Did you know?
- Portugal is situated on the Iberian Peninsula, surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean on the west and southern coasts and Spain to the east and north.
- Portuguese is spoken by 230 million people worldwide in 9 different countries.
- In 1910 Portugal became a republic – before then, the Kingdom of Portugal existed for approximately 800 years from 1139 to 1910. King Mannuel II was the last king of Portugal and was deposed in 1910 and lived out the remainder of his life in exile in a suburb of London.
- Portugal’s coastline stretches 800 kilometers and believed to be one of the best surf destinations in the world
- Portugal was home to Europe’s longest bridge, the Vasco da Gama Bridge in Lisbon until 2018, when Russia’s Crimean Bridge was completed. While Vasco de Gama spans 12 kilometers, the Crimean Bridge is a whopping 19 kilometers long
- Portugal became the first colonial power to abolish slavery in 1761 – half a century before England, USA, Spain and France.
Visas & Passports
We require that your passport is valid for travel for at least six months from the date you are planning to return to Australia. Your passport must be valid to travel internationally and must be machine-readable. You also need to carry a valid return ticket on you.
Whether travelling on an Australian passport or the passport of another country, all travellers require visas for a number of countries, and it is your responsibility to secure what may be required before departing Australia. You can consult with your travel agent, but it is also recommended that you check the foreign embassy website for your respective destination as it can also provide you with useful information.
The Australian Embassy in Portugal:
Avenida da Liberdade, 200, 2nd Floor
Ph. +351 21 310 1500
Fax. +351 21 310 1555
The official currency of Portugal is the Euro. Notes come in denominations of €500, 200, 100, 50, 20, 10 and 5. The recommended currency to take to Portugal is the Euro. Ensure you change a small amount into small denominations.
Advise your bank of your travel plans so that they can make a note of it, otherwise they may cancel your credit card as a safety measure due to the overseas transactions. Also make a note of the 24-hour emergency contact number of the bank or building society which issued your credit card in the unlikely event that your card is lost or stolen.
Whenever possible use ATMs when the banks are open (Mon – Fri) so that if a machine ‘eats’ your card you can then deal with it straight away. It is always advisable to carry a supply of cash in addition to your credit card.
If you don’t have Euros with you on arrival, we advise you to exchange some money into the local currency at the airport even if the exchange rate is not the best, this way you’ll have money to get a drink, snack or give a tip during those first few hours of arrival. Your guide will be able to advise you on the best places to exchange money.
Small change is also useful for paying for toilets while on tour which is customary in many places outside of Australia.
- The price of a cappuccino in Lisbon is approximately €1.50
- The price of an inexpensive lunch is approximately €8
- The price of dinner in a moderate restaurant is approximately €18
- The price of a beer in a local pub is approximately €2
Portuguese food is natural, fresh, hearty and delicious. Breakfast is usually a bit of bread and a bica (espresso). The main meal is lunch, which generally begins after 12:30pm. It starts with the couvert (cover), a simple plate of bread, butter and olives (if you don’t want the couvert, tell the servers – otherwise you will be charged for it; also watch out for unwanted expensive starters). Meals continue with soup, then go on to fish or meat (pork is popular) and excellent desserts, fruits and nuts (almonds). Dinner begins around 8 or 9pm and is usually a smaller version of lunch. A favourite Portuguese soup is the cabbage-based caldo verde (especially tasty in northern Portugal). Seafood is good in Portugal (the sardines are delicious – they bear little relationship to those things that come in cans). Other seafood dishes worth sampling are cataplana (a shellfish stew cooked in a sealed, shell-shaped copper pan), porco à alentejana (clams and pork) and the national dish bacalhau (salted codfish – an acquired taste). Portuguese sausage is delicious, especially when combined with fava beans in a rich stew called feijoada. We also recommend leitao da bairrada (roasted suckling pig), chicken piripiri (spit-roasted with a spicy vinegar sauce) and the cabrito (goat) in the Beira Baixa region. If you can find it, try a soft cheese from Guarda called serra – accept no substitute called tipo serra.
Portuguese wines may just be the best bargain in Europe – even the best bottles rarely cost more than 20 Euros in grocery stores. Most of the wines are red, with the best ones coming from Alentejo, Dao and a small area west of Lisbon called Colares. Rosé and white wines are also popular, especially the sparkling white wine known as vinho verde. (The name means “green wine,” which refers to its age, not its colour: Vinho verde is usually drunk within a year of being processed.) And let’s not forget the rich-flavoured ports (red wines fortified with brandy). So-called vintage ports are the best of this genre and are much more expensive than other local wines.
Important: When dining at buffets (i.e. breakfast) please refrain from taking food away with you to ‘save’ for later! If you feel that you’ll need snacks between meals, pack some dried fruit, nuts, muesli bars etc.
If you have specific food allergies and/or preferences, we highly recommend you take every precaution before your tour, including carrying a small card with your food allergy listed in each language of every country you are travelling to show to table staff when ordering. Whilst we take all dietary requirements seriously, due to the serious nature of potential allergic reactions, it is your responsibility to be as prepared as possible.
Portugal’s climate varies with latitude and is influenced by the Atlantic. The southern coast has a near-Mediterranean climate, but more rain can be expected in the northern part of the country. May-June and late September-October, the weather isn’t too hot for touring (though it can be a bit cool for lying on the beach). Days will be warm with very little rain, and nights definitely require a sweater. In the summer, it can be hot on the beach, and winters are wet, often foggy, windy and really quite uncomfortable on the coast.
Want to get out and explore on your own?
One of the best ways to get around Portuguese cities is walking. Metered taxis can be found everywhere, and the major cities have excellent public transport systems, both rail and bus networks.
When catching taxis, have small change on you and choose one with a meter, if it doesn’t have one then negotiate the price before getting in. Also, ask your guide or hotel staff the names of reputable taxi companies.
So, you’d love to bring home a special souvenir from Portugal…
In Portugal, shop for azulejos (colourful ceramic tiles), earthenware, porcelain made by Vista Alegre, faience (a fine tin glazed pottery, particularly from Coimbra), leather goods (including shoes), antiques, gold and silver filigree (particularly from Minho Province and Oporto), cataplanas (clamshell-shaped copper pans for cooking shellfish and stews), lace, Madeiran embroidery, cork items, Portuguese guitars (they look like enlarged mandolins), needlepoint carpets and Arraiolos rugs (be sure to get a certificate of origin – there are a few cheap imitations made in China). Consumable souvenirs such as wine and port, olive oil (the best comes from the area around Castelo Branco) and locally produced honey are also good choices. For everything under one roof, try Lisbon’s ultramodern Centro Comercial Colombo.
- The Portuguese have their own language and are proud of it – don’t assume they will speak Spanish as well.
- The Portuguese respect correct queues even more than the British, so keep your place and don’t push in!
- Don’t use a flash if you take picture of a fado singer or talk whilst they are singing.
- It is considered polite to leave a little bit of food on your plate at the end of your meal, once you’ve finished
- Upon introduction, use the titles ‘senhor’ and ‘senhora’ with the person’s surname
- Many Portuguese are indifferent and even offended by the traditional bullfighting, so it pays not to generalise or assume they support it
Celebrations & Public Holidays
Interestingly, it was actually the Portuguese settlers that brought the Carnaval Festival from Europe to Brazil, back in the early 17th century. Much like the world famous celebration in Rio, Carnaval is a major event held throughout Portugal. It’s worth a trip to the southern the Algarve region, where you can expect to see, not only the incredible parades, costumes and colour, but also witness decorated traditional Portuguese boats, sailing along the shoreline.
With a history dating back some 700 years, this midsummer festival takes place in Porto each year. Originally a pagan feast worshipping the Sun God, it evolved into a Christian celebration, honouring St John the Baptist. This all night event is spent listening to loud music, consuming food from barbecued sardines to St John’s cake, all while taking a soft squeaky plastic hammer to the heads of passers-by. Illuminated, flame-propelled balloons are released into the sky, before concluding with spectacular fireworks over the Douro River.
Other national public holidays to be aware of include:
- New Year’s Day
- Good Friday
- Easter Sunday
- Liberty Day (April 25th)
- Labor Day / May Day (May 1st)
- Portugal Day (June 10th)
- Corpus Christi (Second Thursday after Trinity Sunday)
- Assumption of Mary (August 15th)
- Republic Implantation (October 5th)
- All Saints' Day (November 1st)
- Restoration of Independence (December 1st)
- Feast of the Immaculate Conception (December 8th)
- Christmas Day
Lisbon’s hodgepodge of historical periods and cultures is a major source of its charm. A sprawling city on the banks of the Tagus River, it constantly reminds you that Portugal has been conquered several times, that it developed (and lost) its own illustrious empire and that, for much of the 20th century, it isolated itself from the rest of the world. But when Portugal joined the European Union in 1986, it experienced a major economic boost. A completely new quarter sprung up on the banks of the river Tagus and the city is modernising fast. Experience the vintage trams as you traverse the city’s hills, passing restored medieval facades, wonderful art-nouveau buildings, black-and-white mosaic sidewalks (known as calcada), fine museums and plenty of modern shops. Witness the popularity of fado, the melancholy music that developed here in the early 19th century.
Archaeological discoveries made on the site of Coimbra date back to prehistoric times. It has a long history, including a period as Portugal’s capital in the 12th century. It lost its status to Lisbon in 1256 but as compensation became home to Portugal’s only university (until 1911). The old University town lies halfway between Lisbon and Oporto and is rich in tradition. The university students are a feature in their own right – there are approximately 18,000 students milling around town, many still wearing the traditional long black robes (batina) under a black cape (capa) with different coloured ribbons denoting their faculties. Besides the University, there is much to see - from 12th century cathedrals, Roman ruins, castles and the University’s baroque library. You’ll also find a lively nightlife with many bars playing live music, some in centuries old chapels and exquisitely ornate buildings.
Porto, Portugal’s second-largest city, sits on the steep north bank of the Douro River. It has an interesting port area and a nice, old feel to it, especially among the ochre and brown tenements stacked high on the slopes above the river. Porto’s history predates the Roman occupation – in fact, Portugal took its name from the town. Porto was named the 2001 European City of Culture. To celebrate, the city opened a photography museum (housed in a 19th century prison) and an orchestra hall, and the entire city received a thorough freshening-up. It’s fun to walk the narrow medieval streets around the Se (the cathedral) which has a nice Romanesque choir and Gothic cloister.
Small Group Tours
Enjoy the trip of a lifetime through three vastly different countries. Marvel at the architectural wonder of Barcelona and the charming cities of Porto, Coimbra and Lisbon before revelling in sunny southern Spain.