is an annual report produced in conjunction with the Regional Security Office
at the U.S. Embassy in Lisbon. OSAC encourages travelers to use
this report to gain baseline knowledge of security conditions in Portugal.
For more in-depth information, review OSAC’s Portugal
country page for original OSAC reporting, consular messages, and contact
information, some of which may be available only to private-sector
representatives with an OSAC password.
current U.S. Department of State Travel
Advisory at the date of this report’s publication assesses Portugal at
Level 1, indicating travelers should exercise normal precautions. Review OSAC’s
report, Understanding the Consular Travel
Overall Crime and
U.S. Department of State has assessed Lisbon as being a MEDIUM-threat
location and Ponta Delgada as being a LOW-threat location for crime
directed at or affecting official U.S. government interests. Portugal has a relatively low crime rate, but non-violent
street crime is common. Petty thefts and other crimes of opportunity (e.g. vehicle
break-ins, pickpocketing, surreptitious bag snatching) occur frequently,
particularly in the major cities. Thieves often loiter in tourist locations,
near beaches, and at transportation hubs (e.g. metro, bus, train stations) to
take advantage of disoriented/distracted travelers. Pickpockets take advantage
of crowds getting on/off all forms of public transportation, using the jostling
of the crowd as a distraction. Wallets and cellphones are particularly
vulnerable. Crime reporting typically increases during the summer, primarily
due to the increase in tourism. Review OSAC’s reports, All That You Should Leave Behind.
Pickpocketing in the Lisbon area is most likely to occur in buses,
hotel lobbies, restaurants, the airport, trains, train stations, and trams.
Take special care in the Oriente, Santa Apolonia, Entrecampos, Marques do
Pombal, and Rossio metro and train stations; the Sete Rios bus station; the
Alfama, Martim Moniz, Baixa, and Bairro Alto districts; and the tourist area of
Belém. The 28 Tram is particularly notorious for pickpocketing; pay very close
attention to all belongings while waiting for or riding on the 28.
Surreptitious purse snatchings occur in restaurants and bars from bags left on
the backs of or underneath chairs.
Criminal incidents occur with less frequency in Madeira and
significantly less in the Azores than in mainland Portugal. Pickpocketing,
while infrequent, may occur in the Old Town and Santa Catarina Park areas of
Funchal in Madeira. On São Miguel Island, in the Azores, petty crime is more
likely in the areas of Ponta Delgada and Rabo de Peixe. In the Azores, police occasionally
receive reports of theft of belongings from vehicles parked at turnouts by
Theft of belongings from inside vehicles continue to be a problem
as the number of tourists to Portugal continues to increase. Thieves will often
pop locks on vehicle doors and trunks, taking all personal belongings found in
the vehicle, even if those belongings are out of sight. The tourist area of
Sintra reports a particularly high rate of these break-ins; take special care
when parking in the areas around the castles and palaces nearby. Thefts are
common in the popular tourist destinations of Cascais, Mafra, Obidos, Fatima,
Coimbra, Setubal, Porto; in the Algarve; and at the beachfront areas of
Peniche, Nazaré, Guincho, Cabo da Roca, and Boca do Inferno.
Sexual assaults against women are rare. However, there have been
reports of women having their drinks drugged in bars in the Bairro Alto area.
Do not take a drink from someone you do not know, and never leave your drink
unattended. Review OSAC’s Report Shaken:
The Don’ts of Alcohol Abroad.
While recently updated laws have increased regulation of private
security activities (to include bouncers at bars and nightclubs), exercise
caution in dealing with nightclub security. Bouncers are prone to violence, and
police often struggle to find evidence or witnesses to any events related to an
escalation of force by the security staff.
Organized crime is not a major issue. Criminal organizations are
present and predominantly engage in racketeering, extortion, and vice-related
criminal activity (e.g. gambling, prostitution, narcotics). Other gang
activities generally focus on narcotics, petty crimes, and turf protection.
ATMs are widespread and accept most U.S. cards for fund
withdrawals. Avoid using ATMs in isolated or poorly lighted areas, or on open
sidewalks; instead, use machines inside bank alcoves, and secure cash and
belongings before departing the bank area. Many local establishments will only
accept cash payments or credit cards with a chip. Review OSAC’s reports, The Overseas Traveler’s Guide to ATM
Skimmers & Fraud and Taking Credit.
The increase in tourism has also sparked increased reports of thefts
from hotel rooms. Lock all valuables in hotel safes, not just in locked
suitcases. Use hotel safety deposit boxes usually kept behind the hotel front
desk; hotel room safes offer only marginal levels of protection. Do not get off
on your floor or go to your hotel room if you feel someone is following you; go
back down to the lobby and report the incident to the front desk. Do not open
your hotel door to anyone you do not know; check with the front desk for
verification if someone claims to be hotel staff. Know all entry and exit
points in case of a fire. Review OSAC’s reports, Hotels: The Inns and
Outs and Considerations for
Reports from all over Portugal of robberies in vacation homes and
online rental apartments have been increasing in frequency. Lock doors at all
times, secure belongings, and lock windows while away or sleeping. When renting
vacation lodging, be sure to assess and use available security features. Review
OSAC’s Report, Safety
and Security in the Share Economy.
Cybercrime, in the form of online extortion and IT scams, continue
to rise. Review OSAC’s reports, Cybersecurity Basics, Best Practices for Maximizing Security
on Public Wi-Fi, and Traveling with Mobile Devices: Trends
& Best Practices.
Road Safety and Road Conditions
Highways are in exceptional condition, and secondary roads are
generally of good quality and maintained well. In remote locations and in
historic city centers, traffic lanes are very narrow and can be difficult to
navigate. Traffic enforcement is limited, but the use of speed cameras is on
the rise. Fines for speeding violations registered by radar arrive to the
offender via the postal service, often months after the violation has occurred.The
police in continental Portugal have the authority to issue on-the-spot fines;
most of their vehicles have portable machines to facilitate immediate payment.
Particularly problematic are drivers who fail to merge, yield, and
change lanes properly and safely, as well as drivers who disregard traffic
control signals. Motorists, especially motorcyclists, often drive excessively
fast and violate traffic codes. Motorcyclists/scooters may drive between the
lanes and go to the front of traffic at stoplights, all of which can be
disconcerting for drivers not used to this practice. Most highways in Portugal
require toll payments, which you may pay by cash or credit card. However, some
smaller connecting highways may only take electronic payment methods. Please
note that all toll booths do not always accept international credit/debit cards.
Exercise particular caution when traversing intersections, as
motorists often accelerate in an attempt to beat the traffic lights or become
impatient sitting in line and disregard the traffic light altogether. While
there is traffic congestion in Lisbon, Porto, and surrounding metropolitan
areas, particularly during rush hours, incidents of road rage are rare. In
Lisbon and other large cities, be mindful of beggars or street performers at
Drivers and passengers must wear seatbelts. Drivers must use
hands-free headsets for cell phone; if using a headset, one ear must remain
Incidents of serious traffic accidents in the Azores and Madeira
are rare. However, high-speed driving, bad weather, and unskilled drivers
contribute to accidents, including rollovers and those involving multiple
vehicles, sometimes resulting in serious injuries or fatalities. In the Azores,
driving can be challenging due to narrow cobblestone streets, thick fog, blind
curves and corners, and livestock on roads.
For traffic accidents and emergencies, dial 112. Drivers must keep a reflective vest and triangle in
their vehicles and deploy it in the case of an emergency. Police can fine those
found without this required safety equipment. Portuguese law requires you to
leave your vehicle where it is and notify the police immediately in the case of
an accident. The drivers of the vehicles involved must exchange details and
both/all parties complete the Declaração Amigável (“Friendly Agreement” accident
report), which each driver submits to their own insurance company. All drivers must
maintain third-party insurance coverage.
OSAC’s reports, Road Safety Abroad,
Driving Overseas: Best
Practices, and Evasive Driving Techniques;
and read the State Department’s webpage on driving
and road safety abroad.
Public Transportation Conditions
Be careful on public transportation. Electronics and unattended
luggage are particularly vulnerable to theft. When walking into train and metro
stations at night, only enter well-illuminated and well-traveled stations.
Taxis and ridesharing companies (e.g. Uber) are a reliable means
of transportation. When using taxis, always be alert to possible discrepancies
between the meter fare and the amount requested by the driver. Always ask the
taxi driver to use the meter. Taxis can charge additional fees related to
baggage, not including handbags. Always use a taxi from the queue or kiosk; do
not drive with someone who walks up to you and offers you a ride. In the
Azores, taxis do not have meters; the fare consists of a base fee plus a posted
rate per distance traveled.
Public transportation is inexpensive and reliable. Bus services
begin at 0700 and generally operate until 2000, depending on the destination. Review
OSAC’s report, Security In Transit:
Airplanes, Public Transport, and Overnights.
The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has assessed the
government’s Civil Aviation Authority as compliant with International Civil
Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards for oversight of
Portugal’s air carrier operations.
High winds can temporarily close airports and seaports in the
Azores and Madeira.
U.S. Department of State has assessed Lisbon and Ponta Delgada as being LOW-threat
locations for terrorism directed at or affecting official U.S. government
interests. While Portugal has been free of major
terrorist incidents, it maintains open borders with its neighbors, allowing the
possibility of terrorist operatives to enter/exit with anonymity. Law
enforcement and security officials, in close cooperation with neighboring
countries, maintain an effective anti-terrorism effort and a welcoming environment
for tourism and business.
Authorities remain alert to recruitment and radicalization of
religious converts, and work closely with U.S. and European partners to counter
associated risks. The call for self-radicalization, whether disseminated on
extremist forums or via the broader approach via social media, continues to be
a global concern. It is difficult to determine which message will inspire a
violent extremist or sympathizer.
Religious, and Ethnic Violence
U.S. Department of State has assessed Lisbon and Ponta Delgada as being LOW-threat
locations for political violence directed at or affecting official U.S.
All public demonstrations require prior police approval; police
are present at protests to ensure adequate security for participants and
passers-by. Portugal has experienced a notable period of
political and social tranquility; however, economic and labor related protests
and demonstrations are not uncommon and are generally peaceful. Even peaceful
demonstrations can become violent and unpredictable; avoid them if possible. Review
OSAC’s report, Surviving a Protest.
Sometimes fights occur leading up to and just following soccer
matches. Be cognizant of local culture and team colors when traveling near or
attending a game.
Portugal is a multi-ethnic/religious country, and a harmonious
relationship generally exists among all groups. Occasionally, inter-ethnic
disputes may arise in depressed neighborhoods owing more to socio–economic
pressures rather than an ethnic conflict or clash of political/religious
Mainland Portugal, the Azores, and Madeira are all in earthquake
risk zones. Portugal regularly experiences earthquakes and tremors up to 5.0 in
magnitude, primarily off the Atlantic coast. The implementation of improved
modern construction techniques in accordance with contemporary EU seismic
protocols for large, multi-storied structures are noteworthy; however, many
smaller buildings and dated residential dwellings do not incorporate such
features, and are susceptible to collapse in an earthquake. Consult with the
U.S Geological Survey (USGS) website for information on earthquakes, including preparedness.
Mainland Portugal and the outlying islands of the Azores and
Madeira are prone to occasional storms. Storms in the islands have created
flash floods that can cause deaths, significant damage, and considerable
erosion. For updated local weather, consult the Portuguese Institute for Sea
and Atmosphere (IPMA).
Rip tides are a serious hazard on many waterfronts in mainland
Portugal and the Azores. Take local advice and learn the system of colored safety
flags on supervised beaches: green means safe to swim; yellow means swim with
caution; red means swimming forbidden. A blue-and-white checkered flag means
the beach is temporarily without a lifeguard. In the Azores, lifeguards only
staff public beaches during the tourist season. Rogue waves can appear from
nowhere, and can sweep people out to sea or into sharp rocks, even right from
the water’s edge. Be cautious when turning your back to the sea.
Fires in Portugal, both on the mainland and on the islands,
especially in the summer, can be devastating and occur with little warning.
Stay on top of local media weather reporting or refer to the National
Authority for Civil Protection (ANPC).
Critical Infrastructure Concerns
Two main bridges connect Lisbon to the southern part of Portugal
that, if targeted (e.g. by protest activity), could cause major disruptions to
movement in/out of the city. This past year, two significant strikes by gasoline
truck drivers impacted fuel supplies throughout Portugal, resulting in fuel
shortages at gas stations and airports. The shortages only lasted a few days;
however, it is important to monitor local media to keep track of current events
that could impact your travel.
Portugal has strict privacy laws that govern the release of
personal information. It is against
Portuguese law to record police or military personnel, unless part of a special
ceremony or at a tourist location. It is also against the law to take photos or
record images of the general public without their permission. Always ask prior
to taking a photo or video. Review OSAC’s report, Picture This: Dos and
Don’ts for Photography.
Personal Identity Concerns
There are no legal restrictions on same-sex sexual relations or
the organization of LGBT events in Portugal. Review the State Department’s
webpage on security for LGBTI+
Individuals with disabilities may find accessibility and
accommodation very different than in the United States. General information is
available on the website of the Portugal Tourism Board. Public transportation vehicles,
in general, have specially reserved seats for individuals with disabilities,
but some vehicles may not be equipped to load and secure wheelchairs
mechanically. Review the State Department’s webpage on security for travelers
The State Railway Operator, Comboios de Portugal (CP) has an
“integrated mobility service” (SIM) aimed at helping passengers with reduced
mobility: Tel +351 707 210 220. SIM staff ensure train and station
accessibility; assistance during boarding/exiting or during the train ride; and
with trip planning. Some train stations have elevators. While SIM service is
free of charge, you must request information or assistance at least 48 hours
before travel. Additionally, CP offers discounts to Portugal residents of up to
75% upon presentation of the cartão do deficiente (disabled person’s
card). The card is available from CP ticket offices and is valid for two years.
To qualify, applicants must have a Portuguese taxpayer ID number and provide
certified proof of both disability and annual income. For additional information,
visit CP’s website.
At least 36 of Lisbon Metro’s 56 stations offer full accessibility
to people with disabilities. There are no reduced fares for passengers with
disabilities. There are, however, elevators and moving walkways at main
stations that provide access from the platform to street level, as well as
payment machines adapted for passengers with disabilities and/or visual
impairment. Passengers with visual disabilities can travel with their guide dogs
if their service animals are leashed and muzzled. Check Lisbon Metro’s website for more information. Porto’s metro system affords accessibility
for passengers with disabilities system-wide with a network of elevators,
ramps, and spaces for wheelchairs onboard metro cars.
Although neither a center of drug production nor a significant
source of drugs destined for the U.S., Portugal is a gateway for drugs entering
Europe, particularly from South America and western Africa. In addition to
direct shipments from South America, traffickers use former colonies (e.g. Guinea
Bissau, Cabo Verde) as transshipment, refueling, and storage points for
cocaine-laden vessels from South America en route to Europe through the Iberian
Peninsula. While cocaine is the most significant drug threat, ecstasy, hashish,
and heroin are also readily available.
Dealers often sell drugs or mixtures appearing to be drugs at
night in the downtown area, especially near the bars and restaurants. Drug
dealers sometime approach travelers. Do not be surprised if dealers offer you
drugs on the street. Drug trafficking of any amount is illegal.
Since 2001 “personal use” quantities of drugs have been
decriminalized, but drug possession is still prohibited. Law enforcement officers
refer individuals found to have “personal use” amounts to the Drug Addiction
Dissuasion Commission, consisting of multi-disciplinary teams charged with
assessing users and deciding the appropriate sanction as well as referral to
educational or treatment programs.
The emergency line in Portugal is 112, and English-speaking operators are available on
request. Portuguese law enforcement authorities are professional. Portugal
places a premium on privacy rights and individual freedoms. Reports of unlawful
detention, intimidation, harassment, and graft are rare.
Portuguese law requires that everyone carry official
identification at all times; police officials may request to see your
identification at any time. U.S. nationals who are not residents will need to
present a U.S. passport.
the State Department’s Crime Victims Assistance brochure.
For social welfare emergencies (domestic violence, child abuse),
dial 144. English-speaking
operators are available. Portugal has a crime victim’s assistance program,
administered through an organization known by its acronym, APAV. Victim assistance
information and resources are available on the U.S. Embassy website.
Law enforcement is the main responsibility of five bodies:
Polícia de Segurança Pública (PSP) - Public Security Police. PSP
is a civilian police force that works in larger urban areas and has tourist
units to provide additional assistance. PSP safeguards internal security and
the rights of citizens. PSP is the leading agency responsible for maintaining
public order, countering violent acts, and performing tactical intervention.
Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR) - National Republican Guard. The
GNR is a military police office with civilian policing responsibilities
(gendarmerie) that works predominantly in rural areas too small to warrant the
PSP. GNR provides a national highway patrol.
Polícia Judiciária (PJ) - Judicial Police. Overseen by the Public
Ministry, the PJ mandate focuses on prevention, detection, and investigation of
violent, organized, and financial crime.
Policia Maritima (PM) - Maritime Police. PM focuses on law
enforcement operations on the waterways, but also has jurisdiction along the
waterfront and the assorted bars and restaurants located near the river.
Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (SEF) - Immigration and
Borders Service. SEF’s fundamental objectives within the internal security
policy include border control of persons, permanence and the activities of
foreigners in Portugal, and the study, promotion, coordination and execution of
measures and actions related to these activities and migratory flows
Quality medical facilities are widely available. Hospitals may not
have staff members fluent in English. Calls to 112 emergency centers are free from any phone. The
operator will put you in contact with the emergency service that you require.
Sea Rescue: 214-401-919
Maritime Police (plus pick-up boat service): 210-911-100
Maritime Police (24-hour emergency): 210-911-155/49
contact information for available medical services and available air ambulance
services on the U.S.
Ask your insurance company prior to departure if your covers
emergencies like a trip to a foreign hospital or an evacuation. In many places,
doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. The
U.S. Department of State strongly recommends purchasing international health
insurance before traveling internationally. Review the State Department’s
webpage on insurance
CDC offers additional information on vaccines and health guidance for Portugal.
OSAC Country Council
Country Council in Lisbon is active, meeting biannually. Contact OSAC’s Europe team for more information or to join.
U.S. Embassy Contact
Av. das Forças Armadas,
Business hours: 0800 –
1700, Monday – Friday (except for U.S. and Portuguese Holidays)
Telephone: +351 (21)
Telephone: +351 (21)-770-2122 or +351 (21) 727-3300
Other U.S. Diplomatic Posts In Portugal
Consulate Ponta Delgada (São Miguel Island,
Azores), Príncipe de Mónaco, 6-2 F, 9500-237 Ponta Delgada. +351 296 308 330.
you travel, consider the following resources:
OSAC Risk Matrix
OSAC Travelers Toolkit
State Department Traveler’s Checklist
Smart Traveler Enrollment Program