How to Get Around Portugal
Portugal has long flown under the radar of amazing travel destinations compared to its southern European neighbours Spain and Italy. But in recent years, it has become increasingly popular, and for good reason. Digital nomads may flock to Lisbon for its low-cost of living and high-quality of life, and there are endless reasons to holiday and travel here.
As a diverse and affordable place to viist, Portugal is a traveller’s dream. This Iberian land is home to cosmopolitan cities and traditional villages, sandy beaches, UNESCO World Heritage Sites and rich, vibrant architecture. A night out in Portugal could be a Bohemian cafe or Fado music, Portugal’s melancholic equivalent to the blues.
The country is also small enough that, for more active travellers at least, taking in most of the country in one week or two weeks is a real possibility. With that in mind, we have written up this handy breakdown of how to get around Portugal, and what you need to bear in mind.
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If travelling for you is about the journey and less about the destination, then why not consider a road trip? This is certainly more costly than the above options, but driving gives you the freedom and flexibility to see Portugal as you wish.
Thanks to an EU-funded programme, many of Portugal’s roads have been vastly improved over the past few years, and driving is generally safe here. Although you will still encounter long, windy roads (often bumpy and single lane), rural areas are now far more accessible. Whether it is taking in the countryside or driving down the coast, a Portuguese road trip is increasingly feasible.
Car hire in Portugal is relatively inexpensive, with local rates starting at under $170 a week. Many of Portugal’s highways are tolled, so check with your car-rental company beforehand on how to handle these costs. Taking regional and national road and missing out the highways will save you money by avoiding the tolls. You will also take in the beautiful scenery of the coast.
Portugal’s trains draw together two great elements of travelling here: its relative lack of expense and its beautiful scenery.
Travelling from Braga in the far north, you can take in the north’s beautiful scenery as you work your way down to Faro in the southern edge. On average this trip will cost $78, but it can be as little as $21 if you book in advance.
Taking this route, known as Alfa Pendular, also allows you stop and take in Porto, Lisbon and Coimbra. These prices vary regardless of whether you travel by high-speed or regular rail. Trains here are among the least expensive in Europe, and you can travel within a city for around $2.
Again, the buses are inexpensive, and they are also cheaper than the trains. The Braga to Faro trip will cost you just under $40 and take a little more than eight hours. Given Portugal’s size, getting around by bus isn’t too arduous, with similar routes to the trains and additional routes to smaller cities and villages. Explore the Rede Expressos line, which has 200 buses going to destinations across Portugal, and RENEX will take you from Lisbon to cities in the south.
The bus is a better option if you are looking to get in to rural areas and small villages. Clue up on a few key Portuguese words and phrases if you use the buses to go off the beaten path. There tends to be less English spoken on these routes, and the buses in these destinations are not as reliable and less frequent.