Traveling anywhere now requires a lot of research and planning. For international travel, the rules and requirements seem to change almost daily. It is important to keep up to date with the latest rule changes before embarking on a journey.
Early in 2020, Portugal created Portugal Clean & Safe as a way to ensure that visitors coming to Portugal can easily identify places in the country that follow the established health guidelines. This includes hotels, museums, restaurants and shops.
When traveling to Portugal and many other countries, you will need to complete a passenger tracking card. This enables the Portuguese public health authorities to contact you in case you are exposed to COVID-19. The map contains your flight information, your address in Portugal and various ways to contact you.
We moved to Cascais, Portugal, several months ago and kept up with what was going on in our local area. We offer you the latest requirements and tips on how to travel to Lisbon and the surrounding coastal cities.
Note: The regulations for travel to the country and through Portugal change frequently and sometimes without much notice. For the latest updated information, go to VisitPortugal.com.
Lisbon Metropolitan Area
First, it is 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 area.
It is mandatory to wear a mask in public spaces and on the street if social distance is not possible. This requirement applies to everyone 10 years and older. In our daily assignments and outings, we see the majority of people on the street wearing masks and complying with restrictions.
Wear extra masks. On one of our explorations, an ear strap broke on Sue’s mask, rendering it unusable. Luckily, the place we visited gave her another mask. It was a standard surgical mask, not one of the heavy masks we usually wear, but it worked. Now we always wear extra masks and lots of hand sanitizer. It is also good to know that many of the Portuguese clean and safe places have simple, comfortable machine machines.
Current LMA rules and restrictions
Currently there is daily evening clock between 23:00 and 05:00 in the LMA. Restaurants and cafes with limited capacity close at 22:30 on weekdays and 15:30 on weekends. The maximum seating for indoor seating is four people per table and the outdoor seating is limited to six people per table. Shops close at 19:00 on weekdays and 15:30 on weekends. These rules do not apply to essential services such as health services, pharmacies, veterinarians and fuel supply.
Just this week, a new rule was introduced that visitors must show a negative COVID test, vaccination certificate or proof of recovery to stay in hotels and holiday accommodation. A negative COVID test or vaccination certificate is also required to eat indoors in restaurants in Lisbon and other areas on Friday evenings and weekends.
Although these rules sound intimidating, it is still possible to travel in Lisbon. The rules have been put in place to reduce the spread of the virus and enable citizens and visitors to visit and recreate safely.
Lisbon without the crowd
The LMA, especially the city of Lisbon, is usually very busy in the summer. That 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, home to the original natural paste, where the line usually revolves around the block.
Attractions in the area include the Tower of Belém and the Padrão dos Descobrimentos (Monument of the Discoveries) which honors Portuguese explorers.
Many Lisbon restaurants are open for business. Common custom is that they close in the afternoon and reopen for dinner later in the evening. But many cafes and snacks remain open all day. Portugal has a pretty cafe culture, so it’s easy to sit outside and enjoy a drink and a snack at a table outside in almost any area you visit.
Without the usual tourist walk, it is easy to see and do much more without waiting in lines. We enjoyed exploring as much of Lisbon’s hills as possible and hiking to see it all.
Transportation in the LMA runs smoothly. Trains, subways, trolleys, buses as well as UBER, Bolt and taxis are easy, convenient and inexpensive ways to get around.
Beautiful beach villages
The Linha de Cascais train line is ideal for visiting all the beautiful beach towns along the Atlantic Ocean and the Tagus River, from Lisbon to Cascais. This scenic 45-minute drive goes from the vibrant energy of Lisbon to the tranquility of Cascais.
The beaches are all open on the way and riders can stop along the coastline of Estoril at places like Paço de Arcos, Carcavelos, Estoril or Parede for a swim, walk along the sea or a meal with a view. Each city is unique and offers a special part of the gentle pace we loved in Portugal.
We encourage visitors to support small eateries nearby or bags and shops during their stay. It has been a difficult few years for the tourism industry. The local restaurants and gift shops will greatly appreciate your visit and reward you with authentic unforgettable experiences, excellent quality and good values.
Home Sweet Cascais
We now call the beautiful resort of Cascais our home. One of our favorite local tascas is A Nova Estrela. In fact, we held Sue’s birthday dinner there in June. It felt like we were with Maria, Paulo and their son Bernard. It always makes us feel special and serves delicious Portuguese specialties at reasonable prices.
Cascais has long been known as a haven for the upper crust of Portugal and Europe. Try the stunning Grande Real Villa Italia Hotel & Spa for an elegant experience, conveniently located on Avenue Rei Humberto Il de Itália, which runs along the Atlantic coastline. The panoramic waterfront views, beautifully appointed rooms, luxury spa and a relaxing pool area offer lush tranquility.
James Bond in Estoril
Fans of James Bond will want to make a turn in Estoril. Ian Fleming, the creator of 007, stayed at the Palácio Estoril Hotel during World War II. Here he watched the 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 secret service of her majesty, was filmed in Portugal. The film contains many images of the hotel inside and out. They also filmed locations in Guincho Beach, Lisbon and the Arrábida Mountains.
The famous hotel is also just a short distance from the Casino do Estoril (temporarily closed) and the beautiful beach at Praia do Tamariz.
Sintra, about 30 minutes from Lisbon, is a UNESCO World Heritage Site that feels like something out of a fairy tale. Its parks and architectural attractions include the Pena National Palace, the Castle of the Moors, the National Palace, the Monserrate Palace and Quinta da Regaleira. It can be demanding to explore this area with ravines and hills. But it’s worth taking the time to discover its magic.
One of our favorite discoveries about Portuguese cuisine is that even the smallest town or town is likely to have its own unique pastries or culinary creations. Sintra’s most famous include the Travesseiros, cushioning puff pastry filled with almond cream, and Queijadas de Sintra, small tarts with a cinnamon sugar leaf and thin, crispy crust. Both are worth a look, and three popular places to try out are Casa Piriquita (two places), Casa do Preto and Fábrica das Verdadeiras Quiejadas da Sapa.
Most shops and restaurants in Sintra are open. There are many parks, museums and even a sculpture garden to enjoy. Crafts, jewelry and gifts of all kinds fill the stores. We spent way too long with the distinctive nature-inspired tableware, Portugal’s own Raphael Bordallo Pinheiro who became world famous.
Sintra is usually crowded with people all year round. On our recent visit, we found it to be quite manageable and significantly less crowded. Check back for more information on 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 differ significantly from the beaches or Lisbon. You will find it windier and often colder, and the temperature may even fluctuate from time to time as you wander around.
If your travel plans and rules allow the trip, it is possible to have a wonderful visit to Portugal at the moment. Travelers can enjoy all that the Lisbon Metropolitan area has to offer. A visit to Portugal always offers wonderful sights, beautiful beaches, delicious eateries and locals who are very happy to welcome visitors.
Although there are currently some extra considerations for a trip, travelers will be rewarded with a little planning and preparation with a wonderful experience that offers time to relax and not have to fight the usual crowds around this spectacular place we now call home, not to explore.
Traveling to Portugal or anywhere else requires a lot of planning, but it’s worth it. For more inspiration: