What you need to know before you visit Porto!
Updated: Oct 24, 2022
Despite its beauty, incredible people and breathtaking views around every corner, Porto has its imperfections. This is definitely not a criticism, as those imperfections make the once industrial city sparkle as one of Europe’s most romantic destinations.
However, it is worth taking the imperfections into consideration before your visit so you can adjust to Porto and make it your home on your city break.
6. The language!
English is very widely spoken and to an excellent standard. The older generation may only know a few words to get by, but everyone you meet who works in hospitality and tourism is near perfect. As with any language in any country, it’s always good to know a few key words - some examples can be found below:
Hello - Olá
Good day - Bom dia
Thank you - Obrigado
Sorry - Desculpe
Excuse me - Com Licença
The bill/cheque - A conta
Goodbye - Adeus
Do you take card? - Voce aceita o cartão?
5. This is not Spain!
It sounds simple, and you might say “well, obviously?”, but don’t confuse the cultures. Tapas and siestas are not part of the Portuguese culture. Food, drink and culture are different and presuming similarities will not be well received!
4. Cobblestones and hills
Yes Porto is a walkable city, and the iconic attractions and neighbourhoods are all close by, but it is full of steep hills, plenty of steps, and loose cobblestones. Of course, it’s part of the attraction of the city - as it is one of the distinguishing markers of Porto, and Portugal more generally, but beware, bring suitable shoes and socks and outfits. Leave your heels at home - you heard it here!
3. Remember to take cash with you!
This is important - Porto isn’t fully cash-less. I don’t mean in street markets either. Some cafes, bars and restaurants in the city centre are cash-only, which caught me out and made me run to the local ATM. With a Starling, Monzo or Revolut debit card you can take money out without paying extra fees to your bank**. Before you sit down and order, ask the server if they take card!
**Top Tip - When you’re taking money out abroad, the ATM will ask if you want to convert the money using the bank’s converter - ALWAYS say no. They will charge you extra needlessly. Also, do your best to use a bank’s ATM machine, to avoid a transaction fee.
2. Can be a bit seedy
Some areas of the city can feel a bit rough and ready. Mainly around Sao Bento station and the surrounding streets, you may be approached by people offering drugs. As always, just be mindful and say no and keep walking if you’re approached.
1. It's warm all year round
If you’re not from an area that is naturally hot all year around, like Britain for example…be careful! I visited in mid-February and it was averaging 22 degrees celsius (72 Fahrenheit) and the steep hills and steps made it feel warmer.
It might be “cold” in the early morning, but if the sun is out, embrace the freshness, as it will get hot in the day. Be prepared to stick out like a sore thumb in shorts and a t-shirt, as all the locals will still be in coats. I asked the locals, including my Portuguese friend who I travelled with, if it is usually this warm in February or if this is unseasonably warm, and was told that this is the usual temperature.
Just be prepared and don’t be afraid to take more spring/summer clothing than you would normally intend to in February.
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