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Portugal Country Guide – European Health Insurance Card

Arial View of Portugal and the river

If you’re looking for a new holiday location for your next big break abroad, have you considered Portugal? This incredible country, situated right next to sunny Spain, is home to excellent food, idyllic scenery and cobbled villages as well as charming cities and unique beaches – This is not a country to just fly over and miss! We hope that this country guide will help you make the most of your time in Portugal, whether that’s seeing the most unmissable sights, discovering all the hidden gems or sampling local delicacies.

Where Should I Visit In Portugal?

If traditional villages packed full of character and backstreets lined with cobblestones are something that you want to explore, Portugal’s Alfama is a charming paradise. This traditional side of Lisbon allows you to experience the old town and really dive into Portuguese culture head-first! If you want to get a real sense of this village, then early morning will allow you to catch a glimpse of the traditional Alfama way of life. Women still sell fresh fish from their doorways and newly baked bread can be smelt as you walk by houses. This little village will capture your heart, even as you take a wrong turn and find yourself in one of the local’s back gardens!

Lisbon

The city of Lisbon in Portugal with amazing weather

No trip to Portugal would ever be complete without sending some much-deserved time in Lisbon. For all you food fanatics out there, Lisbon is home to a dynamic dining experience, with a variety of restaurants situated conveniently in the centre. Skip the chain restaurants and commercialised tourist-focused restaurants and find a local gem to truly indulge in the freshly made local cuisine. Due to Lisbon’s perfect location on the coast of Europe, expect a large number of fish dishes; you will never have such an amazing opportunity to expand your palate and try different types of fresh seafood, including octopus, tuna and sardines.

If you are also someone who loves a night out on the town, you certainly won’t be disappointed in this bustling metropolis. Known country-wide for its cheap alcohol, this city really comes to life at night, so don’t be fooled by the tranquil atmosphere you’ll experience during the day! Cais do Sodré, Pink Street, is home to some of the city’s classic nightclubs and bars but there’s truly something for any taste here, regardless of music preference, sexuality and even crowd volume.

Coimbra

Home to the best university of Portugal, Coimbra is the former capital and home to some of the country’s greatest medieval architecture. At the centre of Portugal’s history, Coimbra has everything from the Old Cathedral and the Monastery of Santa Cruz, to the Conimbriga and, of course, Portugal dos Pequenitos, more commonly known as the miniature village that plays host to the Barbie museum! If you visit Coimbra during the academic year, then you will get the real atmosphere from university students, who bring the bars and cafes to life as you explore the incredible architecture.

Sintra

If you want to step into a Portuguese fairy tale and feel like royalty, then Sintra’s abundance of palaces make this the perfect stop to make. Experience the undulated mountains, overgrown forests and glistening palaces and indulge in the magical atmosphere that seems to float around the entirety of the town. With the magic reportedly originating from Celts worshipping their moon God, staying here for a couple of nights will give you the opportunity to really embrace the true Portuguese sanctuary experience.

Cascais

With its trio of excellent bays, there is a lot of space for you to soak up the sun and cool down in the chilled Atlantic when you visit Cascais. If you want to enjoy the golden bays all for yourself, consider visiting outside of peak times for a true taste of this glorious destination! This old fishing village has plenty to do, which is why it is such an ideal location for tourists; The small museums, shiny marina, designer boutiques and seafood restaurants in Cascais means that there is plenty to experience regardless of how long you’re planning to stay.

What Is Portugal Well-Known For?

Portugal's amazing beaches

Due to its prime location on the western coast of mainland Europe, Portugal is renowned for its seafood and regional specialities. Don’t visit this country if you are on a diet, as you will be tempted by the variety of delicious dishes on offer to you! If you are a true food-lover, then travel to Portugal during one of their many food festivals, so you can truly satisfy your taste buds with delicious delicacies. Festival do Marisco is a seafood festival, which includes treats such as caldeirada and cataplana – this festival is one of the liveliest festivals in the south of Portugal, which has food at its heart and plenty of music to dance off the food!

Portugal is home to some of the oldest vineyards in Europe and has some very affordable, delicious wines available for you to try and to buy. With the variety of enticements from each region, your palate will come to life when you try the bespoke flavours of Portugal. Visit a stylish wine bar or go straight to the vineyard to taste the delightful flavours in a traditional but ultimately memorable setting.

Portugal is situated in a perfect location for the best beaches, along 830km of coastline. If a sand-swept holiday is what you are after, then you’re in luck. Ilha de Tavira is a remarkable beach island to escape to, and Costa da Caparica has stylish beach bars dotted along its entire expanse, so you can truly have fun in the sun. If you want to escape all of the crowds, then visit São Jacinto and its remote dunes for a quiet walk in the sun and the perfect opportunity to kick back and relax.

If you are a music fanatic or a party animal Portugal truly comes to life at night and has a nightlife scene that suits everyone. Go to the centre of the Algarve in Lagos and relax in the music-filled lounges and bars, whilst sipping on cocktails or alternatively, Cais do Sodré is popular for tapas joints, lively bars, and clubs that remain open until the morning, so you can really party hard here!

For a complete contrast to the nightlife, Portugal is home to some incredible historical villages. Take a walk along the cobbled streets and lose yourself in enchanting villages and towns around you. If you are interested in medieval architecture outside of Coimbra, Óbidos is the place for you. Located not too far from Lisbon, this town will enchant you with its charming guest houses and popular festivals. Here you will really be able to experience the Portuguese lifestyle and culture. Another recommended town is Mértol – this Alentejo town has been so well preserved considering its location above Rio Guadiana, and is considered to be an open-air museum, which will blow you away!

Do I Need To Follow Any Particular Etiquette In Portugal?

  • If you are greeting females or are a female greeting a male, you will use an air kiss on both cheeks as a common courtesy. Men simply have to greet one another with a handshake.
  • When you visit a church, you shouldn’t enter the church during Mass if you are a tourist, as it is considered disrespectful, in addition to you taking any pictures at such a time.
  • There are no ‘free’ appetisers, as you must pay for everything that you eat, even if you didn’t order it. Unfortunately, restaurants will bring over appetisers, such as bread and olives at the beginning of the meal, and you will be required to pay for them. If you don’t wish to have them, then politely tell them you don’t wish to have any appetisers, and they will be returned to the kitchen.

 What Is The Healthcare Like In Portugal?

View of a doctors with pregnant lady in the background

You will be delighted to know that if you travel to Portugal, you will be greeted with a high-quality health care system not too dissimilar to that in the UK, which has doctors and pharmacies readily available for use. It is, however, recommended that whenever you travel abroad, regardless of where you are travelling, you should be covered by vaccinations for diphtheria, measles, tetanus, polio, mumps and rubella.

There are some environmental hazards in Portugal including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, due to dehydration in the scorching heat, and even jellyfish stings. Although jellyfish stings will hurt, the sting is not dangerous and there are plenty of remedies that can easily reduce the pain. Sea urchins, on the other hand, you need to watch out for! If you are unfortunate to get their needles embedded in your skin, then you need to put the limb in hot water, which will relieve the pain. You must then visit a doctor as soon as possible, so you can avoid any chance of infection, in addition to having the needles removed from your limb.

This may not have crossed your mind, but rabies is a risk in Portugal, even though it is rare! Avoid wild animals if you can, as if they are infected and they bite you, rabies will be transmitted into your bloodstream. Moreover, if an animal’s saliva touches an open wound which you have, you can also have the disease transmitted to you. If this is the case, it must be treated immediately through a treatment of shots.

Will I Need An EHIC Card To Travel To Portugal?

Lady holding an Ehic Card up to the camera

An EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) is recommended when you travel abroad as if you are unfortunate enough to fall ill or have an accident you will be able to have access to healthcare in Portugal. With their excellent healthcare services, if you fall ill in Portugal, you will be in safe hands and be looked after until you are fit and healthy again. If you want to renew your card, then simply fill out an EHIC application form and we will do the rest for you. We are happy to help you with any questions you may have, so do not hesitate to look at our FAQs or contact us, today.

Hopefully, this travel guide has not only given you an insight into what this beautiful country has on offer, but it has also helped you to plan your trip around the country so that you can make the most out of the stunning landscapes and architecture that Portugal has to offer. Whether you are looking for a city break or you want to spend your holiday on stretched out sandy beaches, then this country has it all, so enjoy their warm climate, and book your flights today.

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