In this post, Visiting Portugal: flying and driving, we hope to answer your practical questions involving the journey to Portugal. We hope to be able to help, whether your question is about traveling with children, renting a car or paying the tolls.
Visiting Portugal: flying
Time is precious. Easy access to Portugal, with frequent flights from all over Europe, and the excellent roads within the country, make the visit less about the journey and more about your stay.
The Main Airports
- Lisbon, for central Portugal. Underground metro line connection to the city
- Porto, for northern Portugal. Underground metro line connection to the city
- Faro, for southern Portugal. Bus connection to the city
- Funchal, for the island of Madeira
- Ponta Delgada, for the Azores islands
Airlines and flight routes
- Direct flights to Lisbon from several points in Europe with the national airline TAP, including Finland, Norway and Sweden, as well as from the USA, Brazil, etc. There are also flights to Porto and Faro with one stop only
- Low cost Ryanair and Easyjet fly to Porto, Lisbon and Faro from the UK, Germany, Netherland and more.
- Some flight routes are seasonal, not available in winter.
Flying with TAP?
- Affordable fare ‘TAP Discount’
- This flight cannot be rescheduled, whereas, all other TAP fares allow for rescheduling, for a fee of about 100 euros.
- No luggage allowance with ‘TAP Discount’. Offering TAP lowest prices, this fare does NOT include hold allowance, but a hand baggage only, weighing up to 8kg
- Take your child’s pushchair for free
- This can be taken to the aircraft
- Will be returned to you after landing, at the exit of the airplane
- Children’s car seat is charged as extra luggage
- The amount to be paid depends on the flight fare
- If your fare is ‘TAP Discount’, taking the car seat will cost 25 euros each way, if booked 36 hours before flight, or 40 euros otherwise
- with ‘TAP Basic’, it will cost 50 or 60 euros each way
- If your fare includes hold luggage, you may choose to take a car seat instead of the luggage
- Or, take a car seat for free if booking a flight seat for your child
- When booking online, select child age 2 years and above, even if this is not the case
- Call the airline at least 24 hours before your flight to say that you are taking the car seat onboard, or you will be charged at the airport.
Visiting Portugal: driving
Renting a car in Portugal
Best deals are generally with non-airport based rentals.These, not having a stand within the airport, will have a collaborator meeting you:
- in the airport car park, with the car you reserved online (e.g. Zitauto rental)
or more often,
- at the Arrivals, from where you (and a few other clients) will be driven to their garage, for free, leaving the airport every 20 to 30 minutes (generally). To have in mind:
- take a ticket and wait for your turn once in the garage. There is no queuing
- the waiting time can be 45 minutes to 2.5 hours (from personal experience),from meeting the rental and leaving with a car
- the time and dislocation involved, might make this service unsuitable to some, e.g. those in a weekend break.
The rules of the road
- Drive on the right side
- Documents to have in hand:
- Identity card or passport
- driving licence
- car documents (up to date insurance, tax and registration)
- Speed limits are in kilometers per hour:
- 120 km/h on the motorway
- 90 or 100 km/h on open road
- 50 km/h in town
- Zero alcohol tolerance:
- Penalties range from severe fine up to imprisonment
- From 0,5 g/l, for experienced drivers (3 years and above) or 0,2g/l otherwise
- Mobile phone only allowed if hands-free devices used
- Fines are issued on the spot and can be paid by card
- Children: european safety regulation applies
- All under 12 years old or measuring less than 135cm tall, must use a R44 or R129-approved seat
- The ban on the use of R44-approved seats is expected to come into force this year, 2018, but there is no established date at the moment
- Front seat can be used by:
- under 3-years-old children with approved car seat turned backwards and deactivated airbag
- 3-years-old children and above, when the car has no back seat or no seat belt in the back seat
- No requirement for car seat use in taxis, although recommended.
In Portugal, there are excellent, fast motorways connecting the country. Driving in these roads comes with a small charge.
If you were to drive the country in its length, from the southern Faro to the northern Ponte de Lima, you would be charged about 31 euros on tolls (online toll calculator at http://www1.estradas.pt).
There are also the national roads, where you can drive for free. These are often scenic roads, if you have the time.
Opting for a portable toll device when renting a car in Portugal
- This device can be rented for a small charge and is associated to the driver’s credit/debit card.
- Toll charges are debited directly in the driver’s bank account each time an ‘exclusively automatic toll’ road and a ‘Via verde’ lane (on common motorways) are used.
- ‘Via verde’ is the express lane in the common toll motorways. There is no stopping.
- If you end up in one of the payment station lanes (with a barrier), you will be asked to pay there, but you will not be charged twice.
How to pay if you do not have a portable toll device
- Common motorways
- can be paid by cash or debit/credit card at each toll payment station/barrier
- stopping is required at each toll payment station/barrier
- using the Via verde lane is not allowed
- Foreign registration plates: prepaid unlimited 3-days pass (20.74 euros) or, prepaid pass with defined date and destination
- ‘Electronic toll only’ motorways
- Where to pay: in a post office (CTT) or Payshop
- When to pay: within 2 to 5 working days after motorway use
- What to bring: registration plate number
- Prepaid card: bought in a post office and activated by text message, linking registration plate to debit/credit card
- Foreign registration plates only: need to register with an EASYtoll machine, the registration plate number is associated to your debit/credit, and charged each time these motorways are used.