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Rental car - do NOT get one !!

Virginia Beach...
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Rental car - do NOT get one !!

Two senior Yanks just finished 4 nights in Sintra with a rental car picked up in downtown Lisbon. We had a very small 2 door Fiat 500 - thank goodness - but still scary driving on the narrow lanes in Old Town Sintra where our Airbnb apartment was located. Very narrow steep winding cobblestone roads barely wide enough for our narrow car. Did I mention steep - like 30 deg incline with blind hairpin turns - thank goodness it was one way? But the lower portion of the road was a bit wider but then supposedly 2 ways.

After finding a place to park on the side of the very narrow steep 2 way portion, we did not move the car again for 4 days until we left. Which was another adventure on equally narrow steep windy roads. We were so glad to get out of Sintra without incident!

Even some of the 2 way major roads to the palaces were equally scary. Honestly, unless you are a local or from an area with similar narrow steep winding roads with blind hairpin turns - take the bus to the Pena and Moors Castles.

Just an opinion - maybe I would have felt differently in my younger days!

6 replies to this topic
St Albans, United...
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1. Re: Rental car - do NOT get one !!

If you DO end up with a hire-car make sure it has a SatNav (or take your own) as we found some of the places difficult to find otherwise. Most of the major attractions quote the longitude and latitude on their leaflets, maps and websites which was really useful. I agree that the cobbled roads and hairpins are a challenge.

Sudbury...
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2. Re: Rental car - do NOT get one !!

I so agree with you and bless the day when we decided to leave our rental car at our hotel on Guincho Beach and take a taxi to Sintra. My thanks go to ptnov64, a wonderful DE for Portugal, who advised us not to drive to Sintra. The best decision we have ever made! Even our son, who drives every where in the US and in Europe, told us not to attempt driving and parking in Sintra. That meant a lot to me😊.

Hampshire, United...
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3. Re: Rental car - do NOT get one !!

Had to laugh at this (sorry). No sympathy here (tongue in cheek).

I lived in Cascais for a while in 1989 and drove a right hand drive Peugeot 604. It was lovely but the size of a small tank.

I made regular trips into Sintra. On one street I remember thinking I wasclose to taking door knobs off houses on both sides at the same time!

A left hand drive Fiat 500 should be easy - loads of room.

Think Sintra is bad? I remember Badajoz (across the Spain / Portugal border) was a tighter fit for my Peugeot.

Worst thing about driving in portugal in 1989 was the Kamikaze style of driving. The Marginal (Cascais to Lisbon) had a shocking death rate. I believe it is better now.

Washington DC...
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4. Re: Rental car - do NOT get one !!

It's definitely tricky driving in Sintra, the roads are, as you say, very narrow and steep, but if you're planning to rent a car for other reasons, don't let this stop you. Just be selective about where you take your hotel or B&B, make sure it's someplace with potentially available parking. Make sure you check the location of your hotel/ rental on GPS and Google Maps.

I agree that the best thing is not to drive the car around Sintra, just park it and move it when you leave. I did have one scary moment when GPS directed me up a narrow lane, can't believe I got through without scraping anything, but I had even worse moments in Almodovar and near Silves castle (Algarve).

As an American, I thought Portuguese drivers were fine. Sure, there were a few aggressive drivers, speeding and tail-gating. Close tail-gating a little more than what we see in the US, but mostly similar.

I had frequent GPS signal loss in remote/ intercity areas. Download your route before you leave for the day, or maybe print out a few tricky areas. Waze is very good in Portugal but sucked the life out of my battery, even when plugged into the car's USB. (Thank God for the USB though!)

Mississauga, Ontario
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5. Re: Rental car - do NOT get one !!

Hello,

I took a rental car to Sintra at the end of October and unfortunately our belongings were stolen from the car. We parked on a very busy street in the afternoon which led up to the Pena Palace and when we got back around 10pm, a side window of the car had been broken and several of our bags from the enclosed trunk were stolen. I wish I had read up on some of this advice before we went there. Otherwise, Sintra is a safe town - we walked around (we were a group of 4 - 3 women and 1 man) with no hassles or troubles. Seems like the thieves strike behind your back. My recommendation would be to take a train or if you are taking a car rental, make sure there is nothing that alludes to it being a rental (i.e. rental car stickers, etc.). I would also say just drive it all the way up to the Palace but my fiance attempted to do that and I was so scared of the narrow roads and slopes that I made him park the car. SIDE NOTE - DO NOT BOOK WITH TURISPRIME CAR RENTALS! (or fly with TAP Air) - do not do not do not!

Sudbury...
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6. Re: Rental car - do NOT get one !!

So sorry to hear that navisha28! I hope you did not leave any real valuables on the car seats (laptops, iPads, etc)... looks like the thieves broken in through the side window and stole your bags from the trunk.

Portugal is not the only country where car thefts happen; same can happen anywhere. We had done significant backtracking on all our driving trips to Europe only because we did not want to travel with luggage. My friends had their valuables stolen from their car in Conimbriga this year, several travelers reported thefts in Obidos, so unfortunately it is not just Sintra.

Too bad you had to go through this ordeal on vacation to beautiful and welcoming Portugal. I hope you still enjoyed it...

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