The city of Porto is fast becoming one of the most popular destinations for travelers to Europe. Over two million people visit the city annually, which is a higher ratio of visitors per resident than famous tourist destinations such as Barcelona.
The reason why so many people flock to this picturesque city is that it’s packed with historic sights, beautiful views, and a great culture, including its food culture.
There is a landmark on practically every corner, such as the Porto Cathedral and the colorful Chapel of Souls. The neighborhoods have great character. You can take in the views at the riverfront district of Ribeira or head to the beach at Foz do Douro.
It also has more than just historic sights. Porto is a fascinating, cutting-edge city with modern art galleries, craft markets, and lively nightlife, especially in the Baixa district.
It truly has something for everyone, but beneath the tourist façade, it is still a big city that is home to thousands of people and their problems.
The city may be beautiful, but is it safe? Keep reading for more information about the safety of visiting Porto, including crime statistics — let us be your guide!
Is Porto Safe to Visit in 2023?
The good news is that Porto is safe to visit! The laid-back city is mostly safe for locals and visitors alike.
Although you may encounter some minor problems, such as petty theft and street crime, these nuisances are usually easy enough to avoid.
It helps that Portugal, the country in which Porto is located, is generally a safe place to visit. The United States and many other countries place it under a Level One travel advisory, the lowest possible level.
This means that travelers should exercise normal, common-sense precautions, the same as they would when they head out in their home countries, but they don’t have to be more cautious than that.
Porto experiences many of the problems that countries such as Canada mention in their travel advisories for the country of Portugal. This makes sense because Porto is one of Portugal’s largest cities.
Problems you might encounter on a visit include:
- Bag snatching
- Tourist scams
- Civil unrest
Porto does have a slightly elevated crime rate. However, it is usually easy to avoid most criminal incidents as long as you take the right precautions.
Travel advisories tend to include a warning of terrorism for most locations everywhere in the world since it technically is a possibility wherever you go. However, Portugal as a whole is only at moderate risk of terrorism.
There has not been a terrorist attack in the country since 2011, and no attacks in Porto for decades. As in many big cities, demonstrations happen in Porto fairly regularly.
You can encounter everything from protest marches and big gatherings celebrating important political anniversaries to worker strikes.
Most protests are peaceful, but it is still a good idea to avoid participating because large crowds are, by definition, unpredictable. Strikes tend to happen in Portugal, and they affect Porto as it is one of the biggest cities.
Strikes tend to disrupt public transportation networks, international travel, and more. If there are strikes announced, be sure to follow the news, as you may need to adjust your travel plans.
Finally, if you are visiting Porto during the summer, you need to be ready for some dangers inherent to that season.
Summers around Porto tend to be very hot and dry, which creates the perfect conditions for wildfires. In August 2023, wildfires and extreme temperatures ravaged Portugal and even shut down the main highway between Lisbon and Porto.
If you are visiting Porto in the summer, prepare for the heat and make sure you stay out of the sun during the hottest part of the day.
Follow the news to see if there are any wildfire alerts, especially if you are planning day trips to surrounding areas. Make sure you obey any government warnings and evacuation orders.
Crime in Porto
Crime is one of the primary concerns for people visiting Porto. Not only is it the problem that is most likely to affect you as a tourist, but it is also fairly common in the city.
Porto has one of the highest crime rates in Portugal. The Portuguese government publishes an annual report on crime called the RASI, which also includes crime statistics for Porto.
The report singles out Porto as one of the hotspots for certain types of crime, such as motor vehicle theft, theft of motor vehicle parts, and ATM theft. The city also has one of the highest crime incidence rates in Portugal.
In 2022, the police registered 51,398 criminal incidents in the city, making it the second-highest recorded crime total after Lisbon.
Crime in Porto makes up about 15% of the Portuguese national total of crimes recorded.
Crime increased in 2022 compared to the previous year by 8.1%. Porto also has a fairly high violent crime rate. There were 2,100 total recorded violent crimes in 2022, making up about 4% of total crimes and offenses registered in Porto.
This is high by Portuguese standards, but in many other cities (including in the U.S.), violent crime makes up a much higher proportion of the total crimes committed.
The crime statistics make the city seem dangerous, but there are a few caveats to keep in mind. Porto is Portugal’s second-biggest city, so it makes sense that it will have higher crime rates than rural areas.
Cities have more concentrated populations and contain more factors that increase crime, such as the presence of organized crime groups and drug traffickers.
It’s also important to look at the types of crime that happen. Most crimes are minor infractions or crimes that affect locals instead of tourists, such as domestic violence. It’s also important to look at what the residents of Porto say.
Porto scores 29.14 out of 100 on the Numbeo crime index, which is a low value. People report the most concern about petty crimes such as drug abuse, theft, and theft from vehicles.
Since Numbeo collects crime data based on survey responses from people who lived or visited Porto, it shows that people generally feel safe in their city.
The most common crime you will have to worry about while in Porto is petty theft. Although street crime rates are not as bad in Porto as they are in other Southern European tourist destinations such as Barcelona, there are still plenty of incidents of pickpocketing, bag snatching, and scams.
Theft happens most often in public transportation such as Porto’s trams, around transportation hubs such as São Bento train station, and in popular tourist areas such as the Jardim do Morro, Jardim da Cordoaira, and the riverside neighborhood of Ribeiro.
Make sure that you keep a firm grasp on your valuables as you explore the city. The UK government offers advice for keeping your valuables safe in Portugal, including Porto.
Try not to carry all your valuables in one place. Put some spare cash in a separate pocket from your wallet and leave your ID and extra money in your hotel safe (carry around a copy of your passport instead).
If you can, try to blend in with the locals. Avoid flashing lots of cash or luxury goods, as most locals tend to appear more low-key.
If you can, avoid wearing bulky backpacks throughout the city. Not only does it make you stick out in the city, but backpacks are easier to unzip without you noticing than a cross-body bag.
Porto, like any popular tourist destination, also has its fair share of tourist scams. Be wary of people coming up to you in the street asking for money or offering a special deal, as they often work in tandem with pickpockets who will try to rob you.
When buying tickets to an event or tour, always do so through an official office or website, not from someone on the street, as bootleggers are common. Finally, if you take a taxi, make sure that your driver turns on the meter.
Violent crimes do happen in Porto. The most common violent crime affecting tourists tends to be robbery. Most robberies happen at night, so make sure that you are careful with your movements after dark.
Avoid poorly lit areas and dark alleyways with few other people around. If you have to go through an unfamiliar area, take a taxi instead of walking, especially if you are alone.
Robbers often target the popular nightlife areas, so take extra care when heading home after a night out. Try to consume less alcohol than you would while at home so that you can have more of your wits about you.
If you do get robbed, don’t resist.
The Australian government warns in its travel advisory for Portugal that tourists have been assaulted in Porto before, and often these incidents happen during robberies gone wrong. Focus on getting away safely, even if that means handing over your valuables.
Avoiding Bad Areas
There are a few parts of Porto that may be safe during the day but should be avoided at dusk and at night.
Locals caution tourists to avoid certain areas after dark, including:
- The Douro River Waterfront
- The area around São Bento train station
- The back alleys of the Ribeiro
- Parks such as Jardim do Morro
There are a few dangerous neighborhoods in Porto, such as Bairro do Cerco and Bairro do Aleixo, but these tend to be far away from the city center and popular tourist areas.
Things to Consider
Here are a few additional safety tips for visiting Porto:
- Don’t buy drugs. It is common for street dealers to approach tourists in the street, offering drugs. It is a common misconception that drugs in Portugal are legal. They are not legal, just decriminalized, and you can still get in trouble for taking them. Plus, buying drugs from someone who approaches you is a great way to get scammed since they usually just sell pantry items disguised as drugs.
- Don’t speak Spanish. People in Porto speak Portuguese. Although the language is similar to Spanish, it isn’t the same, and people may get offended if you assume they speak Spanish.
- Avoid renting a car. Theft from vehicles is very common in Porto, and not having a car prevents this crime completely. Plus, driving in the center of Porto is extremely stressful. If you’re road-tripping through the rest of Portugal, pick up your car after your trip to Porto, or hand it in when you arrive.
- Bring layers and sturdy walking shoes. The weather is variable, and the streets are hilly and full of cobblestones.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some common questions people ask before visiting Porto:
Is Porto safe to walk around at night?
Porto is only safe to walk around in certain central, well-lit areas. Some parts of the city are dangerous after dark, including popular tourist destinations, so do your research before taking an evening stroll.
How safe is Porto for tourists?
Porto is fairly safe for tourists. Although petty theft and robberies happen, the crime rate overall is still lower than in other European cities.
Is Porto safer than Lisbon?
Porto has a lower crime rate than Lisbon. It is also a smaller city, so it makes sense that it would feel safer.
Can you walk alone at night in Porto?
It’s best to avoid walking alone at night in Porto if you can help it. The exception is if you know the area well or are somewhere with plenty of other people around.
Is three days in Porto too much?
Three days in Porto is perfect to get a taste of what the city has to offer. The city is small but has plenty of attractions.
So Is Porto Safe to Visit?
To visit Porto safely, you will need to keep a close grip on your valuables, and there are parts of the city that are not safe after dark. However, it’s a safe city to visit overall, especially when you compare it to cities in other countries.
So, with so much to see and do, what are you waiting for — book your trip today and experience for yourself all that Porto has to offer. Happy travels!