Here's a little list of tips we've compiled for living on the road in Portugal.
Portugal's official national language is Portuguese.
Portugal's official currency is the Euro. Credit and debit cards are widely accepted. Be prepared to use cash in smaller towns and some petrol stations.
Free water taps are less prevalent in Portugal, but are easier to find in mountainous areas than on the coast, particularly drinking water. The majority of fuel stations will have free water available. Many towns and villages also have public water fountains which resemble small sections of white wall, often painted blue and with a date marked on them, with a small chute of permanently running water presumed to be potable. A large number of Intermarchés also have motor home service aires providing free water (sometimes for both drinking and washing) as well as bins and waste drains. “Agua potável” means drinking water. Check out our map of water points here.
You can get post delivered to any CTT branch (Portugal’s national postal service) in Portugal by addressing it as follows:
Posta Restante Loja CTT, town
Street name, number
Diesel: Gasoléo Simples
Petrol: Gasolina 95 or 98
LPG: GPL or gás liquid
Bottled gas is available at all fuel stations and Galp shops. 220g camping gas canisters are fairly expensive; Chinese shops (“Loja Chines”) are often the cheapest places for these, and the average price is around €2.95.
Intermarché, Pingo Doce, Prio and B-Express are generally the cheapest for fuel. You can check local fuel prices using Preços de Combustíveis Online, a website where garages are required by the government to post their prices every day.
Rubbish bins and recycling facilities are found everywhere on the streets.
· Some town centres 12mph (20km/h)
· Built-up areas 31 mph (50 km/h)
· Outside built-up areas 55 mph (90 km/h) or 62 mph (100 km/h)
· Motorways 74 mph (120 km/h
If you have held your license for less than a year you must not exceed 55mph (90 km/h).
Motorways, which are called A roads (Autostradas), have no distinction between toll roads and non-toll roads. There will always be a warning for the Electronic Toll System several kilometres in advance but it’s best to plan your route beforehand.
The general condition of the roads in Portugal is poor, with even main roads sometimes being unpaved or extremely rough to drive on and in some cases dangerous with advisory lower speed limits.
Beware of un-signposted speed bumps (usually on pedestrian crossings) and unmarked speed cameras too; sometimes warning signs for speed bumps will be placed far away from the bumps themselves. Sharp corners in rural areas are also rarely marked with arrows so be aware.
Compulsory items to carry in your vehicle always:
· Reflective jacket
· DEM (Temporary Electronic Toll Device) if you are planning on using toll roads. Alternatively you can buy pre-payment vouchers.
Wild camping in Portugal - as in many countries - is a legal grey area. As a general rule if you are out of the way, not on private property or in densely populated tourist areas you will be okay to stay in your van overnight. Just look out for signs and restrictions. Police tend to look differently at the situation if you have chairs out and awning up etc., so just keep it discreet and move on regularly and you should be fine.
Portugal is definitely our favourite country in Western Europe, as it is many people's and for good reason. The laidback lifestyle, the friendly, helpful people, the beautiful mountains and the wild coast, this country's got everything. The weather is warm year round, particularly in the South, although there's often snow on the mountaintops and when it rains it really rains.
We spent over two months exploring every inch of Portugal; there's so many places to see, it's hard to pick just a few favourites, but Peneda-Gerês National Park has a special place in our hearts, a diverse area of mountains, rivers, forests and swimming holes. The Serra da Estrella mountain range, standing at its highest at 2000m, is also breath-takingly beautiful, and it's possible to drive right up to its peak. It would be impossible to pick just one of Portugal's stunning wild beaches- you'll just have to see them all.
There really are no downsides to speak of in Portugal, although we've heard stories of wild camping being clamped down on recently, enforced by the GNR, Portugal's military police, particularly in Algarve. The roads and the driving can be pretty crazy at times but it's all part of the fun.
Don't miss out on trying the Pastel de Natas- Portuguese custard tarts. Their creamy cinnamony filling surrounded by crisp flaky pastry is seriously addictive, at around 30 cents a go or up to a euro for the freshly baked ones from cafes, which should be paired with a small coffee.