Portugal uses the euro as its national and official currency and has done so since the euro was introduced in 2002. Each euro is divided into 100 cents and the euro is obviously used extensively throughout Europe, with more and more countries clamouring to be allowed to introduce the euro and thus join the eurozone.
Each separate country in the eurozone, issues its own euros, but all euro currencies are issued in coins and notes, with coins in the form of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20 and 50 cents (apart from in The Netherlands and Finland, which does not issue the 1 and 2 cent coins). Euros are also issued as Є1 and 2 and then in the form of notes as 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros.
Prior to the introduction of the euro, the currency in use was the escudo, which had been in circulation since 1911. However, Portugal was able to satisfy the financial and economic requirements of the EU and as such was able to join the eurozone and use the euro right from the start of the currency being in use.
Getting Hold of Euros
Euros are relatively easy to get hold of, since Portugal may be at the very western point of Europe, but it is very much linked in to the financial infrastructure of Europe and as such is a sophisticated country in terms of having easy access to money and it has all the ATM facilities that you would expect to find in a modern European country.
Traveller's cheques can also be used in Portugal and generally you will have no problems in getting these accepted and cashed.
If you want to take cash in, it is best to take in euros, so that you can simply use the money straight away.
Portugal is a relatively safe country. Whilst there has been worldwide publicity surrounding the disappearance of a very young girl from the UK, the risks of anything serious happening to you in Portugal are actually quite low.
There is a certain level of petty crime in Lisbon and to some extent in Porto, but nothing of the levels that is experienced in some tourist destinations.
Basically it is advisable just to ensure that when in a crowded place to be careful that your wallet or purse is not at risk from being pickpocketed and make sure that you have don't leave items simply lying on the beach if you go swimming.
Simply be aware that no where on earth is always 100 % safe and simply stay vigilant and you should be perfectly safe.
However, there is one thing that you should be mindful of and that is that if you are participating in any watersports (and these are very popular in Portugal) then you need to ascertain whether or not your travel insurance will actually cover you for this type of activity. Unfortunately many people just make the assumption that nothing will happen to them, or if it does, then the insurance company will sort everything out. Yet the reality is that this does not happen sometimes, since accidents can and do happen and more to the point, many insurance companies will simply withhold making any payment, since they say that water sports (or similar) are not 'normal' activities and therefore they have no liability. Since hospital and medical fees can often be expensive, this is obviously something that you want to bear in mind before you sign up for any potentially high risk activities.
Another issue that seems to becoming more of a problem to some travellers is also the fact that some insurance companies will not pay out if something happens to you if you are drunk. In other words, they think that through being drunk you have failed to take 'due care' and as such they will not pick up the tab, stating that it is your responsibility. So whilst no one is advising that you cannot drink on holiday, you should simply be mindful of the fact that if you do get very drunk, there may be long term implications if you fall over or require hospitalisation if you have been in an accident.
Out and About
Portugal is the most amazing country and although it has many areas that are very touristy, it is still possible to travel around Portugal and get a sense of a country that really is a lovely country, not just in terms of the scenery on offer, but also of the people, who particularly in the smaller villages and town are generally very hospitable and quite welcoming to strangers and travellers. Indeed they seem to welcome the fact that travellers have left the 'tourist spots' and made the effort to get to know the real country and its people.
Lisbon, the capital, whilst being far from a small town or village is also a destination worth visiting. The nightlife in Lisbon is vibrant to say the least, with lots of bars and clubs and a heady mixture of sun and a real 'joie de vivre' which leaves many capitals looking rather dull in comparison.
There is a very cosmopolitan air to Lisbon and it certainly has plenty of culture to keep people going! There is literally a plethora of museums which some which are also secret art galleries holding works by people such as Renoir and Rembrandt.
For anyone who likes architecture, Lisbon is also a dream. There are some fantastic castles to be seen, as well as some very impressive plazas and then of course the Presidential Palace and lots of different bars, restaurants, clubs and cultural activities, meaning that no matter where you are in the city, you will not be far from something to excite your senses and make you fall in love with this very special city.
But in order to really get a feel for Portugal, you need to head off into the countryside and simply spend time looking around it. Another city that is quite popular is Aveiro which is, in part, built on canals and has its very own gondolas. The drive up from Lisbon is quite long, but it will allow you to see the countryside and you can also get to see some of Portugal's stunning coastline, as you meander up (this is not a journey to be hurried). Aviero is often called Portugal's Venice and one thing it also shares with Venice is the fact that it is quite expensive for Portuguese standards, but it is well worth the money and from here, it is very easy to venture out and see some great beaches and simply unwind and enjoy it. The city is home to some very prestigious universities and these give it a real air of sophistication as well as a youthful feel, so it is a destination that you really shouldn't miss.
But if all that driving and culture just feels like too much effort, when all you want to do is to sit by the pool, relax, chill with a few beers and have a very relaxing holiday then there are plenty of places that offer the opportunity to do just that, since the coastline has many tourist resorts, where you can enjoy the fine wines, chilled beer and some fantastic weather.
Some of the best known tourist resorts are Estoril and Cascais, which started off life as small villages and now have the tourist facilities that you would expect to find in any tourist resort.
Prices in these kind of places are a little bit more expensive than in other areas of the country, but on the other hand, you do pay for the facilities that are on offer, so all in all, they do offer quite good value. However, because as a whole, it is a good value destination and is generally quite 'family friendly' you will find that in the school holiday season, it tends to get exceptionally busy. If you are looking for a quiet holiday, at peak times, then you are better off trying to hire a villa or stay in a small town, where you can escape the madding crowds. But conversely, if you are looking for a fun packed holiday, with lots of amusements and activities for children, then Portugal is certainly a country that is worth serious consideration.
The whole country is very proud of its long history and it is also a country that has a deep-rooted spiritual history, meaning that there are lots of cathedrals, churches and religious monuments. These are still viewed as being quite 'special' places and travellers are expected to dress appropriately when visiting any of these. You don't have to be covered from head to toe, but it is also inappropriate to wear a bikini or swim suit or if you are male, to have shorts on with no top. In the country areas particularly, people tend to be a little on the conservative side, so just be mindful and respectful of this.
Portugal has for many decades proved a very popular destination with package holidaymakers and indeed it still is very popular today. However, Portugal has enough culture, vibrancy and historic sites to ensure that it has enough to offer something for all, no matter what interests you or what you enjoy seeing. If you want things wild and busy, then Portugal has this, in Lisbon and the tourist resorts. But if you simply want quiet, peaceful and watching the sun set as you enjoy a glass of wine, then again, Portugal will not let you down!
It is a country that is often on the outside of Europe, simply due to the fact that it is so westerly. Yet for all that it is a country that is very much one that has a lot to offer visitors and indeed, due to its semi-isolation, it has retained much of its own culture and identity in a way that other European countries have not. So before Portugal becomes too much a part of the global village, that the world is becoming, head off to Portugal and refresh your zest for life. For further insight into the country, visit http://www.travel-island.com