5 reasons why Portugal is great for solo travellers
Author: Emma Higgins // December 15th 2016
GKM has been based in Portugal since April 2016, and for large parts of that I’ve been travelling around by myself. Having travelled alone around over thirty countries across the globe, one could say I have a bit of experience when it comes to going solo. I’ve found Portugal one of the easiest countries to be in as a solo traveller – here’s why.
1. The locals are friendly
Almost every single Portuguese person I’ve met has been nothing short of delightful. The Portuguese temperament is mostly easygoing, laid-back, and happy enough to see travellers in their country. Kindness and generosity are easily come by, and the people here don’t even bat an eyelid at helping out strangers need.
This makes it easy for Portugal solo travel because there’s nothing worse than being alone in a hostile environment. Sure, you might come across one or two gruff customers (like everywhere else in the world) but on the whole you’ll experience nothing but a smile, and most likely a bit of humour, with each Portuguese person you meet.
2. Lots of people speak English
While I’d be the first person to encourage you to use the local language where possible, sometimes your Portuguese might fail you. English – or at least a very admirable attempt of it – is spoken widely through Portugal, especially in places like Lisbon, Porto, and the across the tourism-fuelled Algarve. You may struggle in more rural areas that are largely populated by older generations, but in general the tourist trail is English-friendly.
Learn a few basic phrases in Portuguese and use them whenever possible, but don’t panic if you can’t stretch to more than that. It’s daunting travelling alone and not having another person there to help translate things, but for the most part you won’t need to.
3. It’s easy to get around
Figuring out the muddle of public transport in an unfamiliar country can be daunting when you’re by yourself. Fortunately, the trains and buses in Portugal are simple to get your head around. As so many people use the public transport system here, the network is relatively comprehensive and extremely affordable. Combine that with the aforementioned strong level of English spoken throughout the country and you’re unlikely to find yourself in trouble.
// Related post: Algarve travel: a practical guide to eating, sleeping, and getting around //
4. It’s really safe
I’ve had zero safety issues in Portugal. No matter where you are in the world, there’s always a risk of being caught in the wrong place at the wrong time, of course, but the risk is no larger here than somewhere like the UK or Spain, for example. And that’s even if you’re on your own.
Take a normal amount of caution when walking around cities at night by yourself, but apart from that there’s no need to be paranoid about danger in Portugal. Solo travellers here will be perfectly safe.
5. There’s a big (but not too big) hostel culture
All over Portugal you’re bound to meet an array of backpackers, wanderers, and drifters. People tend to visit on holiday, then fall in love and never leave. Plus, as a low-cost country it attracts lots of young travellers, which means there are plenty of hostels. This kind of accommodation is perfect for a solo traveller looking to meet other people, and here in Portugal there are folk staying in the hostels all year round.
That’s not to say it’s the only kind of accommodation you can find here. AirBnB also has a big presence in Portugal, and there’s an abundance of apartment rentals if you’d rather keep yourself to yourself. In short, the sky’s the limit for Portugal solo travel.
Do you have any Portugal solo travel tips?