Home to world-class beaches, attractive and exciting cities and protected natural parks, Portugal is the kind of place where it’s hard to limit yourself to one place. Fortunately, the country has an excellent, affordable transport network – as well as plenty of rental opportunities for two and four-wheeled vehicles – making traveling around this Iberian wonder a breeze. Here’s how to get around Portugal.
Portugal has an extensive rail network that spans almost the entire country, allowing affordable, comfortable, convenient and often scenic trips between destinations. Trains connect to popular tourist spots such as Lisbon, Faro, Lagos, Porto and Figueria da Foz, while international connections serve Paris and Madrid.
CP (Comboios de Portugal) is the main rail operator in the country, operating four main types of long distance services (note that international services are marked IN on the timetables):
- Regional (R): slow trains that stop almost everywhere.
- Interregional (IR): faster services that skip smaller stations.
- Intercidade (IC): express trains which tend to stop only in large cities.
- Alfa Pendular Deluxe: slightly faster than express trains and much more expensive.
Only Faro-Porto Comboio Azul and international trains such as Sud-Expresso and Talgo Lusitânia have dining cars, although all IC and Alfa trains have aisle service and most have bars.
Lisbon and Porto have their own urbano (suburban) rail networks. The Lisbon network extends to Sintra, Cascais, Setúbal and in the lower valley of the Tejo. The Porto network takes the definition of “suburb” to new lengths, extending to Braga, Guimarães and Aveiro. Urbano services also run between Coimbra and Figueira da Foz.
Trains can be booked online via the CP official website, or at stations across the country. Intercidade and Alfa Pendular tickets up to 30 days in advance, although you usually have little trouble booking for the next day or even the same day. Other services can only be booked 24 hours in advance.
It should be noted that children under five travel for free and those between five and 12 travel at half price. Additionally, travelers aged 65 and over can get 50% off any service by showing ID.
Cheaper than trains, but slower and generally less comfortable, buses are ideal for getting around Portugal on a shoestring budget, or for visiting smaller towns and villages (especially far from the coast) that aren’t on the safe side. the rail network.
A multitude of small private bus operators, most of them merged into regional companies, manage a dense network of services across the country. Among the greatest are Rede Expressos, Rodonorte and the Algarve line Eva Transportes.
Bus services fall into three main categories:
- Carreiras: marked “CR”, these are slow services, stopping at all intersections.
- Expressos and Rápidas: Comfortable and fast buses. The former tends to circulate between large cities, the latter around specific regions. These tend to be the most popular with tourists.
- Alta Qualidade: A category of fast luxury offered by some companies.
Even in summer, you will have no problem booking an espresso ticket for the same day or the next day. On the other hand, local services can be reduced to almost nothing on weekends, especially in the summer when school is out. For precise information on timetables and prices, go to the ticket office at the bus station, available in most cities.
Car and motorbike
Exploring Portugal on two or four wheels is a great way to see the country, allowing you to move around freely without being tied to the public transport network. The country’s modest network of estradas (highways) is gradually spreading across the country, and the main roads are paved and generally in good condition. Driving can be tricky in the small walled towns of Portugal, however, where the roads can shrink to the size of a donkey cart before you know it and evil one-way systems can force you down. move away.
Nationals of EU countries, UK, USA and Brazil only need their domestic driver’s license to drive a car or motorcycle in Portugal. Others should obtain an International Driving Permit (IDP) through an automobile licensing service or automobile club in their home country.
Renting a car in Portugal is relatively straightforward and rental outfits can be found in major cities and major airports like Lisbon, Porto and Faro. Competition has driven the Algarve’s fares to lower prices than elsewhere, and booking in advance will usually save you money. Car rental companies available in the country include Amoita, Vacation cars and Europcar among many others.
Motorcycles and scooters can be hired in major cities and all over the Algarve coast. Expect to pay between € 30- € 60 per day for a scooter / motorbike.
By law, car seat belts must be worn in the front and rear seats, and children under 12 cannot ride in the front. Motorcyclists and their passengers must wear helmets and motorcycles must have their headlights on day and night. It is also illegal in Portugal to drive while talking on a cell phone.
Flights within mainland Portugal are expensive, and for short distances it’s not really worth considering. However, TAP offers several daily flights Lisbon-Porto and Lisbon-Faro (in less than an hour) all year round. For Porto in Faro, change in Lisbon.
Cycling is popular in Portugal, although there are few dedicated cycle paths. There are many possible routes in the mountainous national / natural parks of the north (in particular the Parque Nacional da Peneda-Gerês), along the coast or through the plains of Alentejo. Coastal trips are easiest from north to south, with prevailing winds. More demanding is the Serra da Estrela (which serves as the “mountain race” of the Tour de Portugal). You can also try the Serra do Marão between Amarante and Vila Real.
However, cycling conditions are not perfect everywhere, with paved roads in some centers of the old town likely to break your teeth if your tires aren’t big enough; they must be at least 38 mm in diameter.
Local bike clubs regularly organize Passeio BTT trips; consult their flyers at rental agencies, bicycle shops and turismos. There are many places to rent bikes, especially in the Algarve and other tourist areas. Prices vary from € 10 to € 25 per day. Guided trips are often available to popular tourist destinations.
Boxed or bagged bicycles can be carried free of charge on all regional and interregional trains as accompanied baggage. They can also be unpacked on a few commuter services on weekends or for a small fee outside of peak hours. Most national bus lines do not accept bicycles on board.
Getting on one of Portugal’s archaic trams has become one of the country’s must-see experiences. These charming, clicking relics roll through the narrow streets of Lisbon and Porto, and are a good way to get a cheap sightseeing tour of both cities. For this reason, they are often very busy in the height of summer – opt for an early morning trip to secure your seat.
Accessible transport in Portugal
Disabled facilities in Portugal are somewhat limited. While public offices and agencies are required to provide access and facilities for people with disabilities, private companies are not. Newer and larger hotels tend to have adapted rooms, although the facilities may not be up to par; ask the local turismo. Most campsites have accessible toilets and some hostels have facilities for people with disabilities.
Lisbon Airport is wheelchair accessible, while Porto and Faro airports have accessible toilets.
Parking spaces are allocated at many locations, but are frequently occupied. The EU parking card entitles visitors to the same street parking concessions as those granted to residents with disabilities.
Two useful resources for travelers with disabilities are Accessible Portugal, a Lisbon-based association promoting accessible tourism and the brains behind the excellent TUR4all Portugal application (Android and iOS), which functions as a database of tourism resources and services accessible across Portugal and Spain, and Secretaria do Nacional de Reabilitação, the national government organization representing people with disabilities. It provides information, provides links to useful operations and publishes guides (in Portuguese) that give advice on barrier-free accommodation, transport, shops, restaurants and sights.
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