Portugal by Camper Van – Expectation vs Reality

Portugal was a really big surprise. Our expectations were nothing like the reality we found ourselves in. From the barren landscape to the unspoilt coastlines, we spent 10 days travelling this beautiful country in a camper van. 


*I’m an organiser, a planner, someone who always has a list. For this trip, the plan was not to have a plan. DO NOT do this! It won’t be like a romantic movie, you will end up travelling aimlessly for hours. Do yourself a favour and make an itinerary. Be flexible but go to Portugal with a plan.

* We hired a camper van to travel down the coast from Lisbon to the Algarve. The thing is, you couldn’t physically drive along the coastline. Seaside towns are really hard to get to. You have to turn off the main road and drive for quite some kms before you actually reach the village. We expected to drive with a view of an endless coastline but, this wasn’t the case.

* Now, because we were in a camper van, we had to spend some nights at a camping ground (electricity, filling up the water, emptying the toilet – all that fun stuff). From online research, we thought that camping was going to be between €5 and €10 per night. We were wrong! On average, you have to spend €20 to stay at a camping ground. Pricey!

* Safety… now we were under the impression that there would be lots of robbers, bad people, scary people and dangerous people. Portugal is very safe. In the bigger cities you always have to be careful of gypsies and con-men but travelling in a van was 100% safe. We even left our surfboards outside during the night.

* Surfing! It is a bit of a hit and miss when you choose to travel along the southern coastline. In a lot of places that we heard were really good, there was not a single wave in sight. If you find a good wave, surf it for a day or two providing, you have the time. We didn’t find waves for four days on our trip. If waves are your priority, travel north.




* The “Vanlife” community in Portugal is huge. Meaning, you will meet some very friendly and happy people.

* When you travel anywhere you would assume that there would be supermarkets, at least one or even just a mini market… Some days we spent hours trying to find a grocery store of some description.

* Coastal towns means fresh seafood!!! Caught that day, eaten that night. Apparently not in Portugal. If you can find fresh fish it is a miracle.

* The Algarve coast was the number one “must see” on our trip. However, it ended up to be really underwhelming. The steep cliffs were not designed for camper vans, it is very dangerous. We didn’t even get to see the famous cave because the boat wasn’t going for another four hours (waiting is not my strong point). There were a lot more tourists then we expected. It was frankly a waste of time.



* The landscape was very barren. I expected to see trees and greenery but instead i saw a dry and harsh desert- like landscape.

* Blue skies are few and far between. We saw only grey skies.


Portugal is undeniably beautiful. The people are so friendly and happy despite the state of poverty. Living is super cheap. The lifestyle is very enjoyable.

I hope that this post helps you to prepare for your trip to Portugal. Happy travels!

3 thoughts on “Portugal by Camper Van – Expectation vs Reality

  1. Pingback: 2018 – A Recap

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