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Car or public transport for a family ?

Hi !

We will be in Portugal next summer. We (2 adults and 2 kids 5 and 9) have 24 days of travel (10-12 days in norhern Spain and 12-14 days in Portugal).Last year we've been to germany and only use train and public transport. It was great. from what we read we can't except to get the same level of service in Portugal. We still looking for the places we will see but the plan is to drop our Spain car in Vigo, take the train or bus to Porto. In Porto we won't get a car but get a car when we leave.

We need tranportation for 6-7 days (between Porto and Lisbon where we would drop the car). Coimbra, Sintra, Obidos, Nazare are on our list for now.

Now questions:

1) so car or train ?
2) we read that toll road are not easy to undertand/use. Is it true ?
3)) We have two youngs kids (5 and 9). We dont want to rent car seat (too exepensive and disputable quality) and dragging them from home is not obvious at all. Does anyone have an idea of what to do about this ?
4) Can anyone recommend me a good car rental agency ?

Thanks !

Posted by
110 posts

As many have noted, a car is more trouble than it is worth in Porto and particularly in Lisbon. The public transportation in both places is quite good. A car is useful if you want to explore out of the way rural areas, but all of the places you mention are major tourist attractions. Sintra is an easy day trip from Lisbon on a special train line that leaves from central Lisbon. Obidos is about 70 minutes from Lisbon by bus.
Regarding child-oriented attractions in Lisbon, see some of my earlier posts on other threads.

Having traveled a lot with children under age 10, my advice would be to minimize the number of times you change hotels, and consider renting an apartment for a week in one place. You can do day trips from there when you feel like it.

Posted by
921 posts

Renting a car during the central Portugal portion of your trip would work. I did the same thing on my 'scouting' trip before moving here. Alcobaça or Batalha are also nice stops in central Portugal.

The car rental agencies almost always have a device on the car that takes care of the tolls. Toll roads are much like those in the States in that there are lanes for those with devices and lanes for people who pay as they go. I don't find them significantly different than in the States.

Auto Europe is a great agency to use all throughout Europe. I've used them many times and have always been satisfied. I would recommend turning the car in before you get into Lisbon proper. There are a number of towns on the commuter train line that would be good places to turn in your car - then simply take the commuter train the rest of the way into Lisbon.

Posted by
244 posts

If you create an account with Comboios de Portugal (, you can save significant money on train tickets.
You must buy them online at least 8 days in advance.
An example from Porto to Lisboa on the Inter-City train.
IC 06h52 09h52 3h00 €35,90/€24,30 €22,00/€15,00