Everything you need to know about visiting Portugal this summer

Helen Coffey
Take a ride on Lisbon's iconic tram, without leaving home: istock

As tentative signs start to emerge of a revival for the travel industry, our minds are turning to potential holiday destinations for this summer.

With excellent surfing, outstanding city break destinations and the world’s favourite custard tarts (pasteis de nata), Portugal has long been a favourite holiday destination for Brits.

But can British holidaymakers even get there? And will we be welcome?

Here’s everything you need to know.

Am I allowed to travel to Portugal from the UK?

At the moment, the Foreign Office is advising against all non-essential international travel – including to Portugal.

The ban doesn’t make travel abroad “illegal” as such – but it does invalidate your travel insurance and means you may find it tricky to get help from the embassy or consulate if things go wrong.

However, the government is expected to announce that this blanket warning will be relaxed from 6 July, alongside the ditching of compulsory quarantine for inbound travellers from countries deemed “safe” according to a new traffic light system that grades countries red, amber or green.

It’s not yet certain that Portugal will be on the “green” list – meaning the FCO travel warning would be lifted and travellers returning to the UK from Portugal would be exempt from the 14-day quarantine period – as there is concern about a recent upsurge of coronavirus cases there. Industry insiders have indicated they think it will be exempt from quarantine though.

How could I get there?

Flights are still operating between the UK and Portugal.

Tap Air Portugal is flying twice weekly between Heathrow and Lisbon throughout June, going up to 14 weekly flights in July.

Ryanair is currently operating one return flight a day between London Stansted and Lisbon – outbound journeys can be pricey, whereas the return leg can be picked up from just £19.92.

EasyJet’s earliest departure to Lisbon appears to be on 7 July from London Luton.

Will they let me in when I arrive?

Yes – border restrictions have been lifted on mainland Portugal and its territories of the Azores and Madeira archipelagos (though the latter two have their own rules on mandatory testing and quarantine) for certain countries, including the UK.

The country’s tourist board is doing its utmost to convince tourists it’s safe to return, saying: “The situation is evolving very positively and the majority of the country will be open as of the 1 July with minimum restrictions imposed on the population.”

Will I have to quarantine when I arrive?

In continental Portugal, there’s no quarantine or self-isolation period required – although there are temperature checks in place at the airport.

However, in its rules about which nationalities can enter, Portugal has said it will allow them in “provided that reciprocity of treatment in these countries is ensured for Portuguese citizens”.

As the UK is currently implementing a blanket two-week quarantine on all incoming arrivals, Portugal could technically demand a reciprocal measure for visiting Brits unless restrictions are eased.

If you’re heading for the Azores, you’ll have to either show proof of a negative Covid-19 test carried out 72 hours prior to arrival or take a test upon arrival and remain in quarantine for a maximum of 48 hours while you wait for the results. Those staying longer than seven days will have to repeat the test locally, six days after the original test was done.

Madeira and Porto Santo have the strictest rules, requiring visitors to undergo a health screening on arrival and spend 14 days in mandatory quarantine at a hotel.

Can I travel within Portugal?

Yes, there are no specific restrictions on moving around within Portugal. Public transport remains in operation, but capacity has been reduced to two thirds to enable social distancing, and masks are required at all times. It is currently prohibited for cruise passengers to disembark in Portugal.

Are hotels open?

Campsites and motorhome parks are allowed to reopen to visitors provided capacity and hygiene measures are met, and hotels have been able to open for tourists throughout June.

A “Clean and Safe” stamp created by Turismo de Portugal (the tourist board) certifies which hotels have implemented enhanced hygiene and safety measures.

Airbnb properties are also up and running.

Are restaurants, shops and attractions open?

Since 4 May, bookshops, hairdressers, beauty salons, libraries, sailing clubs and golf courses have been open in Portugal, with social distancing measures in place.

This was followed on 18 May with the reopening of museums and other tourist attractions such as monuments, art galleries, palaces and churches, plus restaurants, bars, cafés, patisseries, terraces, promenades and shops of up to 400 square metres.

Zoos and aquariums are open, and beaches reopened on 6 June with “supervision” in place and access denied if there’s a risk of overcrowding.

Cinemas, theatres and concert halls have been permitted to open since 1 June.

The Portuguese tourist board has developed a “Clean and Safe” stamp to identify travel companies and services, such as hotels, tour operators, restaurants and other activity providers, that are complying with certain hygiene and cleaning standards.

What rules are in place?

The use of non-surgical masks is mandatory in enclosed spaces, such as supermarkets, shops, beauty salons, schools, public services, at the airport, in taxis and on public transport.

You’re also required to remain two metres apart from other people when in public, respect the rules on maximum capacity on public transport, in shops and other establishments, and practise good hand hygiene.

Contactless payment is also being encouraged wherever possible.

Will I have to quarantine when I come home?

For the moment, yes. When you arrive back on UK soil, you’ll currently have two weeks of mandatory quarantine to look forward to.

The policy was implemented on 8 June and put in place indefinitely.

However, the government is expected to say that the current rules will be relaxed from 6 July for a range of destinations.

Countries regarded as “safe” by the Joint Biosecurity Centre – which was set up to coordinate the government’s response to the pandemic – will be exempt from mandatory quarantine.

The centre is categorising countries with a “traffic light” system. Each country is rated green, amber or red, depending on the prevalence of coronavirus, the trajectory of the disease and the centre’s assessment of the data’s reliability.

Quarantine will apply only to nations rated red.

A full list has not yet been confirmed, so it remains to be seen whether Portugal will get the green (or amber) light. Sources have indicated that as many as 75 countries could be exempt from the current quarantine rules.

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