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Car rental in Porto: tips on how to find cheap cars and must do day trips

A trip to Porto is always a good idea. I even thought it was the most charming city in Portugal. Two or three days in the beautiful Oporto are usually enough, but also in the region around this city there is a lot to see, so a rental car is not a bad idea. In this article I'll give you tips on hiring a (cheap) rental car in Porto and which sights you can visit once you have your car with you.

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douro valley car hire

My rental car in the Douro valley. I was really glad that I chose a rental car! This way I saw a lot more and at my own pace.

Car hire in Porto: cost

From the airport of Porto I rented a car for barely €5 + €5 insurance = €10 per day! I was of course very happy with this price (but also a bit skeptical), but in the end it turns out that I could’ve rented a car even cheaper!
My skepticism, by the way, was not needed because I never had to pay anything extra. Even my insurance was top of the notch (I had a small scratch on my door, damn it!), because the eventual cost that occurred for this damage was paid back by the insurance company in less than three days.

To rent such a cheap car in Porto, I compared rental cars through RentCars. This website immediately compares dozens of car rental companies and this way you always get the cheapest possible price. Strangely enough, they are even cheaper than when you book directly on the website of a car rental company like Sixt or Alamo…

Some price examples:

Car rental in Porto via RentCars:

  • A small car (Ford Ka) for one week costs €3.11.
  • An economy car (Peugeot 207) for one week costs €18.50.
  • A compact car (Ford Focus) for one week costs €54.69.
  • A luxury car (Audi A3) will cost you €118.92 for one week.

Don’t forget that you also have to pay for insurance. Per day, you pay €5.5 (partially insured) or €11 (fully insured).

holidaycars car rental porto

Is it easy to drive around in Porto?

If you’re used to driving in big cities, I didn’t find Porto a real challenge. If you live in rural areas (like me!) then you might need to adjust for a bit, but if you keep your cool you’ll get the hang of it in no time.
The steep streets are sometimes a bit of a challenge (use your handbrake if necessary!), but the oncoming traffic is often not so big of a problem because the narrow streets are usually one-way traffic.
All in all, I also find that the Portuguese drivers drive quite politely. I never saw aggression. Of course, there are always a few people who drive too fast, too slow or too wild. But I don’t think there’s one place in the world where this isn’t the case!

Once you drive out of the center of Porto, it becomes even easier. The roads are all of very good quality and the traffic signs perfectly indicate what is allowed and what isn’t. The only problem could be that you want to drive a little too slow to look at all those beautiful landscapes. So… Stay focused on the road, or at least plan in enough time for some photo stops!

porto car hire

In Porto you can actually visit most sights by walking, and therefore it’s especially for day trips in the area that you’ll need a car.

Why would you choose for car rental in Porto?

First of all, it must be said that Porto is a fantastic city that you can visit for at least two days, three if you take it very slowly. Before you even think about renting a car in Porto, you should also take your time to walk around in the city center.
Be amazed by the the dazzling blue ceramic Azulejos, admire the extremely beautiful interior of the Sao Francisco church or stroll along the Douro. If you’re tired of all those steep streets and steps, you can use the very well-organized network of public transport. You can choose the tram, bus, metro or funicular railway to get around. Personally, I don’t think you should ever use public transport, since everything is pretty centrally located. But the steep streets do make you tired a lot faster…

If you’re going to stay a little longer in the area of ​​Porto, it’s definitely worthwhile to rent a car because there are a lot of nice things to see in the vicinity.
If you also choose to rent your car at Porto airport, you can immediately hand in your car at the airport and check in for your flight home at the end of your holiday.
And if you’re worried that car hire in Porto is expensive, well… it really isn’t! Often you can rent a car for barely (!) €2 per day.

car hire porto portugal

From in the car you can of course also see many of the sights in Porto!

Which sights can be reached with a rental car from Porto?

For the sights in Porto itself, you should definitely read this post, in which you can read what you can do in this great city.
Once you have seen all these attractions, there are still a lot of fun things to see outside of Porto:

Esposende

After a couple of days of walking the necessary miles, you will surely want to lie on the beach and do nothing. The good news is that you only have to drive forty minutes, because 50 km north of Porto lies Esposende. Here you can find a lovely -and not so touristy- beach with picturesque dunes and lovely restaurants.

Guimaraes

After a day of relaxing, your batteries are again recharged so now you can see some more Portugese culture. If you go further inland, you may discover the place where the country actually originated. The first royal family of Portugal and their castle can still be admired in Guimaraes. There are also a lot of other interesting medieval buildings in this area, so it might feel as if you’re walking back in time.

The Douro Valley

In this blog post you could already read how much I loved the Douro Valley, and so it’s only logical that I advise you to follow the river for yourself as well. Coming from Porto you’ll soon reach the Douro valley where the green hills and vineyards will definitely enchant you. Be sure to stop at a Quinta for a port tasting or perhaps even opt for a cruise on the Douro river!

Braga

This is one of those cities that mixes old with new. In this way it even made me think back a bit of Berlin. Braga is also a university city, creating a lively atmosphere in the charming streets. Here, you can also find the oldest cathedral in the country and the famous Bom Jesus do Monte.

day trip douro valley tour

The twisting roads along the Douro Valley provide the best possible views. And only with the car you can get this high!

Viana do Castelo

Portugal is an excellent destination for fanatical Instagrammers and they can also fully enjoy themselves in Viana do Castelo. The city is known as one of the most visually attractive cities in the country and has a fascinating mix of beautiful beaches and a medieval center. Eye-catcher of the latter is the temple of Santa Luzia (Templo-Monumento de Santa Luzia). Don’t forget to end your day trip with a portion of fresh fish in the harbor.

Aveiro

Did you know that you can have a gondola ride in other places than Venice as well? It might not surprise you that Aveiro’s nickname is “the Venice of Portugal”. Without all those heaps of tourists, that is. And also important: it’s so much more colorful than La Serenissima! Aveiro shouldn’t be missed when you visit the area around Porto, especially since it’s less than an hour’s drive from the city on the Douro. I recommend that you also complete your day trip to Aveiro with a visit to the ‘Costa Nova’. A beautiful beach with one of the most beautiful promenades I have ever seen! Colorful wooden beach houses and beautiful dunes: this is Europe at its best! To get to the Costa Nova by public transport from Aveiro is a rather complicated and long drive, so renting a private car here is certainly not a bad idea.

Peneda-Gerês National Park

I don’t think that the Portuguese kitchen is amazing, but that doesn’t mean that you won’t gain some pounds in this country… The delicious Portuguese wines, the porto and – I must admit – the fantastic desserts will definitely make you crave for more. The good news is that you can get rid of this excess weight by hiking in the country’s only national park. The nice thing about your stroll through this natural environment is that you’ll also find a lot of medieval remains.

Coimbra

This lively city is almost one and a half hours away from Porto, but it is the ideal stop if you also visit Lisbon (in the south). Coimbra is also a university town where a river (the Mondego) flows through the medieval center. Culture lovers shouldn’t miss the Machado de Castro National Museum, as well as the ancient cathedrals and the beautiful gardens of Penedo da Saudade. Afterwards you can wash away all of this culture in the baixinha, where you can taste the local Bairrada wine or licor beirao (sweet liqueur).

Cross the border to Spain:

The nice thing about renting a car in Porto is that you are fairly close to the Spanish border and that you can easily visit Vigo and Santiago de Compostela for example. You must have visited these two cities at least once in your life, and if you’re so close by… Why not take advantage of that?!

Aveiro day trip porto car hire

Aveiro, the Venice of Portugal.

Traffic rules in Portugal

In Portugal, people drive at the right hand side of the road. And of course there are also some rules that apply to everyone just as everywhere else in the world: wearing a seat belt, not using (smart)phones behind the steering wheel and of course not throwing garbage on the street are only some of them.
There are also strict fines on alcohol use! So make sure you never have more than 0.5 mg of alcohol in your blood.

The maximum speeds in and around Porto are as follows:

  • 50 km / h within the built-up area
  • 90 km / h outside the built-up area
  • 100 km / h on motorways
  • 120 km / h on motorways

Finally I would also like to mention that direction indicators seem to be non-existent in Portugal. So always pay extra attention for swiftly moving vehicles, especially on motorways and roundabouts.

hire car porto

Don’t drive too fast, because there is a lot to discover on the way.

Toll roads in Portugal

If you leave from the airport of Porto, you’ll have to deal with a toll road right away. That’s why it’s important to be aware of the following:

There are two types of toll roads. On one of them you can pay cash or with your debit or credit card, on the the other one you can only pay with an electronic device. With this last method of payment there are four payment options:

  • Via Verde Visitors: In most cases, car rental companies use this way of paying for these specific toll roads. An electronic machine is installed in the car and is automatically scanned by a kind of camera on the toll road. The final bill will be sent to your car rental company and once you’re handing in your rental car you’ll have to pay this bill on the spot (or at a later time). If you buy this mechanical box for your own car, you do that in a Via Verde point or in a post office. This way is actually the simplest solution if you travel around the country for a long time.
  • Toll card: This prepaid card can be purchased in almost all Portugal service stations.
  • Easytoll: The license plate of your car is linked to your credit card.
  • Toll Service: A standard card which costs €20. With this card you can use as many roads as you want. This will remain valid for three days.

Parking regulations in Porto

The streets in Porto were built when there were no cars yet in existence. As a result, the streets are rather narrow, so that only one-way traffic is permitted in many of them. Because of this it can be quite stressful to drive around here. Therefore I advice to first explore the city and only afterwards rent a car at Porto airport. This will also save you a lot of parking costs, by the way.
From Porto you can easily get back to the airport. You can take a taxi, but a cheaper way is ‘Uber‘ (smartphone application). Even cheaper is making use of public transport or a shuttle bus (€11).

If you want to park in the center and your hotel doesn’t offer parking, you should choose one of the underground parking garages.
In the center itself you have to pay from Monday to Friday from 8 am to 8 pm and on Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm. Depending on the zone you can park for a maximum of two to six hours. A nice overview of all parking options (including prices) can be found here.

parking porto car hire

Sometimes people also park in the narrow streets.

Renting a car in Porto online

I hope everyone already knows that you should book your car online and (well) in advance. There are many different car rental companies in Porto, but in my experience RentCars (from €2 per day). For insurance you pay €5.50 or €11 per day extra.

You have to be at least 23 years old to rent a car in Porto and in some cases even 25. With an EU driving license you won’t need an international driver’s license in Portugal.

Which car should you rent in Porto?

Portugal is anything but a third world country so you don’t need a jeep to defy the steep streets. Which car you rent depends mainly on your personal preference and budget. So you can definitely choose the cheapest model. I would only check (in summer) that your vehicle has air conditioning. Finally, if you plan to drive in the center of Porto, I would choose to rent a small car because (as you could read earlier) the streets are quite narrow.
The same is true for the Douro Valley. The winding roads and sharp turns (and often narrow streets in the village centers) are easier to navigate with a smaller car.

costa nova car rental porto

The beautiful Costa Nova. A perfect trip by car from Porto!

 

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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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