Living in Portugal

Cost of living

In spite of the perceived price increase after Euro has been introduced in 2002, Portugal has a relatively low cost of living, as compared to other EU Member States, although some products might be more expensive here than in other countries.

Shops

Traditionally, shops are open from Monday to Friday, from 9 or 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Some close for lunch from 1 to 3 p.m. On Saturdays from January to November, shops generally close at 1 p.m. though in city centers some are open in the afternoon. Shops tend to stay open on Saturday afternoons and sometimes even on Sundays in December for Christmas shopping.
There are plenty of shopping centers inside and outside the cities that are usually open from 10 a.m. to midnight every day of the week. They generally have stores with the main international brands. However, traditional shops with Portuguese products can be found particularly in the streets of the older neighborhoods of towns and cities.

Food and drinks

Prices vary in function of the type of establishment and whether or not the cost includes a table service or esplanade service, as a result of which the prices presented are purely indicative.

An espresso coffee, which is so popular amongst the Portuguese and is normally referred to as a “café” or in the north as “cimbalino”, costs around €0.60 to €0.70 at the counter of a traditional café. A “galão” (cup of coffee with milk) may cost between €0.70 and €1.20 and a cup of tea between €1 and €1.50.  A glass of natural orange juice costs around €2.50 and a beer or Coca-Cola costs between €1 and €1.50. A cheese or ham sandwich costs between €1.50 and €2.50 and a slice of toast or cake will be less than €2. If you have a full meal it may be around €8 to €11 per person in a snack bar, between €13 and €20 in a restaurant and around €30 to €50 in a first-class restaurant or Fado house.

Culture

An entrance ticket to a Museum, National Monument or exhibition may cost between €2 and €5. A cinema ticket costs around €5.50. Theatre tickets may vary between €10 and €30 and tickets for concerts, opera or ballet performances between €15 and €75.

Communications

Telephone

In public telephone booths, coins and special cards can be used. They are sold in Portugal Telecom shops, post offices and some kiosks and news-stands (with a sign indicating this).

All telephone numbers in Portugal are composed of nine digits. To call from abroad to Portugal, it is necessary to dial the international access code 00 and the country code 351.

To call abroad from Portugal, dial 00, the country code, the area code and then the number wanted. The dialing codes of the various countries are affixed in public telephone booths.

Mobile phones

Portugal is one of the countries with the highest number of mobile phone users. There are three network service providers - TMN, Vodafone and Optimus – that have roaming agreements with most international mobile phone companies and provide users with a good coverage nationwide.

The Portuguese Highway Code forbids the use of mobile phones while driving, unless you’re using hands-free equipment or an earphone, and there are established penalties that can be applied in the event of any infringement.

Internet

Internet access is available on payment in some cafés and in numerous post offices that have the Netpost service.

In various hotels and public facilities, like Airports, Conference centers, Restaurants, Service Areas in motor-ways and shopping centers, there are duly marked "wi-fi" areas where it is possible to access wireless Internet.

Post Offices

In general, post offices are open from Monday to Friday; from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Central and airport offices have extended opening hours and may be open on Saturdays and in some cases also on Sundays. Stamps are sold in post offices and vending-machines in the streets. Many post offices have the Netpost service that on payment allows access to personal e-mail and the Internet. More detailed information about opening hours and services available at each office can be found on www.ctt.pt

Personal health

The number to call in an emergency is 112. Dial the number and ask for the service you require – police (polícia), ambulance (ambulância) or fire brigade (bombeiros). If you need medical treatment, the casualty department (serviço de urgência) of the closest main hospital will treat you. On motorways and main roads, use orange SOS telephone to call for help in case you have a car accident. The service is in Portuguese; press button and then wait for the operator who will connect you.

Health care

The quality of health care and health care facilities in Portugal are generally good and have improved considerably in recent years. There are many English-speaking and foreign doctors in resort areas and major cities, although hospital facilities are limited in some rural areas.

Portugal has a public health system, providing free or low cost health care for those who contribute to Portuguese social security (segurança social), plus their families and retirees (including those from other EU countries).

If you don’t qualify for health care under the public health system, it’s essential to have private health insurance (in fact, you won’t usually get a residence card without it). This is often recommended in any case if you can afford it, due to the inadequacy of public health services (which like most, are strapped for cash) and long waiting lists for specialist appointments and non-urgent operations in many areas. Visitors to Portugal should have holiday health insurance if they aren’t covered by a reciprocal arrangement.

Pharmacies

English-speaking Portuguese doctors and English and other foreign doctors practice in resort areas and major cities, many of who advertise in the local expatriate press. You can obtain free advice for minor ailments from pharmacies (farmácias), open from 9am to 1pm and 3 to 7pm Monday to Friday and from 9am to 1pm on Saturdays. There’s normally a duty pharmacy (farmácia de serviço) open outside usual business hours. A list of duty pharmacies is posted in pharmacy windows and announced in the local press (you can also telephone 118 and ask for the name of your local duty pharmacy).

Money matters

Currency

Portugal is one of the 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 color and come in denominations of 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 euros. One side of the coins has a common design (the European side), and the other side has a national symbol. All euro coins can be used in any euro-zone country, irrespective of which national symbols they display.

Currency Exchange

You can exchange money at banks, which are open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. five working days a week; at bureau de change; and at automatic currency exchange machines (these are for currency sale transactions only).

ATMs - Automatic Teller Machines (Multibanco)

Portugal has a national network of cash machines (ATMs) identified by the symbol MB (Multibanco), from which you can withdraw cash 24 hours a day.

Credit cards

In Portugal, the most commonly used credit cards are: Visa, American Express, Diners Club, Europay / MasterCard, JCB and Maestro.

If your Visa or MasterCard credit card is lost or stolen, contact the following telephone numbers for assistance:
- Visa: Tel. 800 811 107
- MasterCard: Tel. 800 811 272

Banks

Banks are open from 8.30 a.m. to 3 p.m. five working days a week. Portugal has a national network of cash machines (ATMs) identified by the symbol MB (Multibanco), from which you can withdraw cash 24 hours a day.