Everything about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

I want to share my car rental experience in Portugal in September 2019. It was generally my first experience of renting a car abroad and the first experience of visiting this country. I will try to tell you in detail how it was…

Everything about renting a car in Portugal – from personal experience

The beaches of the south of Portugal

Our trip to Portugal lasted from 9 to 16 September. They did not apply for a visa to Portugal, as it was easier and faster to get a visa to France. We planned to see the whole country in a week, so we made ourselves the following itinerary: Lisbon from September 9 to 11 (center), Albufeira from September 11 to 14 (south) and Porto from September 14 to 16 (north). At first they wanted to rent a car for the entire duration of the trip, but after reading reviews on the Internet, they decided that there was no point in renting a car for trips around Lisbon and Porto.

It makes no sense to rent a car in Lisbon or Porto for the following reasons:

  1. PenaltiesIn the center of Lisbon and Porto it is very difficult to park even for a fee, everything is overloaded. If you are in a new country for yourself, you can collect fines or even have your car towed.
  2. Expensive parking. So, leaving the car in the covered parking in the center of Porto costs about 25 euros per day. On the streets, parking is hourly.
  3. Easy to get to airports by metro. From the airports of Lisbon and Porto, you can quickly and cheaply take the metro to the center of these cities. The fare is the same both in public transport around the city and to the airport. That is, you will not be beaten 10 times more than, for example, for travel to airports on Aeroexpress in Moscow. Therefore, it makes no sense to rent a car or a taxi.
  4. Walking around Lisbon and Porto is more comfortable on foot. The historical centers of these cities are compact, it is most convenient to get around them on foot.
  5. Narrow streets. The historical centers are small with many narrow streets (especially in Porto), which are generally not suitable for motorists.

All about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Narrow streets of Porto 

Everything about renting a car in Portugal – from personal experience

Narrow streets in Portugal

In the end, we decided to take the car on our last day of rest in Lisbon in time for the eviction from the apartment. We did not waste time and money on parking, and were able to explore the entire historical center of the city on foot.

Life hack 1

Renting a car in Portugal makes sense if you going to travel around the country. If you come only to walk around Lisbon or Porto, there is no point in renting. If these are the starting points of your journey, then it is better to take the car on the last day, by the time you check out from the hotel.

How, where and for what time is it better (more profitable) to rent a car in Portugal

Our trip to Portugal began on September 9th, but I took up the issue of car rental on August 5th. The sooner you start doing this, the more profitable the rental price will be, and the more time you will have to choose the most interesting offer from car rental companies.

There are quite a lot of companies operating in the Portuguese car rental market, there are local and international ones. We chose from three:

www.sixt.com or sixt.ru

www.europcar.com or europcar.ru


Other InterRent, Centauro, Dollar, Budget, Thrifty, Drive on Holidays companies did not have interesting offers for us . Hertz and Avis have not convenient sites and were inadequately high prices!

Life hack 2

Sixt and Europcar have Russian-language sites in the .ru zone and have sites in the .com zone. They can have completely different prices and promotions. Do not be too lazy to study them.

The Europcar website may not work correctly in Google Chrome and Opera browsers. If this is observed, open it in Internet Explorer, it is displayed correctly there. Promotions can be found here: https://www.europcar.com/deals/worldwide

As for Sixt. Try to visit their website a couple of times on your phone and follow a couple of their official Instagram groups. You will notice that after a while, Sixt car rental offers with discounts of up to 30% will start appearing in your Instagram feed. That is, contextual advertising will understand that you were interested in rental, and will show you some interesting offers. In this case, you will need to book directly through Instagram.

Lifehack 3

If you want to save as much as possible, find interesting deals and book them! This is true for options where the distributor does not require instant payment and gives you the opportunity to cancel for free 1-2 days before the expected rental. You book a car, enter your card details, but the payment is not debited. It will be written off when registering a car in the office. The main thing is if you change your mind, refuse in advance (through the site), and that's it – there will be no fines.  Thus, closer to the trip, you will understand which offer is the most interesting for you.

Life hack 4

Be sure to take Full insurance, which covers all risks, in including damage to the bottom of the car, rims and glass.

I booked a car with two companies Goldcar and Europcar. But in the end, a week before the trip, I settled on Europcar, below I will describe my experience with these two companies and the third – Sixt.

Goldcar rental features

There are a lot of negative reviews about this company on the Internet, but in our real experience, Goldcar employees work very smoothly, quickly and politely. We rented a car from them in Barcelona (it was our next stop after Portugal). I suppose bad reviews from those who saved on full insurance and then were very upset that they kept them from the deposit for scratches, or from those who were unpleasantly surprised that with full insurance they still take a deposit for fuel (although they write that they don’t take it) . Hence the dissatisfaction.

Everything about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Types of Goldcar insurance

This company usually has the lowest prices on the market. But here I advise you to ALWAYS take Super Relax coverage, with which your rental will be without a franchise (usually its amount is from 1200 to 1600 euros) and a deposit. All possible damages are included in the coverage. True, they are cunning with the deposit, in any case they keep a small amount for fuel in case you do not return the car with a full tank. We were kept 86 euros and promptly returned on the 3rd day after the return of the car.

All about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Price for car rental Goldcar

And also take the FULL – FULL tariff, that is, you get a car with a full tank and return it with a full one. Then there will be no deductions.

Goldcar takes a surcharge for returning the car to another One Way location – 125 euro! There is no limit on car mileage.

Be careful, when booking a car with an automatic transmission, the site offered us a good price for a car of a higher class, and we agreed to this offer. And already at the airport they found out that we had a manual (mechanics), although we originally booked an automatic transmission. That is, the site did us an idiotic favor, and we overlooked it. As a result, I had to pay extra for the machine at the airport. We ended up with 120 euros of additional expenses due to such a disservice.

And another important point, why we did not book a car through them in Lisbon. Goldcar offices are only located at airports, and we needed an office in the city center to walk to it from our place of residence.

Hack 5

Goldcar makes it easy cancel or change your booking free of charge. You can book several cars (from different cards) for the same date, and cancel at least everything before the trip. They will send you hot offers all the time. Also visit their Facebook page and website. Often there you can find promotional codes that will give you an additional discount when booking.

Most importantly, book a car through the site or application. If you fill out the booking form and wait without paying 5-10 minutes, the app will give you an additional 10% discount so that you still book. There will be no such interesting prices at the airport! We were given this score in Spanish:

Everything about renting a car in Portugal – from personal experience

Invoice in Spanish from Goldcar

All about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Invoice with breakdown for car rental

That is, it is difficult to understand what is written there at all 🙂 This is probably a feature of Goldcar.

There are few cars on the machine, they are usually not available on the site a week before the trip, but you may be offered one at the Goldcar counter at the airport for an additional fee. As I wrote above, we flew with a machine gun due to inattention and found out about it only upon arrival at the airport. They didn’t already have such cars on their website, but in fact the manager quickly found a free car with an automatic transmission for us. Therefore, a line appeared in our bill: Upgrade for 82 euros)

Sixt rental features

In this company, I liked the cars and their website, but did not like the prices and booking conditions. Most often, they immediately freeze the entire amount for the rental on the card.

In addition, they have a very tricky “Full Insurance”. It does not include tire and windshield protection. They need to be insured separately. I found out when I asked the operator by phone, on their website it says this:

Insurance coverage in case of theft and damage with a minimum deductible of 0 EUR

All about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Subtleties of rental Sixt

That is, it seems that I will choose this item and that's it – I am fully insured. But no, you need to additionally insure windows and tires (check the box), otherwise you can run into a fine in case of problems. Some kind of scam, calculated on the fact that people will not see it, is obtained by Sixt.

Sixt does not charge extra for returning the car to another place. There is also no limit on car mileage.

Europcar rental features

Well, the last company we eventually settled on is Europcar. Booked here TOYOTA C-HR 1.8 HSD 122CV HYBRID for 457 euro for 4 days. The cost was the same as Goldcar, but we bought into the fact that the car is a hybrid, and, accordingly, the fuel consumption is low compared to conventional cars, and that the car itself is interesting, beautiful and rather unusual.

When I came to get the car, a not particularly customer-oriented Europcar employee said that there is no such car, it is problematic to find anything with a machine gun, and only Toyota Yaris can offer.

You should have seen my expression 🙂 . I was a little confused, a foreign country, English, expectations … in general, I tell her that when booking there was a “guaranteed car” badge, to which she shrugged her hands and, without any sympathy, again offered me the only possible option, in her words – Yaris. As a result, she reissued the documents, and I went out to wait for my Yaris.

Literally 5 minutes later, this unprepossessing Yaris arrives and they call me to come up to him. The employee brings me to the car and starts fixing chips and scratches there, which surprises me. I tell him that I have “Full insurance”, why are we fixing all this? To which he replies in surprise: no, you do not have “Full Insurance”. I take the papers for the car from him and understand that the name is mine, and the surname is someone else's. In general, the employee messed up and gave me someone else's car. It turns out that at that moment there were two people with my name in the overcrowded office.

In general, I have already moved away from the small shock that I experienced in the first minutes due to the absence of my hybrid. And I started telling the employee about my booking history, saying that I don’t like all this, and I’m not happy.  

I told him that according to the rental rules, they had to give me a car of my TOYOTA C-HR level or a car of a higher level, and they slip me some kind of frank trough of a lower level. He called his boss, who listened to me, apologized and asked me to wait. Half an hour later, a TOYOTA C-HR, which I booked, pulled into the parking lot.

Everything about renting a car in Portugal – from personal experience

Rental car from Europcar

They brought it from another office in Lisbon, where it was available. Thanks a lot to this employee!

Since this was my first experience of renting a rental abroad, of course, I was a little confused in the first minutes. What can I advise here: if a similar situation suddenly happens, stand your ground, they are really obliged to give a car either of your level or higher. Even if she's not in the office. And everything, of course, depends on people, I was lucky that then I got  good employees at Europcar.

In general, I took the documents, made sure that the Via Verde transponder was installed on the glass and there was “Full insurance”, and went to the apartment to get my suitcases. We had to travel by car for 4 days on the route Lisbon – Cape Roca – Albufeira – Albufeira – Cape San Vicente – Lisbon – Porto.

Lifehack 6

The Via Verde transponder works as follows: you do not need to upload anything to its balance. It's just attached to the glass all the time and that's it. Then you will be charged (carrier) from your bank card payment for travel on toll roads from the deposit. With “Full insurance” the deposit in Europcar was 300 euros. We returned the car on September 16, the deposit amount was unlocked on September 18, and on October 01, 77 euros were debited from our card for toll roads.

This is the bill that came from the distributor the next day after the write-off of 77 euros:< /p>

Everything about renting a car in Portugal – from personal experience

Here is the invoice from the rental company

We returned the car to Porto in the office in the center. I just gave them the keys and that's it. We had “Full insurance” so they were only interested in the fuel level, otherwise they didn't even inspect the car.

Europcar didn't charge extra for returning the car elsewhere. There were also no restrictions on car mileage.

Renting tips and features of car rental in Portugal

    1. Very few cars are automatic, 95% of the cars in the car rental fleets are manual (mechanics).

    2.To rent a car in Portugal, you will need a passport, driver's credit card and international driving license (book). Debit cards are often not accepted at rentals. Take care of this issue in advance, check with the rental company before booking. In Spain, they only asked me for a Russian plastic license, they didn’t need an international book, unlike Portugal.

    3.Prices for car rental are much higher than in neighboring Spain. There are very few cars with automatic transmission, so they are expensive. Pronounced seasonality in rental prices, in the summer months and September – the highest prices.

    4. The main highways in Portugal are paid. Be sure to rent a transponder along with the car (it costs 1-2 euros per day to rent and often a deposit is taken for it), which will make it possible to drive non-stop on toll roads.

All about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Transponder in Portugal on rental cars

For those who have a transponder, separate lanes are allocated, which are indicated by a green V (ViaVerde) sign.

All about rent car in Portugal – from personal experience

Toll road, Portugal

There are 2 types of toll roads in Portugal:

  • standard, as in Russia and in most European countries, with the possibility of paying in cash, by bank card and transponder.
  • with electronic payment only Electronic Toll (there are many such routes, for example, in the South the route passes through the entire coast from border with Spain, via Faro to Lagos, payment is debited for plots, their cost is different).

All about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Such roads in Portugal automatically deduct tolls from cars

Fares on motorways are different – from about 0.7 euros to 22 euros (depending on the length of the section). Toll road map of Portugal – https://www.tolls.eu/data/portugal.pdf

    5.There are almost no cameras on the roads in Portugal. That is, as in Russia, where the authorities try to cut down more money from motorists for every offense, this is not the case here. Therefore, there are no applications for detecting cameras on the roads of Portugal. You can drive on toll roads like us (150-180 km/h), just beware of police cars, they can fine you. Google recently started displaying cameras on European roads, including in Portugal. Look at his maps for camera icons in advance, he does not warn you with his voice.

    6. Some car rental companies have a limit on car mileage. Read the conditions carefully.

    7. It is forbidden to move cars to the islands and ferries without the agreement of the rental company.

    8. If you do not have “Full insurance”, then upon receipt of the car, be sure to carefully inspect it from all sides, mark all damage and scratches in the inspection report with the employee. Even better, if you shoot a video of the car from all sides, including, it is worth paying attention to the glass, tires and disks. And also be sure to check the presence of the antenna and rugs, as well as the fuel level.

    9. At some gas stations, when paying through a self-service terminal with a card, your bank may block 100 Euro, in addition to paying for gasoline. Don't worry, they will be unlocked for you within two weeks. We were blocked, and at the gas station they gave us this leaflet:

All about car rental in Portugal – from personal experience

Explanation on blocking 100 euros, Portugal

    10.As I wrote earlier, public transport and taxis are very well developed in Lisbon and Porto, you can get to airports by metro. It makes no sense to rent a car in these cities. Renting a car in Portugal makes sense for moving between cities or across the country, as well as, for example, to drive along the coast, exploring the various beaches of the south. It will be really difficult here without a car.

    11. When renting a car in Portugal, you will come across such concepts as deductible and deposit.

Deductibleis the amount of your liability for possible damage to the car or theft. Usually its amount is from 1200 to 1600 euros, but most often it depends on the cost of the car, the more expensive your car, the greater the amount of liability.

Deposit– this is the amount that is frozen (not debited immediately) on your card, for possible expenses for gasoline, payment of fines and payment of toll roads.

If you have “Full insurance”, the deductible will be 0 euro. In this situation, in any case, there will be a deposit, but its amount and conditions depend on the rental company. In Europcar – 300 euros, in Goldcar they write that with Super Relax insurance – without deducting a deposit on the card, but in fact we were immediately charged 84 euros when paying for the car, and then returned them after we returned the car with a full tank.< /p>

If there is no full insurance, then you will have a deductible and a deposit. We repeat, as we wrote above, the deductible is the amount of your liability for possible damage to the car or theft, while it is never physically written off or frozen. The rental company will use the deductible amount only in the event of an insured event.

We advise you not to save money and take full insurance!

    12. If you book a car not directly with a rental company, but, for example, with an aggregator, and buy full insurance from him, which is likely to be much cheaper than from a rental company, then in the case of insurance case, the rental office will take the deposit from you. And you will need to contact the aggregator so that they refund this deposit to you. That is, it is not clear how your lawsuit with the aggregator will end later. I wouldn't take that risk.

    13.If you are under 19 or your driving license is less than a year old, you will not be able to rent a car in Portugal. Such are the requirements!

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