Portugal seems to have become an ‘it’ destination over the last years, and having been, I can see why. It’s a gorgeous country with friendly people and lots to see and do. I spent a week travelling solo in Portugal. I went from Porto to Faro; exploring cities, castles, and the wine region of Douro Valley and loved every minute of it. While I would be quick to recommend it to all travellers, it really stood out to me as a great place for solo travel. Here’s why I loved solo travel in Portugal.
Some of the Best Social Hostels
Many solo travellers like to stay in hostels, if not for all then at least some of the trip. Hostels are often centrally located, have very social atmospheres, and of course budget prices. Of course not every hostel delivers, especially when it comes to social atmosphere, but the ones in Portugal did. During my first visit to Portugal, I stayed in three different hostels throughout my trip and each one went above and beyond the normal common room and pub crawl/ city tour offerings.
Two of the hostels I stayed in offered family style dinners every night. You just needed to sign up in the morning, pay 8-10 euro, and you got a full, three course meal with wine, beer, or even sangria. As can be expected, this was a hit with everyone which made for big, social, dinners of home cooked food. A really nice change from eating alone (especially since I visited during Canadian Thanksgiving!)
While hostel dinners weren’t an option everywhere I went, there was always some sort of nightly group activity to get everyone together. Which made it really easy to meet other travellers and make friends.
Not to mention, all the hostels I stayed at were super clean, spacious, and friendly. I don’t know if I just got really lucky, but from my experience, Portugal’s hostel game was on point.
Porto: Porto Spot Hostel
Lisbon: Lookout Lisbon! Hostel
Faro: Hostel Casa d’Alagoa
Another Portuguese hostel that comes highly recommended is is Big Chill Hostel in Lagos
Safety is one of the most important factors to me as a solo female traveller, and I can honestly say that I felt incredibly safe walking around the streets of Porto, Lisbon, and Faro both day and night. Of course, this probably isn’t a big surprise; Portugal is often ranked as one of the safest countries in the world.
I was never harassed or cat-called by any men, I didn’t feel intimidated walking alone, and locals were quick to offer me tips or help when needed.
Funny example: One night in Bairro Alto, the party district of Lisbon, I was approached by a man offering me drugs. I politely declined with a ‘no thank you’ and he wished me a good night and that he hoped I enjoyed stay in Portugal. How’s that for friendly?
Solo Travel in Portugal is Relatively Cheap
While it’s not on par with Thailand or Vietnam, Portugal is pretty affordable when it comes to travelling in Western Europe; even in the Azores, like the beautiful island of Sao Miguel. Meals can be found for under 10 euro at cheap/mid-range restaurants (though be careful, any bread or olives etc. put on the table in front of you also come with a charge, so don’t accept or eat them unless you’re willing to pay.)
Even if you choose not to stay in a hotel, you can find reasonably priced private rooms around Portugal. Especially if you are outside of the main cities and/or travel outside of the high summer season. Public transportation is cheapest if you use a rechargeable card, especially in Lisbon when the historic trams cost significantly more than the metro or other city trams.
Perhaps of most interest to many travellers, alcohol is incredibly cheap. Especially when it comes to Portuguese wine. You can buy a good bottle of wine for about 4 euros. Oh, and as for the famous pastel de nata, or Portuguese egg tarts, those will only put you back a couple of euro. Do yourself a favour and try as many as possible.
Almost Everyone Speaks English
Language is a common barrier when travelling, and can be especially daunting to deal with when travelling solo. However, I was a little bit surprised to discover that English is widely spoken across Portugal, and not only in the tourist areas. While most of the older generations don’t speak English, the young people and much of the baby boomer populations spoke it very well.
Portugal is a gorgeous country with plenty to see and do, so it’s on your radar don’t let not having a travel companion get in your way. Try solo travel in Portugal, I promise you will have an amazing time.
Final Tips for Solo Travel in Portugal
- Like with all major cities everywhere in the world, you do need to watch for pickpockets, especially in Lisbon.
- Lisbon also has a reputation for drug dealers, however, according to the locals, most of it is fake and is just a scam for unwitting tourists looking to try something new in a country that has decriminalized drugs.
- If you are booking train tickets, try to do so as early as possible- you will get much cheaper tickets.
- Some areas are hard, or even impossible, to explore by public transportation. If you don’t want to rent a car, consider doing day tours. I did this for Douro Valley and it was a fantastic day trip. Check out my experience here.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Portugal
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine multiple times. While the cost may seem annoying and better spent elsewhere, trust me when I say you’ll be sorry if you don’t have it. For just a couple bucks a day, you can save yourself a whole lot of stress and money. I like to recommend SafetyWing for travel medical insurance as they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found, plus, they are who I use and I have had great experiences with them. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.