Getting Around The Azores
The best way to get around the Azores is by car. A rental car allows you travel with complete freedom, as buses around the islands can be unpredictable and cater more to locals than visitors. Plus, taxi fares will add up fast. As for the best interisland transportation, that depends entirely on the island you want to travel to and from. Ferries can be fun and cost-effective if you are traveling to a neighboring island, but some of the outer islands are best reached by plane.
To get to the Azores, it's best to fly into João Paulo II Airport (PDL) at Ponta Delgada, the capital of São Miguel, the Azores' biggest island. Because of its remote location, direct flights to the Azores from destinations outside Portugal are limited, so you should expect to take at least one connecting flight.
Rental cars are the best option for getting around the Azores. With your own car, you'll be able to enjoy total freedom with your itinerary, making it easier to contend with the region's unpredictable weather. Because renting a car is such a popular mode of transportation, it's wise to book several months in advance, especially if you're planning to visit during summer. You can find rental car desks at the main airport as well as local agencies with offices in the islands' cities. Do know that like the rest of Europe, manual cars are the norm here and as for driving requirements, it's best to secure an international driving permit ahead of your arrival.
Similar to mainland Portugal, drivers in the Azores drive on the right, and road rules don't veer too far from what Western countries are accustomed too. Roads, especially on São Miguel, are well developed, though if you venture to more remote islands or attractions, you could hit roads paved with dirt. The Azores' culture is very laid-back, and that applies to driving as well. Life here doesn't yield to vehicles, rather it's the other way around: If you come across pedestrians, whether human or animal, give them the right of way.
|Public Transportation||Public transportation is not one of the Azores' strong suits. There is a bus system, but buses are infrequent (on smaller islands expect routes serviced two to three times per day) and are designed for locals going about their daily lives, not tourists looking to see the sights. There are some routes that would benefit tourists, including those that transport passengers from the airport to the São Miguel city center. But considering the limited service and routes, public transportation should not be your primary mode of transit. If you find yourself taking the bus, expect fares to cost you as little as 0.30 euro (about $0.33) or as much as 2.95 euros (around $3.27).|
Taxis are a viable option if you don't want to or aren't comfortable driving in the Azores. Taxis are available at the airports and be called ahead of time if you need it. However, relying solely on taxis is expensive, especially if you want to travel to a remote area (a taxi to Furnas on São Miguel from the airport is about 40 to 50 euros one way. Taxis are metered, but transportation to certain attractions or areas are advertised at a fixed rate. Agree upon a fare before getting in a taxi and know that if you're traveling with baggage, you may be charged more for your ride.
If you're planning on island hopping while in the Azores, consider taking the ferry. A fun, cost-effective alternative to flying, the interisland ferries are operated by Atlântico Line, which provides transport to all nine islands.
Ferry routes are grouped by each island's region: Santa Maria and São Miguel are eastern, Pico, Faial, Graciosa, Terceira and São Jorge are central islands, and Flores and Corvo are western islands. The central islands are the only grouping of islands that offer ferry service year-round, provided by both Atlântico and Transmaçor, while the eastern islands only operate ferries during the summer via Atlântico.
However, there are a few caveats to ferry transportation. Some routes aren't offered every day and depending on where you travel to, it could take several hours to reach your destination. Plus, all ferry operations are dependent on inclement weather, making this form of transport prone to delays and cancellations. Costs vary by route.
If you don't feel like clocking in the hours that some interisland ferries require, consider taking a plane. Azores Airlines is the only airline that offers flights to all nine islands. Keep in mind that like ferries, schedules operate around the tourism season. During the summer, there are more flights because there are more visitors. Even then, there may not be flights to each island available every day, so plan accordingly. Regardless, you can expect to pay around $90 to $100 for a one-way flight.
Explore More of The Azores
If you make a purchase from our site, we may earn a commission. This does not affect the quality or independence of our editorial content.