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.
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!
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.
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!
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.
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.)