This post on Portugal campervan hire was sponsored by Portugal by Van, but all opinions are my own!
Vasco da Gama in Lisbon is the longest bridge in Europe, running some 17.2km. The first time I ever saw the thing, I was white knuckling the steering wheel of our just-rented, Class II campervan. My mom had come all the way to Portugal for a visit. We decided to break up our usual routine of bed & breakfasts, but we had been in our campervan for less than seven minutes and had already taken the wrong exit (… twice). I had imagined almost every detail of this Portugal campervan hire from sipping coffee in a pile of blankets to driving through the rain with the windshield wipers flipping furiously, but it seems I’d failed to actually imagine the very first step of our journey: two nervous drivers getting the hell out of Lisbon.
Of course, it didn’t take long for the city to fall behind us so the feeling of fear could dissipate into freedom. We had no route in mind, but 1,794 km of coastline, a diesel engine, and everything we needed. These certainly seemed to be the ingredients for a good time.
Are you thinking about taking on Portugal by campervan? Here’s a complete guide to campervan hire with tips for picking a van, itinerary suggestions, insight for finding campsites, and everything else you need to know to make the trip happen.
How to Pick a Campervan
There are plenty of companies that offer campervan hire in Portugal, but Indie Campers, Portugal by Van, and Pura Vida Campers are the most popular ones. Before we get into the finer details, read some of the considerations for finding a campervan that suits your trip.
Specifications: Can you drive manual or do you need a van with an automatic transmission? Do you prefer a certain make and model? Most campervans you can hire in Portugal are VWs, Fiats, or Mercedes with a manual transmission. If you need automatic, be sure to ask ahead of time!
Size: How many people are you traveling with? How much luggage and equipment do you have? Do you plan to spend a lot of time in the van? Are you comfortable driving a bigger vehicle? Most campervans sleep between two and four people and have plenty of room to stash luggage or gear. That being said, if you’re traveling with large items (like a surfboard) or expect to be spending a lot of time inside the van, give yourself more room than you think you’ll need.
Budget: What’s your budget? How much is gas going to cost for the vehicle you choose? Depending on the season and van type, Portugal campervan hire will cost anywhere from 55€ – 180€ per day. Most rental companies will also offer insurance and ask for a deposit to ensure the safe return of the vehicle.
Other considerations: Is there a kitchen? What about a toilet or shower? Do you need a bike or surfboard rack? You can rent almost anything you need as an add-on to your rental.
Important: For campervan hire, you’ll also need a passport, a valid driver’s license, a signed rental agreement, and a security deposit. While I’ve never been asked to show it, it’s also helpful to have an International Driver’s License (super easy and only $20 through AAA) that translates your license and permits you to drive out of your home country.
Inside our Van
We ended up arranging our Portugal campervan hire with Portugal by Van not only because of their cool fleet of vehicles, but because they were quick to respond to emails, they had good reviews, and (perhaps most importantly) they were really personable from the first email to the day we returned the van.
Portugal by Van hires out three-person and four-person Fiat campervans. Our campervan for a five-day, four-night adventure along the coast was a 2014 Fiat Ducato with a manual transmission. While it was just the two of us traveling, it had seats and beds for three people. The campervan was also outfitted with a kitchenette that included a sink and a countertop where we could cook with a portable gas stove and stash our food in the cooler.
Water: The van has a 30L tank to store water and a secondary tank that collects wastewater. While it’s not recommendable to drink water from the tap, you can easily use it for cooking, brushing your teeth, washing your hands, etc. Most campsites will offer stations where you can refill the tank or drain your wastewater.
Electricity: The van is also equipped with a battery that powers an overhead light and USB charging when the van is stopped, and a 12V / 220V outlet that you can use to charge larger devices when the battery is plugged into a power source. Most campsites also offer a place where you can hook up your campervan to recharge your battery.
Cost of Campervan Hire in Portugal
The cost of campervan hire with Portugal by Van varies depending on the season. They also offer optional extras like insurance upgrades, alternate pickup points, WiFi, an electronic toll reader, bedding, and other rentable equipment for an extra charge. You should also consider the cost of campsites and gas in your daily budget. Here’s a quick overview of what things cost.
- Campervan Rental for 3-4 people incl. unlimited kilometers, a gas stove, a cooler, folding chairs, and kitchen appliances (55€-165€ per day)
- Gas (107€ per tank)
- Tolls (varies)
- Insurance (0€-15€ per day)
- Bed Linens (25€ per trip)
- Sleeping Bag (15€ per trip)
- Towels (20€ per trip)
- Surfboard or Bodyboard Rental (10€ per day)
- WiFi (30€ per trip)
- GPS (30€ per trip)
- Chemical Toilet (25€ per trip)
- BBQ Grill (17.50€ per trip)
- Alternate Pickup/Dropoff in Porto or Faro (150€)
Our rental would have averaged 107€ per day ($132 per day) which is not bad when you consider this included accommodation for two**, transport, activities, and cooking gear.
**Some of the private campsites charge a fee (~20€).
Campsites in Portugal
Portugal is one of the more campervan friendly countries in Europe with loads of designated campsites throughout the country and lax enforcement for wild camping.
Campsites in Portugal run the gamut (basic, free, beautiful, close to the beach, all the amenities, etc.). You don’t usually need to book campsites in advance, but it’s helpful to have a campsite in mind rather than just rocking up. There are campervans everywhere, but the sites can be a bit hard to find when you’re looking for them! The best resource for this is Roteiro Campista.
Wild camping, on the other hand, involves parking in an undesignated area and relying on what you have with you. This means no bathroom, no battery, and no guarantees, but oftentimes, these are the most beautiful spots and you’ll have them all to yourself.
When to Travel
The weather in Portugal is never particularly horrible (they brag about 300 days of sunshine a year), but some months are nicer than others if you’re hoping to surf or spend time outside. Low season is October to May when temperatures are a bit colder, but campsites are less crowded and rates are way lower. High season, on the other hand, is June to September. You’ll get the perfect weather, but you’ll also have to compete for privacy and pay a bit more.
Highway Tolls: You’ll have to pay tolls on most of the roads in Portugal, and the tolls are increased for a Class II vehicle. If you want to travel by highway, be sure to factor this into your budget. If you have a bit more time to spare and want to travel the backroads, just turn on the “avoid tolls” filter in Google Maps to find roads where you can cruise for free.
Getting Gas: The van runs on diesel fuel (the black nozzle) and has a 70L tank. We traveled over 700km and only had to fill up the tank on our last day when we arrived back to Lisbon.
Where to Go
With a craggy Western coastline kissing the Atlantic, plenty of natural parks, a handful of lush valleys, and more historical towns than you can really count, it’s hard to go wrong with any itinerary your land on for a Portuguese road trip. I’m working on an article with some of my favorites, so check back soon for that!
laurencoJuly 9, 2018 at 1:21 pm
what is the point of a campervan hire article sponsored by the people that gave you a free van. Of course they are the BEST in PORTUGAL
TaylorJuly 11, 2018 at 2:05 pm
Hey Lauren. It sounds like you have a different opinion? Of course Portugal by Van isn’t the only operator in Portugal, and I believe that the term “best” is rather subjective, anyway. We had a great experience with them so the purpose of the article is to provide information about how anyone could have a similarly positive experience traveling with them. If the experience wasn’t great, or could use improvement, I would honestly explain why. You’re more than welcome to compare what they offer to Indie Campers or Pura Vida Campers. Look at other reviews or ask in forums. In the end, you’ll make the choice for yourself, but you can just consider this another bit of information on the internet. Wish you luck with your trip planning!
MikeOctober 4, 2018 at 7:57 pm
I’m glad to hear that you had a good experience with Portugal by Van. We, on the other hand had a completely terrible experience. The “security deposit” that they require is actually just a payment that they are supposed to return when you drop off the van. It has been nearly two weeks since we dropped the van off and still have yet to see the full amount. Sofia, the main point of contact was a complete and utter nightmare to deal with; to the point where it had a significant impact on our trip. I’m surprised they are still functioning with a representative like that. I would suggest looking into Indie Camper or Westcoast campers as we ran into a few travellers who had great experiences with them. Portugal By Van is a bit cheaper but you definitely get what you pay for, which is a headache and empty wallet.
TaylorDecember 27, 2018 at 8:37 pm
Hi Mike. Quick apology for my delayed response. Going to address your comment point by point so this can be useful for anyone reading!
* Have you gotten an update with your deposit since dropping the van off? We got ours within about a week of leaving Portugal which was in line with what we were told.
* I’m surprised to hear your opinion on Sofia! We worked closely with her and had the complete opposite experience. She sat with us for nearly an hour to help plan the trip, answered our phone calls and WhatsApp messages within a few hours, and had a brilliantly patient response to a rather epic screwup on our part.
This was a partnership as I’ve disclosed in the post, but we genuinely had no issues worth noting in my writeup. Either way, I do appreciate you sharing your experience so perhaps other travelers or Portugal by Van has a chance to respond.
snehaJanuary 10, 2019 at 8:10 am
hello, do u have your road trip itenary as well.
TaylorJanuary 12, 2019 at 4:26 pm
Hi Sneha! Our favorite stops were Comporta Beach, Porto Covo, Vila Nova Milfontes, Zambujeira do Mar, Arrifana, and Sagres. I have a few recommended campsites as well – should I email the details over to you?
Layla StoykovichJuly 10, 2019 at 6:12 am
Hi Taylor, I’d be interested in the campsites you recommend. Could you please email them to me?
SollieApril 8, 2019 at 1:08 pm
Hi there taylor thanks for write up – please can you mail me your reccomended campsites also any wild camping spots on the west coast thanks – email@example.com
TaylorApril 12, 2019 at 7:53 am
Hey Sollie! You got it. Will email you shortly.
DestinyApril 14, 2019 at 12:23 pm
Hi Taylor! Great article, thank you so much for detailing the costs of the trip, this is so helpful! We are preparing a 3 week Portugal By Van adventure in May (SO STOKED!) and would love to see you recommendations for where to wild camp. We are kitesurfers so will be specifically looking to be close to a beach. Thank you so much for your help 🙂
TaylorApril 28, 2019 at 2:28 am
Hey Destiny. Glad you found it helpful! Just shot you some information via email. Hope it helps, and let me know how your trip goes!
AmeliaApril 14, 2019 at 4:45 pm
Hi Taylor, I’d love to hear about your recommended campsites. My boyfriend and I are currently trying to plan our round trip along the Portuguese coast this summer and are hoping to do a mix of wild camping and camping at campsites. If you’d be willing to send over your recommended sites to my email that would be great 🙂 Thanks!
TaylorApril 28, 2019 at 2:27 am
You got it! Just sent you some recommendations via email. Enjoy your trip!
Tyler MielkeFebruary 8, 2020 at 5:51 pm
Hi Taylor, I’m in the same situation and starting to plan my summer trip! Could you send over your recommended campsites and itinerary?
Taylor RecordMarch 11, 2020 at 1:06 am
Hey Tyler! Just emailed you.
ElsbethMay 17, 2019 at 1:37 pm
We have started planning our adventure … Would love to hear your recommendations on wild camping and campsites .My husband surfs – any recommendation in that regard?
TaylorJune 19, 2019 at 6:28 pm
Hey Elsbeth. Looks like my first comment didn’t go through. Have been thinking about writing an article on this very thing! Let me know if you haven’t already left yet, and I’ll email you a list of options.
InandaJuly 3, 2019 at 9:44 pm
Hi Taylor, thanks for the article. My sister and I are considering a trip in December to Portugal. Is it safe for 2 ladies to travel in a camper? Could you also please mail me your recommendations on campsites at firstname.lastname@example.org
TaylorJuly 5, 2019 at 8:31 pm
Hey Inanda. Such a fun trip to take with your sister! I did the trip with my mom and we felt safe everywhere we camped. We were on our own at some spots, but if you’d feel more comfortable, you can seek out spots where vans are already parked. I’d also recommend letting people know where you’ll be since you might be without service from time to time. Sent you some recommendations via email, but let me know if you have any other questions!
StephanJuly 21, 2019 at 3:31 am
Hello! Thank you so much for your willingness to support others in their travels. I am debating between renting a camper van for two weeks in Portugal to surf/camp, rent a car and stay in airbnbs/etc., or a mix-match. I’ll be flying into Lisbon in late August. I love the outdoors and the idea of traveling so freely by camper van, but I also enjoy cities/public transport/wandering the streets and listening to the nightlife through windows. My focus is on surfing but I’d like to experience other aspects of Portugal as well. Any recommendations on your experience or wisdom would be much appreciated!
Taylor RecordAugust 3, 2019 at 2:37 pm
Hey Stephan. Sure thing! Happy to do it. I’d definitely recommend a mix of both. Having a campervan seems like a bit of a hassle in cities, but it’s the perfect way to travel along the coast. We had ours for about 5 days and did Airbnbs the rest of the way. Hope this helps?
Katherin JaffaryAugust 7, 2019 at 4:23 am
Thanks for the great information. My sister and I are booked to travel Portugal by van starting Sept. 18. Like others who have replied to your post, we’d appreciate your recommendations for campsites along the coast, wild and for a fee. We love snorkeling if you have any thoughts or insights on that.
Taylor RecordAugust 21, 2019 at 10:51 pm
Hey Katherin. Fantastic! Think it’s time I write a post on it. Will send you some recommendations by email. Hope you guys enjoy your trip!
MattAugust 29, 2019 at 7:31 pm
Hi Taylor great write up would you be able to email me your recommended campsites also any wild camping spots on the west coast thanks. If any of them are near surf spots that would be great! Heading on a camper van trip in mid October and looking to do lots of surfing!
Taylor RecordSeptember 5, 2019 at 11:31 pm
Sure thing, Matt! Watch your inbox.
Paul StyxSeptember 14, 2019 at 10:17 am
Great article! Could you please email me your recommended campsites as well? We’ve got a 10 day campervan rental coming up in a few days. Thanks!
Taylor RecordSeptember 21, 2019 at 11:40 pm
Just emailed you, Paul! Hope you enjoy your trip.
Amanda D'ErricoSeptember 18, 2019 at 9:10 pm
Hello! I’d love your list of campspots as well, please!
Taylor RecordSeptember 21, 2019 at 11:39 pm
Hey Amanda! Just emailed you, let me know if you don’t get it 🙂
StefanOctober 9, 2019 at 7:09 pm
Great article! I would love see your list of favorite camp sites as well, thank you.
Taylor RecordOctober 15, 2019 at 10:59 pm
Sure thing! Just emailed you. Check spam if you don’t see it.
KentOctober 12, 2019 at 1:47 pm
Great article! Would you mind sending me any spots to wild camp please and the spots you made along the way. Thanks a lot
Taylor RecordOctober 15, 2019 at 10:56 pm
Hey Kent. You got it! Just sent an email your way.
kent johnsonOctober 16, 2019 at 12:17 am
Thanks a lot
IsabellaOctober 29, 2019 at 2:03 pm
Hi Taylor. Great article. I’m planning on going to Portugal in two weeks with my boyfriend and we’re renting a camper van. We only have four days, which destinations and campsites would you recommend? My mail is: email@example.com
LauraNovember 2, 2019 at 8:43 pm
Great article. Very useful. We are planning the same trip with our van. Would you mind to send me those great camp spots?
Thank you so much!
Martin CooperDecember 27, 2019 at 11:24 am
Hi, thanks for your great write up. It is really informative and has helped us with our trip to Portugal coming next year. Would it be possible for you to send me an email with good places to go and stay for a weeks trip from Lisbon? We were thinking of going north and getting beaches and mountains in with small villages too!
Really appreciate your enthusiasm!
Taylor RecordJanuary 6, 2020 at 9:25 pm
Hey Martin. So glad you found it helpful! Would be happy to send you the campsites, though most are South of Lisbon. There’s another website I’ll recommend in the email that can give you more ideas. Be in touch soon.
Vicky BabbeJanuary 18, 2020 at 10:51 pm
Hi, is it possible to drive the motorhome everywhere? Like down to the beach, to the supermarket, through the city streets? Is it ever difficult as the van is bigger than a car? What about parking it at the beach etc? Is that easy or impossible?
Have never driven a motorhome before, don’t want to have to leave it on the campsite and walk everywhere…
thanks for any advice you can give!
Vicky BabbeJanuary 18, 2020 at 10:52 pm
I’d also love your list of great campsites please!
Taylor RecordJanuary 22, 2020 at 9:35 pm
Taylor RecordJanuary 22, 2020 at 9:40 pm
Hey Vicky! Going to answer this with the elusive “yes and no”.
My mom and I are hilariously nervous drivers and we managed! It was stressful getting out of Lisbon, but once we were cruising along the coast, the size of the van never felt overwhelming. For the most part, we could drive and park wherever we went (even if it meant walking a few extra blocks). Most of the beaches will have huge parking lots and parking your van is no issue. We avoided any large cities but drove our van to viewpoints, the market, etc. without issue. Hope this helps?
Lawrence MartinFebruary 3, 2020 at 3:39 am
Could you also send me the info regarding some of your favorite sites and campgrounds. We are planning a trip to Portugal in early May. Thanks
Taylor RecordMarch 11, 2020 at 1:07 am
Hey Lawrence. Just emailed you!
Rebecca ClarkJuly 5, 2020 at 4:50 pm
Hi there we have booked a campervan to travel around the west coast of Portugal at the end of July (current situation permitting!) Would you be able to recommend camp sites that you stayed at along the way? Many thanks. We have three children with us so campsites with hook ups probably better than wild camping but would also consider the odd night going solo!
Taylor RecordJuly 15, 2020 at 7:28 pm
Hey Rebecca. Will send you an email with the ones I know!