Portugal is undoubtedly THE destination in Europe right now.
With sizzling sunny temperatures, delicious local foods, rugged and magnificent coastlines and colourful cities, is it much surprise Lonely Planet included it in their Best in Travel for 2018?
Be it a city break in Lisbon or Porto, a beach escape in the Algarve or an adventure around the cliffs of Lagos, a trip to Portugal is where it’s at…
Go out of Season
Choosing when to travel really is everything, especially where you’re visiting one of the hottest destinations of the moment. So, choose your timings wisely, remembering that travelling just out of peak season when the weather is still warm is absolutely the sweet spot. Think late September-October or April-June time (the average temperature in Autumn is 21 degrees). Not only will you avoid high season craziness, it’s also likely you’ll save yourself some dollar and have a more all-round authentic experience.
Eat like a local
Portugal offers some of the freshest and yummiest food you’ll taste anywhere in the world. Their infamous for piri-piri chicken, fresh cataplana, grilled sardines and sweet treat pastel de nata’s (Portuguese version of custard tarts).
But for the absolute crème de la crème of Portuguese dining, make sure you do your research in advance and get a list of recommendations to eat like the locals do. That means avoiding the tourist trap areas and instead opting for local cafes or basic but tasty AF restaurants. Trip Advisor is the one for this ?
Venture off the beaten track
Sure, you may have your bucket list of places to go to, but if you’re after a slice of the real deal then venturing off the beaten track is a must! The Douro vineyards in the north are bursting with grapes and wine estates, whilst the long sandy beaches along Southwest Alentejo (Europe’s largest coastal natural park), and the old villages of Óbidos and Nazaré – the most traditional fishing village in Portugal (and a surfers dream) – are just a few original places to bump up your bucket list.
Pack a factor 30+
Don’t let that cooling afternoon beach breeze deceive you, the sun can be pretty strong in Portugal and if you’re not careful you could end up coming back with some #awks tan lines. The middle of the day (from 12-3pm) is when the sun is el scorchio, so ensure you have a hat to hand, plenty of water, and literally smoother yourself in sun cream. The Algarve is the hottest region, so be extra careful if you’re in this area.
Get yourself a discount card
Travel savvy? Get yourself a discount card such as the Lisbon Card or the Porto Card. These cards don’t only give you free or discounted public transport, they also enable free access to a heap of museums and top tourist attractions.
Beware of the transport
Despite all its many attractive attributes, Portugal’s transport system is still fairly poor. You’ll find toll-roads on just about every motorway, so check with your car hire company about charges. On the flipside, the motorways are extremely quiet due to the toll-roads, but with one of the worst safety records in Europe just make sure you’re super sensible!
And as for the public transport? It’s slow, but sweet. Opt for trams, trains or coaches to get around, allowing yourself extra time and ensuring you pay for any charges (especially on the trams as it’s easy to think these are free, so avoid the hefty fine).
Pack Comfortable Shoes
Sandals may seem like the mandatory go-to but Portugal’s cobbled streets and hilly cities may require something slightly sturdier. Be sure to pack some sneakers or real sturdy sandals for all those long days exploring or enjoying the odd coastal beach walk.
Try the coffee
Coffee lover? You’re in for a treat. Portugal takes coffee to the next level, but just be careful about how you order it. If you ask for a café, you’ll find yourself with a rather strong espresso, whilst a meia de leite will give you half-coffee and half-milk and a galão is a shot of espresso with triple the milk. Whatever coffee it is you choose, you’re guaranteed it will be put Starbucks to shame.