Portugal Travel Tips
Some helpful tips when travelling to Portugal
Portugal is a member of the European Union and as such uses the Euro. It is important for travellers to note that the Euro is available in note denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 Euros while coin denominations are available in 1 and 2 Euros as well as 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents.
Several options are available to you when exchanging currency. If using a bank to exchange make sure to note if they charge commission on their exchanges. Every bank is different and the average commission of 0.5% may be charged depending on the amount being sold or bought. Charges start at a € 10 minimum. Growing in popularity is the option to withdraw funds from an ATM which is more convenient and charges only 2%.
Other payment options include use of Mastercard, Visa and Eurocheque cards. Always verify with your bank before travel to confirm you will be spending out of the country and to check if any restrictions or services apply. It is always wise to carry travellers checks denominated in any one of the major currencies i.e. Pounds, Euros or US dollars. Opening hours at most banks are 8:30 am to 3 pm with certain banks open until 5 pm depending on your area.
No restrictions exist on the brining in of local (Euro) or foreign currency whether in the form of travellers checks or as hard cash. It is obligatory to inform customs if any persons are bringing in funds in excess of $6000 USD. The limit on exporting local currency is €498.80.
In order to avoid incurring customs duty when importing items from other non EU countries ensure the limits listed below are not exceeded. These rules are applicable to visitors that are 18 years and older:
- A limit of 1 litre for spirits with over 22 per cent alcohol, and a limit of 2 litres for spirits with a maximum alcohol content of 22 per cent.
- 2 litres of wine
- 250g of tobacco or 50 cigars or 100 cigarillos or 200 cigarettes
- 0.05 kg of perfume and 25cl of a light cologne
- 0.5 kg of coffee or 0.2 kg of coffee concentrate (if bought tax-free)
- 0.1 kg of tea or 0.04 kg of tea concentrate (if bought tax-free)
An additional allowance of €175 per adult and €90 per child under 15 is granted on any other goods. The exportation of jewellery, silver and gold is limited to €149.64 and proof must be provided that the goods are being exported solely for personal use.
Portugal uses the two pin continental plugs and electricity supply is at 50Hz and 220 volts. The south uses 230 DC and some areas also provide 110 volts.
Well prepared travellers should not encounter any adverse health difficulties in Portugal. Taking proper care of oneself while travelling is always a necessary precaution. Be sure to dress according to the temperature, drink plenty of fluids if the weather is very hot and exercise caution when eating or drinking in small villages. The water in most places is safe to drink but if you are not comfortable with it, standard bottled water is easily available. As you would anywhere, be careful to note that all food is properly cooked and stored.
Portugal offers private health care as well as fully-state funded health facilities. There is free or low cost emergency care for all citizens of the European Union as well as the nations of Liechtenstein, Iceland, and Norway as long as they present a E111 form. This form can be acquired from health care practitioners in advance of travel. Those travelling from outside the above regions should always ensure that they are covered by a private travel insurance.
Be sure you are travelling with a sufficient amount of prescriptions that you are required to take regularly. The pharmacies in Portugal are well equipped to fill most legibly written prescriptions. Be sure to carry any prescriptions with you when you travel in case of emergency and be sure to know the technical name of the medication you are taking as brand names can differ betweens countries.
There are currently no required vaccinations necessary to enter Portugal but these requirements are subject to change. Ensure you enquire with a medical professional prior to travel. The only exception to this rule is when it comes to visitors to Madeira or Azores Islands who are more than 1 year old where a vaccination certificate for yellow fever is mandatory.
Passengers in transit through Porto Santo, Santa Maria and Funchal do not require any such certificate.
The national language of Portugal is Portuguese. However, travellers will find that English is one of the most widely spoken of the non-Portuguese languages and especially in central tourist areas and business communities. If travelling more extensively within Portugal it may be wise to look into hiring a translator or bilingual guide.
While the crime rate in Portugal is lower than most European urban centres it is still wise to exercise necessary precautions. Most crime is gang related so while not directly aimed at tourists there are unfortunate situations which means you have to choose where you visit wisely. For this reason it is crucial to be aware of your surroundings. Be wary of your personal possessions in very busy tourist areas as pick pocketing is a reality. In particular be sure to limit the visibility of your wallet and other important valuables on the well known Tram 28 in Lisbon. Try not to venture out at night on your own and stick to populated areas. Some night club violence has been reported. Female travellers, especially those touring more rural areas of Portugal should always be in the company of a friend or group. While no serious problems have been reported, solo female travellers draw attention to themselves since more conservative rural folk will believe they need protection.
Travellers can expect Latin hospitality in Portugal, their lifestyle is laid back but old fashioned so ensure you use your manners and maintain a polite demeanour. Ensure that beachwear is reserved only when visiting the beach, in all other occasions casual attire is the norm. Be aware that smoking is permitted in most places including restaurants, movie cinemas, and buses.
Tipping and Tax
The applicable taxes in Portugal are almost always included in the purchase price of items. Value add tax, labelled IVA, ranges from 8% on basic items such as clothing food and books, and between 17 and 19% on most luxury goods. Non EU citizens are eligible for IVA refunds on purchases totalling more than €60 in any single store. Stores that are advertised as Europe Tax Free Shopping Portugal will issue checks for the refund amount upon your purchase. When going through customs these checks presented with receipts for the goods and your passport can be submitted for a credit card, cash or postal note refund.
Portugal supports a minimal tipping culture based upon your satisfaction. A sufficient tip at a restaurant or to a taxi driver would be between 5 and 10%. Offering loose change to attendants in snack shops, bakeries and petrol service station is appreciated.
Portugal’s international dial code is 351. Mobile coverage exists throughout the country and roaming agreements are in place with international mobile service providers.
UTC (Note however that this moves to UTC+1 from the last Sunday in the month of March to the last Sunday in the month of October)
Visas and Passports
Visitors to Portugal from Canada, the United States and New Zealand can remain in Portugal for up to 90 days and not need a visa. Excluding EU nationals, all passports must have an expiry date that is more than six months past the intended time of stay in Portugal. Any other nationalities must meet visa requirements unless they are a child or spouse to an EU national. For up to date via information contact a Portuguese Embassy. As you would always be advised when touring a country, it is important that you have your passport with you at all times.