You’re not allowed to camp in urban zones

Portugal has several hundred authorized campsites, many in very attractive locations and, despite their often large size (over 500 spaces is not uncommon), they can get extremely crowded in summer.

The most useful campsites are noted in the text, and unless otherwise stated are open all year round. The Roteiro Campista ( www .roteiro-campista.pt) booklet detailing the country’s campsites is available from most Portuguese tourist offices and from bookshops and newsstands; the website is also extremely useful.

Most of the larger campsites have spaces for campervans/RVs and caravans, and will also have permanent caravans and bungalows for rent. Charges are per person and per caravan or tent, with showers and parking extra; even so, it’s rare that you’ll end up paying more than e6 per person, although those operated by the Orbitur chain (www .orbitur.pt) – usually with bungalows on site as well – are more expensive. The cheapest are usually the municipal sites in each town, often fairly central but usually very crowded.

A few sites require an international camping card and, if you’re planning to do a lot of camping, it’s a good investment. The card gives discounts at member sites and serves as useful identification: many campsites will take it instead of your passport, and it covers you for third-party insurance when camping. The card is available from most home motoring or cycling organizations and camping and caravan/RV clubs, or you can get a national card from the Federação de Campismo e Montanhismo de Portugal (www.fcmportugal.com).

You’re not allowed to camp in urban zones, in zones of protection for water sources, or less than 1km from camping parks, beaches, or other places frequented by the public. What this means in practice is that you can’t camp on tourist beaches, which we don’t advise anyway – we’ve had lots of reports of thefts. But with a little sensitivity you can pitch a tent for a short period almost anywhere else in the countryside. That said, camping outside official sites is prohibited in all Portugal’s natural parks, in an attempt to reduce littering and fire damage.