Advice about Visiting Portugal

Archived Q&A and Reviews


Getting around in Portugal

March 2013

We will visit Portugal for 2 weeks in May and will land and leave from Lisbon. We do not drive a stick shift car and wonder if anyone has rented an automatic and what company you used. What was it like to drive there and how were the roads? Alternatively, what is it like to take public transportation only? We are thinking of visiting Lisbon and Porto and the little cities between them or we may visit areas on the Southern coast too. We would rent the car to see the small towns. If we didn't have a car we would go to fewer places. Any recommendations on places to visit and where to stay? Thank you lupine15

We went to Portugal in 2006, starting in Lisbon and then renting a car and driving up to Porto. From there we took the train across the border into Spain so that we could go to Santiago. I found that automatic cars were significantly more expensive to rent than manual. We wound up renting a manual even though it had been 10 years or so since my husband had driven one. He did fine except for the first day out in a hilly, crowded town with lots of traffic (that was fun!). I think the company we used was called Eurocar. They had offices in the airport and all the train stations, although in Porto the place where we had to return the car was in the middle of a business district and hard to reach because of oneway streets. The roads are excellent. The highways are wide, smooth and modern, not too crowded. The backroads are well marked and easy to navigate.

We didn't pick up our first car until leaving Lisbon as the public transit in the capital is excellent. We took trams, buses and taxis around the city, and caught a bus to the airport the morning we picked up our rental car. We spent about a week driving from Lisbon to Porto with a few days along the way. Our driving itinerary was Lisbon -- Sintra--Obidos--Tomar (templar castle)--Conimbriga (Roman ruins)--Coimbra (university town--founded in the 1200s)--Porto (for the last leg of the trip we swung inland and drove up the Douro valley to Porto--spectacular!). Then we caught a train to Vigo, Spain, and did a similarly leisurely drive up to Santiago.

If you can swing it, try to stay in at least one pousada (the Portuguese equivalent of Spanish paradores). We stayed in the castle in the walled town of Obidos and it was lovely. LIke many of the small touristy places near LIsbon, it feels like a completely different, magical place if you spend the night and see it after the buses leave. You can walk the medieval walls and peer into all kinds of tiny plazas and gardens. Portugal Dreaming

We went to Portugal on our honeymoon and only used trains and buses. If I were to do it again (and I hope to someday, with our daughter), I would definitely rent a car for part of the time and go explore the south, which I've heard is lovely. My husband and I absolutely loved Lisbon, and we took a day trip to the nearby beach town of Cascais by train, which was fun and relaxing. We also visited Sintra by bus and had a surprisingly wonderful time there. Those areas you can easily visit without a car. Then we took a train to Porto. I was very eager to visit Porto, but I personally found the town to be really creepy and dead. I enjoyed the cave tours and port tasting, and visited an interesting art museum and music center, but overall it was a disappointing end to our fabulous trip. Just my two cents. Have a wonderful time! Loved (most of) Portugal

Getaway to Portugal without the kids

Sept 2008

I'm going to a conference in Portugal for work and my husband is joining me afterwards for a 7 days getaway without kids. Yahoo! Do we stay in Portugal or travel over to Spain? We're looking at a mellow time: eating, reading, and sleeping. Might like to rent a house as a base, take day trips, shop at local markets and cook. Any suggestions?

-- Have my passport and know how to use it.

For a relaxing time, Faro, Lagos, or Lisboa are the best places to get away from it all. Lagos is really beautiful and the potential to drive along the coast to other parts is wonderful. It also leaves the opportunity to drive over to Spain's southern autonomous community Andalucia! I love the EU's schengen accord for that! The variety in cuisines aren't what you are used to in the U.S., but that's part of the cultural difference. Enjoy! Anne

We did a Spain and Portugal vacation about 10 years and both of us ended up loving Portugal. We stayed about five nights in Lisbon and maybe another three in a little coastal town called Tavira (on the Mediterranean if I remember correctly). If I were you, I would stay in Portugal for those last seven days. There is a lot to see and do there and we found the people to be friendlier and speak more English than the Spaniards. It's also less expensive. If we had had a few more days we would have traveled to northern Portugal to see the area where port is from. We relied heavily on Rick Steves' Spain and Portugal book. You will have a great time! Portugal lover