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Driving in Portugal

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Renting a car and driving in Portugal is probably the best and least expensive way to visit the Portuguese countryside and Pousadas in particular.  Driving allows you to see the sights at your own pace.

Having said that, driving can be tricky in some of Portugal's small villages, walled towns, and certain historical centers of major cities with their narrow streets, double-parked cars, and one-way streets. But the network of highways has grown exponentially over the last decade and made travelling between towns much easier. 

Driving in PortugalIf you have driven in other European countries, you should have no problem.   Patience and defensive-driving strategies are highly recommended. Many travellers swear by this method of getting around, and enjoy the adventure of discovering Portugal's hidden gems (a hill-side castle picnic spot, a great cafe with the best pastry ever, sharing cheese and wine with a friendly shepherd). 

The major car rental companies are found in many of the cities in Portugal, including Hertz, Avis, AutoEurope, etc, as well as at all airports (Lisbon, Oporto, Faro, Funchal, and all the Azores Islands.

Alternates to driving yourself:

  • Flag a Taxi:  This makes sense for Pousadas nearby airports, for example: Lisbon airport: Pousada Queluz; Oporto airport: Pousada Mesao Frio.  Remember that you will need to hire taxis to see local sights, or just relax and veg-out at the Pousada.   
  • Rail networkTake the Train: Except for the Porto-Lisbon-Faro trains, service is slow, and you will often need a good portion of the day to reach smaller towns.   You will need to grab a taxi at the station when you get there. Easiest Pousadas to reach by train: Evora, Marvao, Beja 
  • Hire your own driver: You can arrange for a licensed driver/guide to drive you anywhere you want to go, including overnight trips.  Although expensive (figure up to $500 and beyond