Portugal is famous for a variety of reasons. It's home to some of the most historical monuments in Europe, a beautiful landscape and its warm climate make it suitable for adventure and relaxation. With the World Cup coming up, incidentally, it's also home to one of the world’s greatest ever soccer players, Cristiano Ronaldo.
There are plenty of reasons why Portugal should be on your travel wish-list. So here are eight essential tips for your first trip to Portugal:
1. Choose an Inexpensive Month
Traveling to Portugal during the low season months of December to March is an excellent idea. Specifically, you will find small crowds at historical sites, art galleries, and musical theaters at this time. You will experience reduced prices as well.
The mid-season months of April to June, or September to November are also more affordable than the high-season months of July to August.
Remember, spending less on accommodation and transport means that you will have more money to spend on souvenirs and activities.
2. Prepare Your Travel Documents
Portugal is a member of the Schengen Convention. That means people who belong to the EU may enter the country legally without a visa.
Citizens of Australia and NZ have the same right, but need to apply for a visa if they plan to stay in the country for more than 90 days.
3. Think beyond Lisbon and Porto
Foreign visitors usually concentrate on Portugal’s largest cities. Consequently, they miss the fun and adventure that the rest of the country offers them.
Avoid this mistake by travelling outside the main cities, such as the Azores, which is an archipelago that lies in the North Atlantic Ocean. Here, you'll find tranquility and beauty as well as experience a variety of dialects, cultures, and cuisines.
4. Learn a Few Portuguese Words
Portugal is a hospitable place, and many locals understand English, especially those who live in Lisbon and other major cities. But making friends in here is easier if you start the conversation with a greeting in Portuguese.
Learn a few words in the language to avoid awkward situations. For example, focus on how to say hello, to call for help, and to say goodbye.
5. Book Your Room in Advance
Booking your hotel in advance is always a good idea. Hotels offer special discounts on forward bookings, which means you'll save loads of money if you're well prepared.
More importantly, advanced bookings are a superb idea if you're traveling to Portugal during the high season.
6. Opt for Low Cost Flights
TAP Air Portugal is the national carrier, and offers high quality, low cost flights to Portugal. So consider flying them.
Interestingly, one of its principal business strategies is to out-do budget airlines, which means you'll nearly always get great value for your money. You can then use your savings for travel within the country.
7. Immerse Yourself in the Culture
Portugal is a unique country, with a language, cuisine, and culture that are vastly different from any other European nation.
Did you know that Portugal is the home of Fado music? This type of music started back in the early 1800s and is unique as it follows a traditional Portuguese structure characterized by mournful lyrics and tunes. In fact, it is so mesmerizing that UNESCO added it to its list of Intangible Cultural Heritage experiences.
8. Protect Yourself from the Heat of the Sun
Lisbon is one of the hottest cities in Europe, and often experiences the sort of temperatures other European cities - like for example London and Paris - would call heat waves.
The same goes for the rest of Portugal. Consequently, protecting your skin on your first visit is a must.
Ellie is a freelance travel writer, originally from the UK. Passionate about everything from hidden gems to luxury hangouts, Ellie is currently writing for Travel Department.