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Portugal Country Information
Portugal shares the Iberian Peninsula with Spain, and is bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the west and south. Its long, varied coastline, sunny climate, and the relaxed lifestyle of the inhabitants of its charming towns and villages have made it a sought after holiday destination. The delight of Portugal is that, although it is undeniably part of modern Europe, it retains some rural enclaves where time has stood still and traditions flourish. In the southern province of the Algarve, modern high-rise resorts line the coast and buzz with all the trappings of a package tour destination; the capital city, Lisbon, on the west coast, is a bright, busy, crowded metropolis surrounded by bustling tourist resorts. Travel a few miles north or east, however, and discover a largely undeveloped picturesque countryside full of medieval villages and towns where life has changed little over several centuries.

The Portuguese have a close affinity to the sea; for centuries their famed mariners led the way in the exploration of Africa and the Americas, and opened trade routes to the East. The country became a strong colonial power, and remained so until the mid-20th century, resulting in distinctive foreign influences on the local culture and architecture. From Africa, for example, was imported the now traditional, sentimental fado music, which is one of the country’s unique experiences for visitors, particularly in the cafés of Lisbon.

The Basics
Time: Local time is GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Electricity: Electrical current is 220 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are used.

Money: Portugal is a member of the European Union and its official currency is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. There are numerous banks, bureaux de change and ATMs available in main cities and tourist destinations. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and automatic currency exchange machines. Banking hours are generally 8.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday. Major credit cards are widely accepted, as are travellers cheques.

Language: Portuguese is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood.

Travel Health: There are no health risks attached to travel to Portugal. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is necessary for entry for anyone travelling from an infected area and destined for the Azores or Madeira. Health facilities are good and reciprocal health agreements exist with most European countries, including the UK, whose citizens can receive low-cost emergency care at state hospitals. It is advisable that travellers obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travel. Dental care and repatriation costs are not covered under this agreement, and medical insurance is therefore advised.

Tipping: Service charges are usually added to hotel and restaurant bills, otherwise it is customary to leave a 10% tip. Bar staff and taxi drivers also expect tips, which usually entails rounding up of the bill to the nearest Euro.

Safety Information: Generally, safety is not a problem for travel in Portugal but there is a rising incidence of petty theft and pick pocketing in tourist areas, so reasonable care should be taken. Portugal has a very poor road safety record so exercise caution and drive defensively when exploring in a rented car.

Local Customs: It is a legal requirement for foreigners to show some form of identification on request.

Business: Business protocol in Portugal generally follows that of the rest of modern Europe. However, in rural areas, and when dealing with the elder generation, people may still cling onto customs of the past. Formal dress is necessary only in banking, government or law; otherwise smart-casual attire will suffice, and is often how the host may dress. However, being a fashion conscious country means that it may simply be easier to dress in a conventional formal manner. Handshakes for men and women are the common form of greeting. Face-to-face relationships are preferred but this is changing. It is a good idea to be punctual for all meetings, which may be over lunch, or a simple to-the-point meeting depending. Printed material should be available in both English and Portuguese. Business cards are often exchanged. Business hours vary but are generally 8.30am to 1pm and 3pm to 6pm Monday to Friday.

Communications: The international access code for Portugal is +351. There are no area or city codes required. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the United Kingdom). Portugal is well covered by three GSM mobile phone networks. Internet cafes are available in most towns and resorts.

Duty Free: Travellers over 17 years arriving from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 2 litres of liquor; 50g of perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette; gifts up to the value of €33.50.

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Visa and Entry Information

  • Entry requirements for Americans: US nationals do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. A passport is required.
  • Entry requirements for UK nationals: Passport holders endorsed British Citizen, British National (Overseas), British Overseas Territories Citizen and British Subject, all with the right of abode in the UK, do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. In all other cases a visa is required.
  • Entry requirements for Canadians: Canadians do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. A passport is required.
  • Entry requirements for Australians: Australian nationals do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. A passport is required.
  • Entry requirements for South Africans: South African nationals require a passport and a Schengen visa.
  • Entry requirements for New Zealanders: New Zealand nationals do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days. A passport is required.
  • Entry requirements for Irish nationals: Irish nationals do not require a visa to visit Portugal. A passport is required.

Passport/Visa Note: All visitors, except EEA member states, must hold tickets and documents for their return or onward journey, and proof of paid accommodation (equivalent in convertible currency accepted). The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain and Sweden. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all.

Note: Passport and visa requirements are liable to change at short notice. Travellers are advised to check their entry requirements with their embassy or consulate.

Weather and Climate In Portugal
Southern Portugal, including the Algarve, has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters. Summer temperatures are high, but moderated by sea breezes. In the north the weather is wetter, particularly in winter, and cooler, temperatures influenced by Atlantic currents and the Spanish Meseta. The best time to travel to Portugal is during spring and autumn when days are pleasantly sunny and warm but tourist areas are relatively quiet.

Lisbon has a warm climate with sunny spring and summer days, when temperatures frequently reach 85ºF (30ºC) or above. Winters are wet and windy, temperatures averaging around 50ºF (10ºC).

The Azores islands have a sub-tropical climate, characterised by high humidity and frequent fluctuations in weather patterns. The islands enjoy pleasant temperatures year-round with mild winters (January to March) and warm summers (July to September). The highest rainfall in the Azores archipelago is from October through to January.

Madeira Island has a varied oceanic sub-tropical climate, influenced by its geographical position and mountainous landscape, but generally the weather is pleasant year-round. The hottest months in Madeira are August and September, while January and February have the highest rainfall.

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Attractions in Portugal

  • Castelo de Sao Jorge - The walls of Saint George's Castle, sitting atop a hill guarding the Tagus, date from the Moorish occupation in the 10th century, but the site has been a fortress for centuries, possibly from 500 AD.
  • Alfama - The oldest part of Lisbon, the Alfama quarter sprawls down the hillside from below the Castelo de Sao Jorge, retaining much of the traditional colour and atmosphere from the days when it was the ancient seat of the Saracens.
  • Monument to the Discoveries - One of the most famous sights in Lisbon is the imposing Padrão dos Descobrimentos, situated on the riverbank in the Avenida de Brasilia in the district of Belem and designed to commemorate the Portuguese Age of Discovery.
  • Tower of Belem - The famous Tower of Belem is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and is one of Lisbon's most photographed landmarks because of the decoration on its exterior.
  • Funchal Cathedral - In the heart of the historic part of Funchal stands the cathedral (Sé do Funchal) which is the most impressive of Madeira's religious edifices.
  • Oceanario de Lisboa (Lisbon Oceanarium) - Marketed as the second best aquarium in the world, the world-class Lisbon Oceanarium is the most impressive achievement of EXPO '98, which used to be an abandoned waterfront.

Events in Portugal

  • Carnival - The Rio Carnival may be the most famous in the world but it all started here in Portugal's capital. Even though today the Brazilian infused mega-carnival on the other side receives most of the international attention, the Lisbon Carnival, a celebration of the end of winter, is still a major event on the city's calendar. The entrudo is the highlight of the festival, closing on the last day, and processions of floats make their way down the colourful streets while jugglers and masked celebrators join in the cacophony of music and cheering.
  • Great Orchestras of the World - Featuring various internationally renowned conductors and soloists, the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation presents its Grandes Orquestras Mundiais (Great Orchestras of the World) series in Lisbon's Coliseu dos Recreios.
  • Estoril Open - With almost €530,000 in prize money, the ATP/WTA Estoril Open begins the clay court tennis season. The first two days are qualifying rounds, after which the main draw takes place.
  • Lisbon Village Festival - Divided into three main categories, and held at various venues around the city, the Lisbon Village Festival showcases music, arts and film for the digital generation.

Portugal Airports

Lisbon Portela Airport (LIS)

  • Location: The airport is five miles (7km) north of Lisbon.
  • Time: GMT (GMT +1 between the last Sunday in March and the Saturday before the last Sunday in October).
  • Contacts: Tel: +351 (0)21 841 3500
  • Getting to the city: The Carris Aerobus no 91 runs every day between 7.45am and 8.45pm, connecting Lisbon Airport to the city centre. Tickets cost €1.35, purchased on the bus; you can also purchase an all-day bus and tram network pass for €3.35. A shuttle bus service also operates between the airport and the resorts of Estoril and Cascais. Taxi stands are situated outside departures and arrivals. The meter should read €2.35 (daytime pick-up) or €2.50 (at night) at the start of the ride. Fares are 20 percent higher on weekends, holidays and at night.
  • Car rental: Car rental companies represented at the airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.
  • Airport Taxis: Taxis can be found outside of the arrival and departure area. Some taxis will charge extra for luggage but fares should be kept to a maximum of US$15 and a bit more at night. Some metered taxis will try to take a longer route to the city centre but rides should take less than 15 minutes for a five mile (7km) ride.
    Facilities: There are a range of passenger services at Lisbon Airport including ATMs, bureaux de change, showers, a post office, left luggage, baby care facilities, meeting rooms and a help desk in both Arrivals and Departures. There are a wide variety of restaurants and shops, including a duty-free. Disabled facilities are good; passengers requiring wheelchairs should contact their airline.
  • Parking: Parking is available and can be reserved in advance via the airport website.
  • Departure Tax: None.

Faro Airport (FAO)

  • Location: The airport is two miles (4km) west of Faro.
  • Time: GMT (GMT +1 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).
  • Contacts: Tel: +351 (0)289 800 800.
  • Getting to the city: Many different bus companies service the airport, taking commuters to the EVA Bus Terminal in Faro where further travel by bus throughout Portugal is possible. Taxis are available outside the terminal building to take passengers to all areas of the Algarve.
  • Car rental: Car rental companies that operate from the airport include Avis, Budget, Europcar, Hertz and Sixt.
  • Facilities: The airport has several restaurants, bars and shops (including duty free), Internet access, ATMs, bureaux de change, a massage service, a post office and a bank.
  • Parking: Parking is available and can be booked in advance on the airport website.
  • Departure Tax: None.

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Driving Information

Drinking and driving:
If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05 per cent to 0.08 per cent, fine and withdrawal of the driving licence for a minimum of one month to a maximum of one year; more than 0.08 per cent, fine and withdrawal of driving licence for a minimum of two months up to a maximum of two years. The police are also empowered to carry out testing on drivers for narcotics.

Driving licence:
Minimum age at which a UK licence holder may drive a temporarily imported car and/or motorcycle (over 50cc) 17; however visitors under the age of 18 years may encounter problems even though they hold a valid UK licence.

All valid UK driving licenses should be accepted in Portugal. This includes the older all-green style UK licenses (in Northern Ireland older paper style with photographic counterpart) although the EC appreciates that these may be more difficult to understand and that drivers may wish to voluntarily update them before travelling abroad if time permits. Alternatively, older licenses may be accompanied by an International Driving Permit (IDP).

On-the-spot. An official receipt showing the maximum amount of the fine should be obtained.

Note: foreign motorists refusing to pay an on-the-spot fine will be asked for a deposit to cover the maximum fine for the offence committed. If a motorist refuses to do this, the police can take the driving licence, registration document or failing that they can confiscate the vehicle.

Wheel-clamping and towing are in operation for illegally parked vehicles.

Unleaded petrol (95 and 98 octane), diesel and LPG available. No leaded petrol (lead replacement petrol available as 98 octane). Petrol in a can permitted.

Credit cards accepted at most filling stations; check with your card issuer for use in Portugal before travel.
Note: A tax is added to credit card transactions.

Driving Distances:

Lisbon Porto
3hrs 26mins
Lisbon Paris
16hrs 55mins
Lisbon Rome
24hrs 6mins
Lisbon Paris
15hrs 24mins

Please click here http://www.viamichelin.com/ for more driving distances

Dipped headlights compulsory in poor daytime visibility and in tunnels.

Use of dipped headlights during the day compulsory. Wearing of crash helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger.

Motor Insurance:
Third-party compulsory. Green Card recognised.

Passengers / Children in cars:
Children under 12 and less than 1.50 metres in height cannot travel as front seat passengers. They must travel in the rear in a special restraint system adapted to their size, unless the vehicle has only two seats, or is not fitted with seat belts.

Children under 3 can be seated in the front passenger seat if using a suitable child restraint however, the airbag must be switched off if using a rear-facing child restraint system.

Seat belts:
Compulsory for front / rear seat occupants to wear seat belts, if fitted.

Speed limits:
Standard legal limits, which may be varied by signs, for private vehicles without trailers: In built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h), outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h) or 62 mph (100 km/h) and on motorways 74 mph (120 km/h).

The minimum speed on motorways 31 mph (50 km/h). Motorists who have held a driving licence for less than one year must not exceed 55 mph (90 km/h) or any lower speed limit.

Compulsory equipment:

  • Photographic proof of identity - It is a legal requirement in Portugal that everyone carries photographic proof of identity at all times
  • Reflective jacket – compulsory for residents, recommended for visitors

Other rules / requirements:

Carrying a warning triangle recommended as the use of hazard warning lights or a warning triangle is compulsory in an accident/breakdown situation.

It is prohibited to carry and/or use a radar detector. Spiked tyres and winter tyres are prohibited. Snow chains may be used, where the weather conditions require. It is illegal to carry bicycles on the back of a passenger car.

The wearing of reflectorised jacket/waistcoat is recommended if the driver and/or passenger(s) exits a vehicle which is immobilized on the carriageway of all motorways and main or busy roads. We recommend the jacket be carried in the

passenger compartment of the vehicle (not the boot). This is a compulsory requirement for residents. In built up areas the use of the horn is prohibited during the hours of darkness except in the case of immediate danger.

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