Every year, thousands of people drive from the UK to Portugal and back again. It’s usually cheaper to fly (although that depends on how many are in your group), but there are also a lot of benefits to driving to Portugal.
- You save money on car rental (if visiting)
- You can bring a lot of your possessions over (if moving)
- You can bring the cat and the dog (a bonus for both visiting and moving)
Unfortunately, there isn’t a direct ferry between the UK and Portugal. If you want to drive to Portugal, you can either drive through France of take a ferry to the North of Spain and drive from there. There are pros and cons to both but, for most people, it normally comes down to a question of time and money.
Which option is cheaper and which option is easier?
The easier option is to take an overnight ferry from Ireland or the UK (depending where you’re driving from) and cut out the French leg of the journey. This normally arrives into Northern Spain in the morning and you can complete the last leg in 1 or more days, depending on how many stops you want.
The cheapest option is to drive across France. Most people need an overnight, which means hotel costs, and you do need to factor in the tolls costs, but it usually works out cheaper. Autoroutes is a useful website for estimating driving costs.
Which option is faster? It does depend on where you’re starting your journey in the UK, but if you drive non-stop it’s usually a few hours faster than taking the ferry. However, most people won’t drive non-stop and will need an overnight break, which means the ferry is the faster option.
Spain or Portugal?
Once you arrive in Spain, regardless of whether you arrive by ferry or by driving through France, you’ll need to decide how you want to get to Portugal: through Spain or through Portugal.
Driving through Spain is typically faster and, thanks to minimal tolls, cheaper than driving through Portugal. Obviously, this blog would recommend you see Portugal rather than Spain, but Spain is usually the easier option.
If you’re arriving into a ferry port in Northern Spain (e.g. Santander or Bilbao) or from France, Salamanca is a great stopping point. It’s located roughly half-way along the route and there’s enough culture and historical attractions to make it a good stop-off for at least a night if not 2.
Tip: Hotel Salamanca Montalvo offers free parking (a novelty in Spain) and is just a short walk or taxi ride from the city centre, making it a great hotel for overnight stops.
If you’re driving to the Algarve the fastest route Google Maps suggests takes you around Seville. While this is the fastest route, it does mean you miss out on Portugal completely – and have to drive around Seville’s bypass, which isn’t the most fun. Another option would be to move over to Portugal around Badajoz and drive through the Alentejo. Many of the small towns here, like Evora, Beja, and Vila Viçosa are worth visiting, even if it’s just for a few hours.
Travelling with Pets?
If you’re travelling with pets, there are a few extra things to think about, like:
- Pet-friendly Accommodation: Booking.com is good for finding pet-friendly accommodation: simply select “pet friendly” under facilities on the left-hand menu.
- Pet-friendly Cabins or Kennels: Some ferries have pet-friendly cabins while others have kennels where the dogs stay for the duration of the trip. In the Eurotunnel, the dog stays in the car with you and, in some ferries, pets stay in the car.
- Journey time: Travelling with a pet, particularly a dog, means that you’ll have to break up the journey a lot more for toilet and walk breaks.
- Pet passport: And, don’t forget that your pet will need to be vaccinated and micro chipped (see the full list of rules). For UK travellers, there are also Brexit-specific guidelines here.
- Booking.com – For hotels for overnight stops, booking.com is very useful. Usually a hotel or motel is much easier than getting an Airbnb as these often involve a lot of back and forth with the owner and having to tell them when you’re arriving
- Direct Ferries (UK) – Shows a list of ferry routes from the UK to Spain, UK to France, and Ireland to Spain
Can I drive to Portugal from the UK?
Yes, you can drive to Portugal from the UK. You can either take the ferry or Eurotunnel and drive through France or you can take a ferry to Northern Spain.
Is there a ferry between the UK and Portugal?
No, there is not a ferry between the UK and Portugal. There are ferries between the UK and Northern Spain, however, so you can take the ferry to Spain and then drive onto Portugal.
Which is better, driving through France or taking the ferry to Spain?
We estimate that driving through France is likely to be cheaper, but that taking the ferry to Spain is going to be the faster option.