We hope to see you in Braga!
What to do? Where to stay? When to come? What will it cost? How to prepare? What about the language?
WHAT TO DO?
We are very thankful for people who come to Braga to help with the Habitat work. There are tasks for every skill level.
As for siteseeing, we are anxious to brag about our favorite sites and point you in the right direction so that you can experience them yourself. Braga itself is worth a relaxing day or so to orient to any timechange (noon Seattle = 8pm Braga). Within a few hours of Braga you will find castles, mountains, beaches, vineyards, a well-preserved but ruined Roman city... and, of course, the rest of Portugal and Europe awaits you as well.
If you are not coming as part of an offical Habitat workteam (or if you intend to extend beyond the Habitat workteam itinerary), then you will need to rent a car and you will need to learn some rudimentary Portuguese (you can do it!) in order to navigate the city. See HOW TO PREPARE for details.
WHERE TO STAY?
Since our apartment is too small to be your temporary home-away-from-home, we have researched local hotels for you. All the information is found at Braga Hotels .
This site is excellent for accomodations throughout Portugal and Spain: www.secretplaces.com
Feel free to email Debbie if you have more questions.
WHEN TO COME?
WHAT WILL IT COST?
Obviously, this depends on your travel style. But here's what we learned:
AIRFARE will range from $550, if you can plan ahead, to over $2500 roundtrip. You can fly into Porto (aka Oporto; airport code=OPO) which is a 45 minute drive from Braga. Easiest route from Seattle: nonstop to Amsterdam (Northwest Air), then Amsterdam to Porto. I don't think there are any direct USA to Porto flights so you might start thinking about the fun you'll have while in London, Lisbon, Amsterdam, or the other cities that serve Porto.
Our travel agent has done a fabulous job getting us cheap flights. Email Lizza or call her at JustFares: 206-223-3600 x110.
HOTELS in Braga range from $25-$100/nite for a standard double room. Check the most current edition of the "Rough Guide" (Recommended Travel Books, below) and our Braga Hotels page for specific recommendations.
FOOD: Groceries cost about the same as in the US. Restaurants are reasonably priced. A meal costing $15-20 in Seattle will probably be $10-15 in Braga. As of January 2002, a Happy Meal was $2.50 Euros.
RENTAL CAR: Call at least four different major rental car companies and take the best possible price. Planning ahead may save you big bucks. Europecar often has great prices and great cars. Rent a stick shift. Automatics are expensive. Prices vary widely but seem similar to US prices. We rented a car for 17 days for $460 in the summer of 2000. You can pick up an International Driver's License at the AAA by the Seattle Center for about $15. Theoretically, you should have one of these to drive in Portugal.
HOW TO PREPARE?
If you haven't read Rick Steves' Europe through the Back Door then don't bother visiting.
OK, seriously, first call the Portuguese National Tourist Office and request some information. They'll send a packet of moderately helpful brochures and maps, along with some nice photo brochures, which will be very fun to receive in the mail. Bring the map with you. 212-354-4403.
You can remain in Portugal for up to 60 days with your US passport. US citizens do not need a visa to visit Portugal. You don't need any special immunizations either.
Traveling is so easy now, thanks to worldwide ATM networks. Just relax... and bring your debit card.
THE PORTUGUESE LANGUAGE
Portuguese is the national language of Portugal. Like Spanish, it derives from Latin. It looks a bit like Spanish but it does not sound like Spanish. The Portuguese do NOT appreciate people who assume they will understand Spanish. (Americans do not speak Spanish just because the USA borders Mexico.)
After Portuguese, the next widely spoken languages are French and English. If you start every encounter with a smile and a few Portuguese phrases, the gesture is greatly appreciated. From there, you can use sign language and any other language tidbits at your disposal. Hopefully, someone with at least a smattering of English will be within earshot if you get really stuck.
Learning some Portuguese will be fun. Really! And the Portuguese will love you for it. Think about how kindly you feel towards tourists in your hometown who smile and try their English on you. (You'll certainly feel more kindly towards them after you try your new Portuguese here in Portugal.)
Here is an online (free) Short Portuguese Lesson. Careful... it isn't pronounced the way it looks. Be sure to get an audio resource, too.
And here is my favorite language tape, phrasebook, and dictionary:
To get a taste of the language, try listening to these Portugal radio stations while you surf the net. Hearing the language will get you in the mood and improve your "ear."
Listening to some authentic Portuguese "fado" -- a haunting music style, sometimes reminiscent of the Blues --
is the final preparatory step. Hopefully, this link
will still take you to an eight-minute April 5, 2001, NPR Morning Edition report on fado, called
Eternal Lament (near the bottom of the page).
Here are some of our fado favorites:
To purchase books from Amazon.com, click here:
If you live outside the USA, you can purchase books from Amazon.co.uk. Click here:
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