- Portuguese is the main language and the dialects vary across the country
- English is widely spoken in the cities
- Portugal and Spain may share a border, but their spoken language is completely different
- Spoken Portuguese is closer to southern Italian
- Currency is Euro (EUR)
- Most urban retail accept major credit, debit and prepaid cards.
- Cash is still preferred, especially for small purchases, food, taxis and markets
- ATMs are easy to find
- Average Daily Spend: Budget €35, Average €70, Splurge €150+
- Bottled Water: €0.80, Coffee €1, Beer €3
General Emergency: 112
Fire Service: 115
CET/CEST: Central European Summertime.
(CEST) runs from the last Sunday in March to the last Sunday in October.
Power sockets are Type F and fit a two prong, round-pin plug.
Standard voltage is 220-240v
PASSPORTS AND VISAS
- EU nationals can visit for an unlimited amount of time, however if you stay longer than three months you must register with local authorities.
- Anyone from Australia, New Zealand, US and Canada can stay without a visa for up to 90 days.
- For all others, check with your local Portuguese embassy.
By law you must carry identification with you at all times in Portugal.
A photocopy of your passport is usually enough. If stopped by the police you may be asked to report to a police station with the original document.
Hotel Porter: €1-2
Concierge: not expected
Taxi drivers: 10%
Crime is very low in Portugal, however pickpockets are fairly common in the main cities.
Watch out for crowded tourist areas and on Lisbon’s trams (particularly the 28 and 15 which can get very crowded).
Keep your valuables in a safe place either in your accommodation or with you at all times.
It is good practice to keep two separate wallets, one that that people ‘see’ with just enough cash for the day and one card (you can put in fake cards to make it look full) and a separate hidden one with the rest.
If you have anything stolen, report the crime within 24 hours to the nearest police station and take ID with you. Get a copy of the crime report to make an insurance claim.
If you have your passport stolen, or in the event of a serious crime or accident, contact your embassy as soon as possible.
- Portugal follows the standard EU rules. Individuals are permitted to carry the following within the EU for personal use:
- Tobacco products: 800 cigarettes, 400 cigarillos, 200 cigars or 1 kg of smoking tobacco.
- Alcohol: 10 litres of alcoholic beverages above 22 per cent strength; 20 litres of alcoholic beverages below 22 per cent strength; 90 litres of wine (60 litres of which can be sparkling wine) and 110 litres of beer.
- Cash: If you plan to enter or leave the EU with €10,000 or more in cash (or the equivalent in other currencies) you must declare it to the customs authorities.
- Pharmacies (farmácias) are identifiable by a green cross. They are the first stop when seeking medical supplies or advice for minor ailments.
Emergency medical care in Portugal is free for all EU citizens. If you have an EHIC, present this as soon as possible. You may have to pay after treatment and reclaim the money later.
- For all other visitors, payment for hospital and other medical expenses must be paid straight away and you can contact your insurer for reimbursement (if it is covered).
Unless stated otherwise, tap water in Portugal is safe to drink.
SMOKING, ALCHOL & DRUGS
Smoking is banned in most enclosed public spaces and is a fineable offence, although some bars still allow it. Make sure to check first.
Portugal may have a high alcohol consumption rate, but it is frowned up to be openly drunk. In the cities it is common to drink on the street outside the bar of purchase.
In 2001, all drugs were decriminalized in Portugal, but possession of even small quantities is considered a public health issue and will result in a warning or small fine. Be careful of drug-dealers publicly selling their products in city centres.
Lunchtime: Some museums and public buildings are closed from noon until 2pm.
Monday: State-run museums, public buildings and monuments are closed all day.
Sunday: Churches and cathedrals are closed to tourists during Mass. Some public transport runs less frequently.
Public holidays: Most museums, public buildings and many shops are closed early or for the day.
It is strongly recommended to take out travel insurance to protect against theft, property loss, medical problems, cancellations and delays.
EU citizens are eligible for free emergency medical care in Portugal provided they have a valid EHIC (European Health Insurance Card).
Like much of Europe, tourism creates a lot of pressure on Portugal’s cities and towns. Because of this, small efforts to integrate are appreciated. Try to use simple Portuguese greetings and phrases.
Portugal is renowned for its slower pace of life. This includes when walking, at public events, in businesses and even when organising social engagements. Relax and slow down and try to hold back any impatience.
CHURCHES & CATHEDRALS
Most churches and cathedrals will not permit visitors during Sunday Mass.
Generally, entrance to churches is free, however a fee may apply to enter cloisters and other areas.
Portugal has a strong Catholic identity. When visiting religious buildings ensure that you are dressed modestly, with your knees and shoulders covered.
MOBILE PHONES & WI-FI
Free Wi-Fi is not easily found across Portugal as yet. However it can be found in some restaurants and bars, especially those aimed at tourists.
Visitors travelling to Portugal with EU mobile plans are able to use their phones without being affected by roaming charges. Make sure to check your plan details.
Otherwise local SIM cards can easily be picked up at major stores and stations, giving you at least 30 days before you need to register the device.
The postal service is run by CTT (Correios de Portugal), which offers a wide range of services at prices lower that the European average.
Post generally takes around 3-5 days to reach the rest of Europe, and 7 days for elsewhere in the world. All post can be tracked on the CTT website, where you can also find details of your nearest post office and international couriers.
TAXES & REFUNDS
VAT is usually 23 per cent.
Under certain conditions, non-EU citizens can claim a rebate. There are two options – either claim the rebate before you buy (show your passport to the shop assistant and complete a form) or present a customs officer with your receipt as you leave.
TRAVELLERS WITH SPECIFIC NEEDS
Portugal is challenging for wheelchairs, prams and anyone with mobility restrictions. This is due to the many steep, winding streets and cobblestones, especially in the historic city centres.
Facilities in the main cities have improved with wheelchairs, adapted toilets and reserved parking now available in airports and main stations. Ramps and lifts are installed in many public areas.
Buses marked with a blue & white logo are wheelchair accessible.
Visit Accessible Portugal for comprehensive advice on travelling with limited mobility.
Hello : Olá
Goodbye : Adeus
Please : Porfavor
Thank you : Obrigado / Obrigada
Do you speak English? : Fala inglês?
I don’t understand : Não compreendo
Excuse Me : Desculpe
Yes : Sim
No : Não
- In the majority of Portugal’s towns and cities, bus services are the sole means of public transport (besides the train service that connects the cities)
- Larger cities such as Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra operate multiple services which include trams, funiculars, buses and trains
- Most towns and cities are compact and easy to walk (except for Lisbon)
- The metro in Lisbon and Porto runs until 1am, and some bus services run 24 hrs on a reduced schedule at night
- The price of single tickets varies based on transport mode
- The best value tickets in the main cities are the Travel Cards (Lisbon – Viva Viagem and Porto – Andante) which allow travel across the networks at a discounted rate.
- The Travel cards have a small purchase charge (€50 /€0.60) and each traveller must have their own. Cards can be topped up in advance or loaded with a 24-hour pass.
- In Lisbon, a basic 24-hour pass (€6.30) allows unlimited travel on the metro, buses, trams and funiculars. Advanced passes either include access to Lisbon’s urban rail network (Cascais, Sintra, Estoril) or to ferry services across the Tagus.
- In Porto, the price is graded by distance, according to the city’s zone system and can be used on the metro, buses and urban trains. A 2-zone pass (€4.15) covers most areas of interest, while 4-zone tickets include the airport.
PUBLIC TRANSPORT COSTS
Lisbon: €6.30 for 24hr Metro, bus, tram ticket
Porto: €4.15 for 24hr (zone 2) ticket – metro, bus, tram
Coimbra: €3.50 for day ticket – bus
CP (Comboios de Portugal) is the country’s national rail operator.
Most parts of Portugal are served by rail, although the more remote and regional areas are car or bus only.
There are two types of train service, with routes spanning from north of Braga to Faro, some of which take in Lisbon, Coimbra and Porto.
The Alfa Pendular trains are faster, more comfortable and have free Wi-Fi, while the older Intercidades trains are cheaper and stop more regularly.
Trains should be pre-booked either online or at the station, except for journeys on urban rail networks (urbanas), such as Lisbon’s Sintra and Cascais lines.
A conductor will validate tickets on-board and will often ask for ID. Tickets for urbanas can be bought at the station prior to departure and should be validated at the ticket machines on the platform before boarding.
TAXIS AND UBER
- Taxis in Portugal are relatively cheap compared to the rest of Europe, and are even cheaper than public transport for large groups travelling together.
- Most taxi drivers only accept cash.
- You can hail taxis from the street and at taxi ranks.
- In cities, always take an official, metered taxi. A green light indicates that the taxi is available, and two green lights mean a higher rate of charge.
- Ensure that the meter is on and discuss prices before the trip starts, especially for longer trips. Make sure to check if there is an extra charge for luggage as well.
- The average starting rate for a taxi is €3.25 by day, although rates differ between companies and are usually 20 per cent higher between 10pm and 6am.
- In smaller towns, taxis can usually be found at ranks in the centre.
- In the Algarve, it is common to hire private hire cars or mini buses, as taxi rank queues can be very long during peak season and taxis can rarely be booked in advance.
- It is common to tip by rounding the fare up, otherwise 10% is usually accepted.
- Some taxi drivers may offer their services as tour guides for a daily rate. Do your research and compare others before committing to avoid being overcharged.
Taxi apps such as Uber are becoming increasingly popular and widespread in Portugal’s cities, though not in the smaller towns (yet).
BICYCLE AND SCOOTER HIRE
- Bicycles and scooters are easy to rent in most towns and cities.
- All riders must wear helmets.
- Roads can get very busy in the peak season, so be careful.
- There are plenty of bicycle routes around cities and towns. It is not recommended to cycle in the historic centres, as they tend to be very steep.
- Scooters are fine for short trips, but not inter-city.
- Most rental companies will ask for a deposit and will hold your passport at the store.
- You must have a valid driver’s license for scooter hire.
- 50cc vehicles are banned on motorways.
ISLANDS AND FERRIES
- Direct flights to Madeira and the Azores from Lisbon, Porto and Faro are easy to find.
- You can also find cheap flights between the islands (the fastest and easiest way to travel between islands).
- TAP Airlines fly several times a day between Funchal and Porto Santo in the Madeira archipelago.
- In the Azores, flights are operated by SATA.
- Flights to Flores and Corvo are often delayed by bad weather, so make sure you have travel insurance.
- Atlânticoline operates the passenger ferries between the islands of the Azores. Trips can range from 30 minutes to as long as 18 hours.