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STUDY IN portugal - Living in Portugal


Social Scene     |    Customs and Culture    |    Transportation

Accommodation    |    Health Care    |    Emergency Contacts

Social Scene

Social Conventions: The Portuguese way of life is leisurely, and old-fashioned politeness is essential. Warm, Latin hospitality is the norm. The country has a deeply individual national character, although each province has its own traditions and folklore. Casual wear is widely acceptable, although beachwear should not be worn in towns. In restaurants, it is usual to smoke only at the end of the meal. Smoking is prohibited in cinemas, theatres and on buses. Tipping: Generally 10 to 15 per cent. Taxi drivers are tipped 10 per cent.

Special Events: Portugal has many festivals – for a complete list, contact ICEP/Portuguese Trade and Tourism Office. Below is a selection of events celebrated in Portugal:

  • Feb-Mar - Fantasporto (International Fantastic Film Festival), Porto
  • Feb - Carnival, Torres Vedras, Sines, Loulé, Sesimbra, Nazaré and Funchal
  • Mar - International Lisbon Half-Marathon. Apr Tennis Estoril Open, Oeiras
  • Apr - Holy Week Festivities, Braga. May Queima da Fitas (burning of ribbons at Coimbra University)
  • May - Pilgrimage to Fátima. Jun Tróia International Film Festival
  • Jun-Jul - UEFA Euro 2004 (European Football Championship), various locations
  • Jun - Festival of St Anthony, Lisbon
  • Jun - Festival of St John, Porto. Jul National Handicrafts Fair, Vila do Conde; Festas dos Tabuleiros, Tomar; Faro International Motorcyclists Meeting; Sardines Festival, various locations
  • Jul-Aug - Classic Music Festival, Vila Real; Estoril International Handicrafts Fair
  • Aug - Our Lady of Agony Feast, Viana do Castelo; Seafood Festival, Olhão
  • Aug - Festival do Sudoeste (Rock Music Festival), Zambujeira do Mar
  • Aug-Sep - Feast of Our Lady of Remédios, Lamego
  • Oct - National Gastronomy Festival, Santarém
  • Nov - Guimarães Jazz; National Horse Fair, Golegã
  • Dec - Magical Night (St Silvester Festival), Lisbon

Local Customs & Culture


Food & Drink: Seafood is popular, especially in Lisbon, but can be expensive. Soup is a main dish. Typical Portuguese dishes include sopa de marisco (shellfish soup cooked and served with wine), caldo verde (green soup made with finely shredded green kale leaves in broth) and bacalhau (dried cod, cooked in over 100 different ways). Caldeirada is a fish stew with as many as nine kinds of fish, cooked with onions and tomatoes. Also typical is carne de porco á Alentejana, in which bits of fried pork are covered with a sauce of clams stewed with tomato and onions. Puddings include arroz doce (rice pudding), Madeira pudding and nuvens (egg custard). Portugal’s sweet pastries (available in most cafes) are also worth a try. Table service is normal.

Portuguese table wines are good value. There are 47 wine-producing regions, the most popular regional names are Dão for red wines and Bucelas and Colares for white wines. Sparkling rosé wines are mostly produced for export. Mateus Rosé is a famous lightweight rosé. Portuguese brandies are also good; the best are produced around Oporto, where Port wines come from. There are no licensing hours.

Nightlife: The large towns offer every kind of entertainment. There are many nightclubs, theatres, cinemas, stage shows, folk dancing and music performances. The traditional Fado can be heard in many restaurants, and performances begin at about 2200. The theatre season is from October to May. Gambling is authorised and Estoril, Figueira da Foz, Espinho, Alvor, Vilamoura and Monte Gordo have casinos. The elegant Estoril Casino is the most renowned.

Shopping: Items include leather goods, copper, ceramics, handcrafted silver and gold, embroidery and tapestry, woodcarving, cork products, porcelain and china, crystal and glassware. Shopping hours: Generally Mon-Fri 0900-1300 and 1500-1900, Sat 0900-1300 (and 1500-1900 in December). Shopping centres are usually open Mon-Sun 1000-midnight.







RAIL: Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses (Portuguese Railways)


Provides a rail service to every town. The tourist areas of Cascais and Sintra are connected to Lisbon by frequent express trains. High-speed Alfa trains run between Lisbon and Porto via Coimbra and Aveiro. Fertagus trains cross the River Tagus in Lisbon, operating between Entrecampus station to Fogueteiro (on the south bank).

Cheap fares: On ‘Blue Days’, usually Monday afternoon to Thursday, special rates are available. There are also special fares (with 20-30 per cent reductions) for groups of ten or more (Bilhetes de Grupo), travelling for a minimum distance of 75km/47 miles (single journey) or 150km/94 miles (return journey). Application should be made 4 days in advance by the group leader. Tourist Tickets (Bilhetes Turisticos) for 7, 14 or 21 days of unlimited travel are also available. The Rail Cheque (Cheque Trem), obtainable in four different values, can be in one name or a company’s name and has no time limit; it gives a reduction of 10 per cent and can be used both for purchasing tickets and many other railway services.

An International Youth Ticket (BIJ) entitles those aged 12-26 to a discount (subject to certain conditions) in 25 countries for 2 months, including Portugal.

Senior citizens are entitled to 50 per cent reduction on production of proof of age. Children under 4 travel free. Children aged between 4 and 11 pay half fare.

Family Card, Inter-Rail Card, Rail Inclusive Tours, Euro Domino and Special Tourist Trips are amongst other offers from the Portuguese Railways (Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses), Calçada do Duque 20, 1249-109 Lisbon Codex (tel: 2132 12900 or 321 5700; fax: 2132 15879;


Rail information is also available from ICEP/Portuguese Trade and Tourism Office; see Contact Addresses section.

ROAD: Traffic drives on the right. Every town and village can be reached by an adequate system of roads. Petrol stations generally stay open 0700-2000, although some are open 24 hours. Travel by motorway is subject to a toll according to distance covered and type of vehicle. A small tax may be added to petrol bought with a credit card. Bus: There are frequent coach services between all Portuguese cities.

For further information, contact Rede Nacional de Expressos - Website:

Taxi: Charges are according to distance and taxis are all metered. Taxis are usually painted beige (although some taxis painted in the old colours of green and black still exist). In the city, they charge a standard meter fare; outside the city limits they charge per kilometre and are entitled to charge for the return fare. There is a surcharge for carrying luggage in the cities.

Car hire: Available from main towns and airports, with or without driver. Regulations: Minimum age for driving is 18 (but might be older if hiring a car). Cars may be imported for up to 6 months. Traffic signs are international. Headlights should be dipped in built-up areas and side lights used when parking in badly lit areas. Children should not travel in the front seat. Seat belts should be worn. Warning triangles are compulsory. It is forbidden to carry cans of petrol in vehicles. Speed limits are 50kph (30mph) in built-up areas, 90kph (56mph) outside built-up areas and 120kph (70mph) on motorways. Visitors who passed their driving test less than one year previously must display a yellow disc with ‘90’ on it on the rear of their vehicle and must not go faster than 90kph (56mph) (or lower where appropriate). Permitted speeds will vary if trailers are being used.

Documentation: International Driving Permits or foreign driving licences are accepted. Third Party insurance is compulsory and a Green Card must be obtained. Under the requirements of the Portuguese Road Code, those wishing to drive a car must possess a valid national/international driving licence, other official documentation with photograph, log book or rental contract and adequate car insurance. Failure to produce, on request to the authorities, any of the above will result in an on-the-spot cash fine. A Carnet de Passage is needed for a van.




There is a wide range of accommodation available all over the country, ranging from luxury hotels, pensions, boarding houses and inns to simple guest-houses, manor houses, campsites and youth hostels. The government-run pousadas offer very good value and are often situated in places of scenic beauty in converted castles, palaces or old inns.

HOTELS: Most hotels have a private swimming pool and serve international cuisine as well as some typically Portuguese dishes. During the low season, hotels normally grant substantial reductions. There should be an officially authorised list of prices displayed in every bedroom, and children under eight years of age are entitled to a reduction of 50 per cent on the price of full meals and 50 per cent on the price of an extra bed – if sharing parents’ room or apartment. Further information can be obtained from the Associação Hotéis de Portugal, Avenida Duque d’Ávila 75, 1000 Lisbon (tel: (21) 351 2360; fax: (21) 357 0485). Grading: Classification of hotels is according to the international 1- to 5-star system and their prices are officially approved. Apartment hotels are classified from 2- to 4-star, motels from 2- to 3-star and boarding houses from 1- to 3-star (with 1-star being the best); there are also 4-star albergarias.

POUSADAS: The pousadas are a network of inns operated by the Government, and housed in historic buildings, castles, palaces and convents, or sometimes built especially for the purpose. They have often been geographically sited in regions not on the usual tourist itinerary to give people the opportunity to visit the whole country. The architecture and design of the pousadas has been carefully studied in order to give visitors a better knowledge of the cultural traditions of the various regions of the country, with particular attention paid to handicrafts, cooking and wines. A guide to pousadas can be obtained from ENATUR,

Pousadas de Portugal, Avenida de Santa Joana-a-Princesa 10, 1749-090 Lisbon, tel: 2184 42001; fax: 2184 42085; website:

PRIVATE HOUSES: Rooms are available in private houses and on farms all over Portugal. Some of the old manor houses are now open to visitors and provide good opportunities for tourists to make contact with Portuguese customs and people. For further information, contact ICEP or local travel agents.

SELF-CATERING: There is self-catering tourist accommodation in deluxe, first- and second-class tourist villages and tourist apartments, particularly on the Algarve. Tour operators can arrange a wide variety of villas for self-catering parties.

YOUTH HOSTELS: Youth hostels are located to give young people the opportunity of visiting towns, countryside, mountains and coastal areas. Tourists can obtain accommodation and meals. For further information, contact MOVIJOVEM, Rua Lucio de Azevedo 29, 1600 Lisbon (tel: 21 723 2100; fax: 21 723 2101)

CAMPING/CARAVANNING: Portugal provides camping and caravan parks near beaches and in thickly wooded areas. Some have model installations including swimming pools, games fields, supermarkets and restaurants. For further information, check online: (websites: or A guide published by the ICEP and DGT give the names of existing parks and details of their classification, equipment and capacity. For further information, contact Federação Portuguesa de Campismo, Avenida Coronel Eduardo Galhardo 24D, 1199 Lisbon.


Health Care


There are full state-provided health facilities, but private practices are allowed to co-exist. There are approximately 34,389 doctors and 40,700 hospital beds. There are reciprocal health agreements with most European countries. The agreement with the UK allows free in-patient treatment in general wards of official hospitals to those presenting UK passports (other EU nationals must present form E111). Secondary examinations, X-rays and laboratory tests may have to be paid for. A nominal charge will be made for medical treatment at health centres (Centro de Saúde). There may be a charge for prescribed medicines. All dental treatment must be paid for. This agreement is also effective in Madeira and the Azores (although in Madeira a fee must be paid for a GP consultation, which can then be refunded by an appointed bank). Those wishing to take advantage of it should inform the doctor prior to treatment that they wish to be treated under EU social security arrangements. Private treatment must be paid for in full. Medical fees paid whilst in Portugal cannot be reimbursed by the British NHS.


Emergency Contacts

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