How to order drinks like a local at bars and nightclubs in Portugal
If you’re used to having to grit your teeth, sharpen your elbows and bat your eyelids for all you’re worth in order to get served at a bar, only to spill much of your drinks on your way back to your friends, you should find going out for a drink in Portugal a far more relaxing experience. With a couple of tips on how the system usually works in bars and clubs, all you have to do is choose what and where to drink.
The kind of service you can expect in bars varies according to the location and time of day but in most cases, where there are tables, there’s a waiter. It might take them a while to get to you but if you sit down, they will come, take your order and bring it to you. With or without a smile. Some of the very busy or touristy places will ask you to pay on delivery but it’s more common to just pay the waiter at the end. Just ask for a conta, por favor (the bill, please).
I don’t know how they manage to keep track of what you’ve had but they do. When I worked in a bar, many moons ago, I struggled to remember more than two drinks of an order at a time so I’m always impressed by this feat.
Do it yourself
Paying as you order comes into play in the busier nightspots, although you might still get your drinks brought to your table in some places.
In popular areas like Bairro Alto in Lisbon and Rua da Galeria de Paris in Porto people tend to take their drinks outside, turning the streets into a communal party. Pick the least crowded-looking bar as it’s down to you to jostle your way to the bar, order, pay and take your plastic cup of liquid to wherever you plan on drinking it.
Note: when I say party, I mean one where people stand around drinking and chatting. If you want dancing, you’ll need to go inside, where many of the bars have DJs and tiny dance floors.
Here’s a list of places you could check out in Lisbon: http://www.golisbon.com/night-life/bars.html
I can highly recommend Pavilhão Chinês for its novelty factor.
Now I’ll hold my hands up and admit that I’m not exactly an expert on the clubbing scene in Portugal but one thing that’s baffled me here is the concept of having to pay to get out of nightclubs.
The system in Portugal seems to be that they issue you with a card when you go in and instead of paying for drinks as you go, they stamp or write on your card to indicate what you’ve had and you pay at the bar to cancel your card before you leave. In many places there is a consumo minimo (minimum consumption) so you need to make sure that each person in your party has enough drinks to cover it marked on their own card, no matter who is paying for them. The bouncer won’t let you out unless you’ve done so.
I’m no fan of this buy now, pay later system in clubs because drinks can be expensive and it’s all too easy to lose track of how much you’ve spent, which is probably why they do it. I always like to make sure I’ve got enough cash for a taxi if I need one and with pay-as-you-go drinking, it’s easy to check whether or not I can afford ‘one for the road’. With the card system, I can see it getting messy if you’ve overspent. I wouldn’t like to find out how much you’d have to pay if you lost your card, either.
My advice: check how much drinks are when you order so you can do some mental maths, or better still, use your phone to keep track or write a running total on your card. Make sure everyone has the minimum consumption on their individual card and whatever you do, don’t lose it!
Have you got any drinking tips to add? Please leave a comment to share them.
This post is part of my ‘How to order… like a local’ series. Why not check out the others?