Travel guide to Portugal

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» Portugal
Unfortunately Portugal is often overlooked even though the country is both inexpensive and fascinating. It possesses some wonderful beaches along the Algarve coastline, as well as many little islands. There are also the beautiful big cities like Lisbon and Porto.

Facts

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Local name
República Portuguesa
Capital
Lisbon (600.000)
Size
92.345 km2
Principal Languages
Portuguese
Principal Religion
Roman-Catholic
Inhabitants
9.927.400
Government
Republic
Geography
Portugal stretches over the western part of the Iberian Peninsula. Even if the country is surrounded by Spain, the landscape here is very different. Wild flowers, forests, mountains and hills make Portugal look more inviting, varied and less tough than Spain. Portugal also has the island of Madeira and the group of Islands the Azores to offer. In both places you meet with unique landscapes of green and lush vegetation, and also more brutal, harsh and rugged formations of rock.

Travel preparation

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Best time to visit

Portugal is inviting all year around. In the summer you can enjoy the lovely beaches along the Algarve coastline and in the winter you can experience the big cities like Porto and Lisbon - which have many historical and cultural sights. Excursions to the surrounding small quaint villages and vineyards are also a good option.

Literature

Lonely Planet Portugal Let's Go Spain & Portugal 2000

Local conditions

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Currency

Escudo (PTE)

In case of emergency

To call for help in Portugal dial: 112 for ambulance, fire department and police.

Tipping

It is a usual practice for 10 percent tipping in restaurants. Taxi drivers normally get 10-15 percent. In cafés and bars it is sufficient to leave a little change.

Timezone

When it is noon (12.00) in UK, the time is 11.00 in Portugal.

Weight and Measures

In Portugal they use the following scales: Weights: Kilo Lengths: metre

Photography

The Portuguese are rather relaxed and you do not have to take extra precautions when photographing. Of course, it is always good manners to ask in advance if you wish to photograph individuals.

Drinking water

It is relatively safe to drink the tapwater in Portugal, but it contains a lot of chlorine. Good advice is to buy bottled drinking water for the first couple of weeks.

Electricity

In Portugal they use the following electric current: 220 volts AC/50 Hz, with exception of a few remote areas who use 110 volts.

Business Hours

Banks are open from 8.30 am to 3 pm (Monday-Friday) Shops are open from 9 am to 1 pm and again from 3 pm to 7 pm (Monday-Friday). On Saturdays they are open from 9 am to 1 pm.

Food and drink

The Portuguese kitchen is an abundance of seafood, and when the Portuguese serve bread you can always rely on good quality. Various places in Portugal use a large quantity of garlic and olive-oil in the food. Try the spicy piri-piri sauce, which comes with many courses. For refreshments there are many great Portuguese wines. Try the Portuguese beer 'Sagres Brand' as well.

Disabled travellers

Many places in Portugal provide extra facilities for disabled people. The Portuguese are willing lend a hand, which makes Portugal a fine country to travel in for disabled people. If you travel on your own though, check beforehand the conditions in the places you wish to visit.

Holidays

Regular New Years Day, 1st of January Liberation Day, 25th of April Workers Day, 1st of May Camöes Day, 10th of June Assumption Day (Maria's entering to Heaven), 15th of August Day of the Republic, 5th October All Saints Day, 1st of November Independence Day, 1st of December Women's Day, 8th of December Christmas Day, 25th December Carnival, in February or March Good Friday, in March or April

Accommodation / Hotel

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Camping

There are plenty of campsites all over Portugal. As with much else it is cheap and good to camp there. Most campsites are located outside of the cities.

Hotels

The range of hotels in Portugal is varied. You can find expensive luxurious hotels and very cheap hotels. If you are looking for a special hotel experience try the hotel chain 'Hotel de Charme' which specialise in wonderfully cosy small hotels. Hotel de Charme´s main office is located at the following address: Hotels de Charme Pra_a do Principe Real, 11 -r/c 1200 Lisbon Portugal (Phone: 351-1-347-0146, fax: 315-1-346-1976)

Bed og breakfast or guesthouse

Guesthouses, B&B or private accommodation can be found all over the country. Look for E as in Estalgen (Inn).

Hostels

You can find many hostels, where you sleep in bunkrooms, all over Portugal.

Other Accommodation

For something relatively new Portugal can offer combined apartments and hotels. You live in an apartment, but can make use of the services of the hotel.

Local transport

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Planes

You can find domestic flights between Porto, Lisbon, the Azores and Madeira.

Bus

Buses are about a third of the price of trains and they also cover the remote areas of the countryside. The government controlled Rodciára Nacional covers the entire country with exception of the most northern part:

Trains

You can find many high-speed trains in Portugal, amongst others IR, IC and Servico Alfas, which are the fastest and the most luxurious. The trains reach all large medium-sized cities in the country. The train company is called CP, Caminhos de Ferro Portuguese's, EP.

Taxi

In most places in Portugal it is easy to get hold of a taxi and it is cheap and comfortable. In the big towns they use a meter, but in smaller towns you bargain for a price.

Car rental

You can rent a car in all main cities and airports in Portugal. You have to be 21 years of age to rent one. Look for the local car rental businesses, which are the cheapest.

Boat or Ferry

Ferries depart from Lisbon to Madeira. You can also get the Ferry from Bilbao in northern Spain and enter Portugal that way.

Other Transport

Besides regular means of transportation you will also find tramcars and metro in the big cities.

Special conditions

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If you are a golfer then Portugal is the right place to have your holiday. All over the country you will find great opportunities to play golf - especially on the coast by Lisbon and in the Algarve.

Find your travel arrangement to Portugal here

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