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Belem Tower| Pixabay

10 Essential Portuguese Phrases You Need To Know Before Visiting Portugal

Picture of Nina Santos
Updated: 4 December 2017
It’s easy to get by in Lisbon, the Algarve, and Porto without knowing Portuguese, and in these tourist-filled destinations, even the locals (both young and old) understand and speak varying levels of English. Venture off the beaten path (and you should) to the smaller cities, towns, or mountain-side, however, and suddenly a basic knowledge of Portuguese becomes indispensable. Here are a few key phrases that are sure to help most travellers in Portugal.

Bom dia/Boa tarde/ Boa noite

Good morning/ Good afternoon/ Good night

It’s common courtesy to greet the people you pass with an exclamation of good wishes, and the Portuguese use these phrases everywhere including stores, restaurants, museums, and social settings with friends. Not doing so (and failing to reply) is considered rude, so be sure to keep these three sayings in the back of your mind.

Sunset party in Portugal © Pixabay

Sunset party in Portugal | Pixabay

Com licença

Excuse me (when passing by people)

Sometimes, walking through the crowd is difficult to do, but a simple ‘excuse me’ can help. True, Portugal doesn’t get as much tourism as France or Spain, and Lisbon is one of the most easygoing capitals in the world, but crowds still gather in popular spots (like sunset parties or soccer events). Also, when you say ‘com licença’, Portuguese people will listen and step aside. Remember that a ‘c’ followed by an ‘e’ or ‘i’ is soft (makes an s sound), as you should also do with the ç.

Onde fica a casa de banho?

Where is the bathroom?

There are some phrases that travellers should always know when visiting a new country, and asking for the bathroom is one.

Tenho saudades

An expression of longing in the first person

This isn’t a phrase that visitors will be expected to use, but it is one that they may hear. Saudade is a word in Portuguese that has no real translation in English. It’s used to express a mixture of longing, love, sadness and melancholy, and is often described as one of the most beautiful phrases in spoken language.

Está tudo fixe

Everything is good/cool

This is a nice and common way to say that you’re happy with the service or with your surroundings. Saying this to a local/server/bartender may also surprise them in a good way; while tourists usually know the most basic words like olá, bom, and mal, they don’t always know words like fixe (pronounced ‘feesh’).

Thumbs up | Pixabay

Thumbs up | Pixabay


Thank You 

A simple thank you can go a long way. Men should say it with the ‘o’ at the end and women with the ‘a’ since this word (like many others in the Portuguese language) are influenced by gender. When saying ‘thank you’ as a group, the masculine form is used.

Viva! Saúde!

Cheers! To good health!

Viva is one of those words that has different meanings. It can be used to express ‘live’ as in ‘he lives for this’. As an exclamation, however, it is a common way to say ‘cheers’! In Portugal, a glass of wine or beer is common with meals and during social hours, so knowing how to say cheers will undoubtedly come in handy.

Cheers! © Pixabay

Cheers! | Pixabay

A que horas abre/fecha?

What time do you open/close?

This will help when figuring out restaurant hours since most (that are outside of the touristy city centres) close midday.

Uma bica, por favor.

One espresso, please.

It’s also possible to say ‘um café, por favor,’ but where is the fun in that? Using the word bica will have a tourist sounding more like a local from Lisbon. As for requesting coffee, few countries live the café culture like the Portuguese and these little shops are ubiquitous. The espresso is also quite good.

Quero o vinho da casa.

I want the house wine.

The popularity of Portuguese wine speaks for itself, and ordering the house wine while dining out should generally steer you in the right direction. Restaurants normally offer both white (branco) and red (tinto), but some establishments also offer green wine (Vinho Verde). Not only is it good, but a glass of house wine normally costs between one and two euros. Not bad!


© Ling Tang / Culture Trip