Earn up to 85,000 Aeroplan Points. Conditions Apply.
Porto 1 Portugal Credit Valerie

Visiting Portugal by van: our experience

To the point What a joy! My Portugal visit by van! I'll share with you all everything I learned so you can be prepared for your trip to Portugal in a van.

J’ai remarqué qu’en 2022, il y a un fort engouement des Québécois pour visiter le Portugal. Plusieurs promotions de billets d’avion à rabais additionnées au fait que ce pays a le coût de la vie le moins cher en Europe de l’Ouest explique, à mon avis, la popularité du moment.

Néanmoins, il saura amplement répondre aux attentes du voyageur gourmand ou des amateurs de plages. Même si les services de transport en commun sont bien développés au Portugal, nous avons opté pour une plus grande liberté en louant un van aménagé. Les articles de Milesopedia sur la Vanlife m’ont d’ailleurs inspiré !

Maintenant, voici le résultat concret pour nous, néophytes, en ce qui a trait aux démarches de location, l’itinéraire et l’utilisation des points de récompenses.

Van rental

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:

  1. Mileage
  2. Security deposit
  3. Insurance
  4. Border crossings
  5. Vehicle format

1. Mileage

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.

Porto 1 Portugal Credit Valerie
Porto 1 Portugal Credit Valerie

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.

3. Insurance

Un point important à prendre en considération est la couverture d’assurance pour la voiture. Normalement, je renonce à celle-ci car j’utilise celle de la carte de crédit.

Par contre, il faut savoir que les assurances de cartes de crédit ne couvrent pas les vans aménagés. Du moins, toutes celles que j’ai vérifiées couvrent seulement les véhicules « réguliers » servant à aller d’un point A au point B.

Prenez le temps de vous informer avant de louer un 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 .

5. Vehicle size

The vehicle format will mainly be an issue in terms of driving and parking. If you visit typical villages or old towns by van, the streets are much narrower than what we are used to in North America, and were not designed for large vehicles.

Itinerary in Portugal

Nous avons choisi un parcours en boucle dans le but de rendre le van au même dépôt où nous l’avions pris, et éviter les frais supplémentaires de voyage unidirectionnel.

Voici à quoi ressemblait notre itinéraire de 15 nuits en van :

Jours Destination
1 Lisbonne
2 Route de l’Algarve
3-4 Lagos
5 Evora
6 Monsanto
7-8 Vallée du Douro
9 Amarante
10-11 Porto
12 Aveiro
13 Costa Nova
14 Nazaré (petit village de pêcheurs)
15 Peniche

Ce trajet incluant des détours vers des attractions touristiques et d’autres villages à proximité nous a fait parcourir 2 217 km. Plusieurs agences de locations offrent un forfait de base de 100 km par jour. C’est pour cette raison qu’il est préférable de connaitre son itinéraire approximatif et de faire le calcul.

Lisbonne - Crédit Valérie
Lisbonne - Crédit Valérie

Attractions in Portugal

To discover the Portugal’s attractions, I suggest you consult the following guide:

Using points

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.

To know

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.

You can still use apps like Park4night or Ioverlander to find legal places to spend the night. There were options as affordable as 3 Euros per night.

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.
Porto Portugal – Crédit Valérie


Don’t hesitate to take the plunge: visiting Portugal in a van is a great experience!

Voici quelques idées d’activités à réserver au Portugal avec Viator :

Come to discuss that topic in our Facebook Group!

Suggested Reading