Camping in Portugal

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For travellers to Portugal, camping is one of the most popular forms of accommodation and it is by far the cheapest option, so ideal for those of you on a tight budget. With the fine all year round climate camping in Portugal is more feasible and comfortable than it might be in cooler or wetter countries.

There are about two hundred authorized campsites in Portugal, which is a lot for such a small country, and they are usually located in some of Portugal's most beautiful countryside. Perhaps to allow for the popularity of camping in Portugal, the campsites often have a large capacity of around five hundred spaces or so, but they can still get quite crowded during high season. Most turismos (tourist offices) will stock the Roteiro Campista booklet, which gives details of all of the country's campsites and costs about €10. Alternatively you could buy it from a newsstand, bookshop or direct from Roteiro Campisto, Apartado 3168, 1301 902 Lisbon. Many of Portugal's campsites, particularly the larger ones, have space for caravans and camper vans or static permanent caravans and bungalows to rent.

Accommodation on one of Portugal's many campsites is charged per person and per tent or caravan, with parking and showers charged as extra. This might sound exorbitant, but it generally only adds up to €4 per person, per night, which is extremely reasonable. The chain of campsites run by Orbitur can be a little more expensive. Details of their sites are available from Orbitur, Rua Diogo Couto 1 8, 1149 02 Lisbon (218 117 070).

You are allowed to camp outside of the official grounds, but with certain restrictions including urban zones, areas within 1km of a campsite, beaches, near water sources or places frequented by the public. This leaves much of Portugal open, but several national parks are clamping down on unofficial camping as it damages the environment.

Some campsites in Portugal ask you to produce an international camping carnet and, for those of you planning to do a lot of camping in Portugal and across Europe, it is a wise investment to get one of these carnets. You get discounts at sites that are members of the scheme and it is also a good form of identification, which means that at many sites you can leave your international camping card instead of your passport as ID during your stay. It also provides third party insurance when camping. At a cost of under £5, AA and RAC members in the UK can obtain one easily, or you can get one from Camping and Caravanning club, Greenfields House, Westwood Way, Coventry CV4 8JH (024/7669 4995), or Carefree Travel Service 024/7642 2024 who will give you a free camping card if you take out travel insurance with them. In the US and Canada try the national motoring organisations or Family Campers and Rvers (FRCV), 4804 Transit Rd, Building 2, Depew, NY 14043 (1 800/245 9755).