Discover more from Our Portugal Journey
Wildfires Everywhere and New Visa Requirements for Americans Traveling to Europe
Two mini posts in one.
Sometimes my personal experiences or topics I want to write about don’t merit an entire blog post, so I don’t always write about them. So, here are two mini posts – one about wildfires in Portugal and one about new visa requirements for Americans traveling to Europe.
Mini Post 1: Wildfires everywhere.
While planning a move to Portugal, I didn’t really think about the possibility of wildfires there. Having lived nearly 20 years in the Arizona desert, Paul and I had seen firsthand the damage, death, and destruction those fires could cause – not only to humans but to wildlife as well. The home we owned in the community of Anthem, Arizona backed up a natural greenspace (also known as a wash) – and it was the perfect environment for a fire to start in the dry and brittle brush. Paul always had an extra-long garden hose hooked up in the backyard just in case and we were sure to keep backyard shrubbery away from the view fence. We had a little go-bag all set for our dog next to the door leading to the garage if we ever needed it. Most of our important documents, we took the time to scan and store in the cloud. We had a hand truck ready to pick up our small safe containing other valuables to put in the car in case we had to quickly leave. Thankfully, we never had to use any of our precautions.
The closest we ever personally came to a wildfire evacuation was just a year before we left Arizona. The winds were fierce that day – I believe they’re called the Santa Ana Winds – and the fire came to less than 3 miles from the home we were renting. Over the years, there were more and more fires getting closer and closer to communities with strong winds carrying the fire across the arid, drought-driven land. I was glad to be leaving Arizona.
Portugal has wildfires and forest fires too.
I didn’t realize the frequency and severity of wildfires and forest fires in Portugal until recently. Especially at high risk, are districts in the interior north and center of the country as well as the south Alentejo region and many parts of the Algarve. Drought conditions in many parts of the country have been attributed to the increase in fires, but there are other reasons as well. According to this resource, out of all the European countries, Portugal has been most affected by wildfires over the past decade. Some of this is due to poor forest management and firefighting techniques (many firefighters are volunteers). After the tragic Portugal wildfires in 2017 that claimed the lives of 117 souls, a concerted effort began to make improvements including regulations about clearing brush, burn bans in rural areas, fire safety education, and frequent and updated communication.
Wind plays an important role.
Fellow Substack writer, Alastair Leithead, who writes Off-Grid and Ignorant in Portugal, learned firsthand last year when the winds suddenly picked up and an unexpected wildfire came dangerously close to his rural property. His description of the fear of possibly losing everything and having to evacuate is both a cautionary tale and a chilling one.
Familiar Arizona sounds in Portugal.
One summer evening a few weeks ago, as we were preparing dinner, Paul and I heard a sound that had been familiar to us in Arizona – air tanker planes. They were flying over our apartment building and across the ocean skimming the surface to pick up ocean water. And on the ocean horizon - a huge, expanding cloud of orange smoke. Paul just looked at me and said, “fire”. I asked him where he thought the fire was and he thought Cascais or maybe Sintra. It was a sobering thought. We began checking Facebook posts from Safe Communities Portugal (a fantastic, non-profit resource I can highly recommend) and sure enough, there was information on a wildfire in the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park. Several small villages in the area were at risk as well as a large animal shelter.
It took nearly 5 hours to contain the fire and included a combination of firefighters, police, and citizens all pitching in together. There were no casualties reported.
Although I think we’re safe in the area we live in, this was a good reminder to us that fires or other natural disasters can happen anywhere no matter where you live on this earth and that you should always be prepared.
Mini Post 2: New visa requirements for Americans traveling to Europe.
I had heard some talk a while back about a new travel visa requirement for Americans traveling to Europe, but didn’t really think about it until my friend, Amy recently brought this to my attention (thanks, Amy) as this will affect friends and family who may be planning to visit you in Portugal. It is also helpful to know if you’re planning a scouting trip to Portugal in 2024 or beyond.
Beginning in 2024, people from over 60 currently visa-exempt countries (U.S. included) will be required to have a travel authorization to enter most European countries. Previously, American travelers with U.S. passports had visa-free access to many foreign destinations. But starting in 2024, the European Union will add this new requirement for U.S. visitors.
You’ll be able to do this online through the European Travel Information and Authorization System (ETIAS) before visiting European countries. Here’s how the process will work:
Fill out the travel application form on the ETIAS website or mobile app. The fee in most cases will be 7 EUR per applicant.
Most applications will be processed within minutes, but it is possible that your application may take longer to process. In some instances, it could take up to 30 days to approve your application, so it is advisable to apply for the travel authorization well in advance of your travel plans – even before you purchase your travel ticket or book your accommodations.
You’ll receive an email (check your spam filter) confirming the submission of your application. This will include a unique ETIAS application number that you should keep for future reference.
Once your application is processed; you’ll receive another email informing you of either your approval or denial.
If your application is refused, the email will provide the reasons for the decision and will include information on how to appeal.
Valid for 3 years.
The travel authorization is valid for three years or until the travel document you used in your application (such as a passport), expires – whichever comes first.
Note that this travel authorization is for short-term stays in many European countries (includes Portugal). This does not apply to long-term stay visa holders. The authorization will entitle you to stay in the European countries that require ETIAS for up to 90 days within any 180-day period.
Just like any other travel document, you are required to keep your valid ETIAS travel authorization during your entire stay.
The ETIAS travel authorization is linked to your travel document (such as a passport). Be sure to carry the same document you used in your ETIAS application. Otherwise, you’ll be unable to board a flight, bus, or ship to enter any of the European countries requiring ETIAS.
When you arrive at the border, border control will verify that you meet the entry requirements.
For more information, go to the ETIAS website.
COMING UP IN THE NEXT POST: The Housing Situation in Portugal. Finding a Place to Live - Part One. Dropping in your email Inbox and on the Substack App on September 21st.
Thanks for supporting Our Portugal Journey. My blog is free to subscribers. If you like my work, consider buying me a coffee (or a glass of wine), or simply share my blog with others. Whichever way you choose to support my work, I deeply appreciate it!
If you’re having trouble navigating the Buy me a Coffee platform, I’ve created a little step-by-step tutorial on how to do it:
Until next time…
Thanks for reading Our Portugal Journey! Subscribe for free to receive new posts and support my work.