Transport

This section is for information on planes, trains and ferries – options on getting your bike to Portugal and transporting it around once you’re here.

Planes

Different airlines have different rules regarding carrying bikes and – as airlines and their policies change over time – it will be safest if you check with the individual carrier. As an example, BA give the following advice on their website (but see the note below*):  

There is no additional allowance for sporting equipment, but it can be carried free of charge as part of your free checked baggage allowance. If the total number of bags is more than your free checked allowance, you will need to pay extra bag charges.

We will accept non-motorised bicycles of all dimensions provided they are packed in a recognised bicycle bag*. Preparing bicycles for travel:

  • bicycle pedals must be removed (or fixed inwards)
  • handlebars must be fixed sideways
  • the bicycle must be contained in a protective case or bag
  • you may wish to deflate the tyres to reduce risk of damage.

*Although BA say you should use ‘a recognised bicycle bag’, I’ve taken a tandem to and from North America and Australia. On both occasions the bike was in a cardboard box (prepared as above) and BA were quite happy to take it like that.

As of March 2017, Portugal’s national carrier TAP states: “Sports equipment [includes bikes] can be included in the free hold baggage, provided it does not exceed the allowed weight and dimensions – 23 kg (50 lbs) / 32 kg/70 lbs. and 158 cm/62 in (height + length + width).” See this page on the TAP website for more info on taking bikes on their flights. 

It might also be worth looking at this page from Britain’s national cycling charity, the CTC – who sell a polythene bike bag for the grand sum of £6.50. One possible advantage of using a clear plastic bag rather than a box is that baggage handlers can see what it is and – hopefully! – won’t pile other heavy items on top of it.

easyJet – who fly several UK to Portugal routes – will take bikes in poly bags. Pedals should be removed and handlebars turned but that’s all you need to do. As of January 2014, easyJet has a 32kg weight limit for sporting equipment – including bikes – which is more generous than the allowance for ordinary baggage!

Trains

The Portuguese rail network – run by Comboios de Portugal (CP) – includes fast intercity services, some much slower regional trains and urban services around Lisbon, Porto and Coimbra.

However, ordinary (non-folding) bikes are not allowed on all services/lines so do check before booking any tickets or assuming you can use the trains. 

In general, bikes are allowed on urban and most regional services, plus some long distance services and always go free. Full details (in English) can be found on CP’s Bike Transport page. For a summary of the rules see below:

  • Lisbon and Porto urban services: bike transport is free on all trains
  • Alfa Pendular (fast long distance trains): bikes go free but only if “disassembled and properly packed as luggage that is no larger than fits in the luggage rack or under the seats”
  • Intercity – Lisbon to Porto/Braga/Guimarães: one bike per passenger (max 15kg!) in 2nd class carriages – but each carriage only has space for two bikes*
  • Intercity – Lisbon to Castelo Branco/Covilhã: one bike per train!*
  • Intercity – Beira Alta, Alentejo and Southern lines: as Alfa Pendular
  • Regional/inter-regional/Coimbra urban services: bikes are allowed if there is space. They are currently not allowed on Minho and Douro lines. There are also temporary restrictions on some services, affecting certain times of day/days of the week.
  • Sleeper trains: up to two per compartment if the whole compartment is booked.
  • Celta line (Porto to Vigo in Spain): up to three per train or “bikes can be carried so long as they are disassembled and properly packed so they can be taken as hand luggage, only one per passenger and the do not measure more than 1.20x90x40cm”. Shows as IN on timetables.

*Note: Be aware that bike spaces on intercity trains must be booked when buying a ticket.

CP has a good website for buying tickets or checking times. For English, click on the UK flag icon.

To work out which towns are connected by regional services, the best thing is to visit CP’s Travelling In Portugal page and download a PDF copy of the network map. Look at the red lines and you can see which lines are possible. Note that regional line trains depart from two stations in Lisbon – Lisboa-Oriente and Lisboa-Santa Apolonia.

Below are some more details on the different types of train services:

Intercity: The good news is that these are pretty cheap. For example, the 3-hour intercity service from Lisbon to Porto costs between 24 & 30 Euros in 2nd class.

As mentioned above, the bad news is that Comboios de Portugal (CP) pretty much prohibit anything other than a folding bike. The CP website says: Bikes can be taken on Intercidades trains so long as they have the wheels removed and are packed as luggage that is no larger than the individual luggage space per passenger in the luggage racks or under the seats.

Regional: Rules are more relaxed with regional trains. Passengers are allowed one bike each – although CP say you are responsible for not blocking access and should ask the ticket inspector if there is room before boarding. Trains on the Algarve line have a dedicated compartment with special hooks for holding bikes.

At the moment, however, CP say they are not taking bikes on the northern Minho and Douro lines because they are using the wrong rolling stock.

The other advantage of regional trains is that they’re often 25-50% cheaper. Be aware though that while some lines have plenty of regional services, other are much more limited.

Departure times are also not always that convenient. There are only two regional trains from Porto to Lisbon – leaving at either 20.00 or 01.30!

Urban: These services may be useful if you don’t fancy riding into either of these cities. Same rules for bikes apply as with regional trains. The Porto network connects with Braga, Guimaraes and Aveiro, while Lisbon’s network can get you out to Cascais, Sintra or Setubal.

Bus

Portugal has a number of bus/coach companies carrying passengers between most towns – and across the border into Spain.

Fares are normally quite reasonable and buses often a better bet than trains for frequency of service, faster journeys and more convenient departure times.

However, different companies will have their own rule on carrying bikes.

Rede Expressos is the biggest bus company and operates across the country. According to their website, they only take folding bicycles and passengers are allowed luggage up to 20kg in weight, which “does not include sports equipment, guitar cases or any other unusual shaped items”.

However, they will take bikes! Fellow cyclist Raj Kumar flew to Lisbon with easyJet in March 2014 and took his bike in its 25kg EVA box on the bus to Évora – and wasn’t even charged anything extra.

EVA Transportes (not to be confused with the bike box makers) operates in the southern half of Portugal with connecting services to Seville. In an email to one customer inquiry, they said that they do carry bikes if properly packaged.

If I find details of any other companies that carry bicycles, I will update the package. Alternatively, if any other riders can help expand this section then please share your knowledge!

Metro

The airports at Porto and Lisbon are both connected to metro systems. If you’re flying in and need to get into town, this is probably the cheapest and simplest option – although note that bikes have to be put into the rear door on the metro.

Both metro systems are quite new, efficient and cheap. The only issue may be that not all stations have escalators so you may end up having to carry your bike/box.

Ferries

Algarve: The only place you’re likely to find a ferry into Portugal is right down in the south where you can cross the Rio Guadiana from Ayamonte in Spain to Vila Real de Santo Antonio. It’s a passenger ferry but also takes bikes.

Lisbon: Ferries can be a very useful way of getting in and out of Lisbon. I’m not sure it’s possible to cycle either the Ponte 25 de Abril or the huge Ponte Vasco de Gama but neither would be a pleasant experience even if allowed.

However there are various ferry routes across the Tejo. These include the car ferry across to Cacilhas, plus passenger ferries to Seixal, Barreiro and Montijo. (None of these places is particularly special but it won’t take too long to leave the urban sprawl behind.)

As of March 2014, bicycles are allowed – free – on all ferries operated by TransTejo and Sofulsa. The company’s website lists various conditions but it basically boils down to there being space and the bicycles not causing an obstruction – and you’re not allowed to leave grease or debris on the decks!

In 2005, my wife and I got a tandem and trailer (plus bags) onto the passenger boat from Seixal across to Lisbon. We got some curious looks but it didn’t cost us anything extra and took us right into the heart of the city. (We also managed to escape the Lisbon traffic and had a lovely ride out along the waterfront to Cascais by leaving early on a Sunday morning.)

18 thoughts on “Transport

  1. Pingback: Pedal Portugal’s Top 10 Tips | Pedal Portugal

  2. Hi Huw-there seems some good advice on these pages, but could you just clarify for me following-im cycling with some friends from Valencia-Madrid-Porto and because of time constraints getting the train from Porto to Lisbon whereupon 2 of the group are flying back from Lisbon. Myself and another mate are going to/ wanting to take the train from Lisbon to the Algarve to meet families. My mate says that it looks impossible to take bikes (wont be in a box) on that particular train unless folded-would that be your experience too.
    cheers

  3. Thank you for the info !
    I see a problem… our flight land at 19:35 and we should not be able to be at the train/bus station before 21:00. At this time I don’t see buses or train anymore ?

    • Hi. Sorry but I don’t have any more information than is on the bus or train timetables. You might have to spend a night in Lisbon and then travel the next day. Only other option is to hire a car/van but that’s much more expensive.

  4. Hi, I come for a week road biking in Portugal end february with my daughter. We fly from Brussels to Lisbon and will arrive around 8 pm. Our accomodation is close to Nazaré but we’ll not hiring a car. What are the possibilities ? bus ? train ? We’ll have our two bikes packed in bike boxes… Thank you !

    • Hi. There’s a slow train line up the coast. You can get urban/regional line trains – which should carry bikes boxed or unboxed – from Lisboa Oriente (short metro ride from airport) up to a station near Nazare.
      See http://www.cp.pt/passageiros/en/
      Main bus company is Rede Expressos, they will probably take bikes boxed but not unboxed.

  5. I’m heading to Portugal for three weeks in the fall for a bike trip but will be renting from Lisbon so I will not have a bike bag. What is your experience biking out of Lisbon towards Evora instead of trying to get the bike on public transportation?

    • Hi Ashley
      Depends who you are renting from but it might be worth asking if they can deliver the bike to a hotel in Evora.
      It is possible to ride from Lisbon but the scenery isn’t great to begin with – gets better and quieter as you head east.
      If you want to ride (or have no choice), the simplest solution is to catch a ferry from the Cais do Sodre quay on the waterfront in central Lisbon. That will take you to Barreiro. This is all very built up (and not very pretty). However, you can take a train from here to Pinhal Novo – it’s only a few stops but will get you most of the way out of the city sprawl and you should be able to take a bike with no problem. From here it’s a straight ride east towards Montemor-o-Novo and Evora. First bit’s pretty boring but it does get better.
      Hope that helps.

    • I ended up renting a bike from Lisbon. The rental company took care of transporting the bike back from Algarve.
      You have three weeks, so you might consider a detour – first to Cabo Espichel and Arrábida, maybe even Comporta. The mountains in Arrábida had one of the best sceneries along my route, but also very steep uphill, so it was very strenuous with a trekking bike and all the camping gear!

      • Good advice – thanks Seppo. I’ve only ridden through the Arrabida hills once (going west from Setubal) and they are definitely tough but also really beautiful. It’s only a fairly small section but I think this is one of the best bits of coast anywhere in Portugal.

  6. The RENFE website is notorious and difficult to use! We were able to put our bikes on trains along sections of the Camino via de la Plata (Santiago/Salamanca/Caceres/Merida/Seville) without any problems. I would think those trains would be classed as inter-city.

    • Hi Phil. Never tried the trains in Spain myself. I would guess though that its like Portugal, the rules are only there as a guide!
      Individual train managers/guards may chose to totally ignore them.

  7. Hi Huw, looking at riding back down the Minho from Rabino to Valenca in Oct 2015. Mindful of your comments re bikes and trains (CP) was wondering whether across the other side of the Minho in Spain RENFE will have a more helpful policy on carrying bikes???

  8. Here is my experience in taking your bike in Portugal. I toured in last week of March.

    I flew with my bike bag from Luton to Lisbon by Easy Jet. I took the bike in a EVA hard case. It was absolutely fine, Bike was not damaged.
    From Lisbon airport, the easiest way to take the bike box is use Metro. It has wide double doors, get in to the last carriage and keep the box at the end. No problem what so ever. But remember some Metro stations does not have elevators, so you end up carrying the bag on steps.

    I used Rede Expressos bus service to travel from Lisbon to Evora. The information says that you may have to pay extra. The driver said I have to but his manager told him to just get it in and even helped me to load it in to the luggage compartment. On the way back from Evora, again I had no problem.
    The real problem is wheeling it on the pavement on the way to the hotel or change from Metro to Bus etc as the pavements are cobbled. It is not so easy to wheel a 25Kg bag on 2 small wheels on a cobbled street. I ended up carrying it in my shoulder/head.

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