Portugal seems to have become an ‘it’ destination over the past couple of years, and having recently been, I can see why. It’s a gorgeous country with friendly people and lots to see and do. I spent a week travelling 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.
Psst: Looking for cheap flights to Portugal? Check Skyscanner, they are my go-to for finding cheap flights.
Some of the Best Hostels, Ever
When I travel solo I prefer to stay in hostels; I like the central locations, 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. 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 for me celebrating 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. At Lookout Lisbon! Hostel in Lisbon, each evening brought something new, whether it be trivia with port wine, or a sangria party. It made it really easy to meet other travellers and make friends. Another great recommendation is Big Chill Hostel in Lagos.
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: YES! Porto Hotel
Lisbon: Lookout Lisbon! Hostel
Faro: Hostel Casa d’Alagoa
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 after Portugal was ranked as the third safest country in the world in the Global Peace Index.
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?
It’s 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.)
Accommodation in a hostel dorm ranges from around 10-15 euro per night. 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 about 1 -1.50 euro depending on the bakery. 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. Go to Portugal solo, I promise you will have an amazing time.
Things to Know Before You Go
- 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.
Must Have Travel Accessories for Solo Travel
I love solo travel, but it does mean I need to take some extra precautions. For any other solo travellers out there, especially my ladies, I highly recommend you pack the following:
- A lockable backpack for when you are in crowded areas and have nobody to keep an eye on your back.
- A whistle in case of an emergency. It’s an easy and reliable way to get attention worldwide
- A lightweight power bank. There is nothing worse than your phone dying when you are using it as a map!
- Activated charcoal for tummy troubles– the best solution when there is nobody you can count on to go to the pharmacy for you.
- Door stopper. Most hostels/hotels are safe, but if you are worried this will help you sleep better.
A Note on Travel Insurance in Portugal
Please, do NOT travel without travel insurance! I’ve had to rely on mine twice before (once for damaged luggage, once because I developed a lung infection while traveling). 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. With prices starting at $37 for 4 weeks, they are one of the most affordable options I’ve found. Learn more about the importance of travel insurance here.