When looking for a great holiday destination in Europe, Portugal is often overlooked. A shame really, as Portugal is a wonderful and diverse country that has much to offer for all types of travelers.
A great way to explore Portugal is by campervan. Having a little house on wheels will enable you to explore the country at your own pace, stay at beautiful camp spots, and discover off the beaten track destinations in Portugal.
These Portugal campervan hire tips will help you prepare for your Portugal road trip and make the most of your journey!
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Portugal campervan hire
Choose the right campervan
When making your campervan Portugal plan, it’s important to consider which type of van is the most suitable for your trip. How many people will be traveling and sleeping in the van? Which season are you traveling in? Do you want a shower and/or toilet?
These are important questions to answer before renting a campervan in Portugal, otherwise, you may end up with a less than perfect campervan for your trip.
We were traveling as a family (2 adults, a toddler, and a baby) and therefore needed a van that could sleep at least four people. A fridge, porta potti, and a car seat for our toddler were also on our must-have list (we brought our own Maxi-Cosi carseat for our 3-month-old baby).
Our 4 Seats Renault Master from Portugal by Van ticked all the boxes and as such, we very much enjoyed our Portugal campervan road trip. The van was comfortable and easy to drive. Portugal by Van offers excellent customer service and their campers are good value for money.
While I wouldn’t recommend hiring this campervan for 4 adults (the top bed is too narrow to comfortably fit two adults), it works well if you are traveling as a family of four (Portugal by Van also has a campervan suitable for 5 people).
There are several campervan rental companies in Portugal, on the Motorhome Republic site you can compare several providers and get an idea about the price and the different types of campervans and motorhomes that are available.
Check what’s included in your campervan rental
An important thing to check before renting a campervan in Portugal is what’s included in the rental price, and what’s not. For example, are you planning to make a round-trip (pick up the van in Lisbon and return it there) or drive from A to B (e.g. Porto to Faro)?
When driving from A to B, know that all pretty much all rental companies charge a one-way fee as it costs them time, money, and effort to get the van back to their home base.
While Portugal isn’t huge, it’s still important to check is if unlimited kilometers are included. Some rental companies only allow you to drive a certain number of kilometers before adding a kilometer fee. These costs can quickly add up, especially if you’re planning on making an extended road trip in Portugal.
If you’re renting a campervan in late fall or winter, make sure the van is well isolated and has a heating system. You may be surprised how cold Portugal can get on a cold night in October or during the winter months (did you know you can actually go skiing in Portugal!).
Also, look into other additional costs such as extra cleaning fees, which type of insurance is included, and if you need to pay extra for things like sleeping bags, towels, or a fold-out table and chairs (for when you want to eat outside of the van).
All of these things are sometimes included in your rental price, and sometimes not, so it’s important to be aware of all rental inclusions when selecting your campervan rental company.
Driving in Portugal
Drive on the right
For most people, this will be the ‘normal’ side of the road but for those coming from countries where they drive on the left (such as the U.K., Australia, New Zealand, India, Japan, and Thailand), be aware that in Portugal you have to drive on the right side of the road.
Generally speaking the time the speed limit in cities is 50 km/h, 70 km/h on most rural roads, and 120 km/h on the highway. Speed limits are clearly signposted along the roads, be sure to obey the signs to avoid speeding tickets or dangerous situations.
Believe me, on some roads where you are allowed to drive 70 km/h you definitely don’t want to try actually doing so. These roads can be twisting and turning up and down steep mountain slopes and you’re often closer to driving 30 km/h than 70!
Campervans aren’t the easiest vehicles to drive up or downhill and since you also don’t know the road it’s better to go slowly. If you notice you have created a small traffic jam of Portuguese cars behind your campervan, it’s polite to pull over (when possible) to let them pass.
Avoid driving at night
Unless you have no other option, I’d try to avoid driving at night for the same reasons: you don’t know the roads and the roads can be challenging. While generally in good condition, country roads aren’t well lit and you don’t want to be snaking down a steep hill in the dark.
Highways are easier to drive, so if you do end up driving after sunset I recommend sticking to these whenever possible.
Mind the size of your van
During our 2 week Portugal campervan trip we’ve had several tense moments when driving down very narrow streets lined by stone walls with only 20 centimeters to spare on both sides of the van.
While our campervan wasn’t huge (5.50 meters long, 2.60 meters tall, and 2 meters wide) we still encountered some roads where our van simply didn’t fit. Google doesn’t know the size of your vehicle so it may send you down some questionable roads that aren’t suitable for your van. Whenever in doubt, check it out on foot before getting yourself stuck in a hairy situation.
The dimensions of your campervan are very important to keep in mind when driving around the cute but sometimes extremely narrow streets of Portugal’s picturesque villages. Also, parking garages are usually a no-go (the maximum height is often 2.20m) unless you have a popup roof.
How to find campgrounds in Portugal
There are many different types of campsites in Portugal, ranging from a full-service official campground to a parking lot in the city or a dirt road leading into the dunes. While wild camping is technically illegal, it’s condoned in most of the country. As long as you don’t make a mess and keep a low profile, it’s often not an issue to park somewhere for the night.
There are some spots where it’s clearly indicated camping is forbidden, obviously, you’d want to stay clear of those. To find places to spend the night, I highly recommend downloading the Park4Night app.
This great app will help you find the perfect camp spot. You can filter which type of campsite you are looking for and read comments from other users who have recently visited a certain place. We used this app every day to find a nice place to park and only had issues finding a good camp spot near Porto.
Our favorite sites where farm campsites, where people owning a winery/farm/plot of land run a small campground (usually with limited facilities). We’ve stayed at several great sites with very friendly owners, here are our 3 favorite spots:
- Cadaval, Travessa das Mercês: a small farm run by Maria and Augusto who are super sweet and welcoming. Maria made us breakfast with homemade goat cheese and jam and gave us a box full of apples and pears from their garden.
- Calvão Cordeiro’s Farm: a blackberry farm run by Bruno who was also really kind and gave us fresh blackberries, honey, and homemade bread.
- Tabuaço, Quinta do Monte Travesso: a vineyard where you can park in exchange for a bottle of wine or a wine tasting (not a bad deal right!).
How to pay tolls in Portugal
I actually recommend not using toll roads for the majority of your road trip in Portugal as the smaller roads are often much more scenic. That being said, sometimes it’s just the easiest (and certainly fastest) way to get to where you want to go.
There are two types of toll roads: regular toll roads where you can get a ticket and pay with cash or card and electronic toll roads where you can only pay with a Via Verde transponder (you can often rent this at your car or campervan rental company) or at the CTT (Portuguese Post Office).
I highly recommend renting a Via Verde transponder at your campervan rental company if possible. We accidentally drove on electronic toll roads several times and without a Via Verde device, you will be fined when you don’t pay the tolls in time. Going to the CTT takes time, precious holiday time you most likely don’t want to spend waiting in line.
The Via Verde lanes are easily recognizable, it’s the lanes with the green V sign saying ‘Reservada a Aderentes (reserved for members, aka people with a Via Verde device). More information about tolls in Portugal can be found here.
Rent a campervan in Portugal: more tips and tricks
Here are some things important things to know when planning your campervan road trip in Portugal.
Bring a backpack instead of a suitcase
In most campervans, there isn’t too much storage space and it can be quite a challenge to find a spot for a large hard-shell suitcase. A backpack, however, folds away easily, after you’ve removed the contents and put these into one of the cupboards or drawers of your van.
Use packing cubes to stay organised
A van is a small space, especially if you’re traveling with more people (let alone two kids, as we did). There are toys, diapers, clothes, bibs, shoes and lots of other items. Before you know it, there is stuff everywhere except for the thing you need. Packing cubes are the answer!
To stay organized (and prevent me from losing my mind) I brought one packing cube with clothes per person. I used another packing cube for diapers and a small one as a toiletries bags for the kids.
Packing cubes can be easily stored and prevent you from having to throw the entire content of the cupboard on the bed (again) because you cannot find what you are looking for (again).
Furthermore, the sleeping bags provided by our rental company were only suitable for temperatures until 15°C and it was most definitely colder during several nights we slept in our van. I even wore my jacket one night and we ended up buying some budget sleeping bags to supplement the ones included in the campervan rental.
Bottom line: if you plan to travel to Portugal between October and April, consider bringing your own 4-season sleeping bag and enough warm clothes.
Fill up your tank at Intermarche
While our campervan wasn’t huge, campervans and RV’s don’t tend to be the most economical with regards to fuel consumption. With our campervan using 1 liter of petrol for every 10km it made quite a difference if we filled up our tank for €1.30+ (along the highway) or €1.13 (at Intermarche).
Intermarche is also a good place for grocery shopping so you’ll probably come across some Intermarche stores anyway during your trip. If you happen to see a petrol station next to the store, I highly recommend filling up your tank as it will save you a lot of money.
Last but not least, several Intermarche also offers other useful services for campervans, such as grey and black water disposal, water (sometimes free and sometimes for a small fee), and even overnight parking.
Campervan rental Portugal: in conclusion
I hope you have enjoyed reading this post about campervanning Portugal and it has helped you prepare for your trip. We had a lovely holiday and hope to return to Portugal in the near future to explore more of this beautiful country.
If you have any questions about this post, leave a comment below or send me a message.
Disclosure: This post is sponsored by Portugal by Van. Nevertheless, all pictures and opinions are my own.