As you are walking the streets and your head is tilted upwards, you try to pay attention to the actual structure of the buildings, but all you can see is blue. Light blue, dark blue, midnight blue, blue. Everything seems to be blue. No matter if it’s the sky or the typical Portuguese tiles which can be found on every facade, making you dizzy with the overwhelming amount of color. Portugal is not a country to expose all its monuments, the gems are rather hidden and put on display very subtle, but still for everyone to see. For everyone to gaze at in silence.
I was in Portugal in the summer of 2019 and after departing from Spain, my friend and I made our way from Lisbon along the coast to Porto. Generally, Portugal is a very peaceful and safe country. It’s not really affected by violence, brutality or hatred. You always have to keep in mind though that no country is 100% safe, every city has its suburbs where the crime rate is higher than in the center. But to us – two young girls on the go – nothing happened in any way. Quite the opposite, we felt fairly safe. Yet something I noticed was that the Portuguese do quite bluntly stare at you whilst walking past you, but that is it. They will not make any remarks, whistle at you or walk past you so close that have to you check if your wallet is still there. I was surprised to learn that it is relatively safe. A plus for all travelers!
Surprisingly, Portugal is not as cheap as I thought it to be. An average meal with a drink for one person will cost you around 15-17€ if you are eating out in spots like Porto and Lisbon. I found that even the small local restaurants are priced relatively high. Therefore eating out is more of a luxury for a saving traveler. But grocery shopping is indeed very cheap, so cooking yourself is a good option. Also eating in cafés in the countryside/ remote areas is of course cheaper. Bakeries will fill you with delicious breakfast for 3-5€.
But travel with caution: even though being spontaneous will make a travel entirely different from a thoroughly planned one, be sure of how to get to a city. Getting around in the city is fairly easy, the metro and bus system is good and a trip will cost you about 2-3€. But getting from one city to another, this can be difficult. The major cities and touristic places are easily accessible, but here is an example: Peniche is a little town known for surfing, it is an attractive place to learn how to handle the waves. Busses will take you to the city centre, but the train station for example is half an hour away and a bus from there to the city centre is hard to catch.
In other words, best and cheapest way to get around the country in South-Western Europe is by bus. FlixBus and Alba are connected throughout all of Portugal and also Spain and a trip from Lisbon to Porto costs around 20€ and takes 4 hours (direct way). It may take longer than by train, but you get to see a lot of the scenery and get an insight into many small little towns since the busses stop regularly. You might just hop off as well and spontaneously stay there for a little 🙂
On another side note: We had too many wild adventures during our two-weeks travel on the Iberian Peninsula, I am working on a blog post at the moment to put the experience into words – stay curious!
Also, accommodation and transport have fair prices. A 3* hotel room can cost around 50-65€ per night in the low season. Hostels start at around 13€, we found a great one in Lisbon for little money but were not able to find a cheap one in Porto, which is why we had an AirBnB there. This is always a good option too, we even learned how to cook some traditional Portuguese dishes with our Brazilian host in Porto. But there are many guest houses with shared kitchens which will be 20-35€ per room per night. We had the pleasure of having two guest houses completely to ourselves, and that in the touristic cities of Peniche and Nazaré! And spent only 35€ per person for a total of three nights 🙂
All in all, living expenses are not high in Portugal. That is when the traveler heart (and wallet) smiles. 🙂 It is also one of the main reasons why so many decide to wander around the country for a while: it is cheap. Its standard of living is still acceptable, even though it is known as one of (Western) Europe’s poorest countries. So the prices are accordingly. I was happy to have traveled Portugal and to have experienced their culture, but it is not a country I must visit again in the near future.
- Restaurants: 0-10%
- Taxi: Round up
- Guides/Staff: 1-2€
- Acquaintances shake hands. Women may kiss cheeks, starting with the right one whilst men hug.
- Basic attempt of Portuguese are highly appreciated – they will teach you a few things about their language with great pleasure. For thank you, women say “Obrigada!” and men say “Obrigado!”.
- Do try and experience the country late at night. Just like in Italy, there is a rich night life.
- Do not be mad at people who do not arrive on time, the Portuguese tend to be at least 30 minutes late.
- Pointing at people is considered to be extremely rude. If you need to, show something with an open palm downward.
- Do not expect anybody to go the extra mile for you, especially if you are strangers. After their work shift is done, there is no need for them to stay around longer.