Seeing the sites of Lisbon or sampling vino in Porto? Learn steps to find the right travel insurance.
Portugal holds a unique place in the world on the picturesque fringes of the European coast, with its once-powerful seafaring past, there are rich cultural and historical sites to be explored throughout the country. Luxurious world-class wineries coexist with breathtaking vistas and warm, expansive beaches, while the cities combine ancient architecture with the wonders of modern engineering.
Portugal definitely has something for everyone, but you’ll need to choose your travel insurance policy depending on what your plans are. This guide will take you through finding a policy to suit and outlines some of the things to get covered for while in Portugal.
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What's in this guide?
- Ocean hazards. While beautiful, some of Portugal’s beaches can be hazardous. Take water safety seriously and never swim on beaches when the flags are red. If the flags are yellow you can paddle at the water’s edge but shouldn’t go too deep. Only the green flag means it’s safe to swim.
- Theft and assault. Watch out for petty crime such as bag snatching and pickpocketing, especially in crowded areas or tourist hotspots. Keep a close eye on your belongings at all times and don’t accept drinks from strangers.
- Ocean Hazards. There have been reports of taxi drivers at Lisbon airport overcharging and threatening customers, but they remain a fairly safe and effective way to get around cities nonetheless. You may be more likely to encounter scams on the road in a hire car, and there have been incidences of thieves targeting tourists by looking for rental cars and foreign licence plates, then convincing them to pull over on the pretext of a breakdown. Exercise caution and keep your car doors locked and valuables out of sight.
- Civil unrest. Strikes and protests occur in Portugal, mainly in Lisbon and Porto. Public transport is often affected and you should monitor local media for potential news of upcoming events so you can plan accordingly.
- Road hazards. Portugal has a relatively high rate of car accidents and road fatalities. Tourists may find local drivers to be unpredictable, and should also be aware of numerous blind turns, livestock on the roads, poorly maintained and poorly lit areas and their own unfamiliarity with the often winding roads in Portugal.
The table below for an idea of what sort of price range you can expect to pay for a month-long trip in Portugal.
Make sure you have the right cover for your activities in Portugal.
- Lisbon museum circuit. The closely packed museums in Lisbon mean that it’s easy for visitors to take in aquariums, natural history museums, art galleries, historical sites and history museums in one day. Having this many attractions in one place means it’s a favoured spot for thieves, so consider extra cover for valuables.
- Winery tours. There are a number to choose from, but they all have something unique for enthusiasts and connoisseurs. If you’re doing a tour of a winery, remember that your travel insurance policy may not cover losses incurred while under the influence, and you should make the right transport arrangements ahead of time.
- Visiting the Azores. The Azores,a set of islands more than 1,000 kilometres off the coast of Portugal, hold both natural beauty and cultural significance. It’s best to visit them as part of your mainland trip, but limited flights necessitate planning all the steps in advance. Consider trip cancellation and missed flight cover to help maintain your plans.
If you have an accident in Portugal, your travel health cover will pay for the bulk of it. This is because having travel insurance with health cover is mandatory when visiting Portugal.
Portugal is one of many European Schengen countries. Schengen countries are a group of European nations that share visas and border control with each other to make travel between them easier. One of the conditions of getting a visa for any Schengen country is that you have adequate travel insurance health cover, including medical repatriation.
It is your responsibility to select a travel insurance policy that provides adequate cover for Schengen areas, so it is worth reading up on the requirements of the Schengen policies.
Portugal’s healthcare system is on par with Australia’s in the major cities, but can be lacking in rural or more isolated places.
As such you should carry your travel insurance details with you at all times while travelling in Portugal. In the event of an accident you’ll need to provide these details to the doctors or hospital staff and they can contact the insurer to arrange payment.
In the event of an emergency you have three key points of contact.
- The Australian embassy in Lisbon. Call +351 21 310 1500 or visit their website for more information. They can help you with passport, travel documentation and certain legal issues you may encounter while in Portugal. If you need help but don’t know where to turn, they can either assist or point you in the right direction.
- Your insurer. All travel insurance brands should have a 24-hour, 7-day helpline which you can contact any time in the event of a claim.
- Family and friends. Let them know where and when you’re travelling and remember to keep them in the loop. If something happens, it’s good to be able to contact them.
- Portugal uses the euro.
- Portugal is relatively cheap compared to a lot of other European destinations. Tours and activities in particular may be exceptional value for money.
- Banks keep short hours, from 8:30am to 3pm on Mondays to Fridays.
- Traveller’s cheques are not very widely accepted and may be difficult to cash.
- ATMs are abundant, but the risk of card skimmers means it’s best to only use ones in secured areas, such as attached to a bank branch.
- The tap water is safe to drink, except in some more isolated spots.
- Don’t assume drivers will stop for you at pedestrian crossings until they’ve come to a complete halt.
- Uneven paving and old cobbles in many places means high heels are inadvisable, and it can be unusually difficult to get around in a wheelchair.
- Summer is the peak tourist season when prices are highest and crowds are large. You can find a better deal and still enjoy brilliant weather in the surrounding months.
Exclusions are when an insurance policy won’t pay out. Some of the ones you’ll need to watch out for include:
- No cover when under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Remember this when you’re planning that winery tour.
- No cover for losses resulting from reckless or dangerous behaviour. This can include disobeying warning signs or ignoring the red flags on beaches. If your own recklessness has led you to injury, the insurer can refuse to pay out.
- No cover for unspecified activities. Default travel insurance policies typically won’t include cover for adventure activities or certain sports. If you plan on doing these, make sure they are included in your policy.