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How Safe is Portugal?

Updated: December 21, 2023
By: Adriana Pinto

If you’re planning to move to Portugal, the level of safety in the country is probably one of the questions on your mind. In this article we’ll go through how safe Portugal is and give you advice on how to further protect yourself while visiting or living in this beautiful land.

Frederik Pohl
Frederik Pohl, CEO
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Safety in Portugal – Is Portugal a Safe country?

Portugal is a very safe country! From the biggest cities to the littlest towns, you can walk outside harmlessly, alone or accompanied, at any hour of the day. Obviously, just like in any other place, you should always beware, but it’s not common to find people with ill intentions.

As per the 2023 Global Peace Index, Portugal is the 6th safest country in the world – only behind Iceland, New Zealand, Ireland, Denmark and Austria. This study takes into account many parameters on the fields of safety and protection, militarization and internal and external conflicts.

The cost of violence impact is 5% of the Portuguese gross domestic product – also one of the lowest out of all analysed countries. Social benefits, like healthcare, for example, got a great score as well. Back in 2014, Portugal was in 18th place overall, so it’s only becoming safer and safer!

Criminality rate in Portugal

The Portuguese government releases a national security report every year. On the last one (corresponding to 2022), criminality rates remained low for the most part. Violent criminality – which includes public theft and bag snatching – saw a drop of 7,8% when compared to 2019, for example (2020 and 2021 were obviously different due to Covid-19).

The districts in which crime rates are higher are evidently the bigger ones, such as Lisbon and Porto. However, this is mostly due to just the fact that there’s more people in these areas and not necessarily indicative of the cities’ actual safety levels. In fact, most of the crimes witnessed here are petty theft. And luckily, we have a few tips that will help you remain safe while exploring or living these places.

safety in portugal
Is there terrorism in Portugal?

As for extreme violence, you needn’t worry, as Portugal is extremely peaceful in that way. Even if you’re LGBT or a part of a minority, the country stands out for its acceptance of all different peoples and cultures – which is especially true in the larger cities where the melting pot is bigger.

Portugal is also one of the few countries without any record of terrorism or even alerts for potential terrorist situations. This is a big selling point for people all over the world, since traditional destinations, such as France or the UK, don’t have the same luck. In fact, in 2020, a study found that Portugal “benefited” from these attacks on neighbouring countries, since they further cemented Portugal as a safe cocoon.

What are the safest cities in Portugal?

Based on the 2021 National Security Report, these were considered the safest cities in mainland Portugal:

  1. Torres Novas (Santarém)
  2. Seixal (Setúbal)
  3. Alvito (Alentejo)
  4. Góis (Coimbra), which is also one of the cheapest
  5. Vila Franca de Xira (Lisbon)
  6. Caldas da Rainha (Leiria)
  7. Fundão (Castelo Branco)
  8. Velas (Açores)
  9. Oeiras (Lisbon)
  10. Alter do Chão (Alentejo)
safety in portugal
Torres Novas

Safety in Portugal – Tips for staying safe

As previously mentioned, the most common crimes in the bigger, more touristic cities are pickpocketing and bag snatching. But there are many ways to prevent these sort of attacks from happening to you. Let’s go through them!

Be aware of your surroundings

Stay alert and conscious of your surroundings, particularly in crowded tourist areas, in public transportation and at night! 

Secure your belongings

This is perhaps the most important step! Backpacks are very useful, yes, but are one of the easiest bags for a pickpocketer to get access to. If you really need to use one, we recommend wearing it on the front of your body when in busy areas. Alternatively, you can get a locket, but the security they provide varies a lot from backpack to backpack. Wearing a fanny pack on your waist or crossbody is the best option in these cases.

Don’t carry valuables in your pockets

Many people enjoy the free feeling of not carrying a bag. However, this is not safe and often the reason people get robbed. Always try to carry your phone and wallet in your bag – in the pocket that’s closest to your body.

Don’t be flashy

We get wanting to look your best. But in busier areas, it’s definitely better to tone it down when it comes to flashy items. Keep your jewellery and bag simple and your most expensive items at home entirely – it’s for the best.

Stay calm and collected

If you ever feel provoked in any way, regardless of your feelings, try to stay calm. For example, people offering you “drugs” in the downtown areas of Lisbon and Porto is very common – simply say “no, thank you” (or “não, obrigado”) and keep going.

Stay connected

Ensure you have a reliable means of communication, such as a working phone with access to Wi-Fi or data. Share your itinerary and location with a trusted friend or family member, and set up emergency contacts.

Trust your instincts

If something feels off or uncomfortable, trust your instincts and remove yourself from the situation. It’s better to prioritize your safety in Portugal, as well as your well-being. Enjoy!

safety in portugal women
Portugal is generally safe for women
What’s Portugal’s stance on on drugs?

Back in 2001, Portugal became the first country in the world to decriminalize drug use – a decision applauded and replicated by many governments. This alteration was put in place in order to focus on the care and treatment of addicts instead of punishment. This doesn’t mean that drugs are free-use or even easily accessible in the country. Drugs cannot be legally bought, with the exception of marijuana under very specific medical conditions – but even this is not common at all.

Is tap water safe to drink in Portugal?

Water service in Portugal is private and specific to city or region, meaning that water taste is different all over the country. However, it is definitely safe! Many people opt to drink tap water on a day-to-day basis – and even in restaurants – without any issue, since water quality must be tested at least every three months. 

Is Portugal safe for women?

Domestic violence and gender-motivated violence against women is one of few bigger issues when it comes to safety in Portugal. However, societal, political and legal efforts to educate the population on sexism and punish those who commit these heinous crimes have been consistent. Outside of the home, Portugal is a safe space for women to exist in. Especially in the big cities and during the day, there is a general sentiment of safety. But, of course, always stay aware and be careful, particularly even if you’re travelling or living alone. 

LGBT+ safety in Portugal

Portugal has big queer scenes in the larger cities, such as Lisbon and Porto, where the level of safety is higher and the sense of community too. However, in smaller towns, people tend to be more conservative, so you should (unfortunately) take care and stay observant if you’re planning to travel to or live in these areas. Just recently, Forbes named Portugal the 6th safest country in the world for LGBT people.

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