"Couvert" was the reason for a strong controversy in Portugal, forcing the government to publish specific regulation, but it keeps originating some confusion.
A few months ago someone alerted in VT for the risks of being charged "couvert" and another VTer showed her surprise, because "we are supposed to pay what we eat". Let´s clarify it:
Many years ago, some restaurants decided to offer their costumers small dishes with starters, to calm the client while the ordered meal was prepared. Those starters where not listed and not charged (of course, the meal's price would largely cover it). That "gentleness" was well received, and the use spread, even to restaurants whose price policy couldn't allow "the offer" and they started to charge it.
That was the beginning of the controversy:
"Why should I pay something I didn't order?"
But things got worse, with restaurants charging "couvert" for... nothing. It was a sort of tax for sitting at the table.
That was the time when the government interfered and produced the actual legislation.
What should you expect now?
Charging "couvert" is illegal. If someone puts something in your table that you didn't order, you don't have to consume (or pay) it, and may leave it untouched or ask the waiter to take it back.
Though the best keep "offering" some starters, you may expect to be charged for the articles that you started to eat, and only those (eating one olive means paying the whole dish, of course), if their price was listed in the menu.
The strongest risk now, is that some restaurants try to charge everything that they brought to table, even the untouched items. that's illegal!
PS Another common practice is the offering of a "gentleness" at the end of your meal - there's no risk in that, except for your health (and police control, if you're driving)
This happened to me in Lisbon, but it is a tip that might just as well apply in other airports in Portugal.
I'm ashamed to say that in Lisbon, my own city, in the place where I've been in countless times (airport), and in the service I've used many times in the past, I or rather, we (as I was with my husband when it happened) could still fall victim to an airport taxi driver's ruse.
We had just arrived at the airport from a longish trip, it was quite dark and we were just plain tired, so instead of the airport bus, we decided to take an airport taxi. It was going to be just a very short ride, around 5 minutes, as we just wanted to get to the Roma/Areeiro train station which is very close. From previous taxi rides to the station, I knew that the bill would be between 6 to 7 euros. The driver was a young man, quite enthusiastic, his taxi was a new Mercedes, nice-smelling inside with a GPS and all, we were glad to have the good luck to get into a comfortable taxi after a tiring day. So off we go, and before we knew it we had arrived. The driver pressed the button for the price and then told my husband how much everything was. I was already half out of the car so didn't hear very well. The driver was pulling our two bags and my husband was handing him the money, and I was somehow surprised that for the 20 euro bill, my husband got back a few little coins. But I didn't bother as it never crossed my mind that a driver here would even think of ripping off his own fellow Portuguese -- my husband was even chatting with him, it was pretty obvious we were no tourists. Besides I was tired.
It was only after he speeded off, that I asked my husband how much it was and he said about 16 euros! I was shocked and angry, now I realised why the guy was in a hurry to get out the bags and give back the change and drive away. Apparently, he had said that each bag in the trunk has a fee -- like 4 euros each! We were sort of robbed with our eyes open. And I had ourselves to blame for not paying attention... I admit we were tired, but we were also complacent trusting that we were in our own place and nothing like this could have happened. Thus, the driver must have sensed we were gullible at that moment.
It was my first time to have experienced this in all my years of taking the airport taxi, most of the drivers are honest. I certainly hope it was the last!
Unique Suggestions: Be aware that there is no such ridiculous thing as a baggage fee in taxis, airport or any other taxi. The price to pay is exactly what is said in the taxi meter. To have an idea of how much to pay, consult the price indication posted on the taxi's left passenger window's side -- they are obliged to demand only what's provided by law as written in that notice.
Fun Alternatives: Take the Airport Bus, if you're getting off anywhere along the route the bus takes.
Nazare has a nice beach, so if that is what you want then i guess the place is ok.
Apart from that i don´t find it very nice at all.
It used to have a lot of charm because you had the fishermen pulling the boats up on the beach in the afternoon after a day at sea and the place had a real portugese feel to it.
Today it has just become a place that lives on former glory and it´s one of the only places in Portugal where i have seen the waiters cheat the tourists real bad.
That goes especially for the beach front restaurants.
I have been there several times as a tour guide with groups and the company i work for has now decided to skip Nazare in the future cause the experience is always ruined by some waiter who rips someone from the group off.
This could be a really nice place if it wasen´t for the greed of the people who serve the tourists, so i hope that will change soon.
Unique Suggestions: Stay away from the beach front cafes and restaurants and go a few blocks up the hill and you are a lot less likely to get cheated.
Evora is a white town located in the Alentejo region.
I think the only interesting thing in this town is the Cathedral and its museum.
Accomodations in Evora are not cheap.
Unique Suggestions: After having visited the Cathedral and done some shopping you could head for Evoramonte. It is a village with a circular castle. Within its walls there are some white houses with high chimneys. This part of the village is very nice.
In Portugal, at times we tried to follow signs reading "Oficina de Turismo" - Tourist Information Office - over and over without finding any. In some cases, when we finally found it, it was off the opening hours. The point is that we never knew what are the opening hours, which may change from place to place.
In small towns we gave up chasing such offices under a scorching sun, good thing we had detailed maps and enough information in our pockets prepared before the trip.
If and when an open office is found, the people are kind and the available information is satisfactory to proceed on your own. If you look for accommodation, lists of hotels may be offered but no calling or reservation is made by the office personnel.
Unique Suggestions: Search the net for information along the way before reaching the next place to be visited. True, it can also be difficult to find web access but a good number of cybercafes is developing throughout the country. Ask youngsters for directions.
When you take over your rental car at Lisbon airport be aware of the following: The whole process takes time! Make sure that every scratch at the car is registred and marked in the papers. Very often the antenna is missing (sometimes hidden some where in the car).Make sure that the safety vest is on board - it is mandatory! Mostly fuel is only 9/10 full, although the fuel gage looks as if it would be 10/10.
Recently we refueld the car 10 km before reaching the airport and the rental company "Drive" made us pay EURO 12,50 for a pretend missing amount of fuel! Could not really finalise the discussion with them as we had to catch our flight. Thus plan enough time - also for the return of your car!
Don't even attempt to cash in your travellers cheques at the various banks.....the charge a commission upwards of 12-15 %!
Unique Suggestions: The various small currency exchange booths offer a much more reasonable rate.
Fun Alternatives: Don't bring travellers cheques at all. I found them to be more of a nuisance than anything. A credit card is all you really need. There are atm's throughout Lisbon as well as many other places.
While in Lisbon most want to get a feel for Fado, which is the music of Lisbon, literally meaning "fate". If you can find the right place I've been told it can be one of the greatest experiences you will have in Lisbon.....however beware as MANY Fado places are tourist traps where they slap you with a hefty cover charge and over-priced dinners which leave you broke by the end of your evening.
Unique Suggestions: Best tip is to go where the locals go to listen to fado....this was easier said then done for me!
Fun Alternatives: By a fado cd.....it will last a lot longer and you can enjoy beautiful fado for a fraction of the price.
If you want to avoid the above don't go to
Albufeira and many other places along the Algarve.
These places have become tourist resorts like the Costa del Sol in Spain. You'll mainly find Brits here! British restaurants, food, adverts etc. This is not real Portugal there are better places to go.
Unique Suggestions: Travel around as much as you can. Try to speak portugese words to them even if they speak English to you. Try to find typical Portugese restaurants.
Fun Alternatives: Sintra or the provinces of Alentejo with their walled fortress towns and beautiful countryside.
If you want sea try Tavira (one of the least touristy places on the Algarve), or further up north. Portugal has a long coastline! I am told that Olhao on the Algarve is not very touristy at all.
there are many posibilities to see fado, you really don't need to pay a lot and eat when the 'profesional' singer is singing just because of money
Unique Suggestions: don't expect too much
Fun Alternatives: go to barrio alto in lisbon at night and for shure you would find a bar with fado night, there u could enjoy amater singers singing for free - it's really a great experience
Those gorgeous gardens of Belem are worth a separated visit, as I said they are huge, and they are wonderful, each meter hides a statue or a fountain or a sculpture, if you think you will be satisfied in visiting those green wonders, you should organize a full day for them! so please keep this in your mind!
Be careful when plonking your self down on a sunbed on the main beach at Albuferia, we made that mistake and it cost us 25 euros for the privilage! 3 beds and a parasol! Go further away from the main area, the prices are significantly better.
Fun Alternatives: An alternative? well the sand is free! and I dont know about you, but I want to use my money for other things.
I was desperate to see Fado in Lisboa my first time there. I had heard that there were (shows) at restaurants and that they werenýt good, but as time passed and I didnýt see any other alternative to (seeing fado IN Portugal) I went..
It was pretty bad, old off key singers, expensive mediocre food. At the end of each performance the singer walks around trying to hawk their tape to you.
If you donýt want to eat dinner there, the shows cost about the price of dinner to get into.. I think it would be fun to go to one of these shows for the irony/Norma Desmond sort of factor, but not for serious fado.
Unique Suggestions: If you find yourself eating in one of these places, at least you shouldnýt have to pay for the show. Sit back and think of it as a very melancholy lounge act in a cheap hotel..
Fun Alternatives: There are some real dives in Bairro Alto that I heard fado coming from.. I could never get in closer than the doorway, but it was really cool, and didnýt cost a cent... save the euro or 2 I spent on wine.
Go to a real Fado concert, one advertised in a concert hall.. This is where Iýve seen good fado.
I wouldn't tour Portugal with a tour group. Those organized groups are often expensive, overlook many good places, and never give enough time to see everything. The country is small enough to be seen using inexpensive public transportation, and this way you can go at your own pace and take time to take a closer look at what really interests you. In Lisbon for example, the open-top bus tours are a waste of money because you can reach the same places in a short ride in one of the old trams or by taking the modern subway. By avoiding those tours, you can save a lot of money and do see a lot more.
buying boat trips in lagos in the algave is a bit of circus because the competition drives the companies to sometimes promise more than they can keep.
i would suggest that you buy your trips through an agency or book through your hotel, since there are a few bad companies in town that tries to sell their trips in the streets and are not very good.
Unique Suggestions: bom dia is the best company in town for boat trips.
Fun Alternatives: hire a car or a bicycle and go up the mountains.
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