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Expats who plan on travelling in Portugal have several options available to them. Generally, those residing in Portuguese cities such as Lisbon, Faro and Porto will find that having a car is unnecessary unless they want to travel to other parts of the country.
Trains in Portugal are a comfortable and efficient way to travel between cities. Services don't always operate at frequent intervals, so travelling by train takes some planning. The bus network is far more comprehensive and covers areas located inland.
Expats living in rural Portugal or the Algarve usually own cars. While Portugal's road infrastructure is modern, there are some driving conditions that new expat drivers may take some time getting accustomed to.
Public transport in Portugal
Portugal's capital city, Lisbon, and other urban hubs such as Porto have modern transport networks comprising trains, buses, trams and metro systems.
At the national level, though, public transportation in Portugal isn't as extensive as one would find in other European countries. The railway network in Portugal is limited, leaving intercity buses as the only option for those without a private vehicle.
The national rail network in Portugal, run by Comboios de Portugal (CP), is somewhat limited. While travelling by train in Portugal is often slightly faster than the equivalent bus journey, most trains only serve to connect the major cities to one another.
Suburban rail services cover the areas surrounding Lisbon and Porto reasonably well but are limited elsewhere in the country. Commuters using trains in Portugal find the services to be efficient and comfortable. As trains aren't very frequent it is best to make a reservation well in advance.
Trains in Portugal tend to operate less frequently and are more expensive than intercity buses. Rail fares are still much more reasonably priced than one would find elsewhere in Europe, though. Tickets can be bought online or in person at any train station in Portugal.
Lisbon and Porto both have metro systems. The Lisbon Metro consists of four colour-coded lines, with intervals between trains ranging from four to 12 minutes depending on the line and time of day. The Porto Metro has six lines. The maximum waiting time between trains on weekdays ranges between six and 18 minutes.
Due to the country’s limited rail network, many of those who need to travel nationally in Portugal prefer to use intercity buses. Although travelling by bus in Portugal may take a little longer, bus routes tend to be more extensive and cover places that lie off the beaten track.
Bus fares in Portugal are also reasonably priced, especially in comparison to those elsewhere in Europe. Rede Nacional de Expressos is the largest intercity bus company and has routes that cover the length and breadth of the country.
Driving in Portugal
Road conditions in Portugal are generally good, especially on the motorways that connect major cities. However, there are secondary roads in rural areas of Portugal where driving conditions can be dangerous.
It will probably take some time for expats to get used to interacting with Portuguese drivers. It's important to drive defensively as local drivers can be erratic at times. The Portuguese government has taken steps to alleviate the problems associated with aggressive driving by introducing harsh punishments for those caught speeding, driving without a valid licence or under the influence of alcohol or narcotics.
A valid foreign licence can be exchanged for a Portuguese licence. EU nationals can use their driver's licence until it expires. Those from outside the EU can drive on their licence from home for up to six months, at which point it must be exchanged for a local licence.
Air travel in Portugal
Domestic flights in Portugal are relatively expensive, so not many people fly within the country itself and airports are largely used for international travel. Portugal’s three international airports are in Lisbon, Porto and Faro.
► Cost of Living in Portugal provides an overview of expenses that expats can expect when moving to Portugal
► Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal is essential for anyone thinking about relocating to Portugal
"Fuel is expensive but we purchased a fuel-efficient vehicle and public transportation is excellent." Read more about Bob's thoughts on living in Portugal.
Are you an expat living in Portugal?
Expat Arrivals is looking for locals to contribute to this guide, and answer forum questions from others planning their move to Portugal. Please contact us if you'd like to contribute.
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