Trains in Portugal

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For those of you averse to flying or unable to get a reasonably priced flight to Portugal, you may wish to consider travelling to Portugal by train. In general though, this is really only a better option if you hanker for the nostalgia of train travel as it takes about twenty hours to reach Lisbon from London by train, with several changes. All trains from London inevitably go through Paris and then there are a couple of options for traversing France and Spain. You could take the Eurostar to Paris and then TGV from the Gare d'Austerlitz (change from Nord to Austerlitz on métro line 5) to Irún/Hendaye on the Basque border. Here you have to change trains because some clever chap in the 19th century chose to use a wider gauge for the Spanish railways than that used by the rest of Europe. After crossing northern Spain you enter Portugal at Via Formosa and then on to Lisbon, where you can change trains for connections to the rest of Portugal.

Alternatively you can travel to Madrid and take the eight hour overnight Lusitânia Express to Lisbon. For the Algarve you might consider travelling to Sevilla and then taking the coach to Faro, or travelling to Lisbon by train and then taking the coach to Faro at a cost of around €15 rather than the more expensive train connection. Travelling to Portugal by train usually costs more than a budget flight. You will probably pay at least €150 from Paris, more with a connection from London. You could always opt to get off the train and take a boat over to France, but this only shaves about £50 off the total cost.

Once in Portugal, trains are a good way of getting around the country and the rail network has undergone improvements in the last few years. Trains in Portugal tend to be slightly slower between the cities than the equivalent bus routes, but the fares are cheaper and they are more comfortable. The railways are run by CP (Companhia dos Caminhos de Ferro Portugueses) which has recently invested in comfortable Alpha Pendula (AP) trains to cover the Lisbon Porto route. People travel in conforto (first) and turística (second) class on these rápido trains and the journey takes three hours 25 minutes. Intercidade (IC) trains travel between the other main cities and are almost as comfortable. Interregional (IR) trains cover most of the network and still use first and second class categories rather than the new vocabulary above. Finally the Surbano or Regional (R) service stops at every town and village on the line. Prices are cheap with a conforto ticket from Lisbon to Porto in the region of €35, or to Faro for under €20.