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Navigating Portugal: Avoid These Rookie Mistakes on Your First Trip


Planning your first journey to Portugal promises a taste of culture, lovely landscapes, and great cuisine. However, like any adventure, pitfalls await the uninitiated traveler. Here are some rookie mistakes to sidestep when planning your Portuguese trip:


1. Underestimating Portugal's Size: Don't be deceived by Portugal's compact appearance on the map. There are a lot of mountains! While it may seem small compared to its neighbors, the country packs a punch with 7 regions and countless attractions. Plan ample time to explore, and don't spend your days in a car. Porto to the Algarve is 5.5 hours, non-stop and without traffic - and it's just over 3 from Lisbon.

2. Overlooking the Weather Variability: Portugal boasts a Mediterranean-like climate, but don't assume it's all sunshine and blue skies. Be prepared for sudden showers, especially in the north, and fluctuating temperatures, particularly in mountainous areas. And, yes, it can snow in the winter. Pack layers and waterproof gear to adapt to changing conditions. And very grippy shoes for those beautiful but slippery sidewalks.

3. Skipping most of the Country: Is Portugal just Lisbon, Porto, Algarve? Or Sintra and Obidos? All great, but they are now very touristy, and sometimes crowded.  So, don't overlook Bragança, Almeida, Mira, and Estremoz. Get out of the well worn path and see the soul of Portugal. Don't miss the chance to see what made the Portuguese trip so much fun before the masses took over. So don't be a Porto/Lisbon/Algarve zombee -and explore beyond the masses.

4. Ignoring Public Transport Options: While renting a car offers flexibility, Portugal's efficient public transport network provides an affordable and eco-friendly alternative. From CP trains connecting major cities to convenience of buses, to cycling, your don't need or want a car in some places - and the CP/Budget you can combine the two:

5. Limiting Your Itinerary to Main Cities: While Lisbon and Porto are undeniably cool, Portugal's charm extends far beyond its urban centers. Venture off the beaten path to discover hidden gems like the fairytale village of Marvão, the untouched coastline of the Alentejo region, or the picturesque vineyards of the Minho Vinho Verde Region. 

6. Not Using a Travel Agent: Want to Wiki-source your trip? Would you fix your car based on a chat room, or go to Facebook for a prescription? No, because you have no clue of the agenda or background of the people who respond. So, when planning a trip, get the most for your time and money by using a travel professional who specializes in Portugal. Their knowledge and contacts will save you money, time and help you to find authentic experiences.

7. Not Learning Some Portuguese Phrases: While many Portuguese speak English, making an effort to learn a few basic phrases can enhance your cultural experience and endear you to the locals. "Obrigado" (thank you), "por favor" (please), and "bom dia" (good morning) go a long way in gaining goodwill. No one expects you to speak Portuguese, but blurting out "gracias" will not serve you well.

8. Looking for Non-Portuguese Foods: One of the big no-nos is the tourist who thinks they will score some tasty Mexican food in Portugal. Yes, there is good sushi and Italian food, why would you not dive into the varied world of Portuguese food? It is different in every region, and it pays to read up on it before you go. And,  lastly, please don't ask for cappuccino or other Italian coffees - those are great in Italy, but Portugal has its own coffee culture, and it is a rookie error not to go full Portuguese on the coffee.

By sidestepping these rookie mistakes, you'll embark on a memorable journey through Portugal, filled with enriching experiences and unforgettable moments. Boa viagem!


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