As one of Europe's unspoilt gems, Portugal is a vast land of small enchanting towns, picturesque villages, vibrant cities, meandering coastlines and acres of centuries old vineyards. With its old-fashioned charm, historical treasures and abundance of World Heritage sites, glorious beaches, flower-covered hillsides and insatiable appetite for festivity and revelry, a trip to this fascinating country is bound to be truly memorable.
Portugal boasts a generally warm and sunny climate with relatively mild winters. Weather does, however, vary from region to region with the south benefiting from long warm summers and very little rain throughout the year. The north-east has longer winters and hot summers whilst the north-west suffers from mild, wet winters and fairly short summers. Snow is to be expected in the northern mountain regions during the winter months.
The Portuguese observe a number of public holidays namely the following:
1st January - New Year's Day
February - Mardi Gras
25th April - Freedom Day
1st May - Labour Day
10th June - Portugal Day
June - Corpus Christi
15th August - Assumption
5th October - Public Day
1st November - All Saints Day
1st December - Restoration of Independence Day
8th December - Immaculate Conception
25th December - Christmas Day.
The main airports in Portugal are Lisbon International Airport, Faro International Airport and Porto International Airport.
Domestic services operate between Lisbon, Faro, Madeira, Porto Santo, Porto and the Azores.
Rail services operate between every major town and city with vast networks of regional, inter-regional and suburban trains running throughout the country. The Intercidades (Intercity) service covers routes between Lisbon, Porto, Alentejo and the Algarve. The Alfa Pendular trains offer the fastest links between Lisbon and the Algarve, Porto, Braga and Guimarães.
The only land border is shared with Spain, so all road routes into Portugal are through Spain.
A number of European coach services operate an extensive network to a number of Portuguese destinations including Coimbra, Faro, Lagos, Lisbon and Porto.
Portugal has an adequate system of roads linking every city, town and village.
A number of rules and regulations apply when driving in Portugal. The minimum driving age is 18. Traffic drives on the right. Dipped headlights must be used in built-up areas and side lights must be used when parking in badly lit areas. Children are forbidden from travelling in the front seat and seatbelts must be worn at all times. Warning triangles are compulsory and must be used in the event of a break down. It is against the law to carry a filled petrol can in the car.
The following speed restrictions apply: 50kph (30mph) in built-up areas, 90kph (56mph) outside built-up areas and 120kph (70mph) on motorways.
The main ports are Lisbon, Leixões (Porto), Funchal (Madeira) and Portimão (Algarve) all of which are served by major cruise lines.
Portuguese is the official language in Portugal. English is widely spoken in business and tourist communities, however, here are a few key phrases:
Please: Por Favor
Thank you: Obrigado (m), Obrigada (f)
Do you speak English?: Voce faca Ingles?
The currency in Portugal is the Euro, which divides into 100 cents.
The domestic electricity voltage is 220V throughout the country but in some parts of the south it can be lower at 110V. European two pin plugs are used and adaptors are readily available.
The international dialling code is +351.
In case of emergency the dial 112 for all emergencies.
Tipping in Portugal is generally optional. Tips are normally of 10% or the bill rounded up to the nearest Euro. Bills in pricier restaurants may already have seriço (service charge) included.
ATMs are to be found in all towns and cities and accept all major international cards.
Smoking is prohibited in all public indoor spaces.
Casual wear is widely acceptable although beach wear should not be worn in towns and cities.