With Dr Felicity Nicholson
There are no serious health issues to worry about, and no endemic diseases. Insect bites are perhaps the biggest risk in rural areas so it is worth taking an insect repellent. It is wise to be up to date with the standard UK vaccinations including diphtheria, tetanus and polio which comes as an all-in-one vaccination (Revaxis), which lasts for ten years.
If you do have an accident or fall ill, the level of healthcare is on a par with much of the rest of Europe. Residents of EU countries including the UK and Ireland should obtain a European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) before travelling, as this covers the costs of any standard medical treatment you may require. Everyone, including holders of an EHIC, should also take out travel insurance that includes medical costs, as the EHIC doesn’t cover all eventualities, such as repatriation to your home country following an accident. This is available in the UK by calling 0845 606 2030, or online at https://www.nhs.uk/using-the-nhs/healthcare-abroad/apply-for-a-free-ehic-european-health-insurance-card/.
In a medical emergency, dial 112 to call for an ambulance. The major hospital in the region is the Hospital da Misericórdia in Évora.
Travel clinics and health information
A full list of current travel clinic websites worldwide is available at www.istm.org. For other journey preparation information, consult www.travelhealthpro.org.uk (UK) or https://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/ (US). Information about various medications may be found on www.netdoctor.co.uk/travel. All advice found online should be used in conjunction with expert advice received prior to or during travel.
Portugal is a safe country with low crime rates. Pickpocketing and theft from cars occur in the more heavily visited areas. Be especially vigilant on public transport at the airport and at the busy railway station in Lisbon. If you must leave items unattended in a car, then be sure to hide them in the boot. Hire cars and foreign-registered cars are often targeted by thieves.
If your passport is stolen, report it immediately to the local police. You will need the report for insurance purposes and to obtain a replacement travel document from the British Consulate.
Portugal is a safe country for women travellers. Adopt the same common sense principles you would at home: avoid empty streets late at night and watch out for being followed; keep doors and windows closed and locked when you sleep; beware of accepting invitations from people you are not certain you can trust; and let people know of your whereabouts if you go hiking or on a trip.
Travelling with a disability
Facilities for travellers with disabilities in Portugal are similar to those in the UK or USA. Lisbon and Faro airports have disabled toilets and can provide special wheelchair assistance by prior arrangement. Transport vehicles have specially reserved seats for disabled people, but few have wheelchair spaces. The Cartão de Deficiente – Caminhos do Ferro Portuguesas (CP Disability Rail Cards) can be obtained from CP ticket offices and are valid for two years. They entitle cardholders to a 25% discount on services run by the state railway operator CP. Forms to apply for a CP card for the disabled are available from ticket offices. The applicant will need to supply two passport-sized colour photos and a disability card valid within the EU.
UK Blue Badge drivers can use their permits in Portugal and while there are no roadside concessions, some car parks allow vehicles displaying a Blue Badge to park free of charge. Disabled spaces in car parks are marked with a wheelchair symbol. Avoid those that are also marked with a registration number. It is worth leaving a piece of paper next to your Blue Badge with the following translation printed out:
Cartão de estacionamento para pessoas com deficiência. Este cartão autoriza o portador a beneficiar das facilidades de estacionamento no Estado membro no qual o titular se encontre. Quando em utilização, o cartão deve ser colocado no interior do veículo, no seu vidro dianteiro, por forma a que fique visível. Modelo da Comunidade Europeia.
Some hotels and public buildings have disabled toilets and access ramps.
In southern Europe Portugal is perhaps the country most tolerant of gay and lesbian travellers. Legislation is some of the most tolerant in the world. Same-sex marriage was recognised in 2010 and there are wide-ranging anti-discrimination laws. World Rainbow Hotels and Purple Roofs list gay- and lesbian-owned and friendly accommodation in Portugal and gay- and lesbian-friendly travel agents and tour operators.
Travelling with kids
Travel with children is straightforward in Portugal. Portugal is a very family-orientated country and kids are never expected to be seen but not heard. Even expensive restaurants provide children’s seats and most have children’s menus. Many hotels offer a discount family rate, don’t charge for children under five and can provide an extra camp bed for a double room. Children under three generally travel for 10% on internal flights and for 70% until 12 years old. On tours children under six usually go free, and it may be possible to negotiate a discount rate. Bring Kwells or Stugeron from Europe or the US for motion sickness.