5 things NOT to do in Portugal

This is the second guest post of 2015, written by my great friend Gil. Gil is originally from Portugal, but now lives in the ‘metropolis’ of Cork, in the south of Ireland where he spends his day at a fruit factory, and his nights drinking pints and blogging about his travel adventures. Here’s what he has to say on planning a trip to beautiful Portugal.

Are you tired of those lists telling what to do or how to plan your holidays?

If so, this post is for you! If not, this is also for you…I don’t discriminate!

In a nutshell, Portugal is the backyard of Spain. That place where you put all those amazing things you want to keep safe and then you end up forgetting you have them. That’s Portugal, a small country usually overlooked by many, enjoyed by few and that will mesmerize you if you discard all those touristic flyers and programs that tell you things you don’t wanna see or do.

I am Portuguese, and I love my country. I have traveled a bit, and the more I travel the more I love my country, and that’s why I created this small list of things NOT to do in Portugal!

This article should be read with openness to humor and sarcasm. All the tips below should be considered with the right measure..there aren’t two people alike therefore it makes no sense to write a guide how to be in a country or what to do. I wrote this article based on some stereotypes about Portugal and Portuguese people I’ve heard since I started traveling, life is just boring if you can’t have a laugh.

Below are 5 things NOT to do in Portugal!

READ NEXT: Unique Experiences To Have in Lisbon

5 – Wear high-heels

As the gentlemen I want to think I am, let’s start with the ladies! Please, do yourselves a favor and leave the high-heels at home! You won’t want to wear them in Portugal! Your experience will be way more enjoyable if you use more comfortable shoes.

Why is that, you ask? The traditional Portuguese pavement is basically black and white cubes of basalt and limestone stones placed together, and you’ll see it across the whole country! Still not sure what I’m talking about? Do you know that famous sidewalk in Rio de Janeiro? That one was inspired in the Portuguese pavement in Rossio Square in Lisbon, and it is a hell for those that wear high-heels! Your tiny and sharp heel will certainly get stuck between those stones, and if you’re lucky you might just end up with a broken heel. I’m sure you don’t want to imagine what might happen if you aren’t so lucky…

So ladies, forget about your shiny high-heels!

4 – Count your calories

This one is for those obsessed about counting calories and burning them. If you’re like that, Portugal isn’t the country for you. Nor Spain, nor Italy, nor any southern country! Mediterranean food is just amazingly tasty. Of course you can find healthier food options, fish in Portugal is unreal and usually a healthy choice.

But our cuisine is also quite rich, so I am sure you won’t be able to avoid trying a few tradicional dishes like the Francesinha, tradicional sandwich dish from Oporto. Francesinha, as I like to describe, is a heart-attack served in a plate. And our sweets…, oh man…, I am already drooling here…

Nope, if you go to Portugal forget about your diets, your calories and make sure you check your cholesterol before you go!

3 – Have a pint

Why wouldn’t one want to have a pint in Portugal, you may ask? In fairness, if you come from a country like Ireland, Germany, Czech Republic or any other country with a good variety of beers and craft beers, you might find the Portuguese beer a bit disappointing. In Portugal we don’t know what a lagger is, or an ale, or an IPA. We ask for a beer, and we get a beer. Our deal is wines, we’re picky about wines and we are really good at it! Beers not so much. But that’s not the point here, of course you can always find an irish pub somewhere where you can find your delicious badly poured in less than one minute Guinness, the thing is, usually it is hot in Portugal, and a pint will get warm before you even reach half of it. And that’s just disgusting in my opinion! You’ll want a glass, a bit girly I know, but if you want to enjoy your beer that’s what you should go for.

2 – Go to Algarve

As a Portuguese guy living in Ireland, one of the things that annoys me the most is people saying they’ve been to Portugal, and for them Portugal is “Albufeira” or “Algarve”. Don’t take me wrong, Algarve is stunningly beautiful but Portugal is way more than just the Algarve. Algarve can be quite overpriced compared with the rest of Portugal, and during Summer it is also overcrowded! Rent a car, and drive a few kilometers North, and go to the Vicentina’s Coast. The water will be colder, that’s the Atlantic coast, but you’ll have kilometers and kilometers of sandy beaches with way less people! I’m sure if you want to go to Algarve, you’re thinking about sandy beaches and relaxation, you’ll hardly find both in Algarve during Summer. The beaches are there, the sand as well, but almost everything is covered by towels of thousands of other sheep-alike tourists.

1 – Speak in Spanish

This one seems to the be the most obvious one, but it isn’t for a big part of the tourists that visit Portugal. We speak a different language, Portuguese is not a dialect of Spanish, it is a whole different language with Germanic, Celtic, Latin and Arabic influences! If you speak in Spanish to us, most probably we will understand you, but some people might be uneasy to help you or even feel insulted by that. Anywhere in the world, it is always a matter of politeness to ask if the person speaks a certain another language, like Spanish :)

Unlike Spain, in Portugal we don’t dub the movies, everything is subtitled. This means we are familiar with English language, we might not understand everything but we will do our best to help you, just remember to be polite and ask us if we speak English, or Spanish or anything else. The best way to show respect to a native is trying to speak their language, badly pronounced Portuguese is still way better than spotless Spanish when talking to a Portuguese person :) Now, open your favorite air company’s website, and book your ticket to Portugal!

Travelling to Lisbon? Check out my pick of the best hostels in Lisboa.

  • grum
    January 23, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Real reason for no. 5 is because guys are so short…

    • Gil Sousa
      January 24, 2015 at 10:31 am

      I can’t complain :)

    • Irmina
      January 26, 2015 at 6:45 am

      Hahah, so true! :D

  • António Ex Sapientia
    January 24, 2015 at 5:41 pm

    About n.3 – Have a pint. I agree about the excellent variety of wines, indeed!
    In what concerns to beer, in Portugal pubs with a variety of beer are increasing specially in cities, as well as new brands of handmade beer. I’ve tasted some of them and they are awesome. Try to taste Letra (handmade beer from the north of Portugal) and you won’t regret it ;)
    Others handmade beer brands: Sovina and Vadia!

    • Gil Sousa
      January 24, 2015 at 10:36 pm

      Thank you António! I’ll have to try them next time I’m in Portugal :)

  • Ana - your portuguese friend - Mendes
    January 24, 2015 at 8:25 pm

    5 – Wear high-heels
    True. I wear tenis or boots all the time.

    4 – Count your calories
    Depends where you go.
    The real issue is: all food is delicious and the plates are well served usually.
    You need to know when to stop xD
    It’s best to ask them to serve less (and pay less?).

    3 – Have a pint
    Wont comment, I don’t drink alcohol.
    You should rather try a delicious juice of Algarve’s orange (the heat makes them grow juicefully sweet – tastes amasing)

    2 – Go to Algarve
    ?!!!!!!!
    Go anywhere but the coast – the coast is full of people!
    If you like quiet, “typical” places, you rather go to other places. See Obidos or so.
    And try not going on August. (unbearable heat)

    1 – Speak in Spanish
    ?!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
    DON’T F***ing speak spanish, wtf.
    We speak better English then Spanish.
    And I find it immensely rude to assume that Portuguese and Spanish are the same.
    They’re not. Alright?
    So the priorities should be like…
    Portuguese > English > Gestual (use those hands!) + Latin languages > Others.

    ^^

    • Gil Sousa
      January 25, 2015 at 11:59 am

      The list is of things “NOT” to do, I would never recommend to speak Spanish. Ever. :P

  • Ana
    January 30, 2015 at 3:52 pm

    I do not agree with the point 2, what I think you should do is to inform yourself before going to Algarve, especially if you are going in Jully or Aughst. Algarve has much more to offer than overcrowded beaches, like Albufeira and Praia da Rocha. Algarve has a beautiful countryside with so much to see, has a rich culture that you can explore and trust me also has beautiful beaches with almost no tourists you just have to know where to go and not be a sheep-alike tourist, ask the locals, they would show you a much more interesting Algarve :)

  • pagurina9
    April 22, 2015 at 12:33 pm

    so many thanks for your review! ;-)

  • omtrips
    October 30, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    I already booked mine (haaaaappyyyyy)! Lisbon I am coming in November ;)

    • intrepidtraveller
      October 30, 2015 at 2:16 pm

      Nice! Hope you have an amazing time. :-)

  • Not a gypsy...
    November 7, 2015 at 7:15 am

    I am sure I can deal with the endless wine of Portugal! :)

    • Gil Sousa
      November 10, 2015 at 10:29 am

      Oh yeah! And some places, like my tiny town, have *free* wine parties! 3 days of free wine and music and more activities :D

  • Xia Vue
    January 6, 2017 at 8:07 pm

    I’ve only been to 34 countries 433 cities, and planning to make Portugal my 35th country. Special, because last year, my boyfriend’s grandfather, the last of 100% Portuguese blood passed away, and I’m hoping we can do some history tracing. It would be fun to use as a tool to explore since the country is 97.1 literacy. One of the oldest world, who has one of the best records in hand, maybe we will find a little of history there.

    Thank you for the funnies, and am looking forward to it. I usually don’t do clubs, beaches (since California has 840 miles of coastline) and I have Hawaii, but much looking forward to the countryside and the local folks.