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12 DAYS IN Portugal

I will be traveling to Portugal with 3 friends in October. The areas we would like to see are Lisbon, Sintra, Fatima, Porto and Douro Valley. I know there are many places in between we would like to visit.
We are unsure if we should (a) rent a car; (b) hire a guide for the entire time or (c) travel with public transportation.
Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

Posted by
1162 posts

We rent a car when we travel in Portugal. The driving is easy and it gives us flexibility. If we want to stay longer at a site we can; when we want to leave, we do. Regarding your itinerary including the places you didn't list, it might be a bit too busy. In the past we checked into flying into Porto and out of Lisbon and it always cost more than flying in to and out of Lisbon, but we did not factor in the cost of the extra gas driving up and back. Our suggestions are that you first check into which makes more sense in terms of dollars, then plan your route and what you want to see and do. If you start in Porto you can stay for 2-3 days in Pinhao a small town on the Douro River. Near Pinhao are many wineries and the prehistoric rock art sight of Foz Coa. You need reservations for Foz Coa as all visits must be with a guide. From there you can go to Porto for 2-3 days. A good place to stay for 3-4 days between Porto and Lisbon is Nazare. It's a great location to day trip to Fatima, Coimbra (don't miss the old university), Obidos, Alcobaca, Batalha, and more; you'll have to decide which. From there to Lisbon for 3-4 days where you can day trip to Sintra by train. Turn in your car when you get to Lisbon as public transportation is good. If you fly into and out of Lisbon then leave Lisbon for the end of your trip.

If you decide to rent a car, pick out the sights you'd like to see and plot them on google maps. That will help you decide how much time to spend in each town including your day trips. Have fun planning.

Posted by
16782 posts

All of those areas are connected by public transport, which is very affordable, but schedule choices may not be as frequent as you hoped (see transport summaries at the start/end of each chapter in Rick's Portugal book). Public transport worked fine for my (very relaxed) solo trip to a similar list of places. But three people sharing would enjoy the freedom and convenience of a car, after leaving Lisbon, and should not find driving to be particularly difficult.

Posted by
9110 posts

If you're going to do much driving, you'll be using toll roads. Study up on the automated payment system.