Everything You Need to Know About Portuguese Currency

August 16th, 2022

Portugal is a majestic European country situated next to Spain. It has a rich history and culture and is one of the most beautiful languages in the world. Besides that, Portuguese nature and cities are spellbinding. So, it's no wonder why this country is such a popular tourist destination.

If you're planning your trip to Portugal, you need to familiarize yourself with Portuguese currency to avoid any issues you could have otherwise. Here, you will learn everything you need to know about Portuguese currency before your trip

What Currency Is Used in Portugal?

euro-coins-and-banknotes

Portugal was one of the first countries to adopt the euro, replacing the escudo on the 1st of January 1999. Note that the escudo was still accepted beside the euro before it was phased out of circulation on the 28th of February 2002.

The official monetary unit of the European Union, the euro is represented by the currency code EUR and the symbol €. In Portugal, you’ll typically see prices written with the currency sign following the numerals, as in 15€. You’ll notice that in Portugal, the uses of the comma and decimal point are reversed - decimal points are used in thousands, for example, €12.000 instead of €12,000, while you’ll find €2.30 written as €2,30.

​​History of Portuguese Currency: the Escudo

The history of Italian money is rich, and Portugal is no different. The escudo was Portuguese currency before the adoption of the euro. Escudo gold coinage was first introduced in 1722 and continued to be minted throughout the 18th century. In 1911, after the Republican Revolution 1910, escudo was reintroduced.

However, escudo’s value reduced after 1914 and was at a fixed rate in 1928. Over time, its value differed. During World War II, Nazi Germany took an interest in Portuguese escudo and aimed to make purchases in Portugal and several other countries through Swiss banks.

Later in the 20th century, the value of centavos, the former monetary unit equal to 1/100 escudo, saw a significant decline. As a result, Portugal withdrew the currency in the 1990s. It introduced the euro as the new Portuguese currency on the 1st of January 1999, but the country spared a transitional period until the 1st of January 2002. 

Meanwhile, the euro existed only as “book money” until the country introduced the euro banknotes and coins on the 1st of January 2002. On the 28th of February 2002, the escudo was completely withdrawn from circulation, with the euro becoming the official Portuguese currency.

Understanding The Euro

You may already be familiar with euro coins and banknotes since the euro is the second most traded currency in the world.

Currently, coins in circulation in Portugal come in denominations of €0.01, €0.02, €0.05, €0.10, €0.20, €0.50, €1, and €2. Every coin shares one common side with the numerical value of the coin and a map of the European Union, whereas the reverse side features a national design. In Portugal, the coins have the coat of arms, royal seals, and castles of Portugal.

Produced by the European Central Bank, the euro banknotes are homogenous throughout the eurozone. The banknotes are available in denominations: €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, and €500.

Note that larger banknotes are difficult to use because many smaller businesses refuse to accept them. The €500 banknote is rare, so you likely won’t even come across it during your Portugal adventure.

Euros can be traded across the entire eurozone regardless of their origin.

Portugal: a Cash-Centric Country

Whether you’re a tourist, collector, or expat, you’ll see money spent in Portugal. Although credit and debit cards are accepted, Portugal is a cash-centric country. That’s especially true for cities other than Lisbon and Porto. 

How to Carry Cash in Portugal

Once in Portugal, it’s a good idea to keep smaller banknotes and coins with you. That’s especially true for smaller cafés and shops, as you may have an issue when trying to pay with larger denominations.

It may be normal in the US to break large banknotes by making a small purchase, but it’s uncommon in Portugal. If you have no other option, consider buying something at a busy restaurant or a chain store because they will be more likely to help you.

How to Get Cash in Portugal

Portugal has ATMs along the city streets, at the airport, and at banks. Smaller towns will also have several ATMs. When visiting Portugal, keep an eye out for ATMs because regardless of where you go in the country, you’ll need cash.

Depending on your home country and bank, you may never see a familiar ATM in Portugal, but there are options, such as Multibanco ATMs, that work like any ATM in the US. 

In Portugal, the standard ATM limit is typically €400 per day, but sometimes, an ATM may limit you to €200 per withdrawal. In that case, try making a second withdrawal to get the €400 limit.

How Much Money Do You Need in Portugal?

Consumer expenses in Portugal are considerably lower than in the US, UK, and other larger EU countries. Here are some of the prices you may encounter in Portugal: 

  • €50 to €100 for a double room in a mid-range hotel

  • €1.50 to € 2.50 for a cup of coffee

  • €22 to €40 for a dinner at a nice restaurant

  • €3 to €8 for entry to a museum

  • €24 for a train ticket from Lisbon to Porto

Is It Safe to Carry Cash in Portugal?

Portugal is one of the safest countries in Europe and among the safest countries in the world. Since crime rates are low, pickpockets will likely be the only issue in popular touristic areas. That said, as you would in any city, just keep an eye on your bag, and you’ll be fine.

3 Tips for Exchanging Money in Portugal

  • Discover the mid-market rate beforehand: The mid-market rate refers to the true exchange rate with no hidden fees. Before your trip, use an online currency converter to ensure you get a fair rate when exchanging Portuguese currency.

  • Choose to pay in Portuguese currency: ATMs offer to pay in your currency, causing you to pay more than you have to. That said, always choose to be charged in local currency when withdrawing from ATMs. This way, you will get the best rates available and reduce your expenses.

  • Don’t exchange currency at airports and hotels: Currency exchange desks at airports and hotels typically have the worst rates available and may charge hidden fees, so avoid this alternative if you want to save some money. You may also want to avoid shady exchange kiosks as there you might come across fake money.

Buy Portuguese Currency Before Your Trip

Euro, the second most traded currency in the world, is also Portuguese currency since the 1st of January 1999. However, it completely replaced the then Portuguese currency escudo three years later on the 28th of February, 2002.

One of the best ways to exchange your currency for euros is to do it before you even enter Portugal because this way, you can buy currency at more competitive rates. And why not order your currency from the comfort of your home?


At US First Exchange, you can order euros and many other currencies, including the exotic ones such as Iraqi dinar, at competitive rates. And we’ll deliver them right to your doorstep. By exchanging your money before your trip, you’ll have more peace of mind, allowing you to focus on planning your exciting Portugal adventure.

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