Portugal is a fairly easy country to navigate. You can get to places where the rails don't reach by taking a train or bus. If you want to get from point A to point B, you can either take the fast toll roads or take the back roads.

How do you get around Portugal? Depending on your own travel plans. Is it possible to stick to the main cities? You should go for the train. Do you plan to go to the beach? There is a bus network in the Algarve. Is it possible to explore nature reserves and remote parks. You need a vehicle. You will find a run-down of the best ways to get around Portugal, as well as some subjective guidance on transport experiences you shouldn't miss.

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A metro train crosses the Dom Luiz bridge with the historic city of Porto beyond.
Intercity trains connect most population centers in Portugal, including pretty Porto © Mapics / Shutterstock

Enjoy the scenic journey aboard the train 

Major cities and towns in Portugal can be reached on the railway network. Even though trains don't go everywhere, journeys on board are often the most scenic way to travel. Lisbon, Lagos, Porto, and Coimbra are popular tourist destinations that are connected by trains.

The country has a rail network headed by the Canadian Pacific. There are four different types of long-distance service.

  • Regional (R): slow trains that stop almost everywhere;
  • Interregional (IR): faster services that skip the smallest stations;
  • Intercidade (IC): express trains that tend to stop only at big cities;
  • Alfa Pendular Deluxe: marginally faster than express trains and much pricier.

Note that in 2021 most international services were discontinued. Only two lines to Spain currently operate: the Celta, a train that runs daily between Porto and Vigo, and a line from Lisbon to Badajoz, where you can change to onward services to Madrid.

The cities of Lisbon and Porto have their own train networks. Lisbon has a network that goes all the way up to the lower Tejo Valley. The definition of asuburban has been redefined by Porto's network, which extends as far as Guimares and Aveiro. Between Coimbra and Figueira da Foz, urbano services run.

There are a number of ways to book trains at stations throughout the country. It is possible to reserve Intercidade and Alfa Pendular tickets up to 30 days in advance. Only other services can be booked in advance.

Children under the age of four are free to travel, and those four to 12 years old are half price. Travelers over the age of 65 can get 50% off any service. Travelers under the age of 25 get a 25% discount.

Take the bus to visit more towns and for getting around the Algarve 

Smaller towns and villages that are not served by the rail network can be visited by bus.

There are a lot of small private bus operators that run a lot of services. Rede Expressos and Rodonorte are large. Vamus Algarve is a brand new bus network in Southern Portugal that serves the entire Algarve.

There are three main categories for bus services.

  • Carreiras: marked “CR,” these are slow services, stopping at every crossroads.
  • Expressos and Rápidas: Comfortable, fast buses. The former tends to run between major cities, the latter around specific regions. These tend to be the most popular with tourists.
  • Alta Qualidade: A fast, deluxe category offered by some companies.

Even in summer, you’ll have little problem booking an expresso ticket for the next or same day. By contrast, local services can thin out to almost nothing on weekends, especially in summer when school is out. For accurate timetable and fare information, visit a ticket desk at the bus station, which you’ll find in bigger towns.

An aerial view of car driving on heavily curved road through a wooded mountain in Encumeada, Ribeira Brava, Madeira, Portugal
Roads are in generally excellent condition throughout Portugal, even in the remote mountains of Madeira © Castro Cicero / Shutterstock

Explore the backroads of Portugal by car or motorbike

It is possible to explore Portugal with your own vehicle. The country has a network of estradas that are continually being upgraded and expanded. The roads in Portugal's small walled towns can be difficult to navigate, with one-way systems forcing you out of your way.

In Portugal, CarRentals.com has car rental outfits located in major towns, cities, and airports.

Scooters can be rented in large cities and on the coast. You can get big discounts for multi-day rentals, which start at 70 per day.

Don’t bother flying 

It's not worth considering flights within mainland Portugal for the short distances involved. There are more than one daily Lisbon–Porto and Lisbon–Faro flights per day. There is a change in Lisbon.

A young woman riding a bicycle on a narrow wooden boardwalk in Carrapateira, Portugal. In the distance the blue sea is visible.
Cycling is popular throughout Portugal, even if officially designated bike paths are few and far between © Enrique Díaz / 7cero / Getty Images

Pedal through stunning Portuguese landscapes by bicycle

Cyclists are popular in Portugal. There are many possible itineraries in the mountains of the north, along the coast, or across the Alentejo plains. The easiest way to get to the coast is to start from the north and head south. The Serra da Estrela is a mountain run that is part of the Volta a Portugal. The Serra do Maro can be found between Vila Real and the Amarante area.

City cyclists should have at least 38mm in diameter wheels, with cobbled streets in some old-town centers liable to jar your teeth if your tires aren't fat enough.

Rattle across Lisbon and Porto via tram

One of Portugal's old-school trams is a must-visit. The cheap sightseeing tour of Lisbon and Porto is offered by these vintage relics. If you want to get a seat on a crowded tram, take an early morning ride.

Accessible transportation in Portugal

Portugal is not a good place to go for travelers with disabilities. There are ramps at some train stations. Access to the interior of some trains is difficult. Porto is the best place to go if you have a wheelchair. Metro stations have ramps, elevators, and dedicated spaces for wheelchair users. There are less elevators in Lisbon.

You should request MyWay service through your airline up to 48 hours before you leave. MyWay is able to get you through the airport and sometimes off the plane.

The free accessible travel guide can be downloaded.

​Why the train is my favorite way to travel in Portugal 

There is nothing quite like riding a train into a new city. I remember arriving in Porto on a train from Lisbon. The grand entrance hall of So Bento station is covered in azulejos, ceramic tiles that depict scenes from Portugal's history. It was an easy downhill stroll to Porto's atmospheric Ribeira district from there. It made sense to enter a city that way.

The trip between Pinho and Pocinho in Portugal's north is one of the highlights of the train route. The train hugs the Douro as it goes past the vineyards. Each bend shows a different view of the landscape. The train ride on the Iberian peninsula is one of the most scenic.

The article was last updated about 6 hours ago.