Portugal may be the last best affordable, affable country in Europe. The relaxed but proud people, the delicious food, the port wines are all so approachable. Portugal’s land is diverse from southern Algarve beaches to dramatic Atlantic coast towns to historic cultural cities of Lisbon and Porto to the lush wine rich Douro River Valley to the interior mountains dotted with ancient stone villages - Schist Villages. Portugal has been a rich country for centuries, a frequently occupied territory for thousands of years, and now its a travel bargain compared to neighboring Western EU countries.
Portugal Travel Tips & Portugese Precautions…
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1. The driving in Portugal is crazy, narrow cobbled roads, confusing or lacking signage, blasé drivers that don’t use blinkers, and expensive tolls and electronic radar on the otherwise safe wide highways. If you plan to spend a couple of days in Lisbon before exploring the country, take a taxi from the airport and start your car rental when you are leaving town! Or, if spending a night or two in Lisbon before flying home, return your car rental to the airport before heading into downtown Lisbon via cab. Also rent a small car that will fit on narrow streets.
2. The language is complicated - not Spanish, French or Italian, Portugese sounds Russian but its Germanic and romantic. The good news – the Portuguese are gracious and helpful about words, they don’t care about grammar, most happily speak English, or gesture to communicate to sell you stuff. A few Portugese words go a long way: per favor, Ola, Bom Dia, Adeus. Obrigato is thanks for guys, Obrigata for gals.
3. Portugese dining - in restaurants you will be given beautiful bread plates with olives, olive oil and cheese. These are not free or “gratuis”, there's a charge. On the flip side, you can typically get a glass of house wine for a $1 eu.
4. The dogs of Portugal. You will hear stray dogs bark all night long almost everywhere! Not sure who let the dogs out in Portugal?
5. Enjoy the custard tarts, simple but delicious.
6. Drink the wine. Ports in Ruby, Tawny, Rose and Vintage. Vino Verde, Alentejo Reds...bonita!
7. Here the music of last year, or your last high school dance. The Portuguese love their US pop, it’s just so last decade. Their Fado on the other hand is very soulful fishing wives and widows’ blues - sung at night in Fado clubs.
8. Don’t be surprised by Portugal’s light work hours, starting at 10, but breaking from 1-4, then a few hours in the early evening. They say you can tell when an Alentejo man is done his work, when he takes his hands out of his pockets.
9. Portugese people are genuine, fun and relaxed. Not as uptight as the Swiss, flirtatiously as the Italians, flippant as the French, assertive as the Spanish, or uppity as the Brits.
10. Portugal is a deal. Decent Lodging can be found for about $50-75 eu a night and really nice rooms with balconies and views for $100 to 150. House wine is $1-2 Euro a glass. Dinners are $12-16 a plate. Lunch for two can often be had for $15 including wine. Bom Dia!
Lisbon Travel Tips
Drinking Port wine in Porto
Touring up the Douro River Valley
The Schist Villages - Interior Portugal
Evora and Portugal's Stonehedge
All Photography by Greg Burke
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