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The Just Student Jobs Country guide for gap year travel in Europe - Portugal

Where to Go - Europe (exc UK)

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Population: 10,048,232

Literacy rate: 87.4%

Life expectancy at birth: male – 72.24 yrs, female – 79.49 yrs

Infant mortality rate: 6.05 deaths /1,000 live births

Population growth rate: 0.18%

GDP growth rate: 3.2%

GDP per capita: £10,300

Unemployment: 4.6%

Inflation: 2.4%

TI index: 6.4

Climate: maritime temperate; cool and rainy in north, warmer and drier in south

Time: GMT + 1 (GMT + 2 from last Sunday in March to Saturday before last Sunday in October).

Electricity: 220 volts AC, 50Hz. 110 volts in some areas and 220 DC in parts of the south. Continental 2-pin plugs are in use.

Websites: A wealth of information on what to do and places to see while there can also be found at

Portugal Online is a comprehensive guide for all things Portuguese and can be found at

Country Guide

Until 1974, this country was in a 1930s timewarp – governed by an isolationist fascist dictatorship. There were informers for the secret police, oppression of dissent and a claustrophobic, church-dominated hierarchy. The May revolution was a model of restraint – only one person was hurt. After this, the country emerged into to 20 th century, divested itself of its colonies and generally started to make up for the previous 40 years. Recently, Portugal has been catching up with the rest of Europe with a vengeance. It qualified for the EMU in 1998 and launched it in 1999.

The interior can still be very primitive (but charming). Lisbon and Oporto have some very good points – Lisbon has more cinemas per head of population than New York; Oporto has the port wine lodges and one of the world’s best train rides down the valley of the Douro and there are also some excellent night-clubs where good jazz is played. The Portuguese are slowly coming to grips with the big, wide world and can sometimes seem to be insular, but they can also be wonderfully warm-hearted and friendly once they get to know you. Watch out for Portuguese bureaucracy – a real killer.

The north can be cold and rainy in winter, the south hot and dry. The country is divided by the Tagus (Tejo) – to the north the terrain is hilly and rocky; to the south (the Alentejo – “beyond Tejo”) the land is flat, arid and infertile. The far south is only for tourists – the Algarve has more fish and chip shops than many British cities.

Lisbon is not the only place to look for a job, the rest of the country can be a profitable hunting ground – but Lisbon is really the hub and centre. It may be a good idea, especially if you are just starting out or a fed up with rush and hurry in big cities, to check out some of the quieter towns – Aveiro; Coimbra (although quiet, it is the home of Portugal'’s most prestigious university - Oxford and Cambridge rolled into one); Póvoa de Varzim; Braga (where there are 366 churches) and you may even find work in the Azores or Madeira (although this is difficult).

Food and drink excellent. Apart from the superb, cheap wine there are several outstanding local beers. Don’t neglect the seafood restaurants.

Don’t confuse the Spanish with the Portuguese – they dislike each other and can’t understand each other’s languages – or at least pretend not to. If you rent a car, remember that this country has the worst traffic accident record in Europe – most Portuguese would be dangerous with a horse and cart, but with a car….

Entry requirements

EU nationals must get a residency permit after three months. Non-EU nationals should also refer to this comment and get a contract before travelling.


Tranquillisers for the bureaucracy, apart from that – nothing special.

Tax and Insurance

After nine months you must start to pay tax – around 20%. EU nationals can get health care – surprisingly good – but it is always advisable to have insurance.

Getting Around

Click here for further information on great value bus travel with Busabout

Gap Year Programmes

Click here to find gap year programmes and placements in Portugal

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