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 plug.
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 doctor's subscription. A green cross
on white background denotes a chemist. A red cross on a
white background denotes a Red Cross station. In most
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 accidents or breakdowns.
Corpus Christi (Early June)
It is traditional for each municipality (concelho), to
reserve one annual day as a holiday for its commerce.
This day is principally used as an excuse for
celebration. You will find restaurants open but most shops closed.
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.
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 on Saturday.
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. Eurocheques are a
cheaper method than Travelers Cheques 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 usually 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 this 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 exhibitions.
Young people between the ages of 12 and 25 may
purchase a "Cartão Jovem". 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 Jovem".
This tax that is the same as VAT is known as IVA in
Portugal, and is at present 21%. 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. Inland areas have hotter
summers and cooler winters except for mountainous
regions that even enjoy snow. Madeira Island and the
Islands of the Azores enjoy a temperate climate the year around.
Traveling nationals of the EU (European Union),
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 it is
recommended that a potential visitor should check with
the Portuguese Consul in their respective country
prior to traveling.