Suitcase with Amália on front. Packing Tips for 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 often takes me ages to work out what to pack, even though I’m far from fashion-conscious.

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 for any time of year, here’s my guide to what to pack for Portugal.

Things you need to pack for a Portugal trip all-year-round

Sunglasses

Unless you’re very unlucky with the weather, you should get some bright sunshine even in winter. I have quite sensitive eyes so 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 Portugal’s 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, especially dress shoes, the smooth surface of the cobbles is uneven and very slippery when wet so aim for thick rubber soles for comfort and safety. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Depending on the time of year, I’d bring a pair of stylish walking sandals, trainers/sneakers or flat, comfortable shoes/boots.

Beautiful but treacherous Portuguese cobbled pavements, calçada
Beautiful but treacherous Portuguese cobbled pavements. If you like this pattern, check out the available products in my gift shop.

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. If you have photo ID in card form, sucha s a driving licence, carry that with you in a concealed money belt.

Cash and bank cards

Most shops accept Visa if not the full range of credit cards. Some restaurants, smaller establishments and market stalls 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 but check with your bank regarding charges and inform them that you will be using your card abroad so they don’t block it! The best ATMs to use are the MultiBanco system run by all Portuguese banks. 

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.

Concealed money belt

Of course it’s not wise to carry all of your valuable around when you’re walking around cities or on the beach but sometimes, it’s unavoidable. The trick is to make sure no one else knows you’re carrying it, which is why a hidden pouch or wallet is a great travel accessory.

Put everything you’re not likely to need during the day under your clothes but make sure you have enough cash/a card in an easily accessible place so you don’t need to reveal your stash.

I’ve always used a travel pouch around my waist as I find it easier to access if I absolutely need to but you might find a neck travel pouch more comfortable and less sweaty.

Here are some other concealed travel wallet options:

Electrical adaptors

Portugal uses standard European round two-pin plugs on electrical items which are 220-240V so bring electrical adapters with you if applicable. They will be harder to find away from major tourist destinations in Portugal so bring at least one with you.

You might want to save space with a worldwide adapter and charger so you can charge all your devices from one wall socket anywhere in the world. 

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

Optional extras to bring when packing for Portugal

Ear plugs and eye masks for light sleepers

I always travel with foam noise-muffling 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 always easy to find in Portugal so bring some with you if you’re a light sleeper.

Foam earplugs vary in quality and effectiveness so do check reviews before you buy.

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 travel 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 (chinelos). You can usually buy them on site at an inflated price but you might want to pop a pair 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 walking sandals that you’re willing to get wet may come in handy for getting in and out of the water. The river pebbles can be slippery and uneven. They are also useful for ocean beaches with lots of rock formations or pebbles.

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. The weather in Portugal is increasingly unpredictable and changeable. In spring and autumn, it can feel as though you’re getting all seasons in one day. Winters can get quite cold and wet and it’s often chilly enough for a light sweater on summer evenings.

See my guide to how seasonal weather in Portugal might affect your trip.

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. Except for perhaps July and August, I always carry a small, fold-up umbrella and sunglasses.

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. The UV rays can be quite strong so I wouldn’t go for anything less than a factor 30 unless you are already quite dark-skinned or tan easily. 

Sun cream is relatively expensive in Portugal so unless you’re subject to hand luggage restrictions, it might be worth bringing some with you – stock up here.

Scarf or wrap

I always carry a lightweight scarfin my bag. They are handy for warming me up when faced with cold winds, icy air-conditioning, or on a summer evening outdoors. If it’s not too delicate, you can also use it to sit on in parks or at the beach.

Choose one in a fairly neutral colour that matches the majority of your outfits and doesn’t crease easily.

A seasonal guide to what to wear in Portugal

Always check the weather forecast before you pack, no matter what you’ve read about typical weather for the season in Portugal. There is no such thing as ‘normal’ weather any more so although these predictions are not completely reliable, they should at least inform you as to the need for rain protection and how hot or cold it’s likely to get during your trip.

Thin layers are the key to adapting your wardrobe for the changeable weather, whatever the season.

Summer clothes to pack for Portugal

Summers are usually sweltering on the Portuguese mainland so loose, natural fibre lightweight clothes are ideal. Sea mists can make coastal areas feel chilly in the mornings and temperatures do drop at night so it’s best to bring a light sweater or cardigan for the evening. Again, that scarf comes in handy as a light shawl.

The Azores and Madeira have more temperate, even sub-tropical climates and are therefore more humid but not as hot so you’ll want some light layers.

Loose-fitting summer dresses, shorts and T-shirts with sandals are fine for most situations but out of respect, you should dress reasonably modestly if you want to visit churches. This means covering your shoulders (a light scarf is handy for this) and no short shorts or skirts.

While it’s okay to sit at beach bars in your swimsuit, you should cover up for restaurants, shops and walking around town. In the daytime, this can be as simple as donning a T-short or vest for men or a throwing a loose summer dress over your bikini for women.

You probably won’t 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.

What to wear in winter in 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 or the islands but locals will still be wrapped up snugly 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 full 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 in Portugal

Apart from July and August, or during a heatwave, 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. You might get weather that’s warm enough for shorts and sandals during the day but I would definitely pack some comfortable closed-toe shoes or sneakers and socks.

Comfortable trousers that travel well tend to be more practical and versatile than skirts when the weather is changeable.

From March(ish) to October(ish) you probably don’t need heavy coats but late autumn and early spring, i.e. November through March/April, can be quite cold and wet so jeans and sweaters or fleeces are the way to go so you can layer up under a lightweight jacket. A warm scarf or shawl is also useful with or without a jacket.

My #1 tip when packing for Portugal: Bring a range of thin layers so you can adjust your outfit to suit the temperature.

This will also help you pack light. If you’re trying to fit everything into a carry-on bag, see these tips.

And for general pro packing tips, check out this article.

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.

Portugal dress code – smart or casual?

If you’re travelling to Portugal for work, it’s best to check with your company about appropriate dress codes although in most cases, smart casual/casual chic is fine.

Generally speaking, I’ve found that although Portuguese people care about what they wear, their ‘look’ tends to be understated and leans towards the conservative.

You don’t need to dress up for a night out unless you want to or are going somewhere particularly swanky. This has worked out well for me as I don’t often make it back to my hotel to get changed for dinner and as long as I look respectable enough during the day, I feel comfortable in most restaurants.

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

If you like the security of travelling with a guidebook, order one of these from Amazon:

As for Portuguese phrasebooks, the Lonely Planet Portuguese Phrasebook & Dictionary has sections on eating and drinking as well as all the functional language you’ll need and help with pronunciation.

Need help planning your trip?

Use my Portugal accommodation guides to find great places to stay

Check out my Portugal itinerary support services.

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44 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/driving-in-portugal/

      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.

  16. Great advice. I find Figueira da Foz is always windy whatever time of year.

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

  17. Excellent advice, Julie 🙂

  18. Author

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

  19. 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 😉

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

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