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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Portugal

Area: 35,672 sq mi (92,389 sq km)

Population: 10.3 million

Capital city: Lisbon (pop 564,700)

People: 99% Portuguese, 1% African

Language: Portuguese,

Religion: 97% Roman Catholic, 2% Protestant, 1% other

Government: Parliamentary democracy

President: Jorge Fernando Branco de Sampaio

Prime Minister: José Manuel Durão Barroso


Portugal lies immediately west of Spain, and is buffeted along its southern coast by the Atlantic Ocean. To its west and southwest lie the islands of the Azores and Madeira, far out in the Atlantic. It measures just 350mi (560km) north to south and a paltry 135mi (220km) from east to west. The northern and central regions are heavily populated and characterised by rivers, valleys, forests and mountains - the highest range is the Serra da Estrela, peaking at Torre (6540ft/1993m). The south is less populated and, apart from the rocky backdrop of the Algarve, much flatter and drier.

The lush landscape of the north is rich viticultural country but also features corn, potato and rye. The central and southern regions are less green, yet they support corn oaks, olive groves, vineyards, and orange and fig trees, and are a delight in spring when the almond blossoms are in full bloom.

Portugal's climate is temperate. The country is generally warm from April to October, though somewhat less so in the north, while the southern region of Algarve can experience uncomfortably hot temperatures in midsummer. During winter, the north receives plenty of rain and temperatures can be chilly. Snowfall is common in the mountains, particularly the Serra da Estrela range.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$105.8 billion

GDP per head: US$10,600

Annual growth: 3.3%

Inflation: 3.6%

Major industries: Textiles, footwear, wood products, metalworking, oil refining, chemicals, fish canning, wine, tourism and agriculture

Major trading partners: EU (esp. Spain, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands & the UK), US

Member of EU: Yes

Euro zone participant: yes

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: None required for EU nationals. Nationals of Canada, New Zealand, Australia and the USA can stay for 90 days visa-free. Everyone else needs a visa.

Health risks: Sunburn in summer, insect bites

Time: GMT/UTC (winter), GMT/UTC+1 (summer)

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Money & Costs
 Currency:euro (EUR), formerly escudo
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$5-8
  • Mid-range: US$9-18
  • Top-end: US$19+

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$14-20
  • Mid-range: US$20-60
  • Top-end: US$60+
  • Although costs are beginning to rise as Portugal falls into fiscal step with the EU, this is still one of the least expensive places to travel in Europe. On a rock-bottom budget - using hostels or camping grounds and mostly self-catering - you could squeeze by on about US$25-US$30 per person in the high season. With bottom-end accommodation and the occasional inexpensive restaurant meal, daily costs would hover around US$30-US45. Travelling with a companion and timing your trip to take advantage of off-season discounts, you could eat and sleep in relative style for about US$70 for two. Outside major tourist areas, prices dip appreciably.

    Though travellers cheques are easily exchanged, and at rates about 1% better than for cash, they are very poor value in Portugal because additional fees are so high - sometimes up to 13% for a US$100 cheque. Plastic is overall a more sensible alternative and there are Multibancos (ATMs) in all tourist centres of any size where you can withdraw cash from credit and debit accounts. Keeping a small cash stash in US dollars or pounds sterling is a very good idea.

    If you're not unhappy with the service, a reasonable restaurant tip is about 10%. For a snack, a bit of loose change is enough. Taxi drivers appreciate about 10% of the fare. Good-humoured bargaining is acceptable in markets but you'll find the Portuguese tough opponents. Off season, you can sometimes bargain down the price of accommodation.

    When to Go

    Portugal's climate is temperate, and you'll find agreeable weather just about everywhere (except in the Alto Douro and the Alentejo where summers can be painfully hot and droughts common) from April to October, and nearly year-round in the Algarve. Overall the wettest season is from November to March: the soggiest regions are in the extreme north and in the Serra da Estrela mountain region in the country's centre. The ski season is from January to March but February is best. Peak tourist season is roughly from mid-June to September, except in the Algarve where it really only quiets down in the dead of winter. Carnaval and Easter are two holidays celebrated with gusto all over the country and are worth going out of your way for.

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