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Portugal Travel Guide

A sun-soaked land on the Iberian Peninsula with plenty to offer to both short and long-term visitors, Portugal's greatest attraction is its gorgeous coastline. The southern region of the Algarve is a firm favourite, where an array of top-class beach resorts, once sleepy fishing villages, provide luxurious oceanside accommodation.

The region's fine, year-round climate and ease of access mean that it is a hugely popular winter sun vacation destination. Additionally, there are several low-cost European carriers that provide direct cheap flights to the Algarve. It also serves well as the perfect place for a weekend getaway when the daily grind of city life becomes too much. Seaside towns like Albufeira and Lagos are home to some of the best beach resorts in the Algarve, providing a heady mixture of sheltered beaches, outstanding natural scenery and high-quality lodgings.

There is far more to Portugal than its beaches, however. As anyone who has ever set foot in Lisbon's historic Alfama district, or travelled to the medieval town of Evora will tell you, the country is home to some breathtaking architecture and cultural treasures. Notable tourist sights in Lisbon include the Jeronimos Monastery and its Manueline architecture, the iconic Monument to the Discoveries, and the most-photographed building in all of Portugal, the Tower of Belem.

This geographically varied country also offers skiing opportunities at the Vodafone Ski Resort in the Serra Estrela Mountains. This craggy, forested mountain range is also a great area for walking and hiking trails, and is the place to go for those craving the pampering of a spa resort holiday in Portugal.

Best time to visit Portugal

Portugal has a typically Mediterranean climate, characterised by hot, dry summers, and cool, wet winters. The southern coastal region of the Algarve is more temperate than inland regions. The best time to visit Portugal is during spring and autumn, when the weather is warm and fine, and there aren't too many tourists around. However, summer is the high season, and is probably when the ocean is at its most appealing. During winter, airfares and accommodation prices are much lower, serving as a bonus for budget-conscious travellers.

What to see in Portugal

-The Azores is a remote collection of nine gorgeous islands that have, thus far, been spared from the worst effects of overdevelopment and mass tourism.

-The Jeronimos Monastery in downtown Lisbon is one of the world's best examples of Manueline architecture.

-The Costa do Estoril, stretching west from Lisbon, is an area characterised by verdant hills rolling toward Blue Flag coastal beaches.

-Evora, a quaint medieval town boasting a wealth of historical sites, is fast becoming Portugal's new tourist hotspot.

What to do in Portugal

-Fly directly to the Algarve, and waste no time staking your spot on one of the region's magnificent sandy beaches.

-Jump on Electrico 28 and enjoy a historic tram ride through Lisbon's most interesting neighbourhoods.

-Take a winter sun vacation to Loule and join in the colourful Carnaval celebrations.

-Take to the streets of Lisbon's Alfama area after dark, and enjoy some local cuisine and live music at one of the city's famous Fado bars.

Holiday resorts in Portugal

Portugal has a number of popular resorts for sun-seekers looking for the perfect beach holiday. Ranging from lively nightlife scenes to secluded and remote beaches, party central to family-friendly activities, there is a place for everyone in Portugal.

Getting to Portugal

Flights to Portugal are available from a wide range of airports in the UK and USA. Several low-cost European carriers offer direct, cheap flights to the Algarve region's Faro Airport from UK destinations, while from the USA it is possible to find direct cheap flights to Lisbon or the Azores. Connections within Portugal are plentiful and affordable.


Baltasar and Blimunda by Jose Saramago and The Last Kabbalist of Lisbon by Richard Zimler.


Belle Epoque (1992) and Lisbon Story (1994).


Piri-piri chicken (especially from Guia), and salted cod (bacalhau).


Red wine, port from Porto, and try the regional speciality vinho verde, a very crisp green wine that goes excellently with fish and seafood dishes.

What to buy

Fado music CDs, iconic dolls from the Nazare region, and local Portuguese fashion, which, although not widely known, is often chic and trendy.

What to pack

Pack plenty of sunscreen for a holiday in Portugal, as well as some after-sun lotion, which can soothe the worst effects of spending too much time out on the beach.

What's on in Portugal

Carnaval (February) is a festive, colourful celebration that draws thousands of visitors each year. The well-attended Estoril Open (April to May) is one of the highlights of the international clay court tennis circuit. Classical music enthusiasts will delight in the Great Orchestras of the World concert series (November to April), held in Lisbon's famed hall, the Coliseu dos Recreios.

Did you know?

-Lisbon's Vasco da Gama Bridge is the longest bridge in Europe.

-Portugal's University of Coimbra was established in 1290, making it one of the oldest universities in Europe.

-In 2007, Portugal's national rugby team became the first all-amateur team to ever qualify for the Rugby World Cup.

-As of 2018, football legend Cristiano Ronaldo has won the Ballon d'Or, the annual award for the world's best player, five times.

A final word

Whether you choose to relax on one of its golden beaches, or head inland and do a little exploring of the country, you are bound to have a rich and rewarding experience travelling through Portugal.


Portuguese is the official language, but English is widely spoken and understood.


The official currency is the Euro (EUR), which is divided into 100 cents. There are numerous banks, bureaux de change and ATMs available in main cities and tourist destinations. Foreign currency can be exchanged at banks, bureaux de change and automatic currency exchange machines. Banking hours are generally 8.30am to 3pm Monday to Friday. Major credit cards are widely accepted.


Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two-pin plugs are used.


Service charges are not usually added to hotel and restaurant bills but it's customary to leave a 10 percent tip. Bar staff and taxi drivers also expect tips, which usually entails rounding up the bill to the nearest Euro.


Generally, safety is not a problem for travel in Portugal but reasonable care should be taken. Road maintenance is fairly poor so exercise caution and drive defensively when driving.


The international access code for Portugal is +351, and wifi is available in most hotels, cafes and restaurants throughout Portugal.


There are no health risks when travelling to Portugal. A yellow fever vaccination certificate is necessary for entry for anyone travelling from an infected area and destined for the Azores or Madeira. Health facilities are good and reciprocal health agreements exist with most European countries. It's advisable that travellers obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travel. Dental care and repatriation costs are not covered under this agreement, and travel insurance is therefore advised.

After Brexit, the Global Health Insurance Card (GHIC) replaced the European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) for UK citizens. The GHIC allows UK citizens access to state healthcare during visits to the EU.

Public Holidays

New Year's Day1 Jan1 Jan
Liberation Day25 Apr25 Apr
Good Friday10 Apr2 Apr
Labour Day1 May1 May
National Day10 Jun10 Jun
Assumption of the Virgin Mary15 Aug15 Aug
Feast of the Immaculate Conception8 Dec8 Dec
Christmas Day25 Dec25 Dec
Easter Day12 Apr4 Apr


Business culture in Portugal observes a strict hierarchical top-down approach to management and leadership. Subordinate employees are expected to do as they are told. Strong business relationships are built on trust between colleagues, and personal connections are important.

Business etiquette is formal yet relaxed. Use titles such as 'Señhor' and 'Señhora' until strictly instructed not to do so, and show deference to those in obvious positions of authority. Business meetings in Portugal must be made by appointment.

The dress code in Portugal is strictly smart and formal - with a strong emphasis placed on presentation. Business hours in Portugal vary, but are generally from 8.30am to 1pm, and 3pm to 6pm, from Monday to Friday.

Passport & Visa

All visitors, except EEA member states, must hold tickets and documents for their return or onward journey, and proof of paid accommodation (equivalent in convertible currency accepted). The borderless region known as the Schengen area includes the following countries: Austria, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Italy, Latvia, Lichtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, The Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. All these countries issue a standard Schengen visa that has a multiple entry option that allows the holder to travel freely within the borders of all. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.


Family is an important pillar of Portuguese society, with familial loyalty overriding everything, even in the corporate environment. Thus it's not uncommon for employers to hire family members as they feel comfortable around those they trust. Self-respect through appearance is also of high importance, with dressing smart for all occasions not a rare occurence. In terms of cuisine, the Portuguese love seafood as well as sweet treats like honey cakes and pasteis. As a nation which is predominately Roman Catholic and conservative, overly exuberant foreigners are frowned upon while lateness and informal etiquette is also considered rude.

Duty Free

Travellers over 17 years arriving from non-EU countries do not have to pay duty on 200 cigarettes, 100 cigarrilos, 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco; 4 litres of wine, 16 litres of beer and 1 litre of spirits over 22% or 2 litres of liquor less than 22% volume; 50g of perfume and 250ml of eau de toilette; other goods up to the value of €430 for air and sea travellers.


Institute of Portugal Tourism, Lisbon: +351 211 205 050 or


Entry Requirements

US nationals do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period. A passport valid for at least three months beyond period of intended stay is required.

British passports endorsed 'British Citizen', 'British Subject', 'British Overseas Territories Citizen', and Identity Cards issued by Gibraltar must be valid for the duration of intended stay. British passports with any other endorsement must be valid for three months beyond period of intended stay. Visas are not required for British Citizens, British Overseas Territories Citizens, British Subjects, and those with Identity Cards issued by Gibraltar.

Canadians do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period. A passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay is required.

South African nationals require a passport valid for at least three months beyond period of intended stay, and a Schengen visa.

Irish nationals do not require a visa to visit Portugal. A passport valid on arrival is required.

New Zealand nationals do not require a visa for a stay of up to 90 days within a 180 day period. A passport valid for three months beyond period of intended stay is required.

Embassy Consulates

United States Embassy, Lisbon: +351 21 727 3300

British Embassy, Lisbon: +351 21 392 4000

Canadian Embassy, Lisbon: +351 21 316 4600

South African Embassy, Lisbon: +351 21 319 2200

Irish Embassy, Lisbon: +351 21 330 8200

New Zealand Consulate, Lisbon: +351 21 314 0780

Embassy Consulates

Portuguese Embassy, Washington, United States: +1 202 350 5400.

Portuguese Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 207 235 5331.

Portuguese Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 729 0883

Portuguese Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 341 2340

Portuguese Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 412 7040

Portuguese Consulate, Auckland, New Zealand: +64 9 255 2569


Sightseeing in Portugal consists of a warm climate, charming ports and friendly people. The sea has always been the country's first love, with the golden beaches and soaring cliffs of the Algarve attract millions of visitors every year. Vibrant, energetic tourist resorts in the south give way to the natural treasures of the Parque Natural de Ria Formosa.

The trademark seven hills of Portugal's historic capital city, Lisbon, stand over a colourful city. Visitors can wind their way through Lisbon aboard the famous Tram 28, and experience mournful Fado music in the Alfama district. Not to be missed is a day trip to the picturesque town of Sintra, nestled in the mountains north of Lisbon. Equally impressive is the walled town of Obidos, with its hilltop castle now turned into a luxury pousada (inn).

Not far away lie the mysterious megalithic monuments of the Cromeleque dos Almendres, situated just outside the lively university town of Evora. Porto, in the north, is an edgy city boasting a historic centre and great food and drink, as well as being a gateway to the famous Port-producing region of the Douro Valley. On the way north to Porto, visitors should stop to take in the atmosphere in Coimbra, former medieval capital of Portugal and home to the country's oldest university dating back to the 13th century.

Portugal's historic seafarers uncovered yet more delights in their travels west. The tiny island of Madeira is known as a 'floating garden', hiding a botanical wonderland and famous fortified wine behind its soaring ocean cliffs. Further west lies the Azores, dramatic island landscapes shaped by geological forces within the earth. Visitors can indulge in watersports, see whales and dolphins, hike to volcanic craters and explore the lush scenery.


The weather in Portugal is among the warmest in Europe, with an average temperature of around 55°F (15°C) in the north, and 64°F (18°C) in the south. The average annual rainfall is as high as 118 inches (300cm) in the northern mountains, but countrywide is closer to 43 inches (110cm).

Southern Portugal has a Mediterranean climate with hot, dry summers and mild winters. There is very little rain and summers are warm, but refreshing sea breezes make for pleasant conditions. Summer temperatures in the Algarve can pass 86°F (30°C), and reach as high as 116°F (47°C) in the Alentejo.

In the north, the weather is wetter, particularly in winter, and cooler, with temperatures influenced by Atlantic currents and the Spanish Meseta.

The climate of the Azores and Madeira is subtropical with some variation from island to island. Much of the Azores experiences dry summer months with warm temperatures year-round.

The best time to travel to Portugal is during spring (April and May) and autumn (September and October) when days are pleasantly sunny and warm but tourist areas are relatively quiet. These seasons also offer cheaper rates at hotels and less crowded beaches, restaurants and golf courses.

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