These are questions I am frequently asked about traveling to Portugal. I will ad to this page as time goes on. This page is meant to be helpful in planning a trip. It is by no way to serve as a guide book. I have a list of recommended guide books that you can order from Amazon.com to assist you.
1. Where do you recommend visiting in Portugal?
2. How do you get around Portugal?
3. Who were the Moores and what do they have to do with Portuguese history?
4. What should I bring to Portugal?
5. What should I watch out for?
6. Will my high school Spanish get me around Portugal?
7. Accommodations and guide books. 1. Where should I visit in Portugal?
Portugal is a very small country, however there is a lot to see there and depending on your tastes are. This is a list of what I feel is important based upon my own tastes.2. How do you get around in Portugal?
A. Sintra. This was the summer retreat of the Portuguese crown. Located about 30 minutes by train from Lisbon, I found this was the most appealing site in Portugal. The town itself is a romantic; fairy tail town that has a relaxed feel that echoes the personality of the Portuguese. There are medieval style houses and lots of shopping. Being the retreat of the Portuguese crown, there are two magnificent palaces that are frozen in time and are an interesting glimpse of how a select few lived. Furthermore, the best feature is a ruined Moorish castle located in the middle of an enchanted forest. The only drawback of the city is a fair amount of hiking is required to make the town really worthwhile.
B. Lisbon. The capital of Portugal. This town is a mixture of old and new. Broken down into easily to navigate barrios (neighborhoods) this town is the pulse of modern Portugal as well as a constant reminder of it’s past. To learn about the people, and history of Portugal, you have to see this city. (Note that Belem is located in Lisbon, but I have it listed separate in my photo galleries.
D. Oporto. Home of Port, this is a nice town to visit in the northern part of the country.
These are all of the ones that I feel convertible recommending because they are places I have either been or heard a lot about. A guidebook can give you more information about the north.
I relied on trains to get around Portugal. The rail system branches out from central Lisbon with lines going North, East, West and South. (West doesn’t go very far). The “Local” trains traveled fairly quickly. However, the long range trains, such as the one south took much longer than it would in other countries. Also the only Train connection to any major Spanish city is to and from Lisbon. My suggestion would be to fly into Lisbon, catch the train north or south and then take the bus into Spain. There are especially good connections from the Algarve into Spain.3. Who were the Moores?
The Moores were Muslims from North Africa. They occupied Spain and Portugal from 711 until almost 1500 when crusaders “drove them away.” The Moores spread their culture and their knowledge through Spain and Portugal but they did so in a benevolent way. They allowed other cultures (namely the Christians and the Jews) to retain their culture. In fact, the Moores blended influences from these groups into their culture. They also realized that some things, such as wine production, which were forbidden for their culture, were good for trade and therefore allowed them to continue. Around 1087 French crusaders (The Moores survived in Spain until almost 1500, not the region) drove the Moores out of what is present day Portugal and established Portugal as a province. The Moores contributed greatly to the architecture of both Spain and Portugal. Most places you visit, you see either the ruins of their castles or great places that they built for them selves or their conquerors. In fact, the Moorish architecture is far superior than the Gothic/renaissance architecture the Crusaders replaced it with.4.What should we bring?
A. Money Belt. Keep your money put away in a money belt.5. What should we watch out for?
B. Small camera and film. Film is expensive. You want a camera you can easily hide.
C. Comfortable walking shoes
D. Comfortable clothing, one or two changes only.
E. A Hat and Sunscreen.
G. ATM card with a 4 digit pin.
H. Day pack.
I. Travel’s Checks.
J. A good attitude.
A. Thieves. Thieves target American tourists. This is not because they hate American’s but because they know that Americans carry large amounts of money on them. They especially target the Elderly and people caring to many things.6. Can I get by with my high school Spanish in Portugal?
B. Distractions. Often staged so another person can pick your pocket.
C. Large crowds of people.
D. People giving you opened drinks. They could be spiked.
The Portuguese are a very proud people and are grossly insulted when you try to speak Spanish to them. Any good guidebook has survival phrases, and you can also buy quick phrase book. Almost everywhere I went they spoke English. (Of course I had to ask if they spoke English in Portuguese). Use Spanish as a last resort.7 Guide books