Following on from the article about getting around Portugal by train, I’ve put together a guide to getting around Portugal by bus. I’ve travelled extensively by bus here – taking buses throughout the country and even into Spain as well.
Portugal has an extensive bus network that is made up of two types of buses which I think of as “local buses” and “coaches.”
The coaches are usually for trips lasting for several hours but can be as little as an hour or less. They are usually fairly new, have working air con, are quite comfortable, and sometimes even have an onboard food and drinks service. They usually connect cities and large towns with each other.
The local buses, on the other hand, are often a bit out of date but very functional – much like the trains. They usually connect small towns and villages with each other.
Between the two, you can get to and from just about anywhere in mainland Portugal and even beyond the border as well.
Unfortunately, finding bus journey information isn’t usually as easy as going on Google Maps and letting Google tell you when the next bus is. If only.
Don’t worry, it isn’t too difficult. Most people travelling in Portugal take longer distance buses (e.g. Lisbon to Porto or Porto to Faro) which means using the Rede Expressos website (which is easy to use, don’t worry). It’s only really challenging if you’re trying to get the bus in small towns and cities, but we’ll get to that.
Coach travel in Portugal
The Rede Expressos website is very easy to use. You can easily look up tickets, buy them online, and have the tickets delivered to your email. This article gives tips on using that website, but you could also use flixbus.pt to find cheap bus tickets and busbud to compare bus ticket prices. The buses one these websites are usually companies that do long distance. Unfortunately, many local bus timetables aren’t available online.
You don’t need to print the tickets
As long as you can show the PDF on your phone, that’s enough. I usually have my identification close by in case I’m asked for it, but I never have been.
You can book your tickets last minute
Although you should probably book in advance in case there are any technical issues, I’ve booked tickets less than an hour before a journey and it hasn’t been a problem.
Seats are allocated in order
The ticketing system automatically assigns the first person to buy a ticket seat 1, the next person gets seat 2, etc. If you want a chance of getting a seat by yourself, manually change your allocated seat before paying.
Credit card problems?
Sometimes payment processors in Portugal reject non-Portuguese credit cards. That happens to a lot of people when they’re trying to book train tickets, so it might happen to you if you’re trying to book bus tickets.
If it does, try going through PayPal instead. You don’t actually need to have a PayPal account – you can actually pay with your credit card or debit card via PayPal as well.
Tip: Lisbon is ‘Lisboa’ in the searchbox rather than ‘Lisbon.’ Also there are two bus stations (Sete Rios and Oriente) and you will probably have to do a search for both.
Zip/Post Code problems?
The invoice section seems to only be designed for Portuguese postal codes, which follow this format: 1200-047. You can’t insert a UK postcode or US zip code. The solution is to simply not fill in the invoice section, which is optional, and just skip ahead to the payment. For those that don’t live in Portugal, the main payment options will be either the credit card option or the PayPal option. If the credit card option doesn’t work, you can still use your credit card and pay through PayPal.
Discounted coach tickets
Rede Expressos offers discounted coach tickets for the following groups, and you can select your ticket type on the homepage when before you begin your ticket search.
- Senior (65 or older)
- Youth (13-29)
- Child (4-12)
- Baby (up to 4 years old)
- Military (65 or older)
You will need to present ID if you’re travelling on a discounted ticket.
Other coach companies (e.g. Flixbus)
As well as Rede Expressos, there are a few international bus companies that operate in Portugal and have their own bus networks.
- Flixbus – Most useful for international routes (e.g. Lisbon to Sevilla) but it offers some routes within Portugal as well. You can see all the routes on the route maps page.
- Omio – Pulls in results from Rede Expressos and also some other Portuguese bus networks like EVA. It’s the same results that you can get anywhere else (although slightly more expensive) but pretty presented and easier to use.
Local bus travel in Portugal
While the coaches on Rede Expressos cover journeys between cities or large towns (e.g. Lisbon to Porto), local buses connect smaller towns and villages.
Local buses are managed by regional bus services. For example, there’s a “Rodoviária do Alentejo,” “Rodoviária do Oeste,” and “Rodoviária do Tejo.” The biggest challenge is often working out which is the local website that you should be looking at.
You probably won’t be able to buy tickets online
While you can easily buy coach tickets online, there’s a good chance that you won’t be able to buy your local bus tickets online: you’ll have to buy them at the bus station.
Don’t expect any mod cons
These buses are usually much older and don’t have wifi, toilets, or even air con.
Most bus stops don’t have timetables
For whatever reason, bus stops (especially bus stops in the countryside) don’t have printed bus timetables inside them. You’ll probably either need to wait for the next bus (if you’re already there) or go into the local tourist information office to get a copy of the bus timetable.
International bus journeys
If you want to book an international ticket, for example to somewhere in Spain or France, there are a couple of websites that you can use.
- Rede Expressos – As well as domestic tickets, you can also buy international bus tickets to Spain and some destinations in France.
- Flixbus – Offers routes from Portugal to destinations all over Europe including Barcelona, Paris, and Luxembourg. From there, you can connect to hundreds of other destinations like Rome, Prague, and Budapest. (See the route map here)
- Alsa – Spain’s national bus network, which also includes some routes into France as well.
- Eurolines – Offers international routes from Portugal to destinations all over Europe: everywhere from Amsterdam to Zagreb.
FAQs about bus travel in Portugal
Which is better in Portugal, bus or the train?
It’s down to a matter of preference.
Personally, I think there are a lot of pros to the buses over trains. The first being that they cover the whole of the country and the second being that the bus stations are always in the city centre (some train stations are 10 km or more away from their actual destination).
Which is cheaper in Portugal, bus or the train?
Unfortunately, there isn’t a black and white answer to this and you will have to check both.
If you’re travelling cross country (e.g. Lisbon to Porto), and you’re booking in advance (7 days or more), then the train is probably going to be cheaper as you can usually get a discounted ticket. It’s not always the case, though: sometimes the bus is cheaper. You really do need to check both.
If you’re travelling a short distance, coach travel (e.g. Rede Expressos) can be more expensive than the train as Rede Expressos, for some reason, has a minimum ticket price of €6.
Which is faster in Portugal, bus or the train?
If you take an AP (Alfa Pendular) long distance train it’s normally faster than the bus: for example the train from Lisbon Oriente to Porto Sao Bento takes 2h51 while the bus from Lisbon Oriente to Porto takes at least 3H15.
For shorter distances, there’s usually not a big difference.
Can I bring my bike on the bus?
You can bring your bike on Rede Expressos buses, but you will need to buy it a bike ticket. More information about transporting bikes can be found on the website’s terms and conditions.
Can I bring my pet on the bus?
You can bring your pet on Rede Expressos national buses, but you will need to buy it a pet ticket and follow the pet travel rules.