Portugal Packing List: 10+ Essential Things to Bring in 2024

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Last updated on June 13, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 12 minutes

So you’re going to Portugal? Whether you’re planning to wander through the historic neighbourhoods of Lisbon, sip fine port wine in Porto, or bask in the sun-soaked beaches of the Algarve, preparing the right packing list is crucial to make the most of your Portuguese adventure.

Portugal offers a diverse range of experiences and it’s essential to pack for both the region and the season. In this guide, we’ll help you curate the perfect packing list to ensure you’re well-equipped for every moment of your journey in this enchanting country.

Travel Insurance

Travel insurance is not just a recommendation; it’s a necessity, especially for those visiting Portugal from outside the EU. While Portuguese medical facilities, including hospitals, offer quality care at affordable rates, unforeseen medical emergencies can lead to unexpected expenses. To avoid the stress of a hefty medical bill, it’s prudent to invest in comprehensive travel insurance that covers potential health issues during your stay.

AXA Schengen is one of the most popular options, but it’s definitely not the only one.

For European visitors, the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) offers a layer of protection. This card, available free of charge, allows citizens from the EEA countries, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom to access medical services in another member state, either free or at a reduced cost. This is particularly beneficial for those with pre-existing conditions that might require attention, such as kidney dialysis. Following Brexit, the UK introduced its counterpart, the GHIC card, which functions similarly to the EHIC.

However, it’s crucial to understand the limitations of the EHIC and GHIC cards. They primarily cover state-provided healthcare and do not extend to private hospitals. Moreover, these cards don’t encompass broader travel-related emergencies like missed flights, lost luggage, or the need for repatriation. Therefore, while the EHIC and GHIC can be valuable tools for basic medical needs, a comprehensive travel insurance policy remains indispensable to ensure a worry-free trip to Portugal.

A Travel-Friendly Simcard

If you’re visiting Portugal, of course you’ll want to use your phone while you’re here. You’ll need it for Google Maps, getting Ubers, and researching what to see and do.

But using your data abroad can be complicated. Those from the EU typically don’t need to worry as there’s EU roaming between the different countries, allowing you to use your phone as you would at home (fair usage data caps apply).

Those from the UK don’t have such a good deal post-Brexit. According to the UK Parliament website, since the end of the Brexit transition period (1 January 2021), there has been no obligation on UK mobile operators to guarantee surcharge-free roaming across the European Economic Area (EEA). Other protections, including a daily limit on roaming costs, expired on 30 June 2022.

That said, some UK providers offer roaming abroad. Money Saving Expert has a good roundup.

For those from the US (and further abroad) it varies and you will need to check your phone plan to see how you will be affected. Be sure to check or you could get a bill of several hundred (or even thousand) dollars.

If your plan doesn’t allow you to use your phone abroad at a reasonable rate, consider getting a travel sim or eSim, such as the MEO travel sim.

Comfortable Shoes

Navigating the charming streets of cities like Lisbon and Porto is an experience like no other, with their intricate mosaic pavements and steep, winding alleyways. However, these beautiful cobblestones (known as calçadas) can be deceptively slippery, especially after a rain shower or in areas worn smooth by countless footsteps.

Given the hilly terrain of these cities and the amount of exploration you’ll undoubtedly want to do on foot, investing in a pair of comfortable, non-slip walking shoes is paramount. Ensure your footwear provides good grip and support, allowing you to wander with confidence and comfort, soaking in the sights without the worry of a misstep.

Other parts of Portugal, such as the coastal Algarve, are a little easier as there are fewer hills. However, you’ll still find that heels and Portuguese streets don’t go well and that a pair of comfortable shoes is always welcomed.

Clothes (think layers)

When packing for Portugal, it’s essential to think beyond the sunny beach photos and consider the country’s diverse climates. While many tourists flock to destinations like Lisbon and the Algarve during the summer months, expecting to bask in the warmth all day, the reality is that temperatures can fluctuate significantly.

  • Evening Drops: Even in the height of summer, once the sun sets, the temperature can dip considerably. So, while shorts and a t-shirt might be perfect for daytime strolls, you’ll be grateful for those pants and a sweater come evening.
  • Winter Chill: If you’re visiting outside of the summer months, be prepared for cooler temperatures, especially in the evenings. Some traditional Portuguese houses, particularly in rural areas, might not have central heating, making those extra layers invaluable.
  • Coastal Breezes: Portugal’s extensive coastline, especially outside of the peak summer season, can be subject to brisk winds. A windbreaker or a light jacket can be a game-changer, ensuring you enjoy your coastal adventures without the chill.
  • Island Climates: If your travels take you to the Azores or Madeira, remember that these islands have their own unique weather patterns. The Azores, for instance, can be unpredictable with occasional rain showers, so packing a light raincoat or umbrella might be wise.

In essence, the key to packing for Portugal is versatility. By bringing a range of clothing options, you’ll be equipped to enjoy everything this beautiful country has to offer, come rain or shine.

A travel adapter

If you’re journeying to Portugal from regions like the UK, US, or countries outside the EU, a crucial item to pack is a travel adapter. Portugal, like most of Europe, uses Type F sockets (two-pin) with a standard voltage of 230V and a frequency of 50Hz. Without the right adapter, you’ll find yourself unable to charge or use devices like laptops, cameras, or even your hairdryer. A worldwide travel adapter will not only allow you to travel within Europe, but also other parts of the world as well.

Modern travel adapters have evolved to cater to the digital age, often featuring built-in USB ports, making it convenient to charge multiple devices simultaneously. For those with the latest gadgets, it’s worth noting that some adapters now also include USB-C ports, essential for charging contemporary smartphones and other tech devices. Investing in a versatile travel adapter ensures you stay connected and powered up throughout your Portuguese adventure.

A travel-friendly bank card (or a bundle of Euros)

Navigating the financial landscape while travelling can be a challenge, especially when it comes to avoiding hefty fees on currency conversions and transactions abroad. Thankfully, there are travel-friendly bank cards designed to minimize these costs and make your spending experience seamless.

App-based banks such as Revolut, Starling, and Wise have emerged as popular choices for travellers, offering competitive exchange rates and low or no fees on international transactions. Some traditional banks might charge a fee upfront but will refund you later, making them a viable option too.

However, while Portugal is modernizing its payment systems, it’s essential to be aware of some nuances. Not all establishments in Portugal accept non-Portuguese cards, especially in smaller towns or rural areas. While cash is universally accepted, credit cards might face some resistance, especially in places that prefer debit transactions.

American Express cardholders should be particularly cautious, as this card is infrequently accepted due to its associated high merchant fees. To ensure a smooth financial experience in Portugal, it’s advisable to carry a mix of a travel-friendly bank card and some cash, allowing you to navigate both urban hubs and quaint villages with ease.

Tip: If your bank is in another currency (e.g. Sterling or Dollars), the ATM will ask you whether you want the conversion made to your own currency there and then, rather than letting your bank do it. Always choose Euros and let your bank do it and never take that conversion rate the ATM offers.

ID

In Portugal, it’s a legal requirement that you have ID on you at all times. It’s unlikely you’ll ever be asked for it unless your car is stopped or you have to go to the police for something, but it’s a law that you should be aware of.

If you don’t have an ID card in your country (e.g. the UK doesn’t have an ID card) then this means a passport.

Tip: If you don’t want to carry your passport on you all the time, you can carry a photocopy of your passport. If you’re asked to show ID and you show the photocopy, you’ll then have six hours to produce the original.

Sunglasses

Portugal, blessed with an abundance of sunshine throughout the year, makes sunglasses not just a fashion accessory but a necessity. Whether you’re wandering the vibrant streets of Lisbon, lounging on the Algarve beaches, or exploring the Douro Valley’s terraced vineyards, a good pair of sunglasses will protect your eyes from the sun’s intense rays.

Beyond the practical benefits, they’ll also ensure you blend in with the stylish locals. So, as you pack for your Portuguese adventure, make sure your favourite shades are at the top of your list. Don’t worry if you forget, though: you’ll find plenty of touristy shops or lojas chinesas where you can buy a cheap pair for a few of euros.

Sunscreen

Most supermarkets and many small shops in Portugal sell sunscreen. However, it’s often quite expensive (e.g. 10-20 Euros per bottle). You can get cheaper sunscreen in Lidl but, if you’re travelling with a suitcase, it may be easier to bring it with you.

Tip: If you’re only travelling with hand luggage you won’t be able to bring sunscreen through security, but most airports have a pharmacy after security where you can purchase sunscreen and other liquids.

Earplugs

Noise levels in Portuguese accommodation varies. It’s not unusual to hear your neighbours when you’re staying in an Airbnb and for this reason, it’s a good idea to bring earplugs. If you’re staying in Central Lisbon or Porto, you should definitely bring earplugs, particularly in locations like Cais do Sodré and the Bairro Alto.

You don’t need an eye-mask normally as most Portuguese homes have shutters, but if you’re a light sleeper it’s always good to have.

Your boarding pass (or the airline’s app on your smartphone)

Most European airlines require you to check into your flight before you arrive at the airport. In the past, you had to print out your boarding card as well but, these days, most people have the app on their smartphone. You can still print off the boarding pass if you want, but most people find it easier to use their phones.

Mosquito Repellent

Mosquitoes exist in Portugal, but it’s not a big issue: they don’t carry malaria or dengue but the bites are still itchy.

You don’t need to spray deet on yourself or do anything as extreme as you would in a country that has malaria, but you may want to bring a plug-in mosquito repellent to keep them away at night.

Useful (but not essential) items to think about

While there are some must-haves for any trip, there are also optional items that can enhance your travel experience. Here’s a breakdown of some frequently recommended items by travel bloggers, with a realistic take on their necessity:

  1. Packing Cubes: Often praised for their organizational magic, packing cubes can help compartmentalize your luggage. While they’re handy, they’re not a must-have unless you’re a stickler for organization.
  2. Power Bank: If you’re an avid photographer or rely heavily on your phone for navigation, a power bank can be a lifesaver. It’s not crucial, but it can prevent battery-drain stress.
  3. A good book: There’s nothing quite like reading a good book while you’re lounging by the pool or on the beach and although you can buy books in English here, they’re going to be more expensive than they would be in the UK, USA, or any other English-speaking country.
  4. Travel Safety Purse/Bumbag: While Portugal isn’t notorious for pickpocketing like some other European destinations, it’s always better to be safe. These might not win fashion awards, but they’re practical, especially in busier areas of Lisbon and Porto.
  5. Luggage Scale: If you’re the type to shop till you drop or if you’re flying with strict airlines like Ryanair, a luggage scale can help avoid those pesky overweight fees. Useful, but not essential.
  6. Quick Dry Travel Towel: Primarily for backpackers or beachgoers. Most accommodations provide towels, but if you’re on the move and need something lightweight and fast-drying, this could be handy.
  7. Filtered Water Bottle: Tap water in Portugal is safe to drink, but if you’re sensitive to different tastes or want to be eco-friendly by reducing plastic bottle purchases, a filtered bottle can be a good investment.
  8. VPN: For the security-conscious traveler, a VPN can offer peace of mind, especially when accessing personal or financial information on public networks. It’s a good-to-have, especially for longer stays.
  9. Noise Cancelling Headphones: A luxury more than a necessity. They can make flights and train journeys more peaceful, drowning out ambient noise.
  10. Pain killers: Medicines like Paracetamol and Ibuprofen are more expensive in Portugal than they are in many countries as the supermarkets don’t make their own own-brand versions. If you expect to need painkillers or travel sickness tablets, it’s a good idea to stock up before you get here.
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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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There are 11 comments on this article. Join the conversation and add your own thoughts, reviews, and stories of life in Portugal. However, please remember to be civil.

Comments

  1. Thank you for your informative and helpful travel list. You mentioned that sunscreen is not allowed with carry on luggage, does that apply to 3 ounce bottles or less? What about small, travel sized shampoo and liquid toiletries? Also, we will need to bring medical supplies for a three month trip…should we bring a doctor’s note for these supplies?

    Reply
    • Hi Dale,

      Travel-sized liquids are fine (100 mils or less). Some people split the liquids up into multiple min bottles so that they can travel with them.

      As for medications, some medications require a certificate if you’re bringing them in from outside of Europe. It would depend on the medication and you would need to find out what the rules are for that particular medication.

      I know a lot of people travel to and from the EU without any kind of documentation and sometimes even labelling. Within Europe, it’s even easier. Most people have no problems, but it’s obviously not something you want to have confiscated.

      Reply
  2. Muriel, I can answer that question. Women all over Portugal wear mostly jeans – I haven’t seen many white jeans though. And they are always smart and clean. But you can wear whatever you like, if you want to blend in go for a smart, casual and understated elegant style.

    Reply
  3. I went to World Normad’s website to get a quote – I am too old. Age limit is 65 – just thought you would like to know 🙂

    Reply
  4. Hi James!
    Re: carrying photo ID when out and about, and you say carry your passport or a copy but if stopped for whatever reason, an indiv has 6 hours to produce ID. Question: can we carry our driver’s license (easier to get another one vs. passport) and would that suffice for the photo ID? Now, James, what might someone be asked for ID outside of maybe a customer purchase? I’ve never had anyone ask me for ID when I have traveled unless it was at a hotel. Thanks! Enjoy the list and made notes for our upcoming trip first of June!
    Patty

    Reply
  5. I am 75, reasonably fit thanks to 6 tablets a day. Over the last winter I travelled for 17 weeks without medical insurance through Kenya, Mozambique, Sydney, and most New Zealand cities. I had a problem with my leg and had a doctors appointment that cost me $100. Better than being ripped off for £1100 by UK travel insurance providers.

    Reply

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