Portugal’s borders date back to 1139 B.C., making it the oldest country in the Old World.
To state the obvious, that’s thousands of years—so more history has happened here than most places on Earth.
The upside of all of this history is that you’ll never run out of ancient places to discover when you’re traveling to Portugal…
The entire country is a cross between a national park, a museum, and a coastal resort—all with the constant, ever-present charms of the Old World.
If you want, you can spend all of your time relaxing and enjoying the beach, but there’s so much more to do here. Portugal boasts arguably the best beaches in Europe, along with the best weather, the best golf, and, thanks to decades as an expat hot spot, the most welcoming locals in Europe.
It sounds like a vacation—and for many it is—but, at these prices, your Portugal travel can be a holiday that never has to end.
Here are some tips before traveling to Portugal.
1. Pack a Range of Clothing
Portugal is a coastal country, meaning the climate varies from town to town. Bring a range of clothes, from thick layers for when the weather gets cold, to thin layers to relax at the beach. During the summer, consider thin fabric clothes and a light jacket for when the evening cools down. If you like to be outdoors and plan on hiking make sure to bring waterproof hiking shoes and the right outdoors clothing.
2. Wear Comfortable Footwear
You will be doing a lot of walking. One of the best ways to get to know Portugal is on foot, and there are plenty of walkable tours so it’s essential to bring a good pair of shoes that help you to stay on your feet while traveling to Portugal. The streets are mostly cobblestone, and in coastal towns it is common for strong winds to blow sand on the roads making surfaces uneven and slippery. Be careful while walking and wear non-slip shoes.
3. Security and Pick Pocketers
The Algarve is one of the safest regions in Europe, and Portugal ranks as the 17th safest country in the world. Violent crime is rare, and petty crime is most common during the busy tourist season. Portugal commonly receives an “A rating” for Safety and Crime.
The main safety concern while traveling to Portugal is often pickpockets who tend to flock where the tourists go. Our best recommendation is to not carry an open handbag, keep an eye on your backpack, and do not leave your important belongings (such as your ID, wallet, or phone) in your pockets. In case you encounter a pickpocket, they are usually not violent. Relinquish your stuff and call the police.
The police may be able to get your wallet and belongings back, but probably not cash. Another great traveler tip is to carry a money belt with your cash stashed inside within your pants or inside a shoe. If you need assistance in Portugal, dial 112, which will get you in contact with the police and emergency medical services and it is free to call from anywhere.
4. Driving Culture
If you have multiple destinations when traveling to Portugal your best option is to rent a car. Driving in Portugal can be an experience and you may encounter more aggressive drivers.
While you drive, carry your important documents such as driver’s license, the IPO inspection and car rental papers along with vehicle registration. It is also good to carry a small first aid kit in case of any accidents.
5. Learn A Bit Of Portuguese
An estimated 50,000 of Portugal’s more than 100,000 resident foreigners are reportedly British. The fact that a near majority of expats are Anglophones means meeting people is easy—and also means that most Portuguese speak English pretty well.
Portuguese is a hard language to learn. In certain parts of Portugal, people are used to having English-speaking tourists or immigrants, and a great deal of the population will be able to speak English with you. In remote areas you might be wishing you’d learn at least a bit of Portuguese to help you out.
Certain Portuguese words and expressions can help you a great deal, and locals will be appreciative and happy to hear your attempt to communicate with them in their language. You won’t need to be fluent before your trip, but certain words and phrases will improve your trip and will always be received with a smile from Portuguese people.
You should at least learn some words and phrases such ashello, my name is, I need help with, where is the bathroom, how much is it, please, and thank you. Make a list and practice these words during your Portugal travel. It will go a long way and help you connect with locals.
[ Read: Tips for learning a new language ]
In general, Portugal is not a tipping culture, there are no established rules, and different people follow different rules. While traveling to Portugal, there is no obligation to tip in restaurants, hotels, bars, or personal service locations like salons and spas. However, a tip is always appreciated by the service provider and tips are more common in tourist areas or places with a high expat population.
7. Enjoy The Portuguese Cuisine
Don’t judge a country by its food. Or, at least, by the first dish you experience.
The Portuguese seem to eat nothing but meat… and lots of it. If you are vegetarian or vegan it is best to come prepared with a few snacks from home or find alternatives in the local market during your Portugal travel.
For example, a lasagna of pork, chorizo, bread, and gravy is considered a Portuguese special.
Portugal receives rave reviews about the local seafood. Clams, prawns, oysters, cod, sardines, trout, anchovies—they’re all so fresh and tasty, and typically presented with minimal tampering. Comur,the national cannery chain,has shops all over Portugal (as well as its own factory museum) that manage to turn a mundane product such as sardines, trout, and anchovies into something weirdly fun and entertaining.
Besides this, local wine will always be a great addition to your meal, while local beer and spirits are cheaper and can taste just as good.
8. Explore The History And Culture of Portugal
Portugal boasts Europe’s best beaches, 1,115 miles of coastline, and 300 days of sunny skies every year. To think of this special place as merely a beach getaway is a mistake.
You could explore the caves and coves of the world’s most fascinating coast… Hike the Roman walls and medieval castles around noon… Play a round of golf at one of the world’s best golf courses… Or ride a rickety tram up narrow cobblestone streets to get to the Castelo de São Jorge overlooking the ancient city of Lisbon.
While traveling to Portugal, you can indulge in any activity imaginable here, from boating, diving, and hiking to regular nights out at the theater and museum and gallery afternoons.