Nightlife Safety in Portugal: Drugs, Alcohol and the Law

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Want to experience Portugal's nightlife? Here are a few tips on alcohol consumption, areas to avoid and what you need to know about drugs and the law.


Nightlife in Portugal Photo © Getty Images/greta6

Drinking in Portugal

Portugal produces some of the world's finest wines and has a thriving nightlife. But while it's okay to enjoy some of the local alcohol, it's also important to remember that drinking so much that you become intoxicated can make you a prime target for thieves.

After all, it's much easier to steal from someone who is not fully alert and aware of their surroundings. Enjoy a few drinks, but just know when you have had enough.

Drink spiking

Portugal has a great nightlife with a huge selection of bars, restaurants and clubs. While not exclusive to Portugal, hand in hand with the intoxication warning is the threat of drink spiking.

While not incredibly common, there have been reports of people being given the drug GHB (commonly referred to as the date rape drug). This drug is very dangerous and can cause dizziness, vomiting, unconsciousness, coma and even death. Notably, it is used to commit sexual assault. 

Always watch your drinks being poured, keep them in your sight at all times and never accept a drink from a stranger.

Drug laws in Portugal

Drugs are quite common in Portugal, with tourists often being approached with the offer to sell. Many travelers report being solicited to purchase harmless items such as sunglasses, only to quickly find out that the merchandise being sold is actually drugs. This is something to look out for, because the police are present and watchful for these types of drug deals.

Sometimes, the police are responsible for setting up these transactions as sting operations, which can result in an unsuspecting tourist being arrested and jailed. The police in Portugal take drugs very seriously, and so should you. If approached, firmly refuse and keep walking.

In 2001, drugs were decriminalized in Portugal, resulting in significant drops in drug-related crime, drug overdoses, and HIV infection. However, it's still illegal to have drugs in your possession for personal use and drug usage in general. These offenses are treated in a more administrative manner such as a warning, fine or directed into a drug use reduction program.

Drug trafficking and driving under the influence of drugs are both criminal offenses.

Areas to avoid in Portugal

Like any country, Portugal has areas that are best avoided, especially at night. In Lisbon, the popular tram routes 15 and 28 are also popular with petty thieves. Watch for pickpockets at the Time Out Market, Bairro Alto, and Cais do Sodre. Casal Ventoso is known for drug users and traffickers.

While most of Lisbon's city center is safe to explore in the day, caution should be applied at night, especially Martim Moniz, Intendente, and Anjos which can all be risky locations when prostitution and drug deals tend to be more common.

In Porto, Bairro da Pasteleira, Bairro do Cerco, and Bairro do Aleixois are best avoided.

Not much good can come from being in a rough area you are unfamiliar with, so try to stick to more populated areas and avoid traveling alone.

Although violent crime is rare in Portugal, gangs have been known to congregate near the beaches between Cascais and Lisbon where they occasionally accost beachgoers.

Your best protection is to be aware of your surroundings at all times, and if you see a group that appears to be up to no good, don't go near them.

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  • Rui said

    I'm Portuguese, so...
    I think this post is totally accurate!
    Just a few more things to be aware: be carefull with your wallet, specially if your in the Subway or Train, mainly in Lisbon, Oporto and Algarve.

    Other than that, I highly recommend you to visit Portugal! We have great views, great wine, great people!!

    And by the way, don't worry about asking directions, specially to young people! 80% of the Portuguese Youth speaks English, so don't get lost, ask!


  • Ricardo Paiva said

    This is NOT accurate. If you really would have searched up you would know that Portugal is one of the safes countries on the world (on 2016 it actually got an amazing 5th safaste country on the world!). When you think that Portuguese are far from the economic prosperity of other european countries, its even more amazing how the country can be so safe. When the country was free on 1974 and a Revolution toou place, not even 1 person was killed during the all process. Why? Because Portuguese are truly peaceful people. Most of them will think the opposite but thats just because of all the crap news and media will put on people's heads, just like on any other country. Conclusion: yes, you should always pay attention, even on Iceland that ranks on number 1 on safety. But hey, just dont tell people crime is "relatively rare" when its a top safe country on a global standard.
    P.S.: no, police is not hidden selling you drugs, maximium they may pay interfer when they see a clear drug use on public space. Actually, and this law goes now on for moreless 15 years, is the first country (and still only one to nowadays) that discriminalized ALL the drugs, having maximium amounts you can carry with you, which is what they consider to be a "normal"10 day amount consumption. You should actually delete this text of how innacurate it is. Anyway, your choice!


  • Ricardo Paiva said

    Sorry for the word mistakes, dictionary corrections fault


  • Sara Patrício Martins Coelho said

    As a Portuguese that has visited many countries I have to say that this is the country I have the safest (and Japan too).

    There is common sense things that everyone should do, regardless of where they are:
    close your purse
    don't carry around too much showy jewlery
    don't get intoxicated (is it really safe for you to get very drunk or high in a place that you don't know?)
    don't go to places that have a bad vibe
    avoid people that look like trouble.

    Do not make yourself an easy target.

    As a woman of 23 I have to say that I have never been robbed and have never been in a dangerous situation, while i do go out at night, I drink, and i like to explore cities and new places.

    Is someone trying to sell you something that you don't want? Firmly say "No, thank you" and leave. Usually people aren't pushy here. It's not like Thailand where everyone is trying to make you use their Taxi.

    Just have fun, use common sense, and enjoy the nice food, weather and people


  • Chris said

    After visiting Portugal for 30 years and living here for over 15 years I can honestly say that Portugal is a safe country.As pointed out by a previous commenter it is amazing how little crime there is considering the economic issues that Portugal has in relation to other European countries.The part about people trying to sell tourists sunglasses ect only to be sold drugs isn't totally accurate. Often certain individuals will try this method of offering sunglasses or gold and then onto drugs but what they are selling are more often than not not real drugs.I'm glad both the article and a previous commenter has addressed the 'decriminalization' issue that so many foreigners misunderstand when they think that Portugal is some kind of drug utopia and that it's use is tolerated by the law and by the general population ...this is very far from the case.


  • Maurice said

    I am an American living in London England. I visit Portugal Algarve area about 2 times a year for the pass 15 years. I have never ran into any safety problems. I go out at night often by myself with no concerns. I am not the only person. Even women walk the streets along at night with no problems. The people are very friendly. If you run into crime it will probably be a drunk Englishman who gets rowdy.

    Unlike some countries you don't see gangs of teenagers out at night looking for trouble. Its still a country where families sit down together at the dinner table and the children go to bed at night. Portugese don't get drunk and crazy. Its a beautiful country with some of the best resorts and beaches anywhere (and I have lived in California, Thailand and Florida). The Algarve is a hidden gem which few people in America are aware.


  • Glen said

    Going here in a few years hope I don’t get robbed


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