I just got back from a 2 week visit to the gorgeous country of Portugal. I stayed in Lisbon, Algarve (The Southern Coast), and Ponta Delgada (One of the 9 Azores Islands). Throughout my travels I discovered there are somethings you should do and something’s that are just a waste of your time and money. I am going to give you my top 10 do’s and don’ts when in Portugal so that you can save money, time, and energy calling companies to get your money back.
1. DO NOT USE UBER. DO RENT A CAR. I didn’t think it would cost me so much to ride Uber for 3 days in Lisbon but let me tell you those fees add up. When you are going from place to place trying to get awesome shots, desiring to go to different cities outside of Lisbon like Sintra, Cascais, and Estoril, Uber fees can get really expensive. My trip from Estoril to Lisbon was 40 dollars one way and 58 dollars the next and that was with just one trip. I spent around $300 in 4 days on Uber touring Lisbon and surrounding areas when I could have just spent 150 on a rental car for 4 days. Once I left Lisbon, I headed to Ponta Delgada. I rented a smart car there for 4 days for 105 euros ($121). I probably spent about 50 euros on gas. I was able to go wherever I wanted, drive onto the narrowest roads, and take myself back to the airport without worrying about how I am going to get in contact with a taxi driver at 6am to catch my flight. When renting a car in Ponta Delgada, you need a credit card in your name with 100 euros on it for them to hold as insurance for your rental. They will try to get you to give them 800 euros but you can by pass this by getting the companies daily insurance which is added in the total I quoted you above. When renting a car in the Algarve Coast I recommend Nice Rent Car rental service. I absolutely love this car rental company. No hidden charges. No “ you need to give me 200 more dollars” when you get to the counter to pick up your car rental. No security deposits. Just the one cost quoted in the beginning when you purchased the rental online. Click on this link to reserve your car rental if your travel to the algarve area. http://www.nicerent.pt
2. DO NOT DO THE HOP-ON, HOP OFF TOUR IN LISBON, DO TOUR THE CITY YOUR SELF AT YOUR OWN PACE. For one day I thought this would be a good idea. I thought I would be able to “Hop-on-Hop Off” when I wanted, get the pictures I wanted and save time and money. However this was not the case. The tour bus for this doesn’t run on time and you can be done with a location and then have to wait 30 or 40 minutes for the next bus. You could get on the wrong bus and then you are really out of luck because the next bus may not come for 20 or 30 minutes. With all this said, I do not recommend this type of tour if you want to see all of Lisbon in one day.
3. DO SPEAK OR UNDERSTAND A LITTLE BIT OF PORTUGUESE, DO NOT ASSUME EVERYONE WILL UNDERSTAND YOUR ENGLISH. I am use to traveling to Spanish speaking countries and I speak a little bit of Spanish and understand it enough to be able to at least communicate with others, read a menu, and find my way. I was able to find my way in Portugal but it was definitely a struggle not speaking any Portuguese. I couldn’t read the menus and no one has time to insert an entire menu into itranslate to order one meal. Most of the time I ate at well known American fast food restaurants because I could read the menu and I knew I would like what I ordered. If you know the language, you will be fine and be able to eat and try the local dishes. I unfortunately did not. This is why I recommend studying at least for a month the language. Also don’t expect everyone to know english especially on the Azores Islands. A lot of people don’t know english. Therefore if you don’t know a little Portuguese, you may have a hard time getting the taxi driver to find your hotel.
4. DO BRING AN EXTRA CORD FOR EACH PIECE OF EQUIPMENT YOU NEED TO CHARGE UP. Don’t forget to buy a converter for the European outlet before you head off to Europe. Your outlet cords will not work and you will be scrambling to find a place that sells one while you are on your vacation instead of spending time exploring the area. Another issue I had was power surges. I don’t know if it was just the places I was staying at or if its the entire country, but my first converter blew out on the second day and my second converter blew out my computer adapter on the 11th day. When I went to the store to inquire about the reason for this problem, the representative in the store said the issue could be that the current level is different in Portugal than in America. Therefore, I would recommend bringing with you at least two converters and one extra cord just in case your cord is blown out. This is especially true if you have an apple computer. I searched for 3 hours to find a backup charger for my MacBook Pro and no store sold this item. To protect yourself, inquire at the hotel about this issue and what other things could be done to prevent this from happening.
5. DON’T JUST STAY ON THE MAINLAND, DO VISIT THE AZORES ISLANDS. There are many beautiful places to explore on the mainland of Portugal, but in my opinion you will not see more beautiful sights and explore such the most breath-taking views of nature if you don’t travel to one of the Azores Islands. I had the opportunity to go to Ponta Delgada for 5 days and I was blown away. I knew I had fallen in love with the place when I started crying because I had to leave (lol). There are little pocket towns on the island to explore, natural thermal pools to take a dip in, waterfalls to find, hiking trails for months to travel on, and so much to do. You will need at least 3 full days on each island to explore the northern, southern, and central sights of the island. On my travel resource page, I will explain where every photo was taken and name each sight so you can take the same amazing photos and see the same amazing views. I found it hard to find blogs about the exact location of some of these places but don’t worry, I am here to guide you along the way. To get to the islands, you can only fly through TAP Portugal airlines. The ticket prices vary depending where you are flying from and to. From Lisbon to Ponta Delgada, it will run you around $60-90 dollars for a one way flight and the same from Ponta Delgada to Maderia. From Maderia to Faro, can be expensive running you up to 350 for a one way ticket. I would recommend planning your destinations wisely and looking for the best deals on certain days so you can save money, see the island, and still get off in a timely fashion.
6. DON’T ASSUME EVERY HOTEL HAS HEAT AND SMELLS FRESH. I wish someone would have told me about the mildew odor that plagues Portugal before I arrived. I had to cancel a few bookings and airbnbs because of the odor problem in Portugal. The problem is that most people rarely own a dryer and sit their clothes outside to dry, which in turn causes the odor of mildew in their sheets, clothes, etc. I would recommend you not book any BnB or airbnb in Portugal without first checking the reviews. If you are traveling during the winter months to Portugal, another issue you may run into is the lack adequate heating systems in the hotels and airbnbs. If you are staying in a 4 or 5 star hotel, you will not run into this problem. However, if you are planning on staying in a hostel, airbnb, or local apartment, I highly recommend inquiring with every place you are looking to stay at about how the room is heated before booking with them. If your planning on washing, I would highly recommend inquiring about the availability of a dryer in the hotel as well.
7. DON’T USE YOUR CARD ALL THE TIME, DO BRING A LOT OF CASH WITH YOU. I probably could have saved about 80 dollars in foreign transaction fees if I would have brought more cash with me to Portugal. I usually never notice this problem because typically bring about 500 dollars in cash with me on every trip I go on because you never know what may happen. This time I did not and Chase Bank got me. I had so many foreign transaction fees for this and for that. I was so mad at myself for not bring more cash. Don’t make this same mistake. Try to limit your debit card transactions to only times when you absolutely need to like if your doing an Uber or leaving a deposit for a rental car in Ponta Delgada.
Other little bits of information that you need to know include the following:
-If traveling during the winter months…DO BRING AUTUMN/WINTER CLOTHES, DO NOT ASSUME IT WILL BE 70 EVERYDAY because…It WILL NOT.
-YOU MUST TRY THE PASTELES DA NATA ( PORTUGESE EGG TARTS), THEIR SIGNATURE PASTRIES . I think I had one of these everyday and I even bought some home with me. They are a must try if you love custard like pastries.
FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT PLACES TO SAY, THINGS TO SEE, PLACES TO TAKE PICS. CHECK OUT THE TRAVEL RESOURCE SECTION ENTITLED PORTUGAL.