I’ve been on a roadtrip through Portugal with my best friends and have a few tips for people trying to organize a one as well!
The planning before our trip was very chaotic. The holiday was supposed to be one of our last holidays with the group of friends we made at high school before we all went to different universities or, even worse, to different countries for our gap years. Not all of our friends had the time to go, so we ended up going with four people and had a great time nontheless. I also realized mid-holiday that going with fewer people probably made things easier. The more people you are, the more difficult it gets to actually plan where you are going and renting out hostels. In hindsight, four people were the perfect amount.
At first, the trip was supposed to be a trip to Athens in Greece, until a good friend of mine told me about a thing called ‘Interrail‘ which allows people from Europe to travel across a EU country of their choice by train for a certain amount of days at low cost. She was going on a trip across Italy with Interrail and it sounded like a great possibility for us as well (I am going to post some informations at the end of this post in case you’re interested).
Since we really wanted to go to Greece, we were looking for a Interrail ticket to go there but soon came to the impression that actually travelling across Greece would be difficult for us. Everything we wanted to see was very far apart and it would result in us having to drive super long just to visit a place.
We then started to look for a different country in the South of Europe (we wanted to go somewhere warm) and finally settled on Portugal, on one hand because neither of us had ever been there, on the other hand because the different places we wanted to see would be very easily accessible for us.
First steps into planning
The first step after finding the country you want to visit is choosing the places you want to see. It is different with the spontaneous roadtrips of course (the ones where you just get into your car and drive wherever you want to go) but if you don’t have as much money and want to have everything a bit more safe, planning the roadtrip through might be the best option for you.
Plus: in many countries you aren’t allowed to rent a car until you’re 21, so planning beforehand and then looking for trains or busses to get you where you want to go is easiest. We just went on google (the very creative google search of ‘Places to see in Portugal’) and made a list of potential places to visit. After putting a lot of thought into it, we settled for Lisbon, Porto, Faro and Lagos for the cities to visit, mainly because the cities were not only looking very worth seeing, but also because they were definitely accessible by train.
The trip we were taking through Portugal with our main stops in Lisbon, Porto, Faro and Lagos.
Credit for the map: http://www.mapsofworld.com/portugal/maps/portugal-map.gif
A few helpful websites:
Choosing your hostel
It was pretty clear for us right from the start that we weren’t going to be able to afford fancy hotels for each city. We have had a very good experience with booking a hostel in Berlin with a website called hostelworld so we decided to also use the website for booking our places to stay in Portugal.
Here’s a few tips for that:
1. Choosing your hostel by price is absolutely fine, it is what we did as well, but also make sure to not settle for a hostel just because it’s cheap. In fact, we never settled for a hostel with less than a 90% rating and still got some crazy cheap hostels (20€ for each person for two nights with breakfast in a lovely hostel in Porto).
2. Try booking a hostel were breakfast is included. Having breakfast will only make your stay about 5€ more expensive per night but it is just so much more comfortable! We did not have an inclusive breakfast in our hostel in Lisbon and we originally thought we’d be able to just go out for breakfast but soon realized that that wasn’t going to be as easy: we did not have any nice nearby places for breakfast and by the time we actually made it to a breakfast place, it was closed again because it was so late. We didn’t have breakfast once the whole time we were in Lisbon!
3. A good hostel rating when it comes to hygiene is so important. Trust me with that – I had to learn it the hard way.
4. If it’s not too expensive, try to find a hostel close to the city center or at least a station. It is way more fun if you don’t have to walk 20 minutes to get to the next public transport and you don’t want to have to take an Uber home every day.
5. Try to choose a hostel that has been recommended by tripadvisor – the site is very trustworthy!
(Just a quick info: If you are searching for a hostel in Porto, I can highly recommend a hostel called ‘Antas Ville’. The hostel was very clean and beautiful, it is run by an absolutely lovely family, the breakfast is inclusive and it was absolutely not expensive at all. The overall atmosphere made us feel so welcome and domestic and the owner (a very nice woman I had a lenghty discussion about Game of Thones with) took her time to give us many recommendations on what to do in Porto and spent a lot of her spare time telling us about the city. If we ever come back to Porto, we will definitely be staying there again! You can find them here on Tripadvisor!)
Booking your flight
If you want to go to a different country, going by plane is almost always the easiest way. My before mentioned friend, Sarah, who went to Italy for her roadtrip, initially wanted to go via nighttrain from Munich to Venice but decided to go by plane last minute: not only was it much faster and therefore way more comfortable for her and her friends but going by plane was also much cheaper! If you travel without a suitcase and only one carry-on baggage, you will be able to find very cheap flights, at least from one EU country to the other. For example, you will be able to go from Frankfurt to London for less than 60€! We have booked our flight on a website called fluege.de (a website comparing flight prices) and I can highly recommend using a website like that. We flew with TAP Portugal which is the official Portuguese Airline and was one of the only direct flights from Frankfurt to Lisbon in our price range. Tipp: Your flight will be cheaper if you arrive and depart from the same airport!
Websites to book your flights:
Another something I had to learn the hard way (and a mistake I will never repeat): DO NOT OVERPACK IF YOU ARE ABOUT TO GO ON A ROADTRIP. Seriously.
The type of flight we booked only allowed us to bring not only a carry-on baggage but also a suitcase up to 23 kg. I know the limit of 23 is very inviting but seriously, don’t pack 23 kg of stuff.
First of all, you will not need that many clothes but you will also have to carry it from train to train and from train stations to your hostel and to the airport.
Plan depending on where you are going and check the weather beforehand. (Fun fact: I did not need the three jackets I had packed ‘just in case’ in 40 degree heat). You will probably be better off with less luggage and a bottle of shampoo so you can wash a few items in the sink.A lot of hostels also have laundries and if not, laundromats exist!
When packing, only choose the items you will be sure you will definitely need and feel comfortable in. In the end, they will probably be the things you are going to be wearing all the time.
A few days into the trip and these were the only items I have been using to get ready.
If you are from looking to travel in the EU, I can highly recommend using Interrail for travelling across a country.
Interrail (their website: http://www.interrail.eu/) is an organisation that provides you the possibility of travelling through one or more EU countries by train.
Using an Interrail ticket is rather very cheap. Lots countries are supporting Interrail because it is good for their own tourism and provide discounts for Interrail users that make travelling with the ticket cheaper than buying all seperate tickets. It’s also great for younger people that wouldn’t be able to rent themselves a car because of age restrictions. On their website, you can choose the country and also the days of travel which means that you can travel by train as many times as you want each day for the amount of days you have bought the ticket for.
If there are any questions left just ask me :)
The following photos were taken with my phone during the trup from my instagram account (@carryxblueberry)