Travelling to Portugal with Diabetes!

Travelling to Portugal with Diabetes?  Here is all the info you need to know before doing it!

Portugal is becoming a very popular destination for cultural and relaxing European vacations.

Seeing as you’re reading this article, I’m guessing you’ve already decided to go. So you probably don’t need me to convince you about the wonders of this beautiful country!

But maybe you’re in search for some tips and info about how to enjoy your stay in Portugal to the fullest while keeping your diabetes under control at the same time…?

You’re in luck: that’s exactly what’s Sweet Trip is here for!

And travelling to Portugal with diabetes will a breeze if you have all the info at hand. Lisbon, Porto, Lagos, Faro, the Algarve Region... are all awaiting you!

Basically, before travelling to Portugal with diabetes, and this goes for any other country, all you need is a bit of preplanning and valuable information concerning three aspects:

We will mostly talk about Lisbon in this article, but our many tips can be useful for pretty much any parts of Portugal!



This is the level of ease with which you can expect to travel when going to Lisbon with diabetes. Check out the following picture, extracted from our Full Travel Guide to Lisbon with Diabetes

Now, let’s go deeper into the topic and get some practical information to help you manage your diabetes while in Portugal.


Portugal’s abundant gastronomic heritage remains far too little known yet, but it will definitely astound you. Generous home cooking influenced by the sea and the mountains; by Africa, America, and old Europe at the same time.

In Portugal, there are all kinds of colorful, tasty, and curious mixes awaiting you.

Starters, meats and fishes, vegetables, cheeses, wines, desserts, coffees… Portuguese people have everything and know how to cook it up. While there, you’ll be able to gain control of your diabetes while taking your taste buds for a ride! 

Here are some of our favourite diabetes-friendly traditional Portuguese dishes that you’ll be able to enjoy free of worry during your vacation.


Alheira is one of the 7 wonders of Portuguese Gastronomy.

It’s a type of sausage made up of any other meat but pork, bread, olive oil, garlic, and spices. The Jewish community invented Alheiras in the 16th century when they were persecuted by the Inquisition. It was created to dissimulate the fact that they did not eat pork… really clever!

Thanks to this pork-free recipe, they could hang up sausages  in their villages just like anybody else without rousing suspicion. Alheiras contain bread crumbs but their sugar content is quite low.


Eating healthy in Portugal

Named in homage to Raimundo António de Bulhão Pato, a famous Portuguese poet who mentioned the dish in his writings, you will be able to find this seafood platter on every (good) menu!

Portuguese cook clams rapidly over low heat in a stock of olive oil, garlic, coriander, lemon, and occasionally white wine. A true delicacy that you can enjoy with a clear conscience time and again. If made with wine, the sauce might be a bit on the sugary side, but it’s almost completely carbfree!


Portuguese dishes with no carbs

Portugal offers many, many, many Codfish Dishes –Bacalhau in Portuguese-, and it’s also delicious when simply grilled and a carb-free way of enjoying Portuguese tradition!

Our side suggestion: a few boiled potatoes for their carbs and a generous portion of broccoli with a squirt of lemon for taste. Codfish is a particularly lean fish that you should never deprive yourself of, even in case of diabetes or high cholesterol.

It’s high in omega-3 fatty acids, which help prevent cardiovascular diseases. It is also naturally rich in vitamins A, D and B12 and, like any fish meat, is an excellent source of protein. So, you can have as much codfish as you like. Just go light on the salt: the fish is already quite high in sodium.


Portuguese dishes without carbohydrates A potato and collard greens soup brightened up with slices of chorizo, olive oil and garlic. It’s almost a national emblem! 

It does contain potatoes so it isn’t a carb-free soup but it makes for a rather acceptable and yummy starter all the same! 

What we’ve loved in Portugal is that almost every local restaurant suggests a fresh and healthy vegetable soup of the day. And they normally offer it for a really affordable price. Think about it as a side or a starter!


what to eat in Portugal with diabetes

“Cataplana” is in fact the name of the pot used for the preparation, but it was also transferred  to the dish itself. This copper pot in the shape of a shellfish originates in the Algarve Region and is made up of two pieces that reseal hermetically in order to steam cook the food.

It’s a mix between a saucepan and a pressure cooker. The most popular recipes are the Cataplana de Mariscos (with seafood) and the Cataplana de pescados (with fish), but you might also come across meat or vegetarian Cataplanas. The greatest plus of the Cataplanas is that very little grease is used in the steaming process. And we generally won’t find any carbs, although that may depend on the recipe. A great side dish would be a small portion of rice and sautéed vegetables.


eating no crabs Lisbon

Bits and pieces of beef cooked in a beer sauce and adorned with some black olives and pickles. It’s one of Portugal’s favorite Petiscos (see below)To be nibbled on guilt-free. 

Petiscos for the Portuguese are what tapas are for the Spanish: an expression of the sociability and generosity of their culture. It includes everything from hors d’œuvres and mini meals to cold meats, cheeses, and tidbits… In fact, it’s anything you might have as a snack.

They are enjoyed solo or with friends, and at any hour of the day. It is ideal for a food tasting so that you can try a bit of everything. Here are a few examples of carb-free pesticos to be relished unlimitedly: grilled chorizo – alheira – snails – pica pau – olives – cheeses – moelas – octopus salad – pig ear salad – mushroom in a sauce – mussel dish – clam fricassee… And the list just goes on!


desserts without carbs in Lisboa

Your perfect after-dinner drink! Carioca de Limao is a simple hot infusion made with hot water and lemon peels. Served in a coffee cup without added sugar, generally after dinner.

The lemon (and its infusion) is an excellent citrus with detoxifying, antiseptic, and digestive properties. All restaurants have it, but not always on the menu. Ask your waiter for it!

In our Full guide to Lisbon with diabetes, we’ve prepared a 40-page-long chapter so that you can enjoy the best of Portuguese Food with diabetes. Inside, you’ll find:

Here are some free sample pages from this chapter (Click on them to access full size images)



In Portugal, you will receive the necessary medical attention in case of a problem. Lisbon and the rest of the country have competent and generally well-equipped infrastructures. Medical consultations are easily accessible. Most drugs and pharmaceuticals are commercialized here and you can get all of your medical tests done on the spot if necessary. 

Now you just need to find out how it all works over there, and that’s what Sweet Trip is here for! Before your departure, we want to ensure you’re holding all the cards you need to act swiftly and calmly if your diabetes decides to act up during your stay.

In our Full Guide to Lisbon with Diabetes we’ve come up with all the useful information you’ll need to deal with the slightest diabetes-related mishap in Lisbon


If you’re citizen from a European Union country,  your European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to receive on-site medical treatment in Portugal’s public health centers and hospitals.

The only requirement for a medical consultation is the payment of a nominal contribution (around 5 euros for a general consultation and 7.5 for a specialist consultation). In case of emergency hospitalization, you should not incur any charges whatsoever. At the pharmacy, your financial contribution per drug will depend on the rate of coverage offered by Portugese legislation. Before your trip, be sure to request your very own EHIC from your social security organization.

To find out more about its use visit:

If you’re not a citizen from a European Union country, your social security system probably won’t cover the medical costs that you incur in Portugal. Be aware that in the event of emergency hospitalization or a complicated intervention, these costs can run to several thousands Euros. Certain establishments could even refuse to offer you treatment if you lack insurance or a financial guarantee. 

It is therefore strongly advisable that you take out a travel insurance to bear your medical fees. Caution: certain forms of travel insurance do not bear the medical costs associated with a ‘‘pre-existing diseases’’ such as diabetes! Double check the terms of your contract and, if necessary, have it adjusted to avoid any unpleasant surprises. 


In  case of a medical emergency in Portugal, you will be received and treated by the local emergency services regardless of your social or financial situation. However, once out of danger and in stable condition, you will be asked for proof of your European social security coverage, of your travel insurance, or of a payment method.   

In Lisbon you will find both public and private hospitals. The two sectors provide reliable medical emergency services. Choosing between the public or the private sector will depend on your situation.

If you are a European citizen and holder of the EHIC, your medical fees will be covered only if you receive public service treatment. 

If you aren’t a European citizen, the coverage of your medical emergency fees will depend on your insurance provider. Generally speaking, emergency fees generated in the public sector are covered by travel insurances. On the other hand, some insurance providers also have partnerships with private clinics and hospitals. Before your trip, be sure to ask your insurance provider about its partners in Portugal. 

In any case, if you need to call an ambulance during your vacation in Portugal, refer to the following page extracted from our Lisbon Guide with Diabetes:

Emergency telephone number Portugal Diabetes
Calling an Ambulance in Portugal


When traveling with diabetes, think about the Local Diabetes Organizations. They might be able to help you out, or give you the contact information of someone who can! And in any case, they’re always full of useful resources in case you need help and information.

The Associação Protectora Dos Diabéticos de Portugal (APDP) is the main public organization in the whole country and definitely a very good contact in case you need assistance, especially in Lisbon. Sweet Trip met their team while working on the Lisbon Travel Guides and we can assure you they’ll help when needed! 

APDP & Sweet Trip, Traveling to Lisbon with Diabetes
Associação Protetora dos Diabéticos de Portugal (APDP)

In a single, common center, it has everything from diabetologists, nutritionists, nurses, cardiologists, psychologists, urologists, opthtalmologists, to a specialized pharmacy. You may book an appointment in person, by telephone or via e-mail. The wait times are reasonable and you will be very well received here.

APDP & Sweet Trip; Traveling with Diabetes to Portugal Travel Guide
APDP & Sweet Trip


Ok, that’s all very interesting, but how do I explain what my problem is to a Portuguese doctor? Good question… But don’t worry, we’ve thought of everything! 

In our Medical Guide to Lisbon with diabetes, you can find all the useful Portuguese medical terms you’ll need to talk to a doctor or medical staff.

It’s organized into 5 categories and very easy to point at in case you can’t pronounce the words yourself. Save it on your smartphone to have it ready whenever you need it!

Here are some free sample pages to give you an idea of what it looks like:


If you’re still worried about what to do in case of medical trouble while in Portugal, you can download our Medical Guide to Lisbon with diabetes right here. You should find all the reassuring info you need right inside: 

  • Medical coverage and the healthcare systemtravel insurance and the European Health Insurance Card
  • Emergencies; how to act fast and where to go (hospitals, ambulances, etc.)
  • Consultations; general and specialized in diabetology
  • Pharmacies; how to get your treatment, costs, paperwork, etc.
  • Laboratories; how to do your medical tests
  • English to Portuguese medical vocabulary and useful sentences to help you say what you need to say
  • Local supports and guidance while travelling to Lisbon with diabetes
  • Tips for taking a safe trip to Portugal with diabetes 

To give you a more precise idea, here are some free sample pages from the Sweet Trip Medical Guide to Lisbon with Diabetes. 

(Click on them to access full size images)



Lisbon’s human scale and abundance of tourist attractions and hidden nooks to venture into, makes it an ideal place for walking and cycling around.

If walking is your thing, you’ll be ecstatic to know that you can reach almost any corner of the city on foot. And the constant ups and downs of its 7 hills will definitely keep you in shape! Add to that the generally clear skies and you’ve got yourself the perfect opportunity to combine tourism with physical exercise.

In case you’re short to organize your trip or if you’re lacking inspiration, we have put together a number of pleasant itineraries to discover the city on your own and made a list of our favorite free guided tours.

By foot, by bicycle, or in the water, this is where you’ll find all the info you want to discover Lisbon at your own pace! And you’ll keep your diabetes under control without even noticing the effort!

Ready, set…Go!


Whether or not you have diabetes, health organizations recommend walking for at least 30 minutes a day. And there is no upper limit: the more you walk, the healthier you’ll be.  Walking helps stabilize blood glucose and cholesterol levels, and substantially reduces the risks of developing complications, in particular with regard to cardiovascular diseases. The faster the pace, the more effective it is. And climbing some stairs adds to the effort!


Cycling is an exercise that is comprehensive, harmonious,  and excellent for your health. You exercise both your muscles and your cardiovascular endurance, which is particularly important in avoiding the complications associated with diabetes. Each at his own pace, an intense half hour or a leisurely half-day tour will do you a world of good!


Swimming is one of the best physical activities that you can partake in. It allows you to exercise and tone your muscles without impacting your joints and back and can thus be enjoyed by all ages.  It will also exercise your respiratory system and your cardiovascular capabilities, which is particularly important for us diabetics. And to top it all off, aside from all of these physical benefits, it has been demonstrated that swimming benefits mental health, producing a feeling of well-being thanks to the relaxation of our muscles in the water.

If you want to make the most of your holiday, here is the full summary and some free sample pages from our Full Chapter to discover Lisbon by foot, by bike, or in the water!

(Click on them to access full size images)

Our Sweet Team wishes you

a Sweet Trip to Lisbon!

Travelling to Portugal with diabetes
Belem Tower, Lisbon
And invites you to join our Sweet Community:

Come and join our Sweet Trip Community of travelers with diabetes!
We share stories, ideas, and useful addresses
We respond to your questions and concerns
And, above all, we support each other!

One Response

  1. Many thanks,, This is a very informative web site.
    Is there a diabetes centre in Cascais? I’m moving there next year.

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