Addresses -- In Portugal, the ground floor is not called the first floor as in the United States; what Americans would call the fourth floor is actually the third floor. "ESQ" after a floor number indicates that you should go left, and "DIR" means turn right.
American Express -- The entity representing American Express, although operating independently under license from American Express, is Travel Store located in Lisbon, at Rua Rodrigues Sampaio (tel. 21/356-53-00). Another office in Lisbon, at Aeroporto de Lisboa (tel. 96/696-82-96), also serves as the headquarters for American Express.
Babysitters -- Check with your hotel's staff for arrangements. Most first-class hotels can provide babysitters from lists that the concierge keeps. Remember to request a babysitter no later than the morning if you're going out that evening. Also request one with at least a minimum knowledge of English, if you and your children do not speak Portuguese.
Business Hours -- Hours vary throughout the country, but there is a set pattern. Banks generally are open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 3pm. Currency-exchange offices at airports and rail terminals are open longer hours, and the office at Portela airport outside Lisbon is open 24 hours a day. Most museums open at 10am, close at 5pm, and often close for lunch between 12:30 and 2pm. Larger museums with bigger staffs remain open at midday. Shops are open, in general, Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm and from 3 to 7pm, and Saturday from 9am to 1pm. Most restaurants serve lunch from noon until 3pm and dinner from 7:30 to 11pm; many close on Sunday. Many nightclubs open at 10pm, but the action doesn't really begin until after midnight and often lasts until between 3 and 5am.
Drugs -- Drugs are plentiful, although penalties can be severe if you're caught importing or selling illegal narcotics. If you engage in criminal behavior, all the U.S., British, and Canadian consulates can do is provide you with a list of local attorneys.
Drugstores -- The Portuguese government requires selected pharmacies to stay open at all times of the day and night. They do so under a rotation system. Check with your concierge for the locations and hours of the nearest drugstores, called farmácias de serviço. In general, pharmacies in Portugal are open Monday through Friday from 9am to 1pm and from 3 to 7pm, and Saturday from 9am to 1pm.
Electricity -- Voltage is 200 volts AC (50 cycles). Many hardware stores in North America sell the appropriate transformers. The concierge desks of most hotels will lend you a transformer and plug adapters, or tell you where you can buy them nearby. If you have any doubt about whether you have the appropriate transformer, ask at your hotel desk before you try to plug in anything.
Embassies & Consulates -- If you lose your passport or have some other pressing problem, you'll need to get in touch with your embassy.
The Embassy of the United States, on Avenida das Forças Armadas (Sete Rios), 1600 Lisboa (tel. 21/727-33-00; http://portugal.usembassy.gov), is open Monday through Friday from 8am to 12:30pm and from 1:30 to 5pm. If you've lost a passport, the embassy can take photographs for you and help you to obtain the proof of citizenship needed to get a replacement.
The Embassy of Canada is at Av. da Liberdade 200, EDIT Victoria 4th Floor, 1269 Lisboa (tel. 21/316-46-00; http://geo.international.gc.ca). It's open Monday through Friday from 9am to noon and from 2 to 4pm (till 1pm Fri July-Aug).
The Embassy of the United Kingdom, Rua São Bernardo 33, 1249 Lisboa (tel. 21/392-40-00; http://ukinportugal.fco.gov.uk), is open Monday through Thursday from 9:30 to 11:30am and from 3 to 4:30pm, Friday 9am to 12:30pm.
The Embassy of the Republic of Ireland, Rua de Imprensa à Estrela 1, 1200 Lisboa (tel. 21/392-94-40; http://ireland.visahq.com/embassy/portugal), is open Monday through Friday from 9:30am to 12:30pm and from 2:30 to 4:30pm.
The Embassy of Australia, on Av. de Liberdade 200, 1250 Lisboa (tel. 21/310-15-00; http://portugal.visahq.com/embassy/australia), is open Monday through Friday from 9 to 11:30am and 3 to 4:30pm. New Zealanders should go to the British Embassy .
Emergencies -- For the any emergency (or an ambulance) throughout the country, telephone tel. 112.
Holidays -- Watch for these public holidays, and adjust your banking needs accordingly: New Year's Day and Universal Brotherhood Day (Jan 1); Carnaval (Feb or early Mar -- dates vary); Good Friday (Mar or Apr -- dates vary); Liberty Day, anniversary of the revolution (Apr 25); Labor Day (May 1); Corpus Christi (May or June -- dates vary); Portugal Day (June 10); Feast of the Assumption (Aug 15); Proclamation of the Republic (Oct 5); All Saints' Day (Nov 1); Restoration of Independence (Dec 1); Feast of the Immaculate Conception (Dec 8); and Christmas Day (Dec 25). The Feast Day of St. Anthony (June 13) is a public holiday in Lisbon, and the Feast Day of St. John the Baptist (June 24) is a public holiday in Porto.
Hospitals -- A prime choice for medical aid is the Hospital S. Francisco Xavier, SA (Estrada Forte do Alto do Duque, Lisboa; tel. 021/300-03-00; www.hsfxavier.min-saude.pt). An alternative is Hospital de Egas Moniz, SA (Rua da Junqueira 126, Lisboa; tel. 021/362-28-39; www.hegasmoniz.min-saude.pt).
Language -- English is often spoken in the major resorts and at first-class and deluxe hotels; in smaller places, you'll often need the help of a phrase book or dictionary. One of the most helpful is the Portuguese Phrase Book (Berlitz).
Legal Aid -- Contact your local consulate for a list of English-speaking lawyers if you run into trouble with the law. After that, you're at the mercy of the local courts.
Liquor Laws -- You must be 18 to drink in Portugal. In Lisbon, bars are open until dawn.
Mail -- While in Portugal, you can have your mail directed to your hotel (or hotels), to the American Express representative, or to Poste Restante (General Delivery) in Lisbon. You must present your passport to pick up mail. The general post office in Lisbon is on Praça do Comércio, 1100 Lisbon (tel. 21/346-32-31); it's open daily from 8am to 10pm.
Pets -- Pets brought into Portugal must have the approval of the local veterinarian and a health certificate from your home country.
Smoking -- The government of Portugal imposes a ban on smoking in enclosed public places and in commercial establishments. Owners of large spaces -- that is, more than 100 meters (328 ft.) -- can allow smoking or not. However, they have to display a sign to that effect and provide designated smoking areas.
Taxes -- Because Portugal and neighboring Spain simultaneously joined the Common Market (now the European Union) on January 1, 1986, Portugal has imposed a value-added tax (VAT) on most purchases made within its borders. It ranges from 6% (for books) to 23% (general goods). Known in Portugal as the IVA, the amount is almost always written into the bottom line of the bill for any purchase a foreign visitor makes. Hotel and restaurant bills are taxed at 18%. Car rentals are subject to an additional 18% tax (less than in some other European countries).
Such deluxe goods as jewelry, furs, and expensive imported liquors include a 30% built-in tax. Because a scotch and soda in a Portuguese bar carries this high tax, many people have changed their choice of alcohol from scotch to Portuguese brandy and soda or, more prosaically, beer.
To get a VAT refund on purchases that qualify (ask the shopkeeper), present your passport to the salesperson and ask for the special stamped form. Present the form with your purchases at the booth marked for IVA tax refunds at the airport. You'll get your money refunded right at the booth. For VAT refunds, you can also apply to Global Refund (www.globalrefund.com).
Time -- Portugal is 5 hours ahead of Eastern Standard Time in the United States. Like most European countries, Portugal has daylight saving time. It moves its clocks ahead an hour in late spring and an hour back in the fall, corresponding roughly to daylight saving time in the United States; exact dates vary.
Tipping -- Most service personnel expect a good tip rather than a small one, as in the past. Hotels add a service charge (known as serviço), which is divided among the entire staff, but individual tipping is also the rule. Tip 1€ to the bellhop for running an errand, 1€ to the doorman who hails you a cab, 1€ to the porter for each piece of luggage carried, 2.50€ to the wine steward if you've dined often at your hotel, and 1.50€ to the chambermaid.
In first-class or deluxe hotels, the concierge will present you with a separate bill for extras, such as charges for bullfight tickets. A gratuity is expected in addition to the charge. The amount will depend on the number of requests you've made.
Figure on tipping about 20% of your taxi fare for short runs. For longer treks — for example, from the airport to Cascais — 15% is adequate.
Restaurants and nightclubs include a service charge and government taxes of 18%. As in hotels, this money is distributed among the entire staff, so extra tipping is customary. Add about 5% to the bill in a moderately priced restaurant, and up to 10% in a deluxe or first-class establishment. For hatcheck in fado houses, restaurants, and nightclubs, tip at least 1€. Washroom attendants get .50€.
Water -- Tap water is generally potable throughout Portugal unless you are warned otherwise. Under no circumstances should you swim in or drink from freshwater rivers or streams.