Portugal on a budget
Portugal is a great holiday destination for those travellers on a budget. Portugal is one of the cheapest countries of Western Europe and the county offers stunning beaches and fascinating cities. Overall Portugal has incredibly cheap public transport, reasonably priced accommodation (when booked well in advance) and good value food, if you know where to look. This article will provide a guide to visiting Portugal on a budget and particle tips to make your money go further.
When to visit Portugal?
The summer months are the height of tourist season and this is when hotels and flights are at their most expensive. If you must visit Portugal during summer, due to school holidays, always book well in advance. The weather of spring and early autumn is always dry and bright and this is a better season to visit. Portugal has mild but unpredictable winters and the off-season is unsuitable for most holidays.
The average weather of Lisbon
Portugal in general is cheaper than Spain/Greece and about half the price of England/Germany but food and drink in the tourist centres will be the same price as back home.
Where to go on a budget?
There are three main tourist centres of Portugal, focused around the three airports; the Algarve, Lisbon and Porto. The beautiful southern coastline, known as the Algarve, is the most popular destination with tourists but tends to be the most expensive, especially in the summer. Outside of the summer there are fantastic deals in the larger resorts and it is possible to have a budget holiday. Our personal favourite destinations in the Algarve are Tavira (charming and traditional) and Lagos (lively beach resort).
The beautiful beaches near Lagos
Lisbon has a surprising amount to offer visitors historical monuments, great nightlife, wonderful beaches and interesting day trips. Year round Lisbon offers a range of good value hotels/hostels and it is possible to eat very cheap. Overall Lisbon is a good destination for budget travellers and probably the best location if you wish to visit during the summer.
Porto is rapidly becoming a popular tourist destination, in part due to the number of low cost airlines flying into Porto. Porto is either unknown or under rated as a holiday destination but Porto is a good budget destination for a holiday with beaches, sights and enjoyable day trips. Lisbon is regarded as having the better beaches, weather and sights but Porto does make for a good budget destination for the more intrepid visitor. Click here for a 3 day guide to Porto.
Braga a popular day trip from Porto
Tips for a cheap holiday to Portugal
The following section details our hints and tips for a budget holiday to Portugal:
Never hire a rental car, even if it seems like a bargain price. Portugal has excellent and inexpensive public transport around the main tourist areas. There is a regional railway that extends the length of the Algarve and Lisbon/Porto’s metro and railways serve all of the interesting locations. For all car rentals in Portugal there is always additional “option” insurance to cover the €6,000 excess, this hidden fee works out at €15 per day.
The charming centre of Tavira
For meals always eat where the locals do. Some of the best value eating establishments are often found in the food courts of the large shopping centres. Along with the obligatory fast food chains are great value restaurants that serve traditional Portuguese dishes often for less than €7.50 for a full meal.
For lunch head to the cafes and coffee shops, most will serve a great value lunch time menu that will be a fraction of the cost of a restaurant. When purchasing a coffee (or tea) from a café always ask for a glass of water, the Portuguese are never shy of ask for a free water!
For flights to Portugal always consider the larger established airlines for cheaper flights. There was a time when the low cost airlines were the cheapest to fly with but nowadays fares are almost equivalent. The national airline of Portugal is TAP air.
Take public transport from the airport to your hotel. Public transport is excellent from Lisbon and Porto airports and taxis are notorious for over charging tourists. Faro airport is the exception with a very poor bus service and most visitors must travel to into Faro for bus and rail onward travel.
Never skimp on travel insurance, you never know when issue may occur.