To make a holiday trip to or through Portugal can be a delight.
It is a smaller country to its neighbour Spain and therefore has
a more personal and endearing character. The major resort areas,
such as the Algarve, offer the holidaymaker as many attractions
as anywhere in Europe. Throughout Portugal there is a chain of
Tourist Offices manned by bilingual staff to assist the tourist.
As the Portuguese are by nature hospitable they are keen and proud
to share their country with foreign visitors.
The normal shopping hours are from 09.00 hrs. until 19.00 hrs on
Mondays to Fridays. Saturdays is from 09.00 hrs. until 13.00 hrs.
There are some shops that extend their hours and their days of
opening. Shopping Centres are open from 09.00 hrs. to 23.00 hrs
all week except for certain Public Holidays.
There is a great a lack in past design and facilities to provide
their needs. Happily, awareness is now showing and this is
evident with the appearance of special parking spaces in public
areas, special toilets at airports, stations, and centres of
entertainment. In Lisbon (217 585 676) and
Porto (226 006 353), there is a dial-a-ride
disabled bus service. Also in Lisbon (218 155 061),
Braga (253 684 081), and Coimbra (239
484 522), there are taxi services for disabled persons.
The current all over Portugal is 220 volts AC and connection
is made by a two-pin plug. The plug today acts also as an earth
except in older buildings that use older models of this two-pin
By calling anywhere in Portugal on 112
you will be connected to Fire, Police and Ambulance services.
Every Fire Brigade also maintains one or more ambulances for
emergencies. Chemists can give advice on simple health problems
and suggest appropriate treatment. They are also permitted to
sell many medicines without a doctors subscription. A green cross
on white background denotes a chemist. A red cross on a white
background denotes a "Red Cross" station. In
many towns there are Emergency Treatment Centres (SAP) that will
provide medical assistance 24 hours a day.
Security in cities and towns is handled by the "Polícia
de Segurança Pública" (PSP), rural areas by the
"Guarda Nacional Republicana" (GNR), and the
traffic by "Brigada de Trânsito". On motorways
and several major roads there are SOS phone boxes for help in
case of an accident or breakdown.
When written the Portuguese language has a visual relationship
to both Spanish and Italian. When spoken it takes on another
character. Although today the language has been influenced by
modern means of communication, the educated form can be likened
to "Dickensian English" in its style. It is courteous
in content and suitable flowery in description. Spoken Spanish
can be understood by the Portuguese but is best avoided. Anybody
with knowledge of some Portuguese history will be able to
understand the reason. The inhabitants have a wonderful ability
to learn foreign languages and you will find that the English
language is normally readily understood. This has been helped
by the fact that all foreign films on TV and Cinemas are shown
in their original language with subtitles.
Corpus Christi (Early June)
It is traditional for each Municipality (Concelho), to
reserve one annual day as a holiday for its own town commerce.
This day is used as an excuse for local events and celebration.
You will find restaurants open but normally most commercial
shops are closed.
The word "Correio" denotes a Post Office or
services. First class mail is denoted by the words
"correio azul" and normally associated with
the colour of blue. From Post Offices there is an express service
named "EMS" that also records delivery. These
offices are normally open from 08.30 hrs. until 18.30 hrs. from
Monday to Friday. In bigger towns they may also will also be open
The local currency is Euros. Money can be changed at Banks,
"Bureau de Change" (Cambio) or at one of the currency
exchange machines in the streets. These facilities will offer a
better rate than in Hotels and Receptions. Banks are open from
Monday through to Friday, from 08.30 hrs. to 15.00 hrs. Euro
Cheque is a cheaper method than a Traveller Cheque in obtaining
cash. All well-known Credit Cards are usually accepted.
Although the majority of the museums and art galleries are
State owned there are a number of private Foundations and
individually owned exhibition places. This fact is particularly
evident when wishing to see contemporary art where they tend to
reflect the taste of the owner. State Museums charge a small
entrance fee that is often waived on Sundays and Public Holidays.
They are open from Tuesday through to Sunday and pensioners
receive a 40% discount on the entrance fee. Sometimes there is
no charge at all for pensioners on showing your ID. Opening
times are normally from 10.00 hours to 17.00 hours, but
sometimes closed during lunchtime.
In Lisbon there is an excellent ticket system for tourists
provided by "Carris" kiosks. The holder of his
ticket can visit 26 of the main museums in the city and enjoy
free public transport during the time period. They are available
for one, two, or three days.
Private Art Galleries
Throughout the country there are many galleries exhibiting
contemporary art for sale for all tastes and pockets. There
is normally no charge to enter these galleries or their
Young people between the ages of 12 and 25 may purchase a
"Cartão Jovem" costing about € 5.00. This card
offers the bearer special discounts on public travel, travel
insurance, and discounts to certain shops and museums. A useful
advantage is this card also provides a discount on Youth Hostels
within Portugal. Bearers of the International Student Identity
Card (ISDC), receive the same advantages as the "Cartão
This tax that is the same as VAT is known as IVA in Portugal,
and is at present 23%. Persons from outside the European Union
(EU) and visiting for less than 180 days, can reclaim this tax
by requesting a form named "Isenção de IVA".
This form is presented to customs when leaving the country.
Time to Travel
It is safe to suggest that the whole year is a good period to
visit. Mainland Portugal has an attractive climate with long
hot summers and mild pleasant winters. In the north winters are
obviously cool and wet, whilst in the Algarve temperatures seldom
ever fall below freezing except in the mountain regions. Inland
areas have hotter summers and cooler winters except for
mountainous regions that even enjoy snow. Madeira Islands and the
Islands of the Azores enjoy a temperate climate the year around.
Nationals of the EC (European Community), Australia and New
Zealand, require only their passport or Identity Document.
They may remain for a period of up to 90 days. American and
Canadian nationals may stay for a period of 60 days with a valid
passport. Other countries are subject to Visa controls and as
regulations can change overnight it is recommended that a
potential visitor should check with the Portuguese Consul in
their respective country prior to making a visit to Portugal.