I decided to write this article inspired by the disillusioned faces of backpackers I see leaving the train station across my street, to bear the summer heat, as they learn that they can only walk 3 km up the mountain road to reach the town of their destination.
Most of these people were not aware that the railway station of the town they came to visit is a tough 3 km walk from the actual town and is located in a much smaller neighboring town.
They also hadn’t realized that there are only 5 trains in and 5 trains out each day of which 4 have left before 7.45 in the morning.
The public transport system in Portugal is excellent for some areas specifically the cities and west coast lines but hard to find and difficult to understand for a lot of other districts.
The train stations are often far removed from the destinations that have the same name and certainly land inwards the trains may not go as often as one would wish.
When planning your trip to Portugal based on public transport its necessary to take these aspects into consideration and inform yourself properly when planning your trip.
This article will help you understand possibilities, alternatives and solutions.
The 3 main airports in Portugal are Lisbon, Porto and Faro and one of these is likely where your trip will start.
all 3 are a couple of kilometers removed from the city centers and in current times its easy to get from the airports to the centers or the railway stations.
Lisbon airport has since 2 years a metro station that makes getting anywhere in Lisbon easy, including the main train stations.
Porto airport which is about 11 km from the Porto center underwent an extensive rebuilt about 12 years ago and also has metro to the Porto center.
Faro airport has buses from the airport to the center from 05.00 until 23.00 Faro airport is 3 km from the center of Faro.
The Railway system in Portugal
Please click on this image to download a map of all the railway lines in Portugal and the stations.
main Types of Trains:
Alpha pendular (Symbol AP) – travesl from Porto to Faro 2x per day, stops only in the main cities and takes 2.30 hours from Porto to Lisbon and 5.30 hours from Porto to Faro. Extremely comfortable and fast cost €51.50 second class and €70 euro 1st class (porto to Lisbon)
Intercidades (Sympol IC) – intercity trains stops also at the smaller cities Takes 3 hours from Porto to Lisboa and costs 1st class €35,90 and €24,30 second class
Regional (symbol R or IR) – takes roughly 4.30 hours from Porto to Lisbon and costs €17.90 (no 1st class available)
Check here times and prices Portuguese railway English site with time tables
Stations and locations
As mentioned station locations are not always what they seem in Portugal. The station of the city of Santarém for instance is located in Ribeira da Santarém, a small town that is a stiff 4 km mountain climb removed from the city of Santarém. Santarém is a reasonably sized city and there are many buses and taxi´s available at the station upon arrival. However close by city of Abrantes has its station a 6km walk from the city center and doesn’t have a taxi stand or frequent bus possibilities.
You can find a local taxi driver that can be reached by phone but unprepared you´ll have to make the walk as you very possibly will be the only one getting of the train and you may not find and people in or close to the station to help you. This is where preparation can save unnecessary stress when travelling to interior Portugal. Check Googlemaps (click here for an example of Estacao Abrantes replace Abrantes with the town name you are traveling to) before you travel, find local taxis or ask your camping or hotel to provide you with this information.
Tickets and ticketing rules
The medium and larger sized towns have ticket offices where you can buy your tickets if you ask for a ticket Porto – Lisboa as an example, they will sell you a ticket for the next possibility to travel whether that is on an Alpha Pendular, Intercity or regional train, the price and time difference between these train journeys are big so if you have a preference you must always mention this! Children up to the age pay half price and the tickets is called Meio (half) pronounced as Maioo, up to the age of 21 there is a discount of 10% and after the age of 65 a 50% discount. Show your identity when your buying a ticket otherwise you may not get the discount you should.
On stations where there are no ticket offices, tickets can be bought in the train.
Buses and the bus system can be immensely complicated in Portugal when traveling to smaller towns, buses are also comparative expensive and few and far between in most places but to get to many places it will be your only choice.
Each district has its own bus service very often not connected to the other bus services in Portugal and not connected to the train station sometimes needing a long walk to get from station to bus
The main portugal intercity buses Rede nacional has a reasonably good website with timetables and destinations in English please check this first even though most of it is not translated you will be able to find times and prices and order tickets online or get telephone support http://www.rede-expressos.pt/default.aspx
A trip from Porto to Lisboa in their busses take roughly 3.5 hours and costs €19 which is one hour less than the regional train and less than 2 euro more expensive.
Local busesLocal buses are more difficult to check online as there are many companies al over Portugal that generally only provide info for their own areas, searching autocarros + “your destination name” will bring you some information but a tourist office, local person or our live chat will help you faster. If we have enough availability to help!
Taxis Taxi´s aren’t officially considered ´public transport´ but in Portugal there very often used as such. They´re relatively cheap and in many places the only way to get around. Specifically if you are traveling in a small group you could find yourself saving money by traveling by taxi depending on distance and circumstance. The best thing outside of Lisbon is to find a local taxi driver that doesn’t need to come from far as he or she may charge you the extra cost and in Lisbon the key is to know where youre going and the route to get there. Most are straight honest people that will go out of their way to get you to your destination as safely and fast as possible some will drive the extra km to get the meter cost as high as possible. Be prepared!
The minimum price of a taxi is €3.50 11km costs €16.00 at night, depending on traffic and fits 4.
The mountainous landscape of most of Portugal can be a bit of a challenge but bikes are free to take on trains and get you wherever you want to go in the best possible way, not public but private transport best out of season! :)
Lisbon by metro
Information on Lisbon’s metro can be found here http://www.metrolisboa.pt/eng/ Even though traveling through Lisbon on holiday is probably a lot more interesting above ground, Lisbon has a fantastic metro network that will get you through the city fast and cheap.
You need to buy a ticket for 50 cents which you can recharge as many times as you need. One trip costs 1.40 cents, the card is used to check in and check out so don’t loose it and because the recharging sometimes fails you’re advised to choose the print payment slip as a proof that you charged it if it fails!
Download here a map of Lisbon’s metro network to help plan your trip
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