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How Do I Not Look Like A Tourist In Portugal?


by Susanna Garber



When visiting a foreign country, it’s only natural to want to blend in with the locals and avoid standing out as a tourist. Portugal, with its rich history, vibrant culture, and warm hospitality, is no exception. If you’re planning a trip to this beautiful country and want to ensure you don’t look like a tourist, there are several key strategies you can employ.


In this article, you’ll discover tips and tricks to help you seamlessly blend in with the locals while exploring Portugal. From dressing like a local to learning basic Portuguese phrases, avoiding typical tourist activities to exploring off the beaten path, there are plenty of ways to immerse yourself in the authentic Portuguese experience.


So, put away your selfie stick, embrace the local customs, and get ready to feel like a true Portuguese resident. With these insights, you’ll not only avoid sticking out like a sore thumb, but you’ll also have a more genuine and enriching travel experience.


Dress Like a Local

One of the easiest ways to avoid looking like a tourist in Portugal is to dress like a local. Portuguese fashion tends to be laid-back and casual, with a focus on comfort and functionality.


When it comes to attire, opt for neutral colors and avoid flashy clothing or accessories that scream “tourist.” Stick to classic wardrobe staples such as jeans, t-shirts, and comfortable shoes. Portugal’s climate is generally mild, so lightweight fabrics like linen and cotton are ideal for staying cool during the summer months.


In coastal areas, like Lisbon and Porto, it’s common to see locals sporting a relaxed beach-chic style, even when not at the beach. Pair a breezy sundress or shorts with sandals or espadrilles for a look that is both stylish and practical.


It’s also worth noting that the Portuguese dress code tends to be more conservative in formal settings. If you’re planning to visit churches, museums, or upscale restaurants, it’s advisable to dress slightly more formal with closed-toe shoes and modest clothing.


By dressing like a local, you’ll not only avoid attracting unnecessary attention but also show respect for the local culture and blend in seamlessly with the Portuguese crowd.


Learn Some Basic Portuguese Phrases

While English is widely spoken in tourist areas of Portugal, locals always appreciate when visitors make an effort to speak their native language. Learning some basic Portuguese phrases will not only help you navigate your way around the country but also show respect for the local culture.


Start by mastering a few essential greetings and phrases. “Bom dia” (good morning), “boa tarde” (good afternoon), and “boa noite” (good evening) are common greetings used throughout the day. “Por favor” (please), “obrigado/a” (thank you), and “desculpe” (excuse me) are polite expressions to have in your vocabulary.


Additionally, knowing basic phrases for ordering food and asking for directions can be incredibly helpful. “Uma mesa para dois, por favor” (a table for two, please), “Onde fica o banheiro?” (Where is the bathroom?), and “Pode me ajudar?” (Can you help me?) are phrases that will come in handy.


Don’t worry if your pronunciation isn’t perfect. Most Portuguese people will appreciate your efforts and be happy to assist you in any way they can. Learning even just a few phrases will make your interactions with locals more pleasant and enjoyable.


Remember, language is a bridge that connects people, and by making an effort to speak Portuguese, you’ll not only avoid looking like a clueless tourist but also build meaningful connections with the locals in Portugal.


Avoid Typical Tourist Activities

To truly experience Portugal like a local, it’s essential to venture beyond the typical tourist activities and explore hidden gems that are off the beaten path. While popular attractions like Lisbon’s Belém Tower or Porto’s Ribeira are undoubtedly worth visiting, try to balance your itinerary with lesser-known spots that locals frequent.


Instead of dining at restaurants near major tourist attractions, seek out local eateries where authentic Portuguese cuisine is served. Wander through neighborhood markets and sample regional delicacies. This not only allows you to taste the true flavors of Portugal but also provides an opportunity to interact with locals and gain insights into their daily lives.


When it comes to sightseeing, consider visiting lesser-known towns and villages that showcase Portugal’s rich history and cultural heritage. Explore the cobblestone streets of Óbidos, visit the winemaking region of the Douro Valley, or take a day trip to the charming coastal town of Aveiro. These off-the-beaten-path destinations offer a more authentic and intimate experience, away from the crowds of tourists.


By avoiding typical tourist activities and seeking out local experiences, you’ll not only avoid looking like a tourist but also uncover the true essence of Portugal and create memories that will last a lifetime.


Explore Off the Beaten Path

To truly immerse yourself in the local culture and avoid looking like a tourist in Portugal, it’s important to explore off the beaten path. While popular cities like Lisbon and Porto are undoubtedly captivating, there are countless hidden gems waiting to be discovered throughout the country.


Consider venturing into the countryside and exploring smaller towns and villages that are often overlooked by tourists. Places like Sintra, with its stunning palaces and lush forests, or Évora, with its well-preserved Roman ruins, offer a glimpse into Portugal’s rich history and unique charm.


The coastal region of Algarve, known for its breathtaking beaches, is another ideal destination for those seeking a more authentic experience. Explore the lesser-known fishing villages and enjoy the tranquility of secluded coves, away from the crowds of popular tourist resorts.


Additionally, Portugal’s network of hiking trails provides an excellent opportunity to connect with nature and discover hidden viewpoints and stunning landscapes. The Rota Vicentina in the Alentejo region and the Camino de Santiago Portuguese Coastal Route are just a couple of examples of the many scenic trails that showcase the country’s natural beauty.


By venturing off the beaten path, you’ll not only avoid tourist crowds, but also have the chance to interact with locals, discover hidden treasures, and forge unforgettable memories of your time in Portugal.


Learn About Local Customs and Etiquette

One of the key aspects of avoiding looking like a tourist in Portugal is familiarizing yourself with the local customs and etiquette. Understanding and respecting the cultural norms will help you blend in seamlessly with the locals and show that you appreciate their way of life.


Avoiding excessive public displays of affection is a common practice in Portugal. While holding hands or a quick peck on the cheek is acceptable, more intimate gestures might be considered inappropriate in public settings.


Politeness is highly valued in Portuguese culture. Saying “por favor” (please) and “obrigado/a” (thank you) when interacting with locals, whether in shops, restaurants, or public transportation, is a simple way to show respect and courtesy.


When greeting someone, a handshake and a warm smile are the norm. If you’re meeting someone for the first time, avoid the usual cheek kisses unless the other person initiates it. Formality and respect are appreciated, especially when addressing elderly or more senior individuals.


It’s also important to respect local customs and traditions, particularly in religious settings. If you’re visiting a church or religious site, dress modestly and observe any guidelines or rules that are in place. Be mindful of your behavior and maintain a reverent attitude.


By learning about local customs and etiquette, you’ll not only avoid unintentionally offending the locals but also show that you are genuinely interested in their culture and traditions. This level of respect and understanding will go a long way in helping you blend in and connect with the people of Portugal.


Use Public Transportation

Using public transportation is not only a practical way to get around Portugal, but it’s also a great way to avoid looking like a tourist. Embracing the local transportation system will allow you to blend in with the locals and experience the country from a different perspective.


Portugal has an efficient and well-connected public transportation network that includes buses, trams, trains, and metros. These options are not only cost-effective but also environmentally friendly.


When using public transportation, familiarize yourself with the local ticketing system and etiquette. Purchase your tickets before boarding, and be sure to validate them if required. Keep in mind that rush hour can be busy, so be prepared for crowded trains or buses.


Observing how locals behave on public transportation can also provide you with valuable insight. Avoid talking loudly, playing music without headphones, or engaging in disruptive behavior. Blend in by respecting the quiet atmosphere and being considerate of those around you.


Using public transportation not only allows you to travel like a local, but it also presents opportunities for unexpected discoveries. You may stumble upon charming neighborhoods, local markets, or hidden gems that you might have missed if you had opted for private transportation.


So, ditch the rental car and embrace the convenience and authenticity of using public transportation in Portugal. You’ll not only save money and avoid the stress of navigating unfamiliar roads but also have the chance to experience the country like a true local.


Try Local Food and Drinks

No visit to Portugal would be complete without indulging in its delectable cuisine. To avoid looking like a tourist and immerse yourself in the local food culture, be sure to try the authentic dishes and drinks that Portugal has to offer.


Start your culinary exploration by trying traditional Portuguese dishes such as bacalhau (salted codfish), sardinhas assadas (grilled sardines), and caldo verde (kale soup). These iconic dishes are staples of Portuguese cuisine and can be found in local restaurants and markets throughout the country.


Don’t forget to sample the regional specialties that vary from one area to another. In Porto, indulge in a plate of francesinha, a hearty sandwich with layers of meat, cheese, and tangy sauce. In the Alentejo region, savor a dish of migas, a flavorful combination of bread, garlic, and olive oil, often served with regional sausages.


Pair your meal with a glass of Portuguese wine or a refreshing local beverage. Portugal is renowned for its wine production, particularly port wine from the Douro Valley and vinho verde from the northwest region. If you prefer non-alcoholic options, try a glass of ginja, a sour cherry liqueur, or a refreshing glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.


When dining out, follow local customs and observe Portuguese dining etiquette. Avoid eating with your hands unless it’s explicitly acceptable for the dish. Instead, use utensils and follow the lead of those around you. Remember, savoring the flavors and engaging in conversation with your dining companions are as important as the food itself.


By embracing the local food and drink culture, you’ll not only avoid looking like a tourist but also have a truly immersive experience that will tantalize your taste buds and leave you wanting more.


Be Mindful of Photography Etiquette

When capturing the beauty of Portugal through your camera lens, it’s important to be mindful of photography etiquette. Respecting the privacy of locals and their cultural heritage is essential to avoid looking like a tourist and maintain a positive relationship with the communities you encounter.


First and foremost, always ask for permission before taking a photograph of someone, especially if you’re capturing their portrait up close. Approaching people with a smile and a polite request in Portuguese will go a long way in creating a positive interaction.


When photographing landmarks or religious sites, adhere to any signage or guidelines that restrict photography. Some sites may have designated areas where photography is not allowed or require a permit for professional photography. Be sure to respect these rules and regulations.


In crowded areas, such as markets or festivals, be mindful of your surroundings and avoid blocking pathways or causing inconvenience to others while taking photos. Stay aware of the presence of other tourists and locals, giving them space and respecting their personal boundaries.


Additionally, while social media has made sharing travel moments easier than ever, it’s important to be considerate when posting photographs online. Avoid sharing images that could potentially invade someone’s privacy or reveal sensitive information about local customs or traditions.


Remember, your goal as a traveler is to appreciate and capture the beauty of Portugal, but it’s equally important to do so with respect and sensitivity towards the local people and their culture. By being mindful of photography etiquette, you’ll not only avoid looking like an intrusive tourist but also foster positive connections and create a more authentic travel experience.


Respect the Local Culture and Traditions

Respecting the local culture and traditions is paramount when visiting Portugal. By showing reverence for the country’s customs and way of life, you’ll not only avoid looking like a tourist but also forge deeper connections with the local people.


One important aspect of Portuguese culture is the emphasis on politeness and good manners. Take the time to learn and understand the local customs, such as greeting with a handshake or using formal titles when addressing elders or those in positions of authority.


Participating in local traditions and festivals is another way to show respect and immerse yourself in Portuguese culture. Whether it’s joining in the vibrant celebrations of Carnaval or experiencing the heartfelt processions during Holy Week, engaging with these customs allows you to connect with the local community on a deeper level.


When visiting religious sites, dress appropriately and follow any specific guidelines or rules that may be in place. Maintain a respectful and quiet demeanor, refraining from loud conversations or disruptive behavior. Remember to turn off your mobile phone and avoid taking photos unless permitted.


Portugal is known for its rich culinary heritage, and respecting local dining customs is essential. Avoid wasting food and finish everything on your plate as a sign of appreciation. When dining with locals, wait for the host to start eating before you begin, and keep in mind that sharing food is a common practice in Portuguese culture.


Lastly, be mindful of the environment and communities you visit. Dispose of waste properly, respect natural spaces, and avoid behaviors that may harm or disturb the local ecosystem. Demonstrating environmental consciousness aligns with Portugal’s commitment to sustainable tourism and shows your respect for the country’s natural treasures.


By respecting the local culture and traditions, you’ll not only avoid appearing like an ignorant tourist but also demonstrate your appreciation for the beauty and authenticity of Portugal. Embracing the customs and values of the country will enhance your travel experience and leave a positive impression on the local community.



Visiting Portugal is an opportunity to immerse yourself in a rich and vibrant culture, and by following these tips, you can avoid looking like a tourist and truly experience the country like a local. From dressing like a local and learning basic Portuguese phrases to exploring off the beaten path and respecting the local customs and traditions, there are many ways to blend in seamlessly and create a more meaningful travel experience.


By embracing the local culture, you’ll not only gain a deeper understanding of Portugal but also connect with the warm and welcoming Portuguese people. Whether you’re wandering through the charming streets of Lisbon, exploring the enchanting countryside, or indulging in delicious local cuisine, incorporating these strategies will enhance your travels and create lasting memories.


Remember, the key is to approach your journey with an open mind and a genuine desire to connect with the people and the culture. By doing so, you’ll be rewarded with a truly immersive experience that goes beyond the typical tourist itinerary.


So, as you plan your trip to Portugal, keep these tips in mind and embark on your adventure with confidence and curiosity. By blending in with the locals and respecting the unique aspects of Portuguese culture, you’ll not only avoid standing out as a tourist but also open yourself up to authentic and unforgettable experiences.