Portland Travel Guide – Budgets, Tips, Itineraries (2019)

Portland is a pretty simple place on paper, known mostly for rainy weather, an equal ratio of plentiful beer and hipsters, and some of the country’s best food.

While many of these statements are true and endearing qualities, reducing Portland to a few descriptors does the city a huge injustice; Portland, Oregon is so much more than angst and counter-culture.

In this Portland travel guide, I am going to discuss everything that makes Portland a dynamic and exciting city to visit.

Portland is just as impressive and vibrant as any other city on the West Coast with all the characteristics of an urban metropolis: luxury (tax-free) shopping, world-class restaurants, excellent public transport, and a host of festivals.

portland oregon and mt hood at dusk from pittock mansion

source: Alejandro Rdguez (flickr)

Contrary to popular belief, the sun does shine in Portland and when it does, there are few cities with better parks and beer gardens. Everyone seems to be catching on to this fact.

I was personally raised in Portland and spent a great deal of my life there; I can certainly confirm that more tourists are arriving in this city every day.

Luckily, you found this Portland travel guide to help you sift through the crowds and get a leg up on all Portland including food, drink, what to do, where to stay, travel prices, and then some.

We’ll even go over some awesome places to visit near Portland as, a lot of times, the best parts are not even inside the city itself.

There will be plenty of beer, hikes, and ugly beanies (obviously), but we hope that by the end of this Portland travel guide, you’ll have a much better understanding of what makes this city magical.

In this comprehensive Portland travel guide, you'll gain knowledge to Portland, Oregon travel costs, what to do, food, and more...

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How Much Does Travel to Portland Cost?

There once was a time when Portland, Oregon was one of the most affordable cities in the USA; a place where the beer was cheap and the rent was reasonable, but those days are becoming a mere memory as more people move to Portland and developers continue to invest in property.

At the moment, Portland can still be cheap if you have a bit of sense. Though you’ll have a harder time finding a hotel for under $100/night or $1 beers (those were the days), there are always ways of saving a buck.

With the information outlined in this Portland travel guide, you’ll be able to visit this city on a budget.

A lowish daily budget for Portland will be around $50-$60. This will get you a dorm bed, groceries, tickets for the metro, and some extra spending money.

Lodging in Portland is actually pretty affordable, at least when compared to other major cities in the US. You can book an apartment for under $100, which is unheard of in places like Los Angeles, Boston, and even Denver. Hotels are only slightly more expensive than Airbnb.

Public transport in Portland is also cheap and convenient. Everything costs $2.50 to use, including airport transfers.

Food and drink are the most expensive things in Portland, which sucks because these are the two best aspects of the city!

Groceries in Portland are among the most expensive in the nation (probably because they are generally high quality) and this trend obviously affects the price of dining too.

Those delicious craft beers are also expensive, partly from taxes but mostly because of the extra labor they require to produce.

Below is a breakdown of a daily budget in Portland including average costs of each expense.

fremont bridge portland oregon travel guide

source: Tony Webster (flickr)

 

Guide to Portland Travel Costs

Hostel Dormitory: $20-$40

Basic room for two: $120

Airbnb/temp apartment: $90

Average cost of public transport: $2.50

City-Airport transfer: $2.50

Sandwich: $8-$10

Beer at a bar: $6-$8

Coffee: $3-$4

Bottle of whiskey from the market: $25

Dinner for two: $50-$80

 

Portland Oregon Budget Travel Tips

portland travel guide japanese gardens

source: Steve Wegner (flickr)

It’s easy to spend without thinking, and even easier to go broke. If you want to visit Portland on the cheap, then you’ll have to be strict with your spending habits.

For your benefit, we’ve created a list of tips for visiting Portland on a budget. Follow these words of advice and you’ll find that your dollar goes much further.

1. Always pre-fade before going out – Buying full-priced drinks at the bar is a great way to waste your money. Instead, buy booze at the store and drink with your friends at the hostel/their house/the park/anywhere besides the actual bar.

2. Cook at home as often as possible – One of the most proven ways of saving money for backpackers; buying your own groceries and cooking at home will save you heaps of cash.

3. Take advantage of happy hour – Happy hour is everyone’s favorite time of day! From around 4-6 pm and sometimes late, lots of bars and restaurants have special drink/food prices. If you must eat out, try and go to during this time.

4. Use a water bottle – Save money by investing in a refillable water bottle and drinking from the tap. Portland’s water is delicious and totally fine to drink.

5. Check for other deals – A lot of restaurants offer special discounts to those who book a table through certain apps like TripAdvisor. Shop around a little and try to work the system.

6. Walk everywhere – Portland is not a big city. Seasoned walkers could visit most of Portland’s must see places on their own two feet.

Want to save the world and stay hydrated? Single-use plastic bottles are a huge threat to the oceans and planet – Be a part of the solution and invest in a filter water bottle.

The GRAYL GEOPRESS water bottle is the ONLY all-in-one filter water bottle setup you’ll need. We use it on our own adventures to purify often nasty looking water and it does a beautiful job – we have yet to get sick! This is what the whole Broke Backpacker team uses- in mountains, cities, jungles – we love it – it’s a total game changer

 

Where to Stay in Portland Oregon (on a Budget)

Check Best Price

Travelers House
Free diy pancake breakfast and coffee, ample lounging space, a fire pit, and a book exchange make Travelers House the best hostel in Portland!
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  • 24 Hour Security
  • Bicycle Hire

We already mentioned that Portland has reasonably priced accommodation and that you can find a room for less than $100/night. The question is: where do you stay in Portland?!

There are a lot of different places to stay in Portland, from hotels to hostels to Airbnb apartments to campgrounds. Each of these will offer varying levels of comfort and affordability.

Hotels are widely available in Portland. While some hotels, like The Jupiter or The Ace, can be pretty unique, most are of the usual drab and uninspiring sort.

We always recommend staying in an Airbnb because they are usually more personable and more affordable. There are some really charming apartments in Portland and staying in one of these could really make your trip worthwhile.

While planning your trip to Portland, be sure to check out our guide on how to find the perfect apartment. The article even comes with a code for $35 off your next rental!

Hostels will always be one of the best deals in town. Portland hostels are pretty damn cool too. For a complete breakdown of the best hostels in Portland, you can check our guide here. Otherwise, refer to the next section where highlight the top three.

If you really want to visit Portland on a budget, then consider staying at an urban campground. Aside from being affordable, urban campgrounds can have a really great vibe as Portlandians love to go camping, wilderness or not.

Nob Hill, Portland

 

Overall Best Hostel in Portland Oregon – Travelers House

The Travelers House feels more like a friend’s place than a hostel. This smallish hostel inhabits a Portland-style, quaint and extremely welcoming home.

There all of the usual facilities on-site, like a communal kitchen and washer/dryer, but the firepit out back has to be the most popular spot. It’s also located in the increasingly popular Mississippi District, which hosts some of the best things to do in Portland at night.

Check for Best Price

Travelers House Best Overall Hostels in Portland

 

Best Hostel for Solo Travelers in Portland Oregon – HI Portland Northwest

The Northwest District is a great place to stay for those looking for a good place to meet other travelers. This area is very popular with students and young people so there are lots of chances to make new friends.

The hostel itself is elegant as well and provides lots more means to meet other people via bulletin boards, social gatherings, and organized events.

Check for Best Price

HI Portland Northwest best hostel for solo travellers in Portland

 

Best Cheap Hostel in Portland Oregon – HI Portland Hawthorne

It may be a little quieter and more out of the way than other hostels, but HI Hawthorne is still one of the best deals in town.

Granted, Hawthorne gets a little old after the first dozen vintage shops but there are still lots of bars nearby. The hostel itself is also commendable for using eco-friendly practices like composting and water collection. Moreover, a low price (and free breakfast) makes this one of the best reasons to stay here.

Check for Best Price

HI Portland Hawthorne best cheap hostel in Portland

 

Top 10 Portland Things to Do

 

1. Find Simpson’s names in the Alphabet District

The Alphabet District is so-called because the streets are laid out in alphabetic order. Did you know that many of these streets also served as inspiration for several Simpsons character names?! Go looking for the likes of Ned Flanders Street, Mayor Quimby Street, and Reverend Lovejoy Street, among many more!

 

2. Take the aerial tram to OHSU

OHSU (Oregon Health and Science University) is one of the most prestigious institutions in Portland and overlooks the city like some sort of Justice League Headquarters. While the medical bills may certainly be astronomical here the ride on the tram is not!

Grab a seat and enjoy the views from this languid lift. On a clear day, Mt Hood is visible from the top.

portland travel guide ohsu aerial tram

source: Ian Sane (flickr)

 

3. Get lost in Powell’s Books

Nothing screams, “Portland on the cheap” like wandering aimlessly through Powell’s Books. Yes, people do in fact buy books here but it mostly feels full of chronic browsers.

Wander among the endless aisles of bookshelves and see how long it takes before an employee thinks you’re just lost. 

 

4. Find peace in a garden or park

Portland is one of the greenest cities in the world thanks to its abundance of parks. Go for a walk in Forest Park and be sure to stop by the Hoyt Arboretum, Japanese Gardens, or Rose Gardens along the way.

If you don’t want to leave the city, trying visiting the Lan Su Gardens or Laurelhurst Park inside of Portland.

portland travel guide japanese gardens

 

5. Hang out with the hipsters on the East Side

Portland is often perceived as a hipster paradise, flooded with beanies, man buns, and mole-fur sweaters. Though this isn’t often the case these days, most of Portland’s counterculture crowd hangs on the East Side.

Cross the river and do all the things a hipster would – drop by a coffee shop, shop in a vintage store, and ride a fixie on Belmont – you get the idea.

 

6. Drink all the beer

Good luck – that’s all I’m going to say here.

portland travel guide beer tasting deschutes

source: Karen Neoh (flickr)

 

7. Eat at a food cart

Aside from being a tourist attraction in themselves, the Portland food carts absolutely serve up some of the tastiest dishes in the city. Grab some cheap eats, grab a piece of the curb, and chow down with your mates.

 

8. Soak in the views at Pittock Mansion

The prettiest view of the city and Mt Hood is from Pittock Mansion. (Maybe that’s why it was built there.) Take a short hike through Forest Park or drive up to the mansion one morning for the sunrise; you’ll be glad you did.

Where to Stay in Portland

 

9. Bike by the river

Portland is Biketown USA! There is no better place to go for a lovely afternoon ride than along the lazy Willamette River. On either side of this river is the Tom McCall Waterfront and Eastbank Esplanade – both are among the prettiest areas in the city.

 

10. Tour the bridges

Ask any local what Portland’s top attractions are and they’ll probably say the bridges. Portlandians are in love with their city’s bridges and, admittedly, they are sometimes pretty.

Visit favorites like the Hawthorne Bridge, St Johns Bridge, and Tilicum Bridge, and decide which is your favorite.  

st johns bridge portland oregon travel guide

source: Tony Webster (flickr)

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Best Free Things to do in Portland

If you’re looking to save some extra cash, then try doing one of these free things while visiting Portland!

  • Brewery Tour – Several of Portland’s most prolific breweries offer free tours of their facilities on select days. Some of these also give out complimentary samples of their brews! Check out HUB, Bridgeport, Ecliptic, and Groundbreaker for a look into the brewing process.
  • Pittock Mansion Overlook – Although entering the mansion itself requires a ticket, the lawn and overlook are still free. The viewpoint is the main reason to visit anyway! The views from Pittock Mansion are, without question, the best of Portland and Mt Hood.
  • First Thursdays – Many Downtown galleries and artists centers open their doors and offer free showings on the first Thursday of the month. A few may even be offering free samples of some tasty treats.
  • Belmont Firehouse – The Belmont Firehouse is an unassuming building located on the increasingly popular Belmont Street. It is set up to be a museum of sorts for local firefighters and often holds local events.
  • Hoyt Arboretum and Rose Garden – Two of the most iconic gardens in Portland are free to enter. Both are conveniently located right next to each other as well.
  • Museums – Several museums in Portland are free on certain days of the week. Check out the website here for a complete list of museums and when they’re free.
  • Markets – Portlandians love a good open-air market, and there many held throughout the city. Perusing the many farmers, crafts, and artisanal markets is, of course, free but you can also find good deals on food. Any way you prefer, the markets are great places to go shopping in Portland.

source: Dana Hutchinson (wikicommons)

 

Day Trips from Portland

Want to get out of the city? Check out one of these places to visit near Portland for a chance to stretch your legs and experience some Pacific Northwest scenery.

  • Columbia River Gorge –  The Gorge is Portland’s favorite outdoor playground! This scenic area is located less than an hour away from Portland and contains some of the finest waterfalls and vistas in the state. Unfortunately, there was a sizeable wildfire in the Gorge in 2017 and many of the trails were damaged. Many of these may still be closed.
  • Oregon Coast – This one of the best day trips from Portland! Like the Gorge, the Coast is less than an hour away from the city and, as such, is very popular. Lots of locals head to the coast for surfing, hiking, clamming, and bonfires. Seaside and Cannon Beach are the two most accessible towns but there are plenty more elsewhere.
  • Mt Hood – Oregon is one of the few places in the world where you can go surfing and skiing all in the course of a day! Mt Hood is 2.5 hours away from the Coast and a mere 1.5 hours away from Portland! Ski season is officially from December-May and hiking is possible between June-October (depending on elevation).
  • Gifford Pinchot – This national forest is one of the most overlooked places to go hiking near Portland. Here, you’ll find a plethora of stunning waterfalls and two of the highest peaks in the Cascades: Mt Adams and Mt St Helens. Both can be climbed individually in a single (very) long day and require little technical experience.  
  • Willamette Valley – Oregon is famous for cultivating some of the finest Pinot grapes in the world. There are hundreds of wineries producing hundreds of different Pinot varieties just outside of Portland. Book a private bus and go on a wine tour around the towns of McMinnville, Salem, and Newburg.

 

Weekend Itinerary in Portland

The following is a sample 3-day itinerary for a weekend in Portland. Most of the top destinations already mentioned in this Portland travel guide are covered in this section.

For more information on certain neighborhoods, please refer to our article about Where to Stay in Portland.

map of portland oregon travel guide

Locations are: 1. Northwest District 2. Pearl 3. Oldtown/Chinatown 4. Downtown 5. Eastbank Esplanade 6. Hawthorne 7. Division 8. Belmont 9. Laurelhurst 10. Hollywood 11. Mississippi 12. Alberta Arts 13. Portland Airport 14. Forest Park 15. Pittock Mansion 16. Japanese/Rose Gardens 17. Oregon Zoo 18. OHSU 19. South Waterfront 20. St Johns. Map of Portland not to scale.

 

Day 1: West Side in Portland

On the first day of our Portland travel guide, we head to the West Side where much of the city’s affluence can be found. We’ll visit the ever-charming Alphabet district, the ritzy Pearl, soak in some views on the Waterfront, and much more.

Let’s start out in Northwest Portland aka the Alphabet District. Aside from inspiring many Simpsons character names, this neighborhood is known for its bright, multicolored houses and Portland’s best shopping.

Along the main drags of 21st and 23rd Street, you’ll find lots of little shops, restaurants, cafes, and bars.

Moving along, we make for the Pearl District next via Burnside St. The Pearl was once of the decrepit parts of town, full of abandoned warehouses and squats; nowadays, it’s the most glamorous part of the city, synonymous with the “luxury redevelopment” phenomenon.

Granted, there are a lot of cool galleries and restaurants in the Pearl. Be sure to pop in Wieden+Kennedy to see their small gallery and then grab a drink at the 10 Barrel Rooftop. The legendary and unmissable Powell’s Bookstore is also on the edge of the Pearl.

As we continue down Burnside, we make a right on Broadway until we reach Pioneer Square. This is the main public square in the city and regularly hosts community events.

Many of Portland’s top points of interest are within a few minutes walk as well. These include the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall and Portland Art Gallery.

Let’s wrap up by walking to Tom McCall Waterfront and the banks of the Willamette River. This park is a popular hangout spot for locals. In the spring, the park is particularly beautiful when all of the cherry trees bloom.

End your day by the Portland Sign and take a selfie – we won’t judge. It’s located right next to Tom McCall on the Burnside Bridge.

portland oregon old town sign

 

Day 2: East Side of Portland

On the 2nd day of our Portland travel guide, we visit the more “hipster” side of the city.

Today will be more lowkey then the previous day, though nothing short of busy. There will be lots of food, coffee, craft beer, and f-ugly vintage clothing to go around.

Let’s begin at the once hipster-centric Hawthorne Blvd. Hawthorne was once ground zero for all things alternative and counterculture in the city, though it’s far more touristy these days.

Lots of vintage clothing shops and dive bars still line this street but they now compete with high rises and corporate chains. Visit the used clothing stores and grab a donut at Blue Star before moving on.

Depart from Hawthorne and head north on Caesar Chavez Blvd to the Laurelhurst neighborhood.

Here we’ll find lots of upscale homes and, more importantly, Laurelhurst Park, which is one of the prettiest parks in the city. Once you leave the park, be sure to stop by 28th Avenue in the neighborhood for the chance to eat at some of the finest restaurants in Portland.

If you’re in the mood for a historical detour, then keep heading north on Cesar Chavez until you cross I-84 and arrive in Portland’s own Hollywood District.

The neighborhood itself is a bit underwhelming but the Hollywood Theater makes it worthwhile. Aside from being culturally significant and beautiful to look at, the theater still plays cheap arthouse movies. It even hosted famous directors like Quentin Tarantino and Joseph Dante.

End the day by heading back to the Willamette River via Sandy Blvd and Burnside (you’ll probably need to catch the bus or train).

Along the way, you’ll pass by the iconic Oregon Convention Center, with its glass towers, and come within sight of city skyline again.

There are few better ways to experience the Portland skyline than a sunset walk on the Eastbank Esplanade. Do this and then grab some drinks at happy hour at the likes of Wayfinder or Produce Row Cafe.

portland convention center night

source: Kunal Mukhergee (flickr)

 

Day 3: West Hills

Today, we head for the hills! (The West Hills to be exact.) On the final leg of this Portland travel guide, we’re going for a walk in one of the city’s most adored places, Forest Park.

Fair warning: there’s going be a lot walking today, no matter what, so bring your best walking shoes today people!

The expansive Forest Park hosts some of the best hikes near Portland and is a very popular place for nature lovers. Bring your hiking boots!

Dozens of trailheads and a number of bus lines provide access to Forest Park. As such, visitors can start hiking and bail out of Forest Park at many junctures.

Today our ultimate goals are to reach Pittock Mansion and the Hoyt Arboretum/Japanese Gardens.

We’ll primarily be walking on a portion of the superb Wildwood Trail. This trail has lots of access points but I suggest using the Lower Macleay Trail as means of reaching the Wildwood..

From Lower Macleay Trailhead, it’s about a 3-mile hike to Pittock Mansion. The path can be steep and you’ll have to cross Cornell Road but, overall, it’s manageable.

Pittock Mansion is one of the most iconic attractions in Portland. The mansion itself is opulent but the views are priceless. From the mansion, you’ll see the whole of the city and the glorious Mt Hood, both at the same time.

If you want to stop here today, you can walk down to Burnside and grab a bus. Otherwise, we push onto to the Japanese Gardens. It’s another 2 miles to the Gardens via the Wildwood Trail.

The Japanese Gardens and nearby Rose Gardens are two of the most significant gardens on the West Coast. You can visit both in the course of an hour.

On the other side of the Forest Park crest, you’ll find the Hoyt Arboretum and Oregon Zoo, which are two more of Portland’s most beloved points of interest.

From the Japanese Gardens, it’s about another 2 miles walk to these. When you’re ready, you can grab the train back into the city at the Zoo.

portland oregon travel guide forest park

 

Portland Travel Guide and Tips

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Check out this post to read our full review!

 

Best Time of Year to Visit Portland Oregon

Portland is a tale of two cities. The first is a dreary, dreadfully grey one, where the sun never shines and people lock themselves indoors to avoid the rain. The other is a sunny paradise with endless summer days and merry residents who run around the city like woodland elves.

Let’s get a couple of things straight: while Portland does suffer from some miserable winters, which provide to its moody reputation, it’s not all doom and gloom.

Portland actually benefits from near-perfect weather in the summer months and these are arguably the finest in the whole USA.

On that note, it doesn’t rain all the time in Portland and it’s never too frigid either. Because of its temperate climate, Portland can be visited at any time of the year, but what activities are available will vary greatly depending on the season.

Winters in Portland are long and melancholic and typically last from November-March. Temperatures hover around 40 degrees F and the skies are overcast about 90% of the time.

Note that, like the rest of the Pacific Northwest, rain doesn’t usually fall in bucketloads; instead it falls lightly and for long periods of time, kind of like a misting.

Winters in Oregon are good for hanging out in the pubs and reading books (check out our Portland reading list!). Oregon’s Cascade Mountains receive snow regularly in the winter and places like Mt Hood are very popular with skiers and snowboarders.

Summers in Portland are seriously spectacular. From June-September, rain is very sporadic (dangerously so sometimes) and sunshine is plentiful. Days can last as long as 16 hours in peak summer.

In the summer, everyone goes outdoors to celebrate the weather. There is a myriad of festivals and Portland really feels manic at this time. Summer is also when the tourist hordes come, which mean higher prices and lower availability.

fall in portland oregon travel guide

 

Getting in and out of Portland

Portland is a major city on the West Coast of America and so it is well connected with the rest of the region. With the most important highway in the Western USA running right through the city and a very efficient international airport nearby, arriving and departing from Portland is a breeze.

Portland International is the city’s largest airport and receives the majority of incoming visitors. It is a relatively small airport but an extremely effective one, so much so that is often ranked as the #1 best airport in the USA.

There are lots of cool local shops inside the airport, if you are stuck here for some reason, although the most beloved aspect is probably the carpet (yes, the carpet).

Portlandians have become so enamored with the carpet that a piece was even named the Grand Marshal of a very important local festival.

Getting into the city from the airport is an easy and cheap affair as the local train connects the two. Airport-city transfers are the same price as regular rides ($2.50).

Several interstate highways run through Portland. I-5, which runs the full length of the West Coast from San Diego to Seattle, runs literally through the middle of the city.

I-84 commences in Portland itself and runs all the way east to Idaho and beyond into Utah. US-26 and US-97 links Western Oregon and Eastern Oregon.

Those road tripping in Oregon or on the West Coast will have no problem arriving in Portland. Just be mindful that traffic around Portland has gotten horrendous in the last few years.

Buses ply all of the above routes and are somewhat useful. BoltBus is currently the best company in the region, though Greyhound is still useful, especially for really long hauls to the rest of America.

portland oregon union station

 

How to get around Portland

A long time ago, the city of Portland decided to develop its public transport over its highway system. For this reason, Portland has some of the best public transit in the entire country (at least, for a city of its size).

Conversely, traffic congestion in the city is becoming worse every day as the city’s population grows ever faster.

Portland has an extensive and wide-ranging public transport system that utilizes a fleet of trams, buses, and trains. Via one of these three methods, you can travel just about anywhere in the city in a reasonable amount of time.

All types of transport accept the same tickets and these can be used multiple times within a certain period of time. For $2.50, you can ride as many buses, trams, and trains as you like within a 90-minute timeframe. Otherwise, day passes and weekly passes are also available.

We cannot write a Portland travel guide in good faith without suggest riding a bike in Portland. Much to the ridicule from other American cities, Portlandians are obsessed with bikes (honestly, it’s a bit comical sometimes).

You can rent a bike at one of the many local businesses and/or probably at your hostel or lodge.

Riding a bike in Portland is definitely a fun experience although, in reality, not as easy as you think. Portland itself can be quite hilly, not to mention rainy, and could probably benefit from a few more bike lanes and fewer cars.

Driving in central areas of Portland should be avoided. The streets of Portland are quite narrow and have few lanes, which create jams.

The layout is often confusing and even locals get lost in the city. The bridges also create problems as they are frequently raised to let boats by, thus creating more delays.

Pearl District, Portland

 

Safety in Portland

Downtown Portland | source: Eric Baetscher (wikipedia)

Portland is one of the safest major cities in the USA and rarely, if ever, experiences violent crime. Murder and rape are unheard of these days.

Crime in Portland usually comes in the form of petty crime and this is actually quite rampant. Pickpockets occur on occasion but carjackings and break-ins happen all the time.

As is the case with any other city, it is always recommended that you conceal valuables and to never leave anything (ANYTHING) in your car. I’ve had my car broken into over items as trivial as USB cord and spare change.

Homelessness is a very relevant issue in Portland and always has been. Thanks to a liberally-minded population, good social programs, and relatively temperate weather, bums love to settle in Portland. Homeless camps pop all the time in the city and you’ll probably be shocked at how numerous they are.

Most bums are harmless – either too strung out or too weak to hurt you – and can easily be dealt with through ignoring them. As Portland cracks down on vagrancy though, some vagabonds lash out in violent ways.

The infamous “Avenue of Terror” was formally a no-go zone at night, due to bums ambushing and attacking pedestrians, before being purged a few years back. Be aware of your surroundings, regardless if someone seems dangerous or not.

portland travel guide ohsu aerial tram

You should always have emergency cash hidden on you – pick up this awesome security belt with its hidden pocket before you travel, it’s perfect for hiding money, a passport photocopy.

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Get Insured before Visiting Portland

Even if you are only going on a short trip to Oregon, you should always travel with insurance. Have fun on your backpacking adventure, but please do get insurance – take it from someone who has racked up tens of thousands of bucks on an insurance claim before, you need it.

As a wise man once said, if you can’t afford travel insurance, you shouldn’t be traveling – so be sure to get your backpacker insurance sorted before you head off on an adventure! Traveling without insurance would be fucking stupid. I highly recommend World Nomads.

 

Portland Accommodation Travel Guide

Sometimes you need your own roof above your head – we know the feeling. Other times, you’re doing everything you can save a nickel and dime.

If you’re trying to the cut the costs of travel to Portland, then maybe it’s time to stay somewhere besides a hostel or apartment. If you need to save money, try one of these:

Couchsurf! – Couchsurfing is the best way to save on cash when it comes to accommodation since most of the time you’re crashing for free. Staying with a local host is also a great chance to experience a more authentic side of the city and to visit hidden Portland.

Problem is couchsurfing is really popular (duh, it’s free) and demand often outstrips supply. Hosts are picky as well so you’ll need to impress them with an eye-catching message. Definitely try couchsurfing but be ready to be rejected.

Tap into your backpacker network – You never know when you have a friend in a foreign city! If you’ve traveled a lot, you may have met someone from Portland or know someone who knows someone.

Reach out to people! Ask to stay with people for a night or two in exchange for cooking dinner or a bottle of wine. If you don’t know anyone in the city, ask your friends if they do – travelers understand the struggle and are usually more helpful than you think.

Camping – Urban camping is a growing trend in many cities. These campsites are comfortable, sociable, safe, and cheap. They are often located on the outskirts of town, which means they are quieter too. Research to see if Portland as any and be sure to bring your own tent too!

portland travel guide riverside views

source: Michael Silberstein (flickr)

 

Eating and Drinking in Portland

One of the #1 reasons to visit Portland is for the food and drink! (I guess that’s two reasons…) In recent years, Portland has been ranked as one of, if not the singularly, best foodie town in the nation.

For that matter, Portland also has one of the densest concentrations of microbreweries in the world and produces more quality beers than I can think to count.

For anyone interested in the earthly pleasures, Portland is a paradise.

There is no single neighborhood that hosts the best restaurants in Portland, Oregon. High-quality eateries are located everywhere in this city and sorting through the lot of them would take ages. If I were to provide a couple of ideas right off the bat, I would suggest checking out Le Pigeon, Lechon, and Atuala.

Furthermore, many of the locals take great pride in their high-quality produce and where their food comes from, so much so Portlandia makes fun of it well.

Just about every culinary style is well represented in Portland, from Vietnamese to Mexican to Middle Eastern.

Superlative establishments like Israeli-themed Shalom Y’all, Korean Kim Jong Smokehouse, and Turkish Tarboosh, offer, hands-down, some of the best food outside their respective nations.

If we’re being honest, the best and most affordable food is probably found at the food carts. Dishes served from these are cheap, delicious, and usually very creative.

Food cart owners are among the most passionate people that I’ve met and you can usually see it in their food. Visit food pods like Cartlandia, Cartopia, Prost Marketplace, and 10th-Alder for the best carts in Portland.

Finally, I could spend this entire article talking about the breweries in Portland but will only be able to talk about a few of my favorites.

The beer in Portland is a source of huge pride and is practically a state treasure. Most of the beer in this city is worth the money but there are definitely some breweries that stand out among the rest. These are Upright, Culmination, Occidental, Baerlic, and Cascade.

portland oregon food cart food

 

Nightlife in Portland

Portlandians love to drink but they don’t really party like people in other major cities. Where some places may enjoy large clubs or ritzy lounges, Portland prefers lowkey pubs and local dives.

For this reason, the nightlife in Portland is noticeably more laid back and casual then what most are used to.

Bars are everywhere in Portland – you can’t throw an empty beer can in this city and not hit some sort of watering hole or pub. While you can find a drink just about anywhere, there are definitely certain areas that attract more people than others.

The West Side is where the majority of the youth and professionals hang out. The Pearl, Oldtown, and Alphabet District are the most popular places to go out, and between the three there are a number of noteworthy bars, like Shanghai Tunnel, Ground Kontrol, and Momo’s.

The West Side gets a bad rap for being frequented by douchebags, trust fund babies, and all-around proverbial babies. No district better exemplifies this crowd than Chinatown. Chinatown is the filthiest and most immature area to go out it and should only be visited if you’re really looking to get fucked up.

The East Side is the more relaxed part of town and usually attracts a more casual clientele. Hawthorne, Division, and Alberta are funky areas that are great for a chill night with your friends.

Some of the best things to do in Portland at night are found in these neighborhoods; this includes visits to Growlers on Hawthorne, Richmond Bar, and Radio Room.

The East Side is not immune to over-development. As Portland expands, the East Side is quickly being absorbed into the mainstream framework of the West Side.

Once gritty parts of town, like Belmont, Mississippi, and Broadway, are quickly becoming the next hip places to be.

Although certain establishments like the Liquor Store, Bar/Bar, Hereafter, and Slammer are still holding onto their identity, they are increasingly being threatened by the invading dickhead hordes.

 

Books to Read on Portland

Check out this Portland reading list to learn more about the city! Each novel takes place in and around Portland and does a good job of exploring the city.

The Backpacker Bible – Get it for free! Learn how to ditch your desk and travel the world on just $10 a day whilst building a life of long-term travel with an online income. To inspire and help the next generation of Broke Backpackers, you can now grab ‘How to Travel the World on $10 a Day’ for free! Get your copy here. 

Gone, but Not Forgotten – Wives begin disappearing from their Portland homes. The only things left behind are a rose and note saying “Gone, but Not Forgotten.”

Fugitives and Refugees – An autobiographical book by the legendary Fight Club author, Chuck Palahniuk. Acts a sort of alternative travel guide for the more anonymous parts of Portland, Oregon that few actually see.

Night Dogs – Vietnam War vet deals with violence in the streets and in himself. An excellent if not authentic crime novel.

The Lathe of Heaven – A man wakes up one day to discover that his dreams can affect reality itself. A novel exploring human creation and destruction. Set in Portland, which was the ultimate home of the author, sci-fi legend Ursula K. Guin.

Lean on Pete – A young boy finds himself homeless after a series of unfortunate events. He finds shelter in a racetrack and in the company of an aging racehorse. He plans on heading east in search of a new life.

powells books pearl portland travel guide

source: Kari Sullivan (flickr)

 

Volunteering in Portland

Long term travel is awesome. Giving back is awesome too. For backpackers looking to travel long-term on a budget in Portland whilst making a real impact on local communities look no further than World Packers. World Packers is an excellent platform connecting travelers with meaningful volunteer positions throughout the world.

In exchange for a few hours of work each day, your room and board are covered.

Backpackers can spend long periods of time volunteering in an awesome place without spending any money. Meaningful life and travel experiences are rooted in stepping out of your comfort zone and into the world of a purposeful project.

Worldpackers opens the doors for work opportunities in hostels, homestays, NGOs, and eco-projects around the world. We’ve tried and approved them ourselves – check out our Worldpackers in-depth review here.

If you’re ready to create a life-changing travel experience and give back to the community, join the Worldpacker community now. As a Broke Backpacker reader, you’ll get a special discount of $20. Just use the discount code BROKEBACKPACKER and your membership is discounted from $49 a year to only $29.

 

Make Money Online while Traveling Portland

Traveling in Portland, Oregon long-term? Keen to make some cash when you are not exploring the city?

Teaching English online is a great way to earn a consistent income—from anywhere in the world with a good internet connection.

Depending on your qualifications (or your motivation to obtain qualifications like a TEFL certificate) you can teach English remotely from your laptop, save some cash for your next adventure, and make a positive impact on the world by improving another person’s language skills!

It’s a win-win! Check out this detailed article for everything you need to know to start teaching English online.

Learn what it’s like to be a VIPKID teacher, a top company in the field of online English learning.

In addition to giving you the qualifications to teach English online, TEFL courses open up a huge range of opportunities and you can find teaching work all over the world. To find out more about TEFL courses and how you can teach English around the world, read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Broke Backpacker readers get a 35% discount on TEFL courses with MyTEFL (simply enter the code BACKPKR), to find out more, please read my in-depth report on teaching English abroad.

Whether you are keen to teach English online or looking to take your teaching game a step further by finding a job teaching English in a foreign country, getting your TEFL certificate is absolutely a step in the right direction.

 

Being a Responsible Traveler in Portland

Reduce your plastic footprint: Perhaps the best thing you can do for our planet is to make sure you do NOT add to the plastic problem all over the world. Don’t buy one-use water bottles, the plastic ends up in landfill or in the ocean. Instead, pack a tough travel water bottle.

Go and watch A Plastic Ocean on Netflix – it’ll change how you view the plastic problem in the world; you need to understand what we are up against. If you think it doesn’t matter, get off my fucking site.

Don’t pick up single use plastic bags, you’re a backpacker – take your daypack if you need to go to the shop or run errands.

Bear in mind, that many animal products in countries you travel through will not be ethically farmed and won’t be of the highest quality. I’m a carnivore but when I’m on the road, I only eat chicken. Mass-farming of cows etc leads to the rainforest being cut down – which is obviously a huge problem.

Recently, my gear-venture, Active Roots has started to sell water bottles. For every Active Roots water bottle sold, we donate 10% to PlasticOceans.org – an awesome initiative aimed at educating people on the risk of single use plastic and helping to clean up our oceans. Help save the planet, whether you take an Active Roots bottle or not – TAKE RESPONSIBILITY for your plastic footprint, don’t be a dick. 

Need more guidance? – Check out our post on how to be a responsible backpacker.

Visiting Portland, Oregon will bring you ample opportunities to participate in debauchery, and it is very important to have fun, let loose, and get a bit wild at times. Most trips I have been on across the world have included at least a few mornings where I wake up knowing I went too far.

But there are some things that will put you in the category of a straight up jackass if you do them. Being super loud and obnoxious in a tiny hostel at 3 AM is a classic rookie mistake. Everyone in the hostel will hate you when you wake them up. Show your fellow travelers respect whilst traveling in Portland and anywhere else for that matter!

Oregon is a beautiful place that has touched countless people, so let’s not mistreat it. It clearly inspired the makers of this video, which, not gonna lie, has made me cry (only) a few times.

Want to learn how to travel the world on $10 a day? Check out the Broke Backpacker’s Bible for FREE!

Yay for transparency! Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means that if you book your accommodation, buy a book or sort your insurance, I’ll earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only link to stuff I’ve actually used and never endorse crap. Your support helps me keep the site going.”


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