Portugal

Introduction

Portugal is still a country of ancient stone villages, historic cities and places on the coast that look like century-old seafaring towns; it has preserved a strong sense of identity and national character, although each province has its own traditions and folklore.


The Portuguese will generally welcome you with typical Latin hospitality: they are open, warm and very polite. Casual clothes are generally okay, although beachwear should not be worn in towns, restaurants, etc. Except for in cinemas, in theatres and on buses, smoking is permitted everywhere in Portugal.


Places to go in Portugal

History

After the abolition of the monarchy in 1910 and the creation of the First Republic, Portugal's rulers set about surpressing all religion in the country and forcibly creating a secular society. A period of restlessness, conflict and political instability ensued.


In 1926, a military coup caused by harsh political and economic conditions, and a disastrous intervention by Portugal's rulers in WW1, was followed by the dictatorship of Antonio de Oliveira Salazar. Dissatisfaction with the Salazar regime and the colonial war in Africa led to a peaceful military coup in 1974 and the end of Portugal's colonial history followed in 1975/76 when all but two of its colonies won independence.


Between 1970 and 1980 there were extreme swings between the political left and right, but the fact that Portugal joined the EU (in 1986) gave the country a certain degree of stability. It was host to the EXPO in 1998 and to the European Football championships in 2004; in 2001, it became European Capital of Culture.

2005 was the year of the worst drought and bushfires in Portugal’s history-devastating the country’s agricultural sector.

Politics

Since the revolution, the political landscape in Portugal has been dominated by the Socialist Party and the Partido Social Democrata, although the Popular Party had been present in some post-revolution governments too. A coalition of the Portuguese Communist Party and The Greens holds the presidency of several municipalities.


The parties that are represented in the Assembly of the Republic (Parliament) are the Socialist Party, the Social Democratic Party, the Communist Party, the Popular Party , the Left Bloc and the Green Party.


In 2000, the general popularity of Portugal’s Socialist government was decreasing, and after Prime Minister Antonio Guterres resigned in December 2001, a coalition government was formed by the centre-right Social Democratic Party (PSD), headed by new Prime Minister Durao Barroso, and the Popular Party.


After 2005’s general elections Prime Minister Jose Socrates and his new Cabinet were sworn in; Socrates said his priorities were the economic growth of the country and the fight against growing unemployment. The winner of the January 2006 presidential poll, Anibal Cavaco Silva (a former Prime Minister), is the first centre-right politician to be President since the military coup of 1974.

Geography

Situated on the southwest part of the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal shares borders with Spain in the north and the east, while to the south and west lies the Atlantic Ocean. The country is divided into various provinces that include the Atlantic islands of Madeira and the Azores. The Douro, Guadiana and Tagus rivers flow across the border from Spain. The north of Portugal is mountainous, the highest peak being the Serra da Estrela, a popular ski resort. South of Lisbon there are the vast plains of the Alentejo region. A range of mountains divides the Alentejo from the Algarve, which is one of the most popular tourist areas with its sandy beaches and beautiful bays.

Economy

Portugal has a market economy; the most important industries including oil refining, petro-chemistry, production of cement, the automobile and ship industries, electronics, machinery, paper industry, textile, leather, ceramics, beverages and food industry.


Perhaps surprisingly, Portugal is the world's largest producer of cork; it is also the world's eighth-largest producer of wine; tourism is another important factor in Portugal’s economy.


Portugal’s membership of the European Union since 1986 has helped the country to establish stable economic growth and development. This has come largely as a result of strong trade ties and an inflow of funds that were allocated by the European Union in order to improve the Portugal's infrastructure.


Portugal joined the economic and monetarian union and since January 1999 the Euro has been the official currency.

Country Information

CurrencyEuro
LanguagesPortuguese
GovernmentRepublic
TimezoneGMT + 1
Population10.4 million
ATM availabilityAvailable
CapitalLisbon
Dialing code(00) 351
Emergency servicesAmbulance, Police and Fire 112
WeatherSummers in the south of Portugal are warm with very little rain. A permanent breeze makes the high temperatures during July and August bearable. Winters are generally cold and wet, particularly in the northern and west coast regions. Spring and autumn are probably the best times to visit as hotel rates are cheaper and the beaches are less crowded. Temperatures in summer frequently reach 30ºC or more. Winters are relatively wet and windy, with temperatures around 10ºC.
Tourist boardhttp://www.portugalinsite.com/
Famous forPort wine, azulejos (tiles), salted cod
Useful phrasesBom dia (hello), adeus (goodbye), obligado/-a (thank you), desculpe (sorry)
Accommodation forThere is a network of inns housed in historic buildings, castles, palaces and convents called ‘pousadas’ that are a good bet when looking for good accommodation. These are often situated in regions a bit off the beaten track so giving people the opportunity to see a side of the country they wouldn’t normally see. From luxury hotels, boarding houses and inns to simple guest houses, manor houses, campsites and youth hostels Portugal has the right kind of accommodation to suit every taste and budget. Most of the hotels have private swimming pools and serve international cuisine as well as some traditional Portuguese dishes. Hotels are classified in the international 1 to 5-star system, while apartment hotels are rated from 2 to 4 stars, motels from 2 to 3 stars and boarding houses from 1 to 3 stars. Self-catering accommodation, such as that in private houses and on farms all over Portugal is also available. Youth Hostels are a great opportunity to get to know other people. They are located in most bigger towns and also in the countryside and coastal areas. There are also a few camping and caravan parks near beaches and woodlands where some have swimming pools, supermarkets and restaurants.
Business hoursBanks are open Monday - Friday 08.30-14.45/15.00. Shops are open Monday - Friday 09.00/10.00-13.00, and then from 15.00-19.00. On Saturdays they will normally open 09.00-13.00. Some larger shopping centres are open daily from 10.00-23.00.
VisasFor stays of up to 90 days, visas are not required for EU nationals and citizens of the following countries: Andorra, Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Brunei, Bulgaria, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, El Salvador, Estonia, Guatemala, Honduras, Hong Kong (SAR), Hungary, Iceland, Israel, Korea (Rep), Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Macau (SAR), Malaysia, Malta, Mexico, Monaco, New Zealand, Nicaragua, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Poland, Romania, San Marino, Singapore, Slovak Republic, Slovenia, Switzerland, Uruguay, Vatican City and Venezuela. For stays of over 90 days these countries will need to obtaine a visa.
TippingThe servicio charge is something you generally don’t find in Portugal as being added to your bill as standard. Restaurant bills generally only contain charges for your food and drinks, so it is quite common to leave a tip. Depending on how satisfied you are with the service you’ve received, you can leave 5- 10%.

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