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PORTUGAL, AZORES AND MADEIRA

With its mild climate, 3,000 hours of annual sunshine, and 850 kilometers of untouched Atlantic coastline, Portugal beckons as the ultimate year-round destination. This remarkable country, home to Europe’s oldest borders, offers an array of diverse landscapes just a stone’s throw away.

Portugal seamlessly blends tradition and modernity, inviting you to explore its unique cultural heritage and indulge in its superb cuisine, exceptional wines, and the warm hospitality of its people. Conveniently located in the extreme southwest of Europe, Portugal welcomes travelers from all corners of the world.

Embark on a journey to discover the irresistible allure of this remarkable nation with a special focus on the Azores.

 

QUICK FACTS ABOUT PORTUGAL

Geography

Portugal, located at the southwestern tip of Europe, includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. The mainland covers 34,505 square miles, with 832 miles of Atlantic coast and a 754 miles border with Spain. The Azores, situated in the Atlantic, comprise nine islands. Flying from the Azores to mainland Portugal takes about two hours. The Madeira Archipelago, in the Atlantic about 310 miles from Africa, consists of Madeira, Porto Santo, and nature reserves Desertas and Selvagens.

Weather

Portugal boasts diverse climates, from mild winters in the Algarve to colder inland winters with occasional snowfall. Summers are hot and dry, especially in the inland regions. Autumn offers warm, sunny days, often referred to as “St. Martin’s Summer.” The Azores enjoy a mild climate year-round, influenced by latitude and the Gulf Stream. Madeira’s weather is exceptionally mild, with average temperatures ranging from 66.2 ºF in winter to 75.2 ºF in summer, and pleasant sea temperatures thanks to the Gulf Stream.

Population

Portugal has around 10 million people, with a higher population density in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon, home to about 2.8 million residents. The second-largest city is Oporto in the north, and coastal regions generally have more inhabitants than the inland areas.

Religion

The majority of Portuguese are Catholics, although religious freedom is guaranteed by the Constitution, allowing for various religions in the country.

Languages

Portuguese, spoken by about 250 million people worldwide, is the fifth most spoken language globally and the third among European languages. In Portugal, English is a mandatory subject in schools.

 

USEFUL INFORMATION

Emergency Number 112

Dial 112 throughout the EU for immediate, free assistance via landlines or mobile phones in emergencies. Your call will be answered by medical emergency centers.

Communication in Portugal

Telephones:

  • Use coins or special cards in public telephone booths, available at MEO shops, post offices, kiosks, and newsstands.
  • All Portuguese phone numbers have nine digits.
  • To call Portugal from abroad, dial the international access code 00 and country code 351.
  • For international calls from Portugal, dial 00, the country code, area code, and the desired number. Check public phone booths for country codes.

Mobile Phones:

  • Portugal has a high mobile phone user rate.
  • Three network providers (MEO, Vodafone, NOS) offer extensive nationwide coverage and roaming agreements.
  • Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited unless you use hands-free equipment or an earphone.

Internet:

  • Pay for internet access at some cafes and select post offices (Netpost service).
  • Look for “wi-fi” zones in hotels, airports, conference centers, restaurants, service areas, and shopping centers for wireless internet access.
Driving in Portugal
  • Vehicles drive on the right side of the road.
  • Vehicles from the right have priority unless otherwise indicated.
  • Roundabout rules: vehicles inside the roundabout have right of way.
  • Road signs adhere to international standards.

Required Documents:

  • Personal ID
  • Driver’s license
  • Motor insurance certificate
  • Vehicle registration or equivalent
  • Vehicle logbook (livrete) or equivalent

Speed Limits for Cars and Motorcycles:

  • 50 kph in built-up areas
  • 90 kph on normal roads
  • 100 kph on roads for motor vehicles
  • 120 kph on motorways
  • Seat belts must be worn by all occupants.
  • Mobile phone use while driving is only allowed with hands-free equipment or an earphone.

Driving for Disabled Persons:

  • Regulations pertain to fitness and may result in license restrictions or adaptations.
  • Drivers with valid licenses complying with restrictions can drive.
  • Recognized parking cards for people with disabilities from other Member States are valid.

Alcohol and Driving:

  • Blood alcohol level of 0.5 grams per liter or higher is illegal.
  • 0.5-0.8 g/l: Serious offense, 1-month to 1-year driving ban, and a €250-€1,250 fine.
  • 0.8-1.2 g/l: Very serious offense, 2-month to 2-year ban, and a €1,250-€2,500 fine.
  • 1.2 g/l or more: Considered a crime, up to 1-year imprisonment or up to 120 days’ fine, and a 3-month to 3-year ban.

Car Rentals:

  • Car rental services are at airports, international rail terminuses, and major towns.
  • Automatic or adapted vehicles available for those with mobility difficulties.
  • Rental requirements include age (21-25 depending on the company), identification, and a driver’s license held for more than one year.
Electricity in Portugal
  • Electric current: 230/400 volts, 50 hertz.
  • Sockets comply with European standards.
  • American-style flat-prong plugs require a 230-volt transformer and adaptor for use.
Passports and Customs for U.S. Citizens
  • A valid passport is required to enter Portugal; it should not expire within the next six months.
  • U.S. citizens can stay in Portugal for up to 90 days without a special visa.
  • When returning to the U.S. from Portugal:
    • U.S. citizens are entitled to an $800 duty-free exemption.
    • The next $1,000 worth of purchased goods is subject to a flat rate of 3%.
    • If the value exceeds $1,800, the remaining duty will be determined based on duty rates in the harmonized tariff schedule, which generally range between 0-10%, with higher rates for clothing and textiles (up to 21%).
Currency and Money Matters
  • Portugal uses the euro (€), which is the official currency of 19 European Union countries.
  • Euros are divided into 100 cents and are available in coins (1, 2, 5, 10, 20, and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros) and notes (5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500 euros).
  • ATMs (Multibanco) are readily available throughout Portugal for 24-hour cash withdrawals.
  • You can exchange money at banks (open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on working days), bureaux de change, or automatic currency exchange machines (for currency sale transactions only).
  • Major credit cards like Visa, American Express, Diners Club, MasterCard, and others are widely accepted.
  • If your Visa or MasterCard is lost or stolen, call for assistance:
    • Visa: Tel. 800 811 107
    • MasterCard: Tel. 800 811 272
  • Consider obtaining a small amount of euros from your home bank before your trip, e.g., 100€, for convenience.
  • Service is usually included in restaurant bills, but it’s customary to leave an additional tip of about 5-10%.
  • Tipping taxi drivers 5-10% or rounding up the fare to the nearest euro is common practice.
Time Zone Information
  • During the winter season, which spans from 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in October to 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in March, mainland Portugal and Madeira operate on Universal Time Coordinated (UTC).
  • In the summer, from 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in March to 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in October, mainland Portugal and Madeira switch to Universal Time Coordinated plus one hour (UTC+1).
  • In the Azores, the time differs, being one hour earlier than mainland Portugal during the winter season and two hours earlier during the summer season.
Services Overview
  • Banks: Operating from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. on weekdays. Portugal boasts a network of ATMs (Multibanco) available 24/7.

  • Post Offices: Typically open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. on weekdays. Some central and airport branches may have extended hours and weekend availability. Stamps can be purchased at post offices or street vending machines. Many post offices offer the Netpost service for paid access to email and the Internet. Visit www.ctt.pt for detailed information on specific office hours and services.

  • Pharmacies: Generally open on weekdays between 9 a.m. and 7 p.m., with some closing for lunch from 1 to 3 p.m. On Saturdays, you can find pharmacies open between 9 a.m. and 1 p.m. Look for an illuminated green cross outside if they’re open at night. Check the posted information on the door for the nearest late-night pharmacies.

  • Shops: Traditionally open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m., with some closing for a lunch break from 1 to 3 p.m. On Saturdays (January to November), shops typically close at 1 p.m., but some in city centers stay open in the afternoon. You’ll find shops open on Saturday afternoons and even Sundays in December for holiday shopping. Shopping centers inside and outside cities are often open from 10 a.m. to midnight every day and feature international brands. However, traditional shops with Portuguese products can be found in the older neighborhoods of towns and cities.

Weights and Measures
  • 1 cm = 0.39 inches
  • 1 inch = 2.54 cm
  • 1 foot = 0.39 meters
  • 1 yard = 0.91 meters
  • 1 mile = 1.6 km
  • 1 gallon = 3.78 liters
  • 1 pound (lbs) = 0.454 kilograms (kg)
  • 1 ounce (oz) = 28.35 grams (g)