By Rick Steves
Are rail passes a good value for Portugal?
For most travelers going to Portugal, a rail pass doesn't make much sense, especially for those not traveling beyond Portugal. Even if your trip extends into Spain, consider that Lisbon–Madrid trains leave just once a day and are only available as an overnight trip, which requires you to pay a sleeper reservation, even if you have a rail pass (many travelers find that flights are a better option on this stretch). Connecting Portugal and Sevilla is faster and easier by bus, which isn't covered by any rail pass.
How do I see whether a rail pass makes sense for my trip in particular?
Train & Bus Fares: Portugal & Spain
Map shows approximate costs, in $US, for one-way, second-class tickets. For first-class fares, add 50 percent.
Use this map to add up approximate pay-as-you-go fares for your itinerary, and compare that cost to the price of a rail pass for the number of days you expect to spend on the train. Dashed lines show bus connections, and dotted lines show ferry routes, neither of which are covered by rail passes.
Also, follow the links below for:
• More tips for figuring out whether a pass makes sense for your trip
• The basics on choosing among rail passes
• More tips for getting the most out of a rail pass
• General advice on deciding between first and second class
• Fare-estimate maps outside Portugal & Spain
• Answers to frequently asked rail-pass questions
Choose one of the passes below to check prices and to buy your pass (orders are fulfilled by Rail Europe).
Do I need to make seat reservations on Portuguese trains?
Generally speaking, no. You do, however, need reservations on overnight trains into Spain.
What do rail passes cover in Portugal?
Rail passes cover all travel on trains run by the national railway, Comboios de Portugal. Rail passes do not, however, cover buses, which offer faster and/or more frequent connections between some places in Portugal.
Any tips for connecting into Spain?
- Lisbon–Madrid: Flying can be your fastest and even cheapest option, as tickets can go for just $40. Otherwise it's a 8–9-hour bus ride ($65, 2/day) or an overnight train ($85 for ticket itself, covered if you have Portugal–Spain Eurail Pass, plus sleeper-train fees).
- Lisbon–Sevilla: The bus is far cheaper here, as well as faster, since Sevilla–Lisbon trains all change in Madrid (bus: $50, 7–10 hours; train: $190 for ticket itself, covered if you have Portugal–Spain Eurail Pass, plus sleeper-train fees, 13 hours).
Portugal Rail Passes: Key Details
Single-country Portugal Eurail Pass: Valid for one month, not two, after you've activated the pass (whereas multi-country Eurail-brand passes offer a two-month window of travel). Not valid on Hotel Train to/from Madrid.
Portugal–Spain Eurail Pass: From Madrid to Lisbon, service is only by overnight train, and you'll have to pay extra for sleeper reservations. Between Sevilla and Portugal, service is best by bus, which isn't covered by this (or any) rail pass. No youth discount available on this pass.