Travel to Portugal

Beach in Albufeira

Portugal is country with diverse landscapes including a lot of coastline with beautiful beaches. I had my first opportunity to travel to Portugal in January 2006. We were escaping from the gloom of England and were very satisfied with the sunshine on the south coast near Albufeira, Faro and Sagres. Since it was such a good idea to travel to Portugal during the winter, I travelled at a similar time ten years later to Lisbon. And most recently, I visited Porto in the North in March 2022.

Honestly, I did not keep a lot of trip notes from the 2006 trip so just have some photos for my memories. We enjoyed the beaches on the south coast, just for walks as the water was cold. Faro was an interesting city, especially visiting the Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones. We had a rental car so explored the whole southern coast. The areas towards Sagres in the southwest had fewer people. Some of my favourite moments were stopping on the side of the road to try local oranges and honey. Delicious! We also stopped at a zoo with free-roaming lemurs and it was fun to have them running around our feet.

I’ll write some more specific posts on Lisbon and Porto in the near future. In the meantime, here is a short guide on travel to Portugal.

Luís I Bridge, Porto
Luís I Bridge, Porto
Sunset from St George Castle, Lisbon
Sunset from St George Castle, Lisbon
Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones
Capela dos Ossos, Chapel of Bones in Faro

Highlights

  • Lisbon, the capital
  • Albufeira, the southern coastal area
  • There are very nice beaches along the coasts, and Portugal has a lot of coastline
  • Try the fresh seafood and pastries
  • Sagres, the southeast point
  • Porto and the Douro Valley
  • Sample the wine and port that come from different areas of Portugal

Before you go

  • Portugal is in the European Union and the currency is the Euro
  • US and UK citizens do not need a visa to visit for up to 90 days within a 180 day period
  • Although the official language is Portuguese, many people in the main cities speak English
  • Tipping is appreciated although there is no fixed, expected amount
Trolley in Lisbon
Trolley in Lisbon
Graffiti in Lisbon
Graffiti in Lisbon
Miradouro da Vitória, Porto
View from Miradouro da Vitória, Porto

Transport

  • There are many international flights to the main airports in Faro, Lisbon and Porto.
  • Within Porto and Lisbon there are excellent metro systems. These also go to and from the airport, but check the timing as the lines sometimes only run every 30 minutes or so.
  • There are also many buses and GoogleMaps is quite useful for mapping a route
  • Within the cities, it is easy to get around by foot. However, keep in mind that Lisbon and Porto can be quite hilly!
  • To get out of the cities you may want to hire a car. There are some trains and buses but that may take you longer and a car gives more flexibility.

Accommodation

  • In Lisbon, we stayed at the VIP Executive Eden Aparthotel. It is a large hotel in a historic looking building with an old theatre facade. The hotel is very central, and has comfortable, clean rooms. Breakfast is not included but we had a mini kitchenette.
  • Another time, on the way to the Azores islands, I was delayed and spent one night in Lisbon at the Sana Metropolitan Hotel. It was very comfortable and had a great breakfast. However, it is a bit out of the city centre so I would prefer to stay more centrally when visiting Lisbon again.
  • When we travelled to Albufeira, we stayed at the Santa Eulalia Hotel. It was really great value for money, probably because we went in January! Nice hotel with a pool
  • Most recently, I stayed at the HaoBo Porto Centre guesthouse. It is very central and quite new and clean. Large rooms, and a shared kitchen and terrace. Many stairs up to the reception and again to the rooms.

Currency

The currency in Portugal is the Euro. As of April 2022, one British pound is about 1.19 euros.

I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates

10 euro note
10 euro note
Pica-pau at Brasao
Pica-pau at Brasao, Porto
Castro Pasteis de Nata, Porto
Castro Pasteis de Nata, Porto
Port tasting at Kopke
Port tasting at Kopke, Porto

Food

Portuguese food has a great variety and many national specialties. Bacalhau, or cod, is one ingredient found in many dishes. There are also many unique cheeses, sausages, and pastries to try. One must try is the pasteis de nata, custard tarts. It’s hard to say which are the best but with all of the competition, most are very tasty.

A memory from a winter visit is that the oranges are deliciously sweet, and easy to find on the side of the road at least in the south!

In addition to the food, the wine from regions such as the Douro Valley and Vinho Verde are also well known and worth a try.

Luckily, I have a number of friends from Portugal and they have shared some recipes. Therefore, I have been cooking some Portuguese recipes at home and I have shared some favourites.

I’ll give some specific restaurant recommendations in future posts about Lisbon and Porto.

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No, not generally as it is easy to get around the country by public transport.

Q: Do people speak English?

A: Many people in the larger cities speak English. However, you may want to have GoogleTranslate or a similar app to hand.

Q: Can I travel solo?

A: Yes it is a safe country and easy to travel on your own

Q: How easy is it to send postcards? It is easy to find postcards in the cities, and to buy stamps to send postcards

A: See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.

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