Scams in Portugal – discover what to avoid before visiting the country

Your holidays are the period of time when you are most susceptible to scams, since you are more vulnerable than during your daily routine. Knowing some of the most common scams in Portugal is as important as other travel tips like getting an affordable plane ticket or the best accommodation.

During your holidays, it is very common to find yourself in a new location and, if that’s the case, you’ll need to think ahead: how to move around, where to find points of interest, try to speak a little of the local language, etc. With all this, it’s understandable one forgets the basic rules of security.

Even though this country is one of the safest countries in the world, there are some scams in Portugal you should pay attention to like in many other places. Next, learn some of the most common scams in Portugal and be prepared.

1. Taxis

The most common scam in this type of transportation is the one where some taxi drivers propose a fixed fare instead of using the taximeter to set the fare at the end of your trip – they’ll tell you that it’s cheaper but know that they’re obliged to turn on the taximeter; if they refuse, switch taxi.

A trip from the airports of Lisbon or Porto to the respective historic centre will cost an average of 15 € and no more than 20 €; in addition, you must pay 1.50 € per suitcase or bag you carry.

Before you arrive, go to Google Maps and check the distance and the average time between the airport and your hotel. When getting into the taxi, ask the driver how long will it take to get to your hotel so that you know if he’s going to take another (slower) itinerary.

2. Renting a car

The scams from rent-a-car companies may cost you a lot – to avoid these scams in Portugal (and everywhere for that matter) you should read all the conditions when renting a car. Pay special attention to cheaper prices – they often hide other expenses like renting a car with an empty fuel tank.

The companies have cheaper prices when you rent a car but when you’re picking up the car, they will charge you a full fuel tank at outrageous prices and then you’ll have to drop off the car with an empty fuel tank – they won’t pay any fuel left in the tank at the end of your rental.

If you’re considering to get an insurance (at an insurance company) before renting a car, don’t get the full insurance since you’ll have to leave a deposit of 1000 € (on average) at the rent-a-car company and, in case of an accident, this deposit will be withdrawn from your bank account.

If that happens, you’ll have to take the necessary steps to get your deposit back. The best thing to do is to get the full insurance from the rent-a-car company by visiting their website or going to their local branch.

With the electronic tolls, the rent-a-car companies have another way to scam their customers by overcharging their passages through the highways with electronic tolls.

To avoid any unpleasant surprises, you should rent an electronic device when renting a car which will allow you to pay the tolls when dropping off the car. On average, the device costs 1.80 €/day and no more than 18 €.

3. Restaurants

In most of the cases, when you go to a restaurant in Portugal, the waiter will automatically serve you with appetisers (bread, butter, cheese). Know that you must pay for these appetisers – around 2/3 € for the bread and 1/2 € for each butter.

Pay attention to some restaurants that won’t hesitate to overcharge you for the appetisers or charge you for the appetisers you haven’t eaten. If you don’t want any appetisers, tell the waiter when he’s about to serve you; in addition, you can ask for the prices if they’re not in the menu.

When you visit the most touristy places, try to avoid restaurants that have waiters at the door inviting you in – it generally means an average restaurant with higher prices.

4. Visa/Mastercard credit cards

To avoid having to pay high commissions, several small businesses don’t accept foreign visa/mastercard credit cards. If you don’t want to lose time with this issue, always take with you some expense money – 50 € should suffice but, if you need more, make a withdrawal before going shopping.

Usually, the cashier asks the customer if he/she wants an invoice, but, if he doesn’t, you can ask him for one since they are obliged to give an invoice for every purchase made at their establishment.

5. Pickpockets

Like in many other countries, the Portuguese touristy places are the “playground” for pickpockets, especially in Lisbon and Porto, in public transportation like trams and buses. To avoid these problems, don’t take too much money with you, don’t put your wallet in your trouser’s back pocket and never leave your bags unsupervised.

Before you leave on holidays, take a photocopy of your documents and send them to your email – this will help you prove your identity abroad in case you are robbed.

With these tips and suggestions, I think you have all you need to spend some great holidays in Portugal. If you know any other scams in Portugal, let me know so that I can add them to this article.

Are you going to visit Portugal? Then don’t hesitate to book your hotel room and your car by clicking the links below. This way you are helping me in the development of my blog and I’ll be able to offer you free tips and travel guides so that you can better prepare your visit to Portugal. Thank you!

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About Tiago

Tiago, 30 years old, Parisian since 12, I decided to go on an adventure and make my dream come true: get to know our country from one end to the other. I believe that if we don’t know our origins we don’t truly know ourselves. Read more here