Portugal offers pretty amazing weather year-round, and it’s one of the sunniest European destinations. Throw in the popular beaches and fantastic hiking opportunities, and it’s no wonder tourists spend most of their time outdoors. However, that can lead to some terrible sunburn if you’re not prepared. Don’t forget the sunscreen while visiting, including facial cream during the winter, and your skin will thank you.
From the cobblestoned and hilly streets in the big cities to unpaved paths in the countryside and lots of sandy walkways along the coast, wearing proper shoes is a must. By all means, bring your heels too, but walking shoes will be much more useful.
It’s true that there are many landmarks and villages that are easiest to reach by car, but the public transport is very convenient too, and plenty of popular spots can be reached by train or bus. Not only can you relax on the way, but using public transport can save you on toll fees, gas prices, and the hassle of finding a parking spot, and may cost a lot less than driving. The environment will be better off, too.
This cannot be stressed enough: people in Portugal speak Portuguese, not Spanish. Since English is taught in schools and English-language movies and television shows are screened in their original language in Portugal, you’re often better off using English if you don’t speak Portuguese.
The Portuguese love sharing their culture, so take advantage of the opportunity to taste new foods or try different experiences while visiting. Locals are especially proud of the cuisine and wine and will jump at the opportunity to set out different treats for visitors to snack on. By all means, dig in, and don’t be shy; it’s all part of the experience.
While you should definitely visit the beaches, and trying the water sports is always fun, don’t forget that you’re in the Atlantic Ocean. Some beaches are rimmed by large rocks and others, such as Nazaré and Peniche, are home to massive waves that caution even professional surfers. Do a little research before heading out and look for the flags to get an idea of the conditions.
Portugal’s architecture is stunning, and it would be a shame to miss the country’s most beautiful buildings. While here, learn about the traditional Manueline style and try to visit as many of these buildings as possible.
Not only are tourist centers more expensive, but they can lack the traditional styles of cuisine and may also skimp on portions. Follow the locals and you will find some of the best restaurants in the cities.
In most of Portugal, lunch is served between 1 and 3 p.m., while dinner begins at 7 or 8 p.m. and lasts until 11 or so (depending on the region or city). Between those hours, the kitchens (and sometimes, the entire restaurants) are usually closed.
Drinking is certainly part of the holiday experience, but drinking too much will mark you as a tourist. Get out of control, and you’ll be seen as someone who can’t handle their alcohol. Enjoy an imperial (small draft beer), a vinho, or a small ginjinha when you want to, but pace yourself. Drinking too much while visiting a foreign country is never a good idea, even if that country has a reputation for being safe, like Portugal.