Porto is a city in Northern Portugal that lies along the Douro River. It is the country's second biggest city and an important industrial and commercial center. The City Centre of Porto is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and home to many old buildings that date back centuries, with some that were built back during the time of the Romans. The Ribeira area found across the river is where the famous port wine cellars are located and the other neighborhoods have different modern attractions or beautiful beaches.
If you are visiting Porto on vacation then chances are that you will want to travel around the city a lot so that you can experience it all. The city's buses and metros are run by the Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos, and we can help you get used to how it all works. This means that when you arrive you can get out and start exploring right away. Make sure you find out how to get to the nearest suitcase locker in Porto so you don't have to drag your luggage around on the bus or train!
How to get around Porto by train
If you want to get around Porto in a fast and efficient way, then the metro train is probably the best way to go. You can use it to get directly from the Porto Airport to the City Centre as well as most of the tourist attractions and historical sights around the city. There are six lines that you can ride on and they run between 6 am and 1 am every day. They are labeled by both colors and letters in the following order: line A is blue, line B is red, line C is green, line D is yellow, line E is purple and line F is orange. The whole system is made of 80 connected metro stations and they are an affordable way to get around. You will recognize a metro station from aboveground when you see the signs marked with an 'M'.
When you are ready to purchase a ticket for the metro system you have several options. There are blue Andante cards that you can buy and they are rechargeable so you can keep them for the whole duration of your trip. The cards themselves cost about 0.60 euros, which is about 70 cents. You will then need to load your ticket with passes, and each individual one way pass costs about 1.20 euros, or $1.35. Keep in mind that ticket prices might change depending on how far you travel. Remember to activate your pass before getting on the train! This can be done by holding it up to the validator machine until it lights up green.
If you are planning to be using these suburban trains a lot in one day then you might want to invest in an Andante Tour Card. They cost somewhere between 7 and 15 euros, which is about $8 to $17, but last for at least a day or two. Depending on which option you buy you can enjoy unlimited rides for either 24 or 72 hours using the one ticket once it is activated.
Porto also has a railway service, although it is mostly used to get in and out of the city or to neighboring towns. You can visit the São Bento, Campanhã or Vila Nova de Gaia train stations to hop aboard a train for a day trip around Portugal. If you want further information on the railway train you can ask at one of the train stations or find a schedule online.
How to get around Porto by bus
Another great way to get around the city is by using their bus system. In total there are over 75 different bus lines that can take you in and out of the city as well as other nearby regions like Vila Nova de Gaia or Vila do Condo. Buses run regularly between the hours of 6 am to 9 pm and they arrive fairly often. Service is also available from 9 pm to 1 am, although the buses will pass by less frequently.
You can use the same tickets for the bus as you do for the metro, which is convenient if you think that you will be using both methods of travel. For those traveling with an Andante card, you will need to pay about 1.20 euros for one trip. If you don't have an Andante card you can still take the bus by purchasing a one-time-use paper card, although it will cost you more. For these passes, you will have to pay the normal bus fare plus 0.60 euros. These tickets can be bought on the bus but you will need the exact change, so be prepared.
Some people can get confused by the bus network although it isn't much different from other cities. It is just important to know where you need to get off, and each of the buses has a schedule available online. Services like Google Maps are reliable ways to figure out the best route as well.
In the past, Porto had a fairly extensive tram network that is run by the same company. However, these have slowly been phased out and replaced with the newer and more efficient buses. Today there are only three tram lines left and they are not as fast as the other ways of getting around. However, they do stand as a historic and iconic part of the city and we recommend you take a trip on the trams at least once, just for tourism's sake. Tickets for the tram will cost you about 3 euros for each trip, but you also get a discounted price at the Tram Museum if you show them your pass. Fun fact; the trams were integrated into Porto in 1872, but back then they were pulled by mules!
How to get around Porto by car
Porto has a Teleferico de Gaia cable car service that can bring you along the southern part of the River Douro in the neighborhood of Vila Nova de Gaia. It can be used as a fun way to get around as well as a nice way to see the city, since it will transport you in the air over the streets and port wine lodges in Vila Nova de Gaia. It can only take you from the hill near the Serra do Pillar monastery to the market by the riverside, but if that is where you happen to be heading then it is a good way to travel. The whole ride takes about 5 minutes and tickets cost 5 euros one way or 9 euros two ways.
If you want to use a real car, several places in Porto offer car rentals. It can definitely be convenient to have your own way of getting around and not have to rely on the public transport services, but keep in mind that renting a car can get very expensive in Porto. On average most car hires cost about 40 euros per day or more and that doesn't include parking fees, and gas prices are usually elevated here, too. It is rare to find free parking in this city so your car will be costing you money even when you aren't using it. As well, some parts of the city are full of one way streets that can be a bit confusing to navigate. Having a car is convenient, however, for excursions like hiking in Porto.
If you want to travel by car then taking a taxi is probably a more viable option. They are more expensive than the bus or metro but can be a convenient way to see the city if you don't mind the extra cost. Of course, what makes taxis great is that they are fast and can pick you up right away, so you won't have any extra waiting times like you would with the buses. It can be easy to find taxi ranks around central Porto, especially by the airport, most hotels and main attractions. Services like Uber are present in Porto, too.
Can I get around Porto by foot?
If you want to explore Porto at your own pace, then walking around the city is always your best option. This way you aren't relying on any bus schedules and can see the main sights without stressing about time. Plus you can get some exercise in! You might still need to use public transportation to get to different areas or neighborhoods, but if you have the opportunity to walk then it is the recommended way of traveling.
Some places like the Old Town or the historic centre of the city, for example, are full of impressive landmarks like the Clérigos Tower or the Palácio da Bolsa. You never know what you might find from just strolling along the roads by foot, and you can get the opportunity to see street art or stop by bars playing live music which you might not notice while you are passing by on a bus or the Porto metro. Walking enables you to see this wonderful city at night.
If you want to make sure that you don't miss anything on your trip you should sign up for one of the great Porto tours offered in the main areas of the city. Most of the streets in Porto are best explored by foot since they are cobbled and narrow with lots of turns.
Another great way to get around is by bike as the city has two designated bike paths that can bring you pretty far along the length of the city. You can take these cycle paths straight from the Luis I Bridge to Matosinhos or from City Park and the river. If you didn't bring your own bike you can still cycle around the city using their bike rental services.
The only downside to walking or biking around Porto is that the terrain can be challenging to navigate so you might want to pack some bottled water in case you get tired or thirsty. Most areas are quite hilly and you can encounter some steep slopes, so if you aren't used to walking or biking a lot then consider using a mix between public transport and exploring the city by foot.
Using Porto's Public Transportation
As one of Portugal's biggest cities and a popular tourist destination, Porto benefits greatly from having such an extensive public transportation service. The buses, metros, trams and taxis can be used to navigate around most of the city, and its winding cobblestone streets are perfect for walking or biking around too.
If public transportation is your main way of getting around Porto then you can benefit from getting a Porto card. If you buy one of these you will be given unlimited rides on the city's buses, metro trains, cable cars and even free access and discounts to some of Porto's top attractions like museums and select restaurants. These cards cost between $13.50 and $37 depending on how long you want them to last and you will have your choice of one, two, three or four days.
Or, you can use your Andante Card for the duration of your travels and buy tickets as you need them instead of spending money on the one-day pass. Now that you know how to get around the city you are ready to go out and explore it, so have a blast on your vacation in Porto!