Just back from one of these trips that will remain in our memories forever, here’s everything we have experienced and learned after 1-week road-tripping Portugal’s West coast from Porto to Lisbon on a campervan trip and what you should know before embarking on a similar adventure.
From crafting your own itinerary to what to pack and where to rent your campervan from, this post will walk you through the ins and outs of van life for first-timers. Let’s get started!
- Crafting your perfect campervan trip itinerary
- Porto to Lisbon campervan trip
- The Campervan
- Portugal by campervan trip notes
- Is a trip like this for you?
- Is it safe to travel by campervan during the Covid-19 pandemic?
- When is the best time for a Portugal road trip?
- Where to stay overnight during your Portugal West coast campervan trip?
- The 2 most helpful apps for a campervan trip
- How much will you spend on a Portuguese coastal road trip like this?
- What to pack for a 1-week Southern Europe campervan trip?
- Advantages and disadvantages of a campervan trip
- Making your campervan trip as responsible as possible
- Campervan travel tips and tricks
Crafting your perfect campervan trip itinerary
What works for someone might not work for someone else. That’s why we’d highly recommend anyone willing to give van life a try to spend some time thinking before just following someone else’s steps. Especially when taking into consideration that traveling by campervan allows you to be, pretty much, as flexible as it comes.
Before getting started, here are a few things to think about:
How many days do you have?
Many campervan rental companies have a minimum period of time policy in place (esp during the high season). Check that out before start building your dream itinerary with the places where to stop between Lisbon and Porto. Also, figure out if you will be picking up and dropping off your vehicle in the same office or you’d rather pay a one-way fee and drop it somewhere else to cover a larger area and keep traveling afterward.
How many days should you spend in Lisbon and Porto?
If you only have a few days to spend in these two cities, a minimum would be one day for Porto and two days for Lisbon, although 2 or 3 for Porto and 3 to 5 for Lisbon would definitely help you uncover many of these two cities main gems.
How far is Porto from Lisbon by car?
Driving from Porto to Lisbon will take you a minimum of 3 hours (the distance between these two cities is 313km via the A1 highway, which has tolls) if you were to do it without any stops. Nonetheless, the purpose of this article is to show you all the possibilities you have for cool stops between Porto and Lisbon.
Would you like to stay in one country or will you be crossing borders?
Your campervan rental might or might not be able to offer you this possibility. Although within Europe is pretty common, the rental and insurance companies will need to give you permission and extra charges could apply.
What’s the weather forecast?
Van life becomes easier – and overall, more enjoyable for most travelers – when temperatures are mild and rain nowhere to be seen. That does not mean you should cancel if showers are expected. A quick look at a rain radar map should enlighten you on a whim and most likely you’ll be able to adjust your itinerary accordingly.
Here’s an example. Let’s say your campervan rental is in Porto (Portugal) and rain is expected for the first two days on the Portuguese west coast. If that’s the case, perhaps you can modify your route and head north (Porto and North region) or east (Douro region and Central Portugal) to avoid the storm before jumping back to your original plan.
Truly, the weather is one of the most uncontrollable things you’ll have to deal with, but adjusting your trip accordingly was never easier.
What’s your travel style?
What do you usually look for when traveling? Whether you are a die-hard foodie, someone that needs to connect with locals more than the average person, an epic landscape addict, a history aficionado, or something else; make sure you include what makes you happy in your itinerary.
Need help planning your Portuguese itinerary?
If you want to make the most of your campervan trip to Portugal and save your precious time while getting the best itinerary possible to suit your needs; My Bookpack is probably your best option. With very affordable services and as knowledgeable about their country as they could be, they designed the most unique itinerary for us a few years back in the North and Central regions and we could not recommend them more.
Porto to Lisbon campervan trip
Being based a short drive away from the border, Portugal is always a great idea for us. And although it surely lacks the newness and exotic appeal other destinations would have after living in Viseu and Lisbon for a few months, attending around fifteen Portuguese music festivals, and overall exploring every region in detail after 40 or 50 trips; we are always happy to return.
Our 1-Week Portugal road trip itinerary map: West Coast from Porto to Lisbon
After crossing the Spain-Portugal border by car, we spent 2 and a half days (and 3 nights) exploring Porto and its surroundings before picking up an Indie Campers campervan for 5 days (and 5 nights) from their Porto Depot, located 15km north of the city center.
Please note: We have adjusted our itinerary – changed the order of some destinations – for it to make more sense for someone arriving at Porto and leaving from Lisbon. That said, after the first two days (from Porto) everything took place in the same order.
Here is a map of our suggested itinerary for a Portuguese west coast campervan trip.
All the stops of our Portugal Oeste van trip
Day 1: Uncovering nearby Porto gems
Northeast of Porto, Braga is a nice starting point to start exploring the Northernmost region of the country. With a strong religious background, it’s worth visiting the Gothic-style Kings’ Chapel of its medieval Cathedral, the nearby Archbishop’s Palace, and Santa Barbara Garden.
2. Bom Jesus Sanctuary
Just a ten-minute drive east, Bom Jesus do Monte complex sits atop a lush hill. The elaborate 17-flight stairway that brings faithful or atheist visitors to the neoclassical church is very distinctive. In fact, it has inspired many other similar ones like the one we saw on the island of Sao Miguel, in the Azores islands.
We had heard amazing things about Barcelos before, particularly about one of its music festivals: o Milhões de Festa. What we did not expect in the middle of the Covid pandemic is to be able to enjoy the last concert of a sort of festival the city enjoyed this summer while observing the government’s measures of reduced capacity, social distancing, and use of a mask in events of this kind: Prá Frente Barcelos that featured music, dance, and film, and theater acts during this unprecedented summer. Thus, we were able to enjoy the second part of the Delta Blues Riders concert in a spectacular setting next to the river.
In addition to the cultural agenda, we recommend you have a drink at D’Outro Lado Bar, next to the bridge. It is an absolutely magical place.
If you decide to put it on your route, keep in mind that it is a typically Portuguese small city / medium-sized town with some interesting spots, tiles on the façades, and an oval-shaped church surrounded by flowery gardens worth visiting. As well as that the Portuguese way passes through it, so it is a good place to find an interesting cultural mix, hostels, and accommodation for pilgrims.
4. Apúlia mills
Known for its dunes and mills next to the beach, this little town in the municipality of Esposende makes it for a great sunset spot.
Day 2: Exploring Matosinhos and its surrounding beaches
5. Pedras do Corgo beach
In Lavra, this windy beach has a very extensive stretch of sand bathed by the Atlantic waves and a 4km wooden walkway to enjoy a chill walk without messing up with the sand dunes.
6. Agudela beach
Just south of Pedras do Corgo, it is the natural extension of the maritime strip. It has a few beach clubs to have a drink with different musical selections and vibe.
7. S. João chapel, Boa Nova
In Leça da Palmeira, next to praia Azul, this humble chapel offers unparalleled views of the Atlantic coast and the nearby iconic building by architect Alvaro Siza Vieira (next stop).
8. Casa de Chá da Boa Nova restaurant
Designed by the Pritzker Prize winner Siza Vieira, a Portuguese star architect acclaimed by its overall simplicity and the sense his constructions make among other things, this Michelin-starred restaurant sits on rocks above the crashing Atlantic since 1963.
9. Leixões cruise terminal building
Another building every architecture lover should check out is Luis Pedro Silva’s cruise terminal, located at Matosinhos’ South jetty. Be aware, though, that it will have to be from a distance as it is reserved for cruise passengers and special events.
10. Matosinhos beach
The peripheral city of Matosinhos has a couple of beaches and from this one, you can see the sunset over the cruise terminal.
Day 3: Porto urban exploration
The second-largest in the country is a city that needs no introduction around here. Here’re two articles to help you plan a visit:
12. Vila Nova de Gaia
As soon as you cross the Luis I bridge (at the top with the tram or by its lower level next to road traffic), you find yourself face to face with the largest hub of the port wine industry in the country, Vila Nova de Gaia. After being produced upriver in the Douro Valley, the visitor can take a tasting tour in one of the many wineries here.
It is also the right spot to photograph the many layers of Porto from the other shore. At night, and with a port tonic in hand, there’s no better place to be.
Day 4: Driving from Porto to Aveiro
13. Senhor Da Pedra chapel
Instagram and social networks made this beautiful chapel by the sea a crowded place at sunset. Good luck.
14. Barrinha de Esmoriz wooden walkways
This 8 km wooden walk is part of the Natura 2000 Network and can be found by two names: Esmoriz bar or Paramos lagoon. It’s located between Ovar and Espinho. A walking bliss and a must for birdwatchers.
15. S. Pedro de Maceda
The access to this sandy area is through the Dunas de Ovar forest perimeter which has very tall and picturesque pine trees, especially in the morning mist. It also has a few palheiros – old cottages for fisherman – singular ephemeral structures made with branches along the beach.
Torreira, a small coastal town that deserves a quick stop, is located in the complex intertidal ecosystem of the Aveiro estuary.
17. Aveiro Estuary
Also known as Aveiro Lagoon or Ria de Aveiro, it is located South of Espinho and north of Mira. The area covers 75 square km and is home to the so-called Little Venice of Portugal for its many canals. The best way to appreciate its beauty and tidal changes is from one of the typical gondola-like boat tours that can be booked in Aveiro city.
18. São Jacinto
At the end of the northern peninsula of the Aveiro estuary is the coastal town of Torreira, the entry point to reach the beautiful – and extensive – Torreira beach (next stop) and to catch the ferry and cross to the other shore.
19. São Jacinto beach
As raw as it comes, this beach features one of the widest stretches of fine white sand we’ve ever witnessed. It is surrounded by protected dunes and a nature reserve.
20. Aveiro wooden pathways
Passadiços de Aveiro is a 5km long linear and flat wooden path between Esgueira and Vilarinho. We only waked their first stretch and, although it can feel a bit crowded before sunset (unlike other Portuguese wooden paths we enjoyed without seeing anyone else such as passadiços do Paiva), we enjoyed our time there.
21. Costa Nova
To file under ‘ruined by Instagram’. Still, Costa Nova is a nice coastal town to grab an ovo mol sweet and take a couple of pics before moving on.
22. Costa Nova beach
When you get tired of waiting for the hordes of people who want to take a picture in front of a striped house in the same palette as their clothing, the beach of Costa Nova awaits you to chill out for a while behind some towering dunes. What a great surprise, and to think that we almost left without seeing it!
23. Poço da Cruz beach
If you’ve had the patience to read this far, you deserve to know that this beach is a f*cking paradise. The most special we found on this trip, and to which – on our way back to the north – we returned before continuing home.
We were not aware of it, just followed the call of a dusty road lighten up exceptionally by the last sunbeams. It led us to the dunes and our intuition made us keep going to the left instead of in front (where the beach services strip is) to arrive at a simple hut that turned out to be a beach bar, the Sardine.
After sunset, we stayed in each other’s company with no one else in sight. It went right up in my top Portuguese beaches ranking, and today it’s my favorite of them all.
Day 5: Driving from Aveiro to Nazare
24. Praia De Mira municipal camping site
This stop will only be useful for those who travel the area in a campervan or motorhome as we did. On this site they let us fill the van with water and electricity with a visitor pass for a small price during the day, which made us avoid having to spend a night or two in camping sites to do so. Awesomeness.
25. Figueira da Foz
Practically in the middle of the Iberian peninsula, this small city is a sort of Benidorm (looking at its insensitive architecture) on the west coast. We did not find it particularly attractive, but to each its own, we did not explore it in depth either.
26. Velha beach
Velha beach was already something else. Its lagoon welcomed us to São Pedro de Moel before the sun went down on the horizon and the walkway let us cross the Moel stream to reach the shore – far away – just in time for sunset. It has a quiet bar-restaurant, with an extensive menu.
27. Penedo da Saudade lighthouse
Still functioning, this lighthouse that takes its name from that of the cliff on which it was constructed, was built in 1912. We should have arrived a few minutes before or used a tripod but this one picture below will do just fine. Agree?
28. Pedra do Ouro beach
While searching for nice spots to park the campervan and spend the night, we stepped across Pedra do Ouro beach. It was well ranked in the app we were using for researching purposes but we did not find its parking flat enough nor its vibe appealed to us that night.
I guess that if we were to go another day, we had seen someone else parked there, we knew the area thoroughly or we had arrived a little earlier (with enough light to actually see), it would have been different but that night we decided to keep searching.
Even so, the beach felt beautiful and it has a restaurant where we had a beer – run by very nice people – while we decided whether to stay or leave. Oh well, we will have to go back in daylight one day!
29. Polvoeira beach
1.3km long, Pataias was another recommended parking spot we decided to pass on. The beach looks gorgeous tho!
30. Mina beach
We decided to end the day on this beach. To be honest, all the ones in the area are spectacular and enjoy much less influx than they would if they were in another more touristy area. We will not complain.
Day 6: Driving from Nazare to Foz do Arelho
31. Nazaré viewpoint
The first thing that every landscape lover does when arriving in Nazare from the north of the country is to go to one of the viewpoints in the elevated area of this small coastal city. One of the best is the Suberco observation deck, steps away from the arrival of the funicular from the lower area.
From there it is possible to get a complete idea of Nazare, its streets once full of fishermen’s houses, its wide beach, and the marina in the background. Essential.
32. Nazaré lighthouse
Open to visitors for € 1, this lighthouse became famous for being next to the largest wave ever surfed. When the big wave alert is activated, many surf and extreme sports photographers come to this point with the dream of being able to photograph the souls who venture to surf them from the lighthouse.
33. Batalha Monastery
We leave the coast aside for a while and enter the first of two exceptional monuments that we will visit on this itinerary: the Batalha monastery. Together with Tomar and Alcobaça (next stop), it is part of a network that can be visited with a joint ticket that is currently worth € 15. Otherwise, each one can be visited individually for € 6. Entering the main nave of the churches is usually free.
Check the timetable before going, they both close relatively early during the colder months.
34. Alcobaça Monastery
The Roman Catholic monastic complex in Alcobaça has simpler lines but is equally spectacular and worth a visit. Parking a campervan nearby is not an easy task but there is usually not much of a problem since both Batalha and Alcobaça are small towns and can be walked easily.
35. Taberna do Manelvina restaurant
On the recommendation of a Portuguese friend, we stopped to have lunch (in which it would be one of the only two meals that we had in restaurants during the whole tour since we used to cook in the campervan) in this hidden restaurant. You will like it if you let yourself be carried away by the chef’s recommendations and meat is your thing.
36. Foz do Arelho viewpoint and wooden walkways
Beautiful for their location in front of the Atlantic Sea and with a touch of originality that you will appreciate if you visit them (and that makes them different from the rest of those we visited), they are perfect to admire the cliffs that follow Foz do Arelho to the south. Specifically, those of the Rei Cortiço beach and its surroundings. Wonderful.
37. Foz Do Arelho beach
With a lagoon to the interior and the waters of the Atlantic to the west, this beach will delight those who enjoy exploring both environments.
Day 7: Driving from Foz do Arelho to Lisbon
Known as one of the 7 Wonders of Portugal, the touristy town of Obidos does not go unnoticed with its castle surrounded by immaculate white houses. Although we would have liked to explore it a bit more calmly (and this was my third visit there), it was too crowded with tourists for our liking. We will have to return in the low season.
39. Baleal island and beaches
Just three kilometers north of Peniche, the islet of Baleal is surrounded by beaches where surfers – whatever their level – practice their favorite sport. Whether in its beach bars, restaurants, parking lots full of caravans and vans, surf camps, and tourist apartments that populate the area, Baleal and Peniche cannot hide their vibe.
40. Supertubos beach
Located South of Peniche, this break is also known worldwide for its great surfing conditions.
41. Praia Vale de Frades
This peaceful beach, accessible by the north or by the south neighboring beaches (if the tide is low) is suitable for diving and spearfishing. It also has a steep dirt path leading to it but we weren’t brave enough to take it nor there were any large vehicles to give us the needed confidence to do so.
42. Praia da Areia Branca
Traditional Portuguese coastal town with a long beach. Lisbon’s influence is noticeable in the influx of its sandy areas.
The always dazzling capital of the country is the last stop of this itinerary.
Lisbon, which was my home during a sweet period of my life in my 20s, is a city that captivates everyone who visits it. Like Porto, we have a series of articles that will make your visit easier once you get rid of the van (avoid driving with it through Lisbon city center at all costs). If you need it, a good place to park it is Belem.
PS: If you have more days, here are a few stops between Praia da Areia Branca and Lisbon you should definitely consider:
- Santa Cruz: Small coastal town to stop for a short walk.
- Coxos beach: Hidden Eden for surfers and beach lovers.
- Ericeira: One of Portugal surf capitals, home to a few surfing competitions.
- Sintra: Palaces, forests, and meandering roads. Be aware if you are driving a large vehicle!
- Ursa beach: Accessible only on foot, after a short hike. Beautiful.
- Cabo da Roca: Iconic spot near Lisbon, great for sunset.
- Cascais: Avoiding the high season and main streets, that can get a bit too crowded, it is a simple yet alluring coastal town reachable by train or a short drive from Lisbon.
Our experience with Indie Campers
When Indie Campers contacted us in early summer, we knew that the time had finally come to embark on the adventure we had been planning for so long. Thus, thanks to this partnership we were finally able to test the benefits of van life. Their services and road trip essentials go above and beyond, covering everything you could possibly need.
- 24/7 Pick-up and drop-off in 40 destinations across Europe and the possibility of driving all around the European Union, plus Iceland, Norway, and Switzerland.
- Online check-in, 24/7 roadside assistance and support, and a basic protection plan are included in every booking. Added protection can be purchased at an extra fee for peace of mind and a smaller blocked security deposit required.
- Airport transfers and one-way drop-offs for an extra fee.
- Throughout trip advice: The Indie Campers Porto depot team was a young and passionate bunch. We asked them lots of questions before departure while ensuring that things like tire pressure, leakages, and all other systems were up-to-date and working, and they were all answered. They also have a great selection of European road trip itineraries on their site for inspiration.
- Bedding (duvets, pillows, and bedsheets), kitchen, and cleaning kits. There’s the possibility of selecting the ‘Essentials Travel Kit’ service that includes a bedding kit, gas canisters for the portable stove, outdoor table and chairs, a portable toilet with chemical tabs, and after-trip pet-friendly cleaning.
- They also offer a wide range of extra equipment from surfboards and wetsuits to 4G WiFi hotspots, barbecues, and bikes for rent.
- And different packages from 100-150km per day, including an unlimited mileage option.
Our chosen campervan was a Fiat Ducato Active Plus.
It had a MultiJet 2.0 115hp engine and run on diesel. Its average consumption was 9.2L for every 100km. It also had a 50L water deposit and enough electricity for a few nights. This could have something to do with the fact that the back battery charged as we were driving daily, and therefore we did not require as much external charging but who knows.
The only thing we would improve is the waiting times on arrival and departure. This was probably because we chose a busy day with high demand and customer traffic, at the times most people book them (2 pm for pick up and 11 am for drop off). Take this into account when making your reservation if you go with them and allow enough time for the process.
Portugal by campervan trip notes
Is a trip like this for you?
As we mentioned before, this itinerary won’t suit everyone.
You will particularly enjoy it you are in the mood for coastal landscapes, uncrowded beaches suitable for surfing, and overall quiet places.
If, on the other hand, you are looking forward to connecting with other travelers and locals, cooking is not on your plans or, simply put, cities rock your world; it won’t work for you.
Related read: Portugal surf trip by campervan – Alentejo and Algarve
Is it safe to travel by campervan during the Covid-19 pandemic?
Short answer, it depends. We found this way of traveling to be particularly safe as once you stock up food, water, gas, and electricity you are pretty much self-sufficient for a few days while still adhering to social distancing. In Portugal right now (September 2020), increasing the space between individuals ( and decreasing the frequency of contact ) as well as wearing face masks are required on public transportation and in enclosed public places such as markets.
On the other hand, the Portuguese tourism department has implemented a ‘Clean&Safe‘ seal, allowing tourists to have greater security and confidence in the use of accommodation establishments, in the various tourist services and tourist attractions. So making sure your chosen campervan rental company enjoys this distinction (Indie Campers did) is a great idea.
Nonetheless, as rules change frequently, please double-check which measures apply at the time of your visit.
Other than that, Portugal is the 3rd safest country in the world according to the Global Peace Index 2020.
When is the best time for a Portugal road trip?
The best months to enjoy a west coast Portugal road trip from Porto to Lisbon are mid-April to mid-June, September, and October. Chances of bad weather increase in Autumn and Spring and Winter could be a bit rough for first-timers.
Other than that, Summer is a busy season in most of the country – particularly in and around Porto and Lisbon – and Winter holidaymakers know the southernmost part of the country enjoys nice weather all around so the Algarve – and even our beloved Alentejo! – could still be quite busy.
Where to stay overnight during your Portugal West coast campervan trip?
Wild camping is not officially allowed in Portugal BUT, outside the high season, the Portuguese police and GNR usually tolerate responsible free camping – parking your self-contained camper or motorhome for the night – in many spots along the coast if no signs are banning the parking of large vehicles in the area and the parking space is suitable for your vehicle.
Avoid crowded places such as Matosinhos, Porto city center, Aveiro, Costa Nova, Peniche, Nazare, Ericeira, Sintra, Cascais, and Lisbon city center though, or risk being told to leave (and maybe get a fine) while you are getting ready to sleep.
Overall, we did not have any issues finding satisfactory sites to park our campervan for the night and enjoy the peace and quietude we were looking for to cook dinner and sleep soundly next to mind-blowing landscapes to wake up to the next day.
That said, we did have a few things to consider and ‘rules’ in place, and a couple of days we went to a few places before finding one to stay for the night. Those were the following:
- When possible, it is always nice to have another campervan or motorhome in sight. Somehow this made us feel safer and that we were not parking in an otherwise wrong spot. We broke this one rule once though – as towards the south great spots were fewer and fewer – but buildings were close enough to feel ‘safe’ that night.
- The road leading to the spot should be accessible enough and ‘easy to drive’ in a campervan. As we were not very familiar driving large vehicles like our camper, and from Porto to Lisbon there happens to be a huge sand strand next to the sea; many roads leading to great spots to spend the night were too sandy or quite steep (in case of rain, difficult to navigate).
- Parking near a streetlight turned to be a great idea for a couple of nights in terms of saving electricity as it was doing it near well-serviced beaches with clean public toilets and showers.
- Last but not least, parking as flat as possible and far enough away from the road and cliffs or places that pose danger, are noisy, or are too windy, taking into account that the rear side door is protected from the wind (for peacefully cooking and dining) and the intrusive looks of others if possible, and in a way that does not obstruct any path or route of fishermen or hunters (that can roam coastal and close to nature spots from dusk to dawn) completed our list.
That said, if you are curious or want to know the specific coordinates of the spots where we stayed overnight, feel free to send us an email at aworldtotravel @ gmail . com and we’ll try our best to help you. This is one of the best ways we have found to share unique places with our readers without exposing them too much or contributing to over-tourism.
The 2 most helpful apps for a campervan trip
Google Maps: Self-explanatory. It is advisable to download the map area you’ll drive through during your trip to be able to use this app offline (it still needs GPS to navigate). As mentioned before, taking some offline copies and even physical paper maps to rely on if you lose connectivity or your smartphone battery dies is always a good idea.
Park4Night: It allows you to find and share both free and paid places to relax, spend the night, refill your water tank, connect to the mains, dispose of grey waters, have a picnic, or clear your head. It also helps you uncover hidden places close to nature such as forests, parks, creeks, and beaches.
How much will you spend on a Portuguese coastal road trip like this?
We cooked most of our food, eat out occasionally, and did not buy any souvenirs (only ovo mol sweets in Costa Nova, Aveiro). Most of our entertainment was free or extremely cheap. Here’s a breakdown of the costs for a similar Portugal road trip in a campervan for a week and two people:
Campervan rental: Prices can vary widely depending on the season, the type of vehicle and extras you choose, and the rental company. A van like ours should set you down around 100€ per day if you rent it at Indie Campers Porto towards the end of August – beginning of September. In winter, prices can fall up to 65€ per day and in summer, depending on the demand, go up to 150€.
Finally, it is important to note that each extra (such as the outdoor table and chairs or the barbecue) will add up.
Gas: From your designated km per day, you will have to pay every extra km (0.39€ with Indie Campers – Sep’20). We were on a 150km / day package and drove 744km in 5 days so we were fine. In our Porto to Lisbon van trip, we paid 112€ for fuel in the beginning as the deposit was empty, and left it 1/4 full, so if you want to optimize this, you can save a few bucks calculating the distance you will likely cover and taking into consideration the consumption of a campervan like the one we had is 9.2 liters every 100km and Gasoil is 1.3€ per liter in Portugal right now.
Tolls: On top of not being as straightforward – or visitor-friendly – as they should (they have a couple of different systems, pay as you go and an electronic one that saves your vehicle plate to charge you later called SCUT), tolls in Portugal can quickly add up. Particularly if you are traveling on a Class 2 vehicle (motorhomes and campervans fall in this category) as rates are around 70% more expensive than if you are doing so in a regular car. We spent approx 40€ on tolls, which is not much. Until you realize we drove in slow roads next to the coast for most of the time. Keep it in mind!
Food and drinks: We stocked up right before picking up our campervan and then bought a couple of fresh things, wine, and ice cubes a couple of times. For five days and two people, it was 100€, so we can safely say it should be around 140€ for a week.
Restaurant meals: We stopped in a couple of restaurants along the way for lunch. Total: 70€.
Beers here and there: Around 40€.
Others: 3.5€ for a visit pass to fill water and electricity and disposing of the grey waters in the Mira municipal camping site. We spent the hottest 2 hours there the third day of our trip (time well spent on having lunch and resting while the vehicle was connected to the mains).
Total: Around 1000€ for a week (7 days / 6 nights) and two people.
What to pack for a 1-week Southern Europe campervan trip?
As it happens with sailboats, campervans usually have very little storage room for food, kitchen appliances, home stuff, and your things. Hence, our tip for you is to embrace minimalism and pack as light as possible. The following could help you.
My van life packing list (female): Minimal, you won’t find any indie girl aesthetic stuff around here. Rather, well-thought-of items you can rely on to keep you comfy for a trip like this:
- 1 towel
- 1 multi-purpose sarong
- 1 light and packable raincoat
- 1 hooded outdoor jacket – Our new Dope Rambler jackets were just perfect for this trip!
- 1 warm sweater
- 3 cotton t-shirts: sleeveless, regular, and long-sleeved
- 1 pair of warm leggings
- 1 sundress
- 1 pair of shorts or skorts
- 1 pair of sneakers
- 1 pair of sandals
- 1 pair of shower sandals or flip flops
- Enough underwear to last you a few days without washing it daily
- 1 swimming suit
- Sunglasses, sunscreen, and mosquito repellent
- Ceramic coated refillable water bottle (to be filled with a 5L refillable bottle for every 2 people and night, great to have in case the campervan water tank is emptied or if the water can’t be drunk)
- Wallet with enough cash to pay for tolls, drinks, and others on top of your cards
- Camera and charger
- Smartphone (with some movies to watch at night) and charger
- Tiny tripod for the smartphone and to watch movies in bed without breaking your neck
- Multi plugin socket
- 1 book, paper, and a pen
- 1 paper map and an old-school watch to depend as little as possible on your electronic devices
- Hygiene bag: Comb, soap and shampoo bars, toothpaste and toothbrush, deodorant, hygiene products, sanitary products, 1st aid kit, and meds.
- Face mask (required in pandemic times), eye mask (if light wakes you up, although the curtains do a great job darken the interior space), and earplugs (again, only if noises can wake you up, we did not have any issues with this as we chose very quiet spots).
- USB memory stick with music to plug in the campervan radio (Portuguese radio stations might not rock your world)
Other van life stuff you should pack
- 1 mat for dusty places and getting out of the shower, 1 small brush and dustpan to sweep, 1 kitchen cloth, 1 scouring pad, 1 washable cloth, and detergent (biodegradable if possible) to keep your home on wheels clean
- Trash bags and toilet paper
- Enough gas canisters for the Campingaz and chemical tablets for the PortaPotty. We only used two of each during our adventure.
Shopping list to happily cook and eat one week on the road
The following foods require little cooking time and equipment, can be stored easily and except for a few items don’t require to be refrigerated (cooled space is also very reduced in campervans):
- Tea and coffee
- Pepper, salt, and olive oil
- Fresh veggies and mushrooms
- Chickpea cans or pre-cooked legumes
- Seasonal fruit
- Meat and fish (even eggs) if you eat those for the grill
- Tuna fish and sardine cans (after all, you are in Portugal!)
- Dehydrated pasta or noodles
- Nuts and seeds
- Olives, chips, and cheese for an appetizer with your afternoon drinks
- Chocolate and cookies
- Beer, wine, gin (don’t forget the tonic! lol), or the poison of your choice
- The aforementioned 5L water bottle to refill with drinkable water once a day (1 per every 2 people)
- Bread and spreads
Advantages and disadvantages of a campervan trip
The freedom it allows you is unparalleled and, if you are anything like us, you’ve probably been toying with the idea of testing van life for a while. After all, it is one of the adventures most travelers dream of!
Still, like everything in life, it has its downsides. Check all the pros and cons of traveling in a campervan.
Making your campervan trip as responsible as possible
Traveling by campervan is already one of the most sustainable ways of traveling there is. In any case, there is always room for improvement. Being a responsible traveler while enjoying the van life is possible maintaining a few habits:
- Be kind and respect the country and its people.
- Try to avoid already overcrowded spots during the high season.
- Support the local economy by stocking up in local markets and say no to plastic packaging as much as possible.
- Don’t leave anything behind. It’s the easiest thing to do yet for some reason, people keep littering everywhere.
- Use only the designated waste points for your Porta-potty grey waters.
- Avoid wasting unnecessary water when showering or doing the dishes. It will also save you time searching for refilling spots.
- Be mindful of wildlife and do not feed wild animals if you happen to step across them.
- Be quiet. Loud noise is usually not welcomed, especially at night.
- Reduce your campervan carbon footprint by packing as little as you can – hi there, minimalism! – and driving sensibly to reduce fuel consumption.
Campervan travel tips and tricks
Read these extra genius hacks and useful tips for a successful campervan trip to make your life easier and enjoy the experience to the fullest.