Portugal Vacation Shock #1: Paying for Bread and Butter at Restaurants
It may come as a shock that the bread and butter that come to your table at the restaurants in Portugal is not complimentary. Nor are the olives. The portions in Portugal are quite large, so you won’t go hungry if you skip the bread and butter at the beginning of the meal. It’s usually listed in the menu, so check that out before accepting bread.
Portugal Vacation Shock #2: Restaurant Hours in Portugal
Many restaurants in Portugal close their kitchens between 3pm and 7pm. If you decide you want a late lunch, or an early dinner, you may have to go to more touristy places to eat, as they will generally have more open hours than the local Portugal restaurants. Otherwise, the restaurants usually don’t close entirely, and you can get small dishes, like tapas, rather than a full menu to order from.
Portugal Vacation Shock #3: Portuguese Bull Fighting
Even if you’ve see bull fighting in other countries, it’s very different in Portugal. They don’t k.i.l.l the bull in the ring, like you might see in Spain or Mexico, but the performers actually catch the bull.
Portugal Vacation Shock #4: Portuguese Smokers
If you are coming from the US especially, the number of smokers in Portugal can be shocking. Everywhere you look, you’ll see smokers in Portugal. They don’t have the same stigma that we’re used to in the United States. Some establishments even still have a smoking section, but otherwise smoking indoors is not allowed.
Portugal Vacation Shock #5: Hotel Prices
It can be surprisingly hard to find middle price and lower priced accommodations in Portugal. Surprisingly, Portugal has some of the best hostels in Europe. If you are visiting Portugal with kids, you don’t have to sleep in a dorm room, you can still stay at a hostel and get a private room. Another great option for Portugal accommodation are apartment rentals, which have the added convenience of laundry and cooking facilities.
Portugal Vacation Shock #6: The Portuguese Concept of Time
The Portuguese concept of time is much more leisurely than what you might be used to. It can come as a shock when lunch takes two hours, dinner takes five hours. We visited friends for lunch recently and spend 11 hours at their house! Punctuality is not a priority in Portugal, so plan to be flexible with your time, especially if you are meeting Portuguese friends.
Portugal Vacation Shock #7: Driving in Portugal
Driving in Portugal can be a white k.n.u.c.k.l.e experience. Despite not ever being on time, somehow Portugal drivers are always in a race. Taxis are cheap in Portugal, but they will also get your heart racing. Shockingly, they will stop for you in the crosswalk, but keep your space on the sidewalk as they do drive very close to the curb.
Portugal Vacation Shock #8: D.r.u.g Dealers in Lisbon
A very common scam in Lisbon is for someone on the street to offer you sunglasses for sale, and once you decline, they will offer m.a.r.i.j.u.a.n.a or c.o.c.a.i.n.e. They target the tourists, and the police don’t pay much attention as most d.r.u.g.s in Portugal are decriminalized. Just say “no thanks” and move on.
Portugal Vacation Shock #9: Affordability of Portugal
Portugal is a really affordable destination, and you can really have a cheap Portugal vacation. Food and travel are very cheap here, and you can even get a beer for one Euro. Try that in Sweden and you’ll pay 8 dollars! With direct flights from all over Europe and the US, Portugal is really a great vacation destination.
Portugal Vacation Shock #10: Slippery Cobblestone Streets
The cobblestone streets of Portugal are very pretty, with cool designs and very small stones, but when it gets wet, they can be super slippery. Even on a sunny day, if you are a near a fountain, it can get the stones wet and it can be dangerous.