Portugal is a country of astonishing beauty and diversity, not to mention clear blue skies and friendly, courteous people. Pick any destination and the view from your window might be a rugged stretch of windswept coastline (Cabo do São Vicente, Castelejo, Cabo Espichel), a pristine beach where fishermen mend their nets beside brightly painted sardine boats (Albufeira, Bordeira, Praia do Camilo) or a cobbled street overlooked by dazzling whitewashed houses with wooden balconies and re-tiled roofs. Portugal is a land of infinite options. You can mingle with the crowds in one of the more sophisticated beach resorts or wander through the medieval quarters of historic cities like Lisbon, Porto, Braga or Coimbra. To explore the more remote beauty spots (car hire is relatively cheap, driving a delight) stay overnight in a romantic pousada – a converted farm, monastery or manor house enjoying a wonderful setting – an amazing bargain. If it’s an activity holiday you’re looking for, Portugal is one of Europe’s premier golfing destinations while the tennis schools are second-to-none. You could try your hand a big game fishing or horse riding, learn how to windsurf or water ski. Other unmissable experiences include Fado (Portugal’s answer to soul music), country fairs where centuries-old folk traditions are lovingly reenacted, Port wine tasting and mouthwatering fish suppers. Portugal is a country ripe for discovery.
Area: 92,345 sq km (35,655 sq miles)
Geography: Portugal occupies the southwest part of the Iberian Peninsula and shares borders in the north and the east with Spain while to the south and west lies the Atlantic Ocean. The country is divided into various provinces, including the Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Azores; the latter lying some 760 miles due west of Lisbon. The Douro, Tagus and Guadiana rivers flow across the border from Spain. Northern Portugal is mountainous, the highest part being the Serra da Estrela, a popular area for skiing. South of Lisbon stretch the vast plains of the Alentejo region. A range of mountains divides the Alentejo from the Algarve, which runs along the southern coast and is one of the most popular resort areas with wide sandy beaches and attractive bays.
Credit Cards: MasterCard, American Express, Diners Club and VISA as well as the Eurocheque cards are all widely accepted.
Travelers Checks: readily exchanged..
Banking Hours: Generally, 8:30am-3pm Monday to Friday. Certain banks open till 6pm.
Air: Portugal’s national airline is TAP Air Portugal (TP) (www.tap.pt)
Approximate flight times:
London to Lisbon is 2 hours 30 minutes
New York to Lisbon is 8 hours
Chicago to Lisbon is 10 hours 20 minutes
Los Angeles to Lisbon is 13 hours 50 minutes
Lisbon (LIS) (Portela de Sacavem) (www.ana-aeroportos.pt) is 7km (4.5 miles) north of the city (travel time 35 minutes). A special “Airbus” departs to the city center every 15 minutes. Taxi services to the city are available with a surcharge after 10pm.
Faro (FAO) is 4km (3 miles) west of the city (travel time 25 minutes). Bus and taxi services are available.
Social & Business Customs
Seafood is popular especially in Lisbon but can be expensive. Soup is a main dish. Typical Portuguese dishes include sopa de marisco, caldo verde (green soup) made with finely shredded green kale leaves in broth and bacalhau, dried cod, cooked in over 100 different ways. Caldeirada is a fish stew with as many as nine kinds of fish, cooked with onions and tomatoes. Also typical is carne de porco a Alentejana, in which bits of fried pork are covered with a sauce of clams stewed with tomato and onions. Puddings include arroz doce (rice pudding) and nuvens (egg custard).
Portuguese table wines are good value. The most popular regional names are Dão and Serradayres for red wines and Bucelas and Colares for white wines. Sparkling rosé wines are mostly produced for export. Portuguese brandies are also good; the best are produced around Oporto where Port wines come from.
The large towns offer every kind of entertainment. There are many nightclubs, theaters, cinemas, and stage shows, folk dancing and music performances. Portugal offers bullfights on horseback. The traditional Fado can be heard in many restaurants and performances begin at about 11pm. The theater season is from October to May. Gambling is authorized with casinos in Estoril, Figueira da Foz, Espinho, Alvor, Vilamoura and Monte Gord. The elegant Casino Monumental in Póvoa de Varzim is the most renowned.
Items include leather goods, copper, ceramics, handcrafted silver and gold, embroidery and tapestry, woodcarving, cork products, porcelain and china, crystal and glassware.
Generally 9am-1pm and 3pm-7pm Monday to Friday; 9am-1pm Saturday (only December 3pm-7pm).
The Portuguese way of life is leisurely and old-fashioned politeness is essential. Warm Latin hospitality is the norm. The country has a deep individual national character, although each province has its own traditions and folklore. Casual wear is widely acceptable, although beachwear should not be worn in towns. In restaurants, it is usual to smoke only at the end of the meal. Smoking is prohibited in cinemas, theaters and buses.
Generally 10-15%. Taxi drivers are tipped 10%
Business people are expected to dress smartly. English is widely spoken in business circles, although when visiting a small family business, it is best to check in advance. Only more senior members of a company generally exchange visiting cards. July and August are best avoided. Office hours: 9am-1pm and 3pm-7pm Monday to Friday.
The northwest has mild winters with high levels of rainfall and fairly short summers. The northeast has longer winters and hot summers. In the south, summers are warm with very little rain except in early spring and autumn. A permanent breeze in Estoril moderates high temperatures.