes for a beautiful beach vacation, it can also be a great place to visit during other times of the year. The spring and fall months are slightly cooler but still offer warm and sunny days great for on-foot tours.

Portugal experiences the most rain in colder months between November and February. Visiting Portugal between October and April can give you a less crowded experience, and cheaper prices since tourist activity are lower during this time.

Praia do Camilo Beach
Praia do Camilo Beach

What to Wear in Portugal

Packing the right clothes and shoes to wear when visiting a new country can often be overwhelming. If you’re traveling in urbanized cities like Lisbon and Porto, you’ll want to have comfortable shoes to wear.

Many historic neighborhoods have beautiful cobblestone streets, and Lisbon has a lot of hills. Wearing non-slip shoes with supportive soles can help make traveling on foot much easier.

If you’re visiting Portugal in the summer, be prepared for hot and humid days. Since the entire west coast of Portugal is bordered by the North Atlantic Ocean, this can give you a nice breeze when you’re visiting coastal cities. Moisture in the air can lead to high levels of humidity paired with temperatures reaching around 80 degrees Fahrenheit in the mid to late summer. 

The mountainous regions of Portugal, such as the Schist Villages, are rainier and have cooler weather than the coastal and lowland regions.

Packing light clothing and a thin raincoat is recommended for summer weather. If you’re visiting in the off-season, you’ll want to bring a mix of light and heavier clothing for colder days.

Faro city
Faro city

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