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Visiting Portugal
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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?

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.

HINT #1: Don't call from Lisbon to suggest that we have dinner together... Lisbon is a 6 hour drive from Braga.

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:

Feel free to email Debbie if you have more questions.


  • If you are not part of a Habitat workteam:
    Assuming you hope to see us while you are in Braga (why else would you be reading this?) then send an email with your tentative itinerary. We'll let you know our schedule... and it will be great to see you!

  • If you wish to work at the Habitat Jobsite:
    Just coordinate your trip with an official Habitat Global Village workteam. Jordan will be onsite regularly, and there is plenty of work for everyone. We need you. For current (but tentative) schedules, visit the Habitat Global Village Schedule and then email Jordan for additions/changes.

  • Only want to work a bit?
    Each Saturday the families work on their houses. Jordan is generally on-site on Saturdays and your help will be greatly appreciated. So spend a Saturday on the jobsite, meet the families and work alongside them on their new homes... but spend the rest of your time wandering around Europe.

    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.

    HINT #2: Portugal is one of the six most dangerous (eg, deadly) countries in the world to drive in. Though just half the size of Washington State, 80 people DIED on Portuguese roadways in January 2001. Please be very careful on the roadways.

    If you haven't read Rick Steves' Europe through the Back Door then don't bother visiting.
    Just kidding.

    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.

  • Portuguese currency, as of January 2002, is the Euro.
  • Currency Converter
  • Pocket Cash: Get $100-400 Euros from your bank before you leave because it is fun to look at the money. In reality, you could withdraw what you need from an airport ATM upon arrival. But just in case... bring some Euros.
  • Traveler's checks: Leave home without them.
  • Debit Cards: Bring one. With it, you can easily/cheaply/quickly access your cash. (Ask your bank what the international withdrawal fee will be--probably $1-$1.50 per transaction--but well worth it for the convenience and the great exchange rate.)
  • Credit Cards: As of 2001, your credit card probably adds a 2-3% international "security" fee to every transaction. Ask them before you leave. Two of ours levied a 3% surcharge, the third was just 2%. We used the later.
  • ENSURE that your PINs (debit and credit passwords) are 4 digits as some ATMs here only expect 4 digit PINs.
  • Helpful Hint #1: Memorize your PIN in numbers, not letters. Unlike keypads in the USA, Portuguese keypads do not have those tiny letters printed above the numbers. Example: If your PIN is "help", in Portugal it will be "4357."
  • Helpful Hint #2: For safety purposes, Jord and I never carry the same credit and debit cards while vacationing. (EG: Mastercard for him, Visa for her.) If my cards were lost or stolen, we could have closed just the VISA account while still continuing to use the MasterCard because I didn't bring my MasterCard. Since we had two bank accounts, we did the same with our ATM debit cards. Added benefit: We once had trouble withdrawing cash with Jord's debit card but my debit card (same bank, different acount) worked fine.


  • Europe through the Back Door (Be sure this is the most current edition.) -- You can order this from your Public Library.
  • AmEx's Eyewitness Guide to Portugal (ditto) -- Great pictures. Excellent for planning your personal itinerary... It will get you excited about your trip! It looks like a "fluff" book but we found many off-the-beaten-trail treasures with this book: Dinosaur footprints, huge caves, quaint villages, etc. Bring this one with you.
  • Rough Guide to Portugal (ditto) -- Great lodging and restaurant recommendations. Good maps and some witty writeups and historical facts. Especially helpful because it expands, like the Eyewitness Guide, well beyond the major Portuguese cities into many tiny villages. If you are driving through Portugal, you should have this book. Bring this one with you.
  • Take your Kids to Europe, by Cynthia Harriman -- Wonderful book about how to ENJOY extended travel with your children.
    Follow the links directly to Amazon to learn more.

    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.)

    HINT #3: Brazilian Portuguese sounds very different from Continental Portuguese. Make sure your resources are Continental Portuguese.

    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:

  • Living Language Fast & Easy Portuguese (Continental); one 60 minute cassette and handy cheatsheet. Learn while you drive!
  • Rick Steves' Portuguese/Spanish Phrase Book
  • Pocket Portuguese Dictionary ; Ignore the pronounciation guide since it's probably Brazilian. But great little dictionary. (Try to get a Continental Portuguese version if possible.)
    Follow the links directly to Amazon to learn more.

    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."

  • RDP Internacional
  • TSF (Click on "TSF EM DIRECTO")
  • 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:

  • The Art of Amália Rodrigues (Amália, who died in 1999, is a national icon) -- a great introduction
  • Primeiro Canto, by Dulce Pontes (Primeiro Canto = First Song) -- traditional instruments with a variety of regional styles
  • Lagrimas, by Dulce Pontes (Lagrimas = Tears/teardrops) -- a bit more modern in style
    Follow the links directly to Amazon to hear music clips.

    That's it! Start planning, listening and learning... and we'll see you soon!

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