Is Portugal Expensive? | Is it a Cheap Travel Option?
Considering it has such a wealth of beauty, attractions, and activities on offer, Portugal is a surprisingly affordable destination in Western Europe. In terms of the price of a beer, coffee or a meal for two, it often comes in cheaper most European vacation destinations, even beating eastern countries like Bulgaria, Hungary and Czech Republic to the top!
Is Portugal Expensive?
On the whole, Portugal is not a particularly expensive choice for a European break, mainly thanks to its great public transport system, cheap food and fantastic outdoor activities that are mostly free.
And this includes the most popular spots too! You don’t have to wander off the beaten path to enjoy a cheap glass of wine or a tasty meal out. Resort destinations such as the Algarve on the southern coast offer wonderful beaches, affordable dining and inexpensive accommodation (assuming you don’t travel last minute in the height of the summer holidays). Even in the capital, you can find a hearty meal for one for under €10 or a beer or a coffee for around €1.50-2!
While you can, of course, splurge on five-star hotels, Michelin-starred meals and expensive cocktails on rooftop bars, there are ways to have an entirely affordable vacation in Portugal. Read on to find out the general cost of living in Portugal and some top tips to save you money.
After you finish reading you might want to check, 15 Best Places To Visit In Portugal
Are Food and Drink Expensive in Portugal?
Generally, no. Portugal has some fantastic local produce which allows traditional meals and market purchases to be made at rock-bottom prices. If you can buy local, seasonal produce, you’ll be in for some of the best and most affordable food you can get. Fresh fruit and vegetables from the market are cheap and abundant when in season, and if you eat the daily catch in a restaurant, you’ll be able to enjoy affordable, fresh, delicious seafood caught and cooked by locals.
The cost of a meal for one is around €8, a domestic beer (0.5L) coming in at around €1.50 and a Coke or Pepsi costing approximately €1.25 (0.33L). You can, therefore, feed a family of four for less than €40, even when dining out in the city or on the beach!
Is Public Transport Expensive in Portugal?
If you’re planning a trip to Portugal, you’ll want to factor some transportation costs into your budget. This may be the cost of airport transfers, a hire car (if you’re travelling on the coast) or public transport such as taxis and trams if you’re visiting the cities.
Lisbon, the country’s capital, has a decent public transport system which can be used by purchasing a VivaViagem card. These reusable cards can either be topped up with individual trips (only valid for the specific service you buy) or with cash, which can then be used on any mode of transport. They can also be topped up with a 24H multi-transport pass or a weekly/monthly pass if you’re planning on staying for longer. The 24-hour option can be a great choice, especially for families, as you can get your money’s worth with as little as three trips, and as Lisbon is pretty hilly, it can be quite exhausting for little ones. Plus, the trams in Lisbon are so beautiful that they count as a tourist attraction in themselves!
|One-way Ticket (Local Transport)||1.50 €||1.25-1.95 €|
|Monthly Pass (Regular Price)||35.00 €||30.00-40.00 €|
|Taxi Start (Normal Tariff)||3.27 €||3.00-3.90 €|
|Taxi 1km (Normal Tariff)||0.47 €||0.47-0.94 €|
|Taxi 1 hour Waiting (Normal Tariff)||14.80 €||14.80-16.50|
|Gasoline (1 liter)||1.53 €|
In terms of airport transfers, you can make your way from Lisbon airport to the city centre for as little as €4 by bus, or if there is a group of you with lots of luggage, a taxi at €20 may be a better option. Similarly, you can take a metro from Porto airport into the city centre for just €2.60 (including the cost of the rechargeable card), which is simply fantastic!
Are Activities Expensive in Portugal?
While there are some activities and attractions in Portugal which will set you back an entrance fee, there are a whole host of things to do that cost absolutely nothing. This is the benefit of visiting such a naturally beautiful country, as you can spend your days hiking in stunning mountains, wandering around quaint villages and reclining on picture-perfect beaches for free!
What you can do in Portugal obviously depends on the time of year you visit, but the wildflowers in spring make walking a wonderful option, while beach hopping along the coast is ideal for the long summer months. Lisbon and Porto are great cities to visit at any time of year, and simply walking around the city streets is a lovely way to spend a few hours. Lisbon, in particular, is known for its azulejos, colourfully painted tiles, that cover buildings, walkways and works of art around the city. Spotting this tile art as you make your way around Lisbon can be a great way to keep kids entertained while exploring the city sights.
If you’re into surfing, you can bring your board and hit the waves off Portugal’s coastline for a fun, free activity. Even if you’re a beginner or fancy giving it a go, hiring a board or taking a surf lesson can be relatively inexpensive. Beware though, Portugal has some of the world’s best (and biggest!) surf, so choose your spot wisely if you’re just starting out!
Best Ways to Save Money When Travelling to Portugal
If you’re desperate to travel to Portugal but have a pretty tight budget, there are things you can do to save money and make the most of your trip.
The first thing to think about is travelling in the shoulder season rather than in the height of the summer. While the Algarve is a relatively cheap option for a beach break, prices of flights, villas and car rentals do soar in the summer months when the resorts are packed full of families taking their annual vacation. You’re therefore better off travelling in May or early June for a spring holiday or waiting until September and October when the crowds begin to drop off.
Staying in hostels if you’re visiting the city centres can be another great way to save money. Airbnbs used to be a decent alternative to hotels, but many of these have become sleek homes for Digital Nomads, bumping up the prices and making availability slim. Therefore, hostels are a better bet. Hostels also often offer free walking tours, fun bar crawls, or other cheap activities that you can get involved in while exploring the city.
Eating locally is one of the best pieces of advice for saving money while visiting Portugal. Rather than only eating at restaurants you’ve found on TripAdvisor or simply sticking to the places that are on the main tourist trail, look out for small, family-run businesses that are full of locals tucking into tasty, traditional dishes. This may be on the side of markets, in shopping centre food halls, down side streets or in little villages that you find along your travels. If you ask what is cheap, local or fresh, the restauranteurs will be able to give you some top tips for classic Portuguese dining!
Getting off the beaten track is another way to save the pennies while travelling in Portugal. This may be staying at a beach further along the coast on the Algarve, rather than at a swanky golf resort or exploring a town or village that is relatively unknown. You might even opt to stay in a more local area of the city when in Lisbon or Porto, especially if you’re seeking an authentic taste of city life. You’ll still be able to use public transport to reach the heart of the city and see the main sights, but accommodation and food are likely to be much cheaper out of the tourist centre.
Finally, planning in advance can be one of the best ways to stretch your budget. Whether it’s booking your flights and accommodation well in advance, or planning your trip to fit around certain deals or activities, you can save money which you’ll then be able to use to treat yourself to a famous pastel de nata (custard pie) or a glass of port in Porto! Both train tickets and hotels are better booked in advance, and avoiding peaks months and times of day will be softer on the wallet. Similarly, you should try to plan your trip to the cities around a Sunday, as most museums and galleries are open to the public for free on Sundays.
Other questions you may ask about money in Portugal
Is Portugal Cheaper Than Spain?
On the whole, Portugal tends to be cheaper than Spain when you compare the overall cost of accommodation, food, drink, and activities. It also usually comes in cheaper than holidays in Italy and Greece too. While the original flight price may be higher to Portugal than to Spain, the low prices when you get there will make for an inexpensive vacation.
Is Visiting Sintra in Portugal Expensive?
The entrance fee to the Parque da Pena is €7.50 (adult), and the full ticket to the palace and the gardens costs €14.00. Considering Sintra is one of the most beautiful sights in Portugal, this is a pretty decent price and makes it well worth a visit!
Is Visiting the Livraria Lello Free?
The Livraria Lello Bookshop in Porto is thought to be one of the places that J.K. Rowling spent her time writing Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone and is even thought to have inspired the Hogwarts staircase in her novels. It has, therefore, become a popular spot for HP super fans and an entrance fee has now been introduced. The ticket costs €5, but this can be deducted from any book purchases made within the store during your visit.
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