Getting There and Back

OK, you have decided to go to Portugal to ride, or are giving it serious consideration. And, someone said, "getting there is half the fun". Or, "it is not the destination, but the travel".

How about a passport line to enter the country that takes 15 minutes? That is Porto. Like really clean toilets, with lots of room and clean roomy counter tops? Porto.

Rental cars? The people at Porto, Hertz are really good. If you reserve ahead and give the flight number, the van is at the curb. (There is a phone to call them in the baggage area and they will tell you to do that, and say we will be right over, but there is no way except they are sitting just down the road a bit waiting for the call.) If you rent and drive to Hippikos, a map and clear instructions will be sent to you prior to your departure. Want a car for local use? Get the ride to Hippikos and rent in Braga or Vila Verde. Return car there before you leave, or at the airport.

And if you go to ride in the north, Porto is the obvious choice. Even if you go to the south or want to see Lisbon and the south, go to Porto first. There are six or eight flights a day between the two cities. TAP and Portugalia Airlines are now the same inside Portugal. There is a very fast and comfortable train between the cities also. There are frequent trips and takes 3-4 hours.

TAP has three flights a week from Newark to Porto. US Air also has flights and they share airplanes. Some of the flights go through Lisbon, and I would want to avoid those, but coming back to the US through Lisbon is not as bad as going. Having checked in at Porto, you are already inside the system and the only thing needed is to pass through passport, and outbound this is much quicker.

Don’t care for Newark? Go to Gatwick in the UK and switch to TAP. Six or eight flights a day, and you can do London on the way. (Want to see London? TAP prices this summer were about $100.00 round trip, Porto to London.)

Really want to go to Lisbon first? OK. Book your flight on a code share system that includes TAP. Right now that is the Star Alliance. But, in any case try to get into the TAP/Portugalia system on this side of the Atlantic.

Want a horror show? Book with non-code share airline and switch to TAP in Lisbon. To get your follow on boarding pass, you will need to exit through baggage, go to the TAP desk, get a ticket printed (even if you have an electronic ticket and proof) and then check in at the desk to get the boarding pass and then through security and then to the gate. In defense of TAP and Portugalia, the problem seems to be airport security and layout. Passport control only has a few lanes in and out bound. Really need double that amount to go quickly. When we had problems, the people at the TAP desk fixed it right away and were very friendly. But that desk is outside security, so after the problem is fixed, you have to re-screen.

A way around that? Book your travel from US to Lisbon. Separately, on-line book the TAP flight, leaving at least three hours between and then the night before you leave, check in and print your boarding pass for TAP from Lisbon to Porto. (They are six hours ahead, so it is easy to check in with the 24 hour window. BUT, if your plane arrives late in Lisbon and you miss your connection, pity. And you can’t check your bags all the way, so this only works if you travel very light and carry all your gear.

So, make it fun. Book to the east coast of the USA, then Newark straight on to Porto and to the north or south. Or from the US go to the London area and go Gatwick to Porto (or Lisbon).

OK, you have arrived at Porto, relaxed, collected your bags, gone to the toilet and want to get going. Antonio is waiting for you. But, if you want to get to the center, don’t mention the beautiful church you just saw, or that you have heard Braga is an old city with many historic buildings. If you do, Antonio will turn the Range Rover on a dime and gallop off to show them all to you, and you won’t get to the center for several hours. In that case, the travel is the fun, and the destination is waiting.

Travel hints and conversation any time.

Donald Stonefeld  602 430 3400 or email.