Want to experience campervanning in Portugal? Portugal offers incredible beaches, wildly shaped cliffs, a countryside with cosy vineyards and mountains, and vibrant cities – and there’s no better way to explore it than with a road trip. This blog post will serve you a compact version of what you need to know before traveling Portugal in a campervan, with tips on campervan rentals, best road trip routes, important equipment, and much more.
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Campervanning in Portugal – why you should go
There is no easier way of finding total freedom than to pack your bags, throw them in a van and drive away. When visiting a country like Portugal, where there are lots of places to see, it’s both exciting and smooth to do it with a van since you can go whenever, wherever, and stay as long as you like. As many countries are making it easier and more convenient to travel with a campervan it’s important to respect the rules and regulations.
Campervanning in Portugal opens up a lot of opportunities where you can stay for just a couple of hours or spend a couple of days. The country offers a great coastline with incredible beaches, wildly shaped cliffs, a countryside with cosy vineyards and mountains, and vibrant cities with enough history to cover an entire bachelor’s degree.
Campervan hire Portugal
Who you should rent from
There are many campervan rentals out there and they all have their own niche. We did some research and found a small family-run company called Soul Campers. They took really good care of us and provided us with a van that had everything we needed. To reduce their environmental impact the company uses natural and renewable materials like cork for insulation and has solar panels installed which makes you completely independent of electricity.
Soul Campers are based in Faro on the south coast. You can either pick up the cars there yourself or order a pick-up in Porto, Lisbon, or Seville for a fee.
Campervan rental price
Depending on when you plan to go, the price can differ a lot. In the summer, during peak season, the price will be around €180 per night. In low season it can go down to as low as €70 per night.
Important documents for campervan rental
Valid driving license: Make sure to have a valid driving license before going on your trip. In some cases, it can also be necessary to have an international driving license.
Passport: Can in some cases be needed to identify yourself.
Rental agreement: If you want to be sure you have everything in order it can be a good idea to print out the rental agreement. In our case, we got a copy when signing it when picking up the car.
A basic insurance is often included when renting a campervan which means you will have to leave a deposit at pick-up. Our deposit was €2000 and was smoothly charged on a credit card. If you don’t smash the vehicle, the deposit will be transferred back to your account.
Good to know is that if you plan to drive more than 100 km per day, be more than one driver or want to visit Spain you may have to extend the insurance.
The coast outside of Lagos offers dramatic cliffs.
Portugal campervan routes
Since there are so many places to discover in Portugal, deciding on a route can be the most tricky part of your campervan trip plan. You can cover the whole country at a decent pace in three weeks. If you don’t have that much time, you will have to choose if you prefer to explore beautiful and historical cities, surf on infinite beaches, hike in the mountains, or visit the national parks.
Portugal toll roads
The big motorways in Portugal are great for fast transportation, but they come at a cost. There are two types of toll roads in Portugal: electronic tolls and traditional toll booths. If you rent a campervan in Portugal, the rental company will most likely provide you with an electronic toll system (Via Verde). The electronic toll system registers your tolls, which will be charged to you by the rental company when your holiday is over.
If you plan to road trip with your own car, you can register for a Via Verde transponder and have it sent to your home before your holiday. This site provides a full description of how it works if you drive a foreign-registered car.
My suggestion is to avoid the toll roads where possible. The smaller, more scenic routes, are much more rewarding! Besides, the toll roads are quite expensive and could add another €100–500 to your travel budget, depending on the length of your vacation.
If you want to take only the scenic route, just click the avoid tolls check button on Google Maps.
The astonishing view from the coast of Sagres.
How long to go for?
This of course depends on what you want to see. If you want to drive around the whole of Portugal, I recommend you have at least two to three weeks. On our first road trip in Portugal, we focused on the Algarve coast, which required one week to be done properly.
Where to go?
Choosing your campervanning route is one of the hardest, but most exciting, parts of a Portugal road trip. Starting from where you pick up your car is a good way to go. Then, you need to decide what type of holiday you’d like. Do you want to see the coast, the mountains, the wine districts, or the cities? Or all of it?
Portugal is divided into different regions: Northern Portugal, Central Portugal, Lisbon and around, Alentejo, and Algarve. Visit Portugal can give you a proper description of what the different regions have to offer.
Campsites in Portugal
Motorhome travel in Portugal is popular, which has resulted in a large number of campsites all over the country. The standard of the campsites varies from very basic ones with only toilets, to those with swimming pools, tennis courts, and restaurants.
During our time in Algarve, we tried (and recommend) the following campsites:
There are plenty of websites and apps to help you find a good campsite. Both Visit Portugal and Siesta Campers list great campsites. The app Park4Night also lists places to stay for the night (everything from wild camping to car parks and campsites), uploaded and reviewed by other campervan users.
Tips! If you want a unique experience, you should take a look at Portugal EasyCamp. Here you can book camp spots at remote farms and vineyards and in return you buy a welcome package, often consisting of wine and other good stuff.
Wild camping in Portugal
Is wild camping in Portugal legal? Yes, since 2021 wild camping is once again allowed in Portugal, but with exceptions. According to Portuguese law, “overnight stays in motorhomes approved by the IMT (Institute of Mobility and Transport) for a maximum period of 48 hours are allowed”.
However, it is still illegal with overnight stays on lands belonging to the Natura 2000 Network, protected areas, and areas covered by the Coastal Zone Management Plans. It can be hard to find up-to-date information about the permitted camping areas. Siesta Campers have some information, but make sure to ask your campervan rental company for the latest updates.
The fine for staying overnight where it’s not legal is between 60 and 300 euros, except in the case of Natura 2000 Network areas, protected areas, and areas covered by the Coastal Zone Management Plans, in which case the fine is between
120 and 600 euros.
This section was written based on information from November 2022. Make sure to stay updated on the rules and regulations as they could have changed since then. If you plan to road trip to more countries in Europe you must check the rules for each country.
The incredible Algarve coast.
When to visit Portugal in a campervan
The summer months are the busiest in Portugal. The area between Lisbon and Algarve can sometimes be too hot. We would recommend going in September when the weather is still great but the busiest period is over.
Exploring Portugal in a campervan is an amazing experience, and even if it’s not as convenient as staying in a hotel there is a pretty good infrastructure for getting the basics going.
Food and water
There are lots of supermarkets in Portugal, such as Lidl, Pingo Doce, and Supermache. Since many campervans and motorhomes don’t have an oven, you need to make a food plan that doesn’t require one. We made stews, pancakes, pasta, and salads and were happy to mount our outdoor table and prepare our meals with the craziest views.
The Portuguese tap water is drinkable and can be filled on campsites and some gas stations. Since our water tank was limited we stayed every third night at a campsite to fill the water and empty the grey water tank.
Since the number of electrical devices in the travel bag increases the supply of electricity is getting more and more important. We travel with computers, cameras, drones, and headphones – and it’s absolutely essential to be able to keep them charged. Soul Campers solved this by having solar panels on the roof that, combined with generating electricity while driving, covered all our needs. In our van, we had one 220V outlet for laptops and several USB ports for headphones and mobile phones.
We used our electrical devices a lot during our road trip, including both of our laptops around 4 hours a day, so it’s safe to say that we really tested the system.
Toilets and showers
The most common question we get after campervanning in Portugal is about toilet usage. The thing is that it can be a bit of a hustle, and for it to work smoothly we recommend planning your stops and errands so you can combine them with a toilet visit. Campsites in Portugal usually offer quite nice toilets and showers, and when wild camping we either used the portable toilet included in our Soul Campers van or found a gas station or supermarket that offered toilets for free.
Our campervan was equipped with an outdoor shower with hot water that was really welcomed after a semi-cold surf session in the Atlantic.
We did our laundry when staying on a campsite, but laundry machines can also be found in some gas stations and supermarkets. In general, you need to buy a special laundry coin to get the laundry machines running, and sometimes the detergent is included, and sometimes it’s not.
Emptying grey water
We needed to empty our grey water tank (from the kitchen sink) every third day. This can be made at gas stations, motorhome service areas, or campsites. Our van had a tap under the car that was easy to open. If you have some water to spare it can be a good idea to flush the tank to make sure the pipes stay clean and open.
The 4G reception in Portugal is generally good and, if needed, you can add a wifi router with fast internet and great reception.
Campervan extra equipment
To be able to enjoy your trip even more, campervan rental companies usually offer extra equipment like grills, surfboards, wetsuits, and outdoor tables and chairs. For us, this added an extra touch and convenience to our holiday!
Life in a campervan
As mentioned above, life in a campervan is not meant to be glamorous or too convenient, but the standard that we had in our van from Soul Campers made it as comfy as it can be on the roads.
Sleeping was a breeze with blackout curtains, a roof hatch with a mosquito net, and sunrises of your own choice. When driving you can connect your phone to the speakers and enjoy your favorite music or podcast.
More road trips
Do you find motorhoming interesting and want tips on more road trips? Next to Portugal, Norway is my favorite road trip destination (especially northern Norway, wow!). Find all my Norway road trip guides here.
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