I normally start my search for car rental on rentalcars.com. It allows you to compare prices from a few São Jorge car rental companies including Autatlantis, Europcar, Way2Azores, and Ilha Verde.
If you don’t find anything on either of those three sites, you’ll need to manually look at the different car rental companies in São Jorge. Some of these list themselves on the comparison sites, some don’t, and some list just some of their availability, so it can actually be worth going through manually.
These sites are often fairly basic, and often you’ll need to send an email to get information about availability. Waiting for replies definitely slows things down, so be sure to start you search as soon as you can.
The following companies all operate on São Jorge, mainly out of Velhas.
- Azorean Way Rent A Car
- Ilha Verde
- Azores by Car
- Rent-A-Car Oásis
- Velas Auto
- Ribeiro e Sá Rent-a-Car
I booked with Azorean Way Rent A Car, and was very happy (although one person’s experience doesn’t necessarily mean anything). For a small fee I was able to pick the car up at São Jorge Airport and then drop it back off at the ferry in Velhas, which was very helpful.
São Jorge car rental tips
- Tip #1: If you can’t find a car or scooter for rent on São Jorge, and you’re going to Faial or Pico first, you could consider renting one car for the three islands and taking the car on the ferry.
- Tip #2: Car rental companies run out of cars in The Azores, and that’s even more the case on a small island like São Jorge than it is on a larger island like Terceira or São Miguel. Book your car hire as car in advance as you can to avoid not getting a car.
- Tip #3: Many of the car rental companies on São Jorge will allow you to rent a car at the airport and return it to one of the ferry ports (Velhas or Calheta) for free or a small fee (or vice versa).
- Tip #4: There isn’t a petrol station in front of São Jorge Airport, as you might expect. The nearest petrol stations are located closer to Velhas (map).
- Tip #5: If you don’t manage to hire a car before you get to São Jorge, ask around when you get there. Cancellations happen, cars come in from the other islands, and sometimes car rental companies on The Azores just seem to be able to magically find an extra car. It’s worth asking.
- Tip #6: Generally the roads in São Jorge are quite good, but watch out for loose rocks on the roads down to the fajãs. Definitely don’t park your car near any of the cliffs.
- Tip #7: Most of the car hire companies are based in Velhas rather than at the airport, so don’t turn up at the airport expecting to be able to rent a car. If you don’t have one, you’ll need to take a taxi into Velhas as that’s where most of the companies are based.
Scooter or motorbike rental
It is possible to rent a scooter or motorbike on São Jorge, and it was something that I initially considered. The reason I didn’t was that I was travelling with a large backpack, which could have made riding a scooter quite dangerous.
Alternatively, if you’re visiting Madalena on Pico or Horta on Faial first, there are a few more scooter rental companies there.
São Jorge without a car
Getting around São Jorge without a car is not going to be easy. While there is a bus, it only has a few services per day. Taxis are probably going to be the easiest way to get around.
Taxis are probably the easiest way to get around, if you’re not driving. The taxi drivers on São Jorge have a list of fixed prices.
Tip: Take the phone numbers of a few taxi drivers with you. Sometimes you’ll need to phone a few taxi drivers before you’ll get one that will come and pick you up.
São Jorge definitely isn’t the easiest island to cycle around. The roads down to the fajãs are incredibly steep and cycling up them is going to be an incredibly intense workout.
The following companies offer bike rental on São Jorge:
Hitchhiking isn’t common in The Azores, but I actually did hitchhike once on São Jorge and I also returned the favour by picking up some other hitchhikers the next day.
I was picked up by fellow tourists (from Austria) and I picked up other tourists (from Germany) so it’s likely that if you hitchhike you will be relying on other tourists to pick you up. This means you’re going to have a lot more luck hitchhiking in the summer when there are more tourists rather than in winter.