With its fascinating historic cities, pristine beaches, and mild climate, you might expect Portugal to be an expensive destination. Surprisingly, that’s not necessarily the case. If you do a little research and plan carefully, you can easily visit Portuguese destinations on a budget.
Here are 10 tips to help you to travel Portugal on a budget
#1. Be smart when planning your flight
You can fly directly into Porto or Lisbon, but it might be better not to. If you fly into Dublin, London or Paris, where it’s easier to pick up low-cost flights, you can save a considerable amount crossing the Atlantic.
But your main savings come from transport costs within Portugal. If you’re planning to travel around the country and see a wide range of interesting sites, it makes sense to start in one of the two main cities and finish your tour in the second.
Economy air companies, like Ryanair and Easy Jet, price their flights on the basis of one-way travel. You can pick up super cheap flights from Dublin or London to Lisbon then return on an equally affordable flight from Porto.
#2. Go offseason
If you are able, plan to visit Portugal outside of the high season. Avoid the Easter and Christmas holiday periods and June through September. Typically, you’ll get better prices on flights and accommodation from January through March. You’ll also benefit from fewer crowds.
#3. Book last minute deals
Visitors who have flexible schedules can take advantage of last-minute deals, especially on hotel rooms. On the negative side, this means you won’t have the peace of mind of knowing where you’re going to stay. You’ll have to stay where last-minute rooms are available. But you will save a lot of money.
#4. Choose pensions over major-chain hotels
Portugal is awash with small, family-run hotels called pensions. Many also offer affordable, home-cooked meals. That’s a great way of experiencing Portuguese cuisine without visiting expensive restaurants.
If you plan to base yourself in one town, you can often negotiate a lower room rate for a week-long stay. When staying in Porto or Lisbon, try to arrange a pension in a central area so you can walk to the attractions rather than spending time and money on transportation.
#5. Use public transport
Taxis can be expensive, but you can often ride on public transport for less. For example, if you want to get from Porto Airport to the city center of Porto, the taxi ride will cost approximately €23.00. For the same journey, the Metro fare is €2.45 and the public bus about €2.00.
#6. Enjoy the natural world of Portugal for free
Some activities cost nothing wherever you are. So, for example, you can go birdwatching in Portugal without paying a penny.
A 20-minute drive from Lisbon takes you to the Tagus Estuary. This is one of the most important wetland areas in Europe with a broad Special Protection Zone and Nature Reserve for aquatic birds. It’s one of the best places in the world to enjoy birdwatching.
Just north of Porto, you can find the Peneda-Gerês National Park, which is renowned as a natural habitat for birds of prey. It’s also a great place for hikers, with established trails that pass beautiful waterfalls, ancient monasteries, and hidden shrines.
And if your family prefers fun on the beach, head 6 miles south of Porto to the small seaside town of Miramar. Miramar beach is one of the most beautiful in Portugal. There are roaring waves, extended sandbanks, and a picturesque chapel standing on the sand.
#7. Walking is free
Walking cost you nothing, and Portuguese cities and towns are pedestrian-friendly. In Porto and Lisbon, you can benefit from FREE guided walking tours. With Porto Walkers, you can explore the cobbled streets and picturesque squares of downtown Porto guided by local people familiar with the city’s history and culture. Discover Walks will guide you around Saint George Castle and Alfama’s narrow alleys.
#7. Main attractions can be free
Most of the time, you must for popular attractions in Portugal. However, if you do your research, you’ll find that many attractions have weekly FREE days or half-days. For example, on the first Sunday of every month, several major museums in Lisbon offer free entry. In Porto, between 10 am and 1 pm every Sunday the cathedrals and museums allow free entry.
Research the free days in the cities you want to visit and arrange your personal tour schedule so that the attractions you’re interested in are free when you’re staying in that town.
#9. Pay less for food
Many restaurants offer fixed-price menus during lunchtime or a menu of the day. These deals often work out much cheaper than buying individual items off the menu.
Watch out for extras, like drinks and bread rolls. Restaurants often make their profits from the sides people add to their otherwise fixed-price meal.
Tipping isn’t necessary in Portugal. Like in many European countries, the waiter’s pay isn’t expected to be partly made up from tips. So, don’t be overly generous with your tipping.
You can save a lot of money on food by picking up meals in local stores and outdoor markets away from the tourist hotspots. The more you snack on purchased foodstuffs, the less you’ll spend in restaurants.
#10. Buy unique souvenirs for less
If you visit local flea markets, like the Feira da Ladra in Lisbon, you can pick up low-cost, handmade goods and secondhand collectibles. You can locate completely unique and distinctly Portuguese items for less than the mass-produced, Chinese-manufactured souvenirs in the main tourist stores.
If you do a little research and plan carefully, you can easily travel portugal on a budget.