Portugal Travel Tips

If you've never been to Portugal, these tips should help you figure out some essentials when dining, finding accommodations, and getting around Spain's Iberian neighbor.

Café

  • When you order a coffee (um café / uma bica), don’t expect a cup of Americana coffee; Portuguese consume espresso-type coffee by default up to four times a day.

  • If you see a café or restaurant with pictures of food displayed out front, move along. Places like these are often tourist traps and will not hesitate to rip you off.

  • Coffee for kids: um garoto (“weak boy”) is a cup of espresso diluted in milk and served to children.

  • Um galão is a warm, latté-like coffee drink served in a tall glass. It’s one part espresso and three parts milk, so if you love milk more than you love coffee, this might be the perfect drink for you.

  • Always have cash! While you can pay with a credit card at restaurants, most cafés or pastelerias are cash only. And don’t forget to tip your server about 10% of the total!

Restaurant

  • Your waiter might bring some small plates of bread, olives, or cheese to your table. These entradas are not free! If you don’t want them, simply send them back and you won’t be charged if they’re untouched.

  • Most main courses don’t come with vegetables, so it’s best to ask your server whether your meal comes with any. If not, ask for a soup or salad on the side to satisfy your veg cravings.

  • Eat lunch like a local: Many restaurants offer pratos do dia at lunchtime, which is a set menu of 2-3 meat or bacalhau (salted cod) entrées that cost €10 or less. In Spain, this is called the menú del día.

  • Green wine: if you encounter a bottle labeled Vinho Verde, don’t assume that you’ve found an entirely new type of grape. Vinhos Verdes are light, nearly sparkling wines that are consumed soon after they’re bottled.

Hotel

  • Hotels in Portugal have their own star rating system as determined by the government. A hotel can have a rating from 1 to 5 based on comfort, facilities, and overall quality.

  • Most hotels rated two stars and up will have a bed and private bathroom, minibar, and air-conditioning. If a hotel has less than three stars, the bathroom will likely contain a shower instead of a tub.

  • Room rates are cheapest during off-season, which runs from November to March, and can drop up to 20%. However, this does not apply to the Christmas and New Year holiday season, Easter, or any festival period.

Tourist

  • If you like the beach but want to avoid the Algarve’s flocks of tourists, try the Alentejo coast in the southwest of Portugal. Massive cliffs tower over nearly pristine beaches, and the strong waves are perfect for fans of watersports.

  • The Portuguese are highly influenced by the Catholic church. If you plan to visit a church or any religious place, dress modestly out of respect for the locals.

  • Everyone in Portugal runs a little late, so never expect things to start on time. This goes for meetings, dinners, shows… everything.

  • Most restrooms are reasonably clean and have toilet paper, but bring some of your own just in case. If your restroom has an attendant, expect to pay a tip of about €0.30.

  • Going to Lisbon? Buy the local tourist card and get free admission to museums, tours, and even public transportation!

  • Portuguese people are very polite and will say “please” (por favor or se faz favor) and “thank you” (obrigado / obrigada) very often. As an act of courtesy, we advise you to do so as well – it’s an easy way to practice your Portuguese!