I am no stranger to car hire in Portugal. After 5 years of living in and driving around Portugal I have discovered how to hire a car successfully. I’ve used hire cars to travel around every region. I have driven around Douro Valley in search of wine experiences, along Algarve’s sunny coastline, through undiscovered Alentejo and navigated roads in both Lisbon and Porto in a hire car.
I even moved house from Lagos to Lisbon using a hire car!
How to get from Lisbon to Lagos
WHY USE A HIRE CAR IN PORTUGAL?
Unless you are hopping in and out of the country very quickly or plan on staying put in a resort for the duration of your holiday then it makes sense to hire a car in Portugal.
There are many reasons to choose to a hire car in Portugal. Of course there are trains, buses and boats in Portugal but as soon as you stray away from the busy hubs of Lisbon and Porto these transport links start to dry up. There is a fantastic rail line that runs between and Algarve and the North but again, the further you travel from that line the harder it becomes to get around. This leaves some of the best parts of Portugal out of reach. Hiring a car enables you to discover everything Portugal has to offer. Alentejo is a great example of a region best explored by car!
One of the most common questions I come across when helping people plan their trip to Portugal is ‘How do I hire a car?’. With an overwhelming number of options and so many horror stories it is understandably one of the least enjoyable parts of planning a trip. I experienced these same challenges over and over again. After a lot of trial and error and many years of driving around Portugal I finally worked out how to hire a car and stay sane while doing it.
HOW TO HIRE A CAR IN PORTUGAL
With so many rental car companies in Portugal it can be overwhelming to find the right fit. So the first bit of advice I can give for ‘how to hire a car in Portugal’ is : use a comparison site.
There are several comparison websites for car hire in Portugal but beware, most are complicated and frustrating to use. Many companies use sneaky tactics to hide prices until the end of the booking process which is infuriating. After many disappointing car hire experiences with other companies I was starting to give up but then I found Zest. I first used Zest to book a hire car in Portugal several years ago and, thanks to an excellent experience, I’ve used them ever since.
Zest is a comparison website so helps you compare vehicles and companies based on your location, pick-up and drop-off, car type and length of hire. Zest enables you to see the prices upfront so you know exactly what you are getting. There are no surprises waiting for you at check-out. The search function is very easy to use and there is no jargon to navigate. Zest also includes FULL COLLISION DAMAGE WAIVER WITH NO EXCESS. I have personally used this after an unfortunate accident involving a broken tail light and Zest took care of everything for me. To top it off the customer service is excellent.
HOW TO HIRE A CAR IN PORTUGAL : A STEP-BY-STEP GUIDE
- Visit Zest
- Choose pick-up and drop-off location and age. Click ‘Search’.
- Choose any filters such as category, doors, air-con etc
- Find a suitable car
- Click ‘View Rental Conditions’ to see full condition. Note any mandatory local charges.
- Choose optional extras. One extra driver is free. Choose ‘Toll Transponder’ if you plan on going on any motorways.
- Review insurance. Full Collision Damage Waiver with no excess comes as standard. I personally add top-up insurance at this point which covers the extra bits like damage to wheels or loss of keys.
- Confirm Driver Details
- Continue to payment
TIPS FOR HIRING WITH ZEST
- DON’T BE AFRAID OF SMALLER COMPANIES Some of my best car hire experiences have been with smaller companies. These companies are often more flexible too.
- BE FLEXIBLE WITH DATES. Prices are sometimes cheaper when you pick up mid-week.
- CONSIDER A LONGER HIRE. Prices are often cheaper when you book for 7 days or longer.
- COMPARE PICK-UP/ DROP-OFF LOCATIONS. Airports tend to add a pick-up fee but are usually the most convenient. Picking up from city centres can be more stressful if it is your first time driving in Portugal.
- BOOK IN ADVANCE During peak times car hire can and does get fully booked. Booking your hire car in advance saves a lot of stress on arrival.
DO I NEED AN INTERNATIONAL DRIVING PERMIT?
Portugal now recognises a large number of international driving licenses. It is unlikely you need one to hire a car but always check with the car rental company. You can read more about which countries are accepted here.
CAN I HIRE A CAR WITHOUT A CREDIT CARD
A common question I see is ‘can I hire a car in Portugal without a credit card?’. Most companies only accept a valid credit card (not pre-paid) when hiring a car. However some companies do accept without. When searching with Zest click on ‘view rental conditions’ under the photo of the car to see everything you need.
I hope this post can help ease any of the worries that naturally come with the car hire process. Now you have everything you need to hire a car in Portugal. Boa viagem!
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*Some links included in this guide are affiliate links. This means if you click through one of these links and make a purchase I may make a small commission at no extra cost to you. I only recommend products and services I have personally used. Zest is one of a few companies I have used again and again while living in Portugal.