PORTO - GETTING AROUND
Many sights in Porto are located within walking distance. You will find that most sights in the city are within a one-mile radius, although some may be further afield. The sights in the historic city center are particularly easy to reach, as they are grouped together in an area of just one-fifth of a square mile. The change in elevation from the riverside up to the Baixa neighborhood is a rise of nearly 300 feet. The distances are short but the hills are numerous.By Metro and commuter rail
The Porto Metro consists of six different lines, covering nearly every section of the city of Porto and stretching out to environs as far north as Póvoa de Varzim and as far south as Ponte de Lima. The hub for the entire network is Trindade station; all six lines stop at this station.
Fares range from €1.20 to €2.75 one-way, dependent on travel zones, and travel times are very fast (the longest route is a trip of one hour). A sample trip from Trindade station to Estádio do Dragão station would cost under €1.50 and travel time is under 10 minutes. Most sights in Porto can be reached by the Porto Metro within two travel zones (for pricing, see the Porto Metro website's English-language section at www.metrodoporto.pt).
The purchase of an `Andante card` (approximately €1) is required to use the Porto Metro. Special cards such as `Andante Azul`, `Andante Gold` and `Andante 24` accommodate travelers who will be using the service for longer than a few days. Money must be loaded onto the `Andante card` and this can be done via kiosks and in person at all Porto Metro stations, as well as at participating newsagents.
The Porto Metro is fairly new, with the first line opening to passengers in 2002. Commuter rail (called CP, Comboios de Portugal, meaning 'Trains of Portugal') covers a lot of the same ground the Metro does (both stop at key stations such as Campanhã and São Bento, for example), but you will find it useful if you want to explore areas outside of the city (for example, to cities such as Braga and Guimarães).
More than 75 STCP (Sociedade de Transportes Colectivos do Porto) bus routes are available throughout Porto and its surrounding regions, including Vila Nova de Gaia and Vila do Conde. Buses run regularly from about 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., with limited service operation from 9 p.m. to 1 a.m.
One-way tickets are priced at approximately €2, with exact pricing depending on how many zones you travel through on your journey. If you have money loaded on an 'Andante card' (which can be done at Porto Metro stations or at select newsagents), you will find that most buses in Porto also accept those.
Bus Etiquette: If you see a line at the bus stop, please join the line at the back. If you see your bus about to pass by, wave your hand in the air so the driver knows to stop. Buses will announce the stops coming up once you have boarded, so there is very little chance for you to get lost. Inspectors will validate journeys on a sporadic basis, so make sure you are paid in full for the route you have chosen.
The `Andante card`, used to ride the Porto Metro and STCP buses, can also be used to ride the historic trams and the funicular system (called the Funicular dos Guindais). It can be refilled with fare money at any STCP/Porto Metro kiosk and at participating newsagents.
The first tram line in Porto was inaugurated with much fanfare in 1895. In 1996, the final tram line was retired and converted into a `heritage service`, using classic tram cars from the 1920s and 1930s. These cars now run on three tram lines primarily for the benefit of tourists and are accompanied with a guided tour. Tickets cost around €3 for one trip and in the neighborhood of €10 for a two-day pass. These tickets and passes can be purchased on the trams themselves, at the Electric Tramcar Museum (on Rua Alameda Basilio Teles), at select hotels, and at STCP/Porto Metro kiosks. An English-speaking tour guide is available on request; in this case, buy your tickets from a hotel and make your request known in advance.
The Funicular dos Guindais links Ribeira, adjacent to the River Douro, with Batalha, 200 feet above. The trip is just three minutes long, but it affords passengers breathtaking views of the River Douro, port wine warehouses along the riverside, and the Dom Luis I Bridge. A one-way trip costs about €2.50. Operating hours are 8 a.m. to 8 p.m., with extended hours to 10 p.m. on weekdays in the summertime, and to midnight on summer weekends and during special events.
It is fairly easy to catch a cab: simply wave at one on the street and it will pick you up immediately if the driver is not pursuing a fare. In various tourist areas, there may be taxi stands (look for the sign that says 'praça de taxis' and a line of cabs). Go to the end of the line of people waiting for cabs, and take the first one available when it is your turn to take one. Taxi queue etiquette is respected in Portugal and people will chastise you if you decide to cut the line.
Porto taxis are typically late-model sedans, colored white, beige, black, or black and green. Most taxis have GPS so it will be helpful for the driver if you have your destination written on a piece of paper.
The base fare for taxis is about €2.50 for the first three-tenths of a mile. Fares are marked up 25% from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. during the week, and all day on weekends and public holidays. The taxi driver will not charge a fee for smaller bags (21.5 inches tall by 15.7 inches wide maximum), wheelchairs or strollers. Bags larger than the dimensions outlined may incur a handling charge of roughly €2 per bag.
The roads in Porto can be particularly steep at times, so you won't be able to explore a lot of Porto by bicycle alone. One good thing to note is that the Porto Metro does allow bicycles to be carried on all of its cars, should you encounter a bit of terrain that may be too strenuous for you. With that said, there is one bike route that you may be interested in taking: start at the Ponte Dom Luis I and take the riverside route all the way to Foz do Douro.
Porto Rent a Bike (www.portorentabike.com) is the largest bicycle rental company in the city, and they charge in the neighborhood of €6 for a rental of two hours.
If you are staying close to Porto proper, there is no need to rent a car. Only consider a car if you want to plan a side trip exploring the north of Portugal.
Porto was built long before the advent of the automobile, so driving here isn't like driving back home: many roads are very small, many are one direction only, some are cobbled, and many are very steep. Tourist-friendly areas like Baixa and Ribeira frequently experience traffic jams. Unless you're going somewhere where the Porto Metro does not run, don't bother with a car.
If you do insist on driving a car, it is recommended that you park your car at the Estádio do Dragão park and ride (about €2 per hour, 5:30 a.m. to 9:30 p.m. daily) and then use public transport.
Note: Do not leave anything expensive in your car. This includes out-of-view areas like the trunk of the car. If given the chance, thieves will break in and take your belongings.