Portugal is one of the most unique and beautiful countries to explore in Europe! However, like many destinations with so much to see, you’re going to want a rental car in Portugal to adventure with. Yes, there are other ways to get around… But nothing is going to give you the freedom you’ll have with a vehicle! Whether you’re starting from Lisbon, Porto, or somewhere else, renting a car in Portugal is definitely the way to go!
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First Time Renting a Car in Lisbon Portugal
Our first experience with a Portugal rental car was out of the capital city. Only having one week, we wanted to see as much as possible. Having already been to Algarve Coast on our first trip to the country we decided to head to the north this visit!
Renting a car in Lisbon Portugal was surprisingly affordable and easy to find in early June. Over 7 days, we made our way from Lisbon to Porto, stopping at many different smaller towns along the way. This is honestly one of our favorite road trips we’ve ever done in Europe!
The nature, food, and local vibes of Portugal truly separate it from other countries. Having a rental car really allowed us to see so much within the time we had. And don’t worry! If you’re starting in the north it’s just as easy to go the opposite route renting a car in Porto Portugal.
→ One Week Northern Portugal Itinerary: Amazing Lisbon to Porto Road Trip
Portugal Rental Car Quick Tips
There are a few easy things you should know before renting a car in Portugal. Here are the essentials to check off prior to making your booking. After that, you can get to exploring this amazing country!
Pre-Book Your Rental: We always use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. It’s wise to book online in advance especially if you’re heading to Portugal in the summertime.
Automatics are Limited: Can’t drive a manual? Then you might want to verify automatic cars are available. Typically they will have more in stock at the airport or bigger branches, but not always during the busy season. Also, they are usually much cheaper to rent from larger locations.
Check Parking at Your Hotel: It’s always good to make sure your hotel has parking! Especially if you’re renting a car in Porto or Lisbon, it can really increase your costs paying overnight parking. In the city, it commonly costs 20 Euros or more a night.
Portugal Car Rental Insurance: For us, we used a credit card to cover our rental car in Portugal. Even if you have this same perk on your own card you may want to opt for coverage through the company you rent from. Whatever you do, be covered as the roads can get a little crazy in Europe!
Visit Outside the Summer: This tip can apply to all your costs in Portugal, but don’t visit in July or August! If you can help it, you will save so much money on your rental car in Portugal, hotels, and more by planning a trip in swing or off-season.
Confirm Your booking: Be sure to confirm your booking before you arrive! The worst thing to do is show up to a place ready to take off and they don’t have a car for you.
10 Reasons You’ll Love Rental Car in Portugal
1. Renting a Car in Portugal When You Land
One serious advantage to having a rental car in Portugal is getting it right when you land. There are several operators right at all of Portugal’s main airports. So often getting a vehicle at the airport is the cheapest place to do so, too!
When we were looking into renting a car in Lisbon Portugal we noticed it was much more affordable from Humberto Delgado Airport than in the city. So much so, that after a couple of days of exploring Lisbon it was worth it to make the quick trip back to the airport to rent our car.
If we did our itinerary over we would’ve probably picked it up and started the route right from the airport, saving Lisbon for the end. Are you considering doing a similar route? Renting a car in Porto Portugal and going the other way is just as easy. You can even ask about the cost of a one-way Portugal car rental if you’re flying out of a different airport.
→ 8 Best Things to do in Lisbon Portugal on Your First Visit
2. Portugal isn’t a Small Country
It may not look like it compared to its neighbor Spain, but Portugal is big! We were surprised by how much there is to see and do in the north, south, and everywhere in between. Our one week went by far too quickly, and we are already planning a trip back!
Although there was quite a lot of ground to cover we made the best of the time we had. Luckily, we had a rental car in Portugal to get around in.
3. Visit the North and South
One thing to realize about renting a car in Portugal is how different the north and south of the country are. The south is blessed with the Algarve coast and stunning beach towns. While the north is more rugged, traditional, and mountainous.
If you prefer cooler temperatures, delicious wine, and smaller cities and towns, this region of Portugal may be for you. You can even find snow in Northern Portugal! Yet, if it’s seafood, beaches, and warm weather you’re after, you might be driving straight south.
The best part is by renting a car in Portugal you can see it all! We’d recommend at least having 10-14 days to adventure to both parts of the country, but the more time the better!
→ 20 Best Things To Do in Porto Portugal on Your First Visit
4. Beautiful Beaches in Portugal
The beaches in Portugal are absolutely gorgeous and worth the time and effort to see. Specifically, the soft sands around the Algarve Coast are known as some of the best in the world. The tall cliffs surrounding these fine beaches make for many secluded coves to enjoy.
If you’re renting a car in Lisbon Portugal, it will take you about 3.5 hours to get to Algarve. Our favorite town to visit there is Lagos, but you can spend days enjoying the epic coastline! You might as well take your time driving through paradise, right??
→ 7 Best Beaches in Lagos Portugal: Exploring the Cliffs and Secret Coves
5. Avoiding Public Transportation
One of the best reasons to get a rental car in Portugal is to avoid public transportation completely! Now don’t get us wrong… We love taking the famous yellow trams in Lisbon. Yet, when it comes to getting around the entire country you’re going to want a car.
There are buses and trains available like everywhere else in Europe. Still, then you’re going to have to plan around the set schedules of these modes of transportation. Of course, you could skip this altogether and fly between destinations but then you’re going to miss so much along the way!
6. Enjoy the Best Restaurants in Portugal
It’s no secret that Portugal has one of the tastiest and most sought-after cuisines by foodies from around the world. While many great restaurants are located in the cities, some of the best-hidden gems are found in the suburbs and small towns.
Honestly, the best local meals we’ve had in Portugal were outside the city stopping for lunch or somewhere we looked up and drove to. From seafood rice to peri peri chicken and endless bakery treats, you’ll be able to have so many mind-blowing meals with a Portugal rental car.
→ Best Food in Portugal: 11 Dishes and Drinks You Can’t Miss!
7. Mountain Towns & Castles
So you know about the beaches and cities, but what about the mountain villages? This really might be our favorite reason for renting a car in Portugal. the small towns high in the mountain tell the story of the country and so often include remarkable architecture sitting atop them.
We are of course referring to castles!! Obidos, Monsaraz, and Sintra come to mind as some of the most incredible castle towns. Yet, our favorite historical site we saw in the entire country was the castle of Tomar, The famous fortress and Convent of Christ was built by the Knights Templar in the year 1160.
It would’ve been much more difficult to see this remarkable town without renting a car in Portugal. It also allowed us to stay overnight in the cute town center and take off early the following morning to our next destination.
→ Fun Guide to Tomar Portugal: One Day Visit to the Ancient Castle & Town
8. The Largest Waves in the World
Did you know that Portugal is home to the largest waves surfed? That’s right! In addition to the stunning beaches of Algarve, you can drive to the surf mecca of Nazare.
While actually seeing 100-foot waves is rare, the town has a great local feel and the views are amazing from atop the cliffs. There is even a museum there dedicated to surf legends that have attempted the impossible!
This was one of our favorite stops after renting a car in Lisbon en route to Porto. The town is pretty secluded so it would be a lot of effort to get here by bus. It’s unique places like this that make having a rental car in Portugal so important!
→ Visiting Nazare Portugal: Is it Worth Seeing Without the 100 Foot Waves?
9. Explore the Islands
Wait… Islands in Portugal?? We know what you’re thinking… After all of the adventures to be had on the mainland, Portugal has islands to visit, too? Yes, it’s true! You just may have to see them on a separate trip.
The most popular islands are concentrated in a grouping off the western coast of Portugal called the Azores. Another amazing group of islands not to miss is Madeira. Both are worth visiting in themselves and can easily be reached by flight.
Yet, to see the most beautiful viewpoints and sites you’ll definitely want a car! The nature is comparable to Spain’s Canary Islands but with a much quieter and less touristy vibe to them. The best part is you can easily reach the Portuguese islands by flight from the U.S.A. or Europe.
10. Freedom to Go Anywhere
Basically what it all comes down to is flexibility. We LOVED being able to travel on our own terms with our Portugal rental car. After taking so many buses and trains over the years, spending the extra money for a vehicle was so worth it!
So whether you’re renting a car in Porto Portugal, Lisbon, or anywhere in between, you’ll have the ability to get anywhere! Trust us when we say you won’t regret it.
Have any questions about renting a car in Portugal or want to share your own experiences driving in this popular European country? Leave us a comment below!
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
Portugal Travel Planning
Rental Car: We use Discover Cars to rent vehicles on our travels. In Portugal, you will want a set of wheels to get to all the beautiful castles, cities, and towns.
Tours: Check out Get Your Guide for hundreds of activities around the country. Book a sunset Sailboat tour in Lisbon, go Wine tasting cruise of the Douro Valley from Porto, or explore the Ponta da Piedade on a boat trip in Lagos!
Flights: We always find great flight deals using Skyscanner and Kayak. This way you can plan your trip around the cheapest and most direct routes.
Accommodation: Compare multiple sites to get to the best deal such as Booking.com and Agoda! Also, Hostelworld should be your go-to source if you’re traveling on a budget.
Travel Insurance: Never travel abroad without being covered! We’ve been using SafetyWing for the last few years on the road and they are there when we need them.
Packing Lists: Find all the inspiration you need with our Amazon packing lists. Including our electronics and camera gear, must-have medical items, and long flight essentials!
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Love you site. I stayed up late one night just loving reading all about Portugal. We are planning a trip to Portugal this fall. After reading all your information I think we will just stick to Portugal and not venture into Spain. I am a fan of travel by car and I was glad to hear your take on that. Thank you so much for sharing your info. Its invaluable!!
Thank you for reading! Portugal is so amazing and I’m sure you’ll have blast. Enjoy!
Hi guys, myself and my husband are travelling to Portugal at the start of the year. We live in Australia – wondering if you found it challenging to find parking in Portugal? We were planning on doing a road trip from Porto to Lisbon but not sure if there is much parking around the city centre if we stay at airbnbs. Would love to hear about your experience.
Hi Lia! Great question. Really it depends on where in the city you are staying. In the center, we did find it a little difficult to locate free parking and had to use an overnight garage. When booking an Airbnb you can ask the host what the parking is like before confirming the accommodation. Also, you may want to consider not having a car in Porto or Lisbon. Depending on your schedule you could just book the car for the drive between the two cities. Porto and Lisbon are both very easy to get around and you might actually prefer not to have a car! Hope this helps and have a great trip!