Every single time I thought about going to Portugal I just preferred some place else because in my head it would be a poorer and slightly run down version of Spain particularly the Western Spain but I have to thoroughly apologise to Portuguese friends for that misconception.
Portugal is a beautiful country with a distinct and amazing culture, language, history, food and people. The country is stunning from top to bottom (pun very much intended!) and every city I went to offered something new and refreshing. The beaches and sun are a permanent feature in Portuguese life and people though very warm and hospitable, have a certain sense of melancholy about them. It reminds me of the Fado music that is about separation in love. The general infrastructure in the country is amazing including road networks, railways, airport and public transport, even better than Spain to be honest. I would highly recommend a trip to Portugal and even though it might look like a small country on the Western side of Europe it has very different culture across different regions.
The Racism Factor
Portuguese people are generally very friendly and warm and when your life is about beaches and sun you tend not to have time to be racist and to be honest I mostly blended in because there’s quite a few people who are quite tanned so I felt right at home. (A few guys tried talking to me in Portuguese as well, an ego boost!).
The Gay Factor
Portugal has an established gay scene and is one of the countries in Europe where gay people feel comfortable spending Summers without issues. Lisbon has an extensive and great gay scene with plenty of bars, clubs, cafes and hotels and guys are simply gorgeous and sweet, what else do you need?
The general population is quite friendly and not to fussed about your sexuality but the south and smaller cities generally are more conservative but still it didn’t amount to any homophobia.
Value for Money
When it comes to Flights and accommodation Portugal might look expensive but once you’re inside the country it is quite an affordable place, public transport is cheap and links are good between cities and intra-city. It cost me €11 for my flight to get from Faro to Porto, think about that! Food is generally cheap and so is drinking with really good quality. Overall it can be a pretty affordable experience.
I spent 4 days in Lisbon,3 days in Faro and 3 days in Porto and while I should have gone to Algarve I really enjoyed the trip because of the varied culture in all three regions and the landscape. Lisbon is a hilly but beautiful Capital with a lot of sunshine, Faro was quiet with a lot of peace and calm and Porto was just grand with a lot to do and explore. (Lisbon is the sunniest capital in the whole of Western Europe with 2800+ hours of sunshine a year on average). The beaches are just flawless and absolutely beautiful with golden sand and cosy waters including Cascais and the regional beaches in Faro and city beaches of Porto.
In Lisbon, I stayed next to Cais do Sodre which was perfect to get around everywhere because it is right in the City centre and the trains to Belem and Cascais go directly from this station. It is also right next to the seafront and Praca do Comercio and an easy 15-20 minutes walk to the other end of City centre like Principe Real or Bairro Alto. Transport links are also good including Tuk tuks which are a lot of fun. (Lisbon is located on 7 hills so the walk might be quite up and down but that’s part of Lisbon culture and I loved it because it gives the city a different touch). Airbnb worked much better than a hotel for Lisbon.
In Faro I stayed in the City centre which is a 10 mins walk from the old town which in a hotel. It was close to the bus station and quite central with lots of options to eat around in the evenings. I decided not to stay in old town because it was quite dead at night.
In Porto I got a hotel as well not so far from Aliados station which is very central and a very good area for night life and exploring the city.
I loved Portuguese food and be it the Timeout Mercado do Ribeira in Lisbon where you are spoilt for choices are small cafes in Porto, food was amazing everywhere. I discovered lamb chops from small family run street corner restaurants and fancy fish and duck croquets. Food is extremely amazing and cheap in the whole country and you can eat, drink and be merry without feeling bankrupt in a foreign country. I have added links below for some good food options below:
Phone & Internet
Internet and phone coverage is pretty good in the whole country even on the road in remote areas. Free wifi is also readily available in restaurants and cafes and it is pretty fast. I used my Vodafone roaming but you can buy sim cards which are quite easy to get. Check the details here.
Cash & Cards
Lisbon like any big city in Europe has a good network of Cash machines and you can use your cards for most purchases but you will need cash for public transport. Contactless payment is not very common and for the Faro and Porto I would recommend keeping cash because cards are not very widely accepted, better in Porto than Faro.
- You need to get some sturdy shoes because walking around in Lisbon and Porto can be tricky because of the hills.
- Sunscreen, Sunscreen & more Sunscreen!
- For Faro the public transport options to and from beach are quite limited and taxis are fairly uncommon so grab the bus timetable.
- For Lisbon Tuk tuk fare is negotiable and you need to haggle a bit before grabbing a seat.
- Be careful of thieves and pickpockets in Alfama, the old district of Lisbon.
- Make sure to try francesinha in Porto which is a local specialty.
- Book your tickets for Fado music in advance and do some research on where to go, there’s plenty of tourist traps.
- If you can spend a day in Sintra an hour away from Lisbon which is beautiful and requires a full day, sadly I didn’t have enough time for it, next time…
- People from Porto generally do not respond well if you bundle them with Lisbon, they are very proud of their own history and culture.
- English is spoken fairly well throughout the country but people respond much better if you add ‘Obrigado’ to your requests. It means Thank you.
- Throughout Portugal most beaches offer sun beds but I would recommend getting a beach towel for the rest that do not.