Welcome to the Medical Travel Compared Portugal Travel Guide. Trips to Portugal are fast becoming THE holiday. This year more people are flocking to the Algarve and Lisbon, sailing the Douro river and drinking the Porto barrels dry than ever before and we’re going to tell you why.
First thing’s first – Portugal can be rather warm. If you’re visiting in peak time, expect temperatures topping 38°C or 100°F so wear a hat, pile on the sun cream and stay hydrated. Now, onto where…Lisbon, the Algarve and way Up-North. More? OK.
Lisbon is the hilly, coastal capital of Portugal; playing house to the better part of half a million people. If you decide that Lisbon if the place for you, it’s best to visit during Spring/Autumn or if you’re not too bothered about tanning, the Winter is pretty too, especially Christmas. See the sights, enjoy the cafes and soak-up the culture.
Onto the Algarve. A very popular location with British tourists and for good reason. Most hotels have lovely pools on site, the beaches are stunning and the night life is something to see. The downside – it can get crowded. Not surprising given its appeal. Don’t bother during the Winter, unlike Lisbon, the Algarve has little to see and even less to do in the colder months, with most areas closed for the season.
Travelling a little further north now. The mountains, chalets and food are something to behold. Cheese, Chorizo and Wine. This is a very different holiday to the one you’d find down south during the Summer months. There is even the possibility of some snow; so if you’re Christmas-ing abroad for the first time, maybe you’ll get a little frosting to remind you of home.
Portugal resorts are numerous, so you’ll rarely find yourself without choice. Here we’ve found a few choices, at least one is a little…funky.
Lisbon – For those of you happy to stay in the centre of Lisbon, try HF Fenix Music; a themed hotel with a roof-top swimming pool and views across the city. The rooms are air conditioned, the walls are filled with music, blue tooth enabled and even sound proofed.
Want something a little less “Rock” – how about the Lisbon Serviced Apartments? Located in the centre of the city; 35 apartments, newly refurbished, stylish, with air conditioning, housekeeping, a kitchen and more. Prices per room, per night start at £105.
Algarve – Estrela da Luz is a stone’s throw from the beach (Praia), with three swimming pools, a restaurant, bar and a Kid’s club. Rooms can be found from as little as £96 per night.
Up North – Chalets can be on the pricey side. If you’re looking to try a touch of mountain holidaying, it’s best to do it in a group and keep the price a little more manageable. Prices per day, peak season range from €150 - €300. But don’t forget, that while the prices may be a little high, so are the mountains and it’s a pretty special view when you wake-up in the morning.
Lisbon is a city steeped in culture and all that goes with it. To list them would wear our fingers-out typing. But, we shall endeavour to advise what you should see in Portugal. First-up; “Pasteis de Belem” – located in the centre of the city, this restaurant/café is as picturesque as the pastries it produces are tasty. Custard tarts, for all intense and purposes, but they are sooo good.
If you’re of a mood to commute a little, pick-up a ticket and take a ride on the famous number 28 tram. This historic mode of transport will take you through the most iconic streets and past buildings that typify the city’s life and style. On board, you’ll not only see the sights, but hear them. Traditional ‘Fado’ music will fill your ears and your soul with the Portuguese sense of “saudade” (pronounced “Sow-da-gee”, meaning ‘Longing’ or a sense of ‘Nostalgia’).
Sintra is another of the cities that should make your list. Not as well-known as it’s Gran Lisboa (region) neighbour, Sintra is a must-see! Replete with Castles, Mountains, and endless landscapes, here your sense of adventure can be side-stepped and your desire for relaxation appeased. If you’re feeling a touch of custard pie withdrawal, try the “Queijadas da Sapa” and feel sated.
Inspired by its Southern American cousin Christ the Redeemer (Rio de Janiero – Brazil), Cristo Rei (Christ The King) towers over the city of Almada at 260ft high, staring out across the Río Tajo (River Tajo) towards Lisbon. If you happen to visit, do not try to get there by yourself. A taxi or an excursion bus leaving Lisbon would be much more pleasurable as the path to the statue is very high and you will quickly find yourself exhausted.
Not many tourists are aware, but Lisbon is hiding a secret; a secret garden that is, or two, ‘Jardim do Adamastor’ or ‘Castelo de Sao Jorge’. From May-June you can enjoy the free and relaxing beats of Jazz, roaming the gardens and through your ears, while you stare-out at the views of Lisbon beyond.
One hour from Lisbon is the beautiful beach of Sesimbra. Lovely restaurants and amazing views can be had, including the occasional dolphin swimming by.
When hunger strikes, pop by “Atira-te ao Rio”, a local restaurant that can be found nearby Cristo Rei. Few tourists frequent this eatery and you can avail yourself of the incredible local fish dishes for a very reasonable price while enjoying astonishing views across the river to Lisbon.
If you are a seafood lover, you can guarantee the best and freshest seafood can be found in the “Solar Beirao” restaurant, Almada (local to where the boat drops you off from Lisbon). With an amazing variety: €45 buys you a massive portion with a variety of clams, lobsters, 3 types of shrimp, crabs, and much, much more. The quality is absolutely outstanding and the service: unbeatable.
Typical foods include variations on Bacalhau or as we know it, Cod (bacalhau a braz, bacalhau no forno, bacalhau a lagareiro). You’ll be happy you tried these dishes. Seafood and in particular, sardines are a speciality and not to be missed. Carne de porco a alentejana (pork with clams and chips); the Portuguese know what we English require in a meal. Keeping up with the theme: Oven baked Octopus…with potatoes.
Tip: If you are in a restaurant and appetizers are immediately served to you without asking, you are not obliged to eat or pay for them.
When travelling around Lisbon and visiting the other side of the river - Almada, travel cards are not as user friendly as our Oyster card would be. You can top-up your travel card and use it on the underground, trams and boats in Lisbon – but from the moment you use it, it will last only 1 hour and you cannot use your card again during that period. Spend some time researching this on the internet or when you arrive speak to someone at your hotel or in a position of authority to explain it to you.
You are not obligated to tip in Portugal, but it would be a polite thing to do. As a guide, local people might leave a €1 to €3 tip.
Crime levels in Portugal are low. There can be pickpockets, especially on public transportation, so make sure you are careful with your valuables – but it’s not a high-risk problem. Also, avoid non-touristic places by night, just to be safe.
The local people are very humble and they will receive you in a very welcoming way.
The food there is thoroughly tasty. You have a great variety of choice and it is very accessible.
The culture is everywhere. You can’t help but return with a broader mind and chances are, a broader belly too.
Travelling anywhere out with the UK it is essential that you take your travel insurance. While the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) will cover the basics abroad, what it won’t do is those potential extra things that you might need. Insurance ensures your repatriation, your care and your peace of mind.
For an easy and fair quote, visit the Medical Travel Compared site.