When chatting with my BFF Laura about my blog before I departed from the States, I was worried I wouldn’t have enough things to write about (which is now laughable – I can hardly keep up). But she suggested I do a pros/cons list of the cities / countries I’ve visited to give a more well-rounded view of my experience. I find that solo female travel blogs I follow can be a little too “all is well” for my taste. I’m calling bullshit. Yeah, that hammock strung out between palm trees as your bed looks amazing, but you gotten eaten alive by bugs, didn’t you?!? And that street food you took an arty picture of looks soooo authentic, but it made you sick, didn’t it?!?! So, for the sake of transparency, here is my list for Portugal:
I’ll start with the Cons, so I can end on a high note.
Hassle: in Lisbon there is some of this, but hardly even enough to mention and usually a simple “no obrigata” will shut it down without too much effort. But there are some trinket-wielding men, mostly selling sunglasses (even if you’re wearing sunglasses) and selfie sticks. No joke. Everywhere I went “Selfie stick? Selfie stick?” NO OBRIGATA! Also, in the more touristy areas you’ll have some men approach you, asking if you’d like drugs. “Marijuana? Cocaine?” They do this in the middle of day, in plain view, so strangely, there’s nothing all that shady feeling about it. Drugs are decriminalized in Portugal so while they’re not exactly legal, you’re also not going to be thrown in jail or even fined for having them. However, I was told by locals that the substances they’re touting are not even drugs (just oregano and artificial sweetener), so best to avoid the dealers even if that is your thing.
Bathrooms: public restrooms are scare and if available you usually have to pay a little something for them. But the real evil lies in bathrooms at bars and clubs. They are straight up OFFENSIVE. Like I had my feelings hurt by how awful these bathrooms were. The level of filth is not even rivaled by that at the Indy 500. When going out, definitely be sure to take napkins or some extra tissues with you as well as hand sanitizer, and for heaven’s sake, hike up pants and long dresses. Hold your breath and pray for the best.
Credit cards: I ran into a surprising number of places that did not accept credit cards. These were usually restaurants, but even those in the most touristy of areas would shake their head sadly at me when I pulled out my Visa. Stores and shops are different and bars/clubs that are frequented by young locals usually do accept cards, but when going out to dinner be sure to have enough cash on hand for the meal and drinks.
Food: I really struggled with whether or not to include this on the list, because on the whole I really enjoyed Portuguese food (especially anything cooked by Mama at Home Hostel!). But, I don’t want to give the impression that you can just waltz into anywhere and have an incredible meal (like in Italy). They served a lot of pastries, cod, potatoes – white food that never really looked that appealing, but tasted pretty good. But again, it’s not wildly distinct or flavorful, so I don’t think I would classify Portugal as a food destination.
Nearly everything else is a pro! For real, I LOVED this country, but I’ll try and sum up my favorite parts.
Weather: Maybe there was some sort of magic in the air when I was in Portugal, but the weather was perfect and I do mean PERFECT. Mid to high 60s in the mornings and evenings, highs of 80-82 in the afternoons, but typically in the mid to high 70s with clear skies and cool breezes. It was the kind of weather where you would be just as comfortable in a bathing suit as you would a business suit. The weather is fairly temperate all year long (definitely more beach weather in the summer months of June, July and August) and it can certainly be cold in the winter (although it never snows), but there don’t seem to be the extremes like we have in Indiana.
Scenery: You could go to Portugal and do “nothing” and be perfectly satisfied. Just walking around is fascinating and breathtakingly beautiful. Everywhere you look is picture-perfect scenery. Sigh… I’m missing it already.
Clean/Safe: You’ll find quite a bit of graffiti in Lisbon, but some looked more like commissioned art than vandalism and, maybe it’s just me, I thought it added to the character of the city. Beyond that, I found that the city was quite clean (especially after they hose down the streets), which always makes a city more pleasant (unless we’re talking about New Orleans and I love the grit and filth of Nola – it also adds to its character). I also felt very safe there. In the evenings I never walked alone (because duh), but even in sketch-ish areas I felt fine when I was in the company of other people. And during daylight hours I was nearly always on my own and roamed everywhere with no problems whatsoever.
Easy to Navigate: If you know me at all you know I am hopeless at directions. But after a few walks around the city there weren’t that many places I couldn’t find my way home from. And getting around was simple. There were great (and cheap) public transportation options with the trains and trams (I recommend getting a green “zapping” card that you can recharge when you need to). But mostly I walked everywhere 🙂
After just 11 days Lisbon felt like home and I felt like a local. Such is the culture in this amazing place that I cannot recommend highly enough!