Hotels, private rentals, camper van laws and guest-houses – whats the situation?
The Safe and Clean initiative mentioned above mainly applies to accommodation in my eyes, as this would be my biggest concern in terms of Coronavirus in Portugal, and limiting my contact. There is no rule on occupancy limits for hotels, but the other rules must be followed – below I’ve highlighted a few examples of places I’ve stayed – and what procedures were in place.
Wild camping and camper vans
This is important, as many people have decided to live the van-life this year to move around and avoid restrictions. In Portugal, wild camping by tent or camper-van is illegal. Yes, you may have seen people doing it all over social media, and that is because while it is illegal, it is generally tolerated and the police are unlikely to do anything unless a complaint is made.
In these strange times though, things are different. With the curfews and stay at home bans, if you are moving in a vehicle at a police checkpoint and can’t show the accomodation details you are moving to, there will be fines and problems. Previously, in the last lockdown, most (found) wild campers got moved to official camp sites where they weren’t allowed to leave or circulate. So, with potential lockdowns on the horizon again, please keep this in mind – also incase road borders close between countries.
If you haven’t booked with AirBnB before, you can get up to €40 off your first booking:
For sure, this year Airbnb and villa rentals will be popular, as people will want to have more private spaces. I’ve stayed in different types of properties in the past month and will give my experience below.
Hotel: SANA Sesimbra – This hotel is perhaps the best advert for the Clean and Safe system I’ve seen so far, and I was really impressed with the COVID-19 precautions that have been implement, and I’m sure most upscale hotels in Portugal will be doing something similar, especially as SANA are a chain with a few great places to stay in the county. A few things to note:
– Temperature checks were taken at check-in and daily at breakfast
– Timeslots needed to be booked for the swimming pool, and breakfast, to ensure the people limits (it was actually nice to have my 30 minutes with a private pool)
– Dining spaces were spread out by the rules, and the hotel buffet breakfast was replaced by a counter service type thing – I’ve seen many hotels advertising breakfast in the room included too. Staff were mainly behind plastic shielding walls, such as at reception.
– There were sanitiser stations everywhere, and staff seemed to be constantly cleaning
– Some changes in the room, such as a seal on the door placed by the cleaning team who do the sanitising, which should only be broken by the guest checking in. TV remotes were in covers, so they could easily be sanitised, some robes and slippers were removed to reduce the number of materials in the room to sanitise.
Guest House: Casa S. Thiago do Castelo – Obidos is usually teaming with tourists, but it was very quiet when I stayed last week. How would a smaller, non-chain business follow the rules? Well, for the most part, it was very similar to above, masks, sanitising on entry, breakfast times had to be booked as the dining room is small, so only two groups at a time, we also completed a form the night before so instead of the normal buffer, items were placed on our table.
Private Home: Monsaraz, Alentejo – This was the first place I stayed after Portugal relaxed the coronavirus restrictions in May, and our host was there to greet us with a sanitiser, both for our hands-on entry, but with a spray ready to re-clean any surfaces we asked him to do, and wipe down handles and switches he touched. I did notice the bin in the bathroom had something at the bottom of it though, and while private rentals seem the most appealing as you get your own space, be mindful that in larger hotels and guesthouses with dedicated cleaning teams, they are likely doing a more in-depth job than your average rental host, so you might want to do a bit of disinfecting yourself on arrival.
If you have a communal swimming pool in an apartment complex, the rules state that precautions and capacity levels must be managed, although I’m not too sure what this looks like in reality as they don’t usually have lifeguards. People I’ve asked that rent these places also don’t really know, so you’ll have to take your own precautions for the most part I think.
Luckily, there are plenty of unique, remote and cool AirBnB options in Portugal – I think my next trip will be to stay in this awesome converted Windmill in Alentejo!
All-inclusive options: I’ve stayed at one all inclusive on Porto Santo island (part of Madeira) and while I didn’t personally take all inclusive, there were maybe 8 other groups there who all seemed to. It worked like breakfast buffets do now, you don’t help yourself, but the server behind the counter serves up the dishes for you and everything else like drinks is done by table service.
Hostels: When it comes to hostels, honestly I’m not sure about the situation in the mainland. In Madeira hostel dorms can have occupancy up to 50%. I did have a brief look in Lisbon online, and it seemed most were renting the rooms privately, rather than as dorms, but I can’t find official clarification on this – will try and update in due course. Personally, I would not want to stay in a dorm room right now, especially as there are many affordable accommodation options in Portugal currently.