What does car hire cost in Portugal?
That depends a bit on where you want to rent a car, but in general cheap car hire in Portugal is really easy to obtain.
Below are some price examples (via Holidaycars):
- An economy model for one week in Porto costs €88 per week, or €12.60 per day.
- An economy car hire for one week in Lisbon can already be booked for €78 per week or €11.14 per day.
- An economy car for one week in the Algarve costs €70 per week or €10 per day.
- A small economy car rental in the beautiful Madeira costs slightly more for one week: €145. That is €20.7 per day.
- Renting a compact economy car in the Azores (São Miguel) starts at €220 for one week or €31.50 per day.
To find the cheapest rental cars in Portugal, I recommend to consult websites that compare prices of multiple car rental agencies at once.
My favorite website is Holidaycars.com, but to be sure, I always compare with Rentalcars.
Of course you can also book directly with the well-known car rental companies such as Alamo, Sixt, Avis and Budget but my experience tells me that they are always more expensive than the aforementioned websites…
Don’t forget that you also have to pay extra for a car insurance. I advise you to book this as ab add-on online, because you’ll definitely pay more if you only take it at the airport. Online you pay about €5 to €11 extra per day that you rent a car.
Why should I opt for cheap car rental in Portugal?
Thanks to several low cost airlines you can fly cheaply to the Portuguese sun and on top of that you’ll only spend about 80 euros per week because of the extremely cheap car hire in Portugal.
If you only go on a city trip for a few days, I don’t think it’s necessary to rent a car in Portugal. In Porto and Lisbon there is plenty to do and in the vicinity there are also a number of destinations that you can easily reach by train or bus. (However, I would make an exception for a day trip to the Douro valley from Porto. It’s easy to rent a car for just one or two days, and still you won’t pay much more than €10 per day!)
When you go for a week or more, I would definitely choose for car rental in Portugal to get the most out of your stay. So you can stay in charming bed and breakfasts in the countryside and this way you’re also not always dependent on a hotel in the city center.
Where can I rent a car in Portugal?
The most logical choices are the capital Lisbon and Porto. From here you can find the cheapest flights and there is also the largest selection of car rental companies. Porto is about three hours away from Lisbon, so you don’t necessarily have to rent your car in Lisbon and deliver it back there. You can also drop it off in Porto (or vice versa).
Portugal, however, has two other gems: the islands of the Azores and Madeira. Hiring a car in the Azores is in my opinion an absolute must and you can read more about this in this article. Renting a car on Madeira also makes your stay a lot easier and the reason why you can read here.
There is no ferry connection between mainland Portugal and these two islands, so you can’t travel with your own car or rental car to these place. You have to fly and rent a car locally.
Which rental car in Portugal should you choose?
If you plan to drive in the cities a lot (which isn’t really necessary because there is well-organized public transport), it’s best not to rent a car that is too big. After all, the streets were built when the car didn’t yet exist, so there isn’t too much space to maneuver anyway. This is also the case in the Azores or even in Madeira (Funchal city). Cheap car hire in Portugal often also means that you’ll get smaller cars, so low-cost does actually have its advantages!
However, if you go on holiday with a family, it’s not so comfortable to cram all of you in a mini.
Don’t worry, because you can book a bigger rental car in Portugal too. It may just be more convenient to park it outside the city center.
Although the roads aren’t all in great conditions (especially in the Azores), you certainly don’t have to rent a jeep.
With temperatures that can rise to 30 degrees in the summer it’s not a bad idea to hire a car with air conditioning, by the way.
Which attractions are easier to reach with a rental car in Portugal?
First and foremost, you should definitely know that you should take public transport in the big cities. For example, if you’re going to rent a car in Porto, it might be a good idea to pick up your cheap hire car in Portugal only after a few days, because your car will probably not be used very much for the first few days. If you go on vacation for ten days, this is ideal, because it is cheaper to book a rental car per week.
From Lisbon there are a number of destinations that you can easily reach by train such as the magnificent Palace of Queluz, the charming Sintra and the enchanting coastal village of Cascais.
In the Porto area I think of Aveiro (better known as the Venice of Portugal) and the bustling university cities of Braga and Coimbra.
However, there are also a number of attractions that can be reached much faster and easier (and sometimes only) by car. In the north, for example, the Douro Valley and the Peneda-Gerês National Park, in the south the UNESCO World Heritage that you find in Evora and the Reserva Natural do Estuario do Sado. In this nature reserve you can be amazed by hundreds of dolphins in their natural habitat.
On the islands you really need a rental car in my opinion. However, usually cheap car hire is a lot harder to find if compared to the mainland of Portugal.
Madeira is perfect to cross by car and only then you can see its fantastic sights such as the Ponta do Rosto or the amazing waterfall road (a street where you drive under a giant waterfall, how cool is that?!).
The same is true for the sights in the Azores. On São Miguel you can still book tours (but they are expensive in comparison), but if you want to see the Sete Cidades, the Boca do Inferno or the Lagoa do Fogo you really have to have a car. On the other islands, there is also a lot to see. The only UNESCO village of this archipelago; Angra do Heroísmo, the fantastic Biscoitos with its black lava pools. If all of this doesn’t say anything to you, then the fantastic view of Mount Pico from down the road is certainly worth a visit and last but not least the mighty Capelinhos volcano in Faial. Wow!
The big cities are of course always connected with buses and trains, but unless you go backpacking through the country, the ease of use is also a decisive argument for choosing cheap car hire in Portugal.
Traffic rules in Portugal
As in most countries on the European mainland, the Portugese also drive along the right side of the road. Rules such as wearing your seat belt and not using your cellphone while driving are also obvious here. Because otherwise your cheap car hire in Portugal might not be so cheap!
Driving drunk is of course also not tolerated. In Portugal you can have a maximum of 0.5 per mille of alcohol in your blood, and you’ll reach that level quite quickly once you have tried the delicious porto or wine of Madeira!
Don’t drive too fast, because the police is out frequently! These are the maximum speeds:
- 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
Parking rules in Portugal
The parking rules depend a bit on where you are in Portugal, but especially in the big cities (Porto and Lisbon) there are strict rules.
Remember that ‘Estacionamento Probido’ means you can’t park here. Normally there is always a white and blue sign with a red line through, or a yellow or red road marking.
Depending on where you are, there are different parking zones. It is best to look what these mean on the spot.
The closer you park in the (historical) center, the more expensive it will be to park and the shorter you may probably be there. The rates can vary greatly! From €0.50 per hour to €2 per hour.
Often you can park free of charge until the next morning after a certain hour (usually after 6 pm or 8 pm).
Also always keep in mind that parking in certain residential areas is prohibited between 8 am and 6 pm. Afterwards (or before) you can park here, but if you don’t move in time fines are possible.
Are you in doubt? Then just park in an underground parking garage.
On the islands (Madeira and the Azores) it’s often quite unclear where to park, but the advantage of this is that you don’t have to pay in many places. Only in the big cities (São Miguel or Funchal, for example) you’ll be charged to park your cheap rental car.
Toll roads in Portugal
There are no toll roads on the islands, but around Porto and Lisbon there are quite a lot!
There are two types of toll roads:
- The manual toll roads where you pay cash or with a bank card.
- The electronic toll road where you can pay as follows:
- Toll card: a sort of prepaid card that you have to purchase at a gas station.
Easytoll: the license plate of your rental car is linked to your credit card.
Toll Service: this option costs 20 euros and is valid for three days regardless of where you drive to.
Via Verde Visitors: you have to check this with the car rental company. You can also buy this device for your own car in a Via Verde point or in a post office. Especially if you are going to drive through Portugal for a long time, this is a good idea.
Do you rent this machine from your car rental company? Then don’t forget to also sign a paper (and ask questions if you don’t know what you’re signing!) as proof that you have activated it. If you return your car to the rental agency, you’ll have to pay the cost of the toll roads.
- Toll card: a sort of prepaid card that you have to purchase at a gas station.
Cheap car hire in Portugal online
I think that nowadays no one books their rental car last minute at the airport anymore because it’s obviously so much cheaper to book your car in advance and online. Nowadays there are a lot of car rental companies which makes it difficult to look out for cheap prices. Therefore I recommend using Holidaycars. They automatically compare the prices of different car rental agencies for you, so you can choose the most suitable option and perhaps even the cheapest possible car hire in Portugal.
(Another website that does this and that I trust is Rentalcars.)
The minimum age to rent a car in Portugal is 23 and sometimes even 25. Check this carefully with the car rental company. An international driving license is not necessary if you live in the EU, but might be a good idea if you come from somewhere else.
Also note that some companies impose a maximum mileage. Also check this carefully so that you’ll not be faced with unpleasant surprises when you’re enjoying your holidays.
The Azores or Porto… wherever you choose to use your cheap car hire for Portugal, you’ll soon find that out you actually can’t explore the country without one. Once you observe the enchanting azulejos of Porto or admired the Boca do Inferno on São Miguel, you’ll ask yourself why no more people have their holidays in Portugal. The bigger cities might sometimes be crowded with tourists, but the unexplored areas next to them are so much more fun anyway…
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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.