Portugal Travel Tips – See What You Want To See

Portugal is located on the western section of the Iberian Peninsula. It’s bordered to the east and north by Spain and to the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean. The country has had a significant impact on world affairs in the past, in particular during the Age of Exploration when Portugal was a world super power. Today Portugal is a well-developed modern country that is part of the EU, it’s also a popular destination for tourists looking for a little sunshine but there’s much more to Portugal than endless coastline, fabulous beaches and glorious sunshine.

An interesting place to start your explorations of Portugal is in the northern city of Porto (aka Oporto). The city’s airport is well served by many major connections to the rest of Europe and indeed the world. Porto is probably best known to sports fans for its soccer team who have won the Champions League twice. Perhaps a visit to the Dragão Stadium might be of interest!  It’s also well worth visiting Ribeira, which is part of the inner city and is filled with historic buildings.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – When in Portugal, you should drive on the right. Be aware unlike in the UK or Ireland for example, where flashing your headlights means “Thank you” or “You first”, in Portugal it means “Get out of my way”.

Once you have seen the best of Porto a day trip to Guimarães might be in order. This city is located just to the northeast of Porto and is the oldest city in the country. It’s said to be where Portugal was founded, as it was the birthplace of Afonso I, the first Portuguese king. While here you can visit the old castle and the palace.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – The speed limits are 120km/h on motorways, 90km/h on main roads, and 50km/h in towns and cities.

Heading back you can easily make your way south on the main North-South motorway, the A1. After passing Porto you will eventually come to the turn off for Aveiro, on the right. The town is sometimes called the Venice of Portugal and while there are a large number of canals in the city, the comparison is overly generous. There’s plenty to see here and it is also a university town so has a lively nightlife, but the real attraction of the city is the many sandy beaches located on the nearby coast.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – The motorways A1 and A2 reach the entire length of the country. You can drive From Porto to Faro without getting off the highway. The motorway is tolled however; the Portuguese’s word for toll is portagem.

Continuing down the A1 you will eventually come to the turn off for Coimbra on the left hand side. This inland city is the most important non-coastal city in the country and it serves as administration capital for much of the nearby countryside. This is no ordinary university city, the University of Coimbra, founded in 1290, is one of the oldest in the world! There are many other historical sites of interest in the city as well, so take your time and explore.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – Some Portuguese roads are 3 lanes across. That is one lane for travel in either direction and one lane for overtaking in both directions. You should plan your overtaking maneuvres very carefully.

Located about half way between Coimbra and Lisbon you’ll pass close by to the village of Fatima which is a very important pilgrimage to the Blessed Virgin Mary. If you are anyway religious then it’s worth a visit.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – In rural Portugal there’s still some use of animal drawn carts. While a novelty to see during the day they are a terror at night, as they won’t have any lights on them.

Carrying on further south your next stop may be Lisbon. This is the capital of the country and home to many of its most interesting attractions, both architectural and cultural. Some of the more interesting sights include the Hieronymites Monastery, the Gulbenkian Museum and Saint Jorge’s Castle which overlooks the whole city.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – Driving in Lisbon is a hazardous experience so it might be an idea to leave the car outside the city. Lisbon has a brand new and efficient tram service that you can avail of. If you do decide to drive into town, remember that if you encounter a tram, it has right of way.

If you want to slip out of the city a good place to visit and not too far away is Sintra. This UNESCO World Heritage village is home to a large array of 19th Century buildings. Other attractions of this area include the Sintra-Cascais Natural Park, and the Palácio Nacional de Sintra.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – When parking your car, make sure the car is pointing in the same direction as the traffic. If you fail to do this the car may be clamped.

Once you’ve finished with this part of Portugal, you can head south along the A2. This is the main route from Lisbon to the Algarve, Portugal’s sunny rivera province. The primary city on the Algarve is Faro, a very popular destination for people looking for some sand, sea, surf and above all else some sun. The town has a reputation for being a party town that isn’t entirely undeserved but if you’re looking for some culture you can head into the city and explore the Old Town which has very definite Moorish influences.

Portugal Car Hire Tip – Faro has its own airport which is handy for return trips home. You may want to drop off your car hire here and fly back to one of the other cities.

For the very best deals in car rental, check out our Car Hire Portugal page.

Remember to give us a shout via the comment box below if you have any questions or if you’ve any tips on hiring a car in Portugal…enjoy your trip!