Summer vacation in Europe can be quite expensive; especially in peak season somewhere at a beach. But with a few tricks, you can save lots of money in Portugal.
1. Book a cheap flight
Depending on where you're coming from within Europe, you can probably find a very affordable flight. . The Irish airline Ryan Air offers frequent flights from many cities and good rates. If you're flexible timewise, you'll benefit even more. Flights can vary a lot between a few days. If you travel as a couple and you're not planning to stay very long, I recommend you only check in one luggage item and each of you opt for an additional carry-on. It's summer anyway and you won't need too many clothes for the beach. By organizing yourself this way, you have already saved a few bucks. Make sure though you use a scale before you head to the airport as Ryan Air is quite strict with the weight of your luggage. Why is Ryan Air so much cheaper than other airlines? Because they fly to smaller airports. In Portugal, you are going to land in Faro which is 2.5 hours south of Lisbon. If you are looking to plan a beach holiday, the location of the airport couldn't be any better.
2. Good rental car deals
Do your homework and google good and cheap rental car companies in Portugal. We booked our car through Luzcarafter reading several reviews. They are located at the airport and you will find your car in a parking lot with a sign on the window with your full name on it. On one side of the car on the front tire you will find your keys! Cool huh? I would definitely book again with them. For 12 days we paid 325.71 € in the middle of July. If you go later, at the end of the season when the weather is still nice and the water warm, rates should be even cheaper. If you need some inspiration on the route you might take a look at this.
Food plays a big role in vacation. I mean, you want to spoil yourself, don't you? We were not able to spend a lot of money and loved our daily shopping routine at Lidl. The discounter is quite big in the south and has amazing offers. We shopped for bread and pastries there and made our own sandwiches before we headed to the beach each day. In the evenings, we bought superb Portuguese wine (super cheap as well) and made italian pasta and salad to enjoy along with it.
Inside Lidl, there is a little café where you can order your coffee for 1 €. Generally speaking, you can spoil yourself at the beach bar where you will find cheap coffee and relatively cheap beer.
If you want to go out for dinner there are ways to save there as well.If you are in beach areas or little towns, be sure to compare prices as most restaurants close to the beach are expensive and intended for tourists. To find where the locals eat, you have to go further into the alleys and back streets, or you can just ask your host, hotel staff or people on the street. Did I mention Portuguese people are very nice?
In cities like Cascais, there are places with special offers. We went to Telepizza and got two Pizzas for the price of one. To be honest, the Pizza was nothing special but we got a good deal and saved quite a lot of money. So why not?
If you plan to go surfing on vacation, but you can't take your gear with you, it's probably cheapest if you look for a surf champ. There you can stay for the days you want to surf and book the room including breakfast and surf lessons. To rent out the equipment each day directly at the beach is very expensive; depending slightly on the location.
In Foz de Lizandro, we paid 20 € for a surfboard and 10 € for a wetsuit for a whole day. No surf instructor included. If you have never surfed before, I highly recommend you take lessons. The waves can be very tough and dangerous, depending on the area.
Let's say you go surfing for 4 days. If you rent by the day you're going to pay 120 € just for the gear, and you have not had a single lesson! Considering food and lodging, a surf camp is cheaper for sure. Sometimes they even offer yoga classes and many other incentives. Plus, you're going to meet awesome people.
In Praia do Guincho, you can rent out equipment per 1 hour = 15 € (surf board and wet suit). Prices, as always, depend on location.
5. Look for free stuff
The more you talk to locals the better deals you can get. A cab rider in Cascais told us about a bicycle rental around the corner of our hotel which offers free rides if you show your passport.
Also, parking lots do vary a lot when it comes to costs. Look for the cheapest, but make sure it is still safe.
No matter if you stay close to a beach, in the city or in the nature, remember: most of the fun things to do are for free anyway. Hike up to the highest point, walk in a park, bring your own bottle of wine to the beach and enjoy sunset. It's the little things you'll enjoy and additionally you're going to save money instead of wasting it at a bar. Those are the nights you're going to remember.
Let's break down the costs of our trip for 12 days around Portugal:
|Category||per day and person||per person for 12 days||couple for 12 days (TOTAL)|
|Food||156.72 €||313.36 €||626,72 €|
|Drinks||4.39 €||52.68 €||105.35 €|
|Lodging||22.75 €||273.00 €||545.94 €|
|Flight||19.89 €||238.66 €||477.32 €|
|Transport||21.46 €||257.52 €||515.09 €|
|TOTAL:||81.55 €||978.58 €||1.957.06 €|
No matter if you travel with your partner or your friend, sharing a room allows you to split the cost. Which is a big advantage. In late summer (August, September) rates are cheaper than in June or July. If you look at the chart, you will see that our flight wasn't as cheap as itcould have been. To be honest, we booked too late and were not flexible date wise which can highly influence the price.
We mostly slept in people's appartments or booked our own apartment through Airbnb. If you have never traveled with Airbnb, you might give it a try. It allows you to stay in beautiful houses and to get in touch with locals who can tell you where to get the best dinner or what to do while in town. Our best stay was with Ludmilla and Chris at Villa Clara Luz in Almancil.
If you also want to stay at such places on your next trip, use my voucher, it will save you 22 Euros.
Also, Portugal is so much fun to take pictures. If you haven't seen my pictures yet, here is the story of Portugal's doors.
What are your tricks to spend less money for your summer vacation in Europe?