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Click a destination or route for train times & fares.

Route map, london to portugal by train Route via Barcelona & Madrid

London to Lisbon by train

You can reach Portugal by train from London either via Barcelona & Madrid, Barcelona & Vigo, or San Sebastian & Vigo.  This page explains the best train times, fares and how to buy tickets.

Train times, fares, tickets

small bullet point  London to Lisbon & Porto

small bullet point  London to Faro & the Algarve

small bullet point  London to Madeira

small bullet point  Starting from other UK towns & cities

small bullet point  Trains from Lisbon to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from other European cities to Lisbon

small bullet point  Lisbon to Porto by train

small bullet point  Lisbon to Faro & the Algarve by train

small bullet point  Portugal's Douro Valley line, Porto to Pocinho

Other travel information

small bullet point  Useful country information: currency, dial code...

small bullet point  General information for European train travel

small bullet point  How to change stations in Paris by metro or taxi   

small bullet point  Left luggage facilities in Paris & Madrid

small bullet point  Luggage on trains

small bullet point  Taking your bike   Taking your dog    

small bullet point  People with disabilities

small bullet point  Hotels & accommodation in Portugal

small bullet point  Holidays & tours to Portugal by train

small bullet point  Travel insurance, mobile data, VPN & other tips

Interactive map:  Click a route

Route via Barcelona & Madrid Route map, London to Portugal by train


Useful country information

Train operator in Portugal:

CP (Comboios de Portugal), www.cp.pt for times, fares & online booking.

 

Eurostar times & fares.  To check any European train time: bahn.hafas.de.

Railpasses:

 

Beginner's guide to European railpasses    Buy a rail pass online

Time zone:

GMT (GMT+1 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).

Dialling code:

+351

Currency:

£1 = approx 1.15 euros  Check current exchange rates

Tourist information:

www.visitportugal.com.     Recommended guidebooks

Hotels in Portugal:

Finding accommodation in Portugal   Hostels:  www.hostelworld.com

Page last updated:

7 June 2024.  Train times valid 10 December 2023 to 14 December 2024.


London to Lisbon & Porto

This used to be easy, using the famous Sud Express sleeper train from the French border to Lisbon.  However, the Sud Express was suspended in March 2020 due to the pandemic, Renfe (Spanish Railways) used that as an excuse to discontinue it and another famous train name disappeared from the timetables after 134 years.  A fast Madrid-Lisbon daytime train may appear in 2027 using new & rebuilt high-speed lines, but in the meantime there are just two cross-border routes between Spain & Portugal:  The Celta regional express from Vigo to Porto and a twice-daily railcar from Badajoz to Entroncamento which form part of a slow but interesting 3-train combo from Madrid to Lisbon.  Journeys from the UK to Portugal currently have to use one of these trains, or a bus from Seville to Faro.

Which route to choose?

For Lisbon, option 1 via Barcelona & Madrid is fastest and easiest.  However for Porto, it's better to use options 2 or 3 via Vigo.  Going via Barcelona & Vigo is arguably easier, going via San Sebastian & Vigo often has cheaper fares, both take more or less the same time.  Your choice of route may also depend on where you want to stop off, Barcelona or San Sebastian are both great cities.  By all means go out one way, back the other!

small bullet point  Option 1, London to Lisbon via Barcelona & Madrid

small bullet point  Option 2, London to Porto & Lisbon via Barcelona & Vigo

small bullet point  Option 3, London to Porto & Lisbon via San Sebastian & Vigo


Option 1, London to Lisbon via Barcelona & Madrid

This is the fastest route to Lisbon.  You can travel from London to Lisbon with just one overnight stop in Barcelona if you don't mind early starts and late arrivals, or you can spread it out over 2 nights with overnight stops in Paris and Madrid.  I explain both 1-night and 2-night journeys below.  You can stop off in Paris, Barcelona or Madrid if you like, it makes no difference to the price.

London ► Lisbon (overnight in Barcelona)

London ► Lisbon (overnights in Paris & Madrid)

Lisbon ► London (overnight in Barcelona)

Lisbon ► London (overnight in Madrid)

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV  See video guideMore information about this journey.

The Paris-Barcelona trains are impressive 320 km/h (199mph) TGV Duplex double-deck high-speed trains.  You board the train through a wide sliding external door into a small hall at one end of the lower deck, where an internal door opens into a lower deck seating area.  A wide, short & easy flight of carpeted stairs leads from the entrance door to a landing at one end of the upper deck.  You walk along the train from car to car at the upper level, and the café-bar is also at the upper level.  There are toilets & luggage racks both upstairs & downstairs, and power sockets at all seats.  If you have problems with stairs or very heavy luggage, the lower deck might be best.  But for the best views (over the top of the occasional sound barrier along the high speed lines!), definitely choose an upper deck seat.  For couples in first class, an upper deck 'club duo' table-for-two is easily the best option.  Free WiFi is coming to these trains at some point.  Paris Gare de Lyon station guide Barcelona Sants station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Lunch from the cafe-bar on the train to Barcelona   The hilltop cathedral at Beziers

Lunch with wine, on the move.

 

Béziers' 13th century cathedral, seen from the train.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Perpignan to Girona, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canigou.

3. Barcelona to Madrid

This high-speed journey takes as little as 2h30 at up to 320 km/h (199 mph).  The photos below show a full-service AVE with 2 classes and cafe-bar.  If you use a lo-cost Ouigo train, see the photos here More about Barcelona-Madrid trains & journey Barcelona Sants station guideMadrid Atocha station guide.

An S103 AVE at Barcelona Sants

A Barcelona-Madrid AVE (type S103) at Barcelona Sants.  See virtual tour

1st class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Cafe-bar on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Comfort (1st) class seating on an AVE train.

 

Cafe-bar on an S103 AVE train. 

Breakfast on a Spanish S103 AVE train   2nd class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

A meal is included if you pay the Premium fare.

 

Standard (2nd class) seating on an AVE.

Scenery between Barcelona & Madrid

Scenery from the high-speed AVE between Barcelona & Madrid.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

Madrid Atocha station - the tropical garden in the old trainshed

Madrid Atocha station:  One of my favourite stations, the old trainshed has been preserved and turned into a tropical garden, see Madrid Atocha station guide.

4. Madrid to Lisbon

This is a slow but scenic & interesting 3-train combo across rural Spain and Portugal.  For full details see the Madrid to Lisbon page.

Madrid to Lisbon by train: Changing trains at Badajoz

Changing trains at Badajoz station.  The express from Madrid to Badajoz is on the left, the single-car Allan Railcar from Badajoz to Entroncamento is on the right.  Photo courtesy of Giles Baker.

Madrid to Lisbon by train: Castle between Badajoz & Entroncamento

Castle seen from the Badajoz to Entroncamento train.  Photo courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

The railcar stops at Elvas station in Portugal...   The railcar stops at Elvas station in Portugal...

The Badajoz to Entroncamento railcar pauses at wayside stations with lovely tiling.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

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Option 2, London to Lisbon via Barcelona & Vigo

This is the fastest route to Porto, although it's a slower route to Lisbon.  Option 3 has similar timings, but can work out a bit cheaper simply because SNCF often price up Paris-Barcelona international TGVs well beyond the starting price.  Their domestic TGVs from Paris to Hendaye (for San Sebastian) are usually cheaper!

London ► Porto, Lisbon

Lisbon, Porto ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Barcelona by TGV  See video guideMore information about this journey.

The Paris-Barcelona trains are impressive 320 km/h (199mph) TGV Duplex double-deck high-speed trains.  You board the train through a wide sliding external door into a small hall at one end of the lower deck, where an internal door opens into a lower deck seating area.  A wide, short & easy flight of carpeted stairs leads from the entrance door to a landing at one end of the upper deck.  You walk along the train from car to car at the upper level, and the café-bar is also at the upper level.  There are toilets & luggage racks both upstairs & downstairs, and power sockets at all seats.  If you have problems with stairs or very heavy luggage, the lower deck might be best.  But for the best views (over the top of the occasional sound barrier along the high speed lines!), definitely choose an upper deck seat.  For couples in first class, an upper deck 'club duo' table-for-two is easily the best option.  Free WiFi is coming to these trains at some point.  Paris Gare de Lyon station guide Barcelona Sants station guide.

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon

TGV Duplex at Paris Gare de Lyon. These 320 km/h double-deckers link Paris with Barcelona.  Watch TGV Duplex video.

TGV Duplex cafe-bar   TGV Duplex upper deck 2nd class seats

Cafe-bar on upper deck car 4, serving tea, coffee, soft drinks, wine, beer, snacks & microwaved hot dishes.

 

2nd class seats on upper deck with a mix of tables for 4 & unidirectional seating.  360º photo.

First class on board a TGV Duplex   TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants

1st class upper deck seats, club duo on the left, club quatre on the right.  360º photo.

 

TGV Duplex at Barcelona Sants.  The 1 near the door indicates 1st class, a 2 indicates 2nd class.

Lunch from the cafe-bar on the train to Barcelona   The hilltop cathedral at Beziers

Lunch with wine, on the move.

 

Béziers' 13th century cathedral, seen from the train.

Mt Canigou in the Pyrenees

Mt Canigou & the Pyrenees.  One of the highest peaks in the mighty Pyrenees, the 2,784m (9,137 feet) high Mt Canigou dominates the skyline on the right all the way from Perpignan to Girona, see en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Canigou.

3. Barcelona to Madrid

This high-speed journey takes as little as 2h30 at up to 320 km/h (199 mph).  The photos below show a full-service AVE with 2 classes and cafe-bar.  If you use a lo-cost Ouigo train, see the photos here More about Barcelona-Madrid trains & journey Barcelona Sants station guideMadrid Atocha station guide.

An S103 AVE at Barcelona Sants

A Barcelona-Madrid AVE (type S103) at Barcelona Sants.  See virtual tour

1st class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Cafe-bar on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Comfort (1st) class seating on an AVE train.

 

Cafe-bar on an S103 AVE train. 

Breakfast on a Spanish S103 AVE train   2nd class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

A meal is included if you pay the Premium fare.

 

Standard (2nd class) seating on an AVE.

Scenery between Barcelona & Madrid

Scenery from the high-speed AVE between Barcelona & Madrid.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

Madrid Atocha station - the tropical garden in the old trainshed

Madrid Atocha station:  One of my favourite stations, the old trainshed has been preserved and turned into a tropical garden, see Madrid Atocha station guide.

4. Madrid to Vigo

These comfortable Alvia trains have standard & comfort class, a cafe-bar and power sockets at all seats.  They travel at up to 250 km/h (155 mph) on high-speed lines and can change gauge when necessary, from standard gauge (4' 8½") used for most Spanish high-speed lines to Iberian gauge (5' 6") used on the main Spanish network.

Comfort class seats on a Madrid-Vigo Alvia train   Alvia S730 train to Vigo at Madrid Chamartin

Above left, comfort (1st) class seats on an Alvia S730 train, recently refurbished in tan leather.

Cafe-bar   Iberico meal deal on an Alvia train

The cafe-bar.  Above right, an Iberico meal deal from the cafe-bar on an Alvia train.

Alvia S730 train to Vigo at Madrid Chamartin   Standard class seats on a Madrid-Vigo Alvia train

Above left, boarding at Madrid Chamartin.  Above right, standard (2nd) class seats on an Alvia S730 from Madrid to Vigo.

Scenery between Madrid & Vigo, not far from Madrid

Scenery at high-speed, north of Madrid.

Scenery between Madrid & Vigo, south of Ourense

Scenery between Madrid & Vigo, a little way south of Ourense.

5. Vigo to Porto by Celta regional express

The train is comfortable and air-conditioned, 2nd class only, there are toilets but no catering so bring your own food & drink.  In theory, you get a reserved seat, but it's seldom busy so you can move if you like.  More about the Celta regional express and the Vigo-Porto journey.

Inside the Vigo to Porto train   Vigo to Porto train

Above, the Celta train at Vigo Guixar.  Below, the train crosses the Minho river, which forms the border between Spain and Portugal.

Crossing the Minho river into Portugal

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Option 3, London to Porto & Lisbon via San Sebastian & Vigo

This route takes 2 nights with overnight hotel stops in San Sebastian and Vigo.  It's slower but usually cheaper than option 1, but as fares are dynamic like air fares this isn't always so.  San Sebastian is well worth a longer stop and Porto is worth a stop, too.  There's great scenery crossing Spain.

London ► Porto, Lisbon

Lisbon, Porto ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

How to buy tickets by phone

Or ask Byway to arrange it as a package

What's the journey like?

1. London to Paris by Eurostar

Eurostar trains link London & Paris in 2h20, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More about Eurostar & check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Paris Gare du Nord station guideHow to change trains & stations in Paris by metro or taxi.

A Eurostar e320 train at London St Pancras   Eurostar e320 first class seats

Eurostar e320 at St Pancras.  More about Eurostar.

 

1st class:  Standard Premier or Business Premier.

Eurostar e320 2nd class seats   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Paris to Hendaye on the Spanish border by TGV

Most Paris-Hendaye trains are double-deck TGV Duplex, usually with the Océane interior as shown below.  There are power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.

TGV from Paris Gare Montparnasse to Hendaye, for the train to San Sebastian

A TGV Duplex at Paris Gare Montparnasse

TGV Duplex Oceane at Paris Montparnasse

Boarding at Paris Montparnasse.  Note the automatic ticket gates at the entrance to the platforms, just scan the QR code on your ticket.

TGV Océane cafe-bar   TGV Océane 2nd class seats

TGV Océane cafe-bar on the upper deck in car 4 or 14 (above left) and 2nd class seats (above right).

TGV Océane 1st class seats   TGV Océane 1st class drop-down table

TGV Océane 1st class seats.  All 1st class seats (except the end ones) rotate to face direction of travel.  There are USB & 2-pin outlets above each drop-down table.

3. Hendaye to San Sebastian Amara by Euskotren

After a dash across France at up to 300 km/h, the TGV arrives at Hendaye.  Incidentally, Hendaye station is where Hitler met Franco on 23 October 1940.  You'll be treading the same platforms!

Hendaye SNCF and Euskotren stations

Walk out of Hendaye SNCF station, turn right and the little Euskotren station is just 50m away.

Hendaia Euskoten station, for trains to San Sebastian   Inside Euskotren station at Hendaye

This is the new Hendaye Euskotren station, opened in 2020.  Photo courtesy of Nicholas Brooke, taken soon after it opened.

 

Hendaye Euskotren station, looking back towards the station building.  Photo courtesy of Nicholas Brooke.

Euskotren train to San Sebastian at Hendaye   Inside Euskotren to San Sebastian

There are now two platforms.  It's where the trains start, so no worries, you can't get on the wrong train, they all go to San Sebastian-Donostia Amara!  These air-conditioned metro trains leave every 30 minutes, a turn-up-and-go metro service.  There's plenty of space for luggage and they even have a wheelchair-accessible toilet.

4. San Sebastian to Vitoria by Intercity and Vitoria to Galicia by Alvia

Alvia & Intercity trains at Vittoria

The connection at Vitoria-Gasteiz:  On the right, the Intercity train from San Sebastian has arrived at Vitoria/Gasteiz.  On the left, the Alvia train from Barcelona to Galicia picks up passengers.  These Alvia-S130 trains are nick-named Patito (little duck) by staff, no prizes for guessing why.  They have adjustable axles so can run on standard-gauge high-speed lines at up to 250 km/h or on Iberian broad gauge classic lines at lower speed. Photo courtesy of Ekain Munduate.

Comfort class seats on the Santander-Madrid Alvia train   Cafe-bar on the Santander-Madrid Alvia train

Comfort (1st) class seats on an Alvia train.  Above right, a menu Iberico meal deal from the cafe-bar.

Cafe-bar on the Santander-Madrid Alvia train   Standard class seats on the Santander-Madrid Alvia train

The cafe-bar and standard (2nd) class seats on an Alvia train.

Scenery in Galicia seen from the train

Scenery as the train enters Galicia on its way to Vigo.  Photo courtesy of Martin Hill.

5. Vigo to Porto by Celta regional express

The train is comfortable and air-conditioned, 2nd class only, there are toilets but no catering so bring your own food & drink.  In theory, you get a reserved seat, but it's seldom busy so you can move if you like.  More about the Celta regional express and the Vigo-Porto journey.

Inside the Vigo to Porto train   Vigo to Porto train

Above, the Celta train at Vigo Guixar.  Below, the train crosses the Minho river, which forms the border between Spain and Portugal.

Crossing the Minho river into Portugal

6. Porto to Lisbon by Alfa Pendular or Intercity train

These are CP's premier trains, and very classy indeed.  They're fully air-conditioned 6-car electric trains which reach 220 km/h (136 mph) on some sections of the Lisbon-Porto route.  Built by FIAT, they tilt into the curves, enabling them to go faster than conventional trains.  They have 1st & 2nd class and a cafe-bar.  There's free WiFi & power sockets at all seats.  They are shown in the booking system as AP.  See Alfa Pendular seat map.

Alfa Pendular train from Lisbon to Porto, at Porto Campanha

Alfa Pendular train to Lisbon at Porto Campanhã.

2nd class on a Alfa Pendular train from Lisbon to Porto   Cafe-bar on a Alfa Pendular train from Lisbon to Porto

2nd class, arranged 2+2 across the car width.

 

Cafe-bar serving sandwiches, snacks & drinks.

Luggage racks on a Alfa Pendular train from Lisbon to Porto   1st class on a Alfa Pendular train from Lisbon to Porto

Luggage racks at the end of each car.

 

1st class seats, arranged 1+2 across the car width.

Alfa Pendular train from Porto, arrived at Lisbon Santa Apolonia

An Alfa Pendular from Porto, arrived at Lisbon Santa Apolonia.  The large numbers on the side of each car are car numbers, not class!

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London to Faro & the Algarve

You can easily reach the Algarve by train from London, either by train all the way via Lisbon, or by train to Seville then bus to Faro.

Option 1, London to the Algarve via Seville

This is currently the fastest, cheapest & easiest option.  Take comfortable high-speed trains from London to Barcelona and stay overnight.  Next day, take a high-speed train from Barcelona to Seville then an easy 3-hour bus ride from Seville to Faro.

London ► Faro & Algarve

Faro & Algarve ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

An S103 AVE at Barcelona Sants

Barcelona to Seville by AVE type S103, seen here at Barcelona Sants.  See virtual tour

1st class on a Spanish S103 AVE train   Cafe-bar on a Spanish S103 AVE train

Comfort (1st) class seating on an AVE train.

 

Cafe-bar on an S103 AVE train. 

Breakfast on a Spanish S103 AVE train   2nd class on a Spanish S103 AVE train

A meal is included if you pay the Premium fare.

 

Standard (2nd class) seating on an AVE.

Scenery between Barcelona & Madrid

Scenery from the high-speed AVE between Barcelona & Seville.  Courtesy of DiscoverByRail.com.

Also bus from Seville to Faro

An Alsa bus from Seville to Faro & Lagos, at its departure point right outside Seville Santa Justa station.

Also bus at Faro Eva bus station

The bus crosses the Guadiana river, which forms the border between Spain and Portugal at this point.

Also bus at Faro Eva bus station

An Alsa-Rede Express bus to Seville at Faro's Eva bus station, next to the Eva Senses Hotel & 2 minutes walk from Faro station.

Option 2, London to the Algarve via Lisbon

The sleeper trains to Lisbon have been discontinued, and until links between Spain & Portugal are improved, this is now the slower option.

London ► Albufeira, Lagos, Faro

Faro, Albufeira, Lagos ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets

Or ask Byway to arrange it

Intercity trainto Faro at Lisbon Oriente

An Intercity train about to leave Lisbon Oriente for Faro.

1st class on a Portuguese Intercity train   A half-bottle of wine from the bar

1st class seats.

 

A half-bottle of red & coffee from the bar.

Cafe-bar on a Portuguese Intercity train   2nd class on a Portuguese Intercity train

Cafe-bar.

 

2nd class seats.

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London to Madeira

Until the pandemic, a weekly summer-only ferry service used to link southern Portugal (Portimao in the Algarve) with Funchal on Madeira.  The ferry crossing took 24 hours.  However, at present there seems to be no ferry service at all linking mainland Europe to Madeira.

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Guidebooks

Make sure you take a good guidebook, even in the age of the internet.  I think the best ones out there for the independent traveller are the Lonely Planets and the Rough Guides.  Both books provide an excellent level of practical information and cultural and historical background. You won't regret buying one of these!Amazon logo  My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", is due to be published in June 2008, and Amazon will let you pre-order now.

Click the images to buy at Amazon.co.uk

Rough Guide to Portugal - click to buy online at Amazon   Lonely Planet Western Europe - click to buy online   Lonely Planet Portugal - click to buy online

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European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses) or www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide).  More information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

Rail Map Europe is the map I recommend, covering all of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  Scenic routes & high-speed lines are highlighted.  See an extract from the map.  Buy online at www.europeanrailtimetable.eu (shipping worldwide) or at www.amazon.co.uk (UK addresses).

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Hotels in Lisbon, Porto, the Algarve

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search: www.booking.com

Booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally use it to book all my hotels in one place.  I've come to trust booking.com's review scores, you won't be disappointed with any hotel that scores 8.0 or more.  Crucially, booking.com usually lets you book with free cancellation, which means you can confirm accommodation risk-free before train booking opens and/or you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when planning a trip.  I never book hotels non-refundably!

Backpacker hostels: www.hostelworld.com

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Paris and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.

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Holidays to Portugal by train

If you want a holiday to Portugal by train not plane, but want someone else to organise all the train tickets & hotels for you, several specialist companies do just that, for a holiday without airport hassles or whole days in cramped coach seats on motorways.

Railbookers logoRailbookers, railbookers.co.uk

Railbookers can tailor-make a holiday or city break to Portugal for you, with train travel, transfers & hotels, leaving on any date you like.  If you tell them what you want, they'll advise you on the best trains, routes & hotels and sort it all out for you.  They get a lot of repeat business!

UK flag  UK call 0207 864 4600, www.railbookers.co.uk

US flag  US call free 1-888-829-4775, see website.

Canadian flag  Canada call free 1-855-882-2910, see website.

Australian flag  Australia call toll-free 1300 971 526, see website

New Zealand flag  New Zealand call 0800 000 554 or see website.

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Travel insurance & other tips

 

Staysure travel insurance

 

Columbus Direct logo

Always take out travel insurance

You should take out travel insurance with at least £1m or preferably £5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  These days, check you're covered for covid-19-related issues, and use an insurer whose cover isn't invalidated by well-meant but excessive Foreign Office travel advice against non-essential travel. An annual policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year, I have an annual policy with Staysure.co.uk myself.  Don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, I get a little commission if you buy through these links, feedback always welcome.

UK flag  www.staysure.co.uk offers enhanced Covid-19 protection and gets 4.7 out of 5 on Trustpilot.

UK flag  www.columbusdirect.com is also a well-know brand.

US flag  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

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Get an eSIM with mobile data package

Don't rely on WiFi, download an eSIM with a European mobile data package and stay connected.  Most newer mobile phones can download a virtual SIM including iPhone 11 & later, see device compatibility list.  There's no need to buy a physical SIM card!  Maya.net is a reliable eSIM data retailer with a 4.5 out of 5 Trustpilot rating and a range of packages including unlimited data.

 

Curve card

Curve card

Get a Curve card for foreign travel

Most banks give you a poor exchange rate then add a foreign transaction fee on top.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, £500 per month as I write this.  The money you spend on your Curve card goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the Curve app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to the UK and most European addresses.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app, you can link up to two cards with the free version of Curve, I link my normal debit card and my normal credit card.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, exactly like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance in your own currency onto whichever debit or credit card is currently selected in the Curve app.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I have a Curve Blue card myself, it means I can buy a coffee on a foreign station on a card without being stung by fees and lousy exchange rates, just by tapping the Curve card on their card reader.  The money goes through Curve to my normal debit card and is taken directly from my account (in fact I have the Curve card set up as payment card on Apple Pay on my iPhone, so can double-click my phone, let it do Face ID then tap the reader with the phone - even easier than getting a card out).  I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I recommend it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card, they'll give you £5 cashback through that link.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  Why you need a VPN

When travelling you may use free public WiFi which is often insecure.  A VPN encrypts your connection so it's always secure, even on unsecured WiFi.  It also means you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geoblocking which a surprising number of websites apply.  See VPNs & why you need one explainedExpressVPN is a best buy with a 4.7 out of 5 Trustpilot ranking which I use myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using this link you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription.  I also get some commission to help support this site.

 

Anker Powerrbank

Carry an Anker powerbank

Tickets, reservations, hotel bookings and Interrail or Eurail passes are often now held on your mobile phone.  You daren't let it run out of power, and you can't always rely on the phone's internal battery or on being near a power outlet.  I always carry an Anker powerbank which can recharge my phone several times over.  Buy from Amazon.co.uk or Buy from Amazon.com.

Touring cities?  Use hill walking shoes!

One of the best things I've done is swap my normal shoes for hill-walking shoes, in my case from Scarpa.  They're intended for hiking across the Pennines not wandering around Florence, but the support and cushioning for hiking works equally well when you're on your feet all day exploring foreign cities.  My feet used to give out first and limit my day, now the rest of me gives up before they do!


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