Foreign travel advice


Safety and security


There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times. 

UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.

Terrorism in Portugal

Terrorist attacks in Portugal cannot be ruled out.


Protecting yourself and your belongings

Crime rates are low but pickpocketing, bag-snatching and theft from holiday properties are common in major tourist areas. Foreign-registered and hire cars are often targeted by thieves. Thieves may use threats or violence. To reduce your personal risk:

  • keep sight of your belongings at all times
  • beware of thieves using distraction techniques
  • avoid carrying all your valuables together in handbags or pockets
  • leave spare cash and valuables in a safe place
  • avoid leaving items in an unattended car

Public transport

Pickpocketing is a risk. Take care on public transport and at busy stations and crowded bus and tram stops.

Holiday accommodation

Check your holiday accommodation is secure. Lock all doors and windows at night and when you go out.

If you’re worried about security at your accommodation, speak to your tour operator or the owner, or contact the:

Drink spiking, alcohol and sexual assault

Attacks or assault, including sexual assaults, are rare but do occur. The risk is highest late at night around popular nightlife locations. To reduce your personal risk:

  • save the location of your accommodation on your maps app, so it’s easier to find at the end of the night
  • set up a WhatsApp group to keep in touch with others in your group
  • keep an eye on each other’s drinks to make sure they do not get spiked
  • always use pre-arranged taxis and do not accept lifts from unmarked vehicles or with strangers
  • do not let a friend walk back to their hotel alone
  • do not give a drunk person more alcohol

Alcohol and drugs can reduce your vigilance, making you less in control. If you drink, know your limit. Drinks served in bars in Portugal are often stronger than those in the UK.

Report anything that does not feel right to local authorities or hotel or club management.

Laws and cultural differences

Personal ID

You must show some form of identification if asked by the police or judicial authorities. Sometimes a copy of the photo page of your passport could be enough, but you may be asked to produce the original document.


Gambling is only legal in places licensed by the government, such as official casinos. Games of chance, including bingo, are illegal if they’re held on unlicensed premises.

The police may act on reports of illegal gambling in unauthorised premises without warning. You could be arrested, charged and fined or given a prison sentence. If in doubt, ask if the venue is licensed.

Illegal drugs and prison sentences

Selling or trafficking drugs is illegal and can have severe penalties.

Outdoor activities and adventure tourism

Beaches and swimming

Every year, people drown in the sea and in swimming pools in Portugal.

Take care when walking close to the water’s edge, especially along unsupervised stretches of beaches. Waves can be unpredictable and have a strong undertow. Do not:

  • swim at beaches that connect to or from rivers as they can have strong undercurrents
  • swim at any beach without lifeguards
  • dive into unknown water as hidden rocks or shallow depths can cause serious injury or death

Beware of rip tides, which can cause drowning. If you are caught in a rip tide, do not try to swim against it. Swim parallel to the coastline until you no longer feel the current, then try to swim towards the shore.

Follow any lifeguard instructions and warning flags:

  • red means danger: do not go into the water
  • yellow means caution: you can walk in the water, but you cannot swim

See water safety on holiday from the Royal Life Saving Society.

Cliff erosion

Look out for signs warning of cliff erosion. Falling rocks are a hazard, particularly in the Algarve. The authorities can fine people who ignore warning signs.

Walking the levadas in Madeira

Walking the levadas (ancient irrigation channels) can be challenging. Choose paths that suit your fitness and experience.

Be prepared for narrow, uneven paths and heights. Wear suitable clothing and walking boots. Take extra care if it has rained, as the ground may be slippery and unstable. Check with your tour guide or local organiser that it is safe before you set off.

Leave details of where you are going with your hotel reception and take a phone with you. Reduce the risk by walking with a group or following a guide.

See more information about walkway closures and access restrictions on Visit Madeira.

Transport risks

Road travel

If you are planning to drive in Portugal, see information on driving abroad and check the rules of the road in the RAC’s Portugal guide. The guide lists driving regulations and other legal requirements you need to be aware of. 

You can use a UK photocard driving licence to drive in Portugal. If you still have a paper driving licence, you may need to update it to a photocard licence or get the correct version of the international driving permit (IDP) as well.

You can bring your own vehicle to Portugal for up to 183 days in any 12-month period. You must not use your vehicle for any other purpose than tourism or loan it to anyone else.

If you want to stay longer, you must apply to the Portuguese Customs authority to have the car legally imported. You’ll be fined if you leave the country without your car.

Check if you need a UK sticker to drive your car outside the UK.

Check how long you can use your UK licence if you live in Portugal.


Make sure you understand the toll system in Portugal and how to pay toll charges. If you think you may have used a toll road without paying, check the Toll Payment Portal.

Extreme weather and natural disasters

Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.


Wildfires can start anywhere in Portugal. Risk of fires is higher when the weather is hot and dry. Fires have become more common due to drought and high temperatures during the summer months. 

Wildfires are highly dangerous and unpredictable. The Portuguese authorities may evacuate areas and close roads for safety reasons. You should:

Starting a wildfire, even if it is by accident, is illegal and you could get a fine or a prison sentence. 

For information about active wildfires and forecasts, visit the Portuguese Met Office website for information on Portugal and Madeira.


Earthquakes are a risk in Portugal. For more information, see the Portuguese Met Office (for mainland Portugal) or the Earthquake Information and Surveillance Centre (for the Azores).

The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.

Extreme weather warnings

For severe weather warnings, go to the European Meteorological Services website.