It’s always hard to rent a car in a foreign country, where we usually don’t know the language. the legal system and sometimes even the driving rules.
Therefore, I decided to write this complete guide on how to rent a car in Porto. If you have any further doubts, just write on the comment section – I have rented many cars in the city myself, so I might be able to help you out!
Things to have in mind when you decide to rent a car in Porto:
1. Should you rent a car in Porto?
The first thing to do is to understand if you should rent a car a car in Porto.
I recommend you to rent a car in Porto if:
- You’re planning to explore other cities around Porto, such as Braga and Guimarães, Aveiro and Coimbra. There are good train connections to these cities, but you’ll have to stick to a schedule – a car gives you more flexibility.
- You’re planning to go visit the vineyards in Douro Valley. The public transports in Douro Valley are very limited, with only a few train connections a day. Moreover, almost all vineyards are only accessible by car, so you either rent a car in Porto or you hire a private guide to take you around.
- If you or someone you’re traveling with faces some mobility issues.
- If you have too much luggage to carry around.
If you’re just planning to stay in the city for a couple of days, then there is no need to rent a car in Porto. There is a lot of traffic and it is quite hard to park, specially during the high season. Therefore, you can simply use the subway of Porto, the trains that arrive in São Bento train station and in Campanhã, or use UBER – it’s pretty well established here.
2. If you decide to rent a car in Porto, don’t leave it for last minute!
This might seem quite an obvious thing, but the fact is that most people care about the flights and the accommodation and leave the car rental for last minute.
I strongly recommend to not leave your car rental in Porto for last minute. Our city is one of the top tourist destinations in Europe, and we have thousands of visitors every month. Therefore, the likelihood of finding a car rental with free cars just before you arrive is very low. Moreover, and I don’t know if you’re aware of this fact, the price of the rented cars vary according to the demand. This means that the more people looking for cars to rent the higher the prices will be.
Then do your homework about which type of car to choose and where to rent it from, and do it in advance. This way you will have many options to choose from.
3. Be careful if you plan to use a price aggregator website (aka brokers) to rent a car!
If you decide to use one of those “price aggregators” websites, be careful about what rental car company you’re closing the deal with. Once and a while you’ll come across some online deals that seem to good to be true, and that’s exactly what they are: usually those “cheap cars” come with a low mileage limit!
I can tell you by experience: one time I rented a VERY cheap car from Budget just to realise, when I went to pick it up, that it only included 60km / day, and they charge extra 0,15€/extra km! Well I was going to travel to Douro Valley, which is 150km away from Porto, so you can make the math… I immediately cancelled the car and rented another from another rental company, but I had to pay the cancellation fee.
4. Decide where to rent a car in Porto
From my experience, there are three options for car rental in Porto:
- If you’re arriving at Aeroporto Sá Carneiro – the International airport of Porto -, them you’ll have plenty of car rental options.
I’ve partnered up with Sixt in order to offer you some really nice discounts on your car rental in Porto:
- If you prepay the car you save up to 25% on the value of the car rental
- If you’re renting a car in Porto for a longer period, you can save up to 35% off weekly
- If you can also check here for Sixt Last Minute Special, even though this is the best option, as I mentioned before.
I’ve also partnered up with Europcar to offer you their best deals.
Note that all the discounts are applied automatically through the links provided above, so you won’t see any offer text or
stroke out price.
I’ve chosen Sixt and Europcar because I am quite experienced in car rentals in Porto (because of my private tours in Douro Valley), and these rent a car companies provide the best prices, friendly staff and a great customer service (once my car stopped working and they immediately pick me up, and I was 60km away from Porto!).
Whatever rent a car company you choose at the airport of Porto, you’ll have a free shuttle to where the rented cars are. Each rent a car has its own minivan with its printed logo painted all over, so they’re easily identified. These minivans departure every 5min from the Arrivals (in Portuguese it’s written “Chegadas”) gates. They take no longer than 5min to arrive at the rented cars, so don’t worry, you don’t need to rush!
The schedule of all the rent a car companies at the airport of Porto is everyday from 7am – midnight.
- If you’re arriving at Campanhã train station, you have fewer options. You can rent a car with Europcar or with Avis & Budget. Both offices are in front of train line. I’ve partnered up with Europcar to offer you the best deals in car rental in Porto – Campanhã.
The rent a car companies are located in front of line 1 in Campanhã train station.
The schedule of Europcar is Mon – Fri 9am to 1pm + 3pm to 6.30pm | Sat from 10am to noon | Closed on Sundays.
- You can also choose to rent a car in downtown Porto, but this would be my last option, because there is always a lot of traffic so you’ll end up wasting too much time. Moreover, don’t forget that these stores have a more limited schedule than the ones at the airport or in Campanhã train station.I cannot provide you with a least of ALL the car rentals in Porto – downtown, but here’s a few of them:
SIXT – Avenida da Boavista, 1203
Guerin – Rua de Passos Manuel, 176
Hertz – Rua de Santa Catarina, 899
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5. What protections should you take when you rent a car in Porto?
When you rent a car you have the base price and then all the protection options. You can decide which protection options to take both online or on the spot.
- Premium Protection that covers the car, the passengers and the luggage and reduces the excess to 0€.In short terms, the excess (called “franquia” in Portuguese) is the value that you’ll pay for activating the insurance in case something happens. It’s a fixed value that depends on the car category, that usually ranges between 950€ – 5000€.At Europcar this protection is called Premium protection, whereas in Sixt it’s called SCDW 0%.
- Medium Protection that covers that covers the car, the passengers and the luggage and reduces the excess to a certain amount.With this car protection, Europcar reduces the excess up to 70% – now the good deal is that if you get this protection with Sixt, the excess is reduced to 600€ independently of the car category. Therefore, if you’re renting an expensive car with Sixt, it pays off to get this protection as the excess value would be very high.
- PAI protection covers only the passengers.
- Tires & Glass protection is exactly what it means: a protection only for tires and glasses. This protection is called WWI in Europcar and TG in Sixt.
- RSP protection provides an extended travel assistance for negligence occurrences, like when you put the wrong fuel in the car, or when you forget the keys inside the car, when the battery dies because you forgot the lights on, etc.AT Europcar the RSP only covers the tow truck and the taxi to take you to the nearest Europcar station. The interesting thing is that this exact same protection, in Sixt, covers the tow truck, the taxi and some expenses. For example, if put the wrong fuel in the car and you have the RSP protection with Sixt, you won’t need to pay the cleaning of the tank, whereas in Europcar or other rent a car companies you’d pay.
Expert tip: I cannot tell you which protections to take because that is a personal decision, but I can tell you the ones I usually take when I rent a car in Porto.
I always go for Premium Protection and PAI protection, as accidents can happen and I want everyone in the car fully covered. However, I usually don’t take tires & glasses protection or the RSN, as these protections cover very unlikely events.
6. Understand the toll system in Portugal
Once you arrive at the rental car in Porto, they’ll ask you the usual stuff about insurances and if you’d like to Activate the Via Verde – the electronic toll Portuguese system.
Via Verde is a technology that allows you to pay all the tolls on the road by an automatic debit on your credit card. It pretty much consists of a little white box that is glued to the car window.
I strongly recommend you to activate the Via Verde system in your rented car. It costs around 1,50€/day + VAT, and it will save you a lot of time in tolls – when you see them, you just need to drive through the lanes with the Via Verde symbol painted on the floor, like on this picture:
Moreover, on some tolls you simply DON’T have an option to pay if you don’t have the Via Verde system activated:
So basically, if the Via Verde system is not active, you’ll have to stop by a mail office to pay these tolls – it’s so inconvenient that everyone uses Via Verde these days!
7. Important information about driving in Portugal
- Our highways are extremely safe – the pavement is usually in perfect conditions and the lanes are rather large and numerous.
- Most people drive off speed limit and make bold maneuvers, specially in the highways. You really shouldn’t freak out about this and rather accept it as a cultural trait (which is exactly what I did when I first drove in Romania and realise that they drive completely off hand!).