Portugal

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Thursday, 23 October 2014.   This advice has been reissued with updated information in the Summary and under Safety and security (contact details for police and Victims of Crime centres; warning flags at beaches). We continue to advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Portugal.

Portugal overall

Summary

  • We advise you to exercise normal safety precautions in Portugal.
  • Exercise common sense and look out for suspicious behaviour, as you would in Australia.
  • Strikes and demonstrations, often disrupting transport services, have occurred in Portugal, mainly in Lisbon.
  • There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.
  • See also our general advice for Youth, Business and Senior travellers.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of Portugal for the most up to date information.

Portugal is a party to the Schengen Convention, along with a number of other European countries, which allows Australians to enter Portugal without a visa in some circumstances. See our travel bulletin on the Schengen Convention for further information.

If you have any queries regarding entry, visa requirements or undertaking an extended stay in Portugal, please contact the Portuguese Immigration Service. Other useful information can be found at the Visit Portugal tourism website.

Travellers have recently reported that some low cost airlines have refused to uplift passengers who were unable to provide proof of entry or have overstayed in the Schengen territory.

People travelling directly to or from a country outside the European Union (EU) who are carrying Euros 10,000 or more (or the equivalent amount in another currency) are required to declare the cash at the place of their arrival or departure from the EU. Under the legislation, the term "cash" includes cheques, travellers' cheques and money orders. Travellers failing to declare the cash or providing incomplete or incorrect information will incur a fine. There is no requirement to declare cash for people travelling to or from another EU country.

Make sure your passport has at least six months validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

There is an ongoing threat of terrorism in Europe. In the past, terrorist attacks have occurred in a number of European cities.

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tensions

General strikes and public protests do occur in Portugal, mainly in Lisbon and Porto. Transport services, including buses, trains, metro, ferries and flights, can be affected. You should contact your travel or tour operator for information on your transport service. Check local media for details and latest updates. You should avoid all demonstrations and protests as they have the potential to turn violent.

Crime

Petty crimes, such as bag snatching, pickpocketing and theft from cars, do occur in Portugal. Travellers should pay close attention to their personal belongings at tourist attractions, on public transport (especially the E28 tram to the Castle of Sao Jorge, E25 tram to Prazeres and E15 to Belem), railway stations, museums, beaches, restaurants and hotel foyers.

The incidence of thieves targeting motorists (often by convincing them to pull over using the pretext of a flat tyre or another problem) is on the rise. Such thieves particularly target vehicles with foreign licence plates and rental cars. Always keep your car doors locked and keep luggage and personal possessions out of sight from opportunistic theft. While thieves may operate anywhere, particular care should be taken when parking vehicles at the Moorish Castle and Pena Palace in Sintra and beachfront areas of Guincho, Ericeira, Cabo da Roca, Boca do Inferno, and in the Algarve.

While travelling, don’t carry too much cash and remember that expensive watches, jewellery and cameras will make you a tempting target for thieves. Many thefts occur in restaurants and sidewalk cafes, where travellers place bags on the backs of chairs or at their feet.

It is recommended you use ATMs in controlled areas such as within banks, shops and shopping centres and avoid ATMs that open onto the street, especially at night.

Robberies and assaults on foreigners have occurred in Lisbon and the Algarve area, including at popular tourist locations.

Travellers should be alert to the possible occurrence of ‘drink spiking’ at popular night clubs.

Lock your luggage as a sensible precaution against luggage tampering, including theft. Information on luggage safety is available from Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

If you are the victim of a crime, including robbery, go to the nearest police station to report the crime and obtain a police report. There are tourist police stations in Lisbon, Porto, Portimão and Cascais.

Portugal has a Victim Of Crime assistance program, administered through an organisation called APAV. See our Where to get help section for details on APAV as well as national emergency telephone numbers.

Money and valuables

Before you go, organise a variety of ways to access your money overseas, such as credit cards, travellers' cheques, cash, debit cards or cash cards. Consult with your bank to find out whether your ATM card will work overseas. The currency of Portugal is the Euro. Credit cards may be not be accepted in many smaller shops, restaurants, towns and rural areas.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Beaches and swimming

Deaths by drowning occur every year on Portuguese beaches and in swimming pools. The Maritime Police have the authority to fine bathers who disobey lifeguard warnings or flags.

Take warning flags on beaches seriously. The red flag indicates danger; never enter the water when the red flag is flying. The yellow flag indicates you may paddle at the water’s edge, but not swim. The green flag indicates that it is safe to swim. The checkered flag means that the beach is temporarily unmanned. Follow local advice if jelly fish are present.

Look out for signs warning of cliff erosion. Falling rocks are a hazard, particularly in the Algarve, and the authorities can fine those who ignore warning signs.

Local travel

Portugal has high rates of motor vehicle accidents and road fatalities. Hazards include unpredictable local driving habits, vehicles travelling at excessive speed on motorways, poorly marked secondary roads, narrow cobblestone streets, blind corners, poor lighting and wandering livestock in rural areas, including in the Azores. Rockfalls can occur on regional, winding coastal roads.

Portuguese law requires that all traffic accidents be reported to the police. There are heavy on-the-spot fines for traffic violations, especially for drink-driving, speeding or using a mobile phone while driving.

Australians in Portugal may drive for up to six months with a valid Australian driver’s licence, accompanied by either an official Portuguese translation or an international driving permit. Useful information can be found at the Visit Portugal tourism website.

Taxis are a reliable means of transportation but travellers should take appropriate precautions to ensure they are not overcharged. There have been reports of taxi drivers overcharging, threatening and harassing passengers at Lisbon airport.

Public transport, including trains are generally considered safe and reliable.

For further advice, see our road travel page.

Airline safety

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in Portugal.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Laws

When you are in Portugal, be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we cannot get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

It is a legal requirement to carry photo identification (passport preferred) that can be shown if requested by police or judicial authorities.

The personal possession and consumption of illicit drugs is an administrative offence which attracts a hefty fine. The selling or trafficking of illegal drugs is a criminal offence and subject to severe penalties, including jail sentences. See our drugs page for important information.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted on returning home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Portugal recognises dual nationals. For taxation and other purposes, the Portuguese authorities consider a dual national living in Portugal to be Portuguese.

Our Dual nationals page provides further information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

The standard of private medical facilities and care in Portugal's major cities is comparable to Australia. Public facilities, particularly in regional and rural areas, however, may vary in standard. Costs for treatment are very expensive. Payment for medical services is expected at the time of treatment. Private hospitals may seek confirmation of insurance cover or seek a guarantee of payment before admitting a patient. In the event of a serious illness or accident, medical evacuation to London would cost between $A16,000 to $A24,000 depending on circumstances.

The phone number for emergency medical services is 112.

Portugal has five decompression chambers available to the public. Two are located on mainland Portugal (one in Lisbon and the other in Oporto); one on Madeira Island (Funchal) and two on the Azores islands (one on Sao Miguel Island and the other on Faial Island).

Dengue fever in Madeira

Outbreaks of the mosquito-borne illness dengue fever occurs from time to time in Madeira. We recommend you take precautions against being bitten by mosquitoes, including using insect repellent, wearing long loose-fitting light coloured clothing and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof. For further information on dengue fever see the WHO’s Dengue factsheet.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, tour operator, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

If the matter relates to criminal issues, contact the local police at the nearest police station. There are also tourist police stations in Lisbon, Porto, Portimão and Cascais which can be contacted on +351 21 342 1634, +351 21 342 1623 and email: lsbetur@psp.pt. The national emergency telephone number is 112.

Portugal has a Victims of Crime support unit called APAV which can be contacted on:

APAV – (Lisbon)
Rua José Estévão, 135 A, Pisos 1/2
1150-201 Lisbon
Tel: 21 358 7900
Email: apav.sede@apav.pt
Website: APAV Victim Support

If the matter relates to complaints about tourism services or products, contact the service provider directly. If you are not satisfied with the response they provide, you should contact APAV (listed above) to find out your rights and the options available to you.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas. In Portugal you can obtain consular assistance from the:

Australian Embassy, Lisbon

Victoria Building
Avenida da Liberdade 200 – 2nd Floor
1250-147 LISBON
Telephone +351 21 310 1500
Facsimile +351 21 310 1555
Email: ausemb.lisbon@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.portugal.embassy.gov.au

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to Portugal, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we encourage you to register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family issue.

In a consular emergency if you are unable to contact the Embassy you can contact the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia.

In Australia, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade in Canberra may be contacted on (02) 6261 3305.

Additional information

Natural disasters, severe weather and climate

Portugal is in an active seismic zone. Further information is available from the Portuguese Institute for the Sea and Atmosphere.

Forest fires are common during summer months in the inland areas of Portugal. You should monitor the media for information about possible safety or security risks. Causing a forest fire is treated as an offence in Portugal, even if unintended.

If a natural disaster occurs, follow the advice of local authorities. Information on natural disasters can also be obtained from the Humanitarian Early Warning Service.

Additional Resources

For additional general and economic information to assist travelling in Portugal, see the following links:



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.