Suitcase with Amália on front. Packing Tips for Portugal

An Insider’s Guide To Packing For A Trip To Portugal

Despite years of travelling in Portugal and further afield, I still hate packing. My husband Mike brags about his 5-minute packing process but it really is different for women. So many factors influence my decisions about shoes and clothes that it always takes me ages to work out what to pack.

I have, however, learned which basics you are likely to need when you travel in Portugal. In a bid to help both sexes bring the right things, here’s my guide to packing for a trip to Portugal.

Get a free copy of my packing checklist

Download a handy Printable checklist for Packing for a trip to portugal

No spam. Unsubscribe any time Powered by ConvertKit

Things you need to pack all-year-round

Sunglasses

Unless you’re very unlucky with the weather, you should get some bright sunshine even in winter. I always carry sunglasses in my handbag.

Comfortable shoes with non-slip soles

I know I sound like your mum now but seriously, you’ll thank me when you see the cobbled pavements. They may be pretty but they’re a nightmare to walk on with heels because the spikes get stuck in the cracks between the stones and before you know it, you’ve twisted your ankle or worse.

Even in flats, the smooth surface of the cobbles is very slippery when wet. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Beautiful but treacherous Portuguese cobbled pavements, calçada
Beautiful but treacherous Portuguese cobbled pavements

A photocopy of your passport or ID

It’s a legal requirement to have ID on you at all times in Portugal, whether you live here or not. You won’t want to risk losing your passport on the beach or elsewhere so bring a photocopy to carry around with you and leave the original in a safe place. You’ve got 6 hours to produce the original if the authorities insist on seeing it.

Cash and bank cards

Most shops accept Visa if not the full range of credit cards. Some restaurants and small establishments don’t take any cards so you will need to carry some cash (euros).

There are plenty of ATMs in Portugal so you should have no trouble withdrawing extra cash from your bank account. I wouldn’t carry notes larger than 50 euros, simply because they aren’t used much in Portugal and will be treated with suspicion, and possibly contempt if you clear out someone’s supply of small change.

Adaptors

Portugal uses standard European round two-pin plugs on electric items which are 220-240V so bring adaptors if applicable. They might be harder to find away from major tourist destinations.

travel kettle, sun cream and adaptor
Some of the things you might want to bring with you when you come to Portugal.

Optional extras when packing for Portugal

Ear plugs and eye masks

I always travel with ear plugs. I don’t always use them but they’ve saved my sanity when I’ve had rooms overlooking a noisy street. They aren’t easy to find in Portugal so bring some with you if you’re a light sleeper. You might find an eye mask helps to block out unwanted light, although blinds are usually quite effective.

Travel kettle

If you’re used to having tea and coffee making facilities in your hotel room, you should double-check whether your accommodation in Portugal supplies them. It’s not standard practice so you might need to bring a travel kettle like this nifty collapsible one, a plastic mug and some tea bags. You can buy tea bags in Portugal but Brits will be unimpressed by them.

Swimming cap and flip-flops

If you plan to use a hotel’s indoor pool or their spa facilities, they will probably insist you use a swimming cap and flip-flops. You can usually buy them on site but you might want to put them in your case if there’s room.

Swimming shoes

If you plan to visit any of Portugal’s river beaches, having a pair of swimming shoes or sandals you’re willing to get wet may come in handy for getting in and out of the water.

Seasonal packing for Portugal

What you’ll need to bring obviously depends on where you’re going and when but don’t assume that just because Portugal is sunny for much of the year that it’s always hot and dry here. It’s not. Thin layers are the key to adapting your wardrobe for the often changeable weather, whatever the season.

Umbrellas

The north of Portugal is green for a reason so if you’re going there, it’s best to be prepared for rain showers, even in summer. I always carry an umbrella and sunglasses. The only time you can pretty much guarantee no rain is in July and August from central Portugal down to the Algarve.

Sun cream

If you’ve got fair skin and are likely to be spending much time outdoors, you should use sun cream, even in winter. Sun cream is relatively expensive in Portugal so unless you’re subject to hand luggage restrictions, it might be worth bringing some with you. Lots of it if you’re hitting the beach.

Summer clothes for Portugal

Summers are usually sweltering on the Portuguese mainland so loose, natural fibre lightweight clothes are ideal.

Summer dresses, shorts, sandals, and T-shirts are fine for most situations but you should dress modestly if you want to visit churches, which means covering your shoulders and no short shorts or skirts.

I always carry a light scarf with me in summer which works for churches and protects me from icy air-conditioning. Temperatures do vary at night so it’s best to bring a light sweater or cardigan for the evening.

From March to October(ish) you don’t need heavy coats, in fact you probably won’t even need a jacket from June to September unless you’re in the north of Portugal, in the Azores or up a mountain. A lightweight waterproof jacket would come in handy then.

Winter clothes for Portugal

Yes, it does get cold enough to warrant woolly hats, gloves, scarves and other warm clothes in Portugal in winter, especially up north or at altitude.

It might be slightly warmer in the Algarve but locals will still be wrapped up tight in jeans, boots and jackets so you might feel a bit silly, not to mention chilly, wearing your shorts in January.

There may be some gorgeously sunny days but it’s unlikely to be warm enough for sandals, especially at night. Bring non-slip flat shoes, trainers or boots.

man and dog standing in the snow
We stopped at a service station for an impromptu snowball fight and didn’t bother to put our coats on but we had the full winter gear in the car.

Clothes for spring and autumn

Apart from July and August, it can get quite nippy in the evenings or on the beach so bring a couple of cardigans, shawls or sweaters for spring and early autumn.

Late autumn and early spring can be quite cold and wet so jeans and jumpers or fleeces are the way to go.

My #1 Tip: Bring a range of thin layers so you can adjust your outfit to suit the temperature.

chilly on the beach
The beach at Figueira da Foz is quite cold in April. Although sandals were fine earlier in the day, by late afternoon, our feet were getting chilly.

Get a free copy of my packing checklist

Download a handy Printable checklist for Packing for a trip to portugal

No spam. Unsubscribe any time Powered by ConvertKit

Getting dressed up

If you’re travelling to Portugal for work, it’s best to check with your company about appropriate dress codes.

Generally speaking, I’ve found that although Portuguese people care about what they wear, their ‘look’ tends to be understated. You don’t need to dress up for a night out unless you want to or are going somewhere particularly swanky.

That’s not to say you should stroll into restaurants in your beach gear (unless it is a beach bar) but smart-casual will be fine for most situations.

Portugal travel books

Money Saving Tips for Portugal. Practical insider travel tips by Julie Dawn Fox

If you enjoy the security of travelling with a guide book, I’d recommend the DK Eyewitness Travel Guides. Having contributed to both the Portugal and Lisbon editions, I am somewhat biased but I also like the illustrations.

You could also grab a copy of my book, Money Saving Tips for Travel in Portugal: Unlock the Secrets to Getting Great Value for Money, and find out how to maximize your travel funds.

 

Need help planning your trip?

Check out my Portugal itinerary support services.

Otherwise, enjoy your trip!

BEFORE YOU GO...

If you're interested in visiting or moving to Portugal, why not subscribe for free insider tips and resources?

No spam. Unsubscribe any time Powered by ConvertKit

34 Comments

  1. Do I need a shirt when visiting Fatima and other churches

    1. As long as your shoulders are covered, and you’re not wearing very short shorts or skirts, you’d be okay but if you want to play safe, wear a shirt or bring a thin scarf that you can use as a shawl.

  2. Hi Julie. I am unable to acquire your printable list of how/what to pack. Would you send it to me via email? Thank you!

  3. Hi Julie we’ll be travelling to Lisbon on 20th april can u suggest us places to visit.

  4. Appreciate the honest reply, Julie! Weather apps are being watched on our iPhones and there is room enough for a couple of pairs of shoes. Comfort and practicality will win out….trousers it is!!!

  5. Your info has been quite helpful. We will be traveling to Portugal with a guided tour in early October. Would sturdy walking sandals be appropriate for daytime? I am also torn between wearing skirts vs. pants for everyday as I am concerned about toilet facilities (we are quite familiar with Mediterranean traveling). Any suggestions would be appreciated.

    1. Author

      Hi Claudia, I’m not sure if you’re worried about squat toilets but I can’t recall ever seeing any in Portugal so I wouldn’t worry. Floors tend to be clean, too, so you should be fine with trousers (pants). As for whether or not sandals will be okay, it’s impossible to say at this stage. If the weather is still warm and sunny then yes but it could just as easily be raining or cool so if you can only fit one pair of day shoes in your luggage, I’d go with closed ones rather than sandals. Keep an eye on the weather forecast just before you set off to make your final decision though. Evenings will be too cool for sandals.

  6. What a great guide! I have been to Portugal several times, but never to the north. Thanks for writing this post.

    1. Author

      Happy to help. The north is definitely worth coming back for 🙂

  7. Thanks for a clear and very helpful post, dear Julie. We are heading Lisbon and Porto beginning of May, and I was wondering what to pack (clothes wise :)) because of the many changes in forecast weather. SO, you helped a lot with your tips. Thanks,
    Margalit

  8. Hi!!! It looks like the portuguese islands were forgotten:Madeira and Azores.For Azores are nine islands, from which I recomende mainly Flores and Terceira. Floores for iits scenery and quiet calm living, not much turiists pressure as wel as Terceira, were you may find City Angra do Heroíismo a UNESCO World Heritage cty.

    1. Author

      Hi Frank, When I wrote this post, I hadn’t been to any of the islands. I have now, albeit not all of them. I loved Madeira, Flores, São Miguel and especially São Jorge but Terceira is still on my wish list, I’m afraid. If you have any advice about seasonal clothing in the Azores, feel free to suggest what people should bring.

  9. Hi am going to Portugal on 16 February Algarve don’t know what clothes to take

    1. Author

      Hi Dawn, have you checked the weather forecast? At this time of year, you’ll need warm clothes and full shoes, possibly a rain oat and umbrella. Use thin layers so you can peel them off if you have a sunny day.

  10. Until I read your piece on Loulé I didn’t know there was do much to see there. Thanks very much we’ve just had a nice day out there.

    1. Author

      You’re most welcome, Sheila. Happy to have helped!

  11. This may seem sycophantic but just found your site today and I truly have found it very helpful. We are buying an apartment in Lagos, to use as a bolt hole. it is not in a touristy area but only 15 mins (max) walk from the Marina and beach. Well done !! Some great tips and information that will help my wife and I enormously when the furniture is in and we visit in September 2015, Obrigado

    1. Author

      You’re welcome Geoff 🙂

  12. Hey.. I am from India Under grad student, will be visiting Portugal for a 6 months Research Internship. Place of stay Coimbra. And of course will moving around Lisbon and some places around. Period of stay Jan-June. Ping me ur suggestions about Clothing. Like What clothes I need to pack from here and what all I can get there easily (cheaper I mean). It will be really helpful.

    1. Author

      Hi Slvaa. You’ll need jumpers, jeans, a coat and full shoes / boots for the cold wet winter months and lighter summer clothes with sandals by the time May and June hit. Layers are always a good idea so you can adapt to changeable weather and temperatures. You can, of course, buy anything you need here, unless you have specific or cultural requirements that are better catered for at home. There are some cheap clothes and shoe shops but I’m guessing you’ll be able to find things cheaper in India. Casual clothes are fine for day and night unless you’re attending some formal function. I’d buy or borrow clothes while you’re here for that kind of situation unless you know in advance you’ll be needing them.

  13. Hi Julie, I’ll be travelling to Lisbon end October-1st week of November. Should I bring a winter jacket or will a regular cardigan do?

    1. Author

      Hi Valeriea. During the day, a cardigan should be fine, as long as you’ve got an umbrella or a light anorak in case it rains. Temperatures are unlikely to fall below 10ºC even at night so you won’t need anything too heavy. I’d bring plenty of layers, plus a scarf, so you can adjust according to the weather at the time but leave the winter jacket at home. At this time of year, I usually take my thin waterproof walking jacket, but I’m definitely no trendsetter when it comes to fashion and style these days!

  14. Hi Julie, love your site. My partner and I are travelling to Faro at end of October for 4 days. We hope to go kayaking one day, and maybe a trip to either Seville or Fatima, maybe hire a car. Any tips?
    Thanks,
    Fíona

    1. Author

      Hi Fiona, hiring a car from Faro airport should be relatively cheap and easy to organise. I haven’t got any personal recommendations for care hire companies but there are plenty of options if you search online. If you haven’t already seen my article about driving in Portugal, you might find it useful: https://juliedawnfox.com/2012/11/27/25-essential-tips-for-driving-in-portugal-without-losing-your-cool/

      Bear in mind that the toll road between Faro and Fatima will be quite expensive – if cost is an issue, use the toll calculator http://www.portugaltolls.pt/en/web/portal-de-portagens/home to help you decide between Fatima and Seville. You’ll also need to check how the car hire company deals with electronic tolls. Most have a device fitted to the vehicle and will debit your credit card with any tolls incurred while you are using the car. Make sure you check the dates on the invoice in case you get charged for tolls that aren’t yours.

      For more info about things to do in Faro, check out this blog post: http://algarveblog.net/2011/12/03/dont-rush-away-from-faro/

      If you go to Tavira (which is lovely), this fish restaurant comes highly recommended: http://algarveblog.net/2013/04/15/how-many-fish-can-you-eat/

  15. I like your site as well but still need an answer to one question — if taking only one pair of shoes in early November and visiting Lisbon and the Algarve, what type of shoe would work best???

    1. Author

      Hi Jan, you need a covered shoe as it could be cold or rainy so not sandals. Go for flat and comfortable with non-slip soles. Trainers would be good unless you prefer something a little smarter.

    1. You’re right about the wind but at least in summer it’s hot enough to take your jumper off 🙂

  16. Author

    Thank you for the support – I’m happy to help 🙂

  17. I always recommend linen or cotton clothing in the summer – not man made fibres – it gets a bit hot round here!!!! 😉
    and a hat!
    great post by the way! as always….

    1. Author

      Thanks, Aly (or Dave!) you’re right, a hat helps a lot, especially for those without much hair 😉

  18. You know I love your posts!
    Thank you for helping with all your valuable warnings….

Over to you. Please share your thoughts in a comment.