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Travel, Teach, Live in Europe and Middle East

Tips for Traveling in Portugal

Portugal is a country where you'll find beautiful golden beaches, cobblestone villages, great food and medieval castles. With so much to see and do, it can sometimes be difficult to know where to start. If you're planning to travel or even live in Portugal, here are a few tips to help you get more out of your stay.

Understanding the Restaurants

If you've never eaten in a Portuguese restaurant before, you might be surprised by a few of the local customs and expectations. If you're used to the complementary basket of bread that is customarily brought to the table free of charge in the United States and many other countries, you might be unprepared for the fact that you'll be expected to pay for these items in Portuguese restaurants. Bread, olives and other items are usually brought to the table as soon as you sit down. These appetizer items are referred to as couvert. If you choose to partake of them, expect to be billed. Of course, you can always just refuse the items if you don't want them. When in doubt, always inquire about the price of these items before you start nibbling.

You might also be surprised by the fact that breakfast isn't an especially common meal in Portugal. You won't actually find many locals that eat breakfast on a regular basis. As such, breakfast is also not an especially popular meal in restaurants. However, you will find many pastry shops, known as pastelarias, where one can find a wide array of fresh and delicious pastries from which to choose.

If you're a vegetarian, you might find it more than a bit challenging to eat in Portugal's restaurants. Meat dishes are very commonplace. In fact, even food items such as soups and vegetable-based dishes usually contain meat of some sort. Even if you find a soup that seems to be made predominantly from vegetables, there's a fairly good chance that it was made with a meat-based broth or cooked with meat bones. Purely vegetable-based dishes are rare in most Portuguese restaurants. However, if you're goal is to simply avoid red meat, you'll find fish dishes from which to choose. If you're a serious vegetarian or vegan, you might find it necessary to do most of your food shopping in the area markets, where you'll find an assortment of vegetables, fruits, nuts and grains from which to choose.

If you're looking for the best value for your money, be sure to check out some of the traditional local restaurants. In addition to saving money, you'll be able to sample some of the more traditional Portuguese dishes. Although the surroundings might be simple, the food is often exceptional. If you plan to pay with a credit card, it's a good idea to ask the restaurant in advance if they accept them. Many people who travel to Portugal are surprised to find that credit cards aren't universally accepted in restaurants.

Where to Stay in Portugal

If you're visiting Portugal, it can be quite worthwhile to look into the various government-run accommodations that can be found throughout the country. For example, through the pousadas network, you can often find truly luxurious albeit expensive accommodations in monasteries or even palaces and castles. Turihab properties are another option to look into if you'd like to find a better value on your accommodations while visiting Portugal. By doing a bit of research before you travel, you'll be able to find interesting places to stay while also saving money.

Professional designer Jessica Ackerman, writes for WallDecorandHomeAccents.com, and specializes in decorating with contemporary wall artwork and trees wall sculptures.

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