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Travel Resources

Welcome to

Portugal, Azores and Madeira

With its mild climate, 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, and 850 kilometers of splendid beaches caressed by the Atlantic Ocean, Portugal is the perfect year-round holiday destination.

This country boasts the oldest borders in Europe and offers an exceptional range of diverse landscapes just a short distance away. From leisure activities to a unique cultural heritage, tradition and modernity coexist in perfect harmony. Indulge in superb cuisine, exquisite wines, and the warm hospitality of its people, making Portugal a paradise of unparalleled quality.

Located in the extreme southwest of Europe, within a few hours’ reach from other European capitals, Portugal attracts visitors from around the world.

Come and discover the irresistible charms of this remarkable country for yourself.

  • Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean.  Mainland Portugal occupies an area of 88,889 km2. It is 218 km wide and 561 km long. It has 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain. 
  • The Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America. They have an area of 2,355 km2 and consist of nine islands – São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Central Group and Flores and Corvo in the Western Group. It takes about two hours to get from the Azores to mainland Portugal by plane. 
  • The Madeira Archipelago has an area of 741 km2 and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from the European   continent (1½ hours flying time from Lisbon). It consists of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens islands, which are nature reserves. 
  • Mainland Portugal 

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. 

 In the Porto e Norte area and Centro region, particularly inland, nearer Spain, the winters are colder, although the temperatures are still mild when compared to the rest of Europe. There is some snowfall. It occurs most in the Serra da Estrela mountains, where we find the highest point in mainland Portugal (1,991 m) and where it is sometimes possible to ski.  

 The summers are hot and dry, especially in the inland areas (Trás-os-Montes in north-eastern Portugal and Alentejo). Temperatures are slightly lower in the coastal areas, because of the influence of the sea.  

 There are often warm, sunny days in autumn. Nice weather at the beginning of November is often called “St. Martin’s Summer” as this saint’s day is on 11 November. 

  • Azores 

The climate in the Azores is influenced by the islands’ latitude and by the Gulf Stream, and temperatures are mild there all year round. The same factors also influence the sea temperature, which is very pleasant both in winter and summer and ideal for nautical sports all year round. 

  • Madeira 

The subtropical characteristics of the weather in the Madeira Archipelago can be explained by its geographical position and mountainous relief. The   climate in Madeira is exceptionally mild, wth average temperatures varying between 24 ºC in summer and 19 ºC in winter. 

The sea temperature is also very pleasant all year round, thanks to the influence of the warm Gulf Stream.  

Portugal has a population of around 10 million. 

Population density is higher in the Metropolitan Area of Lisbon (city and surroundings) where about 2.8 million people live. The second largest city in Portugal is Oporto in the north.  

Generally speaking, there are more people living in the country’s coastal regions than in the inland areas. 

The majority of Portuguese are Catholics, but the Portuguese Constitution guarantees religious freedom and there are a number of different religions in Portugal. 

From a Latin root, Portuguese is spoken by about 250 million people in every continent and is the 5th most spoken language in the world and the 3rd, if we only consider the European languages. 

In Portugal English teaching is mandatory at schools. 

Useful Information

SOS Number

112 is the single European emergency telephone number, available throughout the European Union, free of charge. In the event of any emergency, 112 can be connected through fixed and mobile telephones. The call is free and will be answered immediately by the emergency centres that trigger the medical 


  • Telephones  

In public telephone booths, coins and special cards can be used. They are sold in MEO shops, post offices and some kiosks and news-stands (with a sign indicating this).  

All telephone numbers in Portugal are composed of nine digits. To call from abroad to Portugal, it is necessary to dial the international access code 00 and the country code 351.  

To call abroad from Portugal, dial 00, the country code, the area code and then the number wanted. The dialling codes of the various countries are affixed in public telephone booths. 

  • Mobile phones  

Portugal is one of the countries with the highest number of mobile phone users. There are three network service providers – MEO, Vodafone and NOS – that have roaming agreements with most international mobile phone companies and provide users with a good coverage nationwide. The Portuguese Highway Code forbids the use of mobile phones while driving, unless you’re using hands-free equipment or an earphone, and there are established penalties that can be applied in the event of any infringement. 

  • Internet  

Internet access is available on payment in some cafés and in numerous post offices that have the Netpost service. In various hotels and public facilities, like Airports, Conference centres, Restaurants, Service Areas in motor-ways and shopping centres, there are duly marked “wi-fi” areas where it is possible to access wireless Internet. 


Vehicles drive on the right in Portugal. Unless otherwise indicated, vehicles coming from the right have priority in squares and at intersections. At junctions with roundabouts, vehicles already on the roundabout have right of way. Road signs comply with international rules. 

  • Compulsory papers:  

– Personal ID 

– Driving licence 

– Motor insurance certificate 

– Vehicle registration or equivalent 

– Vehicle logbook (livrete)or equivalent 

On the spot fines are issued. 


  • Speed limits for cars without trailers and motorcycles:  

50 kph – in built-up areas 

90 kph – on normal roads 

100 kph – on roads restricted to motor vehicles 

120 kph – on motorways 

All occupants must wear seat belts. 

The Portuguese Highway Code forbids the use of mobile phones while driving, unless you’re using hands-free equipment or an earphone. 

  • Driving for disabled persons 

In Portugal, the driving regulations for disabled persons relate solely to their physical and mental fitness and may result in restrictions or adaptations that must be mentioned in the driving licence. 

Disabled persons with a driving licence that is valid in Portugal may drive vehicles provided that they comply with the restrictions or adaptations relating to their situation. 

Parking cards for people with disabilities, based on the standardised Community model and issued by any of the Member States, are recognised in Portugal. The spaces reserved for this purpose are clearly signposted. Parking is permitted in other places, in situations of absolute necessity, provided that this is only for short periods of time and does not interfere with the normal and free circulation of pedestrians and vehicles. 

  • Alcohol, drinking and driving 

It is against the law to drive with a blood alcohol level of 0.5 grams per litre or more. 

– A blood alcohol level between 0,5 g/l and 0,8 g/l is considered a serious offence, and it is sanctioned with a driving inhibition between 1 month and a 1 year and a fee payment of an amount from 250 up to 1.250 euros.  

– A blood alcohol level between 0,8g/l and 1,2g/l is a very serious offence, sanctioned with a period of driving inhibition between 2 months and 2 years and a fee payment of an amount from 1.250 up to 2.500 euros.   

– A blood alcohol level of 1,2g/l or more is considered a crime, that can be punished with imprisonment up to 1 year or fee penalty up to 120 days, and driving inhibition between 3 months and 3 years. 

  • Car rentals 

There are car rental services at airports, international rail terminuses and in the main towns and cities.  

Drivers with mobility difficulties, or anyone who prefers to, can rent automatic or adapted vehicles.  

To rent a car you must:  

– be at least between 21 and 25 years old, depending on the company’s rental policy  

– show identification (identity card for EU citizens or a valid passport for other nationalities)  

– have had a driving licence for more than one year 


The electric current in Portugal is 230/400 volts at a frequency of 50 hertz and sockets comply with European standards. 

You will need a 230 volt transformer and an adaptor to use American-style flat-prong plugs. 

Passports and Customs

U.S. citizens need a valid passport (that is not due to expire in the next six months) to enter Italy. U.S. citizens may stay in Italy up to 90 days without needing a special visa.  

According to U.S. Customs and Border Control, an American citizen returning to the U.S. from Portugal is “entitled to an $800 duty-free exemption and the next $1,000 worth of the goods you purchased 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 are generally between 0-10% (except for clothing and textiles, which can be much higher, up to 21%).” 


Portugal is one of 19 European Union countries whose common official currency is the euro.  

1 euro is divided into 100 cents. The coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros.  

The notes are differentiated by their size and colour and come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros.  

Euro symbol is €. 

One side of the coins has a common design (the European side), and the other side has a national symbol. All euro coins can be used in any euro-zone country, irrespective of which national symbols they display.  

  • ATMs – Automatic Teller Machines (Multibanco) 

Portugal has a national network of cash machines (ATMs) identified by the symbol MB (Multibanco), from which you can withdraw cash 24 hours a day. 

  • Currency Exchange 

You can exchange money at banks, which are open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. five working days a week; at bureaux de change; and at automatic currency exchange machines (these are for currency sale transactions only). 

  • Credit cards 

In Portugal, the most commonly used credit cards are: Visa, American Express, Diners Club, Europay / MasterCard, JCB and Maestro.  

If your Visa or MasterCard credit card is lost or stolen, contact the following telephone numbers for assistance:  

– Visa: Tel. 800 811 107  

– MasterCard: Tel. 800 811 272 

Tip: Get a small amount of euros at your home bank – say 100€ worth. Any commercial bank in the U.S. should be able to give you euros. Then you’re really prepared to hit the ground running. 

Service is included in the bill in restaurants, though it is customary to leave an additional tip of about 5-10% of the total. 

It is also normal to tip taxi drivers 5-10 % or rounding up the amount paid to the nearest euro.

Official time

During winter time, i.e. from 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in October to 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in March, the official time in mainland Portugal and Madeira is the Universal Time Coordinated (UTC). 

The rest of the year (between 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in March and 1 a.m. on the last Sunday in October), summer time is in effect and the official time in mainland Portugal and Madeira is Universal Time Coordinated plus one hour. 

In the Azores, the time is one hour earlier than in the rest of Portugal and therefore one hour earlier than the Universal Time Coordinated during winter time and two hours earlier during summer time. 


  • Banks 

Banks are open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. five working days a week.  

Portugal has a national network of cash machines (ATMs) identified by the symbol MB (Multibanco), from which you can withdraw cash 24 hours a day. 

  • Post Offices 

In general, post offices are open from Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.Central and airport offices have extended opening hours and may be open on Saturdays and in some cases also on Sundays.  

Stamps are sold in post offices and vending-machines in the streets.  

Many post offices have the Netpost service that on payment allows access to personal e-mail and the Internet.  

More detailed information about opening hours and services available at each office can be found on www.ctt.pt 

  • Pharmacies 

In general, pharmacies are open on weekdays between 9am and 7pm (some close for lunch from 1 to 3 p.m.) and on Saturdays between 9am and 1pm. 

They display an illuminated green cross outside when open at night.  

All of them have information posted on the door indicating the nearest pharmacies that are open at night. 

  • Shops 

Traditionally, shops are open from Monday to Friday, from 9 or 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some close for lunch from 1 to 3 p.m. On Saturdays from January to November, shops generally close at 1 p.m. though in city centres some are open in the afternoon.  

Shops tend to stay open on Saturday afternoons and sometimes even on Sundays in December for Christmas shopping. 

There are plenty of shopping centres inside and outside the cities that are usually open from 10 a.m. to midnight every day of the week. They generally have stores with the main international brands.  

However, traditional shops with Portuguese products can be found particularly in the streets of the older neighbourhoods of towns and cities. 

Weights and measures

1 cm = 0.39 inches 

1 metre = 3.28 feet / 1.09 yards 

1 km = 0.62 miles 

1 litre = 0.26 gallons (USA) / 0.22 gallons (UK) 

1 inch = 2.54 cm 

1 foot = 0.39 metres 

1 yard = 0.91 metres 

1 mile = 1.6 km 

1 gallon (USA) = 3.78 litres 

1 gallon (UK) = 4.54 litres 

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