Have you ever heard of the Tourist Tax? This tourist fee exists in many European cities and is already in force in several Portuguese municipalities. However, many people are still unaware that this tax exists.
The tourist tax is a fee charged to all guests staying in tourist or local accommodation (also known as "AL" or "Alojamento Local") developments in cities where the tax is in effect. Basically, an extra amount is charged, per night and person, on top of the room rate.
The tax first started in Lisbon and is currently applied on overnight stays in the following Portuguese municipalities:
Vila Nova de Gaia
Vila Real de Santo António
Santa Cruz (Madeira)
The goal of this overnight stay tax is to raise funds so that the municipality can invest in infrastructures that support tourism in the city, from public spaces such as roads and sidewalks to preserving the city's environment, traditional commerce, etc. Since tourism brings more people to these locations, and therefore more wear and tear, many municipalities justify the application of the tax as a necessity to cope with Portugal's increase in tourists.
What is the value of the tourist tax and when is it due?
The value of tourism taxes in Portugal, who has to pay and the maximum number of nights that are taxed are defined by each municipality.
This amount, usually between €1 and €2 per person and night, is added to the price of the room/accommodation and will always be handed over to the municipality.
As for payment methods, it depends on each accommodation and how you book. Some booking platforms will include the tourist tax in the final reservation price. In other cases, you may have to pay separately (for example, when you check in or check out).
In Portugal, the rules for the application of tourist taxes differ from city to city:
Lisbon - All tourists in Lisbon over the age of 13 are subject to this fee, which is paid per guest per night, with a limit of seven nights (if you stay more than seven nights, you only have to pay for the first seven). The value is €2. Exemptions include anyone under 13 years of age and guests who are travelling for health reasons, such as a medical procedure or consultation. In this case, the accompanying person is also entitled to the exemption, and to request it you must present proof of the medical act.
Cascais - Similarly to Lisbon, in Cascais children under 13 do not pay the fee, but all other tourists do. The fee is €1 up to a limit of seven consecutive nights.
Sintra - The tourist tax in Sintra is €1 per person for everyone over 13 and the maximum amount is three nights. People going to Sintra for medical reasons and their companions are also exempt from payment.
Porto - The tourist tax in the municipality of Porto is €2 per person per night. The exemptions are similar to Lisbon and the maximum limit to charge the tax is also seven nights. In addition, those with a disability of 60% or more are also exempt from payment, provided they present a document proving their disability.
Vila Nova de Gaia - In Vila Nova de Gaia, this tax has different rates depending on the time of the year:
between April 1 to September 30: the amount is €2;
between October 1 to March 31: the fee is €1;
The tax is applied to a maximum limit of seven nights and exemptions include tourists under 15 years of age, who are staying for health reasons and respective accompanying persons, anyone with a disability equal to or greater than 60% who present supporting documentation and tour guides or drivers accompanying a group of guests.
In addition, there is a 50% discount for all individuals or legal entities responsible for group stays for non-tourist purposes, such as academic, sports, cultural or professional activities.
Mafra - In Mafra, the tourist tax is applied to maximum limit of seven nights and costs €1 between November 1 to April 30, and €2 between May 1 to October 31.
All people over 12 years old are required to pay this fee. Disabled people with 60% disability or more, duly proven, are also exempt from payment.
Óbidos - The tourism tax in Óbidos is €1, per person per night, for all guests over 13 years old, applied to maximum limit of five nights. All those who travel to Óbidos for medical treatment and tourists under 13 years of age are exempt.
Vila Real de Santo António - In Vila Real de Santo António, everyone over the age of 10 has to pay €1 of tax per overnight stay, with a maximum amount of seven nights per guest. In this municipality, children between the ages of 11 and 13 get a 50% discount.
Portimão - In Portimão, the tax on overnight stays is only charged between March and October, and the amount is €1.50. The tourist tax is applied up to a maximum of seven nights, per guest over the age of 13.
Santa Cruz (Madeira) - In Madeira, in the municipality of Santa Cruz, the fee is called "EcoTaxa" and is €1 per guest per overnight stay, and is charged up to a maximum of five nights per guest. All those under the age of 18 are exempt.
Braga - In Braga, the tourist tax is €1.50 for anyone over 16, up to a maximum of four consecutive nights per person, between March and October.
As the rules are always changing, it is advisable to check official information from each Portuguese municipality as there may be updates, notably due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.