Understanding legal obligations for guests in Portugal: A comprehensive guide

When travelling to Portugal, guests must be aware that complying with local legislation is not just a formality; it’s a necessity.

Both the Portuguese authorities and accommodation providers take legal obligations seriously, ensuring every visitor’s stay aligns with local protocols. Failure to adhere to these rules may result in being denied access to your booked accommodation.

This guide aims to elucidate two primary legal requirements for guests in Portugal: the SEF (Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras) registration and the local tourist tax, both of which are pivotal for a hassle-free stay.

SEF registration: a mandatory procedure for foreign guests

The SEF registration is compulsory for all foreign travellers who are paying for their stay in Portugal. This requirement is in place to help manage and monitor the flow of tourists and temporary residents, ensuring a safe and regulated environment for both visitors and locals alike.

Who needs to register?

  • Foreign travellers paying for accommodation: If you are a non-Portuguese national and you’re paying for your stay, whether in a hotel, private room, or short-term rental, your stay, and that of every individual sharing the stay with you, must be registered with SEF. This includes all members of a group stay, including minors.
  • Exemptions: Guests enjoying a free stay at a friend’s or family’s house, and Portuguese nationals staying in any form of paid accommodation, are not required to register.

The registration process

Before or upon arrival, you will need to present a valid document to your accommodation provider.

A “valid document” includes any from this official list (source from SEF, available here, although the page is strictly in Portuguese):

  1. Passport or document that replaces it.
  2. Identity Card or document that replaces it:
  3. Documents issued under the relevant conventions between the States Parties of the North Atlantic Treaty;
  4. Laissez-passer issued by the authorities of the State of which they are nationals or by the State representing them;
  5. Flight licence or crew certificate;
  6. Seafarer’s identification document, when on duty;
  7. Maritime registration document, when on duty;
  8. Residence permit, extension of stay or with the identity card issued to diplomats and their administrative and domestic staff or equivalent, to officials of international organisations based in Portugal and members of their families;
  9. Birth certificate or annotations in the parents’ passport or by those exercising parental authority over minors.
  10. Other documents issued by national or foreign authorities when, for valid reasons (theft, robbery, etc.), the person cannot present the passport or any other document.

Additionally, the accommodation provider needs to collect all of these details to fill out your registration form:

  • Full name;
  • Nationality;
  • Date of birth;
  • Document number;
  • Type of document;
  • Issuing country of the document;
  • Country of residence;
  • Check-in date;
  • Check-out date.

You must provide any missing information not included in your valid document, such as your country of residence and/or nationality. This step is crucial as accommodation providers face fines for every unregistered guest and thus have the authority to deny access to non-compliant guests. In such instances, they may contact local police or foreign embassies to resolve the issue.

The SEF registration during your GuestReady stay

After completing a booking for a Portuguese property managed by GuestReady, you will be contacted by our teams to fill in our registration form.

Our process involves sending you a link to a unique form, associated with your booking and the legal registration of the accommodation with SEF. This link will allow you to directly register all your travel companions or create individual links for each person to fill in their details.

The form will request the mandatory information for registration with SEF, but it will also be used to schedule the time and method of your check-in and ensure that the stay details are correct.

Personal data handling

GuestReady follows the digital service protocols of SEF for submitting accommodation bulletins. We do not store personal data, and the registration is carried out digitally in an integrated manner with the SIBA system provided by SEF. More information can be found here, on the SIBA.SEF platform.

Paying the local tourist tax: understanding your obligations

In Portugal, the tourist tax is determined at a local level, with each parish setting its own rates. This means the amount you’re required to pay can vary significantly depending on your location and even the time of year.

How much will you pay?

  • General Rule: The tax usually ranges from 1€ to 2€ per night, per guest, with a maximum chargeable period of 7 consecutive nights per stay. If you extend your stay beyond 7 nights without changing accommodation or making a new booking, you will not be charged the tax for additional nights.
  • Exemptions: Children under 12 years, individuals travelling for mandatory hospital services, and people with a disability rating of 60% or more are usually exempt. However, there are no exemptions for double stays (instead of extending an existing reservation) or for Portuguese citizens – even for locals from the same parish.

Compliance and payment

All touristic accommodations are mandated to charge this tax, and the rates must be clearly stated on the listing before booking. You cannot be required to pay a city tax that was not announced before or during your booking process.

While major platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com often include this tax in your total bill, it’s still advisable to check all the listing details before booking.

Smaller parishes, or parishes with fluctuating tourist taxes, usually can’t compel booking platforms to include it in their final pricing. Therefore, the local legislation mandates that they should include the legal information in the property/room description on the listing instead. This means the final price sometimes will not include the tax, but its payment will still be required.

Even when the tourist tax is included by the booking platforms during your booking process, always check your booking summary to ascertain if the tax was included in your booking payment or if you’ll need to pay upon arrival directly to the accommodation provider.

As an example, we’re sharing the rates for 3 popular cities:

  • Porto and Lisbon: Both cities charge a rate of 2€ per night, per person.
  • Vila Nova de Gaia: Here, the rate is season-dependent, at 2€ in summer and 1€ in winter, per night, per person.

As the world of travel evolves, city taxes are becoming increasingly common, introduced by many municipalities to manage the impact of growing tourism on local infrastructures. At GuestReady, we’re all about ensuring your travel experience is as smooth and enjoyable as possible, which is why we’ve chosen not to list every municipality’s tourist tax rates. The landscape of city taxes changes frequently, and we aim to keep your planning process as stress-free as possible, for both our cherished guests and dedicated accommodation providers.

Rest assured, though, staying informed is easy. If you’re venturing to less-visited locales or just want to double-check the tax details, a quick online search with the city’s name followed by “tourist tax” will bring you up to speed. And for those who prefer direct answers, we encourage you to contact your GuestReady accommodation provider. They’re equipped to share all the legal details regarding tourist taxes, ensuring you have everything you need to know.

As the world of travel evolves, city taxes are becoming increasingly common, introduced by many municipalities to manage the impact of growing tourism on local infrastructures. For this reason, we will not publish a detailed list of current parishes charging tourist taxes because we can’t guarantee an immediate update if or when there’s a slight change to the list, and we want to avoid creating a stressful situation for both guests and accommodation providers who rely on us for factual and reliable information.

But rest assured, information about the theme is very easy to find when you are looking for specifics. For those planning to visit smaller cities or wish to verify tax rates, a simple online search with the city name followed by “tourist tax” should provide the necessary information. Alternatively, reaching out directly to your accommodation provider for legal support backing their tax charges is recommended.

Tourist tax guidance for your GuestReady experience

And at GuestReady, we’re all about making your travel experience as seamless and enjoyable as possible. That’s why we’ve partnered with leading booking platforms like Airbnb and Booking.com, ensuring that tourist taxes are woven into our listings with clarity and care, making everything straightforward for you, our valued guests. We aim for transparency and ease, so you can focus on what really matters: enjoying your stay.

However, we understand that the landscape of tourist taxes can be as dynamic as it is diverse. Occasionally, specific local tax conditions may not sync perfectly with the booking platforms’ algorithms. Though these instances are rare, we’re always prepared.

Should there be any exceptions, rest assured, we’re on it. We’ll clearly communicate any tourist tax details right in the listing description, adhering strictly to Portuguese law. And for those rare moments when the booking platform doesn’t handle the tax? No worries there either. We’ve got a smooth process involving secure payment links for easy settlement via debit/credit card, ensuring compliance is just a click away. Naturally, we’ll provide all necessary receipts in line with legal requirements, ensuring every T is crossed and every I is dotted.

Got questions about tourist taxes? Our teams are on standby 24/7, ready to provide answers or point you to the official municipal sources for the most accurate information.


Being well-informed about your legal obligations as a guest in Portugal is essential for a smooth and enjoyable visit. By ensuring compliance with the SEF registration and understanding the local tourist tax requirements, you contribute to the sustainable tourism ecosystem of this beautiful country. Remember, it’s not just about following the rules; it’s about respecting the communities you visit and ensuring that everyone can enjoy the wonders Portugal has to offer.

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