ViaHero · August 2, 2019
Want to stay safe on your upcoming trip to Portugal? Not to worry—Portugal is ranked among the safest countries in the world for travel. That said, you want to exercise caution no matter where you are traveling. This article will tell you everything you need to know about safety in Portugal—from common scams to avoid to tips for solo female travelers—so that you’re totally prepared for your trip.
If you’re curious to learn more about safe travel in Portugal, connect with a Portuguese local to help you plan your trip—the best way to stay safe is to take the advice of someone who lives there! Learn more.
Overall, Portugal is a very safe country
Portugal is ranked 4th on the Global Peace Index as of 2018. That makes it a super safe place to live in and visit—and though there is some risk of petty crime (like pickpocketing), rates of violence and terrorism are lower than in almost any other European country, including Italy, France, and the UK.
Statistically, your chances of experiencing violent crime, mugging or discrimination in Portugal are very low—even lower than in many US states. While you will want to look out for pickpockets, you can definitely feel safe walking alone, day or night—that goes for big cities like Lisbon or Porto, and rural areas too.
Petty theft is the biggest concern
Of course, nowhere in the world is completely safe—as in a lot of popular tourist destinations, travelers in Portugal are at risk of petty theft and pickpocketing. Especially in crowded areas, it’s important to keep your personal items secure and in sight at all times.
In Lisbon, pickpocketing rates are particularly high. When you are on the trams or walking in a popular tourist area, you can use these tips to avoid losing your valuables to a pickpocket:
- Don’t keep your phone or wallet in an outer pocket.
- Only carry the essentials—leave your passport, cash, etc. at home.
- If you’re carrying a purse or bag, wear it in front of you.
- Don’t rush to get on a crowded tram—pickpockets are more likely to target you when you’re distracted.
As long as you are cautious and alert, petty theft won’t ruin your trip! For more info on the dos and don’ts of avoiding pickpockets in the city you’re visiting, you can always get a local’s advice.
There are also some common scams to avoid
As in much of western Europe—or anywhere else frequented by travelers—there are some common scams in Portugal that you should know about (and know how to avoid). Here are some of the most popular scams:
The Rosemary Scam
In this scam, a Roma (gypsy) woman—often older—will offer you a sprig of rosemary, grab your hand, and start telling you your fortune before you can say no. When she’s done, she’ll ask for payment; if you don’t give it to her, she’ll make a scene until you do. The best way to handle this scam: just pull your hand away and walk away.
The Slip-and-fall Scam
If you’re on a train or tram and an elderly Roma woman “slips and falls” into you, mind your wallet, purse, and/or watch. Often, muggers will use a fall as an excuse to make physical contact with you—and take your stuff while you’re distracted. The best way to handle this: check your belongings immediately.
The Petition Scam
If a person or group of people approach you with a petition to sign, do not do so. They’re using as a distraction while someone else picks your pockets. The best way to handle this: just say no.
Portugal is awesome for solo female travelers
Portugal is a super safe destination for solo travelers, especially women traveling on their own. Crime rates, harassment, and discrimination are quite low, so travelers can feel safe walking alone, day or night. Catcalling or harassing women in the street is actually illegal in Portugal—that’s not to say it never happens, but women are more protected from verbal harassment there than in neighboring western European countries.
Of course, you don’t have to take our word for it. If you’re planning a trip to Portugal as a solo female traveler, you can connect with a Portuguese woman for first-hand insight into the issues women face there.
It’s safe to drink the water
You won’t have to worry about wasting your money on bottled drinking water while you’re in Portugal. The tap water is perfectly safe to drink. If you’re really worried about getting sick from the food or water while you’re there, just follow some basic preventative steps to avoid food poisoning and keep yourself healthy.
The Algarve region is great for families
The Algarve is a region along the southern coast of Portugal, made up of several small towns and gorgeous beachside resorts. Alongside Lisbon and Porto, the Algarve is a popular spot for families and retirees. It’s just as safe as the rest of the country—again, the biggest risk you will need to consider is pickpocketing.
For a family with kids, you can find plenty of safe child-friendly resorts across the Algarve.
Natural disasters are minimal
Portugal is not at risk of many natural disasters. You won’t have to worry about hurricanes or huge tropical storms if you are staying near the beach. Portugal is in an earthquake zone, but they haven’t experienced a major quake since 1980. You can keep track of seismic activity in the region to learn more about the risk.
You can get by even if you don’t know Portuguese
English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in urban areas. For the most part, you will see English translations on major street signs and tourist destinations. Many Portuguese people speak English—in most cases, you will be able to communicate with your server or taxi driver without any problem.
In case you do run into a language barrier, it might be helpful to learn a few basic Portuguese phrases—that way you can always get your needs across in case of an emergency. Remember, if you find yourself in need of a translator or some quick advice, you can contact your Portuguese local 24/7.
It’s easy to get around safely
If you’re staying in a city, you’ll have tons of different public transportation options. Remember that crowded trams can be prone to pickpockets—if you want to avoid them, taxis and Uber are great, safe options.
For traveling longer distances, Portugal has super affordable train lines. Trains are very safe for the most part—just remember to keep your belongings close while you are in the station and onboard.
Taxis vs. Uber: Which is safer?
Taxis in Portugal are very safe, but there is always some risk of getting scammed (as with any taxi anywhere). Some drivers may take tourists on longer routes than necessary, and you’re also not guaranteed to get a driver that speaks English, which may make it difficult to tell them your destination.
Although Uber used to be banned in Portugal, it is now available in most major cities, including Lisbon, Porto and popular tourist spots around the Algarve. It’s as safe to use an Uber in Portugal as it is in any other country.
In short, both taxis and Uber are safe options, but you may feel more comfortable in an Uber.
Emergency numbers to know
Just in case you do find yourself in an emergency situation while you are in Portugal, here are all the important numbers you should know:
- Police / ambulance / firefighters: 112
- Forest fires: 117
- 24/7 emergency health line: 808 242 424
- Maritime police: 210 911 100
Conclusion: with normal street smarts, Portugal is super safe!
Wherever you plan on traveling in Portugal, you can feel safe. Risks of crime, terrorism, natural disaster, or health issues are all super low—the only thing travelers really need to worry about is petty theft. Just stay attentive, take care of your valuables, and consider investing in a money belt or locking backpack before you go.
For even more safety tips, connect with a Portuguese local. They’ll explain how they stay safe, so you can focus on the important stuff, like sipping port wine—and hey, they’ll have suggestions for the best places to do that, too. Local trip planners create an itinerary customized to your travel style, offer phone support in case you run into any issues, and let you in on a few of the country’s secrets. Basically, it’s like having a best friend in Portugal.