Portugal is one of the oldest countries in Europe, a country blessed with wonderful beaches, cities with exceptional architecture and ideal climate. When visit Portugal for the first time, you will most likely be impressed by the friendliness, laid-back of its people, the affordable food and wine, and the diversity of the landscape. With its beautiful beaches, hospitable locals, untouched countryside and delectable cuisine, Portugal deserves to be one of Europe’s most popular travel destinations. So, what to do and how to plan a perfect budget trip to Portugal for the first-time? Let’s check out our Portugal blog (Portugal travel blog) with the fullest Portugal travel guide (Portugal guide, Portugal tourist guide) from how to get there, best time to come, where to stay, best places to visit and top things to do to find out the answer!
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Portugal blog: Overview of Portugal
Portugal, officially full name Portuguese Republic, is a country on the Iberian peninsula in southwestern Europe. The westernmost country of Europe, Portugal is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south, and bordering Spain to the east and north. Portugal also holds sovereignty over the Azores and Madeira archipelagos off the coast of the Atlantic Ocean.
As a member of many international organizations and associations, Portugal is a fairly developed country with a standard of living and peace among the top countries in the world. Portuguese is the national language and is also used by many other countries as an official language such as Brazil. Other popular foreign languages include English, French, Italian and Greek. Most of Portugal’s population is Roman Catholic (97%) and a small part joins other branches of Christianity, in addition to Protestants, Muslims, Buddhists…
Portugal blog: When to come?
With its geographical location proximity to the north of Africa, it is not surprising that Portugal is one of the warmest countries in Europe with an average temperature of about 15 degrees Celsius in the north and about 18 degrees Celsius in the south. The Azores and Madeira islands have higher humidity and temperature. Autumn and winter can be quite windy and rainy, but the temperature in spring and summer is quite high in the north and inland regions. The northwest has mild winters and short summers. The northeast has hot summers and long winters. There is almost no rain in the south except in early spring and autumn. Sometimes, there is snow in the north, but it will melt very quickly.
The peak season as well as the best time to visit Portugal is in summer (June – August) with temperatures around 33 degrees Celsius, and popular destinations like Porto and Lisbon attract large numbers of visitors. The atmosphere and weather are great, so summer is the best season to traveling to Portugal. However, service prices will increase than normal. Especially the beaches in Lisbon and Algarve will be ‘overcrowded’ with tourists.
Spring (March to May) and autumn (September to October) are also good times to make a trip to Portugal due to the climate still warm, cheaper and also easy to meet locals.
If you want to save money and get discounts on services, you should go in the winter, but it’s often heavy rain.
Potugal travel blog: Getting to Portugal
Because it is located in the westernmost part of Europe, bordering only Spain on the mainland, so access to Portugal is also quite limited. From Spain you can get to Portugal by train and by car, but from other countries, if you want to get directly to Portugal, you must travel by air or by ferry. From Vietnam, international routes of Emirates, Vietnam Airlines, and Air France can all take you to Portugal with a convenient route, just through one transit.
To find cheap airfares and suitable flight routes to make an affordable trip you can search tickets via airfare compare websites such as Google Flights, Skyscanner, Momondo.
For those who want to reach Portugal by ship or ferry, you can refer here.
Portugal blog: Getting around
In larger cities like Porto and Lisbon have excellent public transport, including trains, trams, and buses. The fare is about EUR 1.50 (USD 1.70)/single-trip.
Taxis are affordable for short distances. Fares starting at EUR 3.25 (USD 4) plus about EUR 1 (under USD 2) per added kilometer.
You also can rent bicycles in all major cities. You can rent one for EUR 15 (USD 17) per day.
Portugal has a good railway system. Trains run through major cities from Lisbon, to Porto, Coimbra, Faro, Evora. From the southeast of Portugal you can getting to Spain via the international train routes. Traveling by rail is much more convenient and faster than bus, but the cost to travel is more expensive and the number of routes is also less, the most developed train lines are in Porto and Lisbon, the main train lines to Braga is convenient with pretty good quality.
The fares are affordable. Usually, you will spend around EUR 20-40 (USD 23-45) to get from Porto to Lisbon. Even high-speed rail has good prices, unlike other European countries.
A train between Braga (in the north) to Faro (at the southern tip) will cost around EUR 40-50 (USD 45-55) for both high-speed and regular rail options.
Buses are the cheapest means of transport in Portugal of all options. There are many private bus companies, including: Rede Expressos, Rodonorte, Eva Transportes (Algarve).
Flying is also the best way to get to Portugal islands, like Azores and Madeira.
A flight from Lisbon to the Azores costs about EUR 30 (USD 35), while Lisbon to Madeira island is about EUR 35 (USD 40).
TAP Air is state-owned flag carrier airline of Portugal, but other low-cost carriers like Ryanair and EasyJet also are pretty good options.
In addition to above means of transport, you can use ferry to traveling between coastal cities of Portugal, refer to timetables, routes and destinations here.
Portugal blog: Where to stay?
Accommodation in Portugal is quite good quality compared to other Western European countries. In almost every town you can find a small hotel offering a double room for EUR 40, although you’ll pay more in hotels of resorts in Algarve in the summer, or year-round in Lisbon or Porto.
Overall, you will find accommodation very affordable in Portugal, especially hostels. Most dorm rooms cost an average price of EUR 10 (USD 12) per night.
A double room in the hotel starts at EUR 35 (USD 40)/night for a cheap 2-star hotel. You can also stay at a pensão (family-run hostel) to save money.
If you want to stay more comfortably, you can choose to stay in apartments through services like Airbnb or Couchsurfing with more diverse prices and have the opportunity to meet and live with locals.
In addition, you can checki out top rated and best hotels in Portugal via Agoda.com or Booking.com.
Portugal blog: Where to go?
This is the most famous tourist destination in Portugal. More than just a city, Lisbon also brings the architecture, culture and spirit of Portugal. Once a city devastated by earthquakes, Lisbon was rebuilt with Gothic architecture and still retains the oldest church. The buildings with the colors of Gothic and Neoclassical blend together, the quaint houses intertwine with the modern buildings. Lisbon in your eyes today is the most beautiful and resilient Lisbon through many ups and downs.
You will be able to see firsthand the poetic natural scenery and fresh air at São Jorge castle or dropping your soul into the unique Fado music performances at Alfama street. Moreover, there are many cultural heritages such as Gulbenkian museum, Belem tower or Rossio square waiting for you to explore.
Belem Tower is located on the northern bank of the Tagus River, the symbol of Portugal, which is the place to save the mark of a golden age of Portugal when it was a power in the maritime field and discovered a new world in the 16th and 17th centuries. About 30m high, including 2 fortresses and a basement containing 17 cannons, a small chapel, Belem Tower is both a place of farewell, a place to welcome back, a place to pray for peace for those who have gone, as well as a fortress to protect city and sailors. Today, the Belem tower is still there, not only famous for its striking and fancy architecture, but also because it has preserved the spirit of Portugal – Once was the largest and most powerful empire in the past.
This is a famous tourist region of Portugal with quiet ancient villages next to olive groves. The climate here is influenced by the warm sunny Mediterranean sea climate, the temperature is suitable for traveling and experience its beautiful beaches from sunbathe, swimming, surfing… Algarve offers many attractive activities you can not miss with thrilling games such as double skydiving in spots with large majestic spaces when the weather conditions are favorable. You can also participate in conquering the waves with surfing on the Algarve Sea.
In addition, you can scuba dive to explore the ocean here. The seabed of the Algarve, which is also the place where the Portuguese military strategic warship was sunk, today it becomes an attractive tourist attraction of Portugal. Diving deep into the water, visitors can also witness the world’s largest artificial coral reef and creatures living on the ocean floor.
The city is famous for its bustling life and is also home to world-famous wines. The city center with unique cafes, signature bookstore and restaurants, steep and narrow alleys is a suitable place for walking to explore the hidden beauty of the city. Coming here, you cannot ignore the famous and beautiful bridge of Porto, the Ponte Luis bridge – one of the most beautiful check-in points in Portugal.
In addtion to walk on the famous beautiful bridge Ponte Luis or walk through the streets, you also can find for yourself a beautiful spot to sip a glass of excellent wine. Surely this will be an interesting experience that will help you have the opportunity to enjoy good wine while enjoying the view of the city.
Sintra is a suburb of Lisbon located in the province of Lisboa, Portugal. It has a very beautiful landscape with large, ancient, magnificent, splendid of villas, castles and palaces. Especially, the magnificent Pena palace. The palace is located on a small hill in the town of Sintra, where the royal family chosen as a resting place for centuries. Unlike Sintra Palace, which is distinguished by its conical tube architecture and lavish design with 27 golden swans decorating the rooms, Pena Palace was built in romantic style. The palace towers are yellow and the church is red. This place is very suitable for leisure activities, sightseeing, picnics in the summer. Standing here, looking out into the distance, you can see the capital of Lisbon.
Coimbra is a gentle, peaceful town on the banks of the charming Mondego River with four green seasons. Visiting this town you will visit a history museum with captivating architecture. In addition, Coimbra is home to many of Europe’s oldest famous universities. Besides, you can also discover the vibrant life of the people here.
Obidos attracts a large number of international tourists by the magical splendor of medieval castles and historical museums. This beautiful city with a vibrant lifestyle also owning many bustling entertainment spots, large and noisy squares, houses close together are decorated with the main white color, and small potted plants adorn the beauty of the city at corners of balconies. The streets here are connected in a row, winding, and cobbled like the way to the splendid paradises that are attracting tourists to the famous Portuguese city.
If you’ve ever dreamed of watching Atlantic whales, come to the Azores Islands. This is a must-visit tourist destination in Portugal. Away 1500km to the west of Lisbon, here you can watching whales. There are also hot springs, many beautiful small islands to explore, and small seaside towns. These are the reasons this beautiful archipelago is in the top of the most attractive destinations in Portugal.
Madeira is a fertile oasis located on the Atlantic Ocean, it is also favored by tourists called “The Floating Garden of the Atlantic”. Because this is the home of many beautiful flowers. If you visiting here in spring, you will feel the shimmering colors of thousands of flowers.
The capital and main city of the autonomous region of Madeira, located on the island of Madeira, located in the south, between the cities of Santa Cruz and Camara de Lobos. The name of the city comes from the fact that on the island there are many fennel (funcho) plants. It was an important maritime center in the 15th-17th centuries and is one of the most beautiful cities in Portugal.
Evora may be just a small town located in the southern plains of Portugal, but it is a unique place of Portugal. With more than 2,000 years of history, Evora was once a prosperous city under the rule of the Roman Empire. Today, Evora is considered the best preserved old town in Portugal with more than 4,000 historical buildings and structures.
Located along the Atlantic coast, Aveiro is a bustling city and has been dubbed the “Venice of Portugal”. It has a system of interlaced canals and lovely bridges. Coming here visitors will be able to sit on speedboats and back-and-forth to visit historical sites.
The city is located in the Cavado valley, in the Minho region of Northern Portugal. It is the 5th largest city in Portugal, after Lisbon, Amadora, Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia. This is a both classical and modern city, one of the important dioceses under the jurisdiction of the archbishop.
- Praia D’El Rey: A year-round sunny resort town, about 1 hour by car from Lisbon, located in a protected area, with beautiful sand dunes and pine forests. Suitable for relaxation, golf…
- Peneda-Gerês National Park: The largest national park in Portugal, located in the Viana do Castelo district, Braga and a small part of Vila Real. The park is located along the mountains of Peneda, Larouco, Geres.
- Douro River Valley: The Douro River is the main river of the Iberian peninsula, but only the section flowing through Portugal can serve traffic for ships.
- Cabo da Roca is a cape on the west coast of Portugal located in the Lisbon Region. It is also the westernmost point of mainland Europe.
Portugal blog: What to eat?
You can find snacks in bakeries for around 2 EUR (3 USD), snacks and sandwiches cost around 7 EUR (8 USD) and fast food for about the same price.
If you want to dine with drinks, you’ll be pay around 18-20 EUR (20-25 USD) per meal. Consider spending to enjoy more flavors from Portuguese cuisine!
Groceries will cost around 30-35 EUR (35-40 USD) for a week of food including foods like pasta, vegetables, chicken and other basic foods.
Below are must-try dishes in Portugal
Cozido: You must definitely try stewed Cozido vegetable, this is an extremely attractive dish, delicious and rich flavor. This stew often appears on the daily meal of Portuguese people. You also can easily find Cozido at local restaurants or some street food stalls.
Bacalhau: Cod, also known as bacalhau in Portuguese, is more than a traditional fish dish, but a national signature dish. There are 100 different recipes and versions, but Bacalhau à Bras is the most popular which made from shredded salted cod, adding onions and chopped fried potatoes, and then mixed with scrambled eggs.
French sandwich (Francesinha) is a sausage sandwich topped with a layer of hot cheese, with a delicious sauce served with french fries and, depending on diner, can include an extra omelet. This is a typical Portuguese dish that many tourists choose to enjoy.
Alheira de Mirandela: Alheira is the word for chicken sausage – one of the cheapest and most popular dishes in Portugal. This dish is sold at any street corner in Portugal, but is especially delicious at Cervejaria Bota Velha, a small restaurant with the best chicken sausage appetizer in Lisbon.
Sopa de Cação: In Portuguese, sharks are collectively known as tubarão, but once they are placed on the table, the name is changed to cação. Fish is marinated in coriander, lemon, garlic before being cooked into soup, served with bread or a type of cornmeal called broa.
Caldeirada de Peixe (Portuguese stewed fish): Portuguese stewed soup is cooked from a variety of delicious seafood such as sea fish, shellfish stewed with herbs and tomatoes and stewed for many hours. This is a famous and attractive delicious dish in Portugal, captivating diners every time they enjoy it.
Pastel de Belem (Fruit Cake): The ring-shaped candied fruit cake, or slabs of marmelada with a soft crust, spicy cinnamon flavor and the rich taste of eggs blended perfectly, to try the best Pastel de belem you can visit Antigua Confeitaria de Belem, and only two people know the secret recipe to mixing ingredients to create delicious cakes, so please patient to wait in line to buy this cake.
Wine: Portugal is home to many world famous wines, wine is a popular drink of Portugal, don’t for get to try one when coming here.
Portugal blog: What to buy?
As for souvenirs, you can choose from bottles of wine, Portuguese chocolate, Portuguese cheese, Claus Porto soap or colorful ceramic souvenirs with Portuguese signature patterns. They are sold in almost every souvenir shop throughout Portugal.
Wine is one of the special gifts, typical of Portugal. The wine of this country has a very special taste and distinctive flavor which no less than famous brands in the world. Exquisite wine bottles will be luxurious gifts for relatives and friends at home.
Referring to Portuguese gifts, it is impossible not to mention delicious chocolate bars. The city of Obidos is the birthplace of the sweetest, most passionate chocolates in this country. This is also the place that is always chosen to hold international chocolate festivals with performances, decoration, and processing of this world-favorite food. At the festival, you can witness first-hand the talent of the world’s top chefs as they create their own chocolate creations.
Claus Porto soap
Claus Porto soap has always been linked with luxury and high quality. You will be strongly impressed by the soft foam, wonderful and natural fragrance. Claus Porto soap has been produced using traditional technology in Porto since 1887. The wrapping paper is also a work of art, making Claus Porto a great souvenir.
Portugal travel blog: Some tips before you go
Protect your skin
Even if you travel to Portugal in the winter, you also should bring sunglasses and use sunscreen with a minimum SPF of 30 if you have fair skin, maybe add a folding umbrella. You will need a hat in the summer and insect repellent if you are prone to mosquito and insect bites.
Should bring cash, the smaller the denomination the better
If you want to exchange money before heading to Portugal, try to avoid carrying cash in large denominations, i.e. larger than 50 euros. You still need to pay for small transactions like 20 EURO in cash, although this is becoming rarer. Holding around 75 EURO to 100 EURO cash to pay for newspapers, cafes, restaurants, bars and small souvenir shops.
You will find ATMs linked to Plus or Cirrus systems for easy use of Visa or Mastercard cards in Portugal.
ATMs are available in all Portuguese cities and towns, at train and bus stations, gas stations, shopping malls and popular tourist attractions. The good news is that you can use most ATMs in major cities and towns in English!
Although credit cards are accepted in many places,but at small shops, including some restaurants, accept cash only. Note that if you pay with a credit or debit card, you may be charged a fee for each transaction, so check with your bank before deciding how to pay for purchases.
Eat like a local
Portuguese food and drink is often of great quality, so enjoy what’s grown, caught or produced locally. You’ll find a wide range of fresh fish and seafood everywhere, while Portuguese pork and local cheeses are underrated.
The local wine is also of excellent quality. The beers and spirits are about half the price and taste pretty much the same as the branded international equivalents.
Appetizers maybe not free
Most Portuguese restaurants will give you a selection of appetizers to enjoy while you peruse the menu. These can be as simple as a bowl of olives, a basket of bread with butter, local cheeses, a plate of tuna or sardines, although smarter restaurants may serve shrimp, crab pate, variety sausage, or even some kind of seafood. However whatever you eat will be added to your bill.
Usually simple appetizers are pretty cheap, so if you like some bread and cheese to start, let try it. Just be aware that seafood is usually expensive so only go for it if you really want it.
If you are a vegetarian, be careful with soup
Caldo verde is a very tasty traditional vegetable soup that you can find on the menus of most Portuguese restaurants. However it almost always has a small piece of sausage in it. Vegetarian options in restaurants are relatively limited, you will only be able to eat salad.
Don’t be afraid to bring children when you going to Portugal
If you have children, you will have a rewarding experience. It is often said jokingly that the best way to connect with Portuguese people is to travel with kids! You’ll have instant conversations with pretty much everyone you meet if traveling with your kids.
In restaurants, waiters are willing to keep an eye on and play with your kids, helping you enjoy your meal ‘peacefully’.
Some best day tours, trips, activities and transfer services, tickets in and from Lisbon you can refer to
- Private City Transfers between Lisbon and Porto
- Private Lisbon Airport (LIS) Transfers for Lisbon City Centre
- Private Lisbon Airport (LIS) Transfer for Lisbon
- Shared Lisbon International Airport (LIS) Transfers for Lisbon
- Lisbon City Card
- Lisbon Experience Walking Tour
- Best of Lisbon Walking Tour
- Sintra, Cascais, and Estoril Day Tour from Lisbon
- Lisbon Hop-On Hop-Off Bus Tours
- Lisbon Small Group City Tour: The Most Complete
- Secret Food Tour in Lisbon
- Fatima & Porto Guided Tour from Lisbon
- Belém and Sintra Pena Palace Small Group Day Tour from Lisbon
Are you looking for more top things to do in Lisbon: Tours, activities, attractions and other things? Let’s check it out here. And Portugal here.