MADRID & LISBON
Tour at a Glance
|LISBON||1 - 5|
|MADRID||5 - 9|
|Scheduled||Lisbon Portela International Airport [LIS]||Madrid Barajas Airport [MAD]|
|Transfer||Lisbon Portela International Airport [LIS]||SANA Lisboa Hotel|
|Transfer||SANA Lisboa Hotel||Lisbon Portela International Airport [LIS]|
|Transfer||Madrid Barajas Airport [MAD]||NH Collection Madrid Paseo del Prado|
|Transfer||NH Collection Madrid Paseo del Prado||Madrid Barajas Airport [MAD]|
Portugal’s fairly isolated location in the far south-western corner of Europe makes it the continent’s least visited and most underrated tourist destination. Fewer crowds make for a more relaxed, authentic experience. Pack your itinerary with visits to hilltop medieval castles, ornately decorated palaces, cobblestone villages and architecturally-stunning cities. The country abounds with fascinating culture, breathtaking natural beauty and a host of fun and varied activities. A single day can be spent hiking in lush green mountains, mingling with the friendly locals, and wandering through scenic vineyards sipping on famous, velvety port wine. Throw in plenty of fresh seafood, a coastline strewn with remote sandy beaches and an affordable price tag, and it makes for an ideal choice of holiday destination.
BANKING AND CURRENCY
Portugal uses the European monetary unit, the euro (€).
Euro bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500; coins are worth 1 cent of a euro, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro, and 2 euros. Local merchants may refuse to accept €200 and €500 bills due to the prevalence of counterfeit bills.
Bank opening hours: Monday to Friday 08h30 -15h00. Banks are generally closed on official holidays.
Most major credit cards are widely accepted and recommended. ATMs are ubiquitous. The Multibanco, or MB, system is state-of-the-art and reliable. The cards most frequently accepted are Visa, MasterCard, American Express, Eurocheque, Eurocard, Cirrus, and Electron but consult with your credit or debit card bank about the foreign exchange transaction fees charged for using your card in Portugal.
You need a four-digit PIN to use ATMs in Portugal. If you have a PIN with more than five digits, it should be changed before leaving your home country. There is usually a limit of €400 a day withdrawal.
You should consider purchasing the Euro currency at a more favorable exchange rate, at home before you arrive in Portugal.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
There are several Portuguese airlines offering regular domestic and international flights.
TAP – Air Portugal is the country’s “flagship” airline and has scheduled flights to more than 50 international destinations and domestic flights between Lisbon, Oporto, Faro, Madeira and the Azores, and also between Madeira and Porto Santo.
SATA has regular flights between all the islands of the Azores and from the Azores to Madeira and mainland Portugal. SATA also offers regular flights to a number of international destinations.
Buses in Portugal tend to be cheap, but they are often slow. Portugal has three types of buses: expresso, the most expensive and fastest direct bus between Lisbon, Porto, and other major routes; rápida, a mid-level service in terms of speed and cost; and carrier, a slower local service that stops at small villages. Lisbon and Porto have good city bus systems for which you can buy a combination rail/bus/ferry pass.
Portuguese trains tend to be faster than buses for intercity travel, but also more expensive. Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses, or CP, is the Portuguese national rail service. they have a comprehensive website, available in English. There is a vast network of regional, inter-regional and suburban trains covering the whole of the country.Timetables can be viewed and there is a trip planner as well as an online ticket buying service..
The underground is an important addition to the traditional forms of public transport in Portugal. In Lisbon and Oporto it operates between 6 a.m. and 1 a.m. The Lisbon underground is the older of the two and reaches a considerable part of the city. Its network has gradually been extended in recent years. In Oporto, the underground is new. There are six lines in operation and most of their routes are above ground.
Taxis are usually cream in colour, although there are still some painted black with a green roof in the traditional Portuguese style. The fare is shown on the taximeter. The prices are affixed inside the car or you can ask the driver about them. If you phone for a taxi you have to pay an extra 0.80 euros. There is a charge of 1.60 euros for luggage, regardless of weight or the number of pieces. Carry cots, pushchairs, wheelchairs and walking aids are carried free of charge. Tipping is at the passenger’s discretion, though it is normal to tip 5-10% or round the amount up to the nearest euro.
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
Tap water is almost always safe to drink in major cities and towns, although you should be cautious in small villages. Bottled water is widely available. If bottled water is not available, any questionable water should be boiled for five minutes or be treated with iodine. Salads and fruit are safe to eat anywhere in Portugal. Ice cream is okay, but beware of any that appears to have melted and been refrozen. Take care with shellfish (e.g. cooked mussels that have not opened properly can be dangerous) and avoid undercooked meat, particularly minced meat.
Seafood is a regular staple, especially the salt cod that is very much a love it or hate it choice. It forms the base of hundreds of recipes and you should try it at least once. Anchovy, bass, clams, mussels, salmon, sea bream, sole and swordfish are easier on the palate and also popular.
Brazilian spice peri-peri is widely used to flavour chicken and shrimp, while Goan curry spices also add extra flavour to a variety of dishes and broths eaten widely. Meat lovers can gorge on espetada (grilled skewers of beef with garlic), leitão (suckling pig) and cozido à portuguesa, which mixes beef, pork, sausage and vegetables in a delicious dish.
As a rule, the Portuguese have three meals a day and eating out is common practice. There is a great variety of restaurants and they cater to all kinds of tastes and palates. While restaurants are usually open for lunch between midday and 3 p.m. and for dinner between 7 and 10 p.m. many of them have longer opening hours, especially in the big cities and areas with a busy nightlife. They usually close one day a week, sometimes at the weekend in city centres, though restaurants in shopping centres are open every day.
More often than not, a service charge is not added to hotel and restaurant bills, so tip around 10 to 15% if you are satisfied with your experience.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Portugal is mainly characterized by a warm temperate, mediterranean climate with a distinct wet season in winter. During winter, Portugal experiences a similar temperature pattern to the Spanish coastal towns, i.e. average daytime maxima of about 16°C (61°F). However, the Portuguese resorts are much wetter, with only about 14 dry days on average. On average 5-6 hours of sunshine can be expected per day. A gradual warming-up process takes place during the spring months, daytime average maximum temperatures reaching up to 22°C (72°F) by May. The Atlantic-facing coast remains wetter than the Mediterranean-facing Spanish coast, with about 18 dry days per month
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
Lightweight cottons and linens are recommended during summer months. Whenever and wherever you go, take a sweater for cool evenings. If you’re visiting a coastal resort, dress is particularly casual and you should pack a sarong or other light clothing to get you to and from the beach. Summer dresses, shorts, sandals, and T-shirts are fine for most situations but you should dress modestly if you want to visit churches, which means covering your shoulders and no short shorts or skirts. Temperatures do vary at night so it’s best to bring a light sweater for the evening.
Warmer medium-weights and rain gear are recommended during the winter. Be sure to pack a raincoat or umbrella as it does tend to get quite rainy, especially in the winter months. It does get cold enough to warrant woolly hats and other warm clothes in winter, especially up north.
ELECTRICITY AND PLUG STANDARDS
Electrical sockets in Portugal are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The “Type C” Europlug and the “Type E” and “Type F” Schuko. If your appliance’s plug doesn’t match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in.
Electrical sockets in Portugal usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you’re plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need. If your appliance is not compatible with 220-240 volts, a voltage converter will be necessary.
Set on Europe’s Iberian Peninsula between the Atlantic Sea and the Mediterranean Sea, Spain typically conjures up images of matadors, sangria, flamenco dancers and paella. While it offers all of these traditional cliches in abundance, the country’s real attraction is to be found in its passionate, laid back people and its unbeatable natural beauty. Even along the well-beaten tourist tracks, there are authentic Spanish experiences to be had, traditional local dishes to sample and idyllic villages of timeless charm to explore. Like the country’s famous tapas, Spain itself is a veritable smorgasbord of thriving cities, bizarre festivals, panoramic views and breathtaking beaches – rendering it a beautiful and beguiling country unlike any other. Weird, enthralling architecture, incredible nightlife and its diversity of art and culture add to the country’s unique allure.
BANKING AND CURRENCY
Spain uses the European monetary unit, the euro (€). Euro bills come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500; coins are worth 1 cent of a euro, 2 cents, 5 cents, 10 cents, 20 cents, 50 cents, 1 euro, and 2 euros. Local merchants may refuse to accept €200 and €500 bills due to the prevalence of counterfeit bills.
Travellers will find that managing money in Spain is easy but expensive. Banking facilities are generally modern and function quite efficiently, but bank charges and commissions on international transfers are hefty when compared to most other countries in the European Union (EU).
Spain has one of the highest bank branches per capita on the European continent and most offer online banking with fast, easy transfers; Solbank and Bancaja cater specifically to British citizens.
Banks in Spain open from Monday to Friday 8.30am to 2pm and, in the winter, on Saturday mornings from 9am to 1pm or Thursday afternoons, from 5pm to 7pm.
ATMs (cajeros automáticos) are widely available and normally accept foreign cards. These machines provide the best exchange rates, but transaction charges do apply.
Alternatively, currency exchange offices (cambio) can be found at most airports and in most tourist areas. The exchange rates they tend to offer are less attractive than those provided by banks.
Debit and credit cards are widely accepted in Spain, although transaction charges will apply if someone is using an international debit or credit card.
TRAVEL, TRANSPORT AND GETTING AROUND
Most of Spain is well covered by public transport. The rail network reaches all the provincial capitals and the main towns along the inter-city lines, and there’s an expanding high-speed network that has slashed journey times on major cross-country routes from Madrid. Inter-city bus services are often more frequent and cheaper than the regular trains, and will usually take you closer to your destination, as some train stations are a few kilometres from the town or village they serve. Driving a car, meanwhile, will give you the freedom to head away from the major tourist routes and take in some of the spectacular scenery at your own pace.
One important point to remember is that all public transport, and the bus service especially, is drastically reduced on Sundays and public holidays, don’t even consider travelling to out-of-the-way places on these days. The words to look out for on timetables are diario (daily), laborables (workdays, including Sat), and domingos y festivos (Sun and public hols).
FOOD, DRINK AND CUISINE ADVICE
Standards of hygiene in relation to food health and safety in Spain are generally high in hotels, restaurants, pubs and nightspots.
Food is more than a form of sustenance in Spain, it is literally a way of life. Friendships are formed, families unite, and the working week can be set around every day’s very important meals. The country’s distinctive cuisine brings together unique regional dishes, special ingredients and long standing influences from Moorish and Arab settlers.
Tourists travelling to Spain are often given a useful piece of advice – the Spanish eat late. Don’t expect many restaurants to be open before 9pm. Book a restaurant table for between 11pm and midnight and you’ll see the place hopping. Dinner is often light after a large lunch..
Breakfast in Spain is a pretty simple and traditionally European affair. The continental meal can include fresh rolls, bread and jam with coffee, hot chocolate or tea.
Tapas are probably the concept of Spanish cuisine most admired and imitated around the world, inspiring thousands of bars and restaurants. The idea is simple, straightforward, and a visit to a tapas bar is possibly the best way to sample a wide variety of Spanish food. Tapas can constitute something as simple as a piece of toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and dipped in olive oil, or a dish of olives. Slices of ham or salami, cheese, pieces of Spanish tortilla and marinated anchovies are popular. Dishes like meatballs in tomato sauce, garlic mushrooms, shrimp or cooked chorizo in wine are all offered to tickle the tastebuds at tapas bars around the country. So is paella, the saffron infused rice dish with meat, seafood and vegetables which is a Spanish institution.
Tap water is generally safe to drink in Spain. If you are in any doubt, ask ¿Es potable el agua (de grifo)? (Is the (tap) water drinkable?). Do not drink water from rivers or lakes as it may contain bacteria or viruses that can cause diarrhoea or vomiting.
CLIMATE AND WEATHER
Spain’s climate varies from temperate in the north to dry and hot in the south. As it is a big country with varying terrain and altitudes, climate can be extremely distinctive from one corner to another. Overall, the coastal regions in the South and Eastern parts of Spain are excellent to visit all year round thanks to the Mediterranean climate (mild temperatures and long days). Northern Spain generally experiences colder temperatures than the South, while Central Spain stays hot and dry due to its location on a plateau.
The best time to visit depends on the region and type of travel experience you’re seeking. For a beach vacation, the best months for guaranteed sunshine are June to August. Naturally, these are also the busiest months for tourism along the coast and on the Spanish islands, so be prepared for high prices and crowds. If you’re looking to escape the crowds, head inland to cities like Seville, Madrid and Granada where temperatures are sizzling but streets are empty.
The shoulder season for travel in Spain is usually late spring and autumn: from April to end of May and October to November. These are when tourist destinations are least crowded and weather is still pleasant. January to February is the best time to ski, as snow is ample and the sun is shining. Especially in the Sierra Nevada, the sun can be quite overwhelming even in the snow – come prepared with snow goggles and sunscreen.
CLOTHING AND DRESS RECOMMENDATIONS
Spain is a modern country, but with many traditions of dress. Traditional/region dresses are usually worn at fiestas, but not by everyone. Try and attend a fiesta or two to see just how diverse the traditional clothing was.
Away from the beach men can wear shorts and T shirts, with flip flops, if they want to. The same would also be ideal for women too. Men and women should not wear swimming clothes at any restaurant, unless it is at a beach side restaurant. A tip to women who want to go topless on the beach. The law permits topless attire at every beach. Some beaches are designated nudist beaches.
Spain does get all of the seasons of the year, meaning spring, summer, autumn/fall, and winter, so pack with layers in mind. Buildings can be hot and stuffy whilst the outside temperatures are low. Remember that some, but not all, places of worship have enforced dress rules. For chilly days or nights, and for going out to restaurants, jersey/cardigan or lightweight jackets would be ideal attire. Bring some sort of waterproof clothing, especially during spring, autumn/fall, and winter periods. It should be noted that at a few hotels restaurants and clubs, if you are dressed inappropriately, will not let you in.
ELECTRICITY AND PLUG STANDARDS
Electricity supply is 220 volts throughout Spain with 2 pin wall sockets. For any European countries that utilise 240 volts your electrical appliance should function adequately.
If you intend to use the UK electrical plugs then you will need an electricity plug adapter that will convert the standard 3 pin socket into a two pin socket. In the US where the electricity supply is 110 volts a transformer would be required to step down the voltage to 110 volts. Damage to the electrical appliance can occur if you attempt to use a 110 volt rated electrical appliance with a 220 volt supply.