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Lisbon and beyond

Portugal is a small county on the Iberian Peninsula. It is an independent country that has survived years of a dictatorship to emerge as a surprisingly friendly and open country. Remnants of the long monarchy are everywhere and there are many castles and monuments to visit.

~Getting There

Lisbon has an International Airport. The airport is just four miles from downtown making it very easy to get to and from the airport. Cabs are inexpensive and abundant. Bus service is also available.

~Currency

Portugal uses the Euro. Banks and ATMs are located throughout the city of Lisbon and will be available in all major cities.

~Electricity

Portugal uses the 210 volt which means that Americans need to use both a voltage converter and a plug converter. Most converter kits will have everything you need to use your electronics in Portugal.

~Language

The language of Portugal is Portuguese. While it is a Latin based language it is not Spanish and don’t assume that people will understand Spanish. The “J” is Portuguese is pronounced like a J not like an H in Spanish so Juan is “Jewan” not “Whan”. Also in spite of rumors to the contrary not everyone speaks English. A surprising number of cab drivers especially appear to know almost no English and they are not apologetic about it. It will be helpful if you write down where you want to go and act polite even if you don’t understand them. The same was true at many tourist attractions. Having a good Portuguese dictionary will be a big help.

~Public Transportation

Portugal has an extensive train service. The city of Lisbon has a subway system as well as a tram system. There are certainly tram lines that are frequented by pickpockets so be very aware of where your money is and who is around you. Locals blame the gypsies which may or may not be true. Like most western European countries Portugal has seen a sharp increase in immigration from Eastern Europe and with it the additional crimes that poverty brings with it.

~Accommodations

Lisbon has a wide variety of hotels, everything from tourist class to luxury, priced accordingly. Location is a primary concern since Lisbon is a large city. Baixa, Alfama and Graca are all popular areas right in the middle of everything that a tourist might want to visit. The farther you get away from these areas the lower the prices get. You can find a lovely hotel in the area near the Edward VII Park for a much lower price than a similar hotel in Alfama, which is the historic older city. Two hotels that are excellent for different reasons are the Corinthia and the Mundial. The Mundial is tourist class but has a great location and the Corinthia is gorgeous but out of the way. You can decide which is more important.

Outside of Lisbon there are hotels, hostels, bed and breakfasts and Pousadas. Pousadas are the equivalent of the Parador of Spain. These are historic buildings which offer bed and breakfast. It can be a castle, a monastery, a mansion or a convent, any historic building. They will provide a comfortable and historic place to rest your head.

~Food

Fish is king in Portugal. Bacala is salted cod and is a very popular food. Grilled sardines are also a Portuguese obsession, you literally will see them being grilled everywhere. There are chain restaurants in Lisbon including the Hard Rock Café but do try one of the local restaurants for the real flavor of Portugal. Caldo Verde is the traditional green soup made from pureed potatoes and either cabbage or kale. Portions are generous in Portugal. Expect to see plates groaning under the weight of food. Fresh fruits and vegetables are staple fare along with traditional sausage. The food is hearty and abundant so bring your appetite. Casa da Mo in Lisbon serves traditional food in a friend atmosphere.

~Where to go

For a small country there are an amazing array of options. To the south is the Algarve, the area of sunshine and splendid beaches. To the north is Porto and the mountains and wine growing areas where port wine is produced. In between are wonderful cites like Fatima and Obidos where you can get a feel for the soul of the Portuguese people. There is not shortage of places to visit.

Portugal is a friendly country to visit. Prices once you get there are quite reasonable. So reasonable in fact that many people choose to retire there.