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Is Portugal Safe for Travel in 2020?

Updated August 31, 2020

Generally, Portugal is a safe place for travelers. And a wonderful one! 

Like most places around the world, Portugal has had cases of coronavirus. However, the country has largely reopened for travel.

Check out our update below: 

"Linelly helped us beyond anything we could've planned ourselves. Everything she suggested for us was spot-on, and I feel we got the best experience by following a local's guidance."
Kate, Recent Traveler
Kate, Recent Traveler

When will Portugal be safe for travel?

So, when will Portugal be safe for travel?

Here's the latest:

August 31st: Portugal has largely reopened for travel. All travelers will need to present a negative COVID test taken 72 hours before their flight.

However, Americans are not permitted to enter Portugal for tourism. 


Overall, Portugal is a safe country

Portugal is ranked as the 3rd safest country in the world by the Global Peace Index.

That means that Portugal is a safe place to visit—although, like in many destinations, there remains a risk of petty crime (like pickpocketing). 

What kind of trip are you thinking about next?
Travel is changing daytoday, which is why there’s never been a better time to work with a local—someone who actually lives in the place you’re visiting—to give you the inside scoop of what it’s like on the ground!
So tell us what kind of trip you want to plan, and we’ll connect you with the perfect local to get you started.

Petty theft is the biggest concern

As in most popular tourist destinations, travelers in Portugal are at risk of petty theft and pickpocketing. Keep your personal items secure and in sight at all times.

Locals tell us that pickpocketing rates are particularly high in Lisbon. Use these tips while using the trams or when you're in a crowded area: 

  • 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.

Getting local advice is a good way to stay safe. Our trip planners can explain how they avoid petty theft. 

There are also some common scams to avoid

Locals tell us that 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.

Solo travelers love Portugal

Woman in Porto | Kinga Cichewicz/Unsplash

Portugal is a popular destination for solo travel, including for women traveling on their own. 

Crime rates, harassment, and discrimination are low and catcalling is illegal in Portugal. That’s not to say it never happens, but it's considered a serious issue. 

Still, it's always good to get personalized advice when you travel alone. Our trip planners can let you know how they navigate their hometown safely! With some local insights, you can enjoy all the great stuff to do in Portugal stress-free. 

It’s safe to drink the water

The tap water in Portugal 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.

Or better yet, invest in a water botter with a filter. It's an easy thing you can do to travel in a more sustainable way.

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The Algarve region is great for families

Beach in Algarve | shogun/Pixabay

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, locals tell us that the Algarve is a popular spot for families and retirees—and an excellent place to enjoy some of Portugal's best activities. It’s just as safe as the rest of the country. The biggest risk to travelers here is pickpocketing. 

Local Tip:

You can find plenty of safe child-friendly resorts across the Algarve, which makes it an excellent place to visit in Portugal if you're traveling as a family.

Natural disasters are minimal

Locals tell us that the risk of encountering a natural disaster in Portugal is low. 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 don't need to know Portuguese

English is widely spoken in Portugal, especially in urban areas. For the most part, locals tell us you will see English translations on major street signs and tourist destinations. And many Portuguese people speak English. That means you'll likely be able to communicate with taxi drivers and servers, even if you don't speak their language. 

That being said, it's always helpful to learn a few basic Portuguese words. Our trip planners can let you know important key phrases. And if you do run into any issues during your trip, they'll also be available with phone support.

You can safely navigate throughout the country

Trams in Lisbon | rmac8oppo/Pixabay

Happily, it's easy to see all the incredible places to visit in Portugal. The country has great, safe transportation options. 

If you’re staying in a city, locals tell us that you can use public transportation, like the famous yellow trams in Lisbon. Just 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 affordable train lines. Trains are safe for the most part—just remember to keep your belongings close while you are in the station and onboard. 

For more, check out our article on transportation in Portugal.

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
Still have questions about travel to Portugal?
Why not ask someone who lives there? ViaHero connects you with a local to help plan your trip. They’ll create a guidebook based on your personal travel style.
You’ll see a unique side of a destination and travel independently—all while saving time and money in the planning process. Find a local today.

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