In Portugal, it’s easy to feel at home. With a Mediterranean temperament and diverse geography – Portugal has something for everyone: bustling capital cities, beautiful beaches, historical towns and villages, a rich culture steeped in tradition – Portugal is one of the most popular destinations for solo travelers. Welcome to our solo travel guide.
Portugal Solo Travel Guide – An Introduction to Portugal
The landlocked country sits at the west end of the Iberian Peninsula , below Spain . Portugal is bordered by Spain and Andorra to the north; France, Andorra, and the Bay of Biscay to the west; and the Atlantic Ocean or Gibraltar (a British overseas territory) to the south. Its location gives Portugal an important place on international routes of trade between Western Europe and Northern Europe or North America. Portugal is a developed country with high living standards. It enjoys the highest ranking on the Human Development Index (HDI) among South European countries, and was one of the first in the world to abolish life imprisonment and death by torture.
Portugal has dual citizenship legislation and is politically and religiously tolerant. The country has liberal immigration laws. Portugal’s main exports are goods manufactured in advanced technologies, but Portugal also produces wine, frozen fish, cork products, footwear, textiles, clothing, and ceramic tiles.
Portugal is also a member state of the Community of Portuguese Language Countries (CPLP). It is one of the world’s most globalized and peaceful nations, with its main international political and economic partnerships being the European Union, NATO, United States, Brazil, India, China and Spain. Portugal is a signatory of the Schengen Agreement but has not yet fully implemented it.
Why is Portugal good for solo travel?
Portugal is a great country for solo travel – Portugal has plenty to offer those travelling on their own. With stunning ancient cities, cosmopolitan capital Lisbon, beaches and Portugal’s friendly people Portugal is the perfect choice for your first trip abroad or your next destination when travelling alone.
Portugal has always been welcoming towards travellers – Portugal welcomed over 1 million tourists in 2012 which shows Portugal’s progress since 1982 where it had only received 600 000 tourists. Portugal welcomes all nationalities who are eager to experience its culture and way of life . Portugal also celebrates diversity; with almost 200 different ethnicities living in Portugal today (a fifth of which are Portuguese citizens) traveling around Portugal will be an enriching experience that you won’t forget.
Portugal was made for travellers who like to travel at their own pace – Portugal’s rich culture, historic sites and amazing people are just a few reasons Portugal attracts so many solo travellers every year. Portugal is great if this is your first time traveling alone as well as experienced travellers because there are different cities with different experiences on offer in Portugal.
How to get there – Airports in Portugal
Portugal’s main airport is Lisbon Portela Airport which thousands of tourists fly in and out of every year. This is the main stop off on the way to one of Portugal’s many beautiful beaches or other attractions within Portugal’s borders. Lisbon Airport is connected by the Metro, so provided that you can cope with carrying your own luggage you won’t need to worry about an expensive taxi to your hotel. There are also several smaller airports in Portugal including Porto and Faro.
When to visit Portugal
The best time to visit Portugal is Portugal has 4 main seasons: summer (June-September), fall (October – November) winter (December-February ) and spring (March – May). Portugal is an excellent country for solo travellers as there is something for everyone no matter what season you decide to visit Portugal . Many people choose the winter months while others enjoy Portugal in the warmer temperature of summer; Portugal offers some of the most amazing beaches in the world during Summer as well as having plenty of indoor activities and attractions throughout all seasons.
Summertime is high season – In summer time Portugal can become extremely busy as tourists are flocking from all over Europe to enjoy a beach holiday in Portugal. The eastern coast of Portugal – namely Algarve which is one of Portugals most popular tourist destinations; thousands upon thousands of tourists flock there every year. There are several reasons why Portugal gets so many visitors during this time including:
Where to go in Portugal
Portugal is a relatively small country, so wherever you go Portugal you’re never far away from civilisation.
Portugal has a variety of interesting places to see and things to do – Portugal has some great historical landmarks including UNESCO World Heritage Sites , churches, cathedrals, castles, monasteries etc… You will be spoilt for choice when it comes to sight seeing Portugal can offer you plenty more than just Lisbon . Portugal is ideal if you like getting away from it all because Portugal’s beautiful countryside allows you to escape modern-day life and experience Portugal at its most authentic and Portugal’s friendly people add to the experience.
Portugal has internationally known main tourist attractions such as the ‘Algarve’ which boasts some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe and the capital city Lisbon which has one of the biggest historical centres in Europe; therefore Portugal’s main attraction are also its better known places. Some of the most popular destinations in the Algarve are Faro, Lagos, Portimao and Albufeira. Many expats are now moving to Tavira as it has retained a lot of Portuguese culture. Resort destinations such as Albufeira have become very touristy indeed.
Main Cities – Lisbon and Porto
Portugal’s major cities attract many tourists every year but Portugal is not just Lisbon , Porto or any other main capital/large city. There’s much more to Portugal than these well-known destinations – Portugal offers a vast variety from historical towns, medieval villages, coast and countryside along with options to see it all by public transport or car – if you don’t have your own then Portugal has reasonably priced buses, trains and car hire.
Other Popular Destinations
There are some fantastic destinations in the North to explore including Braga, Guimaraes and Coimbra. In Alentejo many people like to visit Evora for the Chapel of Bones and the largest Cathedral in Portugal which gives fantastic views of the city from it’s tower.
Beaches in Portugal
Portugal offers some of the most beautiful beaches in Europe – Portugal has some of the best weather conditions in Europe making it an ideal place to go if you want to relax or enjoy outdoor activities such as surfing, kitesurfing, windsurfing , sailing etc… Tropical Portugal also has plenty of opportunities to play golf or tennis; plus certain times of the year Portugal offers whale watching in Portugal’s main tourist attraction the Algarve. Portugal is also known as the capital of the sun; Portugal has around 350 days of sun per year and all year round temperatures that are bearable for tourists from colder climates such as North America, Europe or Asia.
If you are interested in beaches, as well as the Algarve you might want to also check out the silver coast with plenty of options for surfers in Ericeira and Peniche.
Transport in Portugal
Portugal offers inexpensive options for transportation – Portugal unlike much of Europe gives solo travellers the opportunity to travel by train cheaply. Both main cities – Lisbon and Porto have an extensove Metro system that is extremely good value for money. Read more about the Lisbon Metro here.
Accommodation in Portugal
Portugal is ideal if you want plenty of options – Portugal offers many hotels, hostels and apartments all over the country that are available at affordable prices for those who enjoy to stay in budget accommodation. Hotels range from luxurious 4 star hotels right through to simple 1 star hostels; whereas BB’s, hostels and apartments Portugal has a bevy of options for those travelling in Portugal on a budget.
In Lisbon, expect to pay around 40-100 EURO for a decent hotel. If you are just looking for a room in a flat share or house share, it is possible to find something for 20-30 EURO a night. Outside of Lisbon it is even cheaper.
You might also like to consider a host family. A Portuguese family will add an extra dimension to your trip. You will “live” with a typical Portuguese family who want to give you this opportunity. This helps you experience what life here is really like on a day-to-day basis. You will be offered a room in their home, eat with them and experience Portugal the local way. It’s a unique opportunity to experience authentic Portugal and practice the language.
Learn some Basic Portuguese!
To learn some basic Portuguese before/during your visit Portugal’s history means there are lots of free guided tours available which give you the opportunity to immerse yourself into Portugal’s fascinating history. Portugals friendly locals make Portugal an ideal place to start your travels experiencing mainland Europe via Portugal. In fact who knows you might even stay longer than you planned; this happens time after time again folks live in Portugal or find moving to Portugal the easiest thing they’ve ever done; Portugal is located in Western Europe so Portugal is a stepping stone and one of the best places to start your European travels . Portugal offers some great party/clubbing spots which brings us to another reason why Portugal is so good for solo travellers – Portugal has many bars, clubs and street parties some that are completely free! Portugal’s local people are very welcoming & you can easily chat with locals at markets, cafes, beaches etc..
Money in Portugal
The local currency in Portugal is Euro and one euro = 100 centimos. If you bear in mind that 1000 EURO a month is a decent salary in Portugal, most Westerners will find themselves reasonably well off.
There are plenty of money transfer companies that will exchange your home currency into Euros at a reasonable rate without any hidden charges. Once you arrive in Portugal, feel free to withdraw some cash from ATM’s, You can use your debit or credit card anywhere Visa/Mastercard are accepted throughout all main cities in Portugal. Its even possible to find places where American Express cards are accepted as well as Diners Club cards.
The rates of ATMS are not fixed – If you plan on carrying large amounts of cash with you then please bear in mind that the ATM’s will charge + 2 % for transactions when your bank abroad does not charge you any fees. Now, this doesn’t seem like a big deal at first but it really adds up over time. It’s often better to take out a large sum to last rather than many smaller transactions where you could incur a fee every time.
You can still use cash in Portugal but it may be difficult for you to buy some food products etc with coins; You might have to do it by going to a tabac shop or market and paying with your coins there. In some more remote locations they are unlikely to accept card and so it is always a good idea to have a mixture of notes and coins on you. In rural areas such as Baja and Castelo Branco Portugal is still predominantly a cash based society.
Low Crime Rate
I’m not saying this as a negative thing but as a positive – Portugal has one of the lowest crime rates compared to any other European country! This makes solo travel possible and enjoyable.
I have heard many stories where people were travelling solo and lost their cash/card in Portugal. In fact, I had a friend who was robbed of his wallet in Lisbon by two men on a scooter! This kind of thing does not happen as often as you think (thankfully) but if it worries you then carry around only the bare minimum that you need for your trip. Be aware of potential thefts on the Lisbon metro.
Tips on Solo Travel in Portugal
Remember that safety is an important factor when you’re travelling alone, it may help to travel in groups and to be aware of your surroundings at all times.
Planning your Travel Routes
It’s not a bad idea either if you plan alternate routes for traveling around the country such as going by train instead of just driving long distances alone. You don’t want to break down in the middle of nowhere in a strange country and not know how to get help. Use your common sense and do not let this put you off Portugal.
Eating out – The Portuguese Concept of Couvert
In Portugal, it is quite common for people to eat out alone – for many people eating out is as cheap as eating in! So you won’t feel out of place.
In Portuguese restaurants they have this concept of ‘couvert’ which means that they bring you extra starters that maybe you haven’t order. This often includes bread, cheese and olives. While extras such as bread in the UK are usually complimentary, this is snot the case in Portugal. You will pay for what you eat. Check the price of the ‘couvert’ on the menu or ask the waiter. If you don’t want to pay for it you can simply ask them to take it away. It’s a cultural thing and not to be viewed as a way to rip off foreigners.
What to Pack for Portugal
Some essentials that you definitely don’t want to forget include short, suncream and sunglasses. You will want t converter or Portuguese charger for your phone and laptop. For clothing I would recommend one pair of jeans, a pair of shorts and several loose fitting tops and T-Shirts. For women, there are opportunities to wear comfortable flowing dresses to dinner on the evening.
Remember of course to pack your essential documents such as passport, tickets and negative coronavirus test (if necessary). Take some cash money as well as a couple of different bank cards and consider packing these in two separate places so that you have a backup if the worst happens and your wallet is stolen.
You might find this article helpful: What to Pack for Portugal.