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Information about Portugal

Fev 2011
The Country
Portugal is located in the most occidental tip of Europe, in a rectangular area with 220 by 560 kilometers (135 by 350 miles). It has a very diversified landscape from the soft plains of Alentejo in the south to the green mountains and Natural Parks in the north. The island of Madeira with 55 by 22 km (35 by 14 miles) is about 480 km (300 miles) from the Portuguese coast, with a exquisite vegetation and scarps. In the archipelago of Azores at 1300 km (810 miles) of the coast we have 9 islands with mild climate.
The population is 10 million inhabitants, 10 per cent are in Lisbon, and 300,000 live in Porto. As the mandatory school includes two foreign languages the majority of the population under 40 years understands and speaks English, many speek French, some German. Spanish is understood by most of the population, but we do prefer to speak Portuguese;-).
In the last two decades LGBT issues have become a subject more accepted by the Portuguese, appearing in news articles, television series and films. The civil partnership debate in the Parliament in 1998 (that did not include couples of the same sex) all the opinion pools had indicated that the majority of the Portuguese supported the extension of the law to the homosexuals and lesbians. This lead to a change in the law to include same-sex partners in March 2001. The country is conservative and still under strong influence of the Catholic Church, and this makes very dificult to come out of the closet in certain areas. The Portuguese attitude is more a less like "it's ok that my friends son is gay, but God forbids if MY son is queer!". The Constitution forbids discrimination based on sexual orientation but not in gender indentity. Since 2010, marriage is open to same-sex couples with all the rights of oposite-sex couples, except for parenting rights (that are mostly banned for same-sex couples). In 2011 Portugal adopted one of the most groundbreaking laws regarding legal name and gender/sex change that cuts redtape for the legal process to the absolut minimum. In fact, after producing a "gender identity disorder" report a person can have the legal changes done in more a less a week. However things are not so pink when it comes to the specific medical needs of transexual persons, and this are still lenghty and, sometimes, difficult to obtain.
Since the approval of same-sex marriage, the protection in the corporate sector is greatly improved and most family benefits should be legally available for same-sex couples. However things can get complicated depending on the personal views of the persons in the process.

Lisbon is the great metropolis where are concentrated most of services and commerce enterprises. Due to its population consisting of people of diverse points of the country the pressure on the homosexual community is lighter, thus fomenting the participation in the collective life. To be noted the good relations of the city council with the gay and lesbian associations. The Gay and Lesbian Film Festival and the Arraial Pride are the two biggest LGBT events. In 2002 the Pride March took a new boost with floats and about 2000 participants, and promisses to become a major pride event.
Porto is more conservative and is meeting point of the many industries in the north of the Country, even so there are some gay and lesbian bars. However things are changing and in 2001 Porto had its first Pride Week including the Porto Pride event. Recent editions of the party have gathered around 2000 people. Since 2006 there is also a LGBT March in the city.
In the remaining country the gay community in more discrete but time-to-time there are some bars opening in the most unlikelly places. Algarve, in the south, also has some places to take note of.

Working Hours
The banks are opened from 8:30 till 15:00, Monday to Friday.
Shops are open from 9:00 till 19:00, Monday to Friday (with lunch break at about 13:00), Saturdays open only at the morning. Shops in Shopping Centers are open from 10:00 till 22:00 all days.
The museums are open from 10:00 till 12:30 and from 14:00 till 17:00 from Thursday till Sunday. Some places are also closed on Wednesdays.

New year (1 January), Carnival (variable), Holy Friday (variable), Passover (variable), Day of the Freedom (25 of April), Party of the Work (1 of May), Day of Portugal (10 June), Body of God (variable), Installation of Nª Sª (15 August), Implantation of the Republic (5 October), All Saints (1 November), Day of Independence (1 December), Immaculate Conception (8 December) and Christmas (25 Dezembro).
Normally the commerce is closed in these days and sometimes after Holy Friday, the Christmas and New Years.
Take note of the several municipal holidays, many of them related to popular saints. This is the case of Lisbon with Santo António at 13 June and in Porto with São João at 24 June. Other municipal holidays: Aveiro 12 May, Braga 24 June, Coimbra 4 July, Funchal 21 August, Leiria 22 May, Ponta Delgada 5 May.

The climate in Portugal is tempered and varies from the hottest south to the rainy and colder north. In the south zone the summer extends from March till October with temperatures up to 35ºC (95ºF) and sea water with 24ºC (75ºF). The north has more rain and lower temperatures (in the sea shore only few times below 0ºC/32ºF, inlands the climate is more harsh), the seawater varies between 15ºC (60ºF) and 20ºC (70ºF). The climate in the coast is milder than the climate inland. There is snow some times in February in the mountains of north and center.
In Azores the temperatures are mild, but there are frequent rains in winter.
Madeira has a more tropical climate (with great rain falls in winter) and the area of Funchal city has even better climate than the rest of the island.

Portugal is part of the zone of the Europe that adopted the Euro, and this is the official currency since 1 Jan 2002. The Euro is divided in 100 Cents. There are coins of €0,01, €0,02, €0,05, €0,10, €0,20, €0,50, €1,00, €2,00, and bank notes of €5,00, €10,00, €20,00, €50,00, €100,00, €200,00, €500,00 (€200,00 and €500,00 are not common in day-to-day life).
The currency exchange offices offer the best taxes for Traveler's Checks, and there are several automatic exchange machines (with high commissions). The automatic teller machines (ATMs), identified as "MultiBanco" are an easy form of getting Euros and all give Cash Advance for major cards like Visa, EuroCard/MasterCard, AmericanExpress and others. Some European debit cards can also be used. Please take note than in weekends or at late hours (23:00-2:00) it can be impossible to get money from international accounts due the communication difficulties.
You can use your banking card or credit card Visa or MasterCard (in some cases also AmericanExpress, Dinners Club and others) in the majority of the great stores and restaurants, but do not rely on them if you are going to small establishments or when outside the big cities.
The majority of gay discos and bars does not accept cards.

A tip for taxi and restaurant is normal and varies between 5% and 10% (yes: only ten percent), or the remaining portion of the change if you are in a café or bar.

The Value Added Tax (IVA) varies between 5% and 23%, and is included in the majority of the prices of products. For non EU citizen its possible to receive part from the IVA when you leave the European Union, look for stores with the "TaxFree for Tourists" sign.

In Portugal the metric system is used in all activities and nobody knows what feet or gallons are.
All temperatures are expressed in Centigrades.

The tension is 230V AC 50Hz (as in almost all Europe). The plugs have two round pins.

The roads are reasonable in all the country. The transit is in the right and the signs are international or easily understandable ones. The use of security belt is mandatory for ALL the occupants of the vehicle. The maximum speed is 50 km/h in the localities, 90 km/h off localities and 120 km/h in the highways. Most of the highways have a toll except near the city centers. There are two varieties of gasoline available in most places: 95 or 98 ocatanes unleaded. Gas stations in major cities have the two variants (plus premium aditive versions) as well as "Gasóleo" (Diesel). The price is not fixed by law and can vary daily. If you use your Credit Card in a gas station you will be charged and extra €0,50 (this is the only situation where you pay more if you use the credit card).
Please be carefull with alcool: the law is very restrictive and you can get in prison even if you drink a single glass of wine and drive afterwards.
For more information on Drivers Licenses, Maps and Signs see ACP.

Public Transportation
The Alfa/InterCidades train service connects the main cities of the Country. If you don't find and adequate connection by train you can use the bus services.
For more information on trains go to CP
For more information on bus go to Rede Expressos (in Portuguese) or RodoNorte (in Portuguese)
For more information on urban carriers go to Metropolitano de Lisboa, Carris - Lisboa, STCP - Porto, Metro do Porto

Air Transport
Portugal has three international airports in the mainland: Lisbon, Porto and Faro, with direct connections to hundreds of international destinations.
There are several flights between Lisbon, Porto and Faro, and less frequent ones to other cities. However the Lisbon-Porto connection takes almost the same time by train (if you count the delays in the airport and getting there by car), and the service is adequate.
For more information on air transports check out TAP-Air Portugal or SATA-Air Açores.
There are also several low-cost companies travelling to Portugal, a list (may be outdated) is available at: lowcostpt.wordpress.com.
For more information on the airports go to ANA.

The Hotels and Pensões should have a clean and adequate service in accordance with the Price. The places are officially classified with stars: in a place with 2 or 3 stars one should expect a minimum service with private bathroom, phone (and, possibly television in the room), 4 stars are hotels with good service and the 5 stars are reserved for luxury hotels. You should make reservations on advance. The displayed prices include all taxes. Breakfast is included in same places, so check out first.
For those who prefer an more relaxing and charming environment there are several "Pousadas de Portugal" (Portugal's Inns), in buildings of historical value spread all over the country. You can also enjoy the Habitation Tourism where you can spend same days in one old farm or masters house far away from the stress of the big cities.
In all these places there is, by law, a claim book that must be presented to all customers who request it (you just have to present your identification). This book has instructions in Portuguese, English and other languages.

From 1999 all national phone numbers (except special services) have 9 digits. Even for local connections you must dial the full 9-digit number. The country code for Portugal is +351. To make international calls from Portugal dial 00 followed by the destination number (or use the + sign in you GSM-capable mobile phone).
There are serveral types of public phone booths that accept coins, pre-paid cards (from PortugalTelecom and private providers), MultiBanco, Visa and MasterCard. In the case of MultiBanco, Visa or MasterCard cards it is not always possible to use the service due to technical problems.
The fixed telephones numbers always start with "2" (or "3" when internet-based), the cellular telephones with "9", special service with "1". Free numbers start with "800" or "888", and shared tariff (local call) with "808", value added services (that can be very expensive) start with "60".
If you are staying more than 15 days you can consider buying a cellular phone, it's possible to get one for as low as EUR 50,00 with very interesting international rates. Check conditions and prices with each operator (TMN, Vodafone and Optimus).
For more information on the phone public service (including fares) go to Portugal Telecom.

Usefull Phone Numbers
Please note: most of these are Portuguese-only speaking.
Emergency (Free) 112
Poisonings 217950143
National Phone Directory 118
National Collect Calls 120
International Phone Directory 179
International Collect Calls 172
ILGA-Portugal HelpLine Tuesday to Monday 21:00-24:00 218876116
Equality and the Rights of the Women (Free) 800202148
Anonimous Alcoholic 217162969
Anonimous Narcotics (Free) 800202013
Life Line (information on drug problems) Working Days 10:00-20:00 (Free) 800255255
AIDS Line Monday to Saturday 14:00-20:00 (Free) 800266666
SOS-AIDS 18:00-22:00 (Free) 800201040
SOS-Lonlyness 16:00-01:00 (Free) 800205535
Sexuality Support Working Days 16:00-20:00, Saturdays 16:00-20:00 222001798
Country Direct
Free numbers to make international collect calls with operators of the destination country (partial list)
Germany 800800490
Austria 0080028787421
Belgium 800800320
Brazil 800800550
Canada 800800122
Spain 800800340
EUA via AT&T 800 800 128
EUA via MCI 800 800 123
EUA via TRT 800 800 188
EUA via USSprint 800 800 187
EUA via AMERITECH 800 800 119
EUA via southwestern bell 800 800 115
EUA via BELLSOUTH 800 800 117
EUA via TELEGLOBE 800 800 118
France 800800330
Holland 800800310
Italy 800800390
Japan 800800810
Luxemburg 800800352
Macau 800800853
United Kingdom 800800440
Sweden 0080046004600
Swizerland 800800410
Venezuela 800800580
For more information on Gay and Lesbian places check out the PortugalGay.PT Directory.
For more information on Portugal in general go to Turismo de Portugal or the Portugal by ICEP
We have a LGBT oriented agenda here in PortugalGay. For more information on theater, dance, displays and cinema go to Agenda (in Portuguese) of the Ministry of the Culture, Guia of the Lazer (in Portuguese) of the Público newspaper ou the Lisboa edition of TimeOut (there is also a Porto edition but without internet presence).
For more information in English on travelling in Portugal go to Lonely Planet, Rough Guide.

Information about Portugal

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