Saturday, July 21, 2018

PORTUGAL - the complete guide to a rail- road -trip

As in many other European countries, too, in Portugal, travelling by rail is easy-peasy, cheap, and fun. Do you hear the whistle blow?


Picturesque Portugal: The beauty of everyday life.

Quick: Jump on the train and let me guide you from mesmerizing Porto to Lisbon, the city that has been elected World's Leading City Break Destination 2017 for a reason.

I must say that for decades, I haven't been really interested in Portugal. I always thought it was a smaller, poorer version of Spain; yes, that was very ignorant and I'm only admitting this to you, so pssst!

Twice I had to spend a day on a long haul flight - that's how I wrote the Lisbon guide for my 24 hours in...-series - and found it pretty charming.

On my recent railroad trip, I became one of the biggest fans under the Portuguese sun: This country, that is home to only a bit over 10 million people, had - like Spain - its gilded conquerer and colonial age in the 15th and 16th century. The Padrão dos Descobrimentos in Belém is a reminder of these ages of 'discoveries' - which of course is a euphemism: Just like the Spaniards - and later the British and the French - they travelled to other continents, abused and exploited the inhabitants or - like in Afrika - robbed and enslaved them; yeah, and once they were on it, they also discovered...whatever.


The Padrao dos Descobrimentos remembers the explorers that conquered countries around the globe. Obviously, it does not remember the blood that was shed.

Anyway, there are still traces of these times to be found all over the planet - apart from Australia, there are Portuguese-speaking countries on every continent which is a heritage from those colonial times.

Of course, a major part of Portugal's present beauty stems from those times.

But the times, they were a changin, and after becoming an annex of Spain, in the final phase of the Portuguese monarchy, the country suffered from big poverty, extreme low education (80 percent of the Portuguese people were illiterate) and economic problems which led to national bankruptcy in 1891. In 1910, Portugal became a republic, but sadly the former minister of finance, António de Oliveira Salazar, created what he called the „Estado Novo“ in 1933 - a dictatorial regime akin to fascism - which lasted till the Carnation Revolution in 1974.

After some tough years, currently, Portugal's economy is doing pleasantly well.

Since 2001, 19 European countries paying with €uros, and Portugal is one of them. The exchange rate is 1 US$ = 0,85 EUR (July 2018), but you can check the conversion on this page.

Actually, I was impressed by how excellent many Portuguese speak English. However, it's always nice to be able to say at least some pleasantries in the local language so you might want to pick up some words e. g. online with babbel.com. The first lesson, which already covers all the hellos and thank yous, is even free.

Travelling by public transport like Comboios de Portugal, the national train company, was very reliable and pretty cheap, whereby I think that it would have been even cheaper buying tickets online. But I always had questions, therefore I bought them at the regular price which was totally fine (e. g. about 25 €uros from Lisbon to Porto, 2nd class, seat reservation included).


A view of the beautiful landscape of Portugal north-west of Lisbon.

However, my trip to Portugal reminded me how beautiful Europe is: The sceneries, the architecture, the culture.

I hope my descriptions and the pictures will do the country's splendor justice.



The detailed information on each of my stops is found on these pages:



PORTO
FIGUERA DA FOZ
COIMBRA
LISBON
SINTRA
BELÉM
ESTORIL & CASCAIS
RATING





















After all these information, here are the rather entertaining and inspiring stories behind every destination I've visited:



2nd Whistle Stop: FIGUEIRA da FOZ

3rd Whistle Stop: COIMBRA

4th Whistle Stop: LISBON

5th Whistle Stop: SINTRA

6th Whistle Stop: CASCAIS - ESTORIL - BELEM


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39 comments:

  1. Portugal is on our bucket list, so this is great information to have, thank you!

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    1. You will love it - I was pleasantly surprised and became a big fan! Boa viagem!!

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  2. I literally giggled when you admitted that you thought Portugal is just the poorer version of Spain, because I'm also guilty for exactly the same idea! :P

    But my guess about the country is probably wrong by the time I started seeing pictures of Portugal, from Lisbon to Porto and Sintra. So far, I've only seen the pictures through some travel blogs that I come across but hopefully one day I'll also get a chance to take my step in the land of Vasco da Gama. :P

    Fun facts though, did you know that despite the ups and downs of the Portuguese, they're actually the oldest country in Europe as in they've got exactly the same defined border since 1100s?! :D

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    1. Within minute so Portuguese soil, I became a huge fan. The architecture, the landscape, the food - it's insanely beautiful.

      I didn't know that they were Europe's oldest defined country, but come to think of it, it doesn't surprise me; all the others went back and forth and had to be unified at some point, that's true.

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  3. Who needs wikipedia?!... great stuff, thanks for the insight. I'm a big fan of the Portuguese society and their current approach to a lot of social issues. Hopefully I'll get there someday.

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    1. I hope so, too, Cheryl, because it's really great.
      Who needs Wikipedia? Haha, I do, sometimes, if I need a picture of something I wasn't able to photograph and want to be sure not to violate anybody's copyright ;-)

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  4. Isn't Portugal the new "it girl" of travel. I hope we can get there before the rest of the world catches up and it becomes too touristy.

    Traveling by train is so much fun. Watching the world rush by builds so much excitement for the destination. In ways that I think flight can not.

    Your tips are outstanding as always. No wonder you have so many dedicated blog followers.

    Thanks for sharing. Keep travel blogging. Adventure is better shared with friends!

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    1. I thought the new 'it girl' was Iceland....
      However, Portugal was packed, and it was only June, so I imagine July and August must be crazy. I would definitely go as much off season as possible.
      That was the advantage of train travel, though: Not many tourist go by train.
      And thanks - again! - for your kind words.

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  5. Portugal is high on my list of European countries to visit. It looks so lovely and packed with historic towns and cities. I'll definitely consider jumping on the train as rail journeys are a fantastic way to see the countryside.

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    1. Going by train was great and relaxing: Always a couple of hours for just reading or writing or listen to music and watch the world - in this case the Portuguese part of the world - passing by. Ommmm....

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  6. Portugal is high on my wish list. Thanks for providing detailed information about train route. I enjoy train ride and so I would prefer rail route here.

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  7. Portugal is one of the popular destinations now in Europe. Great read to know all details about your Portugal trip. Cool to enjoy train ride in Europe. It definitely save a huge money.

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  8. Very informative post. I don't want to refer anywhere else on my visit to Portugal. Thanks for sharing.

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  9. i absolutely love that you give a history lesson here. I've never been to Europe at all but have always been so fascinated by how much history there is. everything is so old! I'm a big fan of history so it's cool to see a travel post with that tie-in!

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  10. I've heard good things about Portugal and plan on visiting someday. These beautiful pictures make me more motivated to do so! Thanks!

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  11. I’ve always wanted to visit this beautiful country! I absolutely love your gorgeous photographs! DaisyGirl

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  12. Portugal is on my bucket list of places to visit! It's awesome that they have a great rail system over there. The landscape and the architecture looks beautiful. Hopefully I can get there some day! :)

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  13. Sort of funny when you say that youdy earlier thought of Portugal as a smaller version of Spain although at times, we tend to be quick to judge. But even so, Portugal is pretty and I tend to prefer rail-road transport since it's not only cheap but fun!

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  14. Portugal has been on my list for over a year now, but I am noticing that this year a lot of people are talking about it so it might soon go the Iceland way! I agree with you on how train travel can be so much fun. I would love to do a train trip like this one someday :-)

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  15. It's so nice to hear that traveling by train really changed your opinion of Portugal. It's on my list to visit maybe in 2019. Lisbon particularly looks so incredible!

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  16. Great photos and updates about Portugal especially about their economic status. What about the foods? also like tapas? ;) Were you in the city?

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    1. No, not really Tapas. Actually, I liked Portuguese food - their way of preparing things - better than Spanish.
      Which city do you mean?

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  17. I have never been to Portugal. I would love to one day its on my bucket list. Your pictures are amazing and it gives me a motivation to visit portugal a bit sooner

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  18. After hearing stories from friends about Portugal and now I'm reading this I'm more than convinced to visit the country. Your photos do the justice. You captured beautifully the beauty of Portugal.

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  19. What great advice! I love Portugal, we have had some amazing holidays there although not for a long while now. I need to go back!

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  20. Another place in my travel bucket list that I have yet to visit! It sure would be interesting to travel to all those places by train. I would really enjoy the views and the laid back, stress free way to travel to Portugal's beautiful cities.

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  21. Portugal is high on our bucket list and this post will be super helpful to us and everyone else while planning the trip. Indeed, your pictures have intrigued us to visit the place soon.

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    1. Glad I was able to inspire you even more.

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  22. I'm so glad you enjoyed Portugal! I have fond memories of it as a child, especially the older towns. I like the idea of a train tour though. Interesting.

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  23. I liked the usage of the word Euphemism here :) They were in Goa too!
    I did a 5 day tour of Portugal doing some of the whistle stops like yours. Lisbon is wonderful city to tour. I would love to go back.

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    1. I know. First I was surprised meeting Indian people with Portuguese last names.

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  24. I've always heard how easy it is to get around by train in Portugal, but we've never tried it. We have friends who are retiring in Lisbon, so it may be a good opportunity for us to visit.

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    1. You absolutely should do it - it's just great!

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  25. We have been only to Lisbon and Sintra in Portugal. For us Lisbon is quaint and charming. We stayed in old quarters and fell in love with the neighborhood. We did a day trip to Sintra by train and yes it was very convenient and comfortable. Cant wait to visit again and explore other cities.

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  26. Thanks for a walk through at Portugal. We would love to travel as family if time and budget permits. As for now, Japan and. Singapore was next on our bucket list. We hope to include more countriea as well.

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    1. Portugal will cost you a fraction of what Japan and Singapore costs.

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  27. I've ready so many great posts about Portugal and each time it moves up my list. Exploring by train is so handy when traveling and its good to know you found using their system easy and budget-friendly.

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  28. I always think of Portugal is the lesser know and less important tick stuck to Spain. I keep reading more and more articles about Portugal and every time I do, I really want to visit. The country looks like it has a rich culture that is all its own.

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    1. I think it's getting really popular; and for a reason: it's sooo beautiful!

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