How to prepare for a flight to Portugal

Choosing to study to Portugal is just the first of many steps you need to take on this long journey in your education. You need to choose a school, apply for it, get necessary documents, find somewhere to live… The list goes on. One overlooked part if actually preparing for your flights. Even for those accustomed to frequent international flights might overlook some crucial details, which is why we’re here to help. Here you can find a comprehensive guide to helping you to prepare for your flight to Portugal.

Where and when to book your flights

The first thing you’ll need to do is book your flights. Booking at the last minute is clearly usually the most expensive option. According to a study from cheapair the best time is usually 70 days in advance. In other words, you don’t need to worry about it too far in advance, but if you make a note in your calendar about 2 months before you intend to leave you’ll be sure to stumble across the best prices. Most schools in Portugal start in autumn in which case the study recommends 69 days. Make sure to try and book a ticket to fly out on the Tuesday or Wednesday for even better prices.

When deciding where to buy, the best approach is to first check out price aggregation sites like Google flights or Kayak. Once you’ve seen a list of the cheapest flights available (on the cheap days mentioned earlier), go directly to the websites of the airlines involved. The airline operators sometimes charge lower prices for booking directly (as they don’t have to pay commission), and it also means that in the event of a delay or refund you can deal directly with the carrier, which is usually significantly easier and cheaper. If you have the time, it is also worth checking out the same site in different currencies, as sometimes there will be substantial variations.

Documents to bring

Once you’ve booked the flights, you’re going to need to bring some documents. If you are an EU/EFTA citizen then you can just arrive but if you’re travelling from outside this area then it would be wise to prepare and have all these documents in advance. Many of these you will have already obtained when applying for your student visa, and others might only be necessary to have when you’re already in Portugal. But either way you’ll be thankful to avoid the stress of trying to arrange them in a foreign country and a different language if you come fully prepared with copies!

  • Passport (must not expire no sooner than 3 months before you will arrive home)
  • Student visa (this need to be applied for at the Portuguese embassy or consulate in your home country) and photocopies
  • Copies of your university acceptance letter
  • Passport photos of yourself
  • Proof of financial resources to support yourself (e.g. bank statements)
  • Your health insurance details
  • Accommodation details
  • Completed residence permit application form
  • Printed CVs
  • Tax number from your home country
  • Proofs of address in your home country

You will have already collected most of these documents for your visa, and will use them again to collect your residence permit from SEF (the Portuguese Immigration and Border Service) when you arrive. But by having copies at hand of all of these documents means you’ll be able to apply for things like a Portuguese tax number (NIF), bank account, residence certificate or health card much easier and quicker. This way you can start working, earning money, taking our leases, renting cars and going to the doctors without having to phone your family back home and begging them to send you your papers.

What to pack

Portugal is mostly hot. Very hot. But it does also rain on occasion. But the first thing you’ll want to pack is not clothes! It might take you a while to open a bank account in Portugal, and it’s not usually convenient to keep exchanging money from your home currency. So look into commission-free cards from your local banks, or even services like Revolut or Transferwise, to bring with you. These allow you to put in and take out money from anywhere in the world in any currency for free, along with a free Visa or MasterCard. Also, remember to bring travel convertors for your chargers!

Beyond that though, the tradional clothes for a hot country make sense. A sunhat, sunglasses, flip flops, shorts, loose shirts and a couple of trousers and jackets for the odd day of rain will see you sail through your studies. If you study near a beach, then swimwear is essential too.

We were all students once so we know the temptation is to put off thinking about your flights until as late as possible and then pack only what you need. But if you can remember to do it 70 days in advance and spend a bit of time finding which operator sells the cheapest tickets online, then you’ll save yourself a lot of money.

Also you’ll probably know to pack to lightly, but don’t forget to bring copies of all the documents. You won’t just need paperwork for your residence permit, but for basically every interaction you have with institutions in Portugal so being prepared will save you valuable time and effort. Follow these tips and hopefully you’ll have a stress-free time!