Capital: Lisbon (Lisboa) (1,900,000 inhabitants)
System of Government: Parliamentary democracy
Area: 88,889 square kilometres
Estimated Population: 487/sq. mile
Portugal has a population of about 10 million. The population density is at its greatest in Lisbon, the capital and its suburbs, where about 1.9 million people live. The second largest city in Portugal is Oporto in the north. Generally speaking, there are more people living in the country’s coastal regions than in the inland areas.
A member-country of the European Union since 1986, Portugal currently enjoys steady economic growth.
Portugal is situated at the south-west point of Europe and also includes the Madeira and Azores archipelagos in the Atlantic Ocean. Mainland Portugal is 218 km wide and 561 km long, with 832 km of Atlantic coast and a 1,215 km border with Spain.
The Azores are situated in the Atlantic Ocean between Europe and North America (two hours flight from Lisbon). They have an area of 2,355 km sq.and consist of nine islands – São Miguel and Santa Maria in the Eastern Group, Terceira, Graciosa, São Jorge, Pico and Faial in the Central Group and Flores and Corvo in the Western Group.
The Madeira Archipelago has an area of 741 km sq. and lies in the Atlantic Ocean about 500 km from the African coast and 1,000 km from the European continent (1hr 30 mins. flying time from Lisbon). It consists of the islands of Madeira and Porto Santo and the uninhabited Desertas and Selvagens islands, which are nature reserves.
One of the Latin languages, Portuguese is the third most spoken European language in the world and the native tongue of about 200 million people, due to its presence in Brazil and some other ex-colonies in Africa. In Portugal many people speak excellent English, and good Spanish.
The climate in Portugal is mild all year round, due to its geographic location in Southern Europe, while also benefiting from the waters of the Gulf Stream. Summers are dry and clear, with warm sunshine extending long into autumn. Winters are moderately cool and are the rainiest time of year (except in subtropical Madeira, where it rarely rains). Midsummer temperatures range around 70?F, while winter temperatures tend to be around 50?F.
Continental Portugal and Madeira Island are on Greenwich mean time (GMT). The Azores Islands are 1 hour behind the Portuguese mainland.
Portugal is one of 12 European Union countries whose common official currency is the euro (€). 1 euro is divided into 100 cents. The coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents, and 1 and 2 euros. The notes are differentiated by their size and colour and come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros.
VAT and Tax Refunds
Visitors from non-European Union countries can request reimbursement of the Value Added Tax (VAT) they have paid on any of their purchases over €59.36. The VAT rate charged on most items in Portugal is 19%.
In order to be reimbursed, when you make a purchase you should ask the shop for a declaration detailing the amount you paid, the items bought and the amount to be reimbursed. You can request the reimbursement at the airport, either in cash, by credit card, or by international cheque, provided that you show the items in question to customs beforehand.
Banks open from 8:30 am to 3 pm from Monday to Friday; closed on bank holidays. Shops open from 9 am to 1 pm and from 3 pm to 7 pm (working days). On Saturdays, most shops close at 1 pm. The shopping malls in larger towns are normally open 7 days a week from 10 am to 11 pm. Museums open from 10 am to 12:30 am and from 2 pm to 5 pm and are closed on Mondays.
The electric current in Portugal is 230/400 volts at a frequency of 50 hertz. Sockets comply with European standards. You will need a 230 volt transformer and an adaptor to use American-style flat-prong plugs.