How do I get to a Portuguese castle hotel?
It’s possible to get just about anywhere in Portugal using public transportation. With a few exceptions, castle hotels are located in or near towns, allowing those travelers without a car the opportunity to stay in them. Each hotel listing has additional information.
Trains are generally cheap but slow. The ALFA rapidos are the fastest and most punctual. They generally run from north to south. Directos Intercidades are next down the chain. Regionales stop everywhere. If traveling near the Douro Valley, take the narrow-gauge railway for a day of gorgeous scenery. For schedule and fare information, check out Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses (CP).
Train passes for Portugal are available but not really worth it. If you are combining a trip with Spain, a train pass can save money if you use it to travel long distances. There is only an expensive overnight train between Lisbon and Madrid. A much cheaper option is to take the bus.
Private bus companies crisscross the country and are faster than the train. They also travel to the more out-of-the-way areas of Portugal. The most deluxe buses are the espressos; the slowest are the carreiras. Always ask for the latest timetable information directly from the company at the bus station. Schedules change according to the seasons and school holidays. One of the largest bus networks is Rede Expressos.
Bus services on holidays and weekends is minimal at best.
Portuguese roads have improved markedly over the past several years. However, Portugal remains at the top of the list as one of the most dangerous countries in Europe in which to drive. Portuguese drivers can be horrible. As long as you keep a watchful eye on what’s going on around you, driving in Portugal shouldn’t present any special problems, and generally, roads aren’t that crowded.
Arrange to rent a car before arriving in Portugal; it is often cheaper.
A couple of comments from experience:
Invest in a good map. Roads are not always well marked. Portugal is one of those countries where you shouldn’t try to drive by the seat of your pants.
Many of those charming small towns also have charming small roads. Small, meaning so narrow an extra coat of paint may make your car too wide to pass through. Streets are often one way and wind through labyrinthine layouts before projecting you back out onto the highway. Park where it’s convenient and walk. Driving in cities such as Lisbon or Porto is wretched. Don’t bother.
Never leave anything in your car.
Some of the greatest fun you’ll have while traveling around Portugal is discovering an out-of-the way village that’s utterly delightful, and the only way to do this is by car.