Recently my boyfriend and I traveled to the Azores, a volcanic Portuguese island in the Atlantic and had an incredible time. With awesome flight deals regularly through SATA airlines, we jumped on this and it ended up costing us less than a regular all inclusive. Overall, it was a great experience and I would highly recommend the Azores for a different kind of travel vacation. Here is a list of travel tips for the Azores that you can’t find on TripAdvisor:
1. As much as Nike Frees are the go to travel shoe, bring something with a little bit more grip. Everyone there wears hiking/climbing shoes everywhere. I may have slipped and fell… a few times.
2. It’s a backpacking kind of country, watching others with their luggage was a hassle, and the airline was very good about travel backpacks as carry-ons.
3. Take a map of the island from the airport. We had the same map the entire trip and people would circle the places we were and places we needed to go.
4. ATM’s don’t charge fees if you have a travel visa or debit card, which was a surprise.
5. Don’t expect a beach vacation. There are beaches on the island yes, but they are small and not the place you go to hangout with drinks for the entire day.
6. Don’t be afraid of hostels. Our hostel stays were our best accommodations and we stayed in two different ones.
7. Don’t expect a big nightlife. The first night walking around it was like we were the only ones in the main city of Ponta Delgada. There is also only one bar on the island, but plenty of places you can still grab a drink.
8. Dinner time is 8:00 p.m. and make sure you have a reservation as the good places go quick.
9. Try local! They have amazing pastries, passion-fruit juices and yogurt, and their own version of the English muffin.
10. Take the airport shuttle bus instead of a cab. It’s only five Euros compared to the minimum ten a cab will charge you each way. It will drop you off right at your door AND pick you back up for the way home.
11. Bring a jacket (preferably a rain jacket) no matter the season you’re travelling. On one end of the island it can be sunny and the other it’s storming. Weather changes quickly here so make sure you’re prepared clothing wise.
12. Don’t pack your favourite bathing suits. The hot springs are that funny colour because of the iron, and they dye your skin and bathing suits. It is much easier to get off your skin then it is your bathing suit though.
13. Most people rent cars. We did not and had no troubles at all. It is personal preference and we managed perfectly fine without one.
14. You don’t have to worry about bugs. Even on the hikes or at night time there are very few insects minus bumble bees in the gardens.
15. Easy ways to save money are to stay at places that includes breakfast. Another way is to head to the local grocery store and pick up snacks and meals at the fresh bakeries in all of the stores, not to mention that’s also where they sell alcohol so stock up there as well.
16. Pack a travel towel, especially if you’re doing excursions throughout the day (which you should be), this is good for drying off from rain, sweat and any random hot springs you may want to jump into.
17. Don’t always rely on TripAdvisor. I am a huge TripAdvisor fan, but it let us down here. Our best excursions were rated like seventh when they should definitely be higher, and the best restaurant is only rated fifth when it has a reservation list for days. We tried some of the higher rated places (hotel, restaurant, and excursion) and they were only mediocre.
18. Listen to the locals! They want you to have the best time, and if you want to do something, they know someone who can give you the best experience doing it. This happened many times for us whether it was where to eat, what to go see or excursions.
19. Expect lots of red meat and seafood. There are a lot of heavier meals in the Azores, including potatoes or carb with every dish. You have to look hard for those fresh green salads.
20. Always felt safe. Safety is a concern for any traveler, but it was rare when you had that uneasy feeling in the Azores mostly because everyone was so friendly. Even locking up our backpacks was something we did to be cautious but never felt it was needed.
Have you been to the Azores? Let me know what you thought of the island in the comment section below.