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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. Right now tourism to the mainland is still restricted, although our lockdown has come to an end and things are nearly all open again.

For the islands (Madeira/Azores) the situation and covid travel rules are a bit more open to tourism, depending which island you are planning to visit and again, where you are from.

Here you can find updates on who can enter, when tourism might resume, current rules in the mainland that people need to follow, what is open and closed, different testing/vaccine rules for the islands, and below that all of the updates of the restrictions put in place last year which will likely be the same for tourism this summer regarding the Portugal travel restrictions situation.

It’s quite a long article as it’s been added to and updated so many times, but hopefully you can quickly scroll to the bit that is of interest to you keeping in mind the most recent info is at the top, and the lower you get, the more likely it is to be out of date.

Last Update: May 9th 2021

*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.

Lisbon
LIsbon

UPDATE: UK ‘GREEN LIST’

As announced on Friday 7th May, Portugal (including Azores & Madeira) has been placed on the green list for England, which applies to travellers from the 17th May when the current ban on holidays ends. The official list and rules have now been published on the UK Gov website.

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 to enter mainland Portuga; 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.

HOWEVER, currently mainland Portugal is closed for non-essential and tourism travel. The decree law regarding this is set to expire on the 16th May, and if it isn’t renewed, would allow travel (with a negative PCR test) from the 17th May. It’s important to note that in Portugal this law is renewed every 2 weeks, so there is a chance it will be extended again as it has been every 2 weeks since January, but I think given how keen the country is to re-open for tourism from the UK, and this excellent green list announcement, there is a high chance they will soon confirm an exact date that British tourists can visit again.

The tourism minister announced they will share their reopening dates and plan Thursday 13th (reported here – in Portuguese) but perhaps it will be made earlier. It was also announced at the Portugal EU summit this weekend that the EU ‘Green Certificate’ for travel will be launched in June (reported here – video is in English).

Regarding vaccinated travellers, there hasn’t been an announcement either on this from mainland Portugal – so while the UK Gov announced about creating a Covid Passport on the NHS app – there is a chance even vaccinated people will require a negative PCR test still – again, let’s see what the announcement says.

Madeira and the Azores have different rules from mainland Portugal, and they are already open for tourism, you can find more details on that below…. as well as various others rules and the current situation here in Portugal.

Some further reading from Portugal:

Carvoerio Beach Portugal

Who can enter mainland Portugal right now for tourism

I’ll start with this, as I guess it’s what most people are looking for – and the official answer is Portugal is only open for essential travel – but with the fact some people have recently got into Portugal for tourism, I’m going to try and clarify that below.

The official text, as you can see on Visit Portugal is this – “Essential travel” is defined as trips allowing the transit, entry into and departure from Portugal for professional purposes, study, family reunions, health and humanitarian reasons and under the reciprocity principle.

While the 1st May allowed most things in the country to re-open, the decree on flight restrictions and essential travel only has been extended to May 16th 2021 (reported here, in English, by Reuters) and we will wait to find out what happens next, and if the tourism ban is lifted, on the next announcement, May 13th.

That said, 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, so this seems possible. However if you are coming via road from a quarantine 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.

The confusing part is that ‘essential travel’ is being interpreted as a loose term depending on who you ask (even in some PT embassies), and in some cases, it seems the airlines are allowing people to travel with just the negative PCR if they are an EU citizen/resident from a low risk EU country – I know people who have flown in for tourism from the likes of Belgium and Germany in recent days, with their negative PCR, and been allowed to get on the flight. I also spoke to a couple from Germany who were turned away at the boarding gate yesterday – so it seems there might be a chance to get in from some EU countries, but all I can do here is advise you to follow the official rules so you aren’t caught out, or try and clarify with the Portugal Embassy in your home country.

Ireland, Finland, Iceland and Malta have no restrictions on flights (other than a negative PCR) and if you are from an EU+EEA country with an incidence rate of under 500/100,000 there seems to be a bit of a grey area still to enter for tourism. Some countries in the EU, where 14-days isolation on arrival are required, are likely to be having the rules enforced more at the check-in and on arrival.

Beyond the EU, there are a few select countries with basically zero covid like Australia, South Korea, Singapore that are also on the essential travel list. Portuguese residents/citizens can always return. USA and UK travellers still don’t have an exemption to visit yet either.

If you are able to enter for essential reasons, please be aware that you will still need to quarantine for 14-days if you are coming from a country with an incidence rate of more than 500/100,000 – this includes EU countries, such as The Netherlands as one example.

PCR Tests for all arrivals

To mainland Portugal, all arrivals need to present a negative PCR test for COVID-19. This must be done before you travel, while for exceptional reasons citizens might be able to get a test at the airport here on arrival, the majority of airlines simply will deny you boarding to fly to mainland Portugal without the test. Madeira has different rules with some testing on arrival options.

For all infants under 24 months of age, no PCR test is required.

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

Who can enter Madeira and Azores for tourism

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

Unlike the mainland, tourism is still open for visitors from certain countries to the islands. For example, coming from the EU you can enter the Azores with a negative PCR test as a tourist, and in theory you can transit through Lisbon or Porto for these trips. There has been discussion about Madeira opening up to all vaccinated travellers (on direct flights, not transit), including people from the USA, but as far as I am aware this hasn’t been officially given the green light yet. It does seem that tourism from the UK to Madeira and the Azores is going to be open on the 17th, I’ve emailed my contacts are the tourism board to clarify as press releases from Madeira say that Vaccinated UK travellers won’t need a covid test to arrive, while their website says that UK travellers specifically must have a negative Covid test – so have asked them to clarify and update this.

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.

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.

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 Brazil, South Africa or any country with an incidence rate of 500/100,000 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

Mertola Alentejo Portugal

Mainland Tourism from… 17th May? – with vaccine or negative PCR test

The current flight restriction decree is in place until the 16th May, which fits with the rumoured discussion of tourism re-opening from May 17th on the mainland. This date has been mentioned by a few ministers, but never officially confirmed.

The tourism minister announced on the 7th May they will share their reopening dates and plan next Thursday 13th (reported here – in Portuguese).

It was mentioned that either proof of vaccine, or a negative PCR test will be required to visit mainland Portugal. We are yet to know who this will apply to, for example will it apply to travellers from the USA finally, or just the EU confirmed travel list – hopefully soon we will know.

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.

So, it could be May 17th, I have a personal feeling booking for June would be a safer bet for anyone outside of the EU, but either way – there should be some kind of answer on May 13th, as soon as this is announced I will update it here.

Most of our restrictions have been lifted in day to day life here, however we have seen this week that some regions have gone back into a lockdown, so it shows quickly these dates can change. Beach season will reopen in May, with the same app and traffic light system as last year (see below).

Current situation in Mainland Portugal – main points

  • The strict lockdown ended on 5th April, and we have now completed the re-opening stage for most of the country
  • We now have four sets of rules depending on locations, this wasn’t expected but there have now been regional changes. The rules below are for the whole country, and then I’ve listed the places which have a different situation. Please note, that these will be reviewed weekly by municipality, and if the cases go over a certain number, that place may go backwards into another stage of ‘re-opening’ or lockdown, or might come out of it.
  • Open for ‘essential travel’ only – as discussed above – road borders re-opened
  • Social distancing rules in businesses and general
  • 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.
  • Haircuts, manicures possible with prior booking
  • All sports and gyms are opening again
  • Movement around the country is no longer restricted
  • 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.
  • Masks must be worn inside but also outside on any street where you can’t stay 2 metres away from people. In Lisbon, basically everyone wears them all the time, if you are out in nature, the beach, or doing exercise, they can come off. Likewise, when sat at a table eating and drinking obviously they aren’t worn. I know the outside mask thing is a problem for some people, so if that’s you, perhaps a summer city-break to Portugal isn’t your best bet, and picking a less busy beach destination is a safer bet.
  • Back to ‘lockdown’ – as in nearly everything is shut: parts of Odemira
  • Staying in first or second stage of reopening (so limited hours, outside only) – Carregal do Sal, Resende, Paredes, Cabeceiras de Basto
  • You can read more about this on the official website in Portuguese.

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

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 on the beach, 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.

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.

What tourism rules can we expect from May (maybe June)?

Firstly, it’s important to understand we don’t know yet which countries these rules will apply for. For example, when they say ‘Vaccinated travellers’ we don’t know if they mean those from countries already allowed to travel here, like the EU, or if it will be opened up to travellers from say the USA who have Vaccines – I will update this when we know more.

Madeira have already come out and announced that they will be opening their ‘GreenLane’ travel arranegements for those who have have full doses of the Vaccination, thus meaning they aren’t required to provide a test. For others, you can either ‘GreenLane’ on arrival with a PCR test result, or take a test on arrival and quarantine until results.

In the old updates below you can get an idea of what the situation was like last year in different kinds of businesses.

Where to get a test in Portugal if you need one to travel home

Right now airport testing isn’t set-up for out going flights and the National Health tests in Portugal should not and can not be used for this purpose. These testing facilities at airports and drive throughs need a referral – as such you’ll need to book your test with a private company, and these in Portugal in general cost around €60-€100 if you are having a PCR test. Every test I’ve had in Portugal has come back within 24-hours, however to be safe I’d advise booking it as close to the 72-hour time limit as you can.

In terms of which labs you can get tested at, the company I used when I travelled to The Azores have various labs across the country, even some small towns. Joaquim Chaves is the name of the company, and for most locations you can book a time online, or by email – you can find a list of labs and book directly on the link here. You’ll see that it is very busy, as they also serve the National Health Service, however you will not have the referral as a visitor so will be charged.

Other companies like LUMILABO and AVE offer paid testing – this list of mainland approved testing centres as supplied by the Madeira Government is handy (ignore the fact its free for enterign Madeira, and just use it as a tool/list of labs) as you can see a list of labs with contact details so you can contact them directly to book/pay for your test if required to travel back to your home country.

Please note if you don’t have the test certificate before travel, the airline is likely to refuse you transport as they will be fined. For the best advice on this please contact your airline.

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.

Portugal and the Islands COVID-19 Rules

There are essential four sets of rules right now. The Madeira/Porto Santo Rules, The Azores Rules, and then Mainland Portugal High Risk Rules, and Mainland Portugal General rules. I’ll detail these below:

*Please note, as of late November 2020 there are four tiers to these rules, slightly varying on the below – check with website for the most recent restrictions by area: https://covid19estamoson.gov.pt/

Mainland Portugal General Rules

This applies to about 20% of the country right now, the areas not deemed high risk. From a tourism point of view, however, this doesn’t leave many of the more popular spots for winter holidays. A few regions in the Algarve are included, and you can check on this website which category each area falls into.

  • Possibility of temperature checks, or covid testing, in certain situations.
  • Masks are now mandatory to be worn on the street outside in Portugal, with the exception of those with medical certificates (self-certification is not accepted in Portugal) and those under ten years old. The law comes with fines of between €100-€500. The rule applies when the 2-metre rule can’t be observed, so for example busy shopping streets, or any street where you will pass people they need to be worn – but if you are on small side streets or in nature, basically where there aren’t people around, then they don’t need to be worn.
    Visors in Portugal are not accepted as mask substitutes.
  • Social distancing rules in place in all aspects of life of 2 metres
  • Fines are in place for those flouting the rules
  • Gathering numbers are limited (10 persons max)
  • No alcohol to be consumed on public roads, bars with alcohol rules between 8pm – 11pm depending on local council rules.
  • Restaurants to close by 11pm

Mainland Portugal High Risk Rules

This applies to about 80% of the country right now, the areas deemed higher risk. From a tourism point of view, this includes a lot of the places tourists would be visiting – Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, Lagos, Faro, Albufeira, Portimão (Praid da Rocha) – as you can see, most the popular tourist destinations are included. A few regions in the Algarve aren’t included, and you can check on this website which category each area falls into.

These restrictions will be reviewed every two weeks, both the restrictions themselves, and the regions they apply to.

That said, the restrictions just now only have the biggest effect on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, with the rest of the week offering ‘normalish’ situations. So, in theory, you could do more stuff in the week and then just stay in enjoying the hotel facilities on the weekend.

  • All of the restrictions as above for mainland Portugal, either stricter or plus:
  • Curfew between 11pm – 5am Monday – Friday (there are exceptions, but most won’t apply to tourists – you must be inside unless seeking medical support for example)
  • Curfew between 1pm – 5am on Saturday and Sundays there are exceptions, but most won’t apply to tourists – you must be inside unless going to buy groceries, walking for exercise, leaving the country, or seeking medial health – restaurants can still do takeaway deliveries)
  • Civic duty to stay at home (this is a bit confusing for tourists, as it’s not so much an order to stay home, but saying staying home is the right thing to do unless you are out for a specific reason)
  • Circulation is allowed to get goods and services, exercise and walks outside, visit to cultural facilities, events and attractions
  • Shops closed by 10pm, restaurants closed by 10:30pm and max tables of 6 people
  • Max group sizes of five persons except same households

Madeira and Porto Santo Rules

There are a few general rules that apply in most ways of life in Portugal right now, listed below. For particular activities and places, see the relevant sections below. This covers the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo. Testing requirements are detailed in the previous section.

  • Masks are now mandatory to be worn on the street outside in Portugal, with the exception of those with medical certificates (self-certification is not accepted in Portugal) and those under ten years old. The law comes with fines of between €100-€500. The rule applies when the 2-metre rule can’t be observed, so for example busy shopping streets, or any street where you will pass people they need to be worn – but if you are on small side streets or in nature, basically where there aren’t people around, then they don’t need to be worn.
    Visors in Portugal are not accepted as mask substitutes.
  • Social distancing rules in place in all aspects of life of 2 metres
  • Hand sanitising
  • Some limits on events and nightlife, for example it was recently announced nightclubs must now close, with restaurants closed at 11pm and bars by midnight.

The Azores Rules

This covers the nine islands of the Azores. Some of these islands have higher risks, and more stringent rules, but for the most part they are the same minimum throughout. Testing requirements are detailed in the previous section.

  • Masks are now mandatory to be worn on the street outside in Portugal, with the exception of those with medical certificates (self-certification is not accepted in Portugal) and those under ten years old. The law comes with fines of between €100-€500. The rule applies when the 2-metre rule can’t be observed, so for example busy shopping streets, or any street where you will pass people they need to be worn – but if you are on small side streets or in nature, basically where there aren’t people around, then they don’t need to be worn.
    Visors in Portugal are not accepted as mask substitutes.
  • Social distancing rules in place in all aspects of life of 2 metres
  • Hand sanitising
  • Some further limits on bars and nightlife on some of the more at risk islands

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/

Check out more of Dan at danflyingsolo.com

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