Portugal is recognized as one of the safest countries in the world and rated the world’s 6th most peaceful country according to the Global Peace Index in 2022. Violence against tourists is nearly non-existent, and you can mostly feel safe even in the big cities.
That said, it's best to take the usual safety precautions, and bar fights occur just as anywhere where alcohol is served. There are also common tourist scams and pickpocketing in large cities like Porto and Lisbon and highly touristy areas like the Algarve in the south.
Petty theft is most common in large cities and touristy areas like Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve. The best thing you can do to avoid this is to hold on to your bag, make sure you do not leave it open or unattended, and not put your phone or wallet in your back pocket or any other visible pockets with easy access.
If you travel by car or campervan, make sure there are no visible items in the car when you park. A good app for finding secure parking is Park4Night, where you can see free and paid parking with reviews. You can often see from the reviews if it is safe or if cars and campers have been broken into.
As mentioned before, scams are only common in big crowds and touristy places. Travel off the beaten path, and you will be safe and sheltered from the following scams. Here are some scams you should watch out for:
Some taxi drivers do not use taximeters. At the end of the journey, they will ask you for an unreasonably high price. To avoid this, always ask them to start the taximeter when starting the ride, and if they refuse, agree on a reasonable price upfront or look for another taxi.
Some restaurants do not set prices on the menus and will ask for ridiculously high prices after the meal. Always ask for the price upfront.
In Lisbon and Porto especially, you might come across men asking if you want hashish, marijuana, or cocaine. Chances are you will pay for anything other than the drugs you hope to get. The safest is to avoid drugs when travelling.
Sometimes, restaurants add an extra item to your bill, especially if you have a large bill with different foods and drinks. Make sure you read your bill before paying and ask them to remove any incorrect items. While the amount is usually just a few Euros, they can accumulate a large amount by scamming hundreds of people weekly.
Like the extra item on the bill, you might experience that the waiter “forgets” to give back the change. Both these scams are easily disguised as honest mistakes and are thus impossible to know for sure if they are scams or mistakes.
Forest fires: The most prominent natural disasters that Portugal has seen in the last decade are forest fires, but it is not a common occurrence. Nonetheless, it is a hot and dry country in the summer, so anything that could provoke a forest fire should be avoided, like throwing cigarette butts out of the car window or leaving bottles on the trails (though these things should never be done anyway!)
Floods: The second possible natural disaster you can come across in Portugal is flooding. After torrential rains, the country has seen some extreme floods. The last ones were in Madeira in 2010 resulting in mudslides killing 42 people.
Earthquakes: Historically, Portugal has been a victim of several earthquakes, the most devastating in 1755 destroying Lisbon completely. Luckily, there have only been small shakes without any damage after that, but you never know what can happen with the latest earthquake in Morocco in September 2023 being fairly close.
As mentioned before, there is some dangerous wildlife in Portugal, but there is not big chance of meeting them.
Iberian wolf: can be seen in rural areas and have sometimes attacked livestock, dogs, and humans. But as a tourist, there is little chance of coming across them.
European adder snake: a venomous snake that is found across Europe. Can be seen when hiking, and your best option is to stay away from it so it does not feel threatened as that is when it can bite.
Red fox: in a few rare cases, the Red Fox in rural areas have carried rabies so if you see any on your hikes, do not try to interact with them.
There are no dangerous creatures in the waters bordering Portugal, but you should be aware of the potential fury of the Atlantic Ocean. Underwater currents and sudden strong waves can be deadly, so you should stay on beaches with lifeguards and flags.
Whenever you see a raised red flag, stay out of the water. If you are not a strong swimmer, make sure you always stay close to land whenever you go for a swim.
Whenever you go hiking in the mountains in Portugal, whether it is the mainland or the islands, make sure you wear good hiking shoes or boots and always tell someone where you are going.
Keep track of your route so that you can return the same way if you get lost (a great app for that is Wikiloc) and always bring a first aid kit. When hiking on top of the coastal cliffs, stick to the path and stay away from the edges.
The limestone rock can easily give way on the edges and if you fall, it will be the last thing you will do.
Portugal gets very hot in the summer, especially inland, so make sure you drink enough water and wear a hat on hot sunny days to protect yourself.
Portugal has decriminalized drugs, including cocaine and heroin. But that does not mean you will not be penalized for taking drugs in public. It is still illegal to use and possess drugs for personal use. Besides, trafficking drugs is still illegal and will be prosecuted.
Tap water is generally safe to drink in Portugal, and there are many water fountains where you can fill up your water bottle in cities and towns.
Portugal was nominated the world’s best LGBTIQ+ travel destination in 2019, so it is no secret the country is safe to visit for LGBTIQ+ travellers.
Purchasing travel insurance for accidents and theft is recommended before visiting Portugal. If you plan to go on a surfing vacation, ensure your insurance covers any surfing accidents.
Planning a trip to Portugal? Read our other travel guides.
Last Updated 14 October 2023