Updated: 15th May 2021

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This article has been live since May 2020, and I update it weekly or whenever a major announcement is made about Portugal coronavirus travel rules. Our lockdown has come to an end and things are nearly all open again, and I want to give you the best possible info around Portugal COVID rules for travel. I’ve tried to always put (source: link) in to the info I’m giving below, so you can see on official PT websites where I am getting my data from.

BTW – I’m a Brit, have been calling Portugal home for 4 years – and am personally vested in this as I want my family to be able come visit, hence becoming a bit of a Portugal travel restriction encyclopedia.

It’s a long article, as lots of rules depending on where you are coming from and lots of updates over the last weeks – just scroll past anything not of interest. I’ve now added a list of some places to get the tests when leaving Portugal further down the page, as people keep asking for this info – jump to it by clicking here

Please note, this is a fast-moving situation and the information provided below is done so in good faith at the time of writing. There are various sources linked out to throughout the article, and particularly at the bottom, however, DanFlyingSolo takes no responsibility for the information provided here and urges you to check all official sources for updates.

Re-opening to MOST Schengen/EU countries for tourism – (UK stuff now below)

(Update May 15th)

The decree regarding to travel was published as an update overnight (source: DRE – Gov decree website – supported by Legislation Article 23) changing some essential travel restrictions (an English version is available on Safe Communities Portugal).

This allows tourism and non-essential travel to resume from some EU+Schengen countries (and the UK – see below) with a negative PCR test – from Monday 17th. Don’t forget to complete the passenger locator form before travel (once you have your seat number) – link here.

EU Countries with a higher incidence rate, above the threshold, are only allowed in for essential travel AND must isolate for 14-days on arrival, declaring themselves to SEF before travel (link). These countries are: Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Netherlands, Sweden.

Visit Portugal has not update their website yet, but you can review the decree on the link above and check this yourself.

Beautiful Madeira
Beautiful Madeira

Tourism from other third countries / cruises

(Update May 15th)

As detailed in the same decree above. All travel from other third countries remains suspended, except for essential travel such as EU citizens/residents to return home – PCRs for everyone who is on an essential travel trip from these countries, and 14-day isolation will also be required from India, South America and Brazil.

The only exemptions to this list, for who tourism travel is allowed, are the ones agreed at EU level – and most of these countries don’t even have direct flights to Portugal so it means little. The countries are: Australia, China, South Korea, New Zealand, Ruanda, Singapore, Thailand, Hong Kong, Macau.

And of course, the UK (flights from the UK, not UK passport holders flying in from anywhere), which is the one third country that Portugal has added to its own list, over riding the EU recommendations – see details below.

Friends in the USA/Canada – I’m sorry we don’t have news for you yet, and I think when the news does come, it will be from the EU level and with the introduction of the ‘EU Digital Green Certificate’ – the 1st June has been floated for this, but it isn’t certain – hopefully the EU will issue further updates on this soon.

It looks like cruises are also allowed to dock again, but only those from countries who are on the approved list, and which don’t stop at any higher incidence countries during their route.

Re-opening to UK visitors / flights for tourism

(Update May 17th)

The news so many were waiting for – confirming that Portugal will open from the 17th to British tourists on flights from the UK, with a negative PCR.

(update 17th:) Regarding home tests – while home-test kits aren’t allowed in Portugal, and don’t qualify as an ‘official test’ here, it seems that travellers from the UK have been allowed in with home tests today. Whether this will change, or be clarified, let’s see – as it is a new question given the UK is one of the few countries that have home-taken PCR tests so it hasn’t been raised before. Here, a valid covid test, must be ‘taken by a health care professional’. But, home PCR test kits seem okay according to some travellers today, but if I get any official news back from the emails I sent I will update here.

I’m sure if you are in the UK you will have a million reports of what flying here is like as it seems like most UK travel journalist flew to Madeira and Portugal this morning.

Any one over the age of 24 months needs a Negative RT-PCR test to enter mainland Portugal, 11 years for Madeira, and 12 for Azores (source: ANA airports – #30)

Further down in the ‘Green List’ section are details of tests for return to the UK. Lab details for test in Portugal are down the page.

Don’t forget to complete the passenger locator form before travel (once you have checked in and have your seat number) – mainland Portugal hereMadeira Azores.

Coming from outside the UK/EU?

I’m getting a lot of messages from people about UK tourists flying in from Dubai etc, but please understand this is directly applying to flights from the UK. The EU borders are closed to other third countries, except to allow citizens/residents to return into the EU, and sadly, after Brexit, the British passport does not have access to EU Freedom of Movement.

Tests to fly back

Antigen tests are now being offered in some airports (source: Faro airport infoLisbon Airport Info – Porto does have them it seems, but not confirmed on the website) at around €30, and there are loads of labs and clinics doing them around Portugal (I’ll try to get together a list). I expect the airport labs to struggle to cope with a massive influx of travellers, at least to start, so it might be a safer bet to do it before heading home and not at the airport. While the UK Gov have said will accept a a few types of test to fly home (source: UK Gov) some airlines are only accepting PCR tests, so double check with your airline first. See further down for more details on labs and companies for your return tests.

Brexit reminder

Remember that Brexit has happened, so there are just a couple of new laws, such as passport validity, for travelling to the EU with a British passport (source: check on UKGov). Because of the extra checks and passport stamps on arrival for UK Passport holders + with the COVID test checks, it will be a slightly slower process than before, but be patient, Portugal is waiting for you on the other side :)

More information below…. but first, here is that lovely official statement that came through today.

How about the road borders?

The road border from Spain reopened May 1st 2021, and a few days ago I crossed from the Algarve (PT) to Ayamonte (ES) and there were no controls or checks on the border – and the official statement is this: ‘On land borders with Spain there are no restrictions on movement since 1 May.’ unless you are coming from a ‘quarnatine country’ (such as The Netherlands or France) you are expected to isolate and must complete your details in advance on the SEF website – I also have no idea what the border controls are like between Spain and France.

What is the UK green list, and what tests do I need coming home?

The green list will mean no need for isolation when returning back to England, but you will need a Covid test before flying back to the UK (PCR or antigen – details here) then a day 2 covid test in the UK, which is booked online before travel (details here – the prices shown are for the current 2/8 day tests, however as Green list countries only need the test on day 2 not on day 8 the price should be cheaper).

These are in addition to the PCR test (done in a lab) to enter mainland Portugal, and the current Portugal coronavirus travel rules, Further down this page I have details of where you can book a test online in Portugal, and last time I travelled from the UK to Portugal I got my PCR test at Express Test.

If you transit through a country not on the green list, then the isolation period and rules will apply, and also if you decide to use Portugal as a gateway to drive to Spain, obviously turning back up in the UK with a test from a Spanish clinic on a Portugal flight is likely to be noticed – remember there are high fines for lying on the Passenger Locator Forms. Grant Shapps, the transport secretary, also stated that the list should be reviewed every 3 weeks this year, which hopefully means that it won’t be two days notice of any changes like last year.

Lisbon
LIsbon

Current situation in Mainland Portugal – what is open?

  • (source: https://covid19estamoson.gov.pt/)
  • The strict lockdown ended on 5th April, and we have now completed the re-opening stage for most of the country
  • Social distancing rules in businesses and in general apply
  • Cafes and restaurant terraces are now able to open for outside dining, table size 10 person, and inside for tables for 6. Opening hours are until 22:30 seven days a week. Bars/Nightclubs/Drink-only places remain closed.
  • Museums, galleries, palaces and monuments may now re-open for visitors as well as cinemas and concerts etc.
  • All shops and shopping centres have re-opened and can trade until 9pm during the week, or 7pm on weekends and holidays. Alcohol can be purchased during all opening hours again.
  • Buses and trains have reduced capacity – Movement around the country is no longer restricted
  • Masks must be worn inside but also outside on any street where you can’t stay 2 metres away from people – including on the beach this summer when moving around, it can come off when sat/laying or swimming. It was just announced spot fines will be issued for people not wearing masks, including when circulating around the beaches. In Lisbon and busy places, basically everyone wears them all the time, in quiet villages or nature when you won’t go near people, they can come of.
  • Haircuts, manicures possible with prior booking
  • All sports and gyms are opening again
  • Road borders with Spain are open
  • Different rules may apply for Madeira & Azores depending on where you are coming from – also curfew times are in place on some of the islands. You can see an island by island Azores breakdown here.
  • Places in Portugal Mainland with some different rules and extra restrictions- Arganil, Lamego, Odemira (one part), Resende
  • You can read more about this on the official website in Portuguese.
Carvoerio Beach Portugal

The Islands – Madeira and Azores

The islands have different rules in place depending on which island, ranging from curfews and early closing businesses, to fully open on some others.

Anyhow, you can check on the Madeira tourism page and also their ‘Safe to discover‘ page and the Azores website for more specific details on the islands as they have autonomous governments so varying rules apply, and I’m not tracking them as closely as the mainland.

Madeira are looking to offer a free test to every visitor though, either that can be taken on arrival (you would have to isolate and not leave your room until the results come through in 24-hours) or, interestingly, at the end of your trip before flying home if you don’t use it on arrival – which would help cut some costs. This info came through on a press release from the tourism board to me today, but I’m waiting to see it in writing on a website I can link you too before guaranteeing it has actually launched.

Quarantine and new online portal for registering for 14 day isolation

The new portal for pre-registering before travel went live on the SEF website, aligning with the new rules that any one travelling from Inidia, Brazil, South Africa or any country with an incidence rate of 500/100,000 (Croatia, Cyprus, Lithuania, Netherlands, Sweden) can only enter Portugal for essential travel and now needs to isolate for 14 days on arrival into Portugal in their residence or hotel if allowed. There are three different forms, depending if you arrive by air, land border, or sea – please keep in mind there are restrictions to each one of these, of who can enter and why.

You can complete the form online here: https://travel.sef.pt/Forms/Default.aspx

View from a restaurant in Camara do Lobos of a sea cliff at sunset
Madeira Views

Opening for other places – vaccinated travellers – EU certificates?

The EU ‘Green Certificate’ to allow for travel though is not ready yet, and won’t be until June. As Portugal is lead of the EU Parliament this year I have a feeling they will be waiting for this to prove vaccinated status when travelling to mainland Portugal, as they are in charge of organising it and ensuring co-ordination between all countries, so politically it might look weird if they do their own thing and break the rules they are trying to create – but lets see.

Will festivals happen in Portugal this summer?

In the final stage of re-opening it was originally reported that large outside events which many people travel here for would be able to take place from 3rd May, events such as Electric Daisy or Afro Nation, however in the more recent reports these types of events haven’t been mentioned, nor the number of attendees which will be allowed .

So, there isn’t any official cancellation of these festivals in June and July yet, but I personally would be quite surprised if they go ahead at full capacity, or even at all – keep an eye for announcements in the coming weeks.

Mask mandate on streets extended to June – may last all summer

The law which requires masks to be worn in public, on streets and squares and anywhere else outside when you will not be more than two meters from another person has been extended until June. Of course, you can take them off when bathing on the beach or laying down, doing exercise in nature, or when sat in cafes and restaurants to eat and drink.

Basically, if you are anywhere where you will be within two metres of people (busy streets, in the city) then the rules is wear a mask – if you are out in the countryside and not in a busy place, then they aren’t needed. The enforcement of these rules obviously vary depending where you are, I’ve seen more people being approached by the police since living in Lisbon for example, than when I was living in the Algarve – however they have announced new on the spot fines for this summer, especially in relation to the beaches, as tourism resumes.

Please do keep this in mind if you plan to travel to Portugal this summer, that masks will still be required in these situations until at least July, I know for some people it might be a dealbreaker even though it’s pretty standard in most places now.

Mertola Alentejo Portugal

Where to get a COVID test in Portugal to fly back to the UK (or anywhere)

Airport testing has now been launched in some of them, though expect this to be busy and I’d say even chaotic to start with – to be safer, I would advise you to book a test not on the day of travel.

Check with your government/the country you are travelling too, the type of test you need – for example, here is the UK Green List arrivals testing rules. Keep in mind that some airlines may have different rules for passengers – so while a rapid test might be approved by your Gov, the airline might require a PCR.

Labs in Portugal are really common and not just in major cities – as such, home-testing PCR tests have never been a thing here, so don’t assume like in the UK you might have to travel a long way to get your test done. Antigen tests are usually around €20-30 and PCR tests are usually around €60-100.

Some testing centres allow you to book time slots online, others by phone or email. The list below is just some of them, but there are more companies and options, so a closer option might be found on Google.

In addition to the locations I’ve detailed below, The Azores government has a handy list of over 300+ labs all around Portugal that offer PCR tests (many will other antigen too) – so that might be a helpful for cross checking locations to labs – it can be found here

Faro & Algarve

Airport Testing has been set up at Faro Airport – details here

Germano de Sousa labs are available in 9 locations in the Algarve, including Faro (+351 289 170 552), Portimao (+351 282 424 051) and Albufeira (+351 289 892 040) – details here of their other locations

Unilabs have a drive through for PCR tests in Faro (online booking – website is in PT only) – details here

Joaquim Chaves (who I have used before) operate in this region with PCR and Anitgen but only list their main labs for online bookings here – but it’s worth using Google Maps to see if there is one close to where you are staying and then calling that one to book

Lisbon & Around

Airport Testing has been set up at Lisbon Airport – details here

Germano de Sousa labs are available in lots of locations in and around Lisbon, including Lisbon Central (+351 800 209 498), Setubal (+351 911 071 244), Cascais (+351 800 203 186) and Coimbra (+351 239 159 008) – details on other Lisbon locations

Unilabs have a drive through for PCR tests in Lisbon & Setubal (online booking – website is in PT only) – details here

Joaquim Chaves (who I have used before) operate in this region with PCR and Anitgen but only list their main labs for online bookings here – but it’s worth using Google Maps to see if there is one close to where you are staying and then calling that one to book

Alentejo

Germano de Sousa labs have a lab in Evora (+351 930 558 390) 892 040) – details here of their other locations

Porto & Northern Region

Airport Testing has been apparently set up at Porto Airport but I cant find online details yet – it is run by company Synlab

Germano de Sousa labs are available in in northern Portugal, including Porto (+351 930 570 152), Vila Nova de Gaia (+351 930 575 003) Braga (+351 253 267 210) and Guimarães (+351 253 035 510) – details here of their other Porto locations

Unilabs have a drive through for PCR tests in Porto & Braga (online booking – website is in PT only) – details here

Joaquim Chaves (who I have used before) operate in this region with PCR and Anitgen but only list their main labs for online bookings here – but it’s worth using Google Maps to see if there is one close to where you are staying and then calling that one to book

Madeira Islands (and Porto Santo)

Airport Testing has been apparently set up at Madeira Airport but I cant find online details yet – it is run by company Synlab

Madeira tourism has published a list of labs on the island offering PCR tests – details here – and it looks like on that list Group HPA and Synlab offer antigen tests too

Azores Islands (nine islands in total)

Germano de Sousa labs have two locations on Sao Miguel Island – details here

Joaquim Chaves Labs have one – details here

Can’t find firm details on the other islands just yet

Anything below this point has not been updated since early December and as such is out of date – however some of it gives an insight into the types of rules and precautions set up for tourism last year.

I will do a full update of everything in May when we get more news about tourism opening, but for now please seek official resources for the most recent information. Below here you can see what the rules were in place when tourism was open, and get an idea of what to likely expect in Summer 2021 regarding Portugal coronavirus travel restrictions.

Madeira Trip Report

My trip report from Madeira, when I visited in November and December, can now be found here.

Portugal coronavirus entry requirements, rules, and airport procedures –

Note: As of January 2021 no one can enter Portugal for tourism, flights are for essential travel only. These rules below are now out-dated and will be updated when tourism resumes, hopefully in May 2021.

So, if you are eligible to travel to Portugal right now based on the criteria and countries detailed above, what are the rules for entering, and also when you arrive?

Well, these can be broken down by region, as follows.

Mainland Portugal

The mainland of Portugal is the majority of Portugal on the Iberian Peninsula, next door to our lovely neighbour of Spain.

Currently, there is no quarantine, or testing on arrival for mainland Portugal related to coronavirus restrictions for tourists from allowed flights.

If you are arriving from a country that is on the essential travel only list (for example USA/Brazil) in which case you will need to test before flying, or perhaps can request a test on arrival – please check with the SEF border office to confirm. For the purpose of below, I will focus on EU/approved for tourism incoming passengers

Here is what to expect at the mainland airports (Faro, Porto and Lisbon) from friends and people I’ve spoken to that have travelled – keep in mind who is allowed to fly into Portugal, from that section above.

Firstly, the flight might be completely full or rather empty – I’ve heard reports on both. Just don’t expect empty middle seats or social distancing on the flight, it’s basically impossible. You will be wearing a mask, an N95 or high-quality one that filters more particles will likely be more helpful in compact spaces like this, although I offer no health advice on this. Bring sanitiser to keep your hands clean, and wash your hands before boarding, and on arrival. Masks with vents are not allowed on most airlines now as they let particles out.

Mask medical exemptions: Recently I returned to the UK to see family, and then flew back. In the UK I noted you can self certify if you don’t need to wear a mask, with something printed at home such as a badge (not sure exactly the method). In Portugal, this is not accepted, and you will need a medical document detailing why you are exempt. On my Portugal Ryanair flight back, passengers were not accepted without a mask or these self-printed badges, and given the option to wear a mask for the flight, or not take the flight. This was also because entry to the airport in Portugal would have required a mask, or a medical note, and now with these new rules it is even more important to ensure you have the relevant documents.

When you arrive in Portugal, the flight numbers in and out are heavily reduced, so social distancing in lines is much easier. In theory, you will have filled your information in on the flight, and these documents will be collected by the airlines.

There are heat camera sensors at all the airports now, so temperature checks are being done even if you don’t notice them. There are SEF (border agents) monitoring these, and if you flag up the heat sensor, they will take you aside, and potential tests and quarantine will follow. Yes, some people who carry COVID-19 will not have a temperature, but this is the current situation.

Please see following section for rules within the country.

Both Madeira and the Azores have autonomous governments, and as they have both had very low COVID-19 rates, they are keen to keep it that way.

Madeira

Here are the brief key points of what to expect on arrival/flying, and the requirements:

  • It’s recommended to do a test 72-hours prior to travel, and receive a negative result. Although this can be done on arrival instead however it will slow down the process.
  • I highly recommend if you are travelling from the Portugal mainland that you take a FREE PCR test before your flight, with one of the labs that Madeira have authorised – the contact details for these can be found here.
  • Before travel, you must complete the health form on https://madeirasafe.com/ – whether you have a test result or not.
  • On arrival, thermal screening takes place, and those who have already completed the test prior to travel will show their bar-code and be straight out – it literally took me two minutes from collecting my luggage.
  • For those needing a test, a free test will be provided at the airport. It will take about 12 hours before they ring you with the results, during this time you must stay in isolation at your accommodation – I saw in my hotel they were asking people for test certificates, and any without had ISOLATION marked on their door and delivered room service.
  • If the test is negative, enjoy your holiday, and keep the app on your device, otherwise you may be check in on by telephone – this is when the problems come.
  • If you test positive: Previously, Madeira was paying for the quarantine costs, now you will pay for them at around €100 a day at the government nominated health hotel – where you will get further tests and continue your trip when a negative is obtained. While rare, there have been cases when this has gone on for weeks, I saw a news report of someone in week five of isolation, even though all the rest of his group tested negative and had long returned to the UK. This is why I 100% believe testing before travel is better for many reasons.
The Azores

I spent a few weeks in The Azores (Pico, Sao Jorge, Faial) in September and it was lovely. The testing and management of the situation are great there, so you feel like you can kinda forget this strange world for a bit.

Very recently, as reported by RTP on 13th November The Azores have announced they will now require ALL visitors to test negative BEFORE travel – within 72 hours before travel, not offering people tests on arrival as they previously had due to an increase of people arriving with a positive result. This is very new news, and I can’t even find it updated on the Azores Tourism portal yet, so it’s certainly something to maybe check yourself if you are travelling soon.

Here are the brief key points of what to expect on arrival at any of the airports, Santa Maria, Terceira, Pico and Faial (from outside, not between – you could move between the islands with a  negative test results, however may need a second test, see below) – there has been news reports that movement between islands may be being limited.

  • If you are travelling from mainland Portugal there are many places you can have a FREE PCR test prior to travel, as supplied by the Azores Government – find the full list and contact details here.
  • Here is where to find the health survey reports to complete.
  • If you are staying longer than 7 days in the Azores, you can enjoy your holiday with the negative result, however you will have to complete another test, on the 6th day AFTER your initial test, and have another negative result. You will be provided with details of the local county health services to arrange this with.
  • If you test positive, you will have to quarantine until you receive a negative result on another test.
  • If you refuse the test, your other options are to stay in isolation until you get the next flight available out of the islands, or take a 14-day quarantine in a dedicated isolation hotel, with the full cost being on you.

You pay for your 14-day quarantine if found positive, but both the test on arrival and the second test if needed will be free.

Clean and Safe Portugal Initiative

Portugal introduced its own ‘Clean and Safe’ protocols very early on in the game, which also meant they were the first country to receive the ‘Safe Travel’ stamp by the World Tourism Council.

The Clean and Safe stamp and coronavirus protection rules in Portugal are covered in-depth on the Visit Portugal website  which lists all the requirements for different types of business, and you’ll see the stamp on a lot of businesses booking pages.

The stamp basically is given to any business that is meeting those defined health and safety requirements and COVID-19 precautions as defined by the Portuguese health authorities. Having travelled to many places now in the country, it does seem most places are following the rules this implies.

While there is a criteria to meet, and online training, especially focused on cleaning and hygiene to follow, businesses certify and then have inspections, randomly, afterwards to ensure the standard is met.

A website, dedicated to Clean and Safe has now been launched at https://portugalcleanandsafe.com/ where you, as a visitor, can search for a business, check they have the stamp and see the measures they have put in place.

Most importantly you as the visitor can leave a rating on if the business met the criteria for clean and safe. This helps to keep businesses accountable to their stamp, as poor ratings will see them removed, or re-inspected.

There looks like an option to search a map, and see local businesses who have the stamp is in testing right now too.

Portugal Health passport and dedicated COVID Portugal Insurance

Portugal has launched two products this year, specifically for visitors and providing coverage in relation to health and COVID-19.

The first is the Portugese Health Passport – you can read the details here but there are various packages of healthcare options available for you while here, in private hospitals and I believe this was actually developed for general health tourism not just COVID-19, but has become more well known due to the current situation.

There is also a dedicated Portugal Travel Insurance which includes COVID-19, which you can see more about here and might be worth considering if you don’t have any Coronavirus cover with your usual insurer – I haven’t looked into it much, so please do review if it’s suitable for your needs before purchasing it. It does however seem to offer insurance even if your home country advises against travel, so for example the UK FCDO advice might be mitigated with these policies. As always, do your own homework and certainly have insurance travelling in these times.

Destination – Where to travel based on coronavirus restrictions in Portugal?

Honestly, and it pains me to say this as a lover of Portugal and the tourism industry, especially seeing how many people and businesses are suffering, but I really think travelling to mainland Portugal right now is verging on a bad idea.

Madeira/Porto Santo and The Azores – with their testing requirements, and low cases numbers, are the safer and wiser choices in my opinion , and being closer south have warmer days too.

With curfews being announced in the mainland, and potential lock downs looming, I can’t in good faith recommend a cross-country trip right now, and even city-breaks might be a bit restrictive.

That said, there are parts of the country with much lower risks, the bottom half, Alentejo and Algarve, so these would be the better option for me. Pick somewhere with big beaches or nature to enjoy, and a hotel with facilities incase a curfew is announced, and save that dream Portugal trip for next year when things are hopefully back to normal.

Things to consider before booking or travelling to Portugal in 2020

The first thing to consider is are you allowed to enter the country, keep an eye on the rules of countries who can enter Portugal, and also the Schengen zone, using your local countries travel advisories, EU and destination countries pages – information can change very quickl – I’ll be honest that the communication and finding the right information for this is a bit of a mess for those outside the EU, and the information in Portugal can often take a while to be translated.

Are you prepared to adapt? This one certainly isn’t limited to Portugal, as we will see many countries change and adapt their rules over the coming months as the situation changes. Booking last minute will help, being prepared with free cancellations if needed, and perhaps having to change the region you stay in. No one fully knows what the future holds, so any decision has to be one you feel comfortable with.

Also, keep in mind some airlines are still continuing to cancel flights to countries, even when they have reopened for tourism.

You’ll also want to consider where to go based on case numbers, how to get around, where to stay based on what you feel comfortable with and so on, I’ll cover these in the trip report below.

Also, if you don’t want to play by the rules here, such as wearing masks, and intend on being difficult, argumentative, and cause problems – then don’t come. I’ve seen the rare visitor from countries where masks aren’t required arguing about them, please don’t be this person and just respect the local rules.

Getting around – what are the public transport Coronavirus restrictions?

Cars – As I said above, road-trips and private car rentals are likely the best way to move around the country at the moment. If you are in the same household, i.e. travelling together, then you can have the car at full capacity. Supposedly masks are required, but I think this is more for if you are sharing a car with other people not in your household.

Taxis –  are operating, with the front seat empty and a reduction of capacity in the back (assuming no middle seat use). There isn’t much clarification on these, but both the taxis I’ve taken lately in the Algarve had screens between front and back, and the driver sanitised the handles when I left both inside and outside.

Buses /Coaches- On the main long distance bus network, powered by Rede Expressos  – they are running services again, with a capacity reduction and some seats blocked out. When you book online, it will automatically allocate you a seat from the front to the back of the bus, however you can change your allocation. If you are travelling solo, you’ll see there are some seats blocked out – as such, I personally always choose a seat towards the back, next to a blocked out seat, so I know I will be travelling with no one next to me. Sometimes, of course, these seat arrangements change if the vehicle has to be substituted.

Trains – For the trains, run by CP, these are still running, and they offer some Coronavirus precautions on their website although don’t mention anything about a reduced capacity. Officially the latest from the government was all public transport operates at 2/3 of capacity, so unsure if the rule has been changed, or just not detailed on the CP website.

While on longer distance trains, where seat reservations have always been mandatory, there are some reports of commuters train, like the local lines into Lisbon, where social distancing is near impossible and crowds are forming. Even with all services running, there simply aren’t enough extra trains to be put on to minimise this. Alternatives, like varying work hours, and bus routes, are now under consideration. For the most part, these train routes won’t be used by tourists anyway, and if you are going to use one, say to visit Sintra or Cascais, simply avoid the main commuting hours.

Domestic Flights – My flight with Air Azores from Lisbon to Pico was very well managed, the crew did mask checks throughout the flight, de-boarding was done by row, and it was as best as a flight can be while wearing the masks which isn’t comfy lets be honest. Please note, there are no requirements in Portugal to keep the middle seat empty but if you’re gonna be a stuck on a flight with people I’m not sure what difference that makes. You are reliant on the air being circulated and going through the HEPA filters – which should do a good job of clearing any virus particles research has shown.

Masks – Please remember masks are needed on transport, and outside on stations and any busy streets now, but of course, there will always be some level of transmission risk in enclosed spaces regardless of what COVID-19 measures are put in place in Portugal or any country.

Hotels, private rentals, camper van laws and guest-houses – whats the situation?

The Safe and Clean initiative mentioned above mainly applies to accommodation in my eyes, as this would be my biggest concern in terms of Coronavirus in Portugal, and limiting my contact. There is no rule on occupancy limits for hotels, but the other rules must be followed – below I’ve highlighted a few examples of places I’ve stayed – and what procedures were in place.

Wild camping and camper vans

This is important, as many people have decided to live the van-life this year to move around and avoid restrictions. In Portugal, wild camping by tent or camper-van is illegal. Yes, you may have seen people doing it all over social media, and that is because while it is illegal, it is generally tolerated and the police are unlikely to do anything unless a complaint is made.

In these strange times though, things are different. With the curfews and stay at home bans, if you are moving in a vehicle at a police checkpoint and can’t show the accomodation details you are moving to, there will be fines and problems. Previously, in the last lockdown, most (found) wild campers got moved to official camp sites where they weren’t allowed to leave or circulate. So, with potential lockdowns on the horizon again, please keep this in mind – also incase road borders close between countries.

If you haven’t booked with AirBnB before, you can get up to €40 off your first booking: by using my referral link here.

For sure, this year Airbnb and villa rentals will be popular, as people will want to have more private spaces. I’ve stayed in different types of properties in the past month and will give my experience below.

Hotel: SANA Sesimbra  – This hotel is perhaps the best advert for the Clean and Safe system I’ve seen so far, and I was really impressed with the COVID-19 precautions that have been implement, and I’m sure most upscale hotels in Portugal will be doing something similar, especially as SANA are a chain with a few great places to stay in the county. A few things to note:
– Temperature checks were taken at check-in and daily at breakfast
– Timeslots needed to be booked for the swimming pool, and breakfast, to ensure the people limits (it was actually nice to have my 30 minutes with a private pool)
– Dining spaces were spread out by the rules, and the hotel buffet breakfast was replaced by a counter service type thing – I’ve seen many hotels advertising breakfast in the room included too. Staff were mainly behind plastic shielding walls, such as at reception.
– There were sanitiser stations everywhere, and staff seemed to be constantly cleaning
– Some changes in the room, such as a seal on the door placed by the cleaning team who do the sanitising, which should only be broken by the guest checking in. TV remotes were in covers, so they could easily be sanitised, some robes and slippers were removed to reduce the number of materials in the room to sanitise.

Guest House: Casa S. Thiago do Castelo  – Obidos is usually teaming with tourists, but it was very quiet when I stayed last week. How would a smaller, non-chain business follow the rules? Well, for the most part, it was very similar to above, masks, sanitising on entry, breakfast times had to be booked as the dining room is small, so only two groups at a time, we also completed a form the night before so instead of the normal buffer, items were placed on our table.

Private Home: Monsaraz, Alentejo – This was the first place I stayed after Portugal relaxed the coronavirus restrictions in May, and our host was there to greet us with a sanitiser, both for our hands-on entry, but with a spray ready to re-clean any surfaces we asked him to do, and wipe down handles and switches he touched. I did notice the bin in the bathroom had something at the bottom of it though, and while private rentals seem the most appealing as you get your own space, be mindful that in larger hotels and guesthouses with dedicated cleaning teams, they are likely doing a more in-depth job than your average rental host, so you might want to do a bit of disinfecting yourself on arrival.

If you have a communal swimming pool in an apartment complex, the rules state that precautions and capacity levels must be managed, although I’m not too sure what this looks like in reality as they don’t usually have lifeguards. People I’ve asked that rent these places also don’t really know, so you’ll have to take your own precautions for the most part I think.

Luckily, there are plenty of unique, remote and cool AirBnB options in Portugal – I think my next trip will be to stay in this awesome converted Windmill in Alentejo!

All-inclusive options: I’ve stayed at one all inclusive on Porto Santo island (part of Madeira) and while I didn’t personally take all inclusive, there were maybe 8 other groups there who all seemed to. It worked like breakfast buffets do now, you don’t help yourself, but the server behind the counter serves up the dishes for you and everything else like drinks is done by table service.

Hostels: When it comes to hostels, honestly I’m not sure about the situation in the mainland. In Madeira hostel dorms can have occupancy up to 50%. I did have a brief look in Lisbon online, and it seemed most were renting the rooms privately, rather than as dorms, but I can’t find official clarification on this – will try and update in due course. Personally, I would not want to stay in a dorm room right now, especially as there are many affordable accommodation options in Portugal currently.

Tourism attractions – are they open?

Most main tourism attractions are now open again, with the usual social distancing and mask-wearing – however the hours are reduced and defined by curfews etc.

Some of the religious attractions, particularly convents which have residents living in them are closed, I found on my recent trip.

Smaller regional attractions were also closed in the Alentejo when I drove through, as were some in central Portugal in my most recent trip last week. Some attractions are also free currently, to limit human interaction and the exchange of cash, as card payments are now preferred, but in Portugal aren’t always accepted.

Beaches – socially distanced sun-bathing?

The beach season has ended now, so there are no life guards or monitoring in place. Below are the restrictions from last summer, I’ll leave them here incase they are the same next year and this f*!&ing thing is still going on.

The general rules and systems in place are as follows:

– An app, which shows occupancy rates for participating beaches in advance so you can see the best beach near you to visit (search Info Praia app)
– This is dictated by a traffic light system, green, yellow and red – and in some case, as you’ll see below, even physical traffic lights!
– Guarded beaches with lifeguards will see the life guars monitoring and enforcing social distancing
– The social distancing of 1.5metres between beachgoers, more on parasols
– Sports of more than two people are banned, excluding water sports
– Parking is prohibited on roads to beaches outside of the car park; they have quite quickly started putting down new double yellows too.
– More rules are on an infographic here: https://www.visitportugal.com/en/node/421175

Other resources / links / official websites to keep an eye on…

Here are the places I’m mainly taking my information from, and the news I follow locally. Of course, if you have any questions, please leave them in the comments, and I will reply, and update them into the post.

List of each municipality and the current restrictions (updated every two weeks): https://covid19estamoson.gov.pt/

Clean and Safe website hub: https://portugalcleanandsafe.com/

A handy website with various languages which offers translations of latest rules and decrees:
https://www.safecommunitiesportugal.com/

Current Mainland Portugal coronavirus restrictions for tourists: https://www.visitportugal.com/en/node/421175

Madeira: http://www.visitmadeira.pt/en-gb/useful-info/corona-virus-(covid-19)/information-to-visitors-(covid-19)

Azores: https://covid19.azores.gov.pt/?page_id=5532

Portugal coronavirus airport information:
https://www.ana.pt/en/passenger-guide/what-you-need-to-know/covid-19

Bus coronavirus information
https://www.rede-expressos.pt/en/information

Health service official website with a daily report:
https://covid19.min-saude.pt/

260 replies
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  1. Luke says:

    Hi Dan,

    Thank you so much for your work helping us travelers. I have a U.S. passport and currently in another Schengen country (Estonia) under visa free travel (90/180). I am thinking of flying to Faro to visit some properties for a few days just before Christmas. I don’t have EU residence card. My permission into Schengen is basically granted to enter Estonia. Any idea / guidance on whether I can fly to Faro, via Frankfurt (most likely choice) from Tallinn without issue? I have asked Faro airport, Portuguese Embassy in the U.S., without clear answer. I asked SEF but haven’t heard anything. This seems to be an “age old” problem that government rules don’t usually address at all.

    Thank you very much for your feed back.

    Luke

    Reply
    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Luke,

      Hope you are well.

      Obviously I can’t guarantee an actual answer, or know any of this as fact – but below is my view on this:

      I do know my friends who live in London, but are Americans with US passports have just flown here no problem. So, I imagine it wouldn’t be a issue – especially as you’re already in the Schengen zone and would only be showing your ID to board a flight, and wouldn’t have to show a passport to enter the country. When I fly into Faro from another Schengen country I’ve always just walked/been taken by bus straight from the flight into the luggage hall with no passport or ID checks. As such, I think the only place a problem might occur is at the Estonia side, with the gate-agent or airline declining boarding based on your passport – so perhaps check with the airline/airport on that side, as that is where you’ll be showing the passport?

      Cheers, and sorry I can’t give you anything more definitive.
      Dan

      Reply
  2. Nelson Santos says:

    Hey Dan,

    Great article. We’re in the States and my grandfather in Viseu passed away. We’re thinking of sending my mom (Portuguese citizen) with my brother (US citizen) to Portugal through London because we can’t get the appropriate COVID test results back within the 72 hour window the airlines are asking for. Local labs are taking five days. Do you think they will need a negative test result to get on a flight from London to Lisbon? Do you think my brother will be allowed in since it’s for a funeral and he’s accompanying my mother? If they can’t they’re going to be forced to take trains or busses if they’re allowing travel. Airlines don’t seem to have an alternative for these situations.

    Reply
    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Nelson,

      My condolences, sorry to hear of your grandfather passing.

      I can’t give any facts with upmost certainty, but I think this would fall under humanitarian reasons – my neighbours parents, US citizens, were granted permission to enter following her giving birth and needing support – although this had to be arranged with SEF in writing prior to them flying – that was direct USA > Lisbon – so you may want to get this permission letter prior to the flight to be safe?

      As far as I know, in Heathrow they have been letting people transit with no testing/problem as long as they are allowed in the next country, stay airside, and have the same ticket for the journey thus not needing to check in – and I don’t believe they are then asking for test arrivals. In case of an emergency situation, Lisbon airport (maybe Porto, I’m not sure) they do have the facilities for testing on arrival with a fee as these are being used for passengers from the LusoAfrican nations.

      Sorry I can’t give you any better answers, and sorry the local labs are taking so long thats terrible – perhaps it might even be worth asking SEF if in this situation they would be eligible for the testing on arrival in Lisbon airport, if paid for, I know officially it doesn’t apply for those coming from the USA, but perhaps for a citizen and the funeral they are able to make an exception?

      Reply
  3. Ben Alderton says:

    Hi Dan

    We’ve booked accommodation at three different locations between Faro and Lagos for 27-31 December, before we drive up to Porto for 1-4 January.

    Will we be permitted to cross between the relevant districts and municipalities on that drive (showing our booked accommodation in Porto) or is it likely we will be asked to turn around?

    Thanks
    Ben

    Reply
    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Ben,

      The rules as they are now (But may change with the next state of Emergency update) mean that in most of the Algarve, so those Faro to Lagos section, the regions are all in the bottom 2 of the 4 tier system, so don’t have the strictest levels of rules. On New Years Eve theres also the chance to enjoy a semi-normal night with restaurants open until 1am.

      As for going to Porto on New Years Day. A circulation ban between municipalities comes into place between 00:00 on 12/31 and 05:00 on 4/01 but on New years day use of public roads is allowed until 23h00 – so I think from my understanding if you are travelling ‘home’ or in this case your accommodation, it shouldn’t be a problem – have the tickets and details to show incase of check-points. But once you arrive into Porto, you wouldn’t be able to travel to a different municipality from there.

      Keep in mind as Porto is ‘very high risk’, on the weekend (so the dates 2nd & 3rd January) there is a curfew in place from 1pm, with most businesses closing and only allowed to be outside for emergency reasons or short exercise – so that will have an impact on what you can enjoy in Porto. In addition, on the 1st January Restaurants and the likes have to close by 15:30 in these high risk areas – incase any of this effects your want to be in Porto on days with such restrictions.

      There could be a change of tier for any of the regions though by then, with the updated list of rules that apply to these dates would officially come into place on the 23rd December I think, so be sure to double check then on https://covid19estamoson.gov.pt/ the different regional rules on the drop down, use Chrome with Translate switched on – its more accurate than the actual English version of the website.

      It’s hard to know 100% the answer to this. Previously, there was a lot more bending of the rules for tourists, but understandably this led to a bit of a backlash situation that tourists were getting preferential treatment to locals so they have been a bit tighter recently. But, I think if you have the accooomodation bookings, and I assume a flight leaving from Porto, there shouldn’t be any problem with crossing the country.

      Sorry that does not help much, hope it all works out.

      Cheers,
      Dan

      Reply
  4. N Wilcock says:

    Hi Dan

    Thanks for the great advice and articles. We’re thinking of driving from the UK to Portugal in January. I saw in your most recent post that the border with Spain is open; but am wondering if anyone else has attempted this recently and if so, what did they need to do before leaving the UK?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Nicole,

      Currently there are testing requirements to enter Spain I believe by air, but this hasn’t been extended to land border crossing in Portugal as far as I’m aware, but there may be testing requirements for driving across the French Border I’m not sure. In addition, the different autonomous regions of Spain all have different restrictions currently as far as I’m aware, so in terms of driving into Portugal from Spain, and then driving to wherever you want in Portugal all good – the advice you’ll need will be on Spanish regions (and France) which isn’t info I know myself.

      I did see someone on a Facebook group that was planning this, and they mentioned they were told by the Spain gov they wouldn’t be able to stop in Spain at all – but that was a few weeks ago and maybe things have changed. They also had Portuguese residency, so that gives more ease of travelling to Portugal as an end destination through Spain due to being essential travel.

      I have a friend who did the trip in reverse, from Portugal to the UK in their camper van, but again they were a UK resident returning home, so the situation was a bit different. When they drove to Portugal it was earlier in the summer when there were not as many restrictions.

      I’m sure you’ve seen these links below before, but just putting them here incase they are of help to someone else:

      The generic Spain travel updates are here: https://www.spain.info/en/discover-spain/practical-information-tourists-covid-19-travel-spain/
      About half way down that page, there is a map of all the regions which links out to their own regional rules and border controls – so I think it would be a matter of planning the route and then keeping an eye on each of those regions. Not sure if you are planning to ferry into Bilboa, but if it’s the tunnel then I guess French rules will also need to be considered.

      Also, no idea what will have changed by January. Everyone’s a bit worried that post Christmas we might see more movement controls and curfews in Portugal. So personally I’d assume any research you do now, it will likely have all changed by January.

      Of course, if you have Portuguese residency then you should be able to travel home to Portugal as that is an essential travel right.

      Hope you can work it all out :)
      Dan

      Reply
  5. Nicolas says:

    Hi Dan, interested to hear your thoughts re the latest local lockdown in the north and ban on moving between municipalities. For my part, I am from the UK and am in a Lisbon airbnb now, but we have an Airbnb booked on Saturday night in Setubal. Is going there against the rules and do you think we’d be instantly fined on going/attempting to go over the bridge? Thanks! Nicolas

    Reply
    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Nicolas,

      Hope you are well and enjoying Lisbon. From what I have gathered after some research, as it’s my birthday this weekend and I had planned to go away domestically too, is that I wouldn’t be able to as I am a resident, however non-resident foreigners/travellers can move between municipalities still if it is to go to pre-booked accommodation. Faro airport released a statement on Facebook saying that travelling from the airport to pre-booked accommodation is fine, just to have the proof of booking with you as there will be police checks at regional borders as there were on the bank holidays earlier this year with the restrictions. I also saw this discussed and clarified in one of the online newspapers.

      I’m assuming this is in the mind of people arriving for a weeks holiday and getting to the municipality where they will spend the whole weekend, if your booking is just for one-night and then you are going back to your place in Lisbon though (not sure of your situation, but maybe you are here for a while), that might not be deemed okay by the GNR at the check point as they will maybe want to know why you are going to be moving twice during this time. If it’s one night and then going to the airport, that shouldn’t be a problem. It’s a bit of a grey area in that context, but for the most part, the rules aren’t to limit tourists from going to their destinations, but to stop extended family gatherings for the days of mourning, so IMO it likely won’t be an issue regardless. Also, I doubt there would be a fine in this instance, but more a ‘turn around’ situation – the GNR in general have been great and really under standing of people and things throughout this I’ve found.

      I need to update this article properly as so much has changed of late.

      Reply
  6. Neil says:

    Hi Dan,

    Great article! Do you know if it’s possible for British nationals to enter Portugal for tourism purposes (from countries outside of the EU). I’d like to visit next week with my wife (a Canadian citizen) but we’ll be flying from the UAE. Our airline suggests we can enter for tourism with a negative PCR test, but everything else I’m reading doesn’t say a definite yes or no.

    Any ideas? Thanks for your help!!

    Reply
    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hey Neil,

      Sorry for the delay in coming back to you – I wonder if you did visit? I’ve been a bit busy the last few weeks. Honestly, it’s hard to answer as there seems to be different interpetations by airlines, airports, and almost a case by case basis.

      If you got in, or got an answer, I’d love to hear.

      Cheers,
      Dan

      Reply
  7. Riya says:

    I was so longing to visit Portugal this year but the Coronavirus outbreak put a break to my plans.. Thanks for sharing this info…. will rethink about my travel plans once again…

    Reply
    • sergio says:

      Hi. In case that you reschedule your trip to Portugal the Azores islands well deserve your visit. 2 hours from Lisbon to Sao Miguel (the largest island on a group of 9) with a lot to see and do. If so I would like to recommend you https://www.seazores.net for tours and activities there. Take care.

      Reply
    • Lye says:

      Hello, Dan. Very informative article, thank you. However, I’m still a bit confused about the municipality restrictions. Me and 2 other friends booked a trip in Portugal this coming week, 20-27, and were planning to explore a bit of both Porto and Lisbon. Are we allowed to travel by train or by bus from Porto to Lisbon on Dec 22 or 23 perhaps? Our flight is to Porto but we’re planning to spend Christmas in Lisbon and then back to Porto again by the 26th. I was just making sure that this cross-municipality is allowed during those times. Thank you in advance!

      Reply
      • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

        Hi Lye,
        Have a great trip, see you arriving today so hope you already have the information but yes, within these dates you should be fine – as long as you return by 23:00 on the 26th. On the 27th there will be the 1pm curfew in Porto, and of course today in Lisbon, but for the rest of the week not a problem as it falls on weekdays and with the Christmas exceptions.

        Please be advised that buses and trains have 2/3 capacity, and you MUST have a ticket and seat reservation to travel on these – which I would assume many would be sold out already due to family members wanting to see each other and the limited days of travel allowed. If the seats are taken you can’t board and stand up on the train like in other countries – http://www.cp.pt/ and https://www.rede-expressos.pt/en would be the place to book these tickets in advance.

        Have a nice Christmas in Portugal.

        Reply
  8. Ivan says:

    Hi Dan,
    I have a flight soon from EU country to Lisbon, and while preparing bumped into this wonderful and informative page.
    What bothers me are two things
    – If I flag the heat sensor at the airport or I look suspicious, can the authorities put me in isolation/quarantine without testing me?
    – What if an another passenger’s test is positive – Will I have to isolate?
    I hope you can share some information

    Reply
    • Daniel James (Dan Flying Solo) says:

      Hi Ivan,
      Sorry for the delay I’ve been away.

      The heat sensors would be a trigger for a test, they have testing facilities at all airports now – so if you flag it, you will be tested and asked to isolate until the results (usually 24hours) are with you. If negative, carry on, if positive, then yes obviously you will need to isolate.

      Should someone else test positive on your flight, the airline/health service will contact you and ask you to have a test at a local clinic. Testing is all free.

      Enjoy Portugal!

      Reply
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