Gentle haggling is common in markets (less so in produce markets); in all other instances you’re expected to pay the stated price.
Dangers & Annoyances
- Once behind the wheel of a car, the otherwise mild-mannered Portuguese change personality. Macho driving, such as tailgating at high speeds and overtaking on blind corners, is all too common. Portugal has one of the highest road accident rates in Europe. Police have responded by aggressively patrolling certain dangerous routes, such as on the cheerfully named ‘highway of death’ from Salamanca in Spain.
- Compared with other European countries, Portugal’s crime rate remains low, but some types of crime – including car theft – are on the rise. Crime against foreigners is of the usual rush-hour-pickpocketing, bag-snatching and theft-from-rental-cars variety. Take the usual precautions: don’t flash your cash; keep valuables in a safe place; and, if you're challenged, hand it over – it’s not worth taking the risk.
- Take care in the water; the surf can be strong, with dangerous ocean currents.
Government Travel Advice
The following government websites offer travel advisories and information on current hot spots.
- Australian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.smarttraveller.gov.au)
- British Foreign Office (www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice)
- Canadian Department of Foreign Affairs (www.travel.gc.ca)
- US State Department (http://travel.state.gov)
- Portugal’s network of pousadas da juventude (youth hostels) is part of the HI network. An HI card from your hostelling association at home entitles you to the standard cheap rates.
- A student card will get you reduced admission to almost all sights. Likewise, those aged over 65 with proof of age will save cash.
- If you plan to do a lot of sightseeing in Portugal’s main cities, the Lisboa Card and Porto Card are sensible investments. Sold at tourist offices, these cards allows discounts or free admission to many attractions and free travel on public transport.
Embassies & Consulates
There’s no New Zealand consulate in Portugal. The nearest New Zealand embassy is in Madrid. The following embassies are in Lisbon; the Spanish consulate is in Porto and the UK Consulate is in Portimão.
Emergency & Important Numbers
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|Ambulance, Fire & Police||%112|
Entry & Exit Formalities
From within Europe, you’ll have no problems entering Portugal by land or air. If arriving from further afield, check if you need a visa before arrival.
Flights, tours and rail tickets can be booked online at lonelyplanet.com.
You can bring as much currency as you like into Portugal, though €10,000 or more must be declared.
The duty-free allowance for travellers more than 17 years old from non-EU countries:
- 200 cigarettes or the equivalent in tobacco
- 1L of alcohol that’s more than 22% alcohol, or 2L of wine or beer.
Allowance for nationals of EU countries:
- 800 cigarettes or the equivalent
- 10L of spirits, 20L of fortified wine, 60L of sparkling wine or a mind-boggling 90L of still wine or 110L of beer.
Generally not required for stays of up to 90 days; some nationalities will need a Schengen visa.
Nationals of EU countries don’t need a visa for any length of stay in Portugal. Those from Canada, New Zealand, the USA and (by temporary agreement) Australia can stay for up to 90 days in any six month without a visa. Others, including nationals of South Africa, need a visa unless they’re the spouse or child of an EU citizen.
The general requirements for entry into Portugal also apply to citizens of other signatories of the 1990 Schengen Convention (Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Iceland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Spain and Sweden). A visa issued by one Schengen country is generally valid for travel in all the others, but unless you’re a citizen of the UK, Ireland or a Schengen country, you should check visa regulations with the consulate of each Schengen country you plan to visit. You must apply for any Schengen visa while you are still in your country of residence.
To extend a visa or 90-day period of stay after arriving in Portugal, contact the Foreigners’ Registration Service; major tourist towns also have branches. As entry regulations are already liberal, you’ll need convincing proof of employment or financial independence, or a pretty good story if you want to stay longer.
- Greetings When greeting females or mixed company, an air kiss on both cheeks is common courtesy. Men give each other a handshake.
- Visiting churches It is considered disrespectful to visit churches as a tourist during Mass. Taking photos at such a time is definitely inappropriate.
- 'Free' appetisers Whatever you eat, you must pay for, whether or not you ordered it. It's common practice for restaurants to bring bread, olives, cheese and other goodies to the table, but these are never free and will be added to your bill at the end. If you don't want them, a polite 'No, thank you' will see them returned to the kitchen.
In 2010 Portugal legalised gay marriage, becoming the sixth European country to do so. Most Portuguese profess a laissez-faire attitude about same-sex couples, although how out you can be depends on where you are in Portugal. In Lisbon, Porto and the Algarve, acceptance has increased, whereas in most other areas, same-sex couples would be met with incomprehension. In this conservative Catholic country, homosexuality is still outside the norm. And while homophobic violence is extremely rare, discrimination has been reported in schools and workplaces.
Lisbon has the country’s best gay and lesbian network and nightlife. Lisbon and Porto hold Gay Pride marches, but outside these events the gay community keeps a discreet profile.
Don’t leave home without a travel-insurance policy to cover theft, loss and medical problems. You should get insurance for the worst-case scenario; for example, an accident or illness requiring hospitalisation and a flight home.
Check the small print as some policies specifically exclude ‘dangerous activities’ such as scuba diving, motorcycling or even trekking. If these activities are in your sights, either find another policy or ask about an amendment (usually available for an extra premium) that includes them.
Make sure you keep all documentation for any claims later on. Some policies ask you to call back (reverse charges) to a centre in your home country, where an immediate assessment of your problem is made.
Worldwide travel insurance is available at www.lonelyplanet.com/travel-insurance. You can buy, extend and claim online any time – even if you’re already on the road.
Checking insurance quotes…
Wi-fi access is widespread in Portugal. If you have your own laptop, most hotels, hostels and midrange guesthouses offer free wireless access. Many cafes and some restaurants also offer free wi-fi. Cybercafes are now rare.
We use the icon @ to indicate places that have a physical computer where guests can access the internet; the wi-fi icon indicates where wireless access is available.
- Bibliotecas municipais Municipal libraries.
- Rede de Espaços Internet (www.rededeespacosinternet.pt) Municipally run spaces where you can get online for free.
- Fines for illegal parking are common. If you’re parked illegally you’ll be towed and will have to pay around €100 to get your car back. Be aware of local road rules, as fines for other transgressions will also be enforced.
- It’s illegal in Portugal to drive while talking on a mobile phone.
- Narcotic drugs were decriminalised in 2001 in an attempt to clear up the public-health problems among drug users, and to address the issue as a social rather than a criminal one. You may be brought before a commission and subject to fines or treatment if you are caught with up to 10 doses of a drug.
- Drug dealing is still a serious offence and suspects may be held for up to 18 months before coming to trial. Bail is at the court’s discretion.
National and natural park offices usually have simple park maps, though these are of little use for trekking or cycling. The following offer a good range of maps:
Omni Resources (www.omnimap.com) US company that sells excellent maps, including 1:25,000 topographic maps.
Stanfords (www.stanfords.co.uk) Good selection of Portugal maps and travel products in the UK.
- Newspapers Main newspapers include Diário de Noticias, Público, Jornal de Noticias and the tabloid best-seller Correio da Manhã. English-language newspapers include the long-running daily, the Portugal News (www.theportugalnews.com), and the weekly Algarve Resident (www.algarveresident.com).
- Radio Portugal’s national radio stations include state-owned Rádiodifusão Portuguesa (RDP), which runs the stations Antena 1, 2 and 3 and plays Portuguese broadcasts and evening music (Lisbon frequencies are 95.7, 94.4 and 100.3). For English-language radio there is the BBC World Service (Lisbon 90.2) and Voice of America (VOA), or a few Algarve-based stations, such as Kiss (95.8 and 101.2).
- Television TV channels in Portugal include Rádio Televisão Portuguesa (RTP-1 and RTP-2), Sociedade Independente (SIC) and TV Independente (TV1), with RTP-2 providing the best selection of foreign films and world-news coverage. Other stations fill the airwaves with a mix of Portuguese and Brazilian soaps, game shows and dubbed or subtitled foreign films.
- Video system Portugal uses the PAL video system, incompatible with both the French SECAM system and the North American NTSC system.
ATMs widely available, except in the smallest villages. Credit cards accepted in midrange and high-end establishments.
Portugal uses the euro, along with most other European nations.
ATMs are the easiest way to get cash in Portugal, and they are easy to find in most cities and towns. Tiny rural villages probably won't have ATMs, so it's wise to get cash in advance. Most banks have a Multibanco ATM, with menus in English (and other languages), that accept Visa, Access, MasterCard, Cirrus and so on. You just need your card and PIN. Keep in mind that the ATM limit is €200 per withdrawal, and many banks charge a foreign transaction fee (typically around 2% to 3%).
Note that banks and bureaux de change are free to set their own rates and commissions, so a low commission might mean a skewed exchange rate.
Most hotels and smarter restaurants accept credit cards; smaller guesthouses, budget hotels and smaller restaurants might not, so it's wise to have cash with you.
For current exchange rates see www.xe.com.
- Bars Not expected unless table service is provided, then around 10%.
- Hotels One euro per bag is standard; gratuity for cleaning staff is at your discretion.
- Restaurants 10% on average, up to 15% in pricier places.
- Snack bars It's courteous to leave a bit of spare change.
- Taxis Not expected, but it's polite to round up to the nearest euro.
Travellers cheques are easily exchanged, with better rates than for cash (although commission rates can be very high), and are a safe way to carry money, as they will be replaced if lost or stolen, but are much less convenient than the card-in-machine method.
Opening hours vary throughout the year. We provide high-season opening hours; hours will generally decrease in the shoulder and low seasons.
Banks 8.30am–3pm Monday to Friday
Clubs 11pm–4am Thursday to Saturday
Restaurants noon–3pm & 7–10pm
Shopping malls 10am–10pm
Shops 9.30am–noon & 2–7pm Monday to Friday, 10am–1pm Saturday
Post offices are called CTT (www.ctt.pt). Correio normal (ordinary mail) goes in the red letterboxes, correio azul (airmail) goes in the blue boxes. Automated red postal stands dispense stamps, saving you the hassle of waiting in line at the post office. Post to Europe takes up to five working days, and the rest of the world up to seven. Economy mail (or surface airlift) is about a third cheaper, but takes a week or so longer.
Banks, offices, department stores and some shops close on the public holidays listed here. On New Year’s Day, Easter Sunday, Labour Day and Christmas Day, even turismos close.
New Year’s Day 1 January
Carnaval Tuesday February/March – the day before Ash Wednesday
Good Friday March/April
Liberty Day 25 April
Labour Day 1 May
Corpus Christi May/June – ninth Thursday after Easter
Portugal Day 10 June – also known as Camões and Communities Day
Feast of the Assumption 15 August
Republic Day 5 October
All Saints’ Day 1 November
Independence Day 1 December
Feast of the Immaculate Conception 8 December
Christmas Day 25 December
- Smoking Allowed in some restaurants and most bars. Restaurants that allow smoking are supposed to have separate smoking sections, but inadequate ventilation means nonsmokers will be breathing in the fumes. Meanwhile, many hotels still offer smoking rooms.
Taxes & Refunds
Prices in Portugal almost always include 23% VAT (some basic food stuffs and services carry reduced rates of 6% and 13%, respectively). Non-EU passport holders can claim back the VAT on goods from participating retailers – be sure to ask for the tax back forms and get them stamped by customs. Refunds are processed at the airport or via post.
To call Portugal from abroad, dial the international access code (00), then Portugal’s country code (351), then the number. All domestic numbers have nine digits, and there are no area codes. Most public phones accept phone cards only – available at most news stands – though a few coin-operated phones are still around. You can also make calls from booths in Portugal Telecom offices and some post offices – pay when your call is finished.
Long-distance and international calls are cheaper from 9pm to 9am weekdays, all weekend and on holidays.
Directory Inquiries & Reverse-Charge Calls
Portugal’s directory inquiries number is 118; operators will search by address as well as by name. The international directory inquiries number is 177.
To make a pagar no destino (reverse-charge call) with the help of a multilingual operator, dial 120.
International Calls & Cards
From Portugal Telecom, you can get a PT Hello Card in denominations of €5 or €10, which offer good long-distance rates. You call an access number then key in the code on the back of the card. There are lots of competing cards offering much the same service. Note that peak and off-peak periods vary from company to company.
Local, Regional & National Calls
The cheapest way to call within Portugal is with a Portugal Telecom cartão telefónico (phone card). These are available for €3, €5 and €10 from post and telephone offices and many newsagents. A youth or student card should get you a 10% discount.
Local calls cost around €0.10 per minute to land lines and €0.30 per minute to mobile phones. Numbers starting with 800 (linha verde; green line) are toll free. Those starting with 808 (linha azul; blue line) are charged at local rates from anywhere in the country.
Local SIM cards can be used in unlocked European, Australian and quad-band US mobiles.
Portugal uses the GSM 900/1800 frequency, the same as found in Australia, the UK and the rest of the EU. Mobile-phone usage is widespread in Portugal, with extensive coverage provided in all but the most rural areas. The main domestic operators are Vodafone, Optimus and TMN. All of them sell prepaid SIM cards that you can insert into a GSM mobile phone and use as long as the phone is not locked by the company providing you service. If you need a phone, you can buy one at the airport and shops throughout the country with a package of minutes for under €20. This is generally cheaper than renting a phone.
Portugal, like Britain, is on GMT/UTC in winter and GMT/UTC plus one hour in summer. This puts it an hour earlier than Spain year-round. Clocks are set forward by an hour on the last Sunday in March and back on the last Sunday in October.
Finding public toilets in major cities such as Lisbon and Porto can be difficult. Most towns and villages that draw tourists usually have free public toilets. The mercado municipal (municipal market) often has free toilets. These are generally fairly clean and adequately maintained. In more built-up areas, your best bet is to look for a toilet in a shopping centre, or simply duck into a cafe.
- Turismo de Portugal, the country’s national tourist board, operates a handy website: www.visitportugal.com.
- Locally managed postos de turismo (tourist offices, usually signposted ‘turismo’) are everywhere, offering brochures and varying degrees of help with sights and accommodation.
Travel with Children
The great thing about Portugal for children is its manageable size and the range of sights and activities on offer. There’s so much to explore and to catch the imagination, even for those with very short attention spans.
The Algarve has to be the best kid-pleasing destination in Portugal, with endless beaches, zoos, water parks, horse-riding outfitters and boat trips.
Kids will also be happy in Lisbon and its outlying provinces. There are trams, puppet shows, a huge aquarium, a toy museum, horse-drawn carriages, castles, parks and playgrounds.
As for fairy-tale places, Portugal has these in spades. Some children enjoy visiting churches if they can light a candle, and they’ll enjoy the make-believe of the castles and palaces sprinkled about the country.
In towns, hop-on, hop-off tours can be good for saving small legs, and miniature resort trains often cause more excitement than you would have thought possible.
Kids are welcome just about everywhere. They can even get literary: the late Nobel Prize–winning author José Saramago wrote a charming children’s fable, The Tale of the Unknown Island, available in English.
For an entertaining guide packed with information and tips, turn to Lonely Planet’s Travel with Children.
- The Portuguese are generally quite laid-back about breast-feeding in public as long as some attempt at discretion is made.
- Formula (including organic brands) and disposable nappies (diapers) are widely available at most pharmacies and grocery stores.
- Turismos, as well as most hotels and guesthouses, can recommend babysitters.
- The term deficientes (Portuguese for 'disabled') gives some indication of the limited awareness of disabled needs. Although public offices and agencies are required to provide access and facilities for people with disabilities, private businesses are not.
- Lisbon airport is wheelchair accessible, while Porto and Faro airports have accessible toilets.
- Parking spaces are allotted in many places, but are frequently occupied. The EU parking card entitles visitors to the same street-parking concessions given to disabled residents. If you’re in the UK, contact the Department for Transport.
- Newer and larger hotels tend to have some adapted rooms, though the facilities may not be up to scratch; ask at the local turismo. Most campgrounds have accessible toilets and some hostels have facilities for people with disabilities.
- Lisbon, with its cobbled streets and hills, may be difficult for some travellers with disabilities, but not impossible. The Baixa’s flat grid and Belém are fine, and all the sights at Parque das Nações are accessible.
Download Lonely Planet's free Accessible Travel guide from http://lptravel.to/AccessibleTravel, or for more information, contact:
Accessible Portugal This Lisbon-based tour agency offers a wide range of itineraries and can arrange accommodation, transfers, overnight trips and outdoor activities such as tandem skydiving and hot-air balloon trips.
Cooperativa Nacional de Apoio Deficientes This is a private organisation that can help with travel needs.
Secretaria do Nacional de Reabilitação The national governmental organisation representing people with disabilities supplies information, provides links to useful operations and publishes guides (in Portuguese) that advise on barrier-free accommodation, transport, shops, restaurants and sights.
Online resources such as Global Volunteers (www.globalvolunteers.org/portugal), Go Abroad (www.goabroad.com) and Transitions Abroad (www.transitionsabroad.com) list opportunities for volunteers in Portugal – including teaching English and helping out on social projects.
World Wide Opportunities on Organic Farms (WWOOF; www.wwoof.pt) sometimes has opportunities in Portugal. In exchange for your volunteer help, you'll receive food and lodging, and learn about organic farming as well.
Weights & Measures
- Weights & measures Portugal uses the metric system. Decimals are indicated by commas, thousands by points.
- Women travelling alone in Portugal report few serious problems. As when travelling anywhere, women should take care – be cautious where you walk after dark and don’t hitch.
- If you’re travelling with a male partner, people will expect him to do all the talking and ordering, and pay the bill. In some conservative pockets of the north, unmarried couples will save hassle by saying they’re married.
- If you’re a victim of violence or rape while you’re in Portugal, you can contact the Associação Portuguesa de Apoio à Vítima, which offers assistance for rape victims. Visit the website for office locations nationwide.
The most likely kind of work you will be able to find is teaching English, if you have Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) certification. If you’re in the UK, contact the British Council, or get in touch with language schools in the area where you want to teach as possible avenues of work.
Bar work is a possibility in the Algarve, particularly in Lagos; ask around. You can also try looking in the local English press for job ads.