Portugal - General Information
If you or any member of your party is not a British Citizen or holds a non-British passport, you must check passport and visa requirements with the Embassy or Consulate of the country to or through which you are intending to travel.
Please note it is a requirement in Portugal to be able to show some form of identification at all times, if requested by the police or judicial authorities. In most cases it should be sufficient to carry a photocopy of the data page of your passport. However, you should be prepared to be accompanied by the police to collect the original document if necessary, or to produce it within twelve hours of notification. A driving licence or credit card is not considered sufficient proof of identity.
The currency in Portugal is the Euro, which is widely available in the UK.
Sterling cash and travellers cheques can be exchanged at hotels, banks and exchange offices in Portugal. Major credit cards are accepted in hotels, larger shops and restaurants. We also recommend that you inform your bank/card company of your trip to Portugal, in order to avoid any problems when withdrawing cash from ATM’s; as a security method on your behalf, banks occasionally stop withdrawals in the event that they are being used fraudulently abroad.
Means of Payment
When travelling outside of the UK, you should take more than one means of payment with you (cash, debit card, credit card). Make sure you have enough money to cover emergencies and any unexpected delays.
Tipping has not been part of the British way of life but it is a common practice in most holiday destinations. It is a way of saying thank you to someone who has given good service or for a job well done. It is also an important source of income for people working in the tourism industry, whether it is the driver, local guide, and hotel staff or in local bars and restaurants. Your Tour Manager will be able to advise you of what an appropriate amount is and when to give it.
A service charge is NOT usually added to hotel and restaurant bills in Portugal. However, it is customary to tip an additional 10% if the service warrants.
Tips or gratuities are not included in the holiday cost and are totally at your discretion.
Portugal is within the European Union. If you are travelling from the UK, you are entitled to buy fragrance, skincare, cosmetics, Champagne, wine, selected spirits, fashion accessories, gifts and souvenirs – all at tax-free equivalent prices. There are no longer any allowance restrictions on these tax-free items.
The following goods may be imported into Portugal by person over 17 years of age without incurring customs duty, if you are arriving from a non- EU country:
- 200 cigarettes or 100 cigarillos or 50 cigars or 250g of tobacco
- 1L of spirits over 22% or 2L of spirits up to 22%
- 2L of wine
- 50g of perfume or 250ml of eau de toilette.
- 500g of coffee or 200g of coffee extract (provided bought in a tax-free shop)
- 100g of tea or 40g of tea extract (provided bought in a tax-free shop)
- Further goods up to €175 per adult or €90 if under 15 years of age.
Please check these allowances prior to travel as they are subject to change
The import of meat, meat products, milk, milk products from non-EU countries is prohibited with the exception of limited amounts from Andorra, Croatia, the Faroe Islands, Greenland, Iceland and small amounts of specific products from other countries.
Also banned are protected species and their products as listed by the CITIES (Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species), for example ivory, tortoise shell, coral, reptile skin and wood from Amazonian forests.
Climate & Clothing
The climate in Portugal varies considerably from one region to another and is influenced by the relief, latitude and proximity to the sea, which offers mild winters, especially in the Algarve. Inland, towards Spain, the winters are colder, although the temperatures are still mild when compared to the rest of Europe.
There is some snowfall. It occurs mostly in the mountains where we find the highest point in mainland Portugal and where it is sometimes possible to ski.
The summers are hot and dry. Temperatures are slightly lower in the coastal areas, because of the influence of the sea. There are often warm, sunny days in the autumn. Nice weather at the beginning of November is often called ‘St Martin’s summer’ as this saint’s day is on 11 November.
Clothing for the spring and autumn should definitely include warm clothes as the evenings are usually cool and these changeable months may well mean the days are cooler and wetter than expected for such a southerly latitude. Please remember it is always easier to shed warm clothes if you need to than to add those you don't have. Comfortable shoes are recommended, as there can be lots of walking on some excursions.
Please note some areas of Portugal suffer from Mosquitoes during warm weather, usually in the evenings, so it is advisable to take insect repellent with you.
It can become rainy and windy during autumn and winter, but spring/summer see temperatures soar as high as 40 degrees centigrade around the interior and 35 degrees centigrade in the north.
Food & Drink
Portugal is responsible for the introduction of a great variety of spices and exotic products into European cuisine.
Eating and drinking still play a great role in the Portuguese way of life. The Portuguese normally take a light breakfast, then, mid morning, they have a break for a ‘Meia de leite’ (coffee with milk) and then lunch, consisting of a starter, main course and dessert. Mid afternoon is time for tea or coffee with a toast or sweet and dinner is usually three courses.
The starter is usually a soup (winter time) or a salad (during summer); the main course is meat or fish garnished with potatoes, rice or vegetables and the dessert is usually cake or fruit. To finish the meal there is usually a small coffee which is called ‘bica’, ‘café’, ‘cimbalino’ or ‘espresso’, depending on the area of Portugal.
Fish is very popular in the coastal resorts and meat is more common inland, although everywhere in Portugal you can find the ‘bacalhau’ (salted codfish) cooked in different ways. It is said that there are 365 recipes for ‘bacalhau’.
Some specialities and wines according to the region:
North – ‘Caldo Verde’ (soup); ‘Rojoes’ (pork meat); ‘Polvo’ (Octopus) and ‘Cabrito assado’ (roasted kid).
Wines: The famous Port; ‘Vinho Verde’ (Green wine, red or white) and Douro wines, red and white.
Centre: ‘Leitao a Bairrada’ (Suckling pig), ‘Caldeirada’ (different sorts of fish cooked with rice); ‘Sardinhas’ (Sardines); ‘Cozido a Portuguesa’ (different sorts of meat boiled with cabbage, potatoes and rice).
Wines: Red and white from Bairrada & Dão and sparkling wine from Lamego and Anadia.
South: “Peixe espada” (sword fish) “Mexilhões, Amêijoas, Ostras” (mussels, clams & oysters); “Ensopados de cabrito” (Kid stews).
Wines: Red & White from Colares; Bucelas; Setúbal; Algarve and “Borba” the most famous wine from Alentejo.
The most popular and famous pastry in Portugal is ‘Pasteis de Nata’ or ‘Pasteis de Belem’ as it is known in Lisbon. This is a sort of custard pie.
The electricity supply is similar to the rest of Europe and 2-round pin sockets operate on 220 volts AC.
Please note that travel electrical equipment such as kettles or irons should not be used in your hotel room as they can be a fire hazard. In most Portuguese hotels, rooms have hair driers.
Problems of pick-pocketing of handbags and passports can be common in Portugal especially in the major cities, as in any major tourist destination.
We would warn you always to be careful of your personal belongings and not to carry your passports/extra cash/credit cards etc unless necessary. These should be left in a hotel or room safe where possible.
You should be particularly careful of handbags and wallets - where you need to carry money and documents it is advisable to use a money belt under your clothes rather than an exposed one.
Please note it is a requirement in …………to be able to show some form of identification at all times, if requested by the police or judicial authorities. In most cases it should be sufficient to carry a photocopy of the data page of your passport. However, you should be prepared to be accompanied by the police to collect the original document if necessary, or to produce it within twelve hours of notification. A driving licence or credit card is not considered sufficient proof of identity.
Excursions and activities
We recommend you do not purchase excursions from hotels or street vendors as these may not have been safety checked, may not meet required local standards or have adequate insurance cover. A list of approved excursions has already been sent to you for your information, (in some cases these may include hotels, but where they do we have checked they meet local standards)
If you choose to partake in an activity such you should ensure your travel insurance covers you for that specific activity.
We recommend you heed any additional advice specific to your destination, given to you by your Tour Manager or Local guide.
There are currently no compulsory vaccinations for travel to Portugal however we strongly recommend that you consult with your General Practitioner or Practice Nurse who will assess your particular health risks before recommending vaccines. This is also a good opportunity to discuss important travel health issues including safe food and water, accidents and insect bites. Many of the problems experienced by travellers cannot be prevented by vaccinations and other preventive measures need to be taken.
As you are travelling to a region where mosquitoes are present, we strongly recommend you are adequately prepared before you start your holiday. While the risk of you becoming infected by a mosquito is extremely small, we would not want your holiday spoiled by a nasty bite or illness that is easily preventable with some simple pre-cautionary steps.
We therefore advise (subject to consultation with a qualified pharmacist or your doctor) you purchase high performance mosquito repellent before your trip and apply this regularly during your holiday, including when you go to bed. We would also suggest that you take with you a ‘plug-in’ mosquito repellent device for your hotel room as an extra measure. These, along with DEET based repellents, are available from most pharmacies.
The National Advisory Committee on Malaria Prevention recommends using DEET based repellents with a concentration of over 20% as these give a longer duration of protection than other types currently available. Repellents with a concentration of 50% DEET have the longest duration of protection and require fewer applications per day. It is extremely important to re-apply throughout the day, particularly in hot or humid conditions or after swimming. When both sunscreen and DEET are required, DEET should be applied afterwards.
Mosquitoes are active close to any open water, but their biting habits vary between species, so it’s best to assume you are at risk of being bitten at any time throughout the day or night. Remember to adequately cover your arms and legs – long trousers and sleeves are definitely a good idea. You can also spray your clothing with DEET products, but their effectiveness is shorter on clothing than on skin.
If you are bitten by a mosquito and develop a high fever for two consecutive days, you should seek urgent medical assistance.
Planning for your trip
We don’t recommend you rely on pharmacies in Portugal having specific, prescribed medicines so please make sure to pack more than enough for the duration of your holiday.
Prescription medicines are normally required to be declared at check-in and your Tour Manager can help you with this if needed.
The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) allows you to get state-provided healthcare in all European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Switzerland at a reduced cost or sometimes free of charge.
In order for the EHIC to be accepted, you must attend a hospital or health centre that provides state healthcare. It is not accepted in a private hospital or clinic. Policy holders are under no obligation to provide insurance details in a state hospital or health centre. You have the right to insist that your EHIC is accepted for all necessary state-provided medical treatment. If you do not have your EHIC with you then you can call the Overseas Healthcare Team in Newcastle who will be able to provide you with a Provisional Replacement Certificate.
Accommodation & Bathrooms
You will find that in some hotels in Portugal there is not always uniformity of rooms, so size and shape may vary a great deal. We cannot therefore guarantee that all rooms for our customers will be the same in each property.
In many Portuguese hotels a shower may well consist of a simple shower without a curtain or floor basin but just a sloped floor and drainage point. Please be aware that this can cause your bathroom floor to be wet and sometimes slippery, so extra care should be taken. Bathmats are not always provided.
Please also note that Portuguese hotels do not usually provide tea/coffee-making facilities in their rooms.
Light Switches - In many Portuguese hotels timer switches are used on stairways and in other public areas. You should be aware that lighting may automatically switch off without warning but can simply be reactivated by repressing the timer light switches - these are usually, but not always, illuminated.
Tap water everywhere contains some bacteria and different minerals. You are used to the tap water back home but when you travel, the water is different and it may upset you. For this reason it is safer to drink the bottled water. It is safe to clean your teeth with tap water, but it is advisable to ask for drinks without ice.
It may be prudent to carry a hand sanitizer for use overseas, especially after handling money.
In Portuguese hotels which are equipped with air conditioning, the period in the season and times of day when it is operational are at the discretion of the management, but this is usually during the period approx 1 July to 31 August.
The provision of central heating is also at the discretion of the management but in compliance with the current fuel saving requirements in Portugal, this is normally limited to the period from Nov-March.
Where hotels have their own swimming pools, please arrange to take your own towels, as some hotels do not provide these. Also note that many pools in Portugal do not have depth markings, so always familiarise yourself with the pool before swimming. Diving is not recommended.
Local time in Portugal is the same as that in the UK throughout the year.
Some coaches used on our European flight holidays may be equipped with WC and washbasin however this cannot be guaranteed. In all cases, regular comfort stops will be made to ensure a relaxing journey.
Please note that smoking is not permitted on any of our coaches.
Please note that payment for any extras such as drinks, laundry, telephone calls and meals other than those included in your tour price, must be made directly to your hotel prior to departure.
We will endeavour to trace any lost property and provide you with contact details in order that you may recover your property.
Many of our tours take in local shops and markets and some will visit factory shops or outlets, selling a range of goods. However we cannot accept responsibility for the quality of the goods you have purchased or for any costs you may incur in having them delivered to your home address.
Please ensure you have a clear understanding of the price you have agreed with the vendor and the conversion rate of local currency to sterling pounds, before signing for the sale either in cash or using your credit card. Please exercise care when using your PIN number abroad making sure it is not visible to others.