This post is also available in: FR
I noticed a strong interest from Quebecers to visit Portugal in 2022. Several discounted airfare promotions plus the fact that this country has the lowest cost of living in Western Europe explains, in my opinion, its popularity at the moment.
However, it will more than meet the expectations of the foodie traveler or beach lover. Even though public transportation services are well developed in Portugal, we opted for more freedom by renting a retrofitted van. The articles on Milesopedia about Vanlife inspired me!
Now here’s the bottom line for us beginners, as far as the rental process, itinerary, and use of reward points are concerned.
While looking at van rental websites, we quickly realized that the price and the level of comfort were not the only criteria to consider. It will also be necessary to think about:
- Security deposit
- Border crossings
- Vehicle format
The number of kilometers that we drove during our stay is important, because many rental companies limit the mileage and apply a surcharge for each additional kilometre. Sometimes the surcharge is more worth paying than booking a package with a higher mileage limit.
We made this calculation when planning our itinerary. In our case, we wanted to do a big tour of the country leaving room for the unexpected. We therefore opted for a higher mileage package. It is also sometimes possible to find agencies with unlimited kilometres.
2. Security deposit
The rental sites offer vehicles belonging to companies or individuals. However, a security deposit must always be left at the rental. The big advantage of using companies is that the deposit (along with the whole payment) is made by credit card, whereas it is very difficul – if not impossible – to find a private individual who accepts this method of payment.
You will either have to make an international transfer which will incur costs, or pay cash and find yourself with a huge amount of money, 800 Euros for example, in your pocket when you return from your rental. This poses two disadvantages for me:
- First, it makes me uncomfortable to walk around with so much money because I fear theft or loss.
- Then, at the end of my trip, I find myself with a large amount of foreign currency that I will not have time to spend and that I will lose on exchange if I convert it back to Canadian dollars.
An important point to consider is the insurance coverage for the car. Normally, I don’t have to consider this because I use the one that comes the credit card.
However, you should know that credit card insurance does not cover converted vans. At least, all the ones I’ve checked cover only “regular” vehicles get from point A to point B.
Take the time to familiarise yourself before renting a van.
4. Border crossing
In Europe, it is easy to move from one country to another thanks to the Schengen area which abolishes the borders between 26 European states. However, when renting a car or a van, changing countries is a factor to consider and will sometimes cause an surcharge .
Itinerary in Portugal
We chose a looped route in order to return the van to the same spot where we picked it up, and avoid the extra expense of one-way travel.
Here’s what our 15-night van itinerary looked like:
|Nazaré (small fishing village)
This trip, including detours to tourist attractions and other nearby villages, took us 2,217 km. Many rental agencies offer a basic package of 100 km per day. That’s why it’s best to know your approximate route and do the math.
Attractions in Portugal
To discover the Portugal’s attractions, I suggest you consult the following guide:
Ulysses Guides also offers some very fine books on Portugal, so don’t hesitate to consult them. Here’s one that might interest you:
We paid for all our expenses with the HSBC World Elite® Mastercard®. Reward points are quite flexible and allowed us to reimburse the following expenses:
- The van rental (tested with Indie campers).
- The hotels booked on Booking.com for our arrival and departure in Lisbon.
- Airline tickets, either directly with the airline or with platforms like Budgetair or GOtogate.
- Tasting and shopping at the wineries (which offered accommodation).
It’s a great way to travel with points because all the big expenses are eligible for coverage and as a bonus, your port or bottle of wine could also be paid in points if you choose a winery that falls into the accommodation.
Don’t forget that this card also comes with a $100 travel credit that many members have used on the Viator activity site.
Officially, it is forbidden to camp anywhere other than in a campsite or designated area. Don’t be surprised if many do it anyway. Be aware that although some may tolerate it, the law is clear in this regard.
In Portugal, it is difficult to avoid the toll roads without making big detours. There are two types of tolls:
- Either you pay directly at the entrance – credit cards are accepted without any problem.
- Or have your license plate scanned and receive an invoice to be paid at a post office. Otherwise, the rental company will mail the invoice to the customer.
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