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car rental in Lisbon area

Flying to Lisbon Sep 24 and wanting to visit Sintra and Cascais before heading north to Coimbra and Porto, then heading into Spain and eventually ending up back in Lisbon via Evora. Just not sure where the best place to rent a car would be as I've heard that driving in Sintra is a very bad idea. Any ideas, suggestions, tips would be most appreciated!

Posted by
409 posts

The easiest is right at the airport, as the cars there come with the toll pass transponder. Any tolls you use will be billed through your credit card. Be sure you have very good car rental insurance, or purchase the "Super" CDW with the rental agency...zero deductible, but it is costly and will put your mind at ease if there is any damage. Follow Rick's advice about parking the car in Sintra and use the bus...we did this and our day was perfect. Driving in Lisbon is not easy, one of the worst places I have driven in Europe...make sure you have a GPS!!! The rest of Portugal is easy to drive. Once in Coimbra and Porto, park the car...both towns are very easy to walk and no car is needed. We drove the Douro valley as is in his book and visited a vineyard...the area is beautiful. A word about the GPS... be attentive/careful about some roads the GPS may tell you to use...some are VERY narrow as I unfortunately found out when driving in Sintra. No damage to my rental van, but for most of the road I had about an inch clearance on either side. If it looks too tight for your car, take a different route. I hope this helps.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks, Carl. Good advice, but I've heard they charge a premium for airport rentals so was wondering if there was maybe another option that might save us some money. Perhaps a location right in Lisbon, or a location just outside the city with easy access for our flight home.

Posted by
409 posts

I just reserve from whatever website has the best price (Kayak, Orbitz, Gemut, etc.) Remember, keep checking prices as you can make as many new reservations as you want when or if the price drops...just cancel whatever reservation you already made as there is no fee or cost to do this. As long as the total cost of the reservation is cheaper at the airport than a downtown or off-site agency, there is no extra cost or fee to rent at the airport. Sure, the airport agencies includes surcharges, premiums and such, but the total cost is what I look at when reserving, especially if the airport location is lower than off-airport locations. The convenience of walking to your car after arriving as well as dropping it off at the airport when departing relieves a lot of travel stress, for me anyway. Traffic can be a nightmare in Lisbon and if the clock is ticking for your departure flight, avoiding 2-3 extra steps can be a time saver. These are just my opinions, but I have rented about 4 times at the airport. I really hope you enjoy Portugal!!!

Posted by
2520 posts

On my last trip to Portugal (November 2013), I rented a car through autoeurope.com. If you are flying into Lisbon, I assume you'll be spending some time there before heading out to Sintra and beyond. I would not rent a car at the airport unless you are not going into Lisbon first. Driving in the city is miserable, parking expensive and car rentals are generally cheaper in-town rather than at the airport. I picked up my car in town and returned it to the same place and it saved me a lot of hassle and about 40 euros for the airport convenience fee.

If your credit card covers accident insurance, check with your CC company to see exactly what is covered and if there are any deductibles. With the cost of CDW, it might be cheaper to waive the CDW and absorb any deductible in case you do have a mishap. I've never taken the CDW and I have made 2 claims in the past 12 years of Euro exploration with out of pocket costing me less than $250. I'm far ahead of the CDW game. Autoeurope offers basic rate or optional "full insurance" package rates.

Lastly, many of the roadways in Portugal are privately owned and require a transponder to pay tolls. MAKE CERTAIN that you arrange to get one through your car rental agency. If you don't and you go through an unmanned toll, you'll be billed for the toll and additional administrative fees.

When in Evora, an inexpensive pension with free parking is Residencial Policarpo - quaint, convenient. The best meal I ate in Portugal was at Botequim da Mouraria, Rua da Mouraria 16A, Evora. It is small with only about 12 seats at a counter but the food was great.

Enjoy your trip.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for the tips, Phillip. We decided to rent the car at the airport and head north, then into Spain and come back up to Lisbon through the south. We'll return the car to Cascais, then go to Sintra and spend our last few days in Lisbon. It was more expensive to rent at the airport, but going north from there then returning to Cascais saves us a lot of back and forth and eliminates the hassle of driving in Sintra or Lisbon.
How much time did you spend in Evora? Still trying to figure out if we should spend one day or two after spending time in Lagos.

Posted by
2520 posts

My trip last year actually started in Madrid and ended in Lisbon. Just to give you an idea, Here's the Madrid>Seville portion and here's the Seville>Lisbon route.
On the south coast, I stayed in the small seaside village of Salema - just west of Lagos - at a charming B&B overlooking the ocean called A Maré. I arrived in Evora at 1PM and left the next morning at about 10. I found the time to be quite adequate to follow the walking tour in Rick's guidebook and see the sights both day and night. From there, I drove north to the small hilltop town of Castelo Rodrigo (pop. 52) a true Back Door experience. A friend of mine relocated to Lisbon and recommended this to me and it proved to be the highlight of my trip to Portugal. I stayed at a Pension called Casa de Cisterna. The lady who owns it can take you on an evening tour of the paleolithic etchings in the Coa valley. She's a certified guide and actually has keys to the gate to enter just as the sun is setting - the perfect time to visit. There are a number of other hill towns to visit in the area as well as the Coa Museum.

From here, I drove through the Duoro and enjoyed a vineyard tour and some sherry tasting on the way to Porto. There's a nice centrally located hotel with reasonable parking rates called the Hotel B&B Porto Centro. Within walking distance to the port wine lodges - take the tram back up the hill - and a wonderful restaurant called Abadia.

From here it was down hill toward Lisbon with stops in Coimbra, Batahala and Alcobaca spending the night in Obidos. Unfortunately for me, I was running a little late and could not visit Sintra before returning my car in Lisbon. In Lisbon, I stayed at a hotel called Browns Downtown - near the Metro, easy walking to see all the sights (including Rick's 3 walking tours) and tres cool as well with a mini fridge and mini kitchen. The Gulbenkian Museum is a gem in Lisbon - varied collections in a friendly building with a very nice cafeteria - don't miss it.

If you want any more info, don't hesitate to email me.

Posted by
7 posts

Philip, now I have a million questions! I'm assuming you visited the Alhambra in Granada? If so, did you go in the morning or afternoon? I'm having a dilemma because the only morning time left is at 9:00, so I'm thinking the afternoon might be a better idea.

We're planning on driving down to Nerja after Granada and following the coast for a bit before heading back up to Ronda, Arcos and Seville. Is two nights in Seville sufficient, do you think?

Getting back to Portugal, is Coimbra worth an overnight? Or would a pit stop on the way to Porto suffice?

You mentioned you stayed overnight in Obidos. Would you recommend that? I've been trying to decide whether Obidos or Nazarre would be a better option. Have been leaning toward the latter, but would be interested in hearing your thoughts.

I've actually booked the Hotel B&B in Porto, so am glad to hear you were happy with it. And I will definitely take your advice about Castelo Rodrigo....it sounds awesome!

Posted by
11158 posts

Lesleyam, I can help with the Alhambra question. The 9 AM slot is great; that's the time you'll get into the Nasrid Palace, and it's one of the first (if not THE first) slots of the day. That means you get to see everything without big crowds; even though they limit the numbers entering at any one time, you can stay as long as you like, so it does fill up. I had an early slot and it was wonderful. You just have to get up early enough to get there in time, as if you miss your slot, you can't see the Nasrid Palace (you can still see everything else). It's worth taking a taxi if you're running late.

After you see the Nasrid Palace, if you have a 9 AM ticket, you can see the other ticketed parts of the complex any time on that day before 2 PM.

Posted by
2520 posts

Harold's advice regarding visiting the Alhambra is dead on perfect. When I visited, it was in early November and the crowds were nonexistent (relatively speaking). I was able to just walk up to the ticket window and get an entry at 10 o'clock in the morning that was very convenient. However, with additional tourists in town in September I would definitely take the 9 AM slot that you are being offered. Not only will the grounds be less crowded but the weather would be much nicer than visiting in the afternoon in the high heat of the day.

Since I was visiting the coast in Salema, I opted to eschew visiting the Med in Spain. I really enjoyed my visit to Ronda and found the bullring and its adjacent museum to be a very interesting stop. And the view of the gorge was nothing short of terrific. I love driving through local roads and seeing local scenery no matter what country I visit and Spain is no exception. From Ronda I drove to Grazelema and Zahara two of the white towns in the mountains. They look very nice from afar and are quaint and make a very nice rest or food stop but other than that I didn't find them to be anything super special. I then spent the night in Arcos before heading to Seville. After you leave Arcos if you go through the town of Espera and the churros stand is open be sure to stop and have hot churros and a cup of hot chocolate.

I think that two nights in Seville would be fine. One admonition I would give is that no matter what larger city you are in, park your car as soon as possible and then use local transportation.

Because of the route that I took from Porto to Lisbon, I had to have one overnight stop on the way and the most convenient place for me to stay was Obidos. I would not spend an overnight in Coimbra unless you felt it was necessary. Obidos or Nazarre seem like better options.

If any more of your million questions need answering, please ask. Boa viagem!

Posted by
409 posts

I think an overnight in Coimbra is worth it. The day we spent doing the walking tour in the book...the university library is incredible. Wandering around the town and near the river at night for us was quite enchanting. There was a strolling university group of singers and musicians celebrating at dinnertime...9 pm! It made our night. We stayed at the Hotel Domus...inexpensive and located on a small alley, very clean and a nice breakfast included. We parked the car in the underground lot around the corner...5 minutes away.

If you visit Nazare, go up to Sitio...we did by car. Had lunch up there and appreciated the view of Nazare...simply gorgeous! Alcobaço and Batalha are close by, more great places to visit for a couple of hours. If you like cork products, there are numerous shops there with great prices. Glad we shopped there as there were no cork items to be seen in the Algarve.

If you visit Obidos, walk on the walls! The village is small and very scenic, plenty of places to stay at. I would love to overnight there some day, but you can definitely do it in a few hours if that is all you have.

Seville is worth two nights...we only stayed overnight. Went to a flamenco show and had dinner at a recommended restaurant. Our family had a lot of fun at one of the bars...great city to explore.

Posted by
7 posts

Carl,Harold, Philip.....thank you all so very much! Your tips and advice have really helped me make some decisions...which I had really been struggling with.

One night in Obidos and one in Coimbra on the way up to Porto it is. Morning time slot for the Alhambra......and a stop for churros and hot chocolate on the way to Seville from Ronda. I can hardly wait!!!

Posted by
1 posts

I am spending the winter in Portugal for the 1st time, I am considering renting a car, but not sure to rent in
Canada or wait to rent there in Portugal. I have a quote from CAA with insurance no deductable but is very expensive for 1 month. Can anyone give me some advice as CDW quoted here is approximately 2500$. Thanks for any advise, Maggie

Posted by
1162 posts

Re car rental: We usually use economycarrentals.com. They are a wholesaler and you do not know the name of the actual rental company until you receive confirmation of your reservation. So far we have had no problems and we have used them many times in various countries. They provide insurance and usually if you want zero deductible you pay extra. The deductible is payable by you and reimbursed by Economy Car Rentals; the same set up as when you use your credit card car insurance.

One suggestion that might apply - if flying out of Lisbon it is easier to drive away from the airport and spend the end of your trip in Lisbon plus the day trips you mentioned. You will most likely have to spend one night there before leaving so you can consolidate your time there at the end. We have done this often, though not driving out of the country. We get the car at the airport and visit Portugal then return the car to the airport and spend some time in Lisbon without the last day rush of returning the car and staying in a hotel for one night.

Hope this was of some help. Have a great trip!