Earlier I wrote about how my wife and I visited Lisbon for just $2,000 including airfare. Despite the fact that I had always heard Portugal was budget friendly, it was still a bit shocking to see how little I spent. Originally I was planning to see more of the country and did quite a bit of research on the country which had now come in handy for this post on how much does it cost to go to Portugal?
Generally speaking, Portugal is a rather inexpensive country wide. During my research, I found the Azores to be a bit more expensive compared to the mainland, but it wasn’t anything crazy. For the purpose of this article, I’m going to exclude the Azores since my estimate below is for a one week trip.
|Food & Drink||$250|
The above estimate is in Canadian dollars since I’m Canadian. At the time of this writing, $1 CAD = $.70 Euros. If you want to figure out the costs in your local currency, use xe.com to do the conversion.
I should note that the numbers I use are for average travellers. Obviously, some people will spend less while others will spend more. The idea is to give you a rough idea of how much you should budget for your travel. I will be providing tips below on how to save for each category. I’ll also note where you may end up spending more.
Depending on where you live, airfare can change dramatically. When you fly will also play a factor into your ticket prices. Generally speaking, flying from North America (and Europe of course) offers excellent value. My recent flights on Azores Airlines cost me just $550 per person, but I’ve also seen many flights in the $700 range on a regular basis. Flying to Europe for under $700 is considered a superb deal, but I’ve used $800 as an average as I prefer to estimate high here.
If you plan on visiting Porto and Lisbon, I recommend looking for a multi-destination flight to save you time and money. You would fly into one city and out of the other. It’ll only save you about $50, but you won’t need to backtrack which will save you about 3 hours of your time.
One other way to save is to look at flights via TAP Portugal. TAP is Portugal’s national carrier and has recently started an aggressive campaign to encourage people to visit Portugal. Essentially, you can get a free stopover in Lisbon or Porto before you continue to somewhere else in Europe. TAP already has pretty good prices, so this is a great way to bring down your overall travel costs.
If you’re Canadian, you may want to consider applying for one of the best travel credit cards in Canada to help offset your costs by collecting points. For example, the American Gold Rewards Card gives you a signup bonus of up to 30,000 American Express Membership Rewards points which have a minimum value of $300 (potentially more if you transfer your points to Aeroplan or Marriott Bonvoy). There’s also the Scotiabank Passport Visa Infinite card that has no foreign transaction fees, a sign up bonus worth $250 and it comes with airport lounge access.
I’ve estimated $100 for hotels since I was consistently finding rooms at mid-range hotels for $80 – $120 a night (although they may cost more during the peak season). In Lisbon, you’ll want to stay in Baxia, Chiado, or Barrio Alto, while in Porto, a spot near the water or around São Bento are ideal. For some reason I found the name brand hotels were further away from the “downtown” areas, so you’re probably better looking at a local chain.
Hostels – When in Lisbon, you’ll be spoiled for choice of hostels. There are multiple award-winning hostels in great locations so you really can’t go wrong. All the major cities also have good quality hostels, you just won’t have as much choice. You shouldn’t have to pay more than €20 ($28 CAD) a night per person.
Mid-Range hotels – Prices for mid-range hotels across the country are quite reasonable. You could easily get a room anywhere from $70 – $150 a night which is quite reasonable.
Luxury Hotels – There aren’t a ton of luxury hotels in Portugal, but more have been coming online as luxury travellers have realized that Portugal is the place to be.
Airbnb – When I went to Lisbon, I stayed at an Airbnb in the Baixa area of Lisbon for just $80 CAD a night. I saw other good apartments for as little as $60 and even saw some nice ones for just $100. When I researched prices in Porto, prices were similar. The point is, you can get some beautiful private apartments cheaper (or the same price) of a hotel. Use my Airbnb referral link now to get $45 off your first stay.
Where to book your accommodations – My preferred booking site is booking.com since it lists hotels, apartments, B&B’s, vacation homes and inns. In addition, they price match and you’re not required to pay until after your stay for almost all accommodations. After five bookings, you become a member of their Genius program which gets you an extra 10% off on selected properties. If you haven’t tried booking.com, use my affiliate link now to get $25 CAD off your first stay (this applies after you complete your stay).
If you have the right credit card, you can save a fair amount of money on hotels. For example, Canadians should consider the BMO World Elite Mastercard since it typically has a sign up bonus of $250 when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months of card membership. This card does have an annual fee of $150 but it’s normally waived for the first year so you’re getting $250 for free. There’s also the Marriott Bonvoy American Express which gives you 51,000 Marriott Bonvoy points when you charge $3,000 to your card in the first three months. That’s enough points for up to five free nights at some hotels which could easily have a value of over $650.
Since this article covers all of Portugal, I’m not going to get into details about local transportation, but I did want to say that the country does have an extensive network.
In Lisbon, there’s the subway, buses, trams, and even ferries that will get you to wherever you need to be. Each ride was less than €2, so I didn’t exactly spend a lot of money. In Sintra, the round trip tourist bus was €5.50 which was all I needed for the entire time I was there.
For “long distance” travel, think Lisbon to Porto or Lisbon to the Algarve, you should expect to pay about €30 – €40 ($42 – $56 CAD). If you’re travelling a shorter distance such as Lisbon to Evora or Coimbra, you can expect to pay about €12 – €20 ($17 – $28) one way. I’ve budgeted $200 above, but since I stayed in Lisbon, all I spent less than $20 total.
Taking the train between cities isn’t always the best option as sometimes the bus may make more sense. Just do your research in advance to figure out what’s best for you.
Besides Lisbon and Sintra, Portugal doesn’t have many traditional attractions that tourists MUST SEE. Generally speaking, Portugal is more about enjoying the culture and living life like a local.
That being said, attraction prices are very low. In Lisbon, the most I paid to get into an attraction was €10 Euros, but many things including art galleries were free or just a few Euros. Pena Palace in Sintra was a bit more expensive at €13, but considering this is a major tourist area, this is not surprising at all. An overall estimate of $100 is pretty reasonable.
Some attractions allow you to purchase your tickets online in advance at a discount. Although this is a good way to save money, you’ll have less flexibility if you want to adjust your schedule on the fly. The official Lisboa card gives you free travel and admission to certain attractions, but while browsing TripAdvisor, I noticed that no one recommended it, so I doubt it’s worth it for most tourists.
Food and drink
When calculating how much does it cost to go to Portugal, people end up in shock at how cheap food is in the country; I certainly was. As soon as my wife and I arrived in Lisbon, we headed to a coffee shop where we got an espresso, a croissant, and a pasteis de nata for €4 ($5.65). That was our breakfast for two. I’ve been in countries where the espresso alone cost €4.
For lunch, getting a sandwich or something more substantial would be €3 – €6. In food courts or take out restaurants, you could get meals for €5-€10. Dinner didn’t cost that much more. You can honestly get a decent meal for €10 which would consist of meat, potatoes, and a side salad. The key here is to avoid the touristy restaurants where you’ll be overcharged. E.g. anywhere where they have a person with a menu approaching you. Another thing to note, you will always be charged for bread and any butter or cheese you use. Always reject that as they rarely make an indication that you need to pay for it.
As for alcohol, it seemed rather inexpensive at €2 – €3 for a beer or a glass of wine. One thing to note and this applies to all countries, always buy your bottled water at grocery stores. A 2L bottle was about 50 cents whereas a small bottle at a convenience store or restaurant will cost you €1.50 – €3.
My breakdown above works out to about €25 a day (€3 for breakfast, €7 for lunch, and €15 for dinner).
How much you spend on random things is up to you, but I always include this category so you can have an accurate idea of how much you need to spend. Portugal is famous mainly for their tile work and cork. Those two things are pretty niche, so it’s unlikely most travellers will be itching to spend a ton of money on them.
That being said, I did notice that Portugal had pretty good prices on clothing. They have all the major brands, but it appeared that European prices are a bit lower than what I’m used to in Canada. This may appeal to some shoppers.
I did bring home a 6-pack of pasteis de nata. This seems to be a pretty normal thing as the takeout boxes are designed for travel.
So how much does it cost to go to Portugal? Assuming you’re doing two of the major cities and one day trip, you should expect to spend about $2,150 CAD. To be honest, you can spend A LOT less by using the tips I’ve mentioned above. Portugal is one of the cheaper places I’ve ever visited. Even if you decide to splurge on a few things, I don’t think you’ll be spending that much more. For more inspiration, check out my guides to Europe, Amsterdam, Dubai, Bali, Laos and Vietnam.