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Saturday, July 23, 2011

Portugal: It's Like the California of Europe 7.23.11

When Europeans want to go on an affordable vacation, Portugal can often be on the list. Amazingly, Americans can also put it on the list of budget travel spots, as well as a beautiful travel destination. Portugal is full of amazing cities and has anything you could possibly want in a vacation choice. From bustling cities to alluring beaches, you'll find it all. Coupled with affordability, this makes Portugal our next stop in our Frugal Destinations Series. Add another country to your list of awesome places to go!




The economy in Portugal isn't all that stable and tourism is a major factor in getting the budget under control and helping to get the country back on its economic tracks. The country is also highly reliant on the service industry, so traveling there will help them reduce their debt and also help you by allowing you to take a frugal vacation. Us budget travelers who don't really want to go camping can visit Portugal for around $55-70 per person per day, including dining out at some nice restaurants and staying in a decent hotel. The busy travel season runs from mid-July to mid-September. Skip those times and end up skipping most of the crowds, higher hotel rates and the sweltering heat.


Aside from vacationing on the cheap, why pick Portugal? Well, if the above picture doesn't suck you in, here are some other great reasons to buy a plane ticket and pack your bags:


It's easy to walk within cities - You'll save on transportation costs (be it bus or rental car) by just walking around the city to get to attractions, plus you can walk off all your delicious meals.


Unique surfing opportunities - It's true! You probably wouldn't think of surfing in Portugal, even though it's right on the ocean, but it has held the World Surfing Championships at Praia de Guincho in Cascais. The undertow can be strong, so it is recommended only for experienced surfers.


Seafood heaven - Because of their location on the water, seafood is quite abundant in Portugal, which is awesome if you love fish and other seafood. 




Visit the second largest aquarium in the world - The aquarium is always a fun thing for me and, if you have children, it's probably high on their list, too. The Oceanario de Lisboa features four large aquariums that represent the different ecosystems of he Pacific, Indian, Atlantic and Antarctic oceans, and one large one representing the oceans as a whole. For the price of admission (right around $15 for an adult) it's one of the most affordable aquariums you can visit, and with over 500 species on exhibit, you can even take a guided tour and learn even more. Plus, if you purchase your tickets online before you go, you'll save 10%.


Step back in time - See the amazing prehistoric rock-art sites in the Coa Valley. Paleolithic carvings adorn the rocks in Penascosa, Ribeira de Piscos and Canada do Inferno. Dating from 22,000 to 10,000 BC, the engravings can really tell you a lot about the past and also help us link to the present and future.
Visit Lisbon on an even smaller budget - Get yourself a Lisboa Card and get free or discounted entrance to museums, sights and tours. You can purchase a 1-,2- or 3-day card to gain entrance to over 80 attractions and it also includes transportation on all Metro, buses and trams. Visit awesome sites like the Christ the King Statue and the National Pantheon and then get discounts on participating shopping venues and get a free tour guide to help you plan your trip around the city.


Enjoy horseback riding and wine - Madeira is a fantastic destination within Portugal for a relaxing vacation. Enjoy the mountains, horseback riding, Madeira wine, hiking, diving, visit the lava pools and more. 

Remember that Portugal uses the Euro, so you'll be doing quite a bit of exchange rate conversions. You might want to utilize the calculator on your mobile phone to keep your budget from getting out of control. Luckily, with so many affordable options for a Portugal vacation, you can really do a lot more than on some other comparable trips to other countries.  It kinda is like the California of Europe, because it has a little bit of everything, just like different cities in California can give you totally different experiences and they're both easy to travel in! 

I apologize for the shortness of this post. It has been a busy week. Portugal really is very cool and a place I recommend visiting. I certainly have it on my travel list. I'm still working on my book and getting it closer to completion. We're working on a cover, edits and some additions that give examples of vacations booked with and without budget tips. If there's anything you REALLY want to see more of both on the site and in the book, please let me know, so I can make both the best they can be.






If you haven't brushed up enough on your Portuguese, or you don't feel completely confident in your language skills, the Point It Guide is pretty useful. When your words fail you, find the picture of what you want to convey to point to the person you're talking to and bridge the language gap. Not super sophisticated, but great in a pinch!




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