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2 Questions: Douro Valley Base/Lodging & Toll System Options

We'll be visiting Portugal for 3 weeks or so this May and I'm having trouble determining where are the best base locations and/or names of suggested accommodations.
Second question pertains to the Portuguese road toll system. We'll be driving and I'm wondering if anyone can suggest the best toll payment system for a three week visit.
Any help is greatly appreciated!
Ray Magee

Posted by
26 posts

I should have mentioned that we'll be arriving in a Spain registered vehicle, so our car won't automatically be rigged for the tolls.

Posted by
409 posts

Hi Ray,

I just responded to a similar question by Bertehling, so here is my edited response for you.

"I was waiting to see if anyone responded who was recently there, as I travelled up and down Portugal the summer of 2013. I can only offer my experience as to that trip.
We rented a van at the Lisbon airport for our 3 week trip and did use the "new" highway system. All the tolls were automatically paid by the rental agency and of course were charged to my credit card. No problems at all and no worries. However, my niece rented a car from an off site agency (her car was not equipped with the toll transponder) for her 2 weeks with us and if she used the "new" highway system, she had to go to a local post office within 48 hours (I think) and pay the toll in person...headaches and wasted time! Check with the rental agency if they provide the toll sensor in their cars and avoid this issue. Of course coming into Portugal from Spain, you will not have a toll transponder.

The GPS issue is a different story. I have a TomTom, with a 4 year old Europe map, and only had some minor issues. All the highways and signage is quite good in Portugal, so for me as long as I was heading in the direction of my destination I felt fine. The cities and towns worked great for my older GPS map. If I did jump on the newer highway system, of course my GPS did not recognize it, but I used common sense where I needed to get off. I would do some more research on the Garmin website or maybe call them and ask. With the maps in the Rick Steves Portugal book, I think you are fine, but it will depend on your definition of "fine". :-) I also had his Spain and Portugal folding map which I highly recommend even with an up-to-date GPS also came in handy with his book.
One last note: be cautious if your GPS wants to send you down what looks like a narrow road in a village or city...Look for an alternative because that narrow road could get even narrower and you may end up having inches on either side of your car. This happened to me and I was driving a 9-passenger van! To say the least, I had never been so nervous driving in Europe, but I luckily got out of that jam with no scratches or dents. Lesson learned and I am passing it on. I hope this helped a little at least."

For my 3 week trip in 2013, we stayed in a house rental in Sintra for a week, there were 13 of us! This was great as we were 20 minutes by car into Lisbon and we also went to Fatima, Nazare, Obidos, Batalha, and Cascais. We rented an apartment in Porto for our 3 days there (6 of us there) and also drove the Douro Valley. We opted to spend 1 night in Coimbra on the way to the Algarve from Porto. We rented a house in Armaçao de Pera (7 of us slept there for a week, and we also had family stopping over during that time) while in the Algarve. We visited Seville, Spain overnight while staying in the Algarve as well as visiting all over the Algarve as well.

Good luck with your planning!

Posted by
1153 posts

Your heading is asking for Douro base recommendations but in your post it seems you would like suggestions for your entire 3 weeks. Will you be arriving in the north or south and where in Portugal will you be leaving from. Will you be returning your car to Spain and if not where in Portugal will you return it. Are you interested in seeing the architecture, walled towns, history. With this additional information we can give you some suggestions of where to base yourself throughout Portugal.

Posted by
16769 posts

I have not visited the Douro Valley. Rick Steves' Portugal book describes home base options in either the biggest town, Peso de Regua, or the smaller Pinhao, 17 miles further east. The listings that most call to me are those outside of Pinhao, such as

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks for your helpful advice and tips!
The body of my post didn't make it clear that I was seeking accommodations help for the Douro Valley rather than all of Portugal.
I think I'll have to arrange for a longer-term toll solution for the Portuguese roads. I believe there are other options that might work better than stopping at a post office every 3 days! I hope.
Thanks to your suggestions we found a room in the Douro Valley.
Thanks again.

Posted by
26 posts

Thanks again, Carl Carol and Laura!