Things You Need to Know Before Visiting Portugal

By Magalí Zaslabsky

  • Learn a few words in Portuguese

All Europeans appreciate people who can learn a few words in their native language. In my experience, even knowing how to say helloand goodbye makes a huge difference to how locals perceive tourists. And Portuguese are no exception to this rule.

So, learn how to say a few courtesy words and they will definitely appreciate it!

  • Portuguese are always late

There are always exceptions to the rule, but in general, Portuguese are late. And when I say late, I mean 15 to 30 minutes late! The first time I was waiting for a friend in Portugal to arrive, I was about to give up after half an hour has passed, and then suddenly she showed up. Even for class, the Portuguese tend to be 15 minutes late, so the professors usually didn’t start lecturing until a quarter past our class time. I’m very punctual, so it was very frustrating! But once I got used to it, I started showing up 10 minutes later to all my dates with friends, and problem solved!

  • Don’t expect American meal times

Portuguese are not as bad as Spaniards (no one eats as late as Spaniards!), but they also don’t eat as early as Americans do. Usually meal times are from 12 to 3 p.m. for lunch and 7:30 to 11 p.m. for dinner. Make sure you take this into consideration when you visit Portugal and go out for a meal. 

  • Humid

In my experience living in Coimbra, rain is very common in Portugal. It’s actually pretty and very picturesque when it’s rainy, but make sure you take an umbrella and a waterproof jacket. Chances are you will need it. 

  • Small cups of coffee

The Portuguese, like Italians and Spaniards, drink small cups of espresso. This doesn’t mean that you can’t find a big latte in Portugal, but by default, people go to a bar and get a small (tiny!) espresso. 

  • Sweets are everywhere

As I mentioned in my last article Portugal: Where to go and What to eat, sweets and pastries are a big thing in Portugal. Usually you can buy them at a coffee shop to accompany your café, or in a pastelaria, and they are usually pretty cheap and tasty everywhere. 

Pastelaria Portuguesa
  • Wine

Personally, I don’t think that Portuguese wines are as famous as they deserve to be. Wines from Italy, France and Spain are well-known everywhere, but somehow Portuguese wines aren’t so much. But wine is a big deal in this country! With the incredible Rivera do Douro, Portugal was located fifth in the top ten countries exporting wine in 2005. I personally enjoy vinho verde, a white wine that is slightly effervescent and very refreshing. Make sure you get the best out of your visit to Portugal and buy some wine.

Porto Wine
  • Fado
Guitarra Portuguesa

Fado is a Portuguese music genre formed by a song and accompanied typically by a Portuguese guitar and viola. Fado is an experience you can’t miss in Portugal! There are two varieties of fado, one from Lisbon and one from Coimbra. If you are curious, this is one of my favorite songs:

  • Money

Portugal is part of the European Union and has euros as its currency. Also, it’s a very affordable country. 

  • Tipping

Coming from the United States, you are probably used to tipping, but in Portugal tipping isn’t necessary. That said, it’s not bad if you had good service to give up to a 10% tip. Make sure you check these rules for other European countries because it varies for each country. 

  • Elevators

This may sound weird, but once you visit Portugal, you will understand what I mean when I say elevators. Elevators are a thing in Portugal, however, not inside buildings, but on the streets. Since the cities are very hilly, it’s common to have an elevator that takes you from the lowest part of the city to the top of the hill. Most cities have these elevators, and to use them, it usually costs as much as any other public transportation ticket. The most famous are Santa Justa in Lisbon and Elevador da Ribeira in Porto. 

Elevador Santa Luzia, Lisboa
  • Days of the week

Make sure you understand how the days of the week work in Portuguese before visiting Portugal. This can be very useful for your trip. Portuguese start counting the week on Sunday or Domingo. So, Monday is the second day of the week, or segunda-feira, Tuesday the third day, terça-feira, Wednesday is the fourth day, quarta-feira, Thursday is the fifth, quinta-feira, and Friday is the sixth, or sexta-feira. Saturday or Sábado is the last day of the week. 

This is a useful tip to know in case you need to read schedules or are just curious. To learn more about the days of the week, click here

  • Discounts for under 25 

This is a useful thing to know, in general, for all European countries. Students or young adults under 25 get discounts for many museums, public transportation and tourist attractions. If you visit Portugal and are under 25, make sure you ask for discounts. 

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