5 Things to Know Before Visiting Portugal

Portugal is a country of rich diversity and there is so much to enjoy: gastronomy, culture, art, architecture, shopping, stunning landscapes and over a 1000 miles of coastline.

Most visitors head for the gorgeous beaches of the Algarve, some of the best in Europe, while others enjoy the urban delights of Lisbon, one of the world’s great capital cities. There is however a whole other Portugal to be discovered to the north: experience the might of the giant waves at Nazare, take a boat ride and admire the Art Nouveau architecture of Aveiro or lose yourself in the unspoilt vastness of the Peneda-Geres National park. This is a country that deserves many visits so here are some tips to help you on your way.

Learn some key phrases

If you are on the Algarve or in Lisbon you’ll find plenty of English speakers but if you travel to the interior of the country or follow the coast to the north you will find the need to communicate in Portuguese. Even in areas where English is widely spoken, it is a mark of respect to attempt to speak to people in their own language and it is one which will always be appreciated. Knowing key words on the menu and being able to count to ten are good starting points and you can always fall back on a translation app on your phone if things get tricky.

Restaurant etiquette may be a little different from what you are used to

Not all establishments take a bank card. If you see a sign saying nao temos MB or nao temos multibanco, it means that you will need cash. Wait to be seated. You may be sent small dishes of food before your meal.  If you eat them, you will be charged for them, unless they are part of a set menu. If you don’t want to pay for them say ‘no thank you’, ‘nao obrigado’ and send them back untouched. When you have finished your meal, the waiter may well clear your table, but this does not mean that you are expected to leave, you can stay and enjoy your drinks. Tipping is not mandatory but good service should always be rewarded.

When you get to the beach, be prepared to walk

Your heart may sink when you arrive at the beach of your choice to discover that it appears to be very crowded. Often, a short walk will take you to an area of the beach where you have got plenty of room to yourself. During the COVID crisis, the authorities are limiting the number of people on any given beach and enforcing social distancing measures

Praia de São Rafael, Albufeira, Portugal
Praia de São Rafael, Albufeira, Portugal

In Portugal, they drive on the right

If you are used to driving on the left, you need to be vigilant. Driving in traffic you are unlikely to become confused because you are following everyone else, but if there are no other cars on the road and you are pulling out from a junction it is very easy to find yourself on the wrong side of the road. You need to be alert so that you can override your habitual way of driving.

It is cheaper and safer to stay in self-catering accommodation.

During the COVID crisis, it is far safer to stay in self-catering accommodation than it is to stay in a hotel where you are necessarily in contact with lots of people. Accommodation in Portugal is even cheaper than it has been in previous years and there is no shortage of delightful villas from which to choose.

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