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Holiday in the Algarve before 1974

Before the Carnation Revolution of 25 April 1974, a holiday in the Algarve was considered a luxury and reserved for few. Tourism was not as accessible as it is today, travel was expensive, and the south of Portugal was difficult to reach, if at all, for those who wanted to visit. Tourism was not the main economic activity of the Algarve, which at that time lived mainly from fishing and the dry cultivation of almonds and figs. Discover what holidays in the Algarve were like before 1974 and learn more about the region reality during the dictatorship.

Before 1974, tourism was regulated by the Estado Novo, which restricted access to tourist sites and allowed only more regional aspects. Tourism had not developed in the way we know it today and it was only after 1963, when the construction of a series of hotels along the Algarve coast and overlooking the beach began, this activity started to increase. António de Oliveira Salazar, then President of the Council of Ministers, promoted and encouraged national and foreign tourists to visit the region. Although it can be considered that the major tourist development began after the construction of some hotel complexes, the big boost was after the opening of Faro airport on 11 July 1965.

Initially, most visitors to the Algarve were English, arriving on chartered planes. This was not due to a lack of demand for the region before the airport's construction but rather to the fact that transfers from Lisbon to the south took a long time and were over bad roads.

One of the favourite destinations of the English was Praia da Luz. Even today, we can confirm that it is a popular destination not only for the English but also for people from other parts of Europe and the world. Besides Praia da Luz, Lagos and Monte Gordo were the most visited destinations during the first wave of foreign tourists in the Algarve.

This was the starting point for the Portuguese to see the region through new eyes and plan their Algarve holidays. However, holidays were not always a right of workers in this country. Previously, the most anticipated time of the year was unpaid, and only those with some economic power were able to take a few days off. The law on the right to holidays has existed in Portugal since 1937, but until 1974 very few people had this right. A worker was entitled to a maximum of 8 days holiday in a year after 5 long years of "good and effective work".


Do you know other Portuguese laws that would no longer make sense today? Here are some that were in force in Portugal before 1974:

  • Prohibition to travel abroad without the husband's permission – In 1966, a law was passed stating that no woman could leave the country without the husband's permission, whether for professional or personal reasons. If a woman did not have permission, she was denied a passport. This law was in effect until 1969.


  • It was forbidden to read certain books – Books were used to gain knowledge, and many of them contradicted the ideals of the Estado Novo. Books allowed people to learn, and as with any dictatorship, this was the gateway to revolution, which is why many books were banned. The author with the most books banned by the Estado Novo was José Vilhena, who mixed humour with political satire and therefore had 29 works banned from Portuguese bookshops.


  • Women were forbidden to wear bikinis on the beach – Despite the Second World War, women in Europe had freedoms and practises that were not allowed in Portugal. With the arrival of the refugees, Portugal came into contact with the outside world and its customs. The Estado Novo (New State) then decided to impose rules on swimwear, which could only be worn in places where swimming was allowed, such as beaches or swimming pools. Women had to wear a petticoat that was one centimetre below their swimming trunks, and their backs had to be covered up to 10 centimetres above the waist. Men also had to abide by the rules when choosing their swimwear, but women were more likely to be searched with a tape measure at the beach entrance.


  • It was forbidden to drink Coca-Cola – drinking Coca-Cola was much more than a soft drink, was a lifestyle brought from America, and for Salazar, that meant trouble. The fizzy drink tried to gain a foothold in the Portuguese market in the 1920s and even had the right to a slogan written by Fernando Pessoa: "Primeiro estranha-se, depois entranha-se" (At first, it's strange, then it's bearable). However, the brand was unsuccessful and didn't gain a foothold in Portugal until three years after the Carnation Revolution in 1974.


  • Prohibition on using a lighter without a licence – During the Estado Novo, match inspectors or even police officers checked the licences of anyone in possession of a lighter. The purpose of this regulation was straightforward: to promote the match industry in Portugal. As a result, anyone who preferred a lighter was required to obtain a licence, which cost 60 "escudos" (30 cents today), and if they did not have the licence with them, they were fined 250 "escudos" (1.5 euros). Informers received 15% of the "offender" fine.


  • There was no freedom of expression – opinions, especially about the government, were not allowed to be expressed aloud, and any thought that ran counter to the Estado Novo, even if written, always went through the "blue pencil" of censorship. Many works, such as books, music, paintings or drawings, and news, were not released to the public because they threatened public order. Gatherings of people were also forbidden, not to mention associations or meetings.


Do you know the reality in Portugal during the dictatorship? Can you imagine being on holiday in the Algarve before 1974, where some of the prohibitions mentioned here applied? Do this exercise and be grateful for the existence of the Carnation Revolution on 25 April 1974. Portugal is free today!