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Portugal is by far one of Europe's most popular travel destinations. From beautiful architecture to breathtaking beaches and islands, great food and exciting nightlife, you'll never want to leave. Although Portugal is a safe country, there are a few things travelers should keep in mind.
From scams to petty crime, here are our top tips to avoid trouble in Portugal.
In the 2020 Global Peace Index, Portugal is third out of 163 countries when it comes to overall safety. In Europe, Portugal comes second out of 36 countries, sitting right behind Iceland.
Portugal boasts one of the world's lowest crime rates, with violent crime a relatively rare occurrence and typically isolated to certain bad areas.
However, non-violent crime is an ongoing problem, particularly in the capital city of Lisbon. Petty thieves are known to frequent areas where visitors can be found, looking to steal anything of value, from cash to passports to jewelry.
Here are some of the things to watch for and some tips to help you avoid becoming a victim.
One of the most frequently reported crimes in Portugal is pickpocketing.
These thieves are good at what they do, and they often work in teams (sometimes using small children as a distraction) so it's important to always be aware of your surroundings.
Public transportation, airports, and hotel lobbies are prime locations for this petty crime because they are very crowded and usually full of tourists.
One place in particular where pickpockets seem to be quite active is aboard Tram 28, a popular tourist attraction that brings visitors to the famed Castle of São Jorge. Its frequent stops and crowded environment make it a perfect location for thieves to target their victims so if you're hitching a ride be sure to keep your valuables well concealed.
Another popular activity among Portuguese thieves is bag snatching.
Women who carry bags should be aware that if they leave them in plain sight, chances are a thief is interested. This is particularly true at restaurants, where women may hang their bags over the backs of their chairs or place them on the floor, leaving them vulnerable to crooks.
Bags should always be in sight, preferably on your lap or with the strap wrapped around either your leg or arm.
When walking, always hold your bag in front of you with a firm grip. Luggage is also a prime target for petty thieves, especially when left unattended in hotel lobbies or at the airport, so be aware.
There have been a number of reported cases involving theft of personal items from vehicles.
Parked cars left unlocked or with the windows down are easy targets, especially in lots that are close to tourist attractions and near restaurants.
If you hire a vehicle, make sure it doesn't have stickers identifying it as a rental car. Keep your car doors locked at all times, whether you are moving or not.
Another popular crime involves thieves approaching an occupied vehicle under the guise of asking for help or information, then stealing the occupants' personal items while they are distracted.
Criminals in Portugal have been known to target tourists with various scams so visitors should be wary of anyone approaching them on the street attempting to sell them something.
One popular scam involves crooks selling discounted tickets to area attractions, such as the Torre de Belem, only to find out afterward that the tickets are not valid. Remember the old adage, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Some restaurants charge exorbitant prices for dishes which would normally be cheap or fairly priced. The prospective diners see the menu outside the restaurant showing reasonable prices and decide to dine there. A waiter will come along to attend to the diners, mentioning the daily specials and emphasizing how good they are and why. Diners choose the specials only to find out later how expensive the specials are when presented with the bill. When querying the bill, the diners are presented with a different menu showing the prices which they didn't see before.
Authorities generally can't do much about these overcharging restaurants but social media plays a vital role in naming and shaming the restaurants. So check reviews on Google or TripAdvisor before dining. Ironically, some of the Lisbon-based restaurants which are scamming people are run by a former pickpocket who used to ride Tram 28.
There are reports that accommodation scams are on the rise in Portugal. Always book your accommodation through reputable vendors who use secure payment facilities and websites.
Some areas to be cautious in include the Alfama and Bairro Alto districts, the Castle of São Jorge and train stations including the Rossio, Oriente and Santa Apolonia.
Lisbon tends to have more crime than the rest of Portugal, particularly in the Belem neighborhood.
Outside Lisbon, the towns of Mafra, Fatima, Sintra, and Cascais have their share of thefts and scams, as does the Algarve.
And in Madeira petty crimes have occurred in the Old Town and Santa Catarina Park areas of Funchal, although it's rather infrequent.
Some ways to avoid being a victim of a petty crime are obvious - don't carry a lot of cash, keep valuables well concealed and stay alert. But there are a few other suggestions that will help you enjoy a safe, crime-free trip to Portugal:
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