Porto: What You Should Know Before You Go
Many people think of the golden beaches of the Algarve when Portugal is mentioned, but there is a lot more to this Iberian country than that. Porto (or Oporto) is a coastal city at the mouth of the Douro river, 200 miles north of Portugal’s capital city, Lisbon, and 100 miles south of Spain. If all you know about the city is that its most famous export is Port wine, you may want to brush up on some useful facts before you hire a car in Porto.
The siesta is not just a Spanish phenomenon: You’ll find that most shops in Porto close between 12:00 and 2:00pm, although banks will stay open from 8:30am until 3:00pm. Most shops also only open until 1:00pm on Saturdays and remain shut on Sunday. Stores in shopping malls are more customer-friendly, however, staying open seven days a week between 10:00am and 11:00pm.
Portugal likes its public holidays. There are quite a few of them (see below), and things really do come to a standstill whenever there is one. Furthermore, if a public holiday occurs on a Tuesday or a Thursday, locals are likely to extend the holiday to make a long weekend, with the Monday or the Friday becoming a ponte (bridge) or another random day off.
These are the official holidays:
New Year’s Day, January 1 — Dia de Ano Novo;
Ash Tuesday (February/March) — Carnaval;
Good Friday (March/April) — Sexta Feira Santa;
Liberty Day, April 25, marking the 1974 Democratic Revolution — Dia Vinte Cinco de Abril/Revolução dos Cravos (the Carnation Revolution);
Labour Day, May 1 — Dia do Trabalhador;
Corpus Christi (late-May/early-June) — Corpo de Deus;
Portugal Day, June 10 — Dia de Portugal;
St. John’s Day, June 24, celebrating Porto’s patron saint — Dia de S. Joao;
Assumption Day, August 15 — Festa da Assunção;
Republic Day, October 5, commemorating the 1910 Republican Revolution — Dia da Instauração da República;
All Saints’ Day, November 1 — Dia de Todos os Santos;
December 1, commemorating restoration of independence from Spain in 1640 — Dia da Restauração;
Immaculate Conception, December 8 — Dia da Imaculada Conceicao;
Christmas Day, December 25 — Natal.
Porto’s biggest festival is the feast of St. John, its patron saint, on the night of June 23rd to June 24th. Literally thousands of people pile onto the streets, dancing, drinking, talking to strangers, and having a good time. If you like big, boisterous festivals, you’ll love it; otherwise, you might want to book your car hire trip for another time.
Renting a car in Porto is essential for travelling outside the city. Public transport is the most reliable way to get around Porto itself, particularly the metro, and taxis are also relatively inexpensive. If you want to do any travel outside the city – north to Braga, for example – you really will need a hire car, however. One option is to hire a car for a driving tour around northern Portugal and then use public transport to tour the city.
As in most of Europe, Portugal does not have a widespread tipping culture. Tip about 10 % in city-centre restaurants, and if you feel you received superb service, feel free to tip more. When you are using taxis, however, you can tip as much as you like. It is generally recommended to round the fare up to the nearest €5 and tell the driver to keep the change.
English is very widely spoken in Portugal – even more so than in Spain and France. Other languages are not as common, but you will always find somebody with a grasp of the principal European languages in the main tourist areas. Speak slowly and use simple phrases to make yourself easier to understand.
Now that you have an idea of what to expect, book your car hire in Porto with Nova Car Hire. We make travel easier.