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 for 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?
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 routes, which aren't covered by rail passes. "(N)" indicates that a route has only overnight train service.
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
Do I need to make seat reservations on Portuguese trains?
Reservations are required before boarding Alfa Pendular and Inter City trains (€5, sold only in Portugal); you also need seat or sleeper 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 an 8–9-hour bus ride ($65, 2/day, not covered by rail passes) or an overnight train ($85 for ticket itself — which is covered if you have a Eurail Global Pass or Spain Pass, but not a Portugal-only 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 to/from the Lisbon–Madrid night train (bus: $50, 7–10 hours, not covered by rail passes; train: $200 without a rail pass — see overnight-train details in previous paragraph, 13 hours total for whole route).
Get even more advice on Portuguese trains and buses in my Rick Steves Portugal guidebook.