An iconic, yellow tram surrounded by historic buildings in Lisbon, Portugal.
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Getting around Portugal

Portugal is a small country that is easy to travel by public transportation like bus and train, especially between the cities and larger towns. However, many smaller destinations are easier to reach by car, as there are few daily bus connections.  

If you don’t want to drive, carpooling with companies like BlaBlaCar and Carpool World are widely used in Portugal. They offer a budget-friendly transportation alternative and allow you to meet both locals and travellers.

Generally speaking, you should not have any major problems getting around in Portugal. Here’s what you need to know.

Getting around Portugal by bus

Travelling by bus is comfortable and easy between cities and most buses have free WiFi onboard. Longer bus rides sometimes offer food and drinks. The main bus companies are Eva Transportes, the national Rede Expressos, and Rodo-Norte covering the northern region. And tickets can be purchased directly on their websites.

Local buses run between smaller destinations too and bus travel is the public transportation option that covers most of the country as trains are limited. However, local buses might have limited departures between smaller towns and villages, and some do not run on weekends at all.

There are four types of bus services in Portugal:

  • Alta Qualidade: high-speed luxury buses running between the big cities

  • Expressos: run between major cities and are also comfortable

  • Rapidas: fast regional services

  • Carreiras (CR): regional services that stop in the smaller towns making them the slowest option

Bus connections between Portugal and Spain

There are two bus companies that run between Portugal and Spain. Flexibus offer routes between bigger cities like Lisbon and Madrid and Faro and Seville. You can purchase tickets here.

The Spanish bus company ALSA also connects Portugal with cities like Madrid, Barcelona, and Seville. You can purchase tickets directly on their website.

Getting around Portugal by train

Trains in Portugal are older than in many other European countries but still offer a comfortable and sustainable way of transportation between cities and some larger towns. 

The main rail line goes from north to south, passing Porto, Lisbon, and ending in the central Algarve. The connections between the bigger cities are also the fastest and most frequent.

The Alfa Pendular is a high-speed train, reaching speeds of 220 km/h. This is the most expensive option but also the most convenient alternative if you're travelling directly between either of the following cities:

  • Lisbon

  • Porto

  • Coimbra

  • Braga

  • Faro

The more affordable train line Intercidades, reaches 200 km/h, and stops at smaller stations in between, making the journey longer when travelling between the above-mentioned cities.

There are also urban and regional trains operating in Lisbon and Porto, including their suburbs.

All trains in Portugal are run by Comboios de Portugal, a national, state-owned train operator. You can book trains directly on their site here or purchase them on the ticket machines or ticket boots at the train stations.

Announcements are generally in both English and Portuguese on the major city’s train stations. The Portuguese are usually very friendly, so if you are on a smaller train station and not sure where or when to go, ask kindly, and you will get the help you need to get on the right train.

Train connections between Portugal and Spain

There are two operators for trains connecting Portugal and Spain. The Lusitania Overnight Train links Lisbon and Madrid, it is comfortable with a nice café on board. The Celta train connects Porto and Vigo in northern Spain.

International train tickets between Portugal and Spain can be purchased from Comboios de Portugal or the Spanish train company RENFE.

Getting around Lisbon and Porto

Both Lisbon and Porto have a tram network that is reliable and well working. This is the most iconic way to get around in these cities as they are historical vehicles making them tourist attractions as well as a mode of transport.

In Porto, there are only a couple of lines and they are mainly used by tourists. The trams in Porto are the oldest in the country, making them a unique ride.

In Lisbon, on the other hand, the tram network is vast and used by locals to get around just as much as by tourists. The trams cover all the historic neighborhoods, including Belem, which is a little further away from the main historic center.

E-scooters and bikes in the cities

E-scooters are easily available on the streets both in Lisbon and Porto. All you need is internet access - download the correct app, and book it through the app. Since different companies serve e-scooters, you might have to download different apps for different e-scooters.

Besides, there are bike rentals in most cities and large towns so that you can explore in an eco-friendly way.

Driving in Portugal

Driving in Portugal is a breeze. The main roads are very well maintained, yet it comes at a cost. It is near impossible to cross Portugal without paying multiple tolls. Often, the detour around the toll road will cost you more in petrol than crossing the toll road.

Many toll roads only take cash and others might not take foreign credit cards, so it is crucial to have extra cash in the car. A good rule of thumb is to have 50 Euros in cash for toll roads and parking, as some toll crossings might be over 10 Euros each. If you drive a van, it is more expensive.

The smaller roads, on the other hand, through small fishing villages and country towns, are a different story. You might encounter not only poorly maintained roads but also severely narrow streets, so you must be careful, especially if you drive a large vehicle.

Parking in Lisbon and Porto is best on paid parking lots, as street parking usually only allows 4 hours before you have to go back and top up again.

In other destinations, it is usually possible to find free parking along the road or free parking lots a short walk from the historic centre.

Some things to know before driving in Portugal:

  • The age limit for driving is 18

  • Drive on the right side of the road

  • The alcohol limit is 0.5

  • You can drive with most Schengen, EU, and US driving licenses

  • Most other driving licenses require to be accompanied by an international driving license

  • On motorways, the max speed limit is 120km/h; on dual carriageways it is 100km/h; and in urban areas, it is 50km/h.

  • You must use hands-free to manage your phone while driving.

Renting a car in Portugal

You can rent a car at the international airports in Portugal. This is the easiest option if you plan on going on a road trip during your entire trip, is to pick up the rental car at the airport after landing and deliver it before your return flight.

However, if you are only renting a car for a short period of time during your trip, there are several rental companies across most Portuguese cities and bigger towns.

Wherever you book it, make sure you pay for a complete insurance policy covering every type of incident, so that you do not get surprised by a high bill after some kids scraped up the car when you parked up somewhere. Also, clarify how to pay for the automatic tolls so that you do not get an unpleasant surprise when delivering the car.

Rental car prices vary a lot depending on the vehicle you choose and the time of the year. You might find 9 Euros rentals in the winter, while the same car costs ten times that in the summer months. On top of that, you must pay for the insurance policy. This can typically be 10-30 Euros per day.

Getting around by BlaBlaCar/Carpool World

These apps often offer the most affordable transport options when moving between cities. You need to download an app and register as a user before you can look for rides. Make sure you read reviews on the drivers and choose one that suits your travel times and travel route.

Travel costs in Portugal

The travel costs in Portugal vary widely depending on the mode of transport you choose. Due to the expensive toll roads in Portugal, driving is by far the most expensive mode of transport, though it surely gives a lot more freedom than public transportation. It is impossible to give an exact cost for either mode of transport, but following, you will get an idea.

Driving costs

When driving in Portugal, you must take into count the price of the rental car and insurance (as described above) as well as the petrol and toll roads. You can easily spend 100 Euros or more on toll roads in a week in Portugal. Or more. Toll roads cost anything from 2-3 Euros to 15 Euros. On a stretch from Lisbon to Porto, you will cross several, and along the Algarve too.

Petrol is slightly more expensive than in Spain, and if you stay on the border, it might be cost-efficient to cross the border to fill up the tank. Petrol prices in Portugal are generally around 1.5-1.7 Euros/litre after stabilizing (ish) in the summer of 2023 after the Ukraine war.

For EV drivers, there are several charging points throughout the country, and the price for charging is on average 0.55 Euros per kWh.

Public transport costs

Travelling by bus between cities is a budget-friendly option. You can easily find tickets between Lisbon and Porto for 8-10 Euros. Urban bus and tram tickets are often around 1.50 Euros.

You might find cheaper train tickets for long-distance trips, even at half the price of the bus, so it is worth shopping around before you purchase your ticket.

Renting e-scooters usually comes at around 10 Euros per hour.

Accessible travel in Portugal

Generally, cities like Lisbon and Porto can be hard to get around with a wheelchair since there are a lot of steep hills and most of the streets are cobblestoned. This can make it complex to navigate between attractions.

That said, you can acquire assistance at the airport when arriving in Portugal via MyWay. Some taxis have facilities to support wheelchair users, but you must inform them about your needs when you book the taxi. In the big cities, some buses are accessible, as well as some train stations. Wheelchair access for metros is often limited as they are old.

However, there are some companies that specialize in accessible tours to make it easy for you like Portugal 4 All Senses and Accessible

Planning a trip to Portugal? Read our other travel guides.

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Linn Haglund

Author - Linn Haglund

Originally from Norway, Linn is an avid traveller and freelance travel writer that has a passion for the outdoors, wildlife, and responsible travel. She is currently living the van life in southern Europe with her fiancé and their dog.

Having travelled in 50+ countries and lived in five countries, she has developed a fervour for helping people to travel more responsibly and leave a positive impact on their destinations through her blog, Brainy Backpackers.

Last Updated 7 August 2023

Dos Tres Irmaos beach in Algarve, Portugal.


Situated on the Iberian Peninsula, Portugal has a rich, unique culture, lively cities and beautiful countryside.