What to know before visiting Portugal as a US citizen.

Last revised: January 3rd, 2024.

This post will explain all the preparations to consider before leaving for a trip to Portugal as a US citizen.

For more detailed information on planning a trip to any country, as a citizen of any country, visit my other post.

A colorful Portuguese house & custom sign: 'what to consider when planning a trip to Portugal'
A colorful Portuguese house & custom sign: 'what to consider when planning a trip to Portugal'

Hello, I’m Tatiana. I’m hopelessly in love with old uniquely looking buildings, and cozy urban scenes, and finding best places in Europe to go.

Check out my travel tips and reviews of the best European destinations, the results of over 20 years of travel experience. Let's connect on social media!

Checking Travel Information Websites for the US CITIZENS

One of the first steps is researching travel information online.

The US Department of State website is a must-visit for travel advisories and news articles relevant to US citizens traveling abroad. This site provides up-to-date information on things like safety warnings, natural disasters, political unrest or demonstrations, and other events that could impact your trip.

Travel.State.Gov is a reliable source for up-to-date travel advisories and newsroom articles that can help you make informed decisions when traveling abroad.

Be sure to check the Portugal country page for any advisories that may affect your specific travel plans or dates. The site also allows you to search for US Embassies and Consulates in Portugal, which can offer travel assistance and services to American citizens during emergencies or crises overseas.

US Embassies and Consulates in Portugal

Understanding Visa Requirements

As a US passport holder, you do not need a tourist or business visa for trips to Portugal totaling 90 days or less within a 180-day period. However, if you plan on an extended stay or multiple shorter trips exceeding three months, you will need to apply for a D-visa through the Portuguese immigration authorities.

Additionally, if traveling with children under the age of 18, make sure to bring a notarized written permission letter from the parent or legal guardian not accompanying the minor. Portuguese border control may ask to verify parental consent for travel. It's wise to carry an original or certified copy of birth certificates, adoption papers, or custody documents when crossing international borders with kids.

Ensuring Your Travel Documents Are in Order

Your US passport should be valid for at least 6 months beyond your travel dates to comply with most global entry requirements. Additionally, check that you have unused visa pages left—many countries, including Portugal, require blank visa pages for entry/exit stamps. If your passport is damaged, expiring soon, or full, apply for a renewal well ahead of booking flights to avoid last-minute hassles or travel delays.

Being Current on Required Vaccines

Unless traveling from an epidemic or disease-risk region, most standard vaccinations like MMR, TDAP, hepatitis A/B, etc. are not legally required for US or Canadian citizens entering Portugal. However, it's still a good idea to be up-to-date according to your local public health department or doctor's recommendations.

Verify any other country-specific vaccine requirements if you will be stopping over or have visited outbreak zones recently. Also, research recommendations for vaccinating kids according to the CDC or WHO travel health pages. Carry your original vaccination records with you abroad.

Currency Exchange

The euro (€) is the official currency used in Portugal. While you will have no problems with paying with your credit card in most places in Portugal, there can be some, especially small shops, where you need euros.

Before your trip, it's a good idea to obtain some euros either by withdrawing them from an ATM with your credit/debit card or exchanging currency at the airport or a local bank. Make sure to get some small bills, as many businesses and public transportation services won't accept €50 or €100 bills.

Exchange rates can vary a bit between banks and ATMs, so shop around before finalizing your currency exchange. Be aware of any fees your bank may charge for international transactions as well. Some banks don’t charge ATM fees abroad, it might be good idea to open an account there.

Consider exchanging just enough to cover your first few days then withdrawing more euros from an ATM as needed during your travels.

More details on ATM safety are in my other post.

Transportation Options in Portugal

Portugal has many options for getting around: public transport, car rentals, taxis and ride shares. I cover this topic extensively in my other post about how to get around Portugal.

Accommodations to book in Portugal

Accommodation choices include:

- Hotels - From budget options to historic luxury stays. Book Portugal hotel rooms well in advance, especially summer.

- Guesthouses - Small, family-run inns offering personality and local flavors.

- Hostels - Budget dorms and private rooms ideal for solo travelers and backpackers.

- Vacation Rentals - Full apartments/houses providing kitchen/space. Check Airbnb or Vrbo listings.

Some general tips for booking accommodations:

Be flexible with dates if possible, as discounts may be available for last-minute bookings when properties have availability. Consider package rates including breakfast. Always confirm policies regarding children and pets if applicable to your group. Staying in centrally located areas reduces transportation fees.

To read about more considerations for booking your stays and what kind of accommodations is out there, visit my other post. 

How to stay connected: mobile data and Wi-Fi

While many cafes, hotels in Portugal offer free Wi-Fi, it's still a good idea to purchase a SIM card for your cellphone to have data on the go.

Or, if you have T-Mobile, you don’t need to do anything: T-Mobile provides free data coverage all over the world, with free text messages and unlimited data. Phone calls are 25 cents a minute, or you can buy a plan for unlimited phone calling from abroad for about $50.

- Buy a prepaid SIM card from a Portugal service provider like Vodafone or MEO upon arrival.

- Ensure your US phone is unlocked to accommodate a foreign SIM card.

- You'll receive a Portugal phone number with data to use mapping apps, upload photos, and chat apps like WhatsApp.

- Be aware of roaming fees if relying on just your US carrier abroad vs a local SIM card.

Communication is key when traveling, so budget for a pay-as-you-go SIM card to stay connected throughout your Portuguese adventure.

Below is a section covering important emergency phone numbers for tourists in Portugal

Emergency Numbers in Portugal

When traveling internationally, it's important to have emergency phone numbers in the country you're visiting in case of any accidents, health issues, or safety concerns that may happen.

Here are some key emergency numbers you should save as contacts for emergencies in Portugal:

- Emergency Medical Assistance: 112

This is the general emergency number like 911 in the US. Dialing 112 will connect you to police, ambulance, or fire department based on your situation.

- Ambulance Service: INEM - 808 24 24 24

If you need an ambulance specifically, call the Medical Emergency Institute (INEM) at this number.

- Fire Department: 118

Save this number to request support from the fire brigade in case of fires.

- Police: 112 or 119

To report crimes, request police assistance, or interact with authorities, dial this number.

- Coast Guard: 178.

In coastal areas, you should call the maritime police/Coast Guard for any sea emergencies like boat issues or rescues.

- Poison Control: 808 250 143

If you experience a poisoning, food or chemical exposure, contact poison control specialists.

- Automóvel Club de Portugal (Breakdown): 707 509 510

For roadside assistance like towing or mechanical help, contact the Portuguese auto club.

A tip. Send yourself an email before you leave with this safety information. This way you’ll be able to retrieve it fast if needed.

Having a file with emergency contacts can offer peace of mind when visiting a foreign country. You will have a more relaxed and a happy visit if you took care of everything in advance.

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