Travel to Portugal: A guide to safe travel during COVID-19

Portugal welcomes tourists

Europe is gradually reopening its borders to tourism after months of lockdowns, quarantines and COVID-19 travel restrictions. As the continent is adjusting to a new normal, Portugal is open and ready to welcome tourists once again. If you’re thinking of travelling to Portugal during the Coronavirus pandemic, we have put together all the information you need to know to prepare yourself.

Map of Portugal

Who can visit Portugal?

First things first, it’s important to know that continental Portugal has opened its borders to people coming from a list of select countries. If you’re interested in taking a trip to Madeira or The Azores (a Portuguese archipelago in the Atlantic), there are additional restrictions to keep in mind. So before you sip on a glass of Port and sink your teeth into a freshly baked pastel de nata (let’s be honest, one is never enough!), let’s see who can visit the westernmost country in mainland Europe. 

Pastéis de nata

Visitors from the Schengen area

Are you a citizen of the European Union? If you are, Portugal is ready to welcome you. The European Union states that all members of the Schengen Area can enter Portugal for tourism. In a nutshell, the Schengen Area is all the countries in the EU that allow its citizens to travel freely across all borders. Don’t worry, you can do some extra reading on it here if you want to learn more about what it is.

This means that people who are from the Schengen Area are able to travel freely to Portugal for a vacation. That’s great news if you’re from the EU and want to discover Portugal’s rugged charm this year, especially if you’re experiencing a little cabin fever after months of being at home. You can also visit Portugal if you’re from Norway, Switzerland, Iceland, Liechtenstein or the United Kingdom. 

Who else can visit Portugal?

The Portuguese Government announced exceptions for travellers arriving from a number of other countries. If you’re from one of the following countries, you can also fly to Portugal for a trip:

  • Canada
  • South Korea
  • Morocco
  • Tunisia
  • China

While this is the current list of countries that can enter Portugal for tourism, situations can change rapidly. Many countries are restricting travel at the moment, however, we will continue to update you if anything changes. We recommend that you check your government issued travel advisory for updates and to see if your travel insurance will cover you if you decide to travel.

No matter where you live, we strongly suggest that you check your health insurance coverage before travelling. Top tip for people living in Canada: Blue Cross Québec and Blue Cross Ontario now offer COVID-19 travel insurance. Medipac also offer COVID-19 coverage for residents of Canada.

Are there entry requirements when I arrive? 

Unlike many other countries, Portugal has more relaxed requirements for people arriving from abroad. Foreign nationals do not have to self-isolate or quarantine themselves when they arrive. In the case of the countries mentioned above, travelling to continental Portugal means you don’t have to provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test, or take a test on arrival. So if you’re considering jetting off, at least that makes travelling a little easier during a pandemic, eh?

What happens when I fly home?

While getting to Portugal may be the easy part, the situation may be different when you go home. Some countries make it a legal requirement for you to have a quarantine plan when you arrive home. If you’re from Canada, for example, you’ll have to prove you have a 14-day quarantine plan, detailing:

  • Where you’ll stay
  • How you’ll get home
  • How you’ll do groceries
  • How you’ll get access to essential services

Other countries, such as the U.K, also require you to have a quarantine plan when you arrive home and enforce a 2-week self-isolation. As the COVID-19 pandemic is sticking around for a while, self-isolating after a vacation might just become the norm. So before you go abroad (to Portugal, or another country), we recommend that you check the official travel advisory of your own country before you book those bargain flight tickets.

How is Portugal keeping people safe during the pandemic?

Did you know that Portugal is the third safest country in the world? Portugal is doing a lot to make sure its residents, and visitors, can travel around the country and enjoy everything you would want out of a regular vacation. As the country opens its borders once again, there are a few initiatives and requirements set up by the Portuguese Government to protect you. Tourism is big business in Portugal and in 2018, for example, 22.8 million people visited from abroad. When you think that the population of Portugal is only roughly 10 million, it’s no surprise that the Government have acted quick to set up programs to help tourists travel there once again. Good news for those of us who want to sip Portuguese wine and gaze at the picturesque countryside.

Clean and Safe Program

On the 24th of April, Portugal launched the nation-wide “Clean & Safe” program. Thanks to this program, businesses, hotels, and other tourist activities let you know that they are following the hygiene and cleaning requirements necessary to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Think of the Clean and Safe program as a seal of approval that lets you know that you can eat at a restaurant, stay at a particular hotel, or rent a car for example. If you see the stamp of approval shown below, you can count on the business doing everything to keep in line with current safety regulations.

Clean & Safe Portugal

What does this mean? You can put your mind at ease and know that employees are following social distancing measures (2 meters in Portugal), and other hygiene measures to help you travel safely in Portugal.

Where to visit

Lisbon and Porto are both amazing cities with charming cobbled streets, beautiful architecture, and simple yet delicious local eats. But Portugal is so much more than its two biggest cities. Taking the time to explore some of Portugal’s lesser explored destinations will help you beat the crowds and explore some of the country’s hidden treasures. The good news is that Portugal is a great country to travel around by bus, with a vast bus route, you can easily get to some of the country’s most beautiful locations.

Escape the crowds in Coimbra

Coimbra is well worth a visit on your trip. Did you know that it was the original capital city of Portugal until the year 1260? Nowadays the city is known for having the oldest University in Portugal, and one of the oldest in the world! There’s so much to do in this charming city overlooking the Mondego river.

Old city Coimbra

If you’re into monasteries, churches and architecture, you should check out  the monastery of Santa Clara-A-Velha. Located close to the river, the monastery experienced flood after flood over the years and has a fascinating history if you’re a history buff. It’s only €4 to enter, and you get 50% discount if you’re a student!

A fun trip for kids, or the inner kid within you

Visit the Portugal dos Pequenitos miniature park for an unforgettable way to learn more about the country’s colourful history. If you’re travelling with kids, they’re sure to love the fun miniatures representing Portugal and the Portuguese-speaking world. You can wander around the different thematic parks, including miniature houses, and miniature depictions of Portuguese-speaking countries.  Trust us, this will bring out the inner kid in us all.

Listen to live Fado music, with social distancing!

Portugal is the birthplace of Fado music. If you haven’t heard of Fado before, it’s best described as a soulful, melancholic music, with deep lyrics about the hardships of daily life. Don’t worry, even if you don’t know any Portuguese, you’ll be captivated by the beautiful sounds and melodies of Fado music. It’s the kind of music you feel, and it’s definitely a must-do authentic Portuguese experience. 

Head to the Fado ao Centro centre to hear a daily 50-minute concert, full of local Fado players. Since the COVID-19 pandemic, they have limited the capacity in order comply with safety regulations. You can also get a feel for what their music is like, by listening to their playlist. Spots fill up quickly, so don’t miss out.

How do I get to Coimbra?

You can take a bus from Porto to Coimbra (it’s only 1.5 hours away) if you want a beautiful day trip. Most people suggest a couple of days to truly get to grips with Portugal’s third largest city. If you’re taking a bus from Lisbon to Coimbra, it’ll take about 2.5 hours, but it’s well worth the effort. There are multiple departures from Porto and Lisbon, giving you enough flexibility to take an early bus if you want to get the most out of your trip to Coimbra.

Visit Aveiro: The “Venice of Portugal”

Aveiro is located only 1 hour from Porto and about 3 from Lisbon. It didn’t earn its title of the “Venice of Portugal” for nothing. If beautiful canals, colourful architecture and a down-to-earth feel are your cup of tea, then Aveiro needs to be on your bucket list.

Take a boat trip in a Moliceiro

You can take to the canal on a moliceiro (Portugal’s version of gondolas) and get amazing views of the city from its spectacular canal network.

Moliceiro boat in Aveiro

If you book a 45-minute ride for only €12 you’ll be able to explore some highlights of the city, while relaxing from the seat of your moliceiro. Even the boats are beautiful, with bright colours and patterns, they’re definitely worth a post on your Instagram story.

Do you remember the clean and safe program mentioned earlier? This activity is fully compliant with the required safety regulations, so you can trust that you can have a safe trip.

Head to the beach at Costa Nova

Costa Nova is THE place to top up your tan, grab a tasty bite to eat, or just simply watch the world go by. This neighbourhood is known for its multi-coloured striped houses and pretty boardwalks. Take the local’s opinions for some great food suggestions and insider tips. 

For the more adventurous souls, Costa Nova has some great opportunities if you’re into water sports. If you’re new to surfing, or an experienced pro, there are several companies that offer lessons. You don’t have to be into water sports, however, you can just kick back and relax on the shoreline and gaze at the ocean.

One thing’s for sure, this is a great part of town to enjoy the ocean breeze and de-stress a little.

Costa Nova, Aveiro

How to get there

Aveiro is overlooking the ocean, in northern Portugal. If you’re staying in Porto, you can hop on a 1 hour bus to Aveiro. You can also take a bus from Lisbon to Aveiro, which will take between 3 and 4 hours. There are multiple daily departures from Porto and Lisbon connecting you to the northern city of Aveiro, so travelling to the north is pretty simple.

Thinking of visiting Portugal?

While the idea of travelling during the COVID-19 pandemic may seem difficult, it’s definitely a possibility. If you’re planning a trip abroad and want to travel a little off the beaten path, Portugal offers you so many opportunities. Coimbra and Aveiro are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to beautiful destinations worth adding to your itinerary. As always, if you’re travelling, please stay safe, practice social distancing and increased hygiene measures.

Travel measures Portugal

Questions?

If you have any questions about travelling in Portugal or booking a bus ticket, please contact us. We’re here to help!