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Car rental in the Azores: is it necessary? Tips, info and cheap car hire

Renting a car in the Azores is, in my opinion, a must. There are too many places where you can't get to with public transport. An alternative is of course to do everything with tours and excursions, but that is often more expensive and sometimes it's also more fun to explore something alone and at your own pace. During my two-week round trip around the Azores I rented a car on four different islands. I tell you everything you need to know about renting a car in the Azores in this article.

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car rent azores

The Lagoa do Fogo. Actually you can’t get here without a car.

Renting a car in the Azores: Price

Car rental in the Azores isn’t very cheap. The price also differs greatly from island to island. The more tourist islands have more rental companies, which often means that the price will also be lower. The smaller and less frequently visited islands often have a lot less car rental companies, which makes the prices more expensive.

On the largest islands (São Miguel, Terceira, Pico) you pay between €140 and €300 per week for a small car. On the less touristy islands (Faial for example) you pay around €350 for a week.

The best way to see all local and big car rental agencies, is by using websites such as RentCars or Sunnycars. These companies almost always give you the cheapest possible options for your holiday to the Azores. Of course you can also book directly with Let’s Rent-a-Car, Autatlantis or Ilha, a few of the smaller agencies on the islands.

Booking in advance often gives you a better price. Some examples of prices if you book a month in advance (Via RentCars):

An insurance is not a bad idea here either, because the narrow streets are sometimes frightening to drive on. For insurance you pay between €5.50 and €11 extra per day (at SunnyCars the most complete insurance is automatically included in the price and you can also rent cars without having a credit card here).

You can book insurance online or on the spot, but keep in mind that you almost always pay more when you decide to add it on the spot (the same applies to car hire as well. You always get better rates online.)

holidaycars car rental azores

Some example rates for a one week car rental in the Azores.

Is it easy to drive a car in the Azores?

Driving in the Azores requires some adjustments in the beginning, but I would not call it difficult. There are many sharp curves that take you up and down the steep hills and mountains, and often the roads are also narrower than what most of us are used to. So in the beginning you’ll need to adapt a bit, but you quickly get used to everything. Moreover, there are not a lot of cars on the islands and so it is never very gets very busy on the roads.

The most used roads are of good quality on every island, but always keep in mind that you’ll probably also have to navigate on a few bad roads. At São Miguel, virtually all lanes are covered with concrete, but there are still some here and there that are in urgent need of renovation.
On all other eight islands of the Azores you often find cracked roads and often also long stretches of road that are actually no more than tamped mud with some pebbles on them (and sometimes even small rocks). So: don’t drive too fast!

Furthermore, I also want to warn you about driving in a city or village center. Just like in the rest of Europe, the villages and towns in the Azores were also built hundreds of years ago. As a result, the streets are often very narrow (and one-way traffic) and it’s not unusual that cobblestones are used instead of concrete.
To make it even more difficult, cars are often parked in those narrow streets. Don’t drive too fast here and definitely don’t rent a car that is too big. Driving a Jeep through these narrow roads would seem almost impossible to me!

road quality azores car hire

Some roads in the Azores are not that great, but that makes every car drive adventurous!

Some sights that you can only see by car

Almost all of the top things to do in the Azores are located quite far from the cities or villages. That means you always have to use a car if you want to visit these sights. There are also certain excursions that you can take to a certain side of an island, but in comparison such tours are often much more expensive than renting a car. If you book your vehicle with RentCars, for example, a car can already be rented out for €20 per day.

Of course you can always use public transport (or taxis), but the public transport is often not that amazing…
Would you like to see the most beautiful sights in the Azores? Then make sure to check out the photos in this article as well.

São Miguel

Sette Cidades – One of the most spectacular sights of the Azores is undoubtedly the Sette Cidades. You can view this gigantic lake from up high (or drive around it, but that is less impressive). Park your car along the street side and behold this superb creation of Mother Nature! Are you not so easily spooked? Then you should also visit the deserted hotel that is located right behind this viewpoint. From the roof terrace you also get beautiful views over the Sette Cidades.

Boca do Inferno – My personal favorite: the Boca do Inferno. This natural park actually has two beautiful sights, but it is mainly the Boca do Inferno that should get all of your attention. After you’ve parked in the nearby parking lot, it’s a ten minute climb before you are rewarded with beautiful natural landscapes of the flooded crater.

Caldeiras da Lagoa das Furnas – White steam rises non-stop from this place. It almost seems as if you’ve found the gates to hell! Along a winding wooden path you can see a kind of steam geyser bubbling up. The rising air also has a very specific smell… But it is a nice sight to see!

Mosteiros – You don’t find many beaches on São Miguel, but Mosteiros is cozy enough to spend some time here. The pitch-black, solidified lava provides natural beach pools here. In good weather, locals and tourists swim here until the sea gets too wild or until the sun sets! Would you rather not get into the salt seawater? Then you should just enjoy a drink while watching the blue water gliding over the black rocks.

Salto do Cabrito – A visit to this waterfall is impossible without your own car. This attraction is located quite remotely, but is really worth a visit. It’s not only the waterfall itself that makes it such a nice attraction, but also the way leading up to it. The path you take to this falling water is quite adventurous (and exhausting!), and a splash in the fresh water afterwards will be more than welcome.

Nossa Senhora da Paz – I think this is the most beautiful church in the Azores. It’s quite remote and actually not so easy to find, but once you get there you’ll be glad that you have visited it anyway. This blue and white church is very special. It doesn’t look like the traditional churches that you see in the rest of Europe at all! From up here you also get a nice view over the coast of the nearby village.

car rental azores boca do inferno

The Boca do Inferno on São Miguel island!

Pico

Gruta das Torres – On Pico there are also many attractions that you can only visit by car. Just think of the Gruta das Torres. An impressive lava cave that you can explore together with a guide. Marvel at the strange rock formations, listen to the blissful silence or be impressed by the alien foilage that grows here.

Lagoa do Capitão – Another great spot in Pico is the Capitão lake. In good weather you can see the reflection of the highest mountain in Portugal in this small lake, and that makes it really impressive.

Criação Velha vineyard – If you like wine, you can not skip the vineyards of Criação Velha. Black lava stones are stacked onto one mile after another, and along these porous stones grow vines which grow the delicious grapes that once will turn into wine. Do you want to take some nice pictures? Then look for the red mill in the middle, or go to the wine museum of Pico.

lagoa capitao pico azores rental car

The view from the Lagoa do Capitão isn’t that bad. Don’t you think so too?

Faial

Capelinhos volcano – One of the most extraordinary landscapes of the Azores is Faial. Black, gray and red-brown sand stretch as far as your eyes can see! Not long ago the Capelinhos volcano spewed lava and ashes high up in the air, creating a unique landscape. Besides the beautiful view, you can also learn something here down at the museum (the lighthouse). Well worth the trip!

Porto Pim – If you’re looking for a beautiful beach, then you must go to Faial. The quiet Porto Pim really is heaven on earth! Turquoise water, golden sand with some black lava stones and rocks here and there and the best of all… There are very few tourists! Sometimes it seems like you’ve ended up on a deserted island. What a lovely place!

Caldeira – Do you want to see another gigantic remnant of a volcano? Then visit the Caldeira. This deep crater is gigantic! If you know that this creation has a diameter of more than eight kilometers (5 miles), you start to realize how powerful such a volcanic eruption must be…

porto pim azores car rental

Park your car near this secluded beach and start relaxing! (Porto Pim, Faial)

Important to know: the Portuguese traffic rules

You drive on the right hand side of the road here, you can’t drive drunk, you always have to wear your seat belt, …
There is also the rule of right of way right here, but most drivers don’t seem to care much about it. So pay attention! Moreover, if you come from the right you also have to give priority. Always pay attention to traffic signs and road markings. In the beginning I found some of the rules quite confusing.

Maximum speeds

The speed limits vary greatly in the Azores. Always pay attention to the traffic signs.
Although there are (some kind of) highways on all islands, you should never drive faster than 100 km/h (usually maximum 90 km/h). In the village center you can drive 50 km/h, but always pay attention. Because the twisting and turnings streets can be treacherous and very often the houses are also standing very close to where you are driving.
I saw only one speed camera on my trip through the Azores, but I did notice police officers doing radar controls more often. I would advice to pay attention to the speed limit, because fines are pricey!

Tip: Book your car at least a few days in advance. That way you can save a lot of money! Websites that I use to compare prices are RentCars or Sunny Cars.

car hire azores faial

Don’t drive too fast, because the landscapes you see from the car are also wonderful! (view in Faial)

Parking in the Azores

Just act like the Portuguese and park wherever you want.
I’m joking of course, although it sometimes seems that they really don’t seem to care a lot…

Actually, I never had to pay anywhere except in the city center of Ponta Delgada (São Miguel). There you pay about €1 per hour. If you don’t mind to walkg for a bit, you can also park out of town as most of the times you can find free parking places quite easily.

In the other cities around the island, you sometimes have to pay too, but usually you’ll also find lots of free parking spots nearby. So if you keep your eyes open, you never actually have to pay for a parking spot on these paradise islands.
Furthermore, the same rules apply as in every other country. Always watch out for traffic signs, and pay attention to yellow painted road signs.

Refueling your car

Petrol is quite expensive in the Azores. Certainly in comparison with the other costs of these beautiful islands! During my stay (2018) one liter of petrol cost €1,440. I think this was also a fixed price, because it was the same at every single gas station that I saw during my visit.
To refuel you just have to put the pump hose in your car, fill it up and then pay inside. Make sure you always have some cash in your wallet as well, because in some (rarely, but still…) service stations they don’t accept foreign bank cards.

car hire azores refuelling

Occasionally you of course have to refuel to see all that beauty of the Azores!

Online car hire in the Azores

Nowadays everything can be done online. So renting a car in the Azores can be too.
Personally I recommend to book your vehicle online, because from previous experiences I learned that renting a car is always much cheaper when you do it online instead of doing it on the spot.
Moreover, it’s also much easier to compare different car rental companies this way, and often you don’t have to wait in line anymore and your insurance will be cheaper.

I myself always compare prices through RentCars and Sunny Cars.
These are two comparison platforms that almost always show me the cheapest price. Comparing is never a bad idea, because you always find a better rate or better conditions elsewhere…

I almost always find the cheapest rates with RentCars. With these websites, dozens of car rental companies are compared immediately, so it’s very easy to find the cheapest car.
If you also want to add insurance, you pay €5.50 or €10.50 per day extra.

Sunny Cars seems to be more expensive at first sight, but that is because an all-in insurance is automatically included in the final price. Perhaps this website is therefore ideal to rent a car in the Azores. This way you can drive around the narrow streets with more peace of mind.

I almost always find the lowest possible rate on one of these websites, but of course you are free to look further on other websites or book directly with local companies such as Let’s Rent-a-Car, Autatlantis of Ilha Verde Rent-a-Car.

car road trip azores rent

One thing is certain: your holiday to the Azores will be phenomenal!

Should you rent a big or small car?

Because of the mountainous landscape and sometimes also bad roads, you might think that you need a 4×4 here. But I don’t really recommend that.
4×4 Cars are way too big to navigate through the small streets of Ponta Delgada or Angra do Heroísmo and the many hairpin bends. It’s certainly not impossible, but you’ll need steel nerves to do so!
The smallest (and cheapest!) cars usually have a less powerful engine, but I’ve never had problems with that myself. Or well … Just once: on a dirt road that went up very steep!

renting a car azores

Sometimes you have to make your way through very narrow streets. A small car is therefore quite useful!

Do you prefer tours anyway?

Are you afraid that renting a car in the Azores is not a good idea for you, or would you prefer to enjoy all those beautiful views instead of being behind the steering wheel? Then you can also arrange an excursion or tour, of course. There are many possibilities that you can book online. Just look at these deals:

 

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In this article you'll find a few affiliate links. When you book something with these travel organizations, I get a small commission. You don't pay anything extra for that. You can thus see it as a way to support this blog if you found the information helpful. I use all of these travel organizations myself, and I will only recommend the ones that I really like.
 

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Hi, I'm Sam Van den Haute. The last three years I've been traveling the world almost constantly. Heading out for an adventure and visiting the most beautiful places are what I love to do! Let me inspire you with great stories, beautiful pictures and handy tips from my adventures and travels. On my facebook page and instagram account you'll get to see the latest updates and photos to inspire you for your next vacation.
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  1. Heath Castellan says:

    Hi Sam, I’m visiting Azores, and now it looks like the car rental will not be difficult for me there. Thanks for your tips.

  2. Great Info! I need to rent a car at the airport in Faial and return to the port and then pickup at the port in Pico and return to the airport. Is that an option? I am not seeing many locations in my search.

    • Hi Caitlin

      I did it the other way around in Faial, so I’m sure you can do it that way… If you use the websites I mentioned you can normally pick different pick-up or drop-off locations.
      I’m pretty sure that you can do the same in Pico!

      Have fun in the Azores!
      Sam

  3. Nancy says:

    Renting a car is very easy, but be careful for hidden costs. We were charged 10 Euros because we didn’t vacuum the car before returning it. And it was just normal tracking of some dirt into the car during it’s use. They also offered us an upgrade for a GPS, which was outdated and didn’t have the new roads on it.

    • Hi Nancy

      Renting a car has indeed never been easier! It’s best to always read the policy before you decide to rent with a certain company. Most car rental agencies won’t charge you for the vaccuuming of a car. I’ve rented cars all over the world, and I actually never needed to pay anything extra afterwards.

      Locally, they will probably offer you a GPS or even insurance, but I would suggest you always pre-book those things. Especially insurance. On the spot, they often charge you 3 to 5 times more compared to online bookings…
      I wouldn’t rent a GPS myself either. In the Azores I found every location with Google Maps for free 😉

      Sam

  4. Hello
    Great info in car rental in the Azores!
    One thing, are most of the cars in the island (Sao Miguel) manual? or are there options for Automatic?
    Thanks!

    • Hi LS!

      Thanks 🙂 !
      In fact you can always choose to get an automatic option as well, but you’ll always have to pay extra for that…
      I hope that helped you out!

      Sam

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