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Spain to Portugal

Husband and I have signed up for RS Basque Country which ends in Bilbao on September 6. Then we have four days to burn before we begin our next trip which is the Best of Portugal starting on September 10. We had originally thought we would head for the Algarve and made cancel-able reservations at the Pousada in Sagres for Sept. 6 - 10. Thought we would fly to Lisbon and rent a car to travel between Lisbon and Sagres.

Now, however, we watched the RS DVDs for the Basque Country and the Camino de Santiago area - both of which appear to have beautiful scenery, interesting villages and history. Wondering if our time might be better spent renting a car in Bilbao and leisurely down to Lisbon?
Opinions please!

Posted by
8889 posts

If you rent a car in Spain there is usually no problem driving into and out of Portugal, but you must return the car in Spain. If you return it in another country there is a very large surcharge.

Posted by
2738 posts

If you drop the car that you rented in Bilbao in Lisbon, expect a $500 drop charge. The north of Spain is beautiful. After the Basque tour, I rented a car and visited the old village of Santillana Del Mar, then a night at the Parador at Fuente De in the Picos de Europa before heading to Santiago de Compostela. I then slowly meandered to Madrid.

If you like scenery and twisty roads, the drive to Fuente De through the gorge cut by the river is amazing. There’s a nice museum on the way and the Parador is beautiful. Taking the cable car up to the top of the mountain provides spectacular views. SdeC is a great visit, watching the pilgrims arrive, visiting the Cathedral and the TI had an audio guide walking tour of the city that was very good.

What’s annoying is getting to Lisbon. The connections between the two countries are basically horrible. You could either drop the car in SdeC or perhaps in Vigo. From either city, you could travel to Lisbon by train, bus or a combination of both. Go to to see your options. Even though that part of the trip is annoying, going from Bilbao to Santiago is worth the effort.

Posted by
7988 posts

We traveled the opposite way. I encourage you to drive this beautiful part of both countries. We dropped off our Portuguese car rental in Porto and picked up our Spanish Car in Vigo, took a taxi between them. This was much cheaper than paying the huge drop off fee.

Posted by
4 posts

Thanks to all for your valuable input. We are reassessing our options based on your advice!

Posted by
2356 posts

Hello exqueen (did you abdicate your throne? probably a good story behind that name!)
I will be taking the RS Basque Tour in late June, and took the RS Portugal Tour last year in May. Wonderful country and a terrific tour!
Here’s another idea to consider. Looks like there are daily non-stop flights from Bilbao to Lisbon, on TAP and on Vueling. What I did before the RS Portugal Tour was to fly from the US into Lisbon, and went directly to Sintra for a very enjoyable 2-night stay, then I went to Lisbon for some days before the tour began. Sintra is very nice, with 4 or 5 lovely and diverse palaces/estates etc. which each merit a half-day visit, and there is plenty to do in and very near Lisbon that is not covered by the tour. Just a thought.