We hope the following information will be useful to you in preparing for and during your trip.
Climate and wearing apparel: Portugal enjoys Mediterranean climate with distinct winter, spring, summer and fall seasons. In spring (from March 21 to June 21), temperatures range from the high 40’s to mid-60’s during the day. We suggest medium to heavyweight apparel, with gloves and hats for early morning and evening. In summer (from June 22 to September 22), temperatures range from the high 60’s to high 80’s during the day. We suggest lightweight apparel, with light jackets for early mornings and evenings. In fall (from September 23 to December 22), temperatures range from the low 60’s to low 70’s during the day. We suggest medium-weight apparel, with a jacket for early morning and evening. In winter (from December 22 to March 20), temperatures range from the high 30’s to mid-50’s during the day. We suggest medium to heavyweight apparel, with gloves and hats for early morning and evening. In all seasons, it would be wise to pack a travel umbrella for an occasional shower that may occur.
Cuisine: Portuguese cuisine is famous for seafood. The influence of Portugal’s former colonial possessions is also notable, especially in the wide variety of spices used. These spices include piri piri (small, fiery chili peppers) and black pepper, as well as cinnamon, vanilla and saffron. Olive oil is one of the bases of Portuguese cuisine, which is used both for cooking and flavoring meals. Garlic is widely used, as are herbs, such as bay leaf and parsley. There are three main courses with lunch and dinner usually including a soup. A common Portuguese soup is caldo verde, which is made with potato, shredded kale, and chunks of chouriço (a spicy Portuguese sausage). Among fish recipes, salted cod (bacalhau) dishes are pervasive. A small espresso coffee (sometimes called a bica after the spout of the coffee machine) is a very popular beverage had during breakfast, which is enjoyed at home or at the many cafés that feature in towns and cities throughout Portugal. Your average full meal runs from $30 to $50, per person, depending on the choice of menu and wine.
Currency: The local currency is the Euro (€). You will find coins of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50 cents, €1, €2, and paper bills of €5, €10, €20, €50, €100, €200, €500. Please visit Bloomberg’s website for the current exchange rate. Credit cards are accepted, at the hotels and some stores/restaurants. If you intend to use your bank card, consult your bank before departure to ensure that your ATM card is internationally compatible.
Dress code: Casual and comfortable are keywords especially in footwear as there will be a lot of walking to do. Please note to be allowed to enter many religious sites, shoulders have to be covered and shorts or skirts are required to cover the knees. A scarf to cover exposed shoulders may be used when entering a church.
Hairdryers/Irons: Please note that the hotels are equipped with hair dryers. Irons/ironing boards are not provided.
Itinerary: Exact departure times can be found on the bulletin board that your tour leader will post each day, at your hotel.
Flights: Enclosed with your final documents, you will find a detailed flight itinerary. Please note that you will not receive an actual flight ticket, but an e-ticket receipt. All flight tickets are electronic and you will receive your boarding pass after checking in with your passport at the airport. Check-in time varies from carrier to carrier. We suggest check-in at least two hours prior to departure.
Hotels: You will find the name/address/phone of your hotels, following your tour itinerary, in your final documents. Hotel rooms are available for check-in after 2:00 pm. Check out time is usually at 12:00 pm.
Insurance: Portugal has a socialized medicine system. Anyone requiring emergency treatment or hospitalization will be accepted in public hospitals. We suggest checking personal insurance coverage while traveling abroad.
Language: The national language is Portuguese, even though English is commonly spoken in hotels, some restaurants and stores. Useful words to know are “por favor” (please) and “obrigado” (thank you).
Linen: General bed and bath linen are provided in your hotels. However, you will not find washcloths, as it is not customary.
Luggage: Baggage allowance on flights is one piece of checked luggage with a maximum weight of 50 lbs. with linear dimensions (W+H+D) not to exceed 62 inches. The carry-on weight limitation is 40 lbs. with linear dimensions not to exceed 45 inches. In addition to the carry-on, you may bring with you a personal item such as a purse, briefcase or laptop computer. Cellular phones may be carried on board. You will find a travel bag included in your final documents of a convenient size for your personal items. For more information about U.S. carry-on baggage restrictions please read the complete details on the U.S. government airport regulations website, www.tsa.gov.
Mail: In Portugal, you can buy stamps not only at the post-office (“Correiros”) but also in shops with the red-white Correiros-sign. Note, however, that you may encounter long lines at post offices
Medical: No special vaccinations are required for travel to Europe. Anyone taking prescription medicine should be careful to bring an adequate supply for the entire trip and should remember not to pack it in check-in luggage. It is advised to leave it in the original container.
Passport and Visa: All U.S. citizens are required to have a valid passport, with an expiration date of no less than six months from the date of return. A visa is not required to enter Portugal for U.S. citizens. Non-U.S. citizens must check requirements with their respective consulate.
Phones: It is possible to make calls from all of your hotels with a service charge. Remember when you call the States to dial 001 followed by the area code and phone number you are trying to reach. You can also utilize your calling card. Check with your calling card company to obtain toll-free numbers to call from Portugal and further instructions.
Shopping: Though most large towns in Portugal have at least one out-of-town shopping center, in the majority of places people still do much of their purchasing in traditional shops and markets. Old town centers look like they haven’t changed much for thirty years or more, with a butcher, a baker and a candlestick maker on every corner, not to mention a florist, a grocer and a hardware store. Specialist craft and souvenir shops might be able to arrange shipping home for you.
Time difference: Portugal is 5, 6, 7 and 8 hours ahead of Eastern, Central, Mountain and Pacific Time, respectively.
Tips: General tips to porters at the hotel and waiters at the restaurants are included. It is customary to leave small change for restroom attendants, during your en route stops, and also at the cafés when consuming a beverage or snack. What is not included is the tip to guides, tour leader and driver. The suggested tip is $1.00 – $2.00 for each half day service for the guide, $2.00-$3.00 per person per day for the driver and $4.00 – $5.00 per person per day for the tour leader.
Transportation: When taking public transportation, please be sure to put anything valuable in a safe place, out of reach of pickpockets that thrive in any large, tourist-filled city. You may wish to make a copy of your passport to have with you and leave the original at the hotel. If taking a taxi, take only the official ones bearing the sign “taxi” on top and meters that should be turned on, as you enter the cab.
Voltage: The voltage is 220. Appliances you bring should have dual voltage and be equipped with the adapter from the two flat prongs to two round ones. It would be beneficial to purchase this adapter before leaving the U.S.