Alentejo plains, ALENTEJO

ABOUT PORTUGAL
Home / About Portugal
TOURS DESTINATIONS
advanced search   
ABOUT PORTUGAL
PRACTICAL INFORMATION

ACCOMMODATION

In Portugal a wide variety of establishments offer accommodation, with or without meals and other services, They are classified as follows:

Hotels: Normally purpose-built establishments. There is a wide range of choice and a large number of hotels, classified with 1 to 5 stars according to the location and quality of the premises.

Hotel–apartment (aparthotel): Classified as 2 to 5 star establishments, these are the ideal choice for those who want greater independence whilst still enjoying all the services provided by a hotel. Generally includes a small kitchen where meals can be prepared.

Estalagens (luxury country hotels): usually situated outside cities and classified as 4 to 5 star establishments. Very hospitable establishments, whose style is typical of the local area..

Pensões (bed and breakfast): Sometimes operating in buildings that have been adapted for this purpose. The most economical choice of accommodation, pensões are classified as 3rd., 2nd. or 1st. class establishments and the best of these, such as the Albergarias, may offer services comparable with a hotel. Sometimes the term “residencial” is used for an establishment which, in practice, offers the same type of service as a “pensão”.

Pousadas (luxury historic hotels or inns): Based in monuments or situated in places of great natural beauty, these establishments offer top-quality comfort. There are four categories: Historic, Historic Design, Nature and Charm. Pousadas are managed by the state and offer a service equivalent to that of a five-star hotel.

Tourist complexes: Classified with 3 to 5 stars, these are located in demarcated areas and offer full services and facilities.

Rural tourism: Normally this refers to quality accommodation in rural houses that are located in the countryside and blend in perfectly with the local environment. They are usually run by the owners of the properties, who aim to create a comfortable and relaxing atmosphere suitable for a country holiday.

Solares de Portugal (Manor houses): A well-established heritage based on family properties, including old family houses, farms and estates. The buildings are of great historic and heritage value, offering guests a very traditional and simple environment with service comparable to a 4 or 5-star hotel.

Camping/caravan sitesThere are many sites in Portugal, with excellent facilities. To find out more about locations, faculties and prices, buy a “Roteiro do Campista” (Camping Guide), on sale in Tourist Offices and bookshops. Useful contacts: Orbitur (www.Orbitur.pt); Inatel (www.inatel.pt); Federação de Campismo e Montanhismo de Portugal (218 126 890; www.fcmportugal.com; Av. Coronel Eduardo Galhardo, 24D-Lisbon).

Youth Hostels Portugal has around 36 Youth Hostels, The facilities are basic but the prices are very reasonable and they can be used by anyone, regardless of age. In summer it is necessary to book in advance. Youth Hostels are run by MoviJovem (707 203 030;www.pousadasdajuventude.pt; Avenida Duque de Ávila, 137 – Lisbon)

CLIMATE

The long Atlantic coastline is the factor which has the greatest influence on the country’s climate. In coastal regions it may rain a lot in winter although the temperatures do not drop too much. The exception to this is the Algarve which, despite its Atlantic coastline, faces south and is protected from the north winds by mountains, making it the only region that has pleasant temperatures all year round. The remaining coastal areas tend to have hot or very hot summers, with cool breezes at night. The interior of the country is subject to more extreme conditions, with very cold winters, even in the Alentejo (where it sometimes snows in winter, although this is rare) and hotter summers, even in Trás-os-Montes (where temperatures can rise to 47 degrees). Spring and autumn are good times to visit the country, as the climate is less extreme and it is not so crowded as in July and August. Each season, however, has its own particular beauty throughout the country.

CURRENCY

The euro was first introduced on 1 January 1999 for bank transactions only. Euro notes and coins entered into circulation on 1 January 2002. There are 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euro notes and € 2, 1, 0.50, 0.20, 0.10, 0.05, 0.02, 0.01 coins. In the event of lost travellers cheques or cards, contact: American Express (800 204 050); MasterCard (800 811 272); Travelex (01 733 294 451 or 452 UK); Visa (800 811 824).

 

 

DISABLED TRAVELLERS

Portugal has few infrastructures for the disabled, although this situation is gradually being remedied. Wheelchairs and specially designed bathrooms can be found in all airports and there are many reserved parking spaces. In Lisbon there are specially adapted taxis for disabled people and most buses have ramps. For further information contact the Cooperativa Nacional Apoio Deficientes (218 595 332; Praça Dr. Fernando Amado, Lote 566-E, Lisbon)

DRIVING IN PORTUGAL

The road network in Portugal includes several motorways and is still being expanded. It is possible to travel the entire length of the country by motorway (“A” roads), which is a great advantage for drivers. Don’t forget that you have to pay a toll on the motorway. Be careful not to get onto the “Via Verde” (photo) lane as you join the motorway. “Via Verde” lanes are only for drivers who have a special agreement with the company that manages the motorway and pay tolls by a different method.
The country is also served by a modern network of fast roads (“IP” or “IC” roads) which are free in most cases.
Some of the older roads are in poor condition and some minor roads may be uneven and winding. Traffic jams are common in major cities and their suburbs and can be avoided by not driving during rush hours (8.30 to 10 am and 5.30 to 7.320 pm). Always carry your passport or identity card, driving licence, vehicle registration or car hire documents with you, together with your insurance documents. Failure to do so can result in a fine.

EMBASSIES AND CONSULATES

Your country’s embassy or consulate is best placed to assist you in an emergency. They can advise on medical assistance and help you if you lose your travel documents. The following is a list of some of the embassies and consulates in Portugal:
Australia (213 101 500; Av. da Liberdade, 200 – Lisbon)
Canada (213 164 600; Av. da Liberdade, 196 – Lisbon; 289 803 757; Rua Frei Lourenço de Santa Maria, 1 - Faro)
United States of America (217 273 300; Av. das Forças Armadas – Lisbon; 226 172 384; Rua Marechal Saldanha 454-Porto)
New Zealand (213 509 690; 9 am – 1 pm Monday to Friday. This is the number for the Consul, as there is no Embassy in Portugal and the nearest is in Rome.)
United Kingdom (213 961 191; Rua de S. Bernardo, 33 – Lisbon; 226 184 789, Avenida da Boavista 3072 – Porto)

INTERNET ACCESS

In Portugal more and more places are beginning to offer free Internet access, such as the local branches of the IPJ (Instituto Português da Juventude – Portuguese Youth Institute) or municipal libraries, where access is normally restricted to 30 minutes, although if no one is waiting you are allowed longer. Cybercafés can be found in big cities and some post offices offer netpoints, both of which are paid services. Wireless Internet is now available in many public areas such as airports, hotels, some city parks and some McDonalds restaurants. For a full list of places offering wireless Internet, go to www.wi-fihotspotlist.com.

LANGUAGE

Portuguese is a Latin-based language which has similarities with Castilian Spanish and if you know this language you will not find it difficult to read Portuguese. However, the pronunciation is completely different and the Portuguese are not always amenable to being addressed in Spanish. Portuguese is spoken to some extent all over the world, due to the country’s history and its ties with Brazil and some African countries.

LOCAL TIME

Portugal uses Greenwich Mean Time in winter and the clocks change in March and October. 24-hour clock times are used in Portugal.

MEDICAL INFORMATION

Visitors do not need to have any special vaccinations although it is advisable to make sure that your tetanus, diphtheria and measles vaccinations are up-to-date. Tap water can be drunk in almost all areas except the Algarve where the quality is not very good. If you visit Portugal in summer, bring an insect repellent. The mosquitoes can be annoying but do not pose any health risks. The health care services in Portugal are good and not expensive. If you are a citizen of the EU do not forget your EHIC (European Health Insurance Card) which will be useful in the event of any emergency or repatriation. Chemist’s shops are a good solution for complaints that are not serious, as the staff can diagnose minor health problems and suggest treatments. The symbol for a chemist’s shop is a green cross (photo). If you find that the shop is closed, the name and address of the duty chemist’s will be displayed on the door. Hospital de Santa Maria (217 805 000; Av. Professor Egas Moniz - Lisbon); Hospital de São João (225 512 100; Rua Prof. Hernâni Monteiro – Porto).

OPENING/CLOSING TIMES

During the week, ordinary shops are usually open from 9 am to 7 pm and are closed for lunch between 1 pm and 3 pm. They are also open on Saturday mornings but are closed on Sundays. A number of shopping centres can also be found throughout the country and these often stay open much longer, from 10 am to 11 pm or midnight, including weekends. Banks are open Monday to Friday from 8.30 am to 3.30 pm. Museums are usually open from 10 am to 5 pm and the majority are closed on Mondays. Many may also close for lunch. Almost all churches are open throughout the day with no fixed hours. In rural areas however, they may only open for services and you may need to find out who holds the key if you want to visit them.

PERSONAL SAFETY AND TIPS

In an emergency, call 112 and when the operator answers, state which service you require: police, ambulance or fire brigade. If you need medical help, go to the nearest hospital. In case of an accident or breakdown on the motorway, use the orange telephones. Just press the button and wait for an answer. Lisbon and other major cities are policed by the Policia de Segurança Publica (PSP) and rural areas by the Guarda Nacional Republicana (GNR). Violent crime is rare in Portugal and most visitors do not encounter any problems, although certain precautions should be observed. In Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, avoid deserted areas at night and the areas around bars once they have closed. During the daytime, look out for pickpockets. Do not carry large amounts of money around with you and keep a close eye on your mobile phone and camera. If you are attacked, do not attempt to resist. In Lisbon, go to the Posto dos Restauradores (Restauradores Police Station) where you will find the Esquadra de Turismo (Tourist Help and Information Department - 213 421 634) next door to the Tourist Office in the Palácio Foz. To find the police station nearest to you, go to http://www.psp.pt/psp/onde_estamos. Useful contacts: Fire Brigade, Police, Ambulance (112); Ordem dos Advogados (Bar Association - 213 955 067; Lg. de S. Domingos, 14, 1º - Lisbon); Assistentes Intérpretes de Portugal (Interpreters - 217 994 360; Av. da Republica, 41, 3º - Lisbon).

POST OFFICES

The symbol for the post office is a white horse and rider on a red background (photo). The service is efficient: a letter sent to a destination within Europe by normal mail will take around 5 days to arrive and the same letter will reach a destination in the rest of the world within 7 days. There is also a fast delivery service, known as correio azul (“blue mail”) which does not cost much more. Post offices are normally open Monday to Friday from 9 am to 6 pm.

PUBLIC TRANSPORT

The most interesting areas in cities are normally the historic centres, which can be explored on foot as no great distances are involved. In large, hilly cities such as Lisbon and Porto, the steep slopes can be avoided by using trams, funiculars or lifts. Most cities have good bus, taxi and train services. If you can, avoid using public transport during rush hours (8 am -10 am and 5.30 pm – 7.30 pm).
Buses: You can buy tickets from the driver but it is much cheaper to purchase a set of tickets in advance. They must be validated by inserting them in the machine near the driver. If you travel without a ticket you are liable to a heavy fine. All buses display their destination on the front. Timetables vary according to cities and routes. Rodoviária de Lisboa (217 899 700; Avenida do Brasil, 45 – Lisboa); Carris (213 632 044; Rua 1º de Maio, 101 – Lisboa)
Metro: The Lisbon metro has now been substantially extended and also renovated, so that some stations are now authentic art galleries containing sculptures, paintings and decorative tile panels by Portuguese artists. You can buy tickets from the ticket offices or ticket machines at the stations. When you buy a fare for the first time it will be more expensive as this includes the price of the card. The card can then be recharged and the fares will be cheaper. The metro runs from 6 am to 1 am. Porto also has a metro service.
Trams and lifts: An entertaining and practical way to explore the city. You can buy a ticket from the driver and there are also tourist routes which are more expensive but include a guide. More information from local Tourist Offices.
Taxis: Taxis in Portugal used to be green and black but are now being replaced by beige models. They are relatively cheap, particularly in comparison with prices in other European cities. Keep your eye on the meter, which must be switched on at all times. Tariffs vary according to the time of day, at weekends and on public holidays. There is a separate charge for luggage. Autocoope (217 932 756 – Lisbon); Radiotáxis (225 511 710-Porto).
Train: The CP manages the national train network, which serves the whole country. However, the quality of the service is very variable and some lines are not particularly good. The Alfa Lisbon-Porto service is fast and efficient, but for other destinations coaches can be a faster and more comfortable option. Most stations provide a Guia Horário Oficial (Official Timetable) with information on all trains. Tickets are cheap and the various reductions include discounts for children, young people and senior citizens and family cards for longer journeys. Railway stations: Porto (225 191 374 – Campanha; 222 051 714 – São Bento); Coimbra (239 852 598 – A; 239 856 533 – B); Lisbon (213 424 780 – Cais do Sodré; 213 433 748 – Rossio; 218 920 370 – Oriente; 218 816 242 – Santa Apolónia); Faro (289 826 472).

TELEPHONES

In Portugal, calls can be made from public payphones using cards (which can be bought from newsagents, tobacconists, post offices or PT shops) or coins. Booths are located in streets, shopping centres and airports. If you prefer, you can also make calls from post offices and pay for them afterwards at the counter. These calls are cheaper than calls made from hotels. The cheapest way to phone abroad is by using a pre-paid card. You can buy 5€ or 10€ cards from various operators and only need to enter the access code printed on the card in any telephone, then enter the PIN code. Calls made after 9 pm usually cost less. If you use a mobile phone you will have good network coverage throughout the country. The are three mobile phone operators: TMN, Vodafone and Optimus. To phone abroad from Portugal, enter 00 followed by the country code. If you are calling from abroad, the code for Portugal is 00351. If you want to reverse the charges, dial 171 and the operator will assist you.

VISAS

European Union citizens only need a valid Identity Card to enter Portugal but if they stay more than six months they will need a residence permit. Nowadays American, Canadian, New Zealand and Australia citizens do not need a visa: They may stay for up to 90 days and may apply for a further stay of 90 days. Tourists from outside the EU should contact the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate, since the rules for visas may be subject to alteration. Serviço de Estrangeiros e Fronteiras (Aliens and Borders Department - 213 585 545; Rua São Sebastião da Pedreira, 15 – Lisbon; 9 am – 3 pm, closed at weekends)

WHAT TO PACK

If you are visiting Portugal in summer you need to bring light, comfortable clothes and a swimming costume, since you never know when you will be stopping for a refreshing bathe at the beach, lakeside or river. However, you should also bring a warm jacket, since the summer evenings can often be quite cool, especially in the Atlantic coast areas. As this is a country that can easily be explored on foot, don’t forget to bring a comfortable pair of walking shoes. In winter the temperatures remain mild throughout almost all of the country but be prepared for rain. If you visit the north of the country you may also encounter snow.
In Portugal you may experience some delays in buying medicines since certain items are sold only on prescription. Prevention is the key to ensuring that everything runs smoothly and you should therefore bring basic medicines with you, such as antipyretics, antibiotics and anti-diarrhoea remedies.

NATIONAL PUBLIC HOLIDAYS

1 January New Year’s Day
February/March Carnival – Shrove Tuesday
March/April Good Friday
20 April Easter (a moveable feast)
25 April Liberty Day
1 May Worker’s Day
10 June Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Communities
19 June Corpus Christi
15 August Assumption of Our Lady
5 October Founding of the Republic
1 November All Saints’ Day
1 December Independence Day
8 December Immaculate Conception
25 December Christmas Day