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Posted on Jul 19, 2016 in Blog, Portugal

Should You Rent a Car in Portugal?

Should You Rent a Car in Portugal?

From time to time people write me with questions about their upcoming trips to Portugal. A common question that I get is, “Should I rent a car?”

Avoid this. Walk or take public transportation.

Avoid this. Walk or take public transportation.

Several years ago I suggested a friend rent a car to travel to Évora, a town in the Alentejo region known for its Roman ruins and medieval palaces and churches. Last year, when we went there ourselves, we had no problem using public transportation. We saw the countryside from the window of our comfortable air-conditioned bus, and the town itself was quite walkable. We have traveled to a number of other cities and towns in Portugal via public transportation, including Sintra, Cascais, Óbidos (which is a bit of a pain because there is a bus transfer in Caldas das Rainhas (route to Leiria) and then a cab ride to the medieval castle that’s the town’s attraction), Tomar, Coimbra, Aveiro, and Porto. We know we can take short bus or train trips to other spots we have yet to visit — Nazaré on the Atlantic Coast (a popular surfing destination but also one known for the devoutly Catholic widows dressed in black), Setúbal, a city south of the Tejo about an hour from Lisbon, and Guimarães, a city east of Porto that served as the country’s capital in the early Middle Ages.

Richard and I don’t like to drive, and we’re willing to put up with the inconveniences of public transportation — being tied to a schedule, possible delays (mass transportation generally runs on time, unless there’s a strike or other rare circumstance), taking taxis from station to hotel or city center (relatively inexpensive in Portugal) , buying tickets (speaking Portuguese helps, though English is widely spoken throughout the country), and limited access to the countryside. Having Portuguese friends with cars means we’ve seen rural villages, though we’re pretty much city people anyway. But if you want to explore rural areas or the wine country on your own, without having to sign onto a tour, renting a car is a good idea. The same if you want to travel to the Algarve, the country’s principal resort area.

The Lisbon neighborhood of Mouraria has become popular with visitors. But do you want to drive in this?

The Lisbon neighborhood of Mouraria has become popular with visitors. But do you want to drive in this?

On the other hand, if you plan to spend all your time in Lisbon and/or Porto, I suggest you not rent a car. Parking is nearly impossible, streets (especially in Lisbon but also in older sections of Porto) are narrow, winding, poorly marked, and usually one way. They love traffic circles — do you? In Lisbon especially, a street will dead end, and the only way to get to the intersection marked on your map is via a staircase. And, no, cars are not allowed to go up and down staircases. Taxi drivers frequently get lost in their own city, which is not your city. Older sections of these (and other Portuguese cities) were not laid out by professional planners but by livestock centuries ago. If you’ve ever driven through Boston, you know what I mean. I know several travelers who needlessly complicated their vacation by renting a car in Lisbon.

On the other hand, public transportation in both Lisbon and Porto is excellent, and both cities are pedestrian-friendly compared with others throughout Europe (looking at you, Dublin!). If you get lost, there are plenty of friendly, English-speaking people to offer directions. The Lisbon metro runs more frequently than any similar metro or subway in the U.S., and the stations and trains are great places to find out about fun events for both locals and visitors. Since my insanely-popular feature, “Trendsetter and Hipster’s Guide to Enjoying Lisbon,” touchscreen kiosks have been installed in many metro stations to help you find concerts, museum exhibits, festivals, and more. In Lisbon, the 28 streetcar passes through many of the major tourist destinations, from the São Bento Palace that houses the Assembly of the Republic to the historic Alfama neighborhood. The only Lisbon destination where you may wish you had a car is the LX Factory, because the many bus lines that run there aren’t the most reliable. But, parking in that neighborhood is pretty close to impossible so you have a choice — wait for the bus, spend an equal amount of time cruising around for parking, or spring for a taxi. (We waited for the bus and took the first one that came to whatever metro station it dropped us off.)

If you do decide to rent a car in Portugal, here are some additional tips, beyond the usual for renting cars in any country:

  • Around 90% of rental cars are manual transmission. If you need a car with automatic transmission, you will have to reserve one in advance.
  • Most cars are compact. They need to be, to drive on roads built before cars existed.
  • Bridges and highways charge tolls. The easiest is to pay 10 euros for the transponder at the rental agency, and have your credit card billed. Otherwise, it gets complicated, involving a visit to a post office within 2-5 days where you may have to wait in line to pay.
  • Major highways and secondary roads are generally good, and our experience is that drivers in Portugal are no better or worse than most places (despite complaints you may have read on other sites). But the first rainy days of fall can be dangerous, much like the first snowy days in the northern United States. After three months of nonstop sunshine, people aren’t used to driving in rain.
  • Drunk driving laws are stricter than in the U.S. and taken very seriously. The legal limit is .05 BAC, so your wine tour will need a designated driver.
  • Driving is on the right side of the road, as in the U.S. In the Algarve, watch out for folks driving on the left. There, one-way streets may be everyone’s friend.
  • [added 5/17] Pedestrians in crosswalks have right-of-way. Please honor this rule, as one of those pedestrians may be me.

Feel free to contact me if you have additional questions, particularly about navigating public transportation. I’m a big fan of buses and trains, for worry-free travel and as a way of meeting people and getting to know the country in a way that most tourists do not.

P.S. (added 1/19): For more specific information about locations of car rental offices in Lisbon and the Algarve, check out this post.


  1. Hi there we are going to lisbon and planning to go to lagos. Would you recc we rent a car. we are there for seven days. We are also planning to go to porto on our own!

    Looking forward to your reply. thanks,

    • It’s good to have to have a car for any trip to the Algarve (where Lagos is). My suggestion, though, would be to rent the car at the airport, so you can just get on the highway and don’t have to drive through Lisbon’s streets, returning the car to the airport as well. If you spend time in Lisbon before or after leaving for Lagos, it’s really easy to get to and from the airport via the Metro. And if you take the train to Porto, which I recommend, the Oriente train station is three stops from the airport on the Metro or a short taxi ride. Have a great trip!

  2. How safe it is to drive a rental car in Portugal? What are road conditions and what are the traffic laws for foreigners?

    • Driving is generally safe in Portugal, with accident rates pretty much average for the EU. The main highways are good. Country roads are narrow and lack shoulders. Driving in Lisbon and the center of Porto is difficult because of narrow streets not on any particular grid, steep hills, and nowadays a lot of construction. I do not recommend renting a car to get around in either city. As far as traffic laws, driving is on the right as it is in most of Europe (exceptions are the UK, Ireland, Cyprus, and Malta) and most of the laws are standard. Signs are all monolingual in Portuguese.

  3. For a large family (8 people), do you recommend renting a car in Lisbon or would you recommend using public transportation? Are certain areas easier to get to within Lisbon with a car.

    • Once you go outside the area of the “7 Hills” (and its narrow streets and staircases) driving is more feasible. So Belém and points west, including Sintra and Cascais, are easy enough with a car, as are south across the river and east to the Oriente neighborhoods near the Parque das Naçōes, the aquarium, and the Vasco da Gama mall. With a family of 8, you would have to rent a van, which makes driving in the older parts of Lisbon even more challenging. The tourist areas of Alfama, Mouraria, Baixa, Chiado, Bairro Alto, and Principe Real are highly accessible by public transportation and a nightmare for driving. The LX factory in the Calvário neighborhood, which is worth a visit for the dining and shopping (including one of my favorite bookstores), is not well-served by public transportation but parking can be a problem at peak times.

      If you plan to drive a lot of places, it may be a good idea to book a hotel near the airport or Oriente train station, or else stay in a resort area in the suburbs like Cascais. You can get into the historic parts of Lisbon easily and the Metro and suburban rail both run late at night.

  4. Thank you for your post. We are a family of four, two teenage boys, me and my husband. Flying in and out of Lisbon in June. We don’t generally rent cars in Europe because of costs and find trains are easier. However, we are 13 days in Portugal and we are considering 5 days Lisbon then heading north and seeing Tomar , Coimbra and Obidos before landing in Porto for 4-5 days. We are active but love to visit cities too. I would love any suggestions. Maybe rent a car for three or four days? Did that in Italy. Any suggestions on places to stay appreciated. We generally vrbo so we have space during downtime but also like BnB type places. Hard to find family suites! Thank you in advance for any ideas, thoughts and suggestions!!

    • Thank you for your question! It sounds like you have a fun trip planned, and June is a good month — not too hot, probably, and a little before high season. As far as your question about the car, Tomar and Coimbra are quite accessible by train, though you will have to take a short taxi ride from the Coimbra-B station into the city. Obidos is not on a rail line, though the Rodovaria de Tejo bus ( does go there, from the Campo Grande station in Lisbon, and takes about an hour. This line started up the year after we went to Obidos by bus, and in those days (2012), the trip involved a transfer or a long taxi ride from Caldas das Rainhas.

      I also recommend a trip to Evora, which you can also do by bus if you don’t want to drive. It has a Chapel of Bones and Roman ruins that are worth seeing, as well as a cool little university area. Here’s my blog piece on Evora:

      In general, if you don’t want to rent a car to get to these places, you don’t have to. Having a car for the days that you visit places outside Lisbon and Porto is certainly a convenience, and with four people, you might not be paying more than the train or bus would cost. (It would also depend on whether they would charge you more for renting the car in Lisbon and dropping it off in Porto.) In any case, I would not recommend driving a car in either Lisbon (because of the hills and narrow streets) or Porto (because it’s impossible to park). Rent and drop off at the airport, then take the metro into either city.

      As far as places to stay, we usually stay at university housing or with friends, but Obidos, and I believe Tomar too, have medieval castles that have been turned into inns. They’re a bit of a splurge, but your boys will enjoy them. The same for Quinta das Lágrimas in Coimbra, but it has an interesting history that involves ghosts.

      If you locate an AirBnB in Lisbon and would like more information about the neighborhood where it’s located, please let me know here or via the contact form.

  5. Great article! I am travelling to Portugal with 5 of my friends in July 2018 and we are renting a car because we have booked a villa in the countryside near Sintra. Do you have any recommendations on an area that we could get a rental and somewhat avoid the crazy traffic (Sintra, Cascais, etc.)? I have heard horror stories about driving from Lisbon to Sintra so if we could travel to a smaller town by train or bus and rent a car there, that would be ideal. THANKS!

    • Thank you! Glad I could help! If you’re flying into Lisbon, whatever traffic you hit between the airport and Sintra if you rent your car at the airport is still going to be less hassle than carrying your bags to the train station, on the train, and to the rental car office when you arrive in the town. There are two ways you can go from the airport directly into Sintra. Both are on major highways — one the Eixo (ring highway) E1 and A37, the other, the E1 and IC/A 16 (which has tolls, but the rental cars should be equipped with a way of paying those tolls electronically). Yes, there will be traffic, but you will bypass most of the city. In other words, you will not be driving through the streets of Lisbon, which is far more difficult than sitting in a traffic jam on a highway. Also, July is high season, and the sooner you book your car, the less expensive it will be.

      Once you’ve rented your car and settled into your villa, you’ll probably want to find the nearest suburban train station with parking and take that commuter train into Lisbon for sightseeing, shopping, and dining.

  6. Hello. Thank you for your wonderful suggestions. Me and 12 friends are going to Portugal for the first time this July 2018. We rented a house in Algarves. I do believe we all will be flying into Lisbon.

    A friend suggested we maybe hire a shuttle driver to take us to Algarves, which if i’m not mistaken is about 3 hours from Lisbon? Would you recommend any services that provide this? If not, should I just rent a car at the airport for a few friends and I and take the trip to Algarves from Lisbon? Although I am a bit apprehensive in driving in another country, I believe once I get adjusted it should be pretty straight forward on the roads.

    I guess our main focus to alleviate any headaches or confusion on transporting us all to Algarves. Being that this is the first time we all are visiting Portugal we want to make the transport to Algarves as smooth as possible.

    We will be in Algarves for 6 days/nights and will stay in Lisbon for 2 nights before heading back to the United States.

    Thank you in advance for any suggestions.

    • Hi, Eddie! Thank you for your question! One alternative you should consider is booking a flight to Faro, the main city in the Algarve, which will eliminate the need to drive or take the train for three hours each way. TAP Portugal is currently running a special in which you can fly to Faro, stopping over in Lisbon (because there are no direct flights from the US to Faro) and staying a day or two to sightsee in Lisbon at no extra charge. Otherwise, the cost for renting a 12-15 passenger van (or 3 cars) from the Lisbon airport for a week is close to $1000 in July because it’s high season — and that doesn’t even take gas and tolls into account. Public transportation from Lisbon to any of the cities in the Algarve is cheaper, even for 12 people. A round trip bus to Lagos, for instance, is 36 euros per person, which comes to 432 euros. One problem with trains and buses in high season is that you need to book in advance because seats sell out.

      One more question: Where are you staying in the Algarve? Closer to Faro, the flight or the train are better. And once you get to the Algarve, you’ll probably want to have at least one car to explore the area.

  7. I am visiting Portugal in March, and renting a car. Can you tell me what insurance coverage is required/recommend? Typical costs? Can you buy deductible down to $0.00? Recommended car rentals?

    • Hi, Pat! Thank you for writing in! If you have car rental insurance as a benefit of your credit card, it will work in Portugal. Otherwise, the rental companies offer a basic Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) and a super CDW. Both of them are pricey if you have other alternatives, but the super CDW will give you a zero deductible. But check with your credit card company first because you don’t want to pay if you don’t have to.

  8. What will a car rental cost from Sintra (April 28/2018 at10:00am pickup) and leave the car in Faro May 05/2018) around 5:00pm Faro airport?

    • The best thing to do is book online ASAP because rates change. The end of April and beginning of May is not high season, so the rental will cost less than in the summer. My quick check landed a price range for an economy car from $179 USD to $500 USD, renting the car from the Lisbon airport. While there are car rental options in Sintra, they are fewer and less likely to offer a one-way rental.

  9. Hi Lyn, thanks a million for the very informative blog on driving in Portugal! So much information & yet so many questions! We are planning on a trip to Portugal for early to mid October 2019! There will be 4 adults and an infant (will be age 2 by October 2019). We plan for about 12-15 days there–places to visit have not been finalized but will likely be: Lisbon–probably staying first 2 days and last 2-3 days of our trip (flying in/out of here from JFK/New York U.S.A); Porto, Obidos, Douro, Sintra, Evora, Averio, & Lagos/Algarve (not in this particular order. Not sure if this is jam packed for 2 weeks. Open to suggestions or any additional places we should to look into). Main question would be: Should we rent/hire a car? If so, should we do it from the beginning, or only for a portion of our trip? Thank you so much for your advice and looking forward to hearing from you!!

    • Thank you for writing in, Ethan! It sounds like you have a fun trip planned! You can visit all these places in 15 days; 12 days is too short for everything you want to see on this list because you’re basically going from one end of the country to the other. As far as additional places to look into, Coimbra would be at the top of my list, with the university, the library, the cathedrals, and the music, but it’s not for everyone. Read the two posts I have on Coimbra ( and and decide for yourselves. As far as renting a car, you definitely should not have one during the time you’re in Lisbon — and that would include traveling to Sintra, because it’s accessible by suburban train — but it would be a convenience if you want to stop in Obidos and Aveiro (and maybe Coimbra) on your way to or from Porto and drive through the Douro Valley when you’re there. The Algarve is the area of Portugal where you definitely need a car, but it would also save you time and give you flexibility when you go to Obidos, the Douro Valley, and Evora.

      • Thanks Lyn for the quick and informative response!! By now, I’ve notice that you have been strongly advising others not to rent a car/drive while in Lisbon!! So with that said, you would recommend we rent a car at Lisbon only after we stay our initial 1st two days in the beginning of our trip: Preliminary idea is: JFK->Lisbon (rent car for going to)–>Sangres–>Lagos/Algarve–>Evora–>Douro Valley–>Porto–>Averio–>Lisbon (return car) & take public transport to–>Sintra–>car service or public transportation to Lisbon airport. Would this work? It’s tough when we are flying in/out of Lisbon but are advised not to car while in Lisbon. Thanks again for your input!

        • Yes, this is what I’d advise. However, some people have found another solution by staying in Sintra rather than Lisbon, a choice that I think is especially good for families with young children and in the high season when things are loud and crowded. If you stay in Sintra, you could rent the car upon your arrival at the airport and return it when you leave, and take the commuter train into Lisbon for the day to sightsee.

          • Interesting. That’s something we’ll definitely look into! Is the commuter train from/to Sintra/Lisbon reliable and runs often?

          • Yes, there are also buses, and if you rent the car when you arrive, you still have the option of driving. 🙂

  10. thank you for all your good advice. I realize you have answered in different situations but I still need your help please.
    We are four adults over 60. Taking a packaged tour to Lisbon, from there to Cascais 2 nts Evora 2nts, returning to lisbon where the tour ends. We wanted to extend the stay for another week – and tour company is not responsible for us if we do not return with them.
    In order to go to Albufeiri Lagos : do we go to airport by transport (4 of us with luggage) after tour ends , rent a car, drive to Lagos ( otherwise i have to go back to lisbon to pick them up to go to Lagos ).
    We then have to return a day early to airport to return car all four of us ( another expense) , then four of us return to hotel ( extra night ), and then transport again to the airport in the morning to flyout to Canada? the flight is early in the day so we cant risk driving and returning car etc o n same day
    OR – do we simply train it to Lagos from Lisbon after tour ends, rent car in Lagos, return it there, and then train to lisbon hotel, then airport next day?
    is that even doable? I am unable to firm up the plans in Lagos until I figure out how to handle this part. Am I complicating things? Ps . in general I am well travelled in Europe all by myself, but this trip am nervous to decide as am being responsible for the others enjoyment and safety as well. Please and thank you …

    • Hi, Hanna! Thank you for writing! I wasn’t sure whether you planned to go to Albufeira, Lagos, or both. There are five trains a day that go from Lisbon to Faro, stopping in Albufeira. However, there is no direct train to Lagos — you have to change in Tunes, and it takes a long time. The good news is, you can rent a car in Albufeira, and it will probably be cheaper than renting and returning at the Lisbon airport, but the rental companies in Albufeira are downtown and not at the train station. That means a 10 km cab ride that should cost around 8-10 euros. From Albufeira, it’s a 45 minute drive to Lagos. Both are lovely towns. It sounds like you’d prefer to take the train from Lisbon to the Algarve and not be encumbered by a car anywhere in Lisbon or have to drive several hours each way from there to your Algarve destination. You can definitely do it, with the caveats I mention above regarding the train route (better for Albufeira than Lagos) and the fact that you have to take a taxi into town from the station.

      • Thank you Lyn for your responsiveness and I apologize for the double post! I used “lagos” and “albufeira” thinking it is same thing. You have given me better options now.. First of all – I do not mind driving at all – but I was concerned about the logistics of picking up and returning the car at the airport. Would that change your answer? as well can you please tell me which beach area is better in terms of swimming(as opposed to surfing and watersports) and amenities ? As well – is there a car rental recommendation? I understand it is best to reserve from Canada before we arrive there. Your advice is much appreciated. thanks you .

        • I’m glad my comments were helpful! As far as the Lagos vs. Albufeira question, all of the towns in the Algarve have their own character, and apparently, Albufeira is more of a party place, with a boardwalk and bars and restaurants close to the beach, while Lagos is more refined. The town and the beach in Lagos are further apart, and the beach and amenities get high marks. (I, personally, prefer more urban areas with attractions, so when we went to the Algarve, we stayed in the much busier Faro.) By the way, the famous surfing beaches and towns tend to be along the western rather than the southern coast of Portugal.

          Although I’ve never picked up and returned a car at the Lisbon airport, I think the procedure is pretty standard for airport car rentals in cities around the world (take shuttle from terminal to rental office nearby), and the options are certainly plentiful. I don’t prefer a particular company because prices change, but I do recommend reserving ahead of time from Canada, and as soon as you know your dates to lock in the model you want and the best price. If you don’t mind driving, driving from Lisbon is more convenient if you’re going to Lagos. You can also stop in towns along the way.

  11. thank you for all your have posted.
    four of us over 60 taking a packaged tour: lisbon 2 nights, cascais 2 and evora 2 returning to Lisbon for one night then airport.
    Our group wants to stay an extra week. Tour company will not be responsible for us once we checkout of lisbon that last day.
    How do we go about heading to Albufeiri? Do four us with luggage go to the airport to rent the car and drive to Lagos ? on return four of us go to airport to return the car, then go back to lisbon to sleep overnight then head to airport again next day to fly out to Canada? ( early flight and cant risk driving back from lagos same day) note extra cost of four people going back and forth to airport
    or – do we simply take train to Lagos area, then rent car there, return it there, then train back to Lisbon for one night before we fly next day.
    am i complicating things ? what is the best way to handle some R&R at southern beach without all the complication?
    I am well travelled in Europe – but feel more concern because of responsiblity of the others’ welfare , enjoyment and safety. suggestions please and thank you .

    • Oh, and I wouldn’t worry about complicating things. The R&R on the beach is worth it. And unless you enjoy driving, the train is a nice, relaxing way to go.

  12. Hello Lyn,

    Thank you so much for all the valuable information you have posted. We are a family of four (children aged 12 and 14) planning a 10-day trip to Portugal. It is our first time in Europe. I am debating between renting an apartment or hotel room directly in Lisbon and relying only on public transit for our trip or staying in an apartment by the sea in Costa da Caparica for a third of the price and renting a car. I would like to know your opinion.

    Thanks again!

    • Thank you for writing, Marie! And congratulations on your first trip to Europe! Portugal is a great introduction to the continent, with so much history and so many people who speak English and are eager to show their country to visitors. Given that it’s your first time and your children are older, I suggest spending the money to stay in Lisbon where the action is. Costa de Caparica is not all that close, and dealing with traffic and parking in Lisbon will definitely impact your experience. When are you going, by the way? Off season, it can be cold on the coast, and the ferry doesn’t run year-round.

      An alternative if you’re looking to save money and have some days for downtime is to stay in Lisbon for most of the trip but spend a few days on the beach at Costa de Caparica or the busier Cascais (which will be a bit more expensive but is also easily reachable by commuter train so you don’t have to rent a car). A lot will depend on when you’re going, how warm it will be on the beach and how much will be open then. Please feel free to ask follow-up questions!

  13. Hi Lyn! Wow, your blog is fantastic! I too have car rental question but seeking other advice. We are a family of four, with two teenage kids. Flying into Lisbon in July 2018. After a few days in Lisbon we want to travel to the Algarve region. We want to hit the beaches a lot, but I do not want to be isolated in too small a town. Which town/city would you recommend we settle in as our jumping off point? we are planning to take public transport from Lisbon to Algarve region. Also, is it absolutely necessary to rent a car once we are settled in, or can we catch any public transport between the small towns? or even uber something like it? (my wife is against renting a car).
    Thanks so much! Mike

    • Thank you for your comment, Mike! There are buses and in some cases commuter trains between the towns, so renting a car isn’t necessary if you’re averse to it, though you’ll probably want to stay in one of the more central and livelier towns. If you have teenagers and are looking for a place with a lot of things to do and see, Faro is probably your best bet. It’s a real city, albeit a small one. Check out my post, “In Faro, My First Visit to the Algarve.” While Lagos and Sagres are a bit more isolated, they have great beaches and nature tours you can sign on to. (Faro does as well; it’s a trip through the Ria Formosa wildlife preserve.) By the way, did you check out my post “Lisbon for Children and Teenagers”? On top of the museums and tours I highlighted, I recently found out about a new tour of Portugal’s African roots that your kids may enjoy:

  14. Hi Lyn,

    Thanks for such great wealth of info! Like everyone else here, we have a question regarding driving and renting a car while in Portugal! We will be visiting Portugal at end of Sept for 2 weeks! The places we’ll be visiting are (in order): Sintra, Obidos, Batalha Monastery (stop on our way to–>) Aveiro, Porto, Douro Valley and Lisbon! Oh we are so excited!! But at the same thing, a bit stressed!! Please help! Here’s our (4 adults and one toddler) main questions:

    1) Should we drive WHILE in Sintra–as we hear parking can be a huge challenge for these places we plan on visiting(we will visit: Day 1: Just tour around Cascais on day of arrival for walking around and meals. Day 2: Quinta da Regaleira Palace, Palacio Nacional de Sintra, Santurio da Peninha, & Cabo da Roca. Day 3)Pena Palace, Castle of the Moors, & Convento do Capuchos (the palaces of visit can be modify to best suit the best getting-around method).

    2)This question also depends on what we do from question #1. If it’s not advised to drive while in Sintra, then:
    a) How should we get around with those attractions in mind–taxi, bus, etc.?
    b) Where should we rent a car for the remaining tours of Portugal (as we hear there’s no car rentals in Sintra. We plan to end our Portugal trip with 3 days in Lisbon before flying back home)?

    What should we do Lyn? Thanks so much for taking the time to read and answer our questions in advance! We really would appreciate giving us insights in this stressful part of the planning!

    • Thank you for writing in! You shouldn’t drive while in Sintra; you’ll waste too much time looking for parking. There are buses between the attractions, or you can take a taxi. As far as where to rent the car, if you’re ending your trip in Lisbon (are you also staying in Lisbon for the days you’re visiting Sintra?), your best bet is to rent the car either downtown in Lisbon or at the airport. The downtown rentals are near Marques Pombal, and you should decide based on where you’re staying when you return to Lisbon. It looks like you’re spending most of your trip in towns or the countryside rather than in the two major cities, and there are five of you, so renting a car is definitely the way to go, except for the final three days in Lisbon.

      One question: Where are you staying when you first arrive and for the time you’re in Sintra? If you’re not staying in Lisbon and there’s parking where you are, it may make sense to rent the car at the airport as soon as you arrive.

      • Hi Lyn, thanks so much for the quick response!!

        Our plan is to rent an Airbnb with parking space for our stay in Sintra–which would be our 1st destination in Portugal (plan is 3 nights in Sintra before heading north). Then end our 2 weeks Portugal trip in Lisbon (plan is also for 3 nights). So with this, would you still suggest renting a car at the Lisbon airport upon arrival, drive to Sintra, park it at the Airbnb and then just take either the bus or taxi to all the attractions in Sintra–even to Santurio da Peninha, Cabo da Roca, & Convento do Capuchos? Then at the end of our trip, upon coming back to Lisbon (from Douro Valley), return the car at the airport before starting our 3 days in Lisbon (assuming we would then take either a taxi or train back to Lisbon after returning rental car)?

        Thanks so much again and look forward to your suggestions!!

        • Yes, definitely rent the car at the Lisbon airport upon your arrival and return it as soon as you get back to Lisbon. As you will see when you arrive, the airport is basically inside the city, and it’s very easy to get anywhere in Lisbon from the airport by taxi or metro.

          • Thanks so much Lyn! This just eases a huge stress spot in our planning!

          • Glad I could help! Please let me know if you have other questions.

  15. What a wonderful blog full of very valuable info. We are flying into porto late May, we have an Airbnb booked for 3 nights then want to hire a car to do the countryside, villages, wineries for 4 days. End up in Lisbon for 3 nights. Sounds like taking a rental car back to airport in Lisborn will be easiest, where do you think easiest in Porto will be to start at. We are staying central, nearPraco Carlos Alberto. Wonder if we can get a car in the city or would it be easier to go out to airport again. We are Kiwis, so drive on other side of the road, Though have travelled in Europe and the States.

    • Thank you, Anne! I’m glad you’re finding useful information in the blog! There’s no need to go out to the airport to rent the car in Porto. There are three rental agencies in the city (Hertz in Lapa and Avis and Europcar in Boavista), a short (10-15 min.) taxi ride from where you’re staying. Be sure to reserve the car as soon as possible and let them know it’s a one-way rental with drop off at the Lisbon airport, to make sure you get the best rate and the dates and model you want. And yes, for Lisbon, your best strategy is to drop the car off at the airport on your way in and take the metro from there.

      • Many thanks, we are so looking forward to travelling in your beautiful country. So nice to get info from someone who knows. Will take your advise!

  16. Hi Lyn,

    Wonderful/very informative blog. Travelling to Lisbon in April ’18 with my family. Two teenagers in the party. We’ll be in Lisbon for a week. We’ve already booked an AirBnB property in Lisbon. What cities/sites would you recommend we visit based on our 1 week time frame? Please rank your city/site recommendations. Thanks!

    • Thank you for your comment, Obi! Your trip is coming up soon! As far as places to visit outside Lisbon, a lot depends on your teens’ interests. Do they like history? Literature? Nature? Sports? It’s probably a little cold in April for beaches and watersports, but ideal weather for hikes and nature tours.

      I’m a history buff, so if they’re like me, the top three places outside Lisbon would be Porto (which includes, among other things, the Livraria Lello bookstore that inspired J.K. Rowling’s Hogwarts, as she was once an English teacher there), Coimbra (the site of one of the oldest universities and libraries in Europe — and school will be in session so you may see students in their traditional gowns), and Evora (Roman ruins and a large Chapel of Bones). However, if they’re specifically interested in medieval castles, there’s the Convent of the Knights Templar in Tomar and a reconstructed castle and medieval town in Obidos. Guimaraes is a bit out of the way unless you’re also going to Porto, but it also has an impressive castle.

      For nature tours, there are a couple of sites in the Algarve — the national forest surrounding Sagres, on the southwestern edge of the country, and the Ria Formosa wildlife preserve, which you can tour from Faro. In the other direction, Aveiro, one hour by train south of Porto, has a lovely canal tour.

      You may have already seen these, but I have posts specifically on Porto (2), Coimbra (2), Evora (1), Faro (1), Obidos (1), and Tomar (1). My husband has also reviewed restaurants in Porto and Coimbra.

      Please let me know if you have other questions!

  17. Hi Lyn,
    I’m so fortunate to find your wonderful blog! We are two women (fit single and 60+)looking to move to Portugal, Spain,France, or Italy for a few years. Purchasing a 3 or 4 country Eurail pass with some car rental to check out rural areas and smaller less expensive towns(especially in Portugal) seems the way to go, but what do you think?
    I’m also a horse trainer and will be checking out equestrian facilities.

    Can Americans cross borders in & out of Portugal to Spain easily by car? We will come in October 2018 to explore. No flight plans yet either. We’re looking for best country to enter and exit from price wise. Very flexible and a competent driver. Thanks!!

    • I’m thrilled that you’ve found my blog, Lilli! I’m especially interested in helping people who are looking to relocate for longer periods of time, and am in fact considering it myself. Crossing back and forth from Portugal and Spain is quite easy because both countries, as well as France and Italy are part of the Schengen Zone, which allows free movement among the countries in the zone. Schengen doesn’t correspond exactly to the EU countries. For instance, Switzerland is not in the EU but is part of Schengen, while Ireland is in the EU but not part of Schengen — the same with the UK until Brexit becomes official.

      If you’re looking for a rural area in which to settle, your plan to arrive in October, rent a car, and drive around is a good one. A lot of expats already live in the Algarve; one of the more popular towns along the coast for expats is Tavira. Quite a few towns along the Atlantic and Mediterranean Coasts of Spain in the regions of Andalucía, Valencia, and Catalunya are also home to expats.

      Besides the Algarve, the principal areas in Portugal for all things equestrian are the Alentejo region and the Ribatejo region.

  18. Hi Again Lyn! I wrote you back about a month ago and love your blog. We , family of four with two teenage kids, are arriving in early July in Lisbon spending a few nights there, then traveling to Lagos for a few nights, then back to Lisbon for a flight to Morocco.
    First question, we are now considering renting a car to travel to Algarve. I used one of the euro rental comparison web sites, and I see most cars have limited mileage, but i can’t see what the limit is? Do you have any idea? in the U.S. we are used to most rentals being unlimited mileage.

    Second, any thoughts or suggestions on the Morocco part of our trip???

    • Mileage limits vary. I checked a couple of comparison sites, and they ranged from 150 km to 250 km at the low end, and over 1000 at the high end. A 250 km limit (about 150 miles a day) seems to be fairly common. The drive from Lisbon to Lagos is a bit over 300 km, so you should take that into account when choosing a car rental package.

      As far as Morocco, I haven’t been in several decades, when I traveled there as part of a high school study abroad program in Spain. My knowledge is definitely out of date, but I do remember having a good time when I visited as a teenager!

  19. Hi
    U hv scared me off car rental as me myself love to walk n see every corner of the city by foot n love public transport like urself but i hv a 7 yrs old autistic child who cant walk n is traveling with me is y i need to rent a car but if there r no parkings then it beats the purpose any suggestions or help as i dont hv a wheelchair n dont know if we can rent one there?

    • Hi, Mav! The other option you have besides renting a car is taking taxis or tuk-tuks. Taxis are plentiful, and transport by tuk-tuk has become quite popular in the areas close to downtown where the streets are narrow or there aren’t real streets but passageways. Unfortunately, Lisbon is not a great place to be for people with physical limitations or who need wheelchair transport, though we did have friends with toddlers who navigated the city quite well with a stroller. Towns in the Algarve that cater to older tourists and retiree residents are much better in terms of wheelchair availability.

  20. Hi Lynn,
    I discovered and love your blog especially the pros and cons of renting a car in Portugal. So here is my dilemma! My wife and I are traveling to Portugal in May 2018. We have booked our lodging, staying six nights in Lisbon, five nights in Albufiera, two nights in Porto, two nights in the Douro Valley in Cambres and finally a last night by the Lisbon Airport. We would like to explore by car the Algarve and Duoro Valley but plan to use public transportation while in Lisbon and Porto. My dilemma is whether to 1) rent a car when leaving Lisbon, drive to Albufiera and around the Algarve coast, then drive to Porto where we would drop the car off and then rent another car two days later for the trip to Duoro Valley and drop that car off at Lisbon the night before our flight home; 2) take public transportation to Albufiera from Lisbon and then rent a car while in Albufiera then drive to Porto (or fly?) where I would return the car and then rent another car two days later for our drive in the Duoro Valley and return to Lisbon. The third option would be to rent a car upon leaving Lisbon and keep it during the remainder of our trip (10 days) and pay to park it outside Porto for the 2 days we tour Porto and then pick it up for the last 2-3 days. Your advice would be most appreciated. Thank you!

    • Thank you for your question, Dave! It sounds like you have a fun trip planned! As far as your rental car options, I suspect that the third option — renting the car as you leave Lisbon and keeping it for the 10 days you explore the Algarve, Porto, and the Douro Valley — is the cheapest in the long run, and it gives you the option of visiting towns in the Alentejo or elsewhere on your way to Porto or as you’re driving back to Lisbon.

  21. Hi Lyn, Very informative blog, thank you. Like many others my husband and I are trying to decide if we should rent a car for part of you two week trip May 2018. We arrive Porto and stay for three nights. We would then like to visit the Douro Valley 1 or 2 nights, possibly Coimbra, Averio, Nazare, 2 nights with a trip to Obidos. We are meeting up with friends in Sintra on day 10 of our trip. We fly out of Lisbon after a 3 day stay on day 14. Is it feasible to do all this by train or should we rent a car as we leave Porto and drop it off as we arrive in Lisbon? Thanks in advance for your help, I find planning this trip a bit daunting.

    • Hi, Lisa! It sounds like you have a fun trip planned! I suggest renting the car as you leave Porto and dropping it off when you arrive in Lisbon. While Coimbra and Aveiro are easily reachable by train, and you can find multi-day tour packages for the Douro Valley, your other destinations are off the rail line, and in any case, the car will give you more flexibility. Please let me know if you have other questions!

  22. Hi Lyn, my wife and I are going to Portugal end of Oct for 16 days. We’ll be spending about 3.5 days in the Porto area. I’m thinking Sintra 0.5 days, Porto 2 days and Guimaraes/Braga 1.5 days before going to the airport to go to Faro. Would you recommend G/B for 1.5 days (less or more)? After Algarve, we’re planning to take the bus or train to spend another 5.5 days going to Evora 1, Lisbon 2.5, Aveiro 1 and Coimbra 1. Is it feasible? Or would you recommend other cities? We’ll be flying in and out of Lisbon.
    Thanks in advance

    • Hi, Ali! It sounds like you have a busy trip planned. Overall, I think it’s feasible, but you’ll need to shift a few things around. Aveiro and Coimbra are much closer to Porto than Sintra, which is 45 minutes from Lisbon by commuter train. In fact, you can take a commuter train from Aveiro (and in another direction, Guimarães) from Porto. I suggest spending 4.5 days in the Porto area: 1.5 days in Porto itself, 0.5 days in Aveiro, 1 day in Coimbra (stop in Aveiro on your way to overnight in Coimbra) and 1 to 1.5 days in Guimarães/Braga/the Douro Valley.

      Since you’ll spend an extra day in the north of Portugal, you’ll have to take that day from the time you spend in Lisbon. In your 4.5 days in Lisbon, you’ll have 0.5 in Sintra, 1 in Evora, and 3 in Lisbon.

      Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have other questions.

      • Hi Lyn, just got back from Peru. Thanks for your recos. I like your plan better. My plan looks very busy now that I review it but there are many places to see. I haven’t even included Obidos. I think I should also eliminate Braga. What do you think?
        Thanks again for your help. Ali

        • If you want to eliminate one, Braga is a good choice because Guimarães has the famous castles that are worth seeing. As far as the Douro Valley, I’m adding a post very soon about the boat tours that may help you make up your mind.

  23. Hi Lyn!

    I’ve read a lot of your posts on this thread and figured you’d be a good person to help me out. I’m travelling from Lisbon to Porto from June 17-21. I plan to see Sintra the day I arrive the 17th, Obidos, Nazare, Alobaca, Batalha, & Fatima the 18th (are these all doable in one day or is it tight?), Coimbra the 19th, and then for the 20/21 I’m trying to decide between Braga/Guimarães or Guarda/Belmonte/Sortelha. Any recommendations? I am also still trying to decide if I should rent a car or not… which is the google search that got me to this page. Thanks in advance!


    • Hi, Denae! Thank you for writing in. Are you arriving in Lisbon on the 17th? If so, this sounds like you’re spending no time in Lisbon at all. Assuming you don’t like cities and wish to stay away from Lisbon and Porto altogether, you can visit Sintra on the 17th and overnight in Obidos. That will give you enough time to drive around Obidos, Nazare, Alobaca, Batalha, and Fatima the next day (and spend the night of the 18th in one of them) because they’re all close together. You should get to Coimbra early on the 19th and spend the night there because there’s a lot to see! As far as the Braga/Guimarães or the Guarda/Belmonte/Sortelha itinerary, the more popular one among visitors is Braga/Guimarães because of the castles. The other area, east of Coimbra, is near the national forest and suffered from the wildfires last year. As far as renting a car, I suggest you do it because most of these places are not on train lines or require complicated connections that will eat up a lot of time in a short visit with a packed itinerary. I don’t recommend renting a car if you’re only going to be in the big cities, but in rural areas and in the Algarve, it’s a necessity.

      Hope this helps! Please let me know if you have further questions.

      • Thanks for your reply! I’m actually going to be in Portugal for 2 weeks but I already have most of the second week planned. I plan on exploring Porto & Lisbon in that week as well as Evora and Marvao if I have enough time (thoughts on Marvao? I’ve already seen that you recommend Evora). I didn’t realize there’s been wildfires in the Guarda area. Thanks for the heads up! I’m strongly considering renting a car for the places outside of Lisbon & Porto but I’m Canadian and still need to look into the requirements of renting a car. I’m thinking I may need an international driver’s permit.

        • Marvão is in the middle of a national forest and has beautiful places worth seeing, but most people who visit do so while visiting sites in nearby Spain. It’s right on the border but a 2-hour drive from Evora. It depends on how much time you have, but if you’re going to be in Evora for only a day or so, there’s plenty to see there.

          As far as the wildfires, there’s little danger this year in areas that burned last year, but you’ll likely see a lot of damaged forests on your way. Wildfires are always a possibility in Portugal during the hot and dry summer months (in fact, I translated a novel for teens in which a wildfire plays a major role in the story), so if you’re driving in rural areas, pay attention to advisories and detour signs. Don’t ignore them or try to go into or through prohibited zones.

          As far as the international driver’s permit, my understanding is that they’re not necessary anymore, but you should check with one of the international rental car companies in both Canada and Portugal, like Hertz or Avis, just to make sure.

  24. Hi Lyn! Your blog is fantastic! Thank you for sharing all this information with us travelers! I was wondering if there are any specific car rental companies your recommend? I’ve read a few reviews about some people getting charged for many extras upon return. Thanks in advance!

    • Thank you for your support, Aimee! As far as rental companies, I don’t have a specific recommendation because companies and their prices and policies can change quickly. The best places to look are review sites such as Trip Advisor and Yelp, which aggregate large numbers of reviews and which are searchable by most recent. If you search reviews from worst to best, you can also see what problems regularly occur.

  25. Hi there: I am planning my honeymoon for mid-September, and wanted to get your sense of whether a car is necessary? I wanted to hit Porto, Coimbra, Lisbon, and Lagos in about a week and then do Andulacia (Sevilla, Cordoba, Granada, and Malaga) in the second. Do you think a car is necessary? It seems to me that it is only necessary to get to the Algarve and then to get there from Sevilla.
    Also, does the order I laid out above seem possible (Porto –> Coimbra –> Lisbon –> Lagos?). Thanks!!

    • Congratulations on your wedding and honeymoon! Your order is perfect, as you’re going from north to south. You don’t need a car for Porto, Coimbra, and Lisbon, but it’s useful for the Algarve unless you’re going to a resort or a single town and plan to stay there the whole time. (That may be the case for you, given your schedule of four places in seven days.) You can also take a bus from Lagos to Sevilla; it’s about a 5-hour trip. I’ve never rented a car in one country and returned it in another, in large part because the one-way drop-off fees can be quite high. You should check with the rental company to see what kind of deal you can get on a one-way.

  26. Hi Lyn- My wife and i will be traveling to Portugal in early August for 2 weeks. The plan is to spend 3 days in Lisbon, then 5 days in Algarve (Pine Cliff resort, with possible day trips, yet to be determined), then drive up to Cascais for 2 days, Porto for 3 days, then back to Lisbon to fly home. Does this itinerary make sense? Any modifications you would recommend? I was planning to rent a car for the entire time, but leave in hotel in each city and walk/cab within cities so no need to drive and park. Make sense, or just use public transportation between locations? I’m told the drive to Algarve is beautiful and should rent a car. Not sure what to do. your suggestions are much appreciated!!

    • Hi, Mark! Yes, your itinerary does make sense and will give you a trip that’s not too stressful. A car is useful in the Algarve. You can certainly leave it in a hotel or nearby parking garage and take public transportation within Lisbon and Porto. But as long as you have the car between Lisbon and Porto (otherwise, you could always return it after you get back from the Algarve), you should make the most of it. In other words, think about visiting locations that are less accessible by public transportation, such as Obidos, Almoural, and Tomar between Lisbon and Porto, and outside of Porto, Guimarães — all of which feature medieval castles. Tomar, the location of the Convent of the Knights Templar, also has the oldest Jewish synagogue still standing in Portugal. And don’t forget Sintra, definitely worth the short drive if you’re staying in Cascais. If you haven’t seen them, these are some of the posts I’ve written about these sites:
      About Cascais and Estoril:
      About Tomar:
      About Obidos:
      About Sintra:
      If you leave the car behind in Lisbon on your way to Porto, you can still stop for a couple of days in Coimbra, which is on the rail line and one of my favorite places because of the university and the medieval library and cathedrals.
      Please let me know if you have other questions. Enjoy your trip!

      • Thank you for your reply and suggestions. Any day excursions/suggestions while we are in Algarve? Any suggestions for the drive from Lisbon to Algarve? Places to stop? Roads to take for best experience?

        • I recommend the tour of the Ria Formosa Wildlife Refuge. I took the tour from Faro, but the refuge runs all the way east past Olhão and Tavira to Cacela Velha. Faro also has a chapel of bones and other historic sites, but for an even better chapel of bones, make a stop in Évora on your way to the Algarve. It’s a couple of hours east of Lisbon and a bit of a detour on the way to the Algarve (you’ll have the same 3-hour drive you’d have from Lisbon), but it’s worth the stop for the chapel of bones, the Roman ruins, and the centuries-old palaces.

  27. Hi Lyn,
    Your blog is very informative, thank you for providing such great tips.
    We fly into Lisbon in early September, and fly home from Faro 7 days later.
    We are staying in Lisbon for 2 nights and we’re planning to hire a car from there to tour the Alentejo region, probably staying just outside Evora on the first night, and then onto the coast for a few days afterwards before heading for Faro on the last night. We have seen a lovely hotel in Alfama, quite near Santa Apolónia station. Do you think it would be reasonably easy to drive from the car hire place there and onto Evora. I understand the roads are pretty good outside the city, it’s just the short drive from the car hire to the main roads that slightly worry us!
    Matt and Anita x

    • Thank you, Matthew! I’m so happy you found this blog useful. As far as hiring the car in Lisbon, the places at the airport and inside the city are close to highways, so you won’t be driving in the older neighborhoods like Alfama where the streets don’t accommodate cars. If you do choose to keep the car while you stay in Lisbon (not really recommended because you can get pretty much anywhere in the city by public transportation), there’s a new, well-located parking garage between Rua da Alfândega and Avenida Dom Infante Henrique, the latter a major thoroughfare that borders the river and is near the Santa Apolónia train station. By the way, Avenida Dom Infante Henrique takes you directly to the Vasco da Gama Bridge, which leads you out of Lisbon toward Evora. From the airport, the Vasco da Gama bridge is also an easy reach.

      • Thank you for your reply Lyn.
        That puts our minds at rest, we were slightly worried about the drive out of Lisbon.
        We had planned on using the Europcar office at Santa Apolonia station, but curiously it has disappeared from some of the brokers listings, and is listed as closed on some others. It does still appear on the Europcar site, we’re a bit concerned about booking from here to find it has closed. I’ve sent an email to ask, hopefully it will be open as it seems to be the easiest and shortest option for leaving the city from where we are staying.
        Thanks again, Matt

        • I do think the Europcar counter at Santa Apólonia has closed, but from where you are, it’s a quick and not very expensive taxi ride to the much busier Oriente rail/bus station, and from there you’re basically at the on-ramp to the Vasco da Gama Bridge. Because it’s a terminal station while Oriente connects with trains from all directions, Santa Apolónia has become a much less busy and important transit link, and every train to the north and east that leaves from there also stops at Oriente.

          • Thanks Lyn, that’s really helpful. I’ll book a car from Oriente now. The shorter drive in Lisbon the better!
            Is über the best bet to get a taxi from our hotel do you think?

          • You can take either Uber or a taxi. The cost, with bags, is about 10 euros either way.

          • Thank you!

          • My pleasure! Enjoy your trip!

  28. Hi,
    Our family of 4 adults are traveling to Portugal for 1 week from Nov. 17th through Nov. 24th. (Fri- Sat of the U.S. Thanksgiving week). We’re landing at Lisbon airport at 10:30am on Friday and will be renting a car (per your recommendation) at the airport and driving to Lagos until Monday afternoon back to Lisbon. First question — would we be able to see most things in Lagos given that we’ll be spending the weekend there? Second question — on Monday, when we return to Lisbon, my husband is planning to drop off the rest of the family at a hotel and then go to the Lisbon Airport to drop off the car, then take a taxi or metro by himself back to our hotel. However, I’m worried that he will get either lost or get stuck in narrow streets going from our hotel to the airport. Would you recommend that we return the car to the Lisbon airport then go to our hotel as a family or do what my husband planned?

    • Hi, Margaret! It sounds like you have a fun trip planned! You’re going to the Algarve during the off season, so you should be able to see everything in the vicinity, whether the national forest near Sagres, the Ria Formosa aquatic nature reserve and historical sites in Faro, or the towns inland like Silves. As far as dropping you three off before leaving the car at the airport — it depends on where your hotel is located. If you contact me directly via the contact page or at lynml[at]me[dot]com with the address of the hotel, I can give you more information.

      • Hi Lynn- My wife and I are planning a 2 week trip to Portugal end of August. I plan to rent a car as I know we want to hit Lisbon, Porto and down to the Algarve area. We’ve heard there are Islands to visit and many many sites. Can you recommend the top spots we should make sure to include in our itinerary. Thanks so00o much!!

        • Thank you for writing in, Mark! The islands you may be thinking of are the Azores, which are about 1,000 miles from Portugal and will require a plane trip. I’ve never been, but people say Madeira and the other islands are worth the trip. It depends on how much time and money you have to spend, and whether you want to take yet another flight. But TAP Portugal has a deal where you can stop off in the Azores at no extra cost as part of a round-trip package. As far as other sites besides Lisbon, Porto, and the Algarve: Guimarães, which is a short trip east of Porto, is the place where the nation of Portugal began and has a castle worth seeing. Coimbra, the university city an hour south of Porto, is a UNESCO heritage site, and the Joaninha Library and the new and old cathedrals are must-sees. The museum there also has a chapel of bones. Another chapel of bones, along with Roman ruins and medieval villas, is in Évora, a couple of hours east of Lisbon and a trip you can make on your way to the Algarve. If you do a search on my blog, I have articles on Coimbra and Évora, so you can see for yourself if those would be of interest.

          Closer to Lisbon, there’s Sintra, with palaces from the early medieval area (the Moorish palace and the National Palace) and the nineteenth century (the Pena Palace), and the Estoril-Cascais area. And once you’re in the Algarve, be sure to take a tour through the Ria Formosa Nature Preserve. We took one from Faro and were not disappointed.

          Let me know if you have specific interests (wine, sports, food, more history, etc.) and I can give you additional tips. And be sure to search my site for the restaurant reviews, which include places in Lisbon, Porto, Coimbra, and Faro.

          • Thank you Lyn, this is extremely helpful! I am curious if there are any recommendations on Jewish related sites that should be visited. I am jewish and these would also be of interest to sqeeze into our itinerary.

          • If you’ve rented a car (though it’s also accessible by public transportation), you should go to Tomar, which has the oldest synagogue still standing and next door, the excavation of a mikveh. Here’s my write-up of Tomar: The town of Belmonte, on the east side of the Serra de Estrela Park, has a Jewish museum, but it’s a bit of a drive from Porto via Viseu. If you’re trying to squeeze in a site in a packed itinerary, the Tomar synagogue is my recommendation. In Lisbon there’s a monument to the victims of the Inquisition outside the São Domingos Church on Rossio Square. as that was the location where many Jews and crypto-Jews were executed. Alfama is the neighborhood of the old Jewish quarter, but much of it was destroyed in the 1755 earthquake. However, the street Rua da Judiara marks the center of the place where most of Lisbon’s Jewish population lived six centuries ago. There is one synagogue in Lisbon, built in the early 1900s by Jews moving from Brazil to Portugal. It does not face the street because the Inquisition-era laws still in effect at that time prohibited non-Catholic religious buildings from having a street-level presence. But on Rua Alexandre Herculano near Largo do Rato is a high wall, and behind it, an Orthodox synagogue that’s not open to the public.

  29. Hi Lyn!
    I’m going to Lisbon end of August for a family wedding with my boyfriend. We want to spend the first day discovering Lisbon but we’d like to rent a car for the following couple of days to meet up with family and discover the Sintra/Cascais region.
    Where would be the best place to rent a car, seeing that we’ll already be in Lisbon proper? (We’re staying in an Airbnb in the historical part of town).

    • As long as you’re not intimidated driving in Lisbon, there are a couple of car rental offices around Praça Martim Moniz (Avis has one at the Hotel Mundial, for instance), which is close to the historical areas of Alfama and Mouraria. If you want to be closer to major highways, and especially if points east like Évora are on your itinerary, the Oriente train station would be a good choice. For points west, Sintra and Cascais, it’s hard to avoid some driving in the city, but it’s also a good thing that they didn’t run highways through the city.

  30. Hi Lyn! I’m so glad I found your blog, it’s been super informative for our upcoming trip to Portugal next week. I have a quick question about rental car sizes, we are renting a compact class station wagon for a few days (Renault Mégane or similar) for 4 adults and 4 carry-on size luggage. We’re picking the car up at the Lisbon airport on our way out of town, and will visit Peniche, Baleal, Obidos, Nazare, Aveiro, Costa Nova, then drop off the car at the Porto airport before we spend a few days in Porto. Will this size car be too big to navigate the narrow roads in some towns? I’m hoping since we’re avoiding driving in Lisbon & Porto that we’ll be ok. What do you think? Thank you so much for any input.

    • I think the size and model car you’ve rented is a good balance of fit for your group and navigability. The Mégane is a popular car in Portugal, and people wouldn’t buy it if they couldn’t go anywhere in it. In many towns and cities, there are streets closed off to cars, and you’ll have to park and walk, but if the street is open, you should have no problem driving it outside of normal traffic obstacles.

      • That’s great! Thanks so much, Lyn, I really appreciate it! By the way, I really enjoyed reading the 2018 restaurant recommendations for Lisbon, hope to get to some of those spots. Thanks again!

  31. Hi Lyn!

    Your blog is very helpful for my upcoming trip to portugal in december.
    I will be flying in to Faro, stay 3 nights in Lagos, head to lisbon and stay for 3 nights, drive to obidos,tomar and head to coimbra and stay over for 1 night and on the way to aveiro before heading to porto and stay over for 3 nights. Do you think i should drive when I touch down in faro or should i drive when Im leaving lisbon and drop off my car once i reach porto? Or is it possible for me not to drive at all?

    • Thank you for your question! While renting a car for the duration of your trip — from Faro to Porto — may be more expensive than public transportation when you figure in tolls and parking in Lisbon (though maybe not, because you’re off season and can probably get a good rate), it is a convenience that will allow you to explore the various towns in the Algarve and between Lisbon and Porto. If you intend to visit Obidos and Tomar on your way from Lisbon to Coimbra, you do need a car, because these towns are not along that direct train line and it’s a long trip to get there by bus or rail. Most hotels have parking garages where you can leave the car when you’re in Lisbon.

  32. Thanks for all the great info. We are flying into Faro end of Sept 2019 and plan to rent a car at the airport but have read that there are surcharges for airport car rental. Would it be better to take a taxi into town and rent car there? After a few days exploring, we plan to drop the car off in Lisbon as we have read that it is not a good idea or even necessary to have one there. After Lisbon we will be heading north for a few more days driving around the countryside and since you advise that a car is not necessary or convenient to have in Porto, we will drop it off there either at airport or in town and spend a few days exploring via public transit or taxi. Have you heard anything about airport rental surcharges in these 3 cities? And if it would be easiest to pickup or drop off at airports rather than in town? Thank you in advance for your assistance.

    • Hi, Joan! Rental policies change all the time, and while there weren’t rental surcharges at the airport several years ago, there may be now, and they may go away again in a few months. Regardless, there will likely be other charges for one-way rentals — renting in Faro and dropping off in Lisbon, and renting in Lisbon and dropping off in Porto. No matter what, you will have to balance price and convenience and get quotes from different companies. In Lisbon, a number of rental companies have offices near the Oriente train station, which is near the off-ramp of the Vasco da Gama Bridge and as easy to access as the airport. If you’re not flying in or out of Lisbon, there’s no reason to rent at the airport these days. And yes, both Lisbon and Porto are still difficult places to drive and easily accessible on foot and by public transportation.

  33. Hello,
    Thank you for a very informative post. My friends and I are visiting Portugal for 8 days in March. We land at Faro and plan to spend 3 days in Algarve before leaving for Lisbon and from there to Porto. Is 3 days in Algarve enough to visit the top sights? Also, is it better to book a car while in Algarve for travelling around the region or does it have good public transport? I hear that the public transport between cities is pretty good and I plan on taking the bus or train from Faro to Lisbon. Is that a good idea?

    • Thank you for writing in! Sounds like you’ve planned a fun trip! I think 3 days in the Algarve is enough time, especially in March which is the off season. Since it probably will be too cold to go in the water or spend much time on the beach, you can drive from town to town along the coast, take the boat trip through the Ria Formosa nature preserve, go inland to towns such as Silves for a traditional meal, and see the national forest near Sagres. I do suggest having a car in the Algarve, as the public transportation among towns is not that good. You can then drop the car off when you take the train to Lisbon and Porto because you certainly won’t need a car there or to travel between them; in fact, it would be a liability.

  34. Lyn, just found your blog…so useful. Here are the plans for 3 senior women – pretty well traveled…..
    5/10-5/14 – Estoril at Breathing Lisbon Apartments
    get around area (Sintra, Cascais), including Lisbon via public transportation. Other possible areas: Fatima, Aveiro. We are not interested in Coimbbra.
    5/14-5/18 train to Porto (can we catch the train from Estoril without going into Lisbon)? Staying at OPorto Home – River Front. Plan to train over to Pinhoa for wine tour; also would like to do a river cruise on Douro River.
    Now the challenge: 5/18 – 5/22 Lagos at Belmar Spa and Beach Resort, using public transportation to get to Faro.
    QUESTION: should we train it from Porto to Lagos? Pick up a car at some point, as I noticed you highly recommend having one in the Agarvae area? We want to see the grottos for sure.
    May 22 – go back to Lisbon for flight to Maderia Isalnd until 5/26…then back to Lisbon for one nt before we fly back to USA. Whew! Another option would be to rent a private driver from Porto to Lagos, stopping somewhere along the way??? We did that in Italy when we flew in Naples and had private car to Positano, stopping in Pompeii. It worked out well. Your thoughts?????

    • Thanks for writing in, Sandi! You have a great trip planned, and here are my thoughts. Estoril is a great place to stay if you want to be away from the hubbub of the big city, and it will also give you a sense of what life was like in this resort area in earlier decades. Be sure to check out the photo exhibit inside the Estoril post office, when the area was home to WWII refugees and spies.

      Fatima is going to be crowded because there’s a pilgrimage to the site on the 13th of every month from May to October, and the May pilgrimage is a big one. But that may be what you’re looking for. Aveiro is a great day trip — from Porto, not Lisbon. It’s at the end of one of the commuter lines from Porto, about an hour’s scenic trip.

      About catching the train to Porto from Estoril: You cannot do it. They’re on entirely separate lines. You come into Lisbon from Estoril at the Cais do Sodré station. From there, you can catch the bus or take a taxi to the Santa Apolónia station where many of the Intercidade (regular speed) and Alfa (high-speed) trains to Porto depart. You can also take the Metro between Cais do Sodré and Santa Apolónia, but you have to switch lines at Baixa/Chiado.

      Should you take the train from Porto to Lagos? If the price is right, I recommend flying from Porto to Faro and renting a car there to go to Lagos. The problem with taking the train from Porto to Lagos is that you have to change trains in Tunes. However, if you’re renting a car anyway for the Algarve, which I do recommend so you can travel more conveniently from town to town, you can take the train from Porto to Faro, or even better, from Porto to Albufeira (a stop or two before Faro), where there are several rental car options. As far as hiring a driver from Porto to Lagos, that’s a long drive (about 6 hours straight through), and they will likely charge a lot of money. If you had more time, say, to spend a night in Évora and/or other towns along the way, you could rent the car in Porto and return it in Faro.

  35. Hello. We will be travelling from Lisbon to the Algarve on July 1st and will have to return to the Lisbon airport by the late evening of July 4th as we fly home early morning July 5th. Which gives us about 3 days.
    Is that enough time in the Algarve?
    What are the best beaches and towns we can squeeze in a visit to?
    Where do you recommend staying?
    And is it worth renting a car from Lisbon Airport to the Algarve or can we fly down or take the train? Which is faster? Cheaper? Is there much to see along the way?
    Or should we just rent a car in the Algarve?
    Thank you

    • Hi, Nicole! Thanks for writing in!. If you only have three days in the Algarve and you’re going in high season, I suggest renting and returning the car there rather than driving from or to Lisbon. On the other hand, if you have more time, renting a car and detouring through the Alentejo, overnighting in Évora, is another alternative. The train from Lisbon to Faro or Albufeira is three hours each way, and flying is faster, plus the discount airlines can be very cheap if booked in advance. Three days is enough time unless you want to spend days on the beach relaxing (or drive via the detour through Évora, see above). As far as where to go in the Algarve, I recommend spending a full day in Faro, visiting the Chapel of Bones, the downtown, and other historic sites and taking the half-day boat trip along the Ria Formosa nature preserve. Here’s my blog post on Faro: As far as other places to visit and where to stay, that depends on your interests. I do suggest Olhão and Tavira, which are fishing towns to the east of Faro, and if you’re interested in nature, the area around Sagres. Again, I have a post: I don’t have specific recommendations for hotels — we usually stay with friends — but you can find ones that specialize in spas, fine dining, nature tours, children’s activities, etc. by doing a Google search.

  36. Hello,
    We are flying into Lisbon in June, spending the night in the city and then taking the train to Sintra. We will spend 3 days in Sintra before heading down to the Algarve. Then we will go to Spain for a couple days and then drive back to Lisbon via Evora. I was hoping to rent a car in Sintra and return it there rather than having to go to back to the airport to get a car after we have been in Sintra. What are your thoughts on this and do you have any suggestions for a rental place in Sintra? I haven’t had much luck finding one. Thank you!

    • Thank you for writing in, Julie! I haven’t found a car rental service in Sintra either, but I saw that you’re spending the night in Lisbon when you arrive. If so, maybe you should rent the car from one of the rental counters near the Oriente train station (easy to get to by public transportation), drive to Sintra (where you’ll have the car if you want to explore Cascais, coastal towns such as Nazaré or Peniche, or the reconstructed medieval town of Obidos), and drive from there to the Algarve without having to go back through Lisbon. Then, when you return the car after your day in Evora, returning it to the same place — therefore avoiding one-way drop-off fees — will be a snap because the route over the Vasco da Gama Bridge drops you off right by the Oriente train station.

      • Thanks for the suggestion. Do you know if the transponder (via verda) that our rental car from Portugal will have for the toll roads will also work on the toll road in Spain?

        • I looked it up, and the “Via-T” transponder works in both Portugal and Spain. When you rent the car, make sure that’s the one you have.

  37. What a great site ! I have a question. We are planning our trip to Portugal and would lie to to rent a car from Porto to Lisbon (to visit Aveiro) and drop it off in Lisbon. After spending time in Lisbon, we want to rent a car again and travel from Lisbon to Lagos and from Lagos to Faro.Is it easy to rent cars one way and drop off in the other location ? Are car renting places ok with returns in other cities ? Or are you recommending airport rental places ?
    Thank you for you answers.

    • Thanks for writing in, Alina! Yes, you can rent cars in one location and drop off in another, but you usually will have to pay a fee. Check with the rental office to see how much a one-way drop-off fee is. If you’re planning to stop off in Aveiro on your way from Porto to Lisbon, keep in mind that all the trains make a stop there, and you can also take the commuter train from Porto and pick up the Intercidades (regular intercity) or Alfa (express) train there to go the rest of the way to Lisbon. Going from place to place in the Algarve (Lagos, Faro, etc.) it’s better to have the car, and there are quite a few rental places in Lisbon and throughout the Algarve that aren’t at the airport. Check out my blog post on rental options in Lisbon and the Algarve: Please let me know if you have further questions!

      • Thank you so much 🙂 I just don’t know if I want to stop in Aveiro with big suitcases just to visit the city … decisions decisions lol … maybe a train trip from Porto for a couple of hrs would be wiser ?

        • Aveiro is a nice day trip from Porto. It’s about an hour each way by the commuter train, and five hours or so will give you time to ride the boat through the canals, see the market designed by a student of Gustave Eiffel (which was closed for renovations when we visited), and enjoy a meal.

          • You are an angel ! I will look at the trains options then !

  38. Hi there,

    Thank you for all the info! We are visiting Portugal this spring with our 4yr old and 20mth old, so taxis are out because of car seats. So I cannot decide whether it would be better to get a car from the airport for the whole vacation (and travel with our own seats) OR if we could make do with trains/buses? We have 2 weeks and want to spend some time in Lagos and in the north (Porto/Douro valley)

    • I suggest getting a car at the airport for your entire trip. Are you staying in Lisbon or outside the city, in Sintra or Cascais? Outside the city is better if you have a car in terms of parking and ease of driving, and it’s also quieter. You can take a commuter train into Lisbon. The commuter trains leave a couple of times an hour and it’s about a 40-minute trip. Outside the two major cities, Lisbon and Porto, it’s good to have a car. That’s especially the case in the Algarve, where there’s less public transportation.

      • Thank you so much for your response. I am currently booking accommodations, I like the idea of staying in Sintra for a few days and commuting into Lisbon, then moving south to the algarve for the remainder of our vacation. So excited for this trip!

  39. Hello,
    This is a great, informative site, thanks!
    We are a family of 7 adults visiting Portugal in June. We will stay 2 nights in Porto and 5 in Sintra. We’d also like to see Cabo da Roca, Nazare, and Coimbra. Maybe more? Would you suggest we take the train or a super cheap flight to get from Porto to Lisbon (then Sintra) and then rent a car in Sintra for a few days? We will definitely take the train into Lisbon to tour. Not sure how we will get from Sintra to Lisbon airport, though. Do you know anything about the driver service Perfect Portugal? We are considering using them if we don’t rent a car. (I have a mercedes van on hold from Porto airport to Lisbon airport that we planned to pick up our last day in Porto, but I’m having second thoughts!) Any advice is very welcomed! Thank you

    • Hi, Nancy! One thing to figure is how much you’re paying for the van for the week, plus tolls and one-way drop-off fees from the airport in Porto to the airport in Lisbon, and compare it to 7 plane or train tickets, plus airport transfers. Driving from Porto to Sintra will give you the opportunity to stop off in Coimbra on your schedule and not the train’s schedule, as that’s the closest one to Porto. The other two places you mentioned, Cabo de Roca and Nazaré, are a reasonable drive from Lisbon but without a car, you’ll have to take a bus or hire a driver. So it makes sense to have a rental car in Sintra even if you don’t rent it in Porto — but you may find that the weeklong rental is about the same price as a few days.

      If you choose to fly from Porto to Lisbon (meaning you’ll fly over Coimbra, sadly), the most convenient way to rent is to pick up your car at the airport when you arrive and drop it off when you leave. If you take the train, allowing you to stop in Coimbra, there are a number of rental offices near the Oriente station in Lisbon. You can pick up the car there for your drive to Sintra and return it there when you leave. It takes 10-30 minutes, depending on traffic, to get from Oriente to the airport by taxi or Uber, or you can take the Metro (only three stops on the red line) if you’ve managed to travel light.

      I don’t know about the driver service. My husband and I tend to travel light, and we stay in Lisbon, so we usually take the Metro to and from the airport.

  40. Hi Lyn,I am traveling in Portugal on 27.4. to 7.5.2019 and we are landing in Porto. Then, we are going to Lisbon. My question is, do we need to rent a car from Porto to Lisbon? From Lisbon we are going to see Sintra, Belem, Costa de caparica, Cascais, basically all the places we can use public transport. Do you recommend any universal tickets for metro, bus and trains, should we buy them in advance or it does not metter if we buy them there and separately? Or is uber the best and cheapest option? Thank you for your help

    • Thank you for contacting me, Zana! You have an exciting trip planned! You don’t need a car to get from Porto to Lisbon, as trains are relatively inexpensive and travel frequently between these two cities. You can also stop off in Aveiro and Coimbra along the way. Both are worth seeing — Aveiro for the market and canals, and Coimbra for the university, the Joanina Library, and the two cathedrals. As far as universal tickets, your best choice would be a Lisboa Card, which offers unlimited rides on the metro, Carris buses, suburban trains, and funiculars, along with discounted or free museum admissions. You can buy a one, two, or three day card in advance or at selected shops when you arrive. The one thing it won’t give you is a ride on the ferry, so you’ll need to buy those tickets separately at the Cais do Sodré. Here’s the link to the Lisboa Card:

  41. Hi Lyn,
    I love all the information you’re giving. My husband and I are planning on going to Portugal (landing in Lisbon) at the beginning of July. We were originally going to rent a car but by reading the many comments, we’ve opted not to. This is our itinerary: Lisbon (2 days), Evora (1), Sintra (1), Porto (2) then back to Lisbon (2). Would it be easier or more convenient to visit Evora AFTER our 2 day-stay in Lisbon at the beginning of our trip by way of bus or train and THEN leave from Evora by train to get to Sintra OR start off in Lisbon then Sintra, followed by Porto THEN Evora and back to Lisbon for our last 2 days before flying back? I’m thinking it would probably be easier to travel back directly from Porto to Lisbon than Porto to Evora, but I could be wrong. I’d really appreciate any input you can give me.

    • The only way you can get to and from Evora and Porto by train is through Lisbon. However, you can take a bus directly from Evora to Porto and vice versa, though the bus isn’t as comfortable as the train. If you do take the train, changing in Lisbon, you’re not really going out of your way, and it’s under 6 hours total, including the connection at Oriente station. As far as when to go to Evora (at the end of your first stay in Lisbon or at the beginning of your second stay), it’s really up to you, but Sintra is a day trip from Lisbon on a commuter line in the opposite direction from Evora. So I wouldn’t plan to go directly from Evora to Sintra. Maybe the Sintra trip on your first stay in Lisbon, and Evora on returning from Porto?

  42. Planning on spending 7 days in Sintra (flying into Lisbon) with a toddler and my wife. Leaning towards renting a car to have the freedom and unexpected necessities that come with a 3-year-old. Any advice?

    • If you’re staying in Sintra with a small child, renting a car is a good idea. You can pick up and drop off right at the airport. Parking is a lot easier in Sintra, and if you want to go into Lisbon, you can always take the commuter train, a 40-minute trip right into Rossio station, in the center of town.

  43. Hi Lyn, thanks for the advice. A friend and I wanted to explore Algarve and Duoro Valley by car. Do you think a mini is adequate to get around or do we need a larger car to safely drive through Duoro Valley? Thanks!

  44. Hi Lyn, Thanks for the advice. A friend and I are planning to explore Duoro Valley and Algarve by car. Do you think a Mini car would be safe on the roads in those regions? Or would you suggest a larger car. Thanks!

    • Thank you for your question, Shaila! I don’t think the Mini will be less safe on the roads in the Douro Valley and Algarve than anywhere else. Plenty of people drive smaller cars, so it’s what’s most comfortable for you. In the cities, smaller cars are at an advantage because of narrow streets and parking.

      • Thanks! That is very helpful!

  45. Lyn
    Thank you for such an informative blog. I am planning a trip to Portugal at the end of March 2019. It will be my husband and I and we were looking to rent a car from Lisbon as we make our way to Port. We will arrive in Lisbon and stay there for three nights. We will take the train to Sintra and stay there for two nights. Our plan was to rent the car once we return to Lisbon from Sintra and make our way to Nazare (1 night)with stops to Obidos , Batalha, Alcobaca, Fatima. From Nazare, we will make our way to Coimbra for 1 night and would like to stop and visit Costa Nova, Aveiro, Gumaraes, Amarante and Braga. Nazare and Coimbra are our overnight hotels and want to visit as many places as possible before arriving or when leaving. Not sure of the order of these visits as I need to look at a map and try top stick to the path that works best. Your suggestions would greatly be appreciated. Our final stop is Porto for three nights and we would return the car the evening we arrive OR the following morning. The only way to explore so many places in so little time is with a car rental so we can depart early and arrive late to our overnight hotels. One way rentals are very pricy as I have started looking now. Any car rental recommendations are helpful as well. Thanks!

    • Hi, Monica! I agree with you that having a car will allow you to visit a lot more places (especially smaller towns) than you’d be able to do via public transportation. Are you flying in and out of Lisbon, or are you flying into Lisbon and leaving from Porto? If your flight also departs from Lisbon, I think you’ll find it cheaper to return the car in Lisbon, even if it means parking it at the hotel in Porto for three nights. The other thing having the car in Porto will do is allow you to visit sites north and east of the city, such as Braga and Guimaräes, during your time there.

      • I will be arriving in Lisbon a f flying back home from Porto. There is so much to see in surrounding areas that we want to get an early start and concentrate on highlights only.

        • If that’s the case, there’s really no way of escaping the one-way return charge, but I suggest comparing various rental agencies to find the best rate.

  46. Lyn, thank you for the great post.

    I have a question I’ve been having trouble finding an answer to online. I will be traveling to Portugal in mid January of 2020 with my wife, adult friend and our two boys ages 2.5 and 1.

    I’ve been debating about renting a van versus public transit hearing conflicting info from friends. To support the 3 adults and children with luggage I was looking at a VW mini van to get around. Tentatively planning on Lisbon, Porto and the Douro Valley and perhaps places in between and flying in and out of Lisbon. We definitely want to check out the wine country as we are in the industry here in Napa CA.

    We plan to rent AirBnBs for our group size. If I rent the van is this a quick way to suicide and our vacation will be awful? Are there trains from the airport and so forth to get around. I’m concerned as we will have my children’s car safety seats(which are massive) so the bus options and taxi cabs already seem out of the question versus the van or trains.

    Thanks for your insight and help. I hope this makes sense.

    • Hi, Austin! Thank you for writing in! You’re traveling with very young children, so a lot of what I’m recommending for you is quite different from what I’d recommend for adult travelers and those with older children and teens. Yes, I recommend renting a minivan. My son visited Portugal with his in-laws (and my husband and I got together with them there) last spring. They rented a minivan and are glad they did, especially when they traveled outside Lisbon and Porto, to the Douro Valley and the Algarve. In fact, when his mother-in-law sprained her ankle on one of the many sidewalk stairs near Lisbon, they left for the Algarve a day early, as the sightseeing in Lisbon can be quite strenuous.

      On that note, I also recommend, if you haven’t already booked your AirBnB, that you consider Sintra as a family-friendly lodging alternative to Lisbon. If you rent the van at the airport in Lisbon and return it there, Sintra is a short drive out of town and on a commuter train line straight into the Rossio station in the center of the city. Parking is a lot easier, it’s quieter, and there are several palaces worth seeing in Sintra. Similarly, you should think about staying at least one night in the Douro Valley, though in general Porto is easier for families with young children than Lisbon. Porto’s center is compact and walkable, and the Serralves Museum on the edge of town (which is no problem for you to get to because you’ll have your van) has lovely gardens for the little ones to run around. I also suggest you take them to the Rem Koolhaas-designed Casa de Música and for lunch at the nearby Mercado do Bom Successo, described here. We spent an entire day there with one of my husband’s former students, who teaches at the university there and has two very young children. She grew up in Porto and considers it her mission to show how much more child-friendly Porto is in comparison to Lisbon.

      As far as places in between, which are much easier to access with a car, I suggest the university town of Coimbra, between Lisbon and Porto, and Évora, a small city in the Alentejo region, also famous for its wine, with medieval palaces and churches and well-preserved Roman ruins.

  47. Hi! We will be traveling to Portugal end of May (4 adults and 4 kids age 3-13). We were thinking of staying in Lisbon for 3 days, then staying in Sesimbra in an Airbnb for 2 days to do some day trips from there and then head to Porto to visit some vineyards and other day trips close to Porto. Would you recommend renting a car once we leave Lisbon to get to the other cities? We aren’t sure what the best option is. We have been looking at car rentals but I haven’t been able to find anything that would fit 8 people (2 need carseats). Is it cheaper to rent two cars or use some other mode of transportation?

    • Hi, Gigi! We were in this situation last year when our extended family met in Lisbon and then traveled to the Algarve. The rental cars don’t accommodate more than seven people (with a minivan); fewer with luggage. Larger vehicles are expensive, hard to come by, and hard to drive with the narrow streets. Renting two cars when you leave Lisbon is an option, and if you’re flying home through Lisbon, you can return them after you’ve gone to Porto and the surrounding area. One-way rentals, though, are expensive. You can travel by bus from Lisbon to Sesimbra and back, and if you want to see any places that are accessible mainly by car, such as the Serra de Arrábida nature preserve, you can sign up for a group tour instead. The same with the Douro Valley, where the vineyards are located. We took the boat tour from Porto, which actually leaves across the river in Vila Nova de Gaia: And what did we do last year? We ended up renting one car for the rest of the family, and my husband and I took public transportation. If you go straight from Sesimbra to Porto via public transportation, you will have to go back through Lisbon and take the metro or taxis from the bus station to the train station. It’s not a complicated transfer, but do allow enough time.

  48. Is any safe and comfortable van available for 09 peoples in portugal. 06 are adults and 3 are kids? We need this van in September for our one delegation visiting Portugal, required for 3 days

    • Hi, Umar. Yes, you can find larger vans in Portugal. They’re more expensive than the standard minivan, but I expect that with the reduction in tourism due to the Covid-19 pandemic, you can get a better deal than what was available when I checked in spring 2019.

  49. Greetings,
    Very helpful blog post. I’m planning on renting a car for 3 people to attend a friend’s wedding in Ericeira, Portugal. I’m debating on canceling if Uber is available. Our itinerary is to arrive at Lisbon Airport->Drive to Ericeira-> and then back to Lisbon where we plan to drop off the car and rely on public transportation. Do you think we should keep the car or rely on UBER?

    • Thank you, Linda! If you’re only going from the Lisbon airport to Ericeira and back to Lisbon, the Uber ride is the best way to go. No rental-counter hassle, no having to drive if you’re tired from the trip, no need to find parking. The current cost of the one-way ride is roughly equivalent to the cost of a one-day rental. The only circumstance in which a rental makes sense is if you plan to take a leisurely drive up and down the coast to visit towns of historical and/or recreational value such as Obidos, Peniche, and Nazare. Keep in mind that other interesting towns outside Lisbon like Sintra, Estoril, and Cascais are on the commuter train line and easily accessible without a car (not to mention parking can be an issue in those places). Have a great trip!

  50. Hi! I am traveling with my husband and 3 kids (4, 10 and 12) on December 13th – 14th Lisbon, then drive up to Porto stopping at Sintra, Nazare, Fatima, etc. Dec 14th – Dec 16th. Very short trip, but I am so unsure now about renting a medium car…Wouldn’t a car give me more time to explore? I would rent it when I get out og Lisbon to travel to Sintra, then up towards Porto and return at Lisbon airport. What are your thoughts about all this in december? Is it to busy to get a car?

    • December is generally a slower time for tourism in Portugal, so I would expect it to be easier to rent one (and with more choices of models, compared to the high-season months of June-September. Given your tight schedule and where you plan to go, a car would both save travel time over public transportation and give you the flexibility to change your destination or spend more/less time in a given place. Since the weather can be unpredictable in December, you can adjust your itinerary to indoor attractions if the days you’re there are cold and rainy. Have a great trip!

  51. Hello

    Just a bit of advice about car hire or uber or trains – 14 day trip Lisbon coast mid Sept..

    4 nights Lisbon – no car wanted
    3 nights Ericeria for 1 day wedding
    7 nights Caiscais for exploring/r&r

    3 adults – 1 happy driver & 2 not so!

    What is the best financial option?


  52. Hello

    Just bit of advice on best transport options for 14 Lisbon coast trip mid Sept

    4 days Lisbon – no car wanted
    3 days Ericeria – 1 day wedding
    7 days Cascais – explore and relax
    3 adults all drivers


    • Hi, Whirlwind! It sounds like you have a fun trip planned. None of these destinations are far from each other, so if you really want to save money and not have to worry about driving, you could take an Uber to Ericeria for the wedding and then to Cascais. Cascais is on the suburban train line to Lisbon, in case you want to return to see a museum exhibit a second time, go to a concert, or try out another restaurant. The only reason you may want to rent a car is if you decide there isn’t enough to do in Cascais and you’d like to explore the towns along the coast, maybe up to Obidos to see the restored medieval castles, the beaches south of Setúbal, or the towns of the Alentejo region. There are car rental offices in Cascais if you do decide to go in that direction as opposed to R&R on the beach or by the pool!

  53. I want to rent a car in Portugal for 5 people. Recommend me the best vehicle which cost me less money.

    • A midsize or full size sedan would be the cheapest and only a little crowded. A compact car would be too tight, and a SUV or minivan would likely cost a lot more.

  54. Hi, We are 4 young adults(60+) looking to visit Lisbon and Porto Nov 12-19th. Thinking to book non-stop round trip from NYC to Lisbon instead of booking multi-city flight to Lisbon and return from Porto as there are no direct flights to NY from Porto. We are planning to use Airbnb as lodging. Our thought is as we are arriving early morning, we would rent a car and drive to Porto first for 2-3 days then drive to Lisbon. Looking for suggestions for a 7-day itinerary having a car on our trip. Thank you!

    • Sounds like you have an exciting trip planned! My first piece of advice is to rent an Airbnb farther away from the center of each city where 1) parking is available, and 2) you’re near public transportation to get into Porto or Lisbon if you want, because there’s very little parking and it’s not fun to drive on winding, hilly, one-way streets. In Vila Nova de Gaia, outside Porto, are port wine caves, and the tours are fun. You can also drive to wineries in the Douro Valley for tours and wine tastings, but you’ll need a designated driver. Among the other out-of-town attractions near Porto are Guimarães with its 10th century castle (it was Portugal’s original capital), and the seaside town of Aveiro, to the south of Porto. On the way to Lisbon, you should make a stop in Coimbra, where one of Europe’s oldest universities is located. Take a tour of the Joanina Library, visit the old and new cathedrals (both are very old) and the museum with the Chapel of Bones in the basement.

      When you’re in Lisbon, the nearby town of Sintra is worth a visit, with the National Palace from the 15th century and the 19th century Pena Palace among the town’s historic attractions. Estoril and Cascais are popular beach towns where the Tagus River meets the Atlantic Ocean, but November isn’t the best beach weather, so think about a day trip to Évora in the Alentejo region, where Roman ruins stand side by side with medieval manors. There are a number of great museums and historic sites within Lisbon that will depend on your interest, from the Jerónimos Monastery which has the tombs of explorer Vasco da Gama and the poet who memorialized his travels, Luis de Camões, among other fascinating artifacts, to the National Museum with classic Bosch paintings, to the Gulbenkian Museum, which always has interesting rotating exhibits. In Alfama, just east of the city center, is a fado museum if you like (or want to learn more) this Portuguese musical genre, a powerful human rights museum inside a former prison, and the National Tile (Azulejo) Museum.

      I hope this helps! Please let me know if you have more questions!

  55. Hi! We are doing a Camino 7 day walking tour from Porto to Camino in Spain starting Sunday morning April 29 and arriving back to Porto the following Saturday at 11 AM May 6. We will be flying into Lisbon arrival Thursday April 27 10:30 AM staying 2 nights. On Saturday April 29, our group of 7 adults considering to rent a van and drive from Lisbon to Porto to sightsee on the way. We would drop the van off at Porto airport. But then we would miss sightseeing in Porto although we would have time Saturday May 6 when we return back to Porto 11 AM. We fly from Porto Sunday morning May 7 back home.

    – Due to limited time, should we not spend the time driving from Porto to Lisbon sightseeing, and just take the train?
    – If we rent car, our hotel we are staying in Corpo Santo Largo do Corpo Santo 25, 1200-129 Lisboa can have the rent a van delivered to the hotel. Hearing it is hard to drive in the city would it be okay to rent from the hotel to drive to Porto or do you recommend going to the airport and renting from them.
    – Finally , will we be wasting hours of time renting and returning a car since our time is so limited?
    – If we drive from Porto to Lisbon, what stops do you recommend?

    • Hi, Catherine! It sounds like you have a fun trip planned! Given the short amount of time you have in the cities, I think your decision to take the train is a good one. It will give you the time to see the sights in Porto and Lisbon without having to worry about picking up and dropping off a car, driving through cities, and hunting for a parking space. If you’d like to see someplace on the way from Lisbon to Porto on Saturday, my recommendation is to get off the train in Coimbra, the university town that’s also a UNESCO world heritage site. A couple of notes on that, however. Once you get to the train station in Coimbra, you’ll have to take a taxi (or 2) into town because the station, known as Coimbra B, is in a nearby suburb. You’ll also have to buy one ticket from Lisbon to Coimbra and another from Coimbra to Porto because you can’t just hop off a train and onto the next. Seats are assigned. An alternative stopover to Coimbra is Aveiro, which is near Porto and has a central market worth seeing, as well as boat rides along the canal system. There’s not quite as much to see as in Coimbra, in my opinion, but the advantage is that you can take the Intercidade or Alfa train to Aveiro and the suburban rail line into Porto, which gives you more options for times of departure and more flexibility although it’s slower.


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