With its incredibly agreeable climate and many beautiful views to take in, it’s hard to believe more people don’t visit Portugal. Mosaic-like cobblestone streets are common, incredible architecture abounds, and Atlantic coastlines are hard to beat on Portuguese shores. To help you pack I’ve created this Portugal packing checklist.
I also include what to wear in Portugal, what NOT to bring and general FAQs. Keep reading to learn the answers to the most commonly asked questions about traveling to this magnificent country. Enjoy!
1) Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger – This tiny device has saved me so much trouble while traveling. I’m able to charge it while I’m already in my accommodations, and then carry it and the multiple charges it holds with me. This allows me to recharge my other devices – camera, phone, etc. – while I’m on-the-go. I never have to worry about being stuck somewhere without a way to be connected to help or to my travel companions.
2) Portugal Power Adapter – European power outlets are different from those in the US. Since we all rely on our phones to keep us connected, it’s safe to assume you’ll need to charge a device or two while you’re traveling. You don’t want to fry your devices, so you’ll want to be sure your adapter is good enough quality to prevent any damage. This one is great because it works in over 100 countries.
3) Travel insurance – Traveler’s insurance is a must. You never know what unexpected events may occur on your travels, and it’s far better to have this affordable safety net protecting you should anything go wrong. You don’t want to foot the bill for an urgent trip home, cancelled hotel reservations or flights, or a foreign hospital visit.
4) Packing cubes – I’m an absolute sucker for organization, and it’s made my life much easier while traveling. These multi-size zipper pouches make packing much simpler, and they allow me to switch things from my suitcase to my daybag without unpacking and repacking everything I need. I know where everything is, and I can count on it being kept safe and secure.
5) Activated Charcoal – Upset stomachs happen while traveling, especially when sampling new foods after a long journey from home. Activated charcoal absorbs toxins in your system to protect you from becoming ill, and to help end any stomach issues you’re already experiencing. I never leave home without it, and I sometimes even use it at home!
6) Shawl / Scarf – Portugal is a place where your attire is especially important. People generally look fairly nice or at least put-together no matter where they’re going, and a scarf is a great accessory to have for this reason. Not only can it help you cover up on the fly if you decide to visit a religious or otherwise more conservative attraction, it can also help you dress up any outfit or ward off an evening breeze and look good while doing it.
7) Neck Wallet – In Portugal you’ll be required to carry your identification at all times – and they mean it. Tourists have run into trouble when they’ve been found to be without it. This passport pouch makes carrying your secure items easy and discreet, while still allowing you easy access to your belongings (like your ID and passport) when you need them.
8) Universal Waterproof Phone Case – If you’re anything like me, your phone is your lifeline. It connects you to your family and travel companions, to the details you need to get around once you reach your destination, and other important information. It’s a good idea to protect your phone against accidents, and this incredibly affordable universal phone case is a great solution. It’s waterproof, scratch-proof, shock-resistant, and still allows use of your touchscreen and camera, so you can get the most out of your device while still keeping it safe.
9) Comfortable, attractive flats – The streets in Portugal are often made of fragile stone. It’s ironic, but one of the country’s most beautiful features is also one of the most fragile, and dangerous to those not wearing the appropriate footwear. I recommend stylish walking shoes so that you can remain comfortable and keep your feet safe, all while looking good and keeping the stone streets intact. These shoes are highly-rated for their comfort and are nice to look at, plus they’re compact and easy to pack.
10) Jet Lag relief – Long, hectic travel days and drastic time shifts cause unfortunate and debilitating cases of jet lag. This remedy really does work to both prevent and treat jet lag, and it’s a natural way to stay on your game when it matters most. It’s much easier to stay ahead of the exhaustion and other symptoms rather than lose a day or more of your trip to jet lag.
11) Stylish daybag – You’ll definitely want to look fairly nice when you’re out in Portugal. You don’t have to be dressed to the nines, of course, but you won’t want to be wearing dirty or overly casual items. A cute daybag like this one will go a long way toward keeping you fashionable and prepared for your day. It can carry your water bottle, any items you purchase while out, and your ID documents so that your hands are free to explore!
12) Virtual Private Network (VPN) – A virtual private network is so much more than just a way for you to browse the internet at your leisure regardless of any limitations in the country you’re traveling to. It’s also the most important aspect of your mobile security. The VPN adds a layer of encryption between your private data and any Wifi or other networks you use, and it’s easily activated with a simple push of a button. Browse more freely without compromising your data!
13) Water bottle with built-in filter – Water can be hit-or-miss in Portugal, and it’s always a good idea to have your own dependable source of fresh water on hand. A filtered water bottle means you can fill up anywhere (instead of paying for bottled water) and instantly have fresh and safe drinking water.
14) Corkscrew – Did you know about Portugal’s incredible wine scene? I didn’t until I visited. If you can bring a corkscrew, do so. Bring a cheap but effective one so you can buy your own bottles of wine at a local grocery. You’ll save money while still enjoying the flavors of Portuguese grapes.
15) Portuguese Dictionary and Guidebook – Having a pocket guide to translating Portuguese is a great idea, even if you speak a similar language like Spanish or Italian. Navigating, reading signs, speaking with locals in smaller towns, and learning about local attractions will all be made much easier if you have this tool with you. Lonely Planet also does a fantastic job of including informational “tidbits” to add to your knowledge of the country you’re visiting.
16) Hanging toiletry bag – Traveling for any length of time generally means you have to bring your own brands of toiletries so that you don’t have to count on being able to find them cheaply at your destination. This bag makes that simple. Numerous pockets and the ability to fold the entire thing up when you’re ready to leave make it a no-brainer – who wants to pack and unpack their entire toiletry bag every time they need something?
17) Dry Shampoo – Believe it or not, this dry shampoo works almost as well as the real thing, and it’s got a great scent to it. Carrying shampoo in this form can really cut down on the hassle of toiletries, and makes it easier to pack and unpack.
In general, people in Portugal wear outfits that are slightly dressier, so opt for ‘up-scale casual’ clothes when you’re not near the pool or the beach. Jeans are usually fine as long as they’re neat and nice-looking. Scarves are always a good option, particularly those that are big enough to double as a lightweight blanket and/or shoulder covering for more conservative attractions.
Take lightweight layering items for summer and heavier layering items for winter, plus rain gear for any season! Stylish but comfortable is the name of the game here, so be sure to choose inexpensive but fun accessories as well.
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).
Save your short shorts and coverups for the coast, and instead bring some modest, comfortable clothing to cities in Portugal. Sundresses and t-shirts with jeans are both good outfit ideas. Bring comfortable sandals or sneakers for all of the exploring you’ll be doing. Bring along a light travel scarf to cover your shoulders if you want to enter a religious site. Linen shorts and flowy tank tops are good for summer in Portugal. In winter, bring your hat, gloves, scarves, and other warm clothes – especially if you’re headed up north or to a higher altitude. A cross-body satchel is perfect for roaming around, and a romantic dress is optimal for enjoying a night of wine and Fado music in Portugal’s winding streets.
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).
Men should plan on dressing casual but put-together in Portuguese cities. Khaki pants, fitted t shirts, and comfortable sneakers are good options. Bring a few nice button downs for nights out, like bar crawling in downtown Lisbon. It will be worthwhile to bring some versatile and stylish beachwear for the coast, like a range of shirts, shorts, polos and swimwear. A light travel jacket with multiple pockets will also serve you well! Bring comfortable walking shoes or sandals, and definitely sunglasses.
Portugal is known for its mild weather – it’s one of the best parts of visiting the country. You’ll still need to plan varying wardrobes for different seasons, though. A wet winter and a dry summer are what you can expect from this country’s Mediterranean climate – take a look at the seasonal guide below to better prepare for your trip to Portugal.
SPRING – March, April, May:
Rainy weather dries up quickly, and you’ll notice that sunny days are more and more common as the season progresses. Spring in Portugal is gorgeous and calm, though you’ll feel it get chilly quickly after sunset.
Late spring can bring beach days, but it won’t yet bring the kind of heat that will make you need a dip in the water just to cool off.
Spring is one of the two shoulder seasons, with summer being the high season for tourism and fall the second shoulder season.
With warming but not yet hot weather in mind, pack layers! Bring sunglasses and a sunhat for those brighter days, and a scarf or shawl for the days when a chill is more prevalent. A rain jacket is a wise idea no matter when you visit, as rain can crop up on you unexpectedly. Remember your attractive but comfortable shoes – fashion is big in Portugal and you’ll be doing a lot of walking. Temperatures average between 60°F and 70°F (16°C to 21°C) with earlier months being the coldest and wettest.
SUMMER – June, July, August:
Warm, pleasant breezes and dry, long days characterize Portuguese summers.
Coasts enjoy more breezes than the inner areas, but the whole country soaks in the comfortable weather during the summer months.
Beach days can be counted on, as can dense crowds of tourists seeking fun in the sun! Plan for lines and higher prices, as this is the tourist high season.
When packing for summer in Portugal, bring light layers (linen pants are ideal here – one of our staffers wears these ones religiously) and plenty of sunscreen. Sunglasses, a sunhat, and your favorite swimsuit are must-haves. Don’t forget your cute swimsuit cover-up for when you’re lounging by the water! Temperatures average between 70°F and 80°F (21°C to 27°C).
FALL – September, October, November:
Summer fades slowly into fall in Portugal.
Most of the time September and October take their time cooling off, though you’ll notice a much faster temperature drop in the evenings, so be prepared with a scarf or shawl when going out.
The later into fall you get, the more rainy days you’ll have. By the end of fall, a little more than half of the days per month will be rainy, so bring your windproof umbrella and rain jacket!
You’ll also do well to bring some stylish boots for walking in case it’s wet out. Temperatures average between 60°F and 70°F (16°C to 21°C) with earlier months feeling more like an extended but cooler summer. Later months cool quickly.
WINTER – December, January, February:
Portuguese winters are WET. On average, just over half of the days per month are rainy in this season.
It’s chilly when the winds blow, but temperatures are certainly not frigid. Nighttime temperatures can be fairly cold, though, so be sure to pack a light jacket or fleece.
Winter is still enjoyable here, and the off-season prices and lack of lines are hard to beat!
You will, without a doubt, need your rain jacket and a windproof umbrella. I’d also recommend bringing a comfortable and stylish pair of boots for walking to help keep your feet and pants dry. A scarf and/or shawl would be a good idea, as it is a stylish layer to keep you warm and it’s very easy to carry with you when you’re not wearing it. Temperatures average between 50°F and 60°F (10°C to 16°C) with a lot of rain and fair winds.
City Sightseeing – Casual clothing items like shorts, t-shirts, or sundresses are fine. Wear comfortable walking shoes, or your hiking boots if you’re looking to save space in your backpack or luggage and intend to do some hiking as well.
Beach days – If you’re planning on spending time on the coast or at any of the many beach towns, bring a few swimsuits and coverups that dry quickly. You can easily spend two weeks there visiting a different gorgeous beach every day. Bring a nice dress or two for dinner dates.
Bar Crawls – Lisbon’s Bairro Alto district is known worldwide for its fun and crazy nightlife. Spend a night (or two…or three) getting to know the city through its famous sour cherry Ginjinha shots, but make sure to dress appropriately. Keep it classy, and don’t wear anything too revealing. A cute, flowy dress is great for women, and men should plan on wearing slacks, dress shoes, and a nice t-shirt or button down.
Fine Dining – Portuguese food is to die for. Get lost walking down winding cobblestone streets, find a cozy corner restaurant, and take your time having a delicious, slow-paced meal. Bonus points if you find a hidden Fado house, and listen to the hauntingly beautiful voices and guitars of classically trained Fado musicians. Bring semi-formal clothing if you plan on dining out like this. A tie for men and some heels for women are definitely appropriate.
What NOT to take to Portugal
1) DON’T PACK heavy items: Leave behind anything that is going to weigh you down. This includes extra shoes or clothes, hardback books, and unnecessary electronics. Doing so will help you avoid being slapped with penalty fees on strict budget airlines. It will also keep your back from aching at the end of the day.
2) DON’T BRING skimpy clothes: In a place where the culture is more dressy and slightly conservative like Portugal, it’s quite rude to wear super short shorts or revealing tops anywhere other than the beach, and it marks you as a tourist as much as a fanny-pack. Leave the tube tops and cut-offs at home and opt for nicer items.
3) DON’T TAKE tourist-wear: In any spot, it’s best to avoid sticking out like a tourist whose suitcase is packed full of valuable goodies. The way to do this is by blending in with the locals, so definitely leave your American flag paraphernalia, camouflage clothes, I-love-New-York shirts, super white sneakers, and fanny packs at home.
4) DON’T PACK a hair dryer: This is something that takes up a ridiculous amount of valuable packing space. Your hostel/hotel probably already has one on hand for you to use. You might have to ask for one at the reception desk if there’s not already one in your room but there’s really no need to bring your own.
5) DON’T TAKE excessive amounts of cash: It’s never a good idea to carry around a lot of cash in any place, but it’s especially dangerous when you’re a tourist and already unfamiliar with your surroundings and areas. Stop at ATMs to get small amounts out at a time if at all possible.
6) DON’T BRING valuable or irreplaceable items: Jewelry, computers, etc. are not wise choices. If you don’t want it to disappear, leave it at home. Items that could break the budget or the heart if they turn up missing aren’t something you want to drag along for the ride. Trust me.
Stay away from skinny high heels, because most streets are made of cobblestone! Instead, bring chunky-heeled shoes or wedges for a night out. Try not to wear anything that screams “tourist,” like USA t-shirts, fanny packs, or neon tank tops. The Portuguese typically dress a little more nicely and conservatively than Americans, so try to stay away from short shorts and revealing tops unless you’re at the beach.
FAQs about Traveling to Portugal
1) How much do I need to budget for my activities in Portugal?
A daily rate $50 per person should cover your basic needs including groceries, a bed in a hostel dorm, public transportation, and admission to some sights. However, additional expenses like going on day tours, frequently eating out, and staying in private rooms can obviously end up costing you quite a bit more.
2) When is the best time to go to Portugal?
As is the case with most places in Europe, the spring or early fall is the absolute best time to plan on visiting Portugal. Crowds are thinner and prices are lower than they are in the summer months, but travelers are more likely to have good weather and reasonable access to local sights than they would during the winter. Since Portugal is located in the southernmost portion of Europe and is one of the continent’s sunniest countries, the country’s weather starts warming up much earlier than it does elsewhere and stays pleasant for far longer. However, October is widely considered the absolute best month to visit.
3) What are some local culinary specialties?
Aside from the obvious choices of port and Madeira wine, there are plenty of other tasty Portuguese treats to try out when you’re visiting. The local custard tarts are pretty popular. Then there’s the chocolate salami, which is basically a chocolate loaf filled with broken cookies. The country is also well known for its seafood – the Portuguese really enjoy codfish. It is served in a variety of ways including in fritters and in fish patties. Shellfish baked with garlic, olive oil, and cilantro mixed together as a sauce is another popular dish, and is quite tasty.
Sausages are another big part of the local cuisine. These include a variety that was originally made by Jews who had been forced to convert to Catholicism so they could blend in with their Christian neighbors and keep the Inquisitors at bay. Another dish that visitors might want to try is the francesinhav sandwich. It’s mostly meat with some cheese, egg, and tomato sauce often thrown in for good measure.
4) How hard is to find vegetarian food in Portugal?
The traditional Portuguese diet largely revolves around meats and seafood, with egg-based desserts to round things out. Most restaurants will still try to accommodate vegetarian requests, even if they’re puzzled by them. Dishes such as vegetable soup, salad, olives, and salted beans seem to make up the main vegetarian offerings in Portugal. Travelers who are looking for more substantial meals might want to cook their own food in their rooms or in the hostel kitchen. Of course, vegetarians can find more cuisine styles in cities, and they’ll have more veggie-friendly options to choose from in urban locales.
5) Do I need to tip in restaurants?
It’s standard to leave 5 to 10 percent of your tab if a service charge hasn’t already been included on your bill. When paying small tabs in places like tapas bars and coffeehouses, it’s customary to round up the change to the nearest euro and just leave the coins behind. Travelers should nonetheless be aware that tipping is only customary in touristy parts of Lisbon and some parts of the south. Of course, servers in upscale places are more likely to expect a tip than eateries on the lower end of the spectrum. However, there aren’t many waiters who would turn down a small bonus. Just keep
in mind that Europeans don’t tip as much as Americans, so what’s considered normal at home is considered excessive there. You’ll also want to pay your tips in cash, even if you paid your bill with a credit card. This ensures that the extra money goes to the hard-working wait staff rather than the restaurant owner.
6) What’s the easiest way to get from Lisbon to Madrid?
Flying from place to place is a simple process. It can also be fairly time-effective and affordable if you’re using budget carriers. However, navigating public transport between the two countries can be a bit more time-consuming. While connections are certainly available during the day, there are also overnight trains and buses from Lisbon to Madrid. Just be aware that the overnight train probably isn’t a good choice for light sleepers or those who expect luxurious accommodations. If you opt for this method of transport, you definitely want to bring snacks, reading materials, and possibly earplugs.
7) What are the major Portuguese airports?
The main one is in the middle of the country near Lisbon (LIS). This is where many international flights currently land. Lisbon airport is also a hub for European travelers who are heading elsewhere. Other important airports can be found near Porto (OPO) in the north and Faro (FAO) in the south. There is also one on Madeira Island (FNC), which has been built out into the ocean due to the lack of space on the island. It is considered one of the most dangerous in Europe, mostly for that reason.
8) What are some good day trips from Lisbon?
Since Lisbon is located near the center of Portugal and the country is fairly small, most places are within a short train ride of the capital. Even so, Sintra seems to be a pretty popular choice for a day trip. Its colorful castle, Moorish ramparts, and UNESCO World Heritage status are certainly reason enough to visit the spot.
Day trips to seaside towns such as Cascais, Sesimbra, Estoril, and Portinho are similarly popular choices. If you’re into great scenery, you definitely don’t want to miss out the rocky routes near Cabo da Roca. It’s the westernmost point in continental Europe and filled with spots that make impressive vacation photos. Travelers might also enjoy visiting the former royal residence at Queluz National Palace, the Belém district of Lisbon, the nearby city of Coimbra, or the medieval town in Obidas.
If you’re really in a hurry, you could even do Porto as a long day-trip. However, it’s a really large town and you’re better off staying a couple of days so that you can hit all the highlights.