Picturesque Sintra in Portugal
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Picturesque Sintra in Portugal

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Portugal Travel Guide

Key Facts

92,345 sq km (35,655 sq miles).


10,304,434 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

117.2 per sq km.





Head of state

President Marcelo Rebelo de Sousa since 2016.

Head of government

Prime Minister António Costa since 2019.


220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are standard.

Like the Atlantic Ocean that laps upon its shores, Portugal throws up one or two surprises. A rich and varied land of vibrant cities and traditional villages, visitors are astounded by the country’s stunning beaches, rolling countryside and cornucopia of UNESCO World Heritage Sites, which range from prehistoric drawings at Foz Coa to the 15th-century port of Angra do Heroísmo.

The country’s lively capital, Lisbon, and its vibrant northern sibling, Porto, are a joy to discover. They are cities where trams rattle up and down hills and along promenades, trundling past narrow side streets and majestic plazas, bohemian cafés and pumping nightclubs, eye-catching boutiques and restaurants both hip and homespun.

It’s not all about Lisbon and Porto, though. Sintra plays host to the stunning National Palace, a Moorish castle and the dramatic villa of Quinta da Regaleira, while the cities of Coimbra, Guimarães, Braga and Évora all boast beautifully preserved medieval quarters. Unusually, the latter is home to a chapel made exclusively of human bones, which is a tad creepy.

Travellers in search of a rural respite can wander around ancient vineyards, trek to stone villages perched in the mountains and take full advantage of the country’s warm and sunny weather on the magnificent southern shoreline. Drop in on sleepy sulphur spas and hop around the Pousadas – a collection of exquisite convents and monasteries, which have been lovingly converted into off-beat accommodation.

Imposing cliffs and secluded beaches line the Portuguese coast, a dazzling stage for all manner of outdoor adventure. Visitors can ride horses, surf waves, paddle rivers, dive shipwrecks, hike hills and explore Moorish castles and Roman ruins between rounds of golf. Madeira and Berlenga Islands beckon off shore, while the elusive remains of Atlantis await discovery in the Azores Archipelago.

Those seeking a more unique slice of Portuguese culture can discover the melancholic music of fado (Portugal's answer to the blues), study the captivating detail of Manueline architecture, get involved in a traditional festival or quaff port wine along the meandering Douro river.

Travel Advice

This travel advice page also covers Madeira, Porto Santo and the Azores.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.

Before you travel

No travel can be guaranteed safe. Read all the advice in this guide as well as support for British nationals abroad which includes:

  • advice on preparing for travel abroad and reducing risks
  • information for women, LGBT+ and disabled travellers

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this advice is updated.

Travel insurance

If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.

This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.

The authorities in Portugal set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact Portugal’s embassy in the UK.

COVID-19 rules

Countries may restrict travel or bring in rules at short notice. Check with your travel provider for changes.

If you test positive for COVID-19, you may need to stay where you are until you test negative. You may also need to seek treatment there.

Visit TravelHealthPro (from the UK’s National Travel Health Network and Centre) for general COVID-19 advice for travellers.

Face masks

In Madeira and Porto Santo, the regional health authority recommends the use of a face covering in medical facilities, retirement and nursing homes if you have been diagnosed with a respiratory illness.

Passport validity requirements

If you are travelling to an EU country (except Ireland), or Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Monaco, San Marino or Vatican City, you must follow the Schengen area passport requirements.

Your passport must be:

  • issued less than 10 years before the date you enter the country (check the ‘date of issue’)
  • valid for at least 3 months after the day you plan to leave (check the ‘expiry date’)

Check your passport meets these requirements before you travel. If your passport was issued before 1 October 2018, extra months may have been added to its expiry date.

Contact the Embassy of Portugal in the UK if you think that your passport does not meet both these requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.

Passport stamping

At the Portuguese border control, you may need to:

  • show a return or onward ticket
  • prove that you have enough money for your stay

Check your passport is stamped if you enter or exit the Schengen area through Portugal as a visitor. Border guards use passport stamps to check you’re complying with the 90-day visa-free limit for short stays in the Schengen area. If relevant entry or exit stamps are not in your passport, a border officer will presume that you have overstayed your visa-free limit.

You can show evidence (boarding passes and tickets) of when and where you entered or exited the Schengen area and ask border guards to add this date and location in your passport.

If you live in Portugal, your passport should not be stamped. You should show your proof of residence and passport at border control. Read our living in Portugal guide for passport stamping information.


If you are aged 18 and over, you can use the e-gates for UK and other non-EU nationals. Make sure your passport is stamped by the border officer after you pass through the e-gate.

You cannot use the e-gates to exit Portugal if you entered the Schengen area from another EU country.

Visa requirements

You can travel to countries in the Schengen area for up to 90 days in any 180-day period without a visa. This applies if you travel:

  • as a tourist
  • to visit family or friends
  • to attend business meetings, cultural or sports events
  • for short-term studies or training

If you are travelling to Portugal and other Schengen countries without a visa, make sure your whole visit is within the 90-day limit. Visits to Schengen countries within the previous 180 days before you travel count towards your 90 days.

To stay longer (for example to work or study or for business travel), you must meet the Portuguese government’s entry requirements. Check which type of visa or work permit you may need with the Portuguese Immigration Service or the Embassy of Portugal in UK.

If you are travelling to Portugal for work, read the guidance on visas and permits.

If you stay in Portugal with a residence permit or long-stay visa, this does not count towards your 90-day visa-free limit.

Travelling with children

Non-resident children travelling to Portugal

Children aged 17 and under travelling to Portugal alone, or accompanied by a person who is not their parent or legal guardian, must either:

  • be met at the airport or point of entry by their parent or guardian
  • carry a letter of authorisation to travel from their parent or guardian

The letter should name the adult in Portugal who will be responsible for them during their stay and the identification (full names, date of birth and passport number) and contacts details of the parent or guardian. The letter should also state the child’s dates of arrival and departure and the address at which they will be staying during their visit to Portugal.

Teenagers aged 17 and under who travel alone, or with friends of the same age, and who are not being met by a parent or guardian on arrival, may be refused entry if they do not have a letter of authority.

If you travel with a child, without consent from their parent or guardian, you may be questioned on arrival. Your entry may be delayed.

Check the Portuguese government website for more information.

Non-resident children leaving Portugal

Non-resident children aged 17 and under who leave Portugal alone or in the company of a person who is not their parent or guardian will require a letter of authority if they are returning to a country other than their country of origin.

Resident children leaving Portugal

A child aged 17 and under who is resident in Portugal must carry a notarised letter of authority from their parent or guardian if they’re travelling out of the country alone or in the company of a person who is not their parent or legal guardian.

See more information on the Living in Portugal guide and Portuguese immigration service website.

Vaccination requirements (other than COVID-19)

At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the vaccinations and vaccination certificates you may need on TravelHealthPro for Portugal , The Azores and Madeira.

Customs rules

There are strict rules about goods that can be brought into and taken out of Portugal. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.

Taking food and drink into the EU

You cannot take meat, milk, or products containing them into EU countries. There are some exceptions, for example certain amounts of powdered infant milk, infant food, or pet food required for medical reasons. Check the rules about taking food and drink into the EU on the European Commission website.

You should also read FCDO’s overall travel advice.


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. You should remain vigilant at all times.

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Portugal

Terrorist attacks in Portugal cannot be ruled out.


Protecting your belongings

Crime rates are low but pickpocketing, handbag snatching, and theft from holiday properties are common in major tourist areas. Foreign-registered and hire cars are often targeted by thieves. Thieves can use violence, you should:

  • keep sight of your belongings at all times
  • beware of thieves using distraction techniques
  • avoid carrying all your valuables together in handbags or pockets
  • leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
  • avoid leaving items in an unattended car

Public transport

Pickpocketing is a risk. Take care on public transport and at busy stations and crowded bus and tram stops. Be particularly vigilant on the number 15 and 28 trams in Lisbon.

Passport theft

Report the loss or theft of your passport immediately to the local police and get a police report. You will need the report for insurance claims.

Holiday accommodation

Check your holiday accommodation is secure. Lock all doors and windows at night and when you go out.

If you’re worried about security at your accommodation, speak to your tour operator or the owner.

If you are worried about the security at your accommodation, speak to your tour operator or owner, or contact the local police at PSP (city police) or GNR (rural and small town police).

Personal safety

Attacks or assault, including sexual assaults are rare, but do occur. Buy your own drinks and keep sight of them at all times to make sure they aren’t spiked. Drinks served in bars overseas are often stronger than those in the UK. Stay with your friends, and don’t go off with people you don’t know.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

By law, you must show some form of identification, if asked by the police or judicial authorities.  Sometimes a photocopy of the data page of your passport could be enough, but you may be asked to produce the original document.


Gambling is only legal in places licensed by the government, such as official casinos. Games of chance, including bingo, are illegal if they’re held on unlicensed premises.

The police may act on reports of illegal gambling in unauthorised premises without warning. Organisers, participants and anyone on the premises may be arrested, charged with a criminal offence and fined or imprisoned. If in doubt, ask if the venue is legally licensed.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Selling or trafficking drugs is illegal and can have severe penalties. If you are caught taking, buying or in possession of drugs for personal use, you may be fined or arrested. Any substance you have will be confiscated.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you plan to drive in Portugal, see information on driving abroad and read the RAC guide.

If you hire a car, make sure you have the appropriate insurance.

Licences and permits

You can drive on a full, valid UK driving licence in Portugal.

If you’re living in Portugal, read living in Portugal for information on requirements for residents.

Driving a British car abroad

You may need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK. UK stickers have replaced GB stickers. Check the government guidance on displaying number plates for more information on what to do if you are driving outside the UK.

Bringing a vehicle to Portugal

Tourists can bring their own vehicle to Portugal for up to 183 days in any 12-month period. You must not use your vehicle for any other purpose than tourism or loan it to anyone else.

If you plan to stay longer, you must apply to the Portuguese Customs authority to have the car legally imported. You’ll be fined if you leave the country without your car.

Outdoor activities

Beaches and swimming

Every year, people drown in the sea and in swimming pools in Portugal.

Take care when walking close to the water’s edge especially along unsupervised stretches of beaches. Waves can be unpredictable and have a strong undertow. Do not:

  • swim at beaches that connect to or from rivers as they can have strong undercurrent
  • swim at beaches without lifeguards
  • dive into unknown water as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death

Be aware of rip tides, which can cause drowning. If you are caught in a rip tide, do not try to swim against it. Swim parallel to the coastline until you no longer feel the current, then try to swim towards the shore.

Follow any lifeguard instructions and warning flags:

  • the red flag means danger: do not go into the water
  • the yellow flag means caution: you can walk in the water, but you cannot swim

More tips can be found on ABTA’s swim safe pages.

Look out for signs warning of cliff erosion. Falling rocks are a hazard, particularly in the Algarve. The authorities can fine people who ignore warning signs.

Walking the levadas in Madeira

Walking the levadas (ancient irrigation channels) can be challenging. Choose paths that suit your fitness and experience.

Be prepared for narrow, uneven paths and heights. Wear suitable clothing and walking boots. Take extra care if it has rained as the ground may be slippery and unstable. Check with your tour guide or local organiser that it is safe before you set off.

Leave details of where you are going with your hotel reception and take a phone with you. Reduce the risk by walking with a group or following a guide.

See more information about walkway closures and access restrictions on Visit Madeira.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Forest fires

Forest fires can occur anywhere in Portugal. Risk of fires is higher when the weather is hot and dry. Fires have become more common due to drought and high temperatures.

Forest fires are highly dangerous and unpredictable. The Portuguese authorities may evacuate areas and close roads for safety reasons. You should:

Starting a forest fire, even if it is by accident, is illegal in Portugal.

For information about active forest fires and forecasts, visit the Portuguese Met Office website for information on Portugal and Madeira.


Earthquakes can happen in Portugal. For more information, see the Portuguese Met Office website (mainland Portugal) or the Earthquake Information and Surveillance Centre (the Azores).

There is more advice on what to do during an earthquake on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention website.

Extreme weather warnings

For severe weather warnings, visit the European Meteorological Services website.

Before you travel check that:

  • your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
  • you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation

This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.

Emergency medical number

Dial 112 and ask for an ambulance.

Contact your insurance or medical assistance company promptly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.

Read more information on healthcare when travelling in Europe.

Vaccinations and health risks

At least 8 weeks before your trip check:


The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.

TravelHealthPro explains best practice when travelling with medicines.

The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.

UK prescriptions are not recognised in Portugal. Carry enough medication for your visit.

If you need a repeat prescription, go to the nearest health center or hospital A&E. You may have to pay for your medication.

You will need to go to a pharmacy to get most medicines, though some non-prescription medication is sold at health stores in supermarkets and shopping centers. Find a pharmacy on the Pharmacy Association website.

Healthcare facilities in Portugal

You can view a list of English-speaking medical facilities in Portugal.

If you’re feeling unwell, but it’s not an emergency, call:

  • Mainland Portugal: (+351) 808 24 24 24, press 9 for English
  • Madeira and Porto Santo: (+351) 800 24 24 20
  • Azores:(+351) 808 24 60 24

COVID-19 healthcare

TravelHealthPro has general advice on travel and COVID-19.

Health insurance cards

Apply for a free UK Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) or European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before leaving the UK. If you already have an EHIC, it will still be valid as long as it remains in date.

The GHIC or EHIC entitles you to state-provided medical treatment necessary during your trip. Any treatment provided is on the same terms as Portuguese nationals. If you do not have your EHIC with you or you’ve lost it, contact the NHS Overseas Healthcare Team.

It’s important to take out appropriate travel insurance for your needs. A GHIC or EHIC is not an alternative to travel insurance and you should have both before you travel. An EHIC or GHIC does not cover all health-related costs, for example, medical repatriation, ongoing medical treatment and non-urgent treatment. Read more about what your travel insurance should cover.

GHIC and EHIC cover state healthcare only, not private treatment. You will be responsible for the cost of any treatment provided by a private doctor or private clinic.

Travel and mental health

Read FCDO guidance on travel and mental health. There is also guidance on TravelHealthPro.

The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.

Emergency services in Portugal

Telephone: 112 (ambulance, fire, police)

Contact your travel provider and insurer

Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.

Refunds and changes to travel

For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.

Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:

  • where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
  • how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim

Support from FCDO

FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including: 

Contacting FCDO

Follow and contact FCDO travel on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. You can also sign up to get email notifications when this travel advice is updated.

Help abroad in an emergency

If you are abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy or consulate.

You can also contact FCDO online.

FCDO in London

You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.

Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)

Find out about call charges

Risk information for British companies

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.