The things even Google won’t help you with…
I’ve been living in Porto, Portugal for almost two months—and I absolutely adore this city! It’s not too big, it’s not too small! It has beautiful unspoilt beaches, it has friendly locals. It’s cheaper than most European countries, and the level of English is pretty darn great. The perfect life for an expat? Basically!
But one thing that I have noticed since moving here, is the lack of online presence when it comes to finding services and information about the city. Even Google Maps has admitted that they’re not fully functional in Porto yet, which has got to tell you something!
So for those of you who are planning a visit or relocating to this magical city, here are a few tips that I have had to learn the hard way (word of mouth and general exploration, you know—like what we did pre-Internet).
Banks and using money
One of the most annoying things about living here is the fact that many shops will have a card machine…that is only compatible with a Portuguese bank. And while that isn’t the case for some larger establishments (McDonalds, h&m, big grocery stores such as Pingo Doce), you may find yourself shit out of luck when it comes to visiting that random cute café you had your eye on. Useful tip: Porto has “the most beautiful McDonalds in the world.” I didn’t make that up, it’s actually a thing.
Additionally, places love cold hard cash. I recently had my hair dyed at a hairdresser near my home, only for them to tell me that they don’t accept cards at all. This was not an isolated occurrence. The same happened when I went for a wax, and when a friend of mine wanted to buy a pack of cigarettes.
Bottom line: always have some walking around money.
This is another one of those things that boggle my mind. So, I walk into a Vodafone store and persist to buy a SIM card for my iPhone. Sure as heck, I am asked to pay with cash once again. So, I walk to the ATM (paying a four euro fee each time I withdraw), and pay for the sim card. I am told that with said sim card, I will receive 3GB of data. Perfect! So, I go along my merry way until the 3GB runs out. I revisit the store, only to find out that it’s actually cheaper to purchase another sim card for 10 euros as it comes with 3GB of data. Adversely, had I have just purchased the data, I would have had to pay something like 20 euros for 3GB. So, my new plan? Get a new phone number each time my data credit runs out.
Bottom line: Buying Internet data in Porto is cray-cray.
Usually when I am in a new city, I like to see what my options are in terms of finding plus-size clothes. In Porto, Google proved to be more of a foe than a friend. So, I took it upon myself to go to the mall and scope out the action.
Thus far, I have found that h&m has a plus-size section that isn’t too bad and, after asking random shopping assistants, found out that a shop called Kiabi has a plus-size section, too. Admittedly, when I had a gander at their choices, I felt as though these designers had created these items with their eyes closed…maybe you will have better luck.
Bottom line: plus-size clothes can be found, you’ve just got to do your research.
In all of my travels throughout Asia, UK, and Europe, I have grown accustomed to doing a lot of my shopping online. In Porto…you can forget about it. Amazon doesn’t work here, Treatwell (my favourite beauty discount app) doesn’t work here, Groupon doesn’t work here. Sure, maybe some of the sites that you like will work, but for me—I’ve adopted the attitude of going out to find what I need.
Bottom line: Porto isn’t very online shopping friendly.
Food delivery services
In terms of food delivery, it was also a bit of a headache researching the popular apps and companies that host a range of restaurants—but, it wasn’t impossible.
Pizza.pt (surprisingly, you can order all kinds of food, not just pizza), and SendEAT have proven to be quite good thus far. With Pizza.pt you will need to either pay with cash on delivery, or use a Portuguese bank card. SendEAT doesn’t accept cash payment, but you can use any card to pay online.
Bottom line: A limited choice, but make sure to check the payment options available beforehand.
As previously mentioned, Google Maps is still a tad behind when it comes to public transport in Porto. For that reason, I strongly suggest using Moovit, as it has all modes of public transport optimised.
Bottom line: Use Moovit for public transport directions
Having said of all this, I do realise that most of what I have said goes against the usual lifestyle that I am used to, but Porto really is that amazing, that it’s almost a pleasure exploring and acclimatising. Also, Lisbon is a mere three-hour train ride away, so if you’re into more of the hustle and bustle life, you will love Lisbon or perhaps even Barcelona.
Porto on the other hand, is a way more chilled, genuine way of life…and I love it!