Save. Spend. Splurge.

Travel Tales: Portugal and its Tourists

This will not become a series but it’s just a quirky observation or experience I had in particular countries I thought might be interesting to share.

When we were in Evora, one of the most tourist-y areas in Portugal we were stuck in the city with no way out until the next day, trying to find a hotel to sleep in for the night.

By chance we struck up a friendship with a local and he kindly offered to find us a hotel on such short notice.

He went through the entire list of hotels in his head (he knew them all), and eventually located an independent hotel that had one room available for the night.

He called ahead, booked the room under his name so that the reservation would be facilitated easier, and brought us to the hotel.


I’d love to stay in a hotel like this if it ever existed.

When we arrived, the lady at the check-in counter did a double take when she realized it would be a foreign COUPLE staying in the room and not this single local.

She started by backtracking on the price, saying that it would now be double for two occupants.

Our local friend protested saying that it was just one bed we would share, and whether or not we were a couple or not, made no difference and certainly not to DOUBLE the price of a hotel.

At this point, we’re listening to this heated conversation go back and forth, not saying a word.

She argued back that we would use more water and so on…. and it escalated to the point when she finally said with rather frustrated venom:



They’re RICH.

They can afford to pay double and they SHOULD pay double. They’re not going to come back and they won’t even know the difference or care.”

The local guy pleaded and wouldn’t back off, and finally, he got the room for us at the agreed-upon price before all of this foreign tourist hoobaloo.

When he recounted the story to us, we realized three things:

1. You need a local to help sometimes

2. Based on how you dress and if you are screaming “rich foreigner” or not.

…then they may scam you down to every penny you are worth if they can, by raising prices astronomically or adding on special “foreign tourist” taxes that you can’t understand.

3. You should be aware that sometimes things go wrong, and you might have to pay the price if you don’t book a hotel ahead of time in anticipation.

Anyway, what stood out in my mind the most is that they’re desperate/poor and in North America, I have never really experienced such flagrant scamming of foreigners.

Sure, some business owners might raise the price slightly if they don’t already have standard, posted signs of their fees and prices, but they wouldn’t go quite as far as to try and blatantly lie and cheat you.


  • password123456

    Bringing out your bad experience is helpful. But this is not unique to Portugal, although their tactic is more archaic.

    The modern way is to jack up prices beforehand, like a weekend rate for hotel rooms and gouge-rate during a particular events, like superbowl.

    Regarding to your Portugal story, I hope you rewarded that “local” who helped you, as an appreciative tourists.

  • Petrish @ Debt Free Martini

    This post is so funny and you’re right most times you need a local to assist you with not getting ripped off. Whenever I go to my parents country Jamaica…I don’t talk when I’m out with my cousins. Just my accent alone will increase the all services 50%.

  • Cindy

    Your post is particularly interesting/timely because I am planning a trip to the other side of the world right now, and finding reasonably priced accommodations has been quite a challenge. I am pre-booking everything online, so that precludes me from figuring out where to stay and how much I’m going to be spending when I arrive. The prices I find online are clearly geared towards tourists coming from advanced economies (going to the South Pacific). What local is going to pay $400 USD a night to stay at a five-star luxury resort?? It’s not like I can negotiate that price online anyway seeing as how their customer base is people from US/Canada/Australia/NZ/etc. Which leads me to think that even if I did arrive and try to find ‘affordable’ accommodations, I’d be hard pressed to do so because it caters to customers to tourists that are ‘rich’. In some instances, it seems like you just have to suck it up and pay the price.

    • save. spend. splurge.

      True. Or get there and go around town until you find a hotel that is open and willing to not lose a night of revenues. Try Ibis hotel they’re a good budget chain

  • ArianaAuburn

    Unfortunately this isn’t a Portugal problem. It does get frustrating when traveling and you see a dramatic price change because you are not a local. When Cutie and I visit my family, I take him to the less touristy in terms for lodging and food. There isn’t much you can do other than to book in advance and do research because hospitality varies from country to country. Another thing that helps is if you dress as down as possible to “appear” broke (old t-shirts, broken-in jeans, etc).

  • Paulo

    Hello and thanks for sharing this.

    This is not a Portuguese problem, and most certainly it’s not on every tourism related business.
    Therefore, I feel your article, specially the title is taking the whole for one single situation. If you’ve been to Portugal, why don’t you share all the good things I’m sure you have found?
    Also, if you have to post this article, then instead of choosing such a generalist and sarcastic Title, why not give names so people can be aware os this particular hotel?


    • save. spend. splurge.

      Portugal is one of my favourite countries and I actually am working on a Travel Series very much like the Chinese one I did to show the good and the bad. No country is perfect, far from it — Canada has a lot of cons for me too but these are just my travel tales. Please don’t take it personally like I hated the country just based on one isolated incident but it was so unusual that I felt the need to write about it.

      • Paulo

        @save. spend. splurge.: Fair enough, please do write these things and if possible identify the scams and places.
        We would also love to hear about the things you enjoyed, the great value you got for your money on most things, the food an the wine, people, etc.

  • MelD

    PS Just yesterday I heard that it costs less to employ FOUR Rumanians to look after a large farm and several horses full-time in Rumania than it does to keep one horse at livery in Switzerland (i.e. rent a stall/box)… Tragic.

  • MelD

    I’m puzzled. You agree that they are poor and need the money but you don’t seem to have been willing to pay what is the market price for tourists to help the locals make a living? That doesn’t seem logical or fair to me. The tourist trade is not just out to rip people off, that is their living…and often only in “the season”. If you had to swallow what these people have to put up with on a daily basis, you would also want a fair price for your services – tourists are very often not very nice or civilised folk, believe me!

    But I love that room, too! I would worry about how the “untreated” wood has been previously treated, though. Would it look as good in a few years?

    • save. spend. splurge.

      Very true. I think it is more a symptom that they don’t see tourists often and when they are foreign tourists the price changes depending on where they are from. Had they said a fixed price and stuck to it, it would have been fine but they deviated based on our nationality and tried to squeeze more out just because of that.

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