Family holidays offer the perfect time for everyone to relax and bond while at the same time creating new memories. If you have never been to Portugal, you will be in for a treat. This is regardless of whether you are travelling alone or with company. There is so much to see and do here. All you have to do is to plan sufficiently. This post takes a quick look at the important things you ought to do prior to touring Portugal.


Prior to booking your trip

It goes without saying that touring Portugal is not the same in every month. Some months are better than others. There are three very important things you will need to do before booking your trip.


  • Pick the right month

When making reservations, you should avoid the busiest, hottest and most expensive months. These are the months between July and August. You will get better deals, better weather and less crowds when you visit during the off-peak season. The months of May, June and September are hot in Portugal but not unbearably hot. Even though there is a higher risk of rain between October and April, these are the best off-peak seasons to tour the country.


  • Travel times

If your plan is to visit more than one area, you have to pay attention to the travel times as well as the distances between the regions you want to visit. The last thing you want is to spend half your holiday time travelling rather than exploring. Don’t be afraid to focus on one area and come back another time to explore other regions. If you have to explore as many places as you can, you can make use of flights. There are flights between Faro and Porto, Lisbon and Porto. All in all, when you factor in the security checks and the hassle of going through the airport, you will not save a lot of time.


  • Know the directions

Third, you need to make arrangements on how to get from the airport to your accommodation and to the places you want to tour. This is something you must do if you plan on making travel arrangements on your own. Getting lost will cost you a lot of time and money. Refrain from relying heavily on public transport, else you will be caught out if the services are unavailable.


Look for discounts

There is no harm in saving money on travel. The more money you save, the more places you will be able to see. One of the best ways of saving money is to travel during the off-peak season and make use of discounts.


There are many destinations that offer discounts. You will get a tourist card like the Porto Card and the Lisbon Card that you can use to get discounted or even free public transport or discounts on other holiday expenditures. Before you depart for Portugal, you need to spend a little time on the local tourist information websites. You will be able to find any available discounts from here. You can also ask your travel agent for info on discounts.


Carry the right documents

You will obviously need to bring a number of documents in order to be allowed into Portugal and be allowed to move around. You don’t want to be held at the airport just because you forgot your passport, do you?


The first thing you will need to do is to make sure that your passport and that of your family or companion is valid. Make several copies of your passport and bring them with you. You are also required to carry a photo ID when travelling to Portugal. You can leave the passport in your hotel and use the photo ID to move around Portugal. The driving license is an accepted photographic ID.


If you live in the European Union (EU), you will have to carry your European health insurance card. This should not be used as a substitute for full travel insurance but it will offset the costs of hefty emergency treatment. If coming from other parts of the world, you should have travel insurance. This will cover you in case of emergencies.


Vaccinations are not required when visiting Portugal. This is unless you are coming from a region that has been identified as a Yellow Fever zone.


EU citizens are not required to apply for a visa to visit Portugal.


If your plan is to hire a car, you must carry your driving license. Your driving license will be required when driving around in Portugal. You will also need your photo ID and paperwork for the rental car.


Money matters

When it comes to Portuguese holidays, you need to carry some local currency. This will prevent you from getting stranded when no one accepts the currency of your home country. Even if you land in Portugal without euros, you can head to the ATMs with the Multibanco signs in international airports and withdraw money in euros from your bank.


Not every establishment in Portugal accepts credit cards. Most of the smaller outlets, restaurants included, will only accept payment in cash. Paying with a debit or credit card will attract a transaction fee. Check with your bank about the fees. You should also make a point of having some liquid cash on you at all times.


When exchanging money, avoid large bills. Bills that are larger than 50 euros are considered big and they will be problematic for you when shopping. You can visit a local bank in Portugal and exchange the large bills with smaller ones.


Packing for the trip

When packing for the holiday, you should start by looking at the current weather in Portugal. If it is cold, you will need to bring some warm clothes. The best thing about visiting major destinations is that you don’t have to worry much about forgetting to pack something. With the exception of prescription drugs, you will be able to buy virtually anything that you need in Algarve, Lisbon or Porto.


When exploring the rural areas, you need to make sure that you have everything you need for the trip before leaving the major towns. Shops in rural areas don’t stock a lot of products. Don’t be afraid to pack a travel kettle for your daily dose of tea. It is good to note that it is easier to find UHT in Portugal than it is to find fresh milk.


The weather in Portugal is never extremely cold. Even when touring the country in winter, you must never forget to pack a pair of sunglasses and some sun cream. Don’t be afraid to pack a fold-up umbrella. During summer, you will also need to bring a hat as well as insect repellent.


For the clothes, you need several thin layers. These will enable you to adapt to the temperatures. The summer heat can also be unbearable so carry clothes made of lightweight natural fibers. You will also need a pair of comfortable shoes or even sandals. Because of the uneven cobbled pavements in Portugal, you need shoes that have non-slip soles. Spiky heels will not cut it.


Learn some Portuguese

While you will find English speakers in most tourist areas, you will come across one or two people who will not understand you. Learning a few vital Portuguese phrases can save you from being stranded. Simply saying ‘thank you’ in Portuguese will be highly appreciated. The phrase for thank you is ‘obrigado’ if you are a man and ‘obrigada’ for women. There are so many resources you can use online to learn vital Portuguese phrases.


Eating out

Most tourists end up feeling like they have been ripped off when dining out in Portugal. This is because things are a bit different here. To start with, waiters will bring small dishes of bread, olives and cold meats. These are not free unless they are part of a menu. If you are not interested in these dishes, just send them back politely.


Seafood is the gastronomic highlight here. Don’t be shocked to see fresh fish on display on a bed of ice. You get the option of picking the fish that you want and it will be cooked for you. Seafood is normally charged by its weight. The waiter can help estimate the cost.


Expect fewer vegetables on a main course meal. Prior to ordering any main meal, ask what it will be served with. Most of the greens are served with soup. You also need to note that you first order the food then the drinks and not the other way round as it is in the United Kingdom and other countries.


Visiting Portugal offers you many opportunities to try new things and to experience the local culture. The rule of thumb is to plan sufficiently for the trip. Don’t plan on the go. Prior to departing for Portugal, you need to know exactly where you will be sleeping, how you will be moving around, where you will be eating and the places you should visit. Sufficient planning will help you avoid any nasty surprises.


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