5 Tips for Travelling to Portugal
Portugal is a destination that’s brimming with vibrancy. An enticing culture filled with pride and a zest for life, Portugal will leave you charmed by its historic architecture and past, its flavoursome food & wine, and the golden sandy beaches meeting cobblestone streets upon which the famous tiled art pattern the streets in bursts of colour.
Everywhere you look, Portugal and its people offer a beauty and warmth that’s infectious. And because it’s the westernmost state of mainland Europe, the crowds are far less than you might otherwise expect – making tourism and travel there a breeze.
If you’re considering travelling to this beautiful part of the world, here are some helpful tips to make the most of your time there – and be warned, once you’re there you may never want to leave!
Tip #1 Acquaint yourself with the history of Portugal
The majority of Portuguese people are Roman-Catholic and are very much influenced by the dominance of the Catholic Church and traditional Christian values. Portugal also revolves around family-values, and many of its tradition and customs remain unchanged to this day.
When travelling to Portugal, especially in its more rural areas, you will experience this authenticity and simplicity toward life in up close and personal.
Tip #2 Learn (basic) Portuguese and local etiquette – or ask your tour guide for their tips
It’s a good idea to learn a little bit of Portuguese before you leave. While it’s possible to get by with only English, especially in the popular tourist areas of Lisbon, Porto and Algarve, learning some basic Portuguese phrases can help you along the way particularly if you’re visiting places that are off-the-beaten track. The Portuguese people will appreciate your attempt to speak their language!
Become familiar with common courtesies such as “bom dia” – “good day” and “boa noite” – “goodnight”. If you’re a male, saying “thank you” is “obrigado”, while females say “obrigada”.
While greeting others, it’s common courtesy in Portugal to shake hands – especially in formal situations. Portuguese people are direct in their communication style, and are a lot more formal in public.
They tend to not use a lot of hand-gesturing, and being overly demonstrative with hand gestures or body language is often seen as rude. As in a lot of cultures, finger-pointing can be considered offensive.
When on the road, make sure to ask your Albatross Tours guide for any tips or suggestions they have regarding the etiquette and language points – they’ll be your best source of information on the ground.
Tip #3 Wear comfortable footwear
Many of the towns and villages in Portugal feature beautiful cobblestone streets, so you want to take a good pair of walking shoes with you.
The best way to explore most of Portugal is by foot, and you’ll find many cities such as Porto being quite hilly. There’s no need to be apprehensive though, since Portugal has a very good public transport system. Intercity trains and buses are inexpensive, with a metro ticket starting from around 1.50 EUR (AUD $2.41). Bike rentals are also popular in every city, with prices starting from around 14 EUR (AUD $22.50) a day.
While visiting Lisbon, make sure to catch the iconic Tram 28. This nostalgic wooden tram passes through all the historic quarters and sights, starting from Square Martim Moniz in the city’s centre, and following through Lisbon’s main streets then up through the Alfama hills, a place which originally was a Moorish city.
Tip #4 Eat out during the day
Portugal is well-known for its fresh seafood, and you’ll often see at many restaurants the fresh fish of the day displayed on beds of ice. In addition, fresh seafood, breads, rice, spices, pastries, and sausages are all popular and traditional staples in Portuguese cuisine.
Portugal is Europe’s largest consumer of rice, and while there you must try some of the popular rice dishes such as arroz doce, which is a sweet, sticky dessert rice made with milk, eggs, and cinnamon.
Most Portuguese restaurants will bring out a ‘starter’ meal consisting of bread and olives with local cheeses or even a selection of sausages and seafood. Many tourists fall into the trap that these starter meals are complimentary. If you don’t wish to have it, politely send them back untouched and you won’t be charged for them.
Dining etiquette in Portugal is important, where remaining standing until you are ushered to sit-down at a restaurant is common, while discussing business at meals is inappropriate.
Tip #5 Visit Lisbon and Porto
Portugal’s capital of Lisbon is a beautiful and friendly destination filled with historic charm. The city is hilly and on the coastline, and features pastel-coloured buildings, cobbled alleyways, and ancient ruins such as the famous Convent do Carmo, destroyed in 1755 by one of the most powerful earthquakes in European history.
Taking a guided tour of Jeronimos Monastery will reveal an abundance of historic artefacts from the Portuguese empire, including the tomb of Vasco de Gama. The world-renowned sailor played an important role in Portuguese history by founding the sea route from Lisbon to India.
Afterwards, stop and enjoy a coffee at some of the best cafes in the city. A friendly tip for those looking for a traditional cup of coffee that we’re familiar with here, ask for a meia de leite (half coffee, half milk) since the popular cafe will get you an espresso which can be too strong for some.
And for book-lovers, Lisbon is home to Bertrand Bookstore, the oldest bookstore in the world.
Up the coast, you will be greeted by one of the most colourful cities in the world, the city of Porto. Narrow laneways, steep staircases, and inspiring architecture makes Portugal’s second-largest city an immersing experience.
For wine lovers, Porto is home to the sweet, fortified wine of ‘port’. One of the must-visits is the Lello Library, with ornate wooden ceilings and a spectacular red-carpeted staircase.
And right next to the river Douro is the world-heritage listed neighbourhood of Ribeira. The labyrinth of winding streets uncover many hidden gems as you walk the laneways of the bright autumnal-coloured buildings down to the banks of the river, where you can watch fishing boats bobbing by.
Planning on visiting picturesque Portugal?
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