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Country Reports

Portugal Country Report

Overview

INTRODUCTION

Portugal (population 12.1 million) continues to offer a generally favorable travel environment. The vast majority of trips are carried out without incident. However, it is advised to consider a few points to make the most of your stay.

CRIME

For the past decade, Portugal has seen a constant decline in crime rates. However, travelers are advised to take basic precautionary measures in order to protect themselves from petty crime. It is important to be aware of ones surroundings, especially on public transportation (old tramways in particular) and tourist attractions (keep an eye on belongings, keep valuable objects and important papers in a safe location, be vigilant after nightfall, etc.), particularly in urban areas. In the Lisbon region, it is necessary to be vigilant of pickpockets inside Lisbon tramway E25 and E28 in direction of São Jorge Castle, at Entrecampos, Marques do Pombal, Oriente, Rossio and Santa Apolonia subway and train stations, at Sete Rios bus stop and in Alfama, Bairro Alto, Baixa and Belém neighborhood. These locations are the favored places for pickpocketing and snatching.

There has been an increase in cases of car theft, especially of rented cars; car doors and windows should be locked even when driving and luggage should not be left in cars, even in the trunk.

There have been several cases of theft reported in popular touristic destinations such as Cascais, Coimbra, Fatima, Obidos, Porto, Setubal, Sintra, and in Algarve region. A number of holiday home burglaries have been reported in the Algarve as well as cases of vehicles belonging to tourists being broken into while the owners visited nearby shops. It is necessary to be cautious when parking near the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace in Sintra. Precautions should also be taken when parking on the seafronts of Boca do Inferno, Cabo da Roca, Guincho, Peniche, and Nazare. Certain areas of Porto such as ports and wharfs should be avoided at night.

In Madera, pickpocketing is less frequent but is possible in Funchal in the Old Town neighborhood and Saint-Catherine Park.

There is often a spike in criminality during summer and winter holidays, due to the increased number of tourists. Criminal incidents are less frequent in the Acores and in Madera than in the continental part of Portugal.

Although rare, sexual aggressions have been reported, including sexual assaults committed after the use of the date rape drug (GHB), liquid ecstasy, and other forbidden narcotics.

SOCIAL UNREST

Nevertheless, difficult socioeconomic conditions (public financial deficit, public debt crisis, slow economic growth) have plagued the country over the past five years (one-third of the under-25 population is currently unemployed), creating tensions within the population. These tensions have fueled frequent protests against the government's economic reforms.

In spring 2011, Portugal became the third Eurozone country to request financial assistance from the European Union (EU) and the International Monetary Fund (IMF), following on the heels of Greece and Ireland (2010). In exchange for a EUR 78 billion loan, authorities were obliged to implement a program of drastic budgetary and economic reforms, to the dismay of much of the population. Following these measures, Portugal was able to leave the assistance plan in May 2014. However, Portugal is still the third most indebt country of the European Union. Antonio Costa's government therefore continues to apply drastic austerity policies. Thus, anti-austerity and anti-government protests are common, especially in the capital Lisbon. Additionally, transportation strikes linked to the privatization of transportation means (air, rail, and road) happen regularly. The strikes regularly affect transportation networks.

POLITICS

Portugal is a semi-presidential republic. The next legislative elections will take place in 2019, followed by presidential elections in 2021.

NATURAL RISKS

Portugal is struck each year by a number of forest fires, some of which cause significant damage. Always obey safety instructions issued by authorities. From June 1st to September 30th, it is strictly forbidden to create fire in forest zones. This interdiction includes camp fires, barbeques, fireworks and firecrackers, matches, candles, and cigarettes. It is also forbidden to smoke on the roads crossing forest areas.

Furthermore, there is a substantial risk of earthquakes in the country; in 1755, Lisbon was destroyed by a powerful earthquake and tsunami, which was responsible for the deaths of nearly 100,000 people. Moreover Portugal as well as Acores and Madera can be subject to dangerous storms.

Beach goers should be aware that ocean currents along Portugal's coasts can be dangerously strong. It is advised to strictly follow advise provided by authorities; a fine of EUR 55 is imposed for swimming when a beach flag is red or yellow.  

TRANSPORTATION

The quality of public transportation is high. However, it is necessary to be vigilant due to the presence of pickpockets on public transport, especially the Lisbon tramway system (electricos number E25 and E28).

The Portuguese motorway network is in good condition. Most of the country is connected by physical roads, except in very remoted areas or in historical centers. The toll system is entirely electronic. After taking a picture of the license plate, the payment can be done by direct debit or in a post office. This last option is only possible if the license plate is Portuguese. If you are driving a vehicle with a foreign license plate, it is necessary to consult the Portuguese toll website.

Driving in the Acores can be challenging due to the narrow paved streets, blind curves and herds of livestock on countryside roads. Unlike continental Portugal, in the Acores, toll payments cannot be made directly. Violations of road regulations are registered by radar and sent to the offender by mail.

Buses and taxis are reliable. It is advised to check the price of a taxi ride on the meter before paying. It is recommended not to use informal taxi companies. In the Acores, taxis do not have meters: the fare is based on a starting fare price plus an indicated kilometric rate. Buses are inexpensive. The services start at 07:00 and usually finish at 20:00 depending on the destination.

Portugal is served by five international airports: Acores - João Paulo II airport (PDL), Faro (FAO), Lisbon - Humberto Delgado airport (LIS) -, Madera - Cristiano-Ronaldo airport (FNC) and Porto - Porto-Francisco Sá-Carneiro airport (OPO)-.

The Acores (PDL) and Madera (FNC) airports are subject to temporary closures due to strong winds.

HEALTH

Foreign visitors will find that medical services available in large urban centers are of decent quality but that rural areas may not enjoy the same levels of quality care.

OTHER

Portugal is a member of the European Union and uses the euro as its national currency. It is also a member of the visa- and border checkpoint-free Schengen Area.

Climate

Portugal has a Mediterranean climate in the south and an oceanic climate in the north.

The average annual temperature inland is 13°C in the north and 18°C in the south. Springs and summers are generally sunny while autumns are rainy and windy. In the winter temperatures can fall very low in the north of the country (-12°C) while being very high in the summer in the south (44°C). Coastal regions have a milder climate, with temperatures fluctuating between -2°C on the coldest winter mornings to up to 37°C during the summer.

Useful Numbers

Country Code: +351 Police: 112 Fire Dept.: 112 Ambulance: 112

Electricity

Voltage: 230 V ~ 50 Hz

Outlets:

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