We headed to Portugal to meet up with two of Nic’s University friends from Quebec for a few days (they now live in Sweden), and it was a lot of fun! So far, all of our travel has been just the two of us. Being with other people meant being a lot more flexible in terms of how (and where) we spent our money. $537.16 seems like a lot of money to me, but it works out to $134.29 per day. Which isn’t bad.
Accommodation (4 nights): $0 – HostelBookers.com sponsorship
Transportation: $261.67 (€198.76)
Food: $114.60 (€87.05)
City Transit: $74.90 (€56.95)
Entertainment: $78.76 (€59.89)
Miscellaneous: $7.23 (€5,50)
This was our first RyanAir flight, and it was interesting. The closest RyanAir airport is in Baden-Baden, located about a 75 minute train ride from where we live. It’s kind of a pain because even though the train ride to get there takes only 75 minutes, the entire process takes 3+ hours each way. We have to walk to the train station (45 minutes), take the train to Karlsruhe (60 minutes), transfer to Baden-Baden (15 minutes), then catch a bus (30 minutes) to the airport. But that bus only runs once every hour. So if we miss it, like we did on this trip, we’re stuck hanging around for a long time. And once we finally get to the airport, we still have to fly to our destination! :|
We have 2 or 3 more RyanAir flights scheduled this summer, and while the prices are really cheap, it’s such a hassle.
We stayed at the lovely Hotel Faro for 2 nights, and the location really couldn’t have been better. It has an unobstructed view of the harbour – probably the best view of any hotel in the city, and the rooftop bar was amazing. It was located less than 100m to the bus stop (to take you to the airport or the beach), and less than a 5 minute walk down the street to the train station. The room was bright, modern, and clean, and I can see why it’s rated one of the best hotels in the city.
I think it was the added touches that made the stay so pleasant: the ice cold sunshine tea offered at the reception desk, free WIFI in the front lounge area, and of course, a really, really delicious breakfast: salmon, cheese, tons of fresh fruit, croissants, bacon … my mouth is watering just thinking about it. Rooms at the hotel start at around €99, and include the buffet breakfast. :)
So … if you’re looking for hostels or cheap hotel accommodation in Faro, make sure you check out the HostelBookers website.
I really liked that we stayed in very different places during this trip. In Lisbon, we were put up in a family-style apartment in the This Is Lisbon Hostel, tucked in the corner of a hillside in the old part of town. The location was really cool – just 5 minutes away from the Castelo de São Jorge, and it’s just a maze of winding streets, cool buildings, and staircases. I think the best part of the hostel is the huge, amazing terrace. It has terrific views of the city and the hillside.
The hostel has both private rooms and dorms available. The dorms start at around €15 per night, and it goes all the way up to €65 per night for a private room. Across the street is the apartment that we stayed in (for 3-4 guests), and that goes for €96 per night. It had two bedrooms, a full kitchen and dining area, and a spacious washroom. It was a place I could actually live in, not just stay for a few days. :) I can see how you could be comfortable during an extended stay there. The hostel feels more like a B&B, with home cooked meals served every evening, and fresh bread, juice, and eggs in the morning.
And, if you’re looking for hostels or cheap hotel accommodation in Lisbon, make sure you check out the HostelBookers website.
Well I’ve already mentioned how great the breakfast was at the Hotel Faro, so I won’t talk about it again. :) I think what really surprised me about Portugal was how amazing the cheese was. I don’t know what kind of cheese I was eating, but everywhere we went, we kept getting served this delicious cheese that tasted like a mild version of goat cheese. I couldn’t get enough of it!
We also had a really bad dining experience in Lisbon, at a restaurant called Solmar. We should have read the reviews online before going in, but it was one of those spur-of-the-moment decisions. They placed a basket of bread and a tiny plate of prawns on our table as an appetizer. Later, we found out that we were charged for both items – to the tune of €30 (that’s over $40!)! We were upset, because being from North America, you just assume that the bread they bring before the meal is free. Especially since they didn’t say anything about the price, or having to pay for it. But I should have known. So when the bill came, we got into an argument with the waiter, he yelled at us in front of the entire restaurant (everybody was staring, not very professional of him), and threatened to call the police if we didn’t pay. So we paid, but we weren’t happy with how we were treated. And you just know dozens of tourists fall for that every single day.
At first, I thought it was a European thing – they put something on your table, and if you touch it, then you pay for it. But that’s not the case. Some restaurants you get charged for it regardless if you eat it or not. And other places, you get it for free. There doesn’t seem to be a rule – so wherever you go, the best thing to do is just ask.
Also, I don’t know if it was just me, but I found a lot of the traditional Portugese food I was eating to be extremely salty. I don’t cook very much with salt, so I could taste it everywhere.
We spent a lot of money keeping ourselves entertained. On the first day, Nic and I rented segways and toured the old town of Faro. It was €10 for 25 minutes, so not too bad. It was our first time on segways, and I felt super dorky, but it was a lot of fun.
The second day, we took a 3-hour train ride out to Lisbon. We spent the rest of the day relaxing and drinking by the water (a bottle of wine was only €1,89!), wandering the city, and eating food.
The third day, we went to see the Castelo de São Jorge, which is an old castle you can walk around, with a cool archaeological site too. The cost of admission was €7,50 and was well worth it. I’m glad we went early in the day – around 10am – because when we left 2 hours later, the place was packed! In the afternoon, we headed to Sintra – a town about 30 minutes outside of Lisbon. There, we went for a little hike and visited the Palácio da Pena. It cost €13,50 to go inside the palace and look at everything, but I personally didn’t think it was as interesting as the old castle ruins we saw earlier in the day.
And on the last day, we took the train back to Faro and spent the rest of the day at the beach. The weather was perfect, and the beach was amazing. I bet it can get really crowded there in the summer, so I’m glad that we went during the shoulder season.