Portugal is, in our opinion, one of the most underrated travel destinations in all of Europe. For a small country, it packs a big punch. From historic cities and castles to white-sand beaches and vineyards, this place really has it all. Highlights include madeira, the azores, Lisbon, The Algarve, Sintra, Porto, and several smaller cities scattered along the west coast. Keep reading for everything you need to know about planning an epic trip to portugal!
Portugal is located on the west side of Spain, with a huge stretch of coastline along the Atlantic Ocean. If you are visiting the mainland, you will most likely fly into Lisbon. From there, you can easily access the rest of the country.
If you would like to visit the Azores Islands and Madeira—which we think you should!— you’re going to have to book a few more flights. The Azores are located about 3/4 of the way between North America and Portugal, so flying into São Miguel on your way to or from Portugal is a great option. from the main island, you can hop on smaller flights or ferries to get around.
To get to Madeira, you can either take a flight from São Miguel or from Lisbon. This island is located quite far south and offers incredible hiking and great weather!
Best Time to Travel
Portugal is an excellent travel destination year-round, but there are certain months that receive significantly warmer weather and/or fewer tourists.
April, May, September, and October are some of the best times to visit Portugal as far as the weather and crowds go.
June to August can get very hot, particularly in areas like Lisbon. Everyone heads to the Algarve during this period to enjoy the heat on the beaches, making them extremely busy.
November to March is certainly the chilliest time to visit, but Portugal still gets a good amount of sun. It can be a great time to explore the cities and inland areas while avoiding the crowds and prices of the high season.
Average Daily Budget
Our average daily budget in Portugal was $93 Euros ($100 USD) per person per day. We travelled throughout Mainland Portugal in a campervan and stayed in hotels on the islands. We cooked 1 meal a day and stayed for free most nights in the camper.
Daily Budget Breakdown:
- Transportation: $30 Euros ($ 32 USD) per person per day
- Food & Drinks: $ 25 Euros ($27 USD) per person per day
- Accommodation: $25 Euros ($ 27 USD) per person per day
- Tours & Activities: $13 ($ 14 USD) per person per day
There are options to suit every budget when it comes to accommodation in Portugal. From boojie all-inclusive hotels to Airbnbs or campervan rentals, finding a place to stay in this country is relatively easy.
In terms of hotels and Airbnbs, the earlier you book, the better! We stayed at hotels in Lisbon, Azores, and Madeira, and travelled the rest of the mainland in a campervan. For us, it was the perfect combination!
If you are wondering about this option, Portugal has far fewer rules about overnight parking than many other countries, making van life very doable. We used the app Park4night and the website Portugal Easy Camp to locate free or inexpensive places to stay each night.
There are several ways to travel the country, but our recommendation would be by car or campervan. Stopping into some of the lesser-known towns and coastal areas will make a big difference in your trip, and you just can’t get that on a tour or a bus.
The caveat to this is if you plan to spend most of your time in Lisbon, Porto, or at an all-inclusive resort in The Algarve. If that is the case, you can easily get around by foot or public transit.
Driving in Portugal
Driving in Portugal is relatively easy, especially on the tolls roads and in the rural areas. Lisbon can be tricky due to the complex over changes and the sheer volume of traffic, so we would suggest you have a good navigator or Google maps.
Despite the cost, toll roads are quick, well maintained, and well signed which makes travelling far distances easy and comfortable. If you want to save money and have plenty of time for your trip, you can avoid the toll roads by toggling this setting to “off” on Google earth.
The non-toll roads are narrower, older, and usually consist of a round-about every few kilometres. In general, if you have the budget, we would always recommend going for the toll roads. Some exceptions would be the coastal roads in the Algarve and the drive between Porto and the Douro Valley specifically for scenery.
To give you an idea of the cost, we spent a total of 130 EU on toll roads. This included driving from Lisbon to Porto, to the Douro Valley, down to the Algarve, and then back up to Lisbon in 10 days.
During this time we spent approximately 350 EU on diesel fuel. Although this was more than we originally expected, it was worth it to be able to see the entire country in the limited amount of time that we had. Keep in mind, we were also driving a campervan, so the fuel cost would be much lower with a small car.
- Stay in a hostel or Airbnb that includes a kitchen.
- Book your accommodation well in advance (especially in high season) because once the vacancy rate goes down the prices go up.
- Book your car rental a few months in advance for the best prices.
- If you are staying in a campervan, use the app Park4night and the website Portugal Easy Camp to locate free or inexpensive places to stay each night.
- Eat from small local restaurants to significantly decrease your food budget.
- Unlike North America where 18-20% gratuity is expected from the wait staff, a tip of a few Euros after a meal is appreciated at restaurants.