|| Welcome to Portugal!
Portugal is the westernmost country of continental Europe. Its coast is washed by the Atlantic Ocean and its land border meets Spain in the East. Portugal is divided into seven regions: Douro and North; Beiras; the district of Lisbon; Alentejo; Algarve; Azores and Madeira. Although it is quite a small country (89.295km2), it is widely diversified in terms of its ethnological traditions, nature and climate.
The two archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean are also quite distinct, with the Azores integrating a total of nine islands (St. Maria, S. Miguel, S. Jorge, Terceira, Pico, Faial, Graciosa, Flores and Corvo), while Madeira includes two inhabited islands (Madeira and Porto Santo) and two wild sanctuaries (Selvagens and Desertas).
With most of its border facing the ocean, it is no surprise that Portugal has witnessed so many departures and arrivals throughout the centuries. Thus, we have long become open to the world and the endless possibilities of communication and contact with others. We have absorbed the influences of many other peoples: the Phoenicians, the Greeks, the Carthaginians, the Romans (who have left us to this day the language that we speak), the Norse and the people from Mauritania. Even with all these influences and interferences, our country is one of the oldest in Europe. It gained its independence in the twelfth century, thanks to the actions of count Afonso Henriques, who later went on to become our first king. A century later, with the conquest of the Algarve, Portugal had already defined its continental borders.
In the thirteenth century, king D. Dinis founded our first University, one of the oldest in Europe, and took it to the city of Coimbra. Throughout the fourteenth, fifteenth and sixteenth centuries, we were the first Europeans to sail to Africa, the Far East and the depths of the South American continent, from where we brought many treasures. Before we set sail along the coast of Africa, we found the archipelagos of the Azores and Madeira, which are still part of our territory in the Atlantic.
After a severe dynastic crisis that put us under the rule of Spain for sixty years, we regained our independence and our own Portuguese king in 1640, because, although discrete, we have always maintained a strong sense of independence. In the eighteenth century, D. João V, an absolutist king but also a lover of the arts, ordered the construction of the immense palace/convent of Mafra and the big Aqueduct, which brought water to the city of Lisbon. In the nineteenth century, political struggles gradually weakened the Monarchy, which finally collapsed in 1910, the year that signalled the birth of the Republic in Portugal.
We have been part of the European Union since 1986, but that does not mean we do not value our own virtues.
With such a singular History, you will eventually realize that our Art is quite different from everything you have already experienced. Some of our styles are, in fact, unique, and you’ll find that in our «Manuelino», a celebration of our era of discoveries; in the way we have preserved the art of tiles («azulejos»), and in our «Fado», a traditional song of melancholy and nostalgia.
The weather in Portugal varies significantly from one region to the other, and is influenced by geographic features, latitude and proximity to the sea, which allows for mild winters, especially in the Algarve.
In the regions of Oporto, the North and Beiras, particularly in the areas closer to Spain, winters are colder, although the temperatures are still relatively moderate when compared to the rest of Europe. Some snow falls during the winter, and is particularly frequent in the Serra da Estrela, where you’ll find the highest peak of mainland Portugal (1991m) and good opportunities for skiing.
Summers are hot and dry, especially in the regions of Nordeste Transmontano and Alentejo, while near the coast the heat is tempered by the influence of the sea.
During Autumn, sunny days and warm temperatures still abound and frequently occur in the beginning of November, in what is commonly known as the «Summer of S. Martinho», since the saint is celebrated on the 11th of November.
Due to its latitude and the influence of the Gulf Stream, the climate in the Azores is essentially mild all year around. The temperature of the sea water is also quite pleasant, both in summer and winter, favouring all sorts of water sports.
The climate in the archipelago of Madeira, characterized by subtropical features influenced by its geographical location and mountainous terrain, is exceptionally mild, with temperatures that vary around an average of 24ºC in the summer and 19ºC in the winter. The sea water maintains a warm temperature throughout the year, mainly due to the influence of the Gulf Stream, ranging from 18ºC (winter) to 22ºC (summer).
Table of Temperatures
(average temperatures - 1961/90 - in ºC and ºF)
|(Porto e Norte)
* Viana do Castelo
** São Pedro de Muel
Before you travel, check the average prices of some important products and services and get an idea of what it costs to live and travel in Portugal.
Food and drinks
Prices may vary and depend on the kind of service you choose, so these are merely indicative prices.
An expresso, so dearly appreciated by the Portuguese and commonly known as «bica», costs 60 to 70 cents in a typical café. A latte («galão») may cost €0,70 to €1,20 and a tea ranges from €1 to €1,5. A freshly squeezed orange juice costs around €2,50 and a beer or a coke will cost €1 to €1,50.
A cheese or ham sandwich costs €1,50 to €2,50 and a toast or a pastry won’t cost more than 2 euros.
For a complete meal, you should expect to pay 8 to 11 euros per person in a snack bar, 13 to 20 euros if you choose a 2nd class restaurant, and 30 to 50 euros in a 1st class restaurant or a «casa de fados» (house of fado).
A ticket to a museum, a national monument or an exhibition costs around 2 to 5 euros.
A ticket to the cinema costs 5,50 euros. In the theatre, you may pay 10 to 30 euros, and tickets to concerts, opera or ballet may range from 15 to 75 euros.
To watch a bullfight, which happens only between Sunday Easter and All Saints Day, tickets may cost 15 to 75 euros, depending on the bullring and the participants.
A trip between Lisbon and Oporto in the Alfa Pendular train (the quickest and most comfortable) may cost €27,50 to 39,50 (2nd or 1st class) and in the Intercidades train it will cost €18 to €28.
From Lisbon to Faro, a ticket costs €19 to €26 in the Alfa Pendular train and €18 to €23 in the Intercidades train.
To visit tourist attractions in the outskirts of Lisbon, the tickets between Cais do Sodré and Belém, or Rossio and Queluz-Belas cost €1,20; from Alcântara to Oriente you’ll pay €1,30 and from Lisbon to Sintra or Cascais €1,70 http://www.cp.pt
There is a regular service of express buses between Lisbon and all major Portuguese cities. A trip between Lisbon and Oporto should cost €17; from Lisbon to Faro you’ll pay €18; from Faro to Oporto €26 and from Lisbon to Coimbra €13 http://www.rede-expressos.pt
Inside the city, the initial fare («bandeirada») during daytime costs €2 and at night, weekends and holidays you should expect to pay €2,50. Then add to this amount the distance and time travelled.
If you call a taxi, there is an additional cost of €0,80 and if you need to use the baggage door you’ll pay another €1,60.
Outside the city, the service is paid by kilometre, and the customer is expected to pay the return trip, whether he takes it or not. Usually, a price is accorded at the beginning of the journey.
The «Lisbon Card» allows you to use the public transport system (buses, metro, trams) and the trains from Lisbon to Sintra and Cascais; it also grants discounts and free entrances to several monuments, museums and sightseeing tours. A Card valid for 24h costs €15 and for 48h costs €26; children aged 5 to 11 have a 50% discount.
If you buy a ticket on board buses or trams, you pay €1,40.
The «Sete Colinas» (seven hills) Card can be bought at the Carris and Metro kiosks and costs only €0,50; then you have to buy single or combined tickets to use on the bus and the metro (these cost €3,70 for one day).
The «Porto Card» allows you to use all the city public transport and also offers discounts and free entrances to several monuments and museums, as well as performances, cruises in the River Douro, sightseeing tours, restaurants and traditional shops. The Card costs €8,50 for one day; €13,50 for two days and €17,50 for three days.
A ticket on board buses costs €1,45 and a simple metro ticket costs €0,95. Combined tickets to the bus, metro and train inside Oporto’s urban area cost €4 a day and €9 for three days.
Petrol and diesel
Prices are not restricted and vary mainly according to the average crude oil prices in the international market. At the moment (2011/07/12), petrol costs around €1,599 /litre, diesel costs €1,399/litre and GPL €0,824/litre.
Portugal is a member of the European Union and has adopted the Euro as its currency. 1 euro can be divided into 100 cents. Euro coins come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros; euro notes come in 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 denominations.
Euro coins have one common face all over Europe, whilst the other varies from country to country, usually displaying a national symbol; however, euro coins from other countries are legal tender everywhere.
Money can be exchanged at banks, open to the public between 8:30am to 3:00pm, from Monday to Friday; independent exchange facilities and ATMs.
There is a national network of ATMs, identified as MB (Multibanco), allowing withdrawals 24h a day.
In Portugal, the most commonly used credit cards are Visa, American Express, Diners Club, Europay/Mastercard, JCB and Maestro.
If your credit card gets lost or stolen, you should contact immediately one of the following lines:
Visa: Tel. 800 811 107 Mastercard: Tel. 800 811 272
In Portugal, cars travel on the right side of the road. In squares, intersections and junctions, unless signalled otherwise, priority has to be given to the right. In intersections with roundabouts, vehicles already travelling on the roundabout have priority over the entering vehicles. Traffic signs obey international rules and regulations.
- Personal identification card
- Drivers license
- Insurance certificate
- Registration certificate of ownership of the vehicle or similar
- Identification of the vehicle («livrete») or similar
If you are fined for a driving offence, you’ll have to pay immediately at the scene.
Speeding limits for regular vehicles are 50km/h (within towns), 90km/h (outside towns), 100km/h (expressways) and 120km/h (highways).
You are not allowed to drive if you exceed the limit of blood alcohol content (0,5gr/litre).
Using a seatbelt is mandatory at all times.
Portuguese traffic regulations do not allow the use of mobile phones during driving, unless using a hands-free device.
Text adapted from visitportugal.com
You can rent a car at airports, international railway stations and every major city. For drivers with reduced mobility or other preferences, it is already possible to rent an automatic car.
To rent a car, you must be over 21 or 25 (depending on the rental company), hold a valid ID (ID card for European Union citizens and passport for other nationalities) and a drivers license for more than a year.
Banks are open from Monday to Friday, between 8:30am and 3:00pm. There is a national network of ATMs (MB – Multibanco) that allows withdrawals 24h a day.
Post offices are open from Monday to Friday between 9:00am and 6:00pm. Some central offices and post offices at the airport are usually open till later, and in some cases may even be open on Saturdays and Sundays.
Stamps are sold at post offices and also in automatic vending machines.
Many post offices also offer the Netpost service, which allows access to the internet for a small fee.
Pharmacies are usually open from Monday to Friday between 9:00am and 7:00pm, and on Saturday from 9:00am to 1:00pm. They are commonly signalled by a green cross, which is lightened in case it is open at night.
All pharmacies have a notice at the door providing information on where to find the nearest pharmacy open overnight.
Shops are usually open from Monday to Friday between 9:00/10:00am and 7:00pm. Some close at lunchtime, from 1:00pm to 3:00pm. On Saturdays, from January to November, most shops close at 1:00pm, although some shops in big cities remain open for the rest of the day. In December, because of the Christmas shopping activities, most shops are open on Saturday afternoon and sometimes even on Sunday.
There are many Shopping Centres, particularly in the main cities, and these are usually open every day of the week, from 10:00am to midnight. Here, you’ll find all main international brands, while in the streets, particularly of the old neighbourhoods, traditional shops with mostly Portuguese products still resist.
To use a public payphone in Portugal, you can choose to pay with coins or a specific card on sale at Telecom shops, post offices and some kiosks.
Phone numbers in Portugal have nine digits. To call Portugal from abroad, you have to dial the international code 00 followed by the country’s code 351.
To call abroad from Portugal, dial 00, the country and city’s code, followed by the phone number. A list of all international codes can be found inside all phone booths.
Portugal is one of the countries with the largest percentage of mobile phone users.
Three main networks provide this service – TMN, Vodafone and Optimus – and they all have roaming agreements with most international companies, offering a good service all over the country.
Portuguese traffic regulations do not allow the use of mobile phones during driving, unless using a hands-free device.
Access to the Internet is provided in many cafés and post offices that include the Netpost service by paying a small fee.
Many hotels and public spaces, such as airports, conference rooms, restaurants and shopping centres, have wireless (or wi-fi) areas clearly signalled where you can access the internet.
This month ...
In this program we will travel in the company of a guide ornithologist throughout southern Portugal, which due to the variety of landscapes and biological features contains over 34 IBSA and 8 RAMSAR Site.