Train travel in Portugal is extremely affordable. Sure, many of the trains are old, there isn’t a high-speed rail network like there is in other European countries, and the train network doesn’t cover all of the country, but train travel is really cheap – and even cheaper if you manage to get a discount.
Discounts for Advanced Booking
The easiest way to get a discount, and this applies to everyone regardless of age, is to book your train tickets in advance. You don’t need to book them too far in advance either: 5 or more days in advance is typically enough to qualify for a discounted ticket (although not always). You won’t find them on all trips, particularly the popular early morning rush-hour journeys, and there does seem to be a limit on the number of discounted tickets. So it’s best to book ahead if you can, and you can book up until around 60 days in advance.
When you get to the passenger data page, double check that the special offer dropdown is selected as it seems to not be by default.
Another thing to be aware of is that combining discounts, which may seem smart, doesn’t necessarily mean a cheaper ticket. In fact, you may be cancelling out your advanced booking discount.
In the above example, the full-price ticket is €22.15 and with the advanced booking, it is €13.50.
Here are the results when something other than ‘full price’ is selected:
- Full Price – €13.50
- Children – €11.50
- Youth (13-17) – €17
- Youth (18-25) – €17
- Youth Card (aged to 25) – €17
- Youth Card (26-30) – €17
- ACP – €21.50
- CP/INR 80% INC – € 6,00
- CP/INR 80% INC Companion – €17
- Senior Citizen – €11.50
- CP/INR 60 a 79% INC – €18
- Emirates – €18
- Azores Airline – €18
So, unless you’re a child (over 3 and under 13 according to cp.pt), a senior citizen (people aged 65 or over according to cp.pt), or disabled and able to show a document proving your disability (more info here), it’s better just to leave ‘full price’ selected and not try to add another discount.
Children aged three or less travel for free if they are with adults and do not occupy a seat.
When to use the other discounts
So when should you use the other discounts, which are more expensive than the advanced booking discount, for example the youth discount? When you’re not booking in advance or when there aren’t any advanced promo tickets available.
For those over 65, the senior citizen discount is incredibly useful. Not only is it cheaper than the advanced booking discount, but you don’t need to book in advance to get it. It’s also available on more train services.
To qualify, simply select the option when booking online. According to cp.pt, you have to prove the ticket is yours and you have the right to the discount by showing an official ID document or certified photocopy of it.
Senior discounts don’t seem to be available on the historical trains, e.g. the Douro Historical Train, but children can get a discount.
Another way to benefit from a discount is to travel as a group, which you can read about on the cp.pt page. The discounted amount is typically 50%.
These discounted tickets come with a lot more stipulations than the advanced booking discount and often have to be booked at a ticket office rather than online. For that reason, it’s easier just to aim for the advanced booking deal.
Comboios de Portugal offer a monthly rail pass for tourists that do not live in Portugal. This can be used for unlimited travel on either three or seven days of the month, depending on the ticket.
Is it worth it? At €129.00 for the 7-days-in-a-month pass, it’s debatable considering train travel is already so affordable in Portugal. Unless you’re spending more than €18 per day for each of those seven days, you’re probably not going to see the value of it. You also can’t just buy it online: you have to get it from ticket offices at specific stations. Booking your tickets in advance and online offers more flexibility.
An Interrail pass makes even less sense for Portugal, but may make sense if you’re visiting European countries where train travel is more expensive.