Traveling anywhere right now takes a lot of research and planning. For international travel, the rules and requirements seem to change almost daily. It is important to stay on top of the latest rule changes before starting a trip.
In early 2020, Portugal created Portugal Clean & Safe to ensure that all visitors coming to Portugal can easily identify places across the country that were following established health guidelines. This includes hotels, museums, restaurants and shops.
When traveling to Portugal, as well as many other countries, you will need to complete a passenger locator card. This allows Portuguese public health authorities to contact you in the event that you have been exposed to COVID-19. The card includes your flight information, your address in Portugal and several ways to contact you.
We moved to Cascais, Portugal several months ago and followed what is happening in our area. We will provide you with the latest requirements and advice on how to travel in Lisbon and the surrounding coastal towns.
Note: The regulations for traveling within the country and throughout Portugal change frequently and sometimes without notice. For the latest updated information, please visit VisitPortugal.com.
Lisbon metropolitan area
First of all, it’s important to know that when you hear about restrictions for ‘Lisbon’, they usually refer to the Lisbon Metropolitan Area (LMA). It is a very large area that includes 18 cities: Lisbon, Sintra, Loures, Amadora, Cascais, Oeiras, Almada, Seixal, Odivelas, Vila Franca de Xira, Setúbal, Barreiro, Moita, Mafra, Palmela, Montijo, Sesimbra and Alcohete . About a quarter of the Portuguese population lives in this region.
It is mandatory to wear a mask in public places and on the streets whenever social distancing is not possible. This requirement applies to everyone from 10 years old. In our daily runs and outings, we see the majority of people on the streets wearing masks and obeying the restrictions.
Take extra masks with you. During one of our explorations, an earring from Sue’s mask broke, rendering it unusable. Fortunately, the place we were visiting provided him with another mask. It was a standard surgical mask, not one of the tough masks we typically wear, but it worked. Now we always have extra masks and lots of hand sanitizer. It’s also good to know that many clean and safe Portuguese places have simple and convenient mask vending machines.
Current AML Rules and Restrictions
Currently in AML there is a daily curfew between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. Limited capacity restaurants and cafes close at 10:30 p.m. on weekdays and at 3:30 p.m. on weekends. The maximum indoor seating capacity is four people per table and outdoor seating is limited to six people per table. Stores close at 7 p.m. on weekdays and at 3:30 p.m. on weekends. These rules do not apply to essential services such as health services, pharmacies, veterinarians and fuel supply.
Again this week, a new rule was imposed that visitors will be required to present a negative COVID test, vaccination certificate or proof of recovery to stay in hotels and vacation rentals. A COVID test or a negative vaccination certificate is also required to eat indoors in restaurants in Lisbon and other neighborhoods on Friday evenings and on weekends.
Although these rules may seem intimidating, it is still possible to travel in the Lisbon area. The rules are in place to help reduce the spread of the virus and allow citizens and visitors to safely socialize and recreate.
Lisbon without the crowds
The LMA, especially the city of Lisbon, is usually very busy in the summer. This is not the case in 2021. We have been to the city several times and had quick access to places like the Pastéis de Belém, the home of the original. nata paste, where the line usually wraps around the block.
Nearby attractions include the Tower of Belém and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument to the Discoveries) in honor of Portuguese explorers.
Many restaurants in Lisbon are open for business. The usual custom is that they close in the middle of the afternoon and reopen for dinner later in the evening. But many cafes and snack bars remain open all day. Portugal has a real coffee culture, so it’s easy to sit outside and grab a drink and bite at an outside table in just about any neighborhood you visit.
Without the usual tourist crush, it’s easy to see and do a lot more without queuing. We enjoyed exploring and climbing as many Lisbon hills as possible to see it all.
The transport in the AML is going well. Trains, metro, streetcars, buses as well as UBERs, Bolts and taxis are all easy, convenient and inexpensive ways to get around.
Beautiful seaside towns
The Linha de Cascais train line is ideal for visiting all the beautiful seaside towns along the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus River, from Lisbon to Cascais. This 45-minute scenic walking tour ranges from the vibrant energy of Lisbon to the tranquility of Cascais.
The beaches are all open on the way and cyclists can stop along the Estoril coast in places such as Paço de Arcos, Carcavelos, Estoril or Parede for a swim, a seaside walk or a meal. with view. Each city is unique and offers a special slice of the gentle pace that we love in Portugal.
We encourage visitors to support small neighborhood restaurants or tascas and shops during their stay. It has been a difficult few years for the tourism industry. The local restaurants and gift shops will truly enjoy your visit and reward you with authentic and memorable experiences, excellent quality and exceptional values.
Home Sweet Cascais
We now call the beautiful seaside resort of Cascais our home. One of our favorite local tascas is A Nova Estrela. We actually had Sue’s birthday dinner there in June. It was as if we were family with Maria, Paulo and their son Bernard. They always make us feel special and serve delicious Portuguese specialties at reasonable prices.
Cascais has long been known as a getaway for the upper crust of Portugal and Europe. For an elegant experience, try the magnificent Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel and Spa, ideally located on Avenida Rei Humberto Il de Itália, which runs along the Atlantic coast. Panoramic waterfront views, beautifully appointed rooms, luxurious spa and relaxing swimming pool provide sumptuous serenity.
James Bond in Estoril
James Bond fans will want to stop in Estoril. Ian Fleming, the creator of 007, stayed at the Hotel Palácio Estoril during WWII. Here, he watched international spies mingle with the rich and famous in their preferred environment. These hotel guests inspired the characters in his first book, Casino Royale.
The sixth Bond film, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service, was shot in Portugal. The film features numerous images of the hotel inside and out. They also filmed locations on Guincho Beach, Lisbon and in the Arrábida mountains.
The famous hotel is also a short walk from the Casino do Estoril (temporarily closed) and the beautiful Praia do Tamariz beach.
Sintra, located about 30 minutes from Lisbon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that looks like a fairy tale. Its parks and architectural monuments include the Pena National Palace, the Castle of the Moors, the National Palace, the Monserrate Palace and the Quinta da Regaleira. Exploring this area marked with ravines and hills can be demanding. But taking the time to discover its magic is worth it.
One of our favorite discoveries about Portuguese cuisine is that even the smallest town or village will likely have its own unique pastry or culinary creation. The most famous of Sintra include the Travesseiros, soft puff pastry filled with almond cream, and Queijadas of Sintra, small cinnamon sugar tarts with a thin and crispy crust. Both are worth looking for and three popular places to try are Casa Piriquita (two locations), Casa do Preto, and Fábrica das Verdadeiras Quiejadas da Sapa.
Most of Sintra’s shops and restaurants are open. There are many parks, museums and even a sculpture garden to enjoy. Crafts, jewelry and gifts of all kinds fill the shops. We’ve spent far too much time enjoying the distinctive nature-inspired tableware that Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro from Portugal made famous around the world.
Sintra is usually packed with people all year round. On our recent visit we found it to be quite manageable and a lot less crowded. Check ahead for tickets, tours, and reservations at popular restaurants like Incomum. We also take a light jacket to Sintra as it is in the mountains and the microclimate can be very different from the beaches or Lisbon. You’ll find it windier and often colder, and the temperature can even fluctuate every now and then as you take a walk.
Portugal awaits you
If your travel plans and rules allow, it is possible to have a wonderful visit to Portugal right now. Travelers can take advantage of all that the Lisbon metropolitan area has to offer. A visit to Portugal always offers amazing attractions, beautiful beaches, delicious restaurants and locals happy to welcome visitors.
While there are additional considerations for a trip at this time, with a little planning and preparation travelers will be rewarded with a fabulous experience that includes time to relax and not have to fight the usual crowds to explore this spectacular place we now call home.
Traveling in Portugal, or elsewhere for that matter, takes a lot of preparation, but it’s worth it. For more inspiration: