Car hire in Portugal
Hiring a car in Portugal
With world-class beaches and characterful cities, a vibrant culture and prime wine-growing lands, Portugal is a fascinating country to explore. Its position on the Iberian Peninsula with Spain to one side and the Atlantic Ocean to the other has been tempting visitors for decades.
Portugal also has a scintillating history, which can be seen through its pride in the seafaring heroes of the Age of Discovery, as well as its architecture. From Medieval castles to UNESCO World Heritage Sites, there’s so much to explore you’ll be spoilt for choice.
So grab your hire car and set off around the country to see all it has to offer. Portugal has a great road network, making it easy to travel between destinations and while many of the main motorways are toll roads, this means they are fast and efficient.
What you need to know
When it comes to hiring a car in Portugal, you have plenty of options. You can decide whether to start your adventure in Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Madeira or even the Azores. Each destination is covered by different car hire companies, but rest assured that by using our booking tool to compare deals, you’ll get the one that best suits your circumstances. They’re all covered by 24/7 support and free cancellation.
Where to pick up your car
You can collect your hire car from Portugal’s major airports, such as Lisbon (LIS), Porto (OPO) and Faro (FAO), but also a number of other places. These include selected train stations and city centre locations in order to make things easier for you. Upon arrival at an airport, you’ll either find the car hire desk inside the terminal or relatively close by. Many of the car hire companies put on free shuttle buses or meet and greet services to get you to where you need to be to pick up your vehicle.
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“The pick-up was easy, it took 5 minutes from arriving at the desk to driving out the car, and the return took even less time.”
Where to go
Exploring Portugal in your hire car should start off in the area where you picked it up. If this is Lisbon, then the capital city and its surrounds have some incredible attractions to enjoy. From the Sao Jorge Castle up on the hill to the neighbourhoods of Belem and Bairro Alto.
For those setting off from Faro, the whole of the Algarve is in easy reach. There are beautiful coves, historic churches and legendary golf courses spotted across this holiday paradise, so see what you can find. Lagos, Albufeira and Portimao are all destinations you may wish to include on your itinerary.
The city of Porto is incredibly atmospheric and is home to the Douro River, complete with a bridge designed by Gustave Eiffel. With your hire car you’ll also be able to tour the historic churches and palaces within Porto, as well as the stunning Lello bookshop.
driving in Portugal
When driving in Portugal, always leave space for passengers getting off trams, which is a distinct possibility in Lisbon, where these yellow vehicles are seen regularly.
While driving in Portugal it is required by law that you carry your photocard licence at all times. Traffic police can issue on the stop fines that must be paid in euros. Since the majority of these law enforcement officers have portable ATM machines everything has been done to facilitate this.
There are two types of toll roads in Portugal. The first has toll booths at the beginning or end of the route, where you pay directly by cash or card. The second type is equipped with electronic devices that record the vehicle registration of anyone driving through them. Some car hire companies in Portugal use a system that allows renters to pay their tolls directly to them. If this is not the case with your car hire firm, then you will need to visit a post office to pay your tolls.
With the Spanish border so close, it makes for an obvious destination for anyone wishing to hit the open road and enjoy a longer drive. If you’re in the Algarve then why not head across to Seville, which lies just two hours away along the A22 and A49 roads. The stunning cathedral, with its Giralda bell tower left over from its days as a mosque, is also the home of Christopher Columbus’ tomb.
Take the A6 from Lisbon to Caceres on the Spanish side of the border to discover a lesser-known part of the Iberian Peninsula. You’ll be spoilt by the mix of Gothic and Renaissance architecture, as well as remnants of Roman and Moorish culture. Amazingly, Caceres still has its 12-century walls, complete with 30 defence towers and families of storks that nest atop the ramparts.
From Porto, the obvious Spanish destination to explore is Santiago de Compostela. This famous pilgrimage site lies at the end of the Camino de Santiago and is a wonderful place to visit even if you haven’t just completed the iconic walk. Tuck into the city’s renowned almond cake and wander around the cathedral to unlock the secrets of the place.
Top attractions in Portugal
Portugal has many stunning destinations to explore, but for city life, you can’t beat Lisbon; choose the Algarve for beaches; and make your way to Porto for a real sense of history.
Portugal’s hilly capital has a selection of neighbourhoods all exuding their own character. You can’t beat Bairro Alto for its nightlife; Alfama for its artisanal shops; and Belem for the deliciously sweet pastries. The Part of Nations, which was built for the Expo 98 World Fair offers an alternative viewpoint on the city and nothing says Portugal like walking past a doorway and hearing the sound of Fado music coming from inside.
The Algarve is home to so many beaches, bays and coves you can set out in the car and are bound to come across one just to yourself without even trying. Don’t miss out on the region’s capital city of Faro, however, as it has a stunning old town and a number of attractions that holidaymakers often unwittingly bypass as they head for the coast.
In Porto, you will be overcome with history. The 19th-century Stock Exchange Palace has been added to the World Heritage Site list by UNESCO and should be enjoyed in all its Neoclassical splendour. Once you have parked the car up for the day it is also worth touring some of the port wine cellars and sampling their wares.
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