COVID RESTRICTIONS IN PORTUGAL: WHAT YOU MAY DO AND NOT DO
Updated: May 4, 2021
May has arrived in Portugal and with it comes Mother's Day, the cherry season, the end of the football championship, the first days on the beach, and new restrictions imposed because of Covid-19. Three and a half months ago, Portugal was forced to close its doors to the world. The number of infected and dead per 100,000 inhabitants was among the highest on the planet. As spring approached, the Portuguese government presented a four-phase deconfinement plan. On 1 May, the fourth and final phase begins for most of the country. This week, Portugal was the third country in Europe with the fewest cases per hundred thousand inhabitants, and the time has come to open borders and do what we do best: receive people.
This phase feels almost like the normality of 2019. Do you still remember it? Except that the new normal is not quite that old normal. There are more rules, measures, and prohibitions than Portuguese codfish recipes and so Take Free Tours has prepared a simple guide on what you can and can't do in Lisbon, Porto, Braga and so many other wonderful cities of our country.
Before we start, an important note: We are not going to talk about the rules for traveling to Portugal, those change almost daily and depend a lot on the evolution of each country's contagion rate. As a general rule (but this changes every day, we stress), passengers on flights originating from South Africa, Brazil, and India can only make essential trips and must comply, after entering mainland Portugal, with a prophylactic isolation period of 14 days. All people arriving in Portugal by air must present a negative PCR diagnostic test within 72 hours before boarding.
So, what matters here is: you have landed on Portuguese soil, collected your luggage, and set foot outside the airport. And now what? Well, by now you should know that the mask is mandatory in Portugal in enclosed public spaces. So, get ready to wear a mask in public transportation, taxis, museums, shops, you get the idea. But what about outside? If you can guarantee a physical distance of meters to other people, you can remove your mask. Of course, this is an impossible task in the center of Lisbon or downtown Porto, so the best thing to do is to think that you and the mask are one, something like the Mandalorian (yes, in Portugal there are also many Star Wars fans). What about in restaurants? Wearing a mask until the food arrives at the table is the rule. This is not difficult because bread with butter and olives are a general habit, so you can quickly remove your mask.
Until yesterday, the weekend curfew started at 1 pm. From today, the curfew in Portugal will be between 11 p.m. and 5 a.m. the following day every day of the week. Yes, after 11 pm you will not be able to walk around the city. You may ask, but what about Portuguese nightlife, which lasts until sunrise? It will come back, like our King D. Sebastião, who disappeared in the battle of Alcácer-Quibir in 1578. Bars and discotheques have been closed for more than a year and there is no plan to reopen them yet. Another important rule that can result in heavy fines is the prohibition of drinking alcohol in the street. In a country with such hot nights, believe us, there are plenty of groups of young people chatting and sharing bottles. So, as you already know, on the streets the rule of Prohibition applies.
In May, activity in restaurants, cafés, and bakeries also returns to almost normal. Groups of up to 6 people are now admitted inside and on the terraces, up to 10 people can be around one table. The timetable has also been extended and you can stay in a restaurant until 10.30 pm. You may say, but that's quite late! Believe me, for a Portuguese person it is not quite like that. It is not by chance that the most traditional Fado houses do not usually sing before eleven o'clock at night. Anyway, in a country where we eat so much and so well, an extended timetable to be at the table is very welcome news.
What about day-to-day life? Can I visit museums or monuments? Yes, and do some shopping? Yes. Be aware that shopping centers close at 9 pm during the week, but at 7 pm at the weekend. The same goes for supermarkets, so if you are in a Local Lodging and want to have dinner at home, watch the time!
Here is an especially important tip. At the weekend, and because there are limited numbers of people in the shops, the queues can be quite long. So, we recommend you do your shopping early so as not to lose time. If you are visiting Lisbon or Oporto, every second counts because there is a lot to see and do. Like for example a Free Walking Tour of Take.
The theatres, concert halls, and cinemas are open since April 19th but with controlled capacity, and in this case, it is always a good idea to arrive early as tickets are sold by the drop of a hat to avoid social proximity. Although the 4th phase of deconfinement already allows the realization of big events outside, the football matches are still without public. Some festivals have already been postponed to 2022 (EDP Cool Jazz, Rock in Rio, NOS Primavera Sound) and we suspect the list will not stop there.
We leave the best for last. Our wonderful beaches. In this case, the rules for the beaches are the same as last year and pretty much nothing has changed. There must always be a physical distance of 1.5 meters between groups of people. Sports activities are not allowed (unless surfing or other water sports). And it is mandatory 3 meters between umbrellas or awnings.
The beach. shopping Food. Culture. We hope this brief list of recommendations will help you make the most of what cities like Lisbon, Porto, or Braga have to offer. Covid restrictions in Portugal are getting lighter and there is more and more freedom. We remind you: the capacity of the spaces is still limited so try to anticipate as much as possible your activities as here and there will be queues. As for our incredible guided tours, they are already running every day of the week. We are waiting to show you the best of Porto, Braga or Lisbon (the other cities will open soon).