Portugal has exploded in popularity and visitors are welcomed with a fairly modern train network ready to whisk them throughout the country. And while train ticket prices are affordable in Portugal, I’ve created this guide on how to buy train tickets in Portugal so you can get the best train tickets at the cheapest price.
Buying Train Tickets in Portugal: A Quick Guide
The Comboios de Portugal is the official Portugal Rail Service. Anyone can buy train tickets directly from the Comboios de Portugal website but it suffers from some weird translation issues and some international users might have trouble making credit card payments—so I recommend sticking to the booking websites below (especially for non-Europeans). You also can’t buy international train tickets (i.e. Lisbon to Madrid) on Comboios de Portugal.
Omio is my preferred rail service booking service because they find the lowest train tickets and it’s much more user-friendly than the Official Portugal Rail website—no issues using a foreign credit card, no translation issues, etc. Omio charges a small service fee (around $1-$2 per ticket) but the ticket prices are the same.
Most train tickets you book on Omio are electronic so you’ll receive an e-ticket sent to your phone (via email or the Omio App)—you simply have to the train conductor when he/she comes by to check tickets. If e-tickets aren’t available, you can print your tickets at the train station using your booking confirmation code.
Trainline is similar to Omio so it finds the same tickets as Comboios de Portugal and you’ll pay a small booking fee of around $1-$3. Again, you’ll either get an electronic ticket sent to your email/smartphone app or you can print tickets at the station.
Buying Tickets At The Train Station
You always have the option of buying your train ticket from any train station in Portugal. The quickest and easiest way to buy train tickets is via the automated ticket machines (the machines all have English language options). However, sometimes these machines don’t accept foreign credit cards.
You can also buy tickets from the ticket window but the lines can get very long during busy times. Most of the ticket sellers will speak passable English but not always. That said, the ticket window can generally accept any credit card so try the window if you’re having issues with the machines.
IMPORTANT: Ticket windows (especially at smaller stations and on weekends) often open later in the morning so this can pose a problem if you want to catch an early train! Book the day before if possible.
Travel Tip: You’ll want reliable high-speed data for your phone if you’re taking the train in Portugal. I’ve written a few different articles about getting cheap mobile data in Portugal/Europe: Guide To Mobile Data Plans and Smartphone Phones in Europe, How To Buy A SIM Card and Mobile Data Plans in Europe, and The Best eSIM Data Plans For Portugal.
Step-By-Step Guide To Booking Train Tickets In Portugal
Ok, so now that you know where to buy Portuguese train tickets, let’s jump into my step-by-step guide on how to buy train tickets in Portugal. In this section, I’ll cover the different types of train tickets, strategies for getting the best price, and other things to keep in mind when searching for your train tickets.
Enter Your Train Travel Details
The first step is to visit a booking website (I like Omio) and enter your travel details—this is pretty straightforward but I’ve listed a few below that you should keep in mind:
- Departure & Arrival Stations: Make sure you’re entering the correct train stations because many large cities have multiple train stations.
- Number Of Transfers: Routes with zero transfers are always the best option if it’s available.
- Type Of Train (High-Speed vs Regional): High-speed trains are always my top choice.
- Departure Time: Most routes will have multiple departure times so click around to find one that works for you. The departure time can also have an impact on the price of the ticket.
NOTE: If your search comes back with no trains then you’re probably trying to book too far in advance. Trains can typically only be booked 60 days prior to departure.
Choose Your Ticket Type
The cheapest tickets are “promo fares” which just means they can’t be refunded or exchanged—so don’t miss your train. “Normal fare” tickets can be canceled with a fee up to 15 minutes before departure but these tickets are much more expensive than the cheaper promo fare tickets.
What Is The Pricing Structure Of Portugal Train Tickets?
Like many European countries, train ticket pricing in Portugal can change based on train type (high speed vs local), demand, time of day, etc.
Luckily, train tickets in Portugal tend to be affordable so even full-priced fares aren’t very expensive but let’s take a look at what affects the train ticket prices:
Alpha-Pendular (AP) High-Speed Trains
The Alpha-Pendular is the fastest and most modern train in Portugal—it reaches speeds of 125mph. These high-speed trains connect Portugal’s largest cities and have limited stops. Ticket sales begin 60 days prior to departure and get more expensive as the departure date approaches—I suggest buying at least two weeks early to get the cheapest prices.
Ticket prices will also fluctuate based on the departure time so the more popular travel times are more expensive than less popular travel times.
Intercidades (IC) Trains
Intercidades are relatively fast trains that run similar routes are the Alpha-Pendular trains but they make more stops so the journey will be longer—the trains are also a little older and more basic.
As with Alpha-Pendular trains, Intercidades Trains are cheaper when purchased early and prices raise are the departure date approaches.
Regional (R), Interregional (IR), and Urban (U) Trains:
These slow, short-haul regional trains connect smaller towns/regions/suburbs. Prices are fixed and can’t be purchased online.
How Early Should You Buy Train Tickets?
Long-distance, high-speed train tickets can be booked around two months in advance. These tickets start cheap and then get progressively more expensive as the departure date gets closer. For example, a ticket might be around €10 if booked a month early but can cost €35 if booked the day of travel—so it pays to buy your train tickets early.
In general, tickets purchased 5 days early will be 50% off the full-price fare and tickets bought 8 days in advance will about around 60% off the full-price fare.
The only downside is that these cheap tickets are not refundable or changeable so you’ll need to have your plans set. You can pay more for refundable tickets if you’re worried about your plans.
Collecting Your eTickets or Physical Train Tickets
Nearly all train tickets purchased online are mobile eTicket tickets. If you buy your tickets via Omio or Trainline the tickets will be stored in the booking app or you can have the tickets emailed to you. You simply show the train conductor your e-ticket on your phone and they’ll scan its QR code.
Physical tickets purchased at the train station must be validated if there isn’t a specific time printed on the ticket. You validate the ticket by scanning it at the ticket machines stationed around the train platform. Failure to validate could lead to an expensive fine.
Most Popular Train Routes In Portugal
A majority of travelers only visit Lisbon but there are plenty of other places in Portugal worth checking out. Below are a few of the most popular routes:
LISBON TO SINTRA BY TRAIN (AROUND 45MIN-1HR)
Sintra is the most popular day trip from Lisbon. It uses a local train that takes around one hour and costs €2.30 each way. There are multiple trains every hour—sometimes as often as every 10 minutes during peak travel times.
Tickets can only be bought at the station. Ticket lines get very long during the busy season so arrive early to avoid the lines.
LISBON TO PORTO BY TRAIN (2.5H-3H)
Traveling between Lisbon (Oriente Station) and Porto (Campanhã Station) by train is easy and there are multiple direct trains daily. The Alfa Pendular high-speed train will take around 2h40min and the slightly slower Intercity train takes around 3h10min.
Ticket prices start around €32 but you can save 50%+ by booking early. Check prices at Omio.
LISBON TO BRAGA BY TRAIN (3HR 16MIN)
Braga is a great city in the far north of Portugal. Braga is about 3hr15m from Lisbon via the high-speed train and 40m from Porto via the high-speed train.
There are only a few direct trains between Lisbon and Braga but most require a change in Porto (which can add anywhere from a 10-minute stopover to over an hour stopover). So look for a direct train for the shortest and most convenient route.
There are multiple daily departures between Lisbon and Braga and tickets cost between €30-€40 but can get down to €12-€15 if booked early. Check prices at Omio.
LISBON TO COIMBRA BY TRAIN (1H30MIN-1HR50MIN)
The riverfront city of Coimbra is about halfway between Porto and Lisbon so it makes a popular trip from both cities. Direct trains between Lisbon and Coimbra take 1.5-2 hours depending if you take the AP or IC train.
Standard train tickets between Lisbon and Coimbra cost around €20-€26 or €10-€15 if booked early. Check prices at Omio.
LISBON TO FARO BY TRAIN (3HR 30MIN)
Sun-soaked Faro is the best-known city in Portugal’s famous Algarve region. The high-speed AP train takes about 3 hours and the IC train takes about 3.5 hours from Lisbon. Check prices at Omio.
General Portugal Train Travel Tips
Here are a few more things to consider when taking the train in Portugal. You can also check out my Portugal Train Guide for more in-depth advice.
Check Your Train Station
Many cities in Portugal have multiple train stations so double-check that you have the correct station.
You’re technically only allowed a personal bag and a suitcase on trains in Portugal but this isn’t monitored unless you’re taking a crazy amount of luggage on the train. There are large luggage spaces between the train cars and smaller racks above the seats.
Seat Reservations on Trains
Your ticket automatically comes with a seat reservation on the high-speed AP and IC trains. Local and regional trains have open seating.
Food and Drink On Trains
You’re free to bring food and drinks (including alcohol) on any train. Most high-speed trains also have a cafe car with snacks, coffee, and alcohol. Some trains will also have a restaurant car with a range of options.
Portugal is geographically removed from the rest of Europe but the most popular international train route is Lisbon to Madrid, Spain—the journey takes around 14 hours. So most people choose to fly.
More Portugal Travel Tips From The Savvy Backpacker
Here are some more articles I’ve written about traveling through Portugal and Europe:
- The Savvy Backpacker’s Lisbon Travel Guide
- Lisbon Price Guide
- Best Hostels in Lisbon
- The Best Travel Backpacks
- The Best Travel Shoes for Women and The Best Travel Shoes for Men
- Fashion Advice: How to Avoid Looking Like An American Tourist In Europe - February 20, 2024
- How To Purchase Train Tickets for Europe | Strategies For Buying European Train Tickets - February 16, 2024
- Complete Guide To Train Travel In Europe | How To Travel Europe By Train - February 15, 2024
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Thanks For Reading! — James