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Holidays are back – but what’s it actually like to travel abroad to Portugal?

By Scarlett Sangster
Landing in Humberto Delgado Airport, it takes less than 20 minutes to get from the plane, through immigration and customs with my non-EU passport. Restrictions in Portugal include a six-person limit on gatherings indoors and outdoors. Shops and restaurants are all open, along with cinemas and theatres, though with reduced opening hours. There’s also a 10.30pm curfew on restaurants and cafés, while bars and nightlife remain closed.

Unlike the UK, Portuguese authorities require you to wear a face mask in all public places, including outside. This is relaxed a little on beaches, where you can remove your mask after setting a designated area for your group of six –although I was warned I could be fined up to €100 if I initially stepped on to the sand without a mask, or failed to comply with social distancing rules.
These measures sound pretty strict, but once you get over the idea of a face-mask-shaped tan-line, Lisbon feels no stricter than London.

So, was the sand packed with British tourists? The answer is no. If I’m honest, Lisbon was ghostly quiet. Of course, it was only day one, and I’d already been told 5,500 Brits were due to land across Portugal in the first 24 hours of UK restrictions lifting. But having spoken to my fellow travellers, I’m mildly sceptical about how many of these Brits really are ‘tourists’.

Visitors to Lisbon certainly won’t get the same experience today, as they would pre-pandemic. That said, I rather enjoyed the calm. There were no crowds, the locals were friendly, and the sun was glorious. If anything, I rather savoured my little slice of Portuguese life, almost completely tourist-free.

Perhaps it won’t be a flood, but more a gentle trickle back to travel. But one thing’s for sure: travel definitely feels safe. And Portugal still offers a beautiful destination for a quiet escape from the British weather.

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