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Car or no car

Planning a trip in September, leaving for the Lisbon area, going north and/or east, We are trying to decide upon the train or car rental. Just how difficult it is to drive in Portugal.? Our language skills are non existent. We like the idea of the convenience of the car and ability to get off the regular tourist route to more rural towns, and not having to lug our luggage around so much though we do travel as light as possible. But train travel offers other benefits, like less marital squabble behind the wheel. Thank you for sharing your experiences.

Posted by
20 posts

Drove in Spain and from Spain into France and back. Relied on my own Garmin with maps loaded and updated prior the trip. Did the same in other countries throughout Europe. Will do it again.

Posted by
4604 posts

It would be helpful if you give us an idea of the cities and towns you’re interested in visiting.
You can definitely travel by train to most cities, and some towns, however you may want to have a car for part of your trip.

We spent 3 weeks in Portugal last year and traveled solely by public transportation.

How long is your trip?

Posted by
1187 posts

I support traveling by auto. It gives you so much freedom: no worry about making train connections, no hauling luggage up escalators thru train stations, being able to leave when you are disappointed, being able to stay at farm B&Bs, driving right up to a castle, etc. I did go by train when I was traveling solo in Europe. If you are used to driving at's not that hard in Europe; except for parking, LOL. BTW nobody except Brazilians and the Portuguese speak that language; so they will speak English to you. Bon Voyage.

Posted by
5011 posts

Driving in Portugal is easy. Don't worry about a language barrier. You may find tourists are a lot more prevalent than you expect (there are no more secrets in the travel world). Car is an easy choice but it does depend on where you want to go.

Posted by
4737 posts

I have always hired a car for my numerous trips to Portugal. I find driving there easy, even though it’s on the wrong side of the road to me. I always travel with a checked bag.

If you only want to see Lisbon and Porto, use the trains.

Posted by
4948 posts

On our trip, we rented a car after we were ready to leave Lisbon. They seemed to take forever at the Hertz rental counter to check us out, but afterwards, we were free to go at our pace and via our route. Would you trade driving duties? If so, make sure they have a second driver noted on the contract. They should be able to get you checked out using English, and charades if needed, but probably not going to be necessary.

Generally, we go with a plan that the driver drives, and the passenger is the navigator, also helping the driver spot which lane to be in for a highway exit, look for an open parking spot, and take the right exit at a roundabout. Let each person have the authority to do their function, and set a policy of when to trade off - every 90 minutes, for example, or one person drives on Tuesday, then the other person drives Wednesday. Would that help minimize squabbles, or is the conflict about where to go in the first place, not how to get there by car?

Posted by
2605 posts

The roads and highways in Portugal are great. On tollways a transponder is needed for payment and you should get one from the auto rental agency. Having a car afforded me to go to places not accessible by train such as Salema, Castel Rodrigo and towns and vineyards in the Duoro valley. As far as navigating, I used Google Maps on my smartphone with no problems. I think my sole word in Portuguese was and is “Obrigado.” I used Rick’s Portuguese phrase book and Google Translate. Never had any language problems.

Posted by
80 posts

We picked up our car when leaving Porto, and dropped it off when we got to Lisbon. It was easier to drive in Portugal than in Seattle. We had the car for about 10 days and the toll cost was just under $100 (or Euros....I don't remember). The highways are new and well marked. Have a great trip. The people, sights, and food are fantastic!

Posted by
27 posts

Thank you everyone! I feel very confident now about car travel. Seattle drove me crazy so if it’s easier than that I’m good to do!