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Campervan hire in Portugal – An independent review of Indie Campers campervan

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Campervan hire Portugal – Portugal road trip

If you are looking for campervan hire in Portugal, then you’ve come to the right place. As experienced road-trippers, we test out hire companies so you don’t have to. We put them to the test, discovering all the best, and sometimes worst features of them, in order to give you the most comprehensive information we can, all in one spot.

This is our review on an Indie Campers campervan that we drove from Lisbon to Porto, in a one-way hire situation. We also use and recommend Anywhere Campers, who are specifically set up for one-way campervan hires across Europe.

In this article, we’ll also give you plenty of tips and hints for what to look for when choosing a motorhome hire company and vehicle.

campervan in cascais

Why hire a campervan in Portugal?

It’s road trip time again.  The need to get out on the open road and into all the little towns and cities that are usually far from the gaze of the tourist.  Of course, no road trip is complete without visiting some of the iconic locations.  However, being on the road means that we can mix it up a little, getting to destinations that attract tourists well before the big tour buses turn up.  It also means finding secret locations, tucked away in places that even those who live in the country have never heard of.  It’s about freedom and going where you want to when you want to.

Welcome to Portugal.  Here we enjoyed the long summer twilights of the northern hemisphere, eating and drinking the local food and wine, and exploring great places all to the beat of our own drum.  If you haven’t done a campervan road trip in Portugal before, we can highly recommend it.  It is without a doubt, one of the friendliest countries for those who like to travel in motorhomes and campervans.

The Portuguese people collectively threw their arms around us and welcomed us into a country just made for road trips.  Their easy-going, friendly and casual attitudes extend in such a way that actively encourages you to see their country, to stay a little while, and of course, contribute to their economy.

More reading >> To discover what you might fund on a road trip in Portugal, read our eight-day itinerary from Lisbon to Porto.

Free camping in Portugal

The ability to free camp in Portugal has been restricted since 2021. There are many options still to stay overnight in some incredible places, but they must be officially sanctioned; either on official campgrounds, ASAs or on private property via dedicated apps (similar to France Passion stopovers).

There are several apps and websites which we used to help us find the best, and authorised, free camping locations in Portugal.

Park4night was the most accurate and we always seemed to be able to find somewhere in the towns where we planning to stay overnight.  A lot of the directions left a lot to be desired, but in combination with the app and Google maps, we usually managed to find the correct location.  The Park4night app is also very useful for finding places to park larger vehicles so that you can explore the towns.

enjoying eating and drinking outside

Driving in Portugal

Portugal is an easy country to drive in, although they do seem to have a decent percentage of people who like to drive like snails in 100 kph zones on the highways, and merging, well that’s just not really their thing.  The best advice we can give is to be especially alert when changing lanes, exiting off highways and when merges are at play.  The vehicles are left-hand drive and are driven on the right-hand side of the road.  Unlike Iceland, where we did an eight-day itinerary via the ring road, the road rules aren’t that different to what most people would be used to and there’s nothing difficult about driving here.  In some areas, the roads are not in fantastic shape, but there are plenty of areas where they are.

How to book a campervan in Portugal

There are several options for hiring a campervan in Portugal, a burgeoning scene for passionate road trippers.  As we were doing only a short trip of seven days this time around, we didn’t require a large motorhome.  We wanted something compact, whilst still providing enough room for the two of us.  We also wanted to be able to pick it up in one location and drop off in another.

This was ultimately one of the deciding factors for us, as not all hire companies are capable of this as they only have one depot.  Others, charge an absolute fortune for one-way drop off fees, which negates the benefit of doing this entirely.

We chose Indie Campers to test this time. They allowed us to pick up our campervan in Lisbon, the city we flew into and returned it to Porto, the city we were flying out of.  It was a perfect arrangement.  They do charge a one-way fee but it is very reasonable.

To avoid one-way fees, pickup and drop off in different European countries and get a good deal as well, we recommend Anywhere Campers.

sunset

Our dealings and communication with the Indie Campers team were efficient at all times, and they were on hand to assist with any questions we had prior to our pickup.  Everything about Indie Campers says fun and freedom.  They might look like they are built to attract the youth market, and they are, but as we found out, some older crew like us can do the cool campers some serious road trip justice too.

All bookings are completed online and it is very simple.  Choose your dates, your vehicle, pickup and return locations and your extras. Once you have completed this and a few personal details, availability will be confirmed and a quote will be automatically emailed for you to check through and then proceed with booking if you wish.

Dates

The minimum hire period is three nights.  Indie Campers is a seven day a week operation, another useful feature of this company.  Too often hiring companies will only allow pickups and dropoffs on a weekday which can be inconvenient to travellers on a specific timeline.

Vehicles

There are many styles of campervans to choose from.  Some will only accommodate two people, whilst others are for up to five people.  Our tip is to check the vehicles are their size carefully before booking, to ensure you are comfortable with the space.  As an example, we hired a campervan, for which the website notes that it is for up to five people (perhaps a few adults and some children).  Knowing how we travel, there’s absolutely no way we would travel in this size campervan with any more than two.  It’s all personal choice, but it’s just a factor that you will need to ensure you look into carefully to ensure your comfort is maximised.

The bedding configuration is also important for a couple of reasons that I will go into more depth later.  Points to note are whether the beds are fixed or rollaway.

Some vehicles come with a portable toilet and shower.

Insurance

All vehicle hire comes with third-party and property insurance. Read all about their two insurance offers, basic and premium, here. Basic insurance will not cover substitute vehicles, tyre, windows or additional drivers.

None of this insurance will cover the following:

  • Damage caused by your negligence.  This covers a vast range of actions including driving whilst under the influence, driving dangerously, driving unlicensed (or if you are not noted on the hiring agreement), leaving keys in the vehicle and not being present.
  • Theft or damage of personal items and contents
  • Damage to the roof or the undercarriage of the vehicle if there has been no third-party accident
  • Driving outside of designated countries
  • Costs incurred if you use the wrong kind of fuel
  • Driving on unsealed roads

How to pay for your campervan hire

In the age of technology, paying for items online is now easier than ever. Indie Campers allow payment with VISA, Mastercard and Amex credit and debit cards. They also take payment via Paypal.

Sofort, a popular online banking system in Europe. If you come from Austria, Belgium, Germany, Spain, Italy or The Netherlands, you can use Sofort to make payments. iDeal (The Netherlands) and Bancontact (Belgium ) are also available.

Note that this is for the payment of the campervan itself and not for the security deposits. Cash and bank transfers are not accepted for any payment.

Security deposits

The excess is the amount of money that will be charged to you in the event of an accident or damage.  It is also known as the security deposit because this is the amount that the hiring company, in this case, Indie Campers will charge to one of your cards, prior to driving the vehicle from their depot.  Depending on the insurance cover you take out, the full deposit will be charged and will be the maximum you will pay in the event of one accident or amount of damage. They are able to deduct from this up to 30 days after your vehicle is returned. While the deposit is still being held on your card, the amount will not be available to use.

The security deposit is taken to cover damage and will only be returned to you if the vehicle is returned in the same condition as when you drove it away. We also recommend having additional excess insurance to cover any damage you might do (if you don’t take their premium cover). In the event of damage occurring, Indie Campers will take the respective amount from your deposit. Depending on the amount of damage, it could be all of your deposit. It will then be up to you to claim back via your travel insurer if you took out additional insurance.

At Indie Campers, the security deposit can only be placed on a valid VISA, Mastercard or AMEX credit card and the owner of the credit card must be present at the time of campervan hire.

It is also important to note that if you require third-party authorisations, two-factor authorisations etc to make the security deposit payment, you must have everything you need with you at the time of pickup. If you are unable to pay the deposit, they will not allow you to hire the vehicle.

Credit cards

When an amount is pre-authorised it does eat into your credit limit, if you are using a credit card.  So, for example, if you have a credit card with a USD$10,000 limit and your deposit amount is €2,000, your available limit to be used for the remainder of your trip is around  €8,000  (or whatever your currency equivalent is)  You can see how this would get tricky if your credit limit was only €2,000.  The deposit of the same value would render your credit card useless for the entire trip.

In addition, if you return the vehicle without damage, and therefore the pre-authorisation is cancelled, it can take anywhere up to a few weeks for the funds to be returned to your account.  Once again, depending on your credit limits and the availability of other payment methods, this could leave you a little stranded.

If you have damaged the vehicle in any way, and this is determined at the point of return, a formal amount will be actually charged at that point to your respective card.

Travel cards

Many people use travel cards today.  These are cards that operate like a credit card without the exorbitant fees that the banks charge.  Travellers can put different currencies on them, and they can be used at ATMs to get local currency.  They are slightly different to a credit card however in so far as they can only be used if the user has loaded actual funds onto the card.  Even though it behaves like a credit card (usually Mastercard or Visa), you cannot buy on credit.

Once your funds have run out you can’t use the card again until you reload the funds.  It is for this reason that you should never use your travel card to pay for a vehicle hire deposit.  Similar to the example above.  You may have loaded €2,000 onto your travel card, for use during your entire trip.  If you use this card for your deposit, then the pre-authorisation actually locks the funds from use.  You will then not be able to use any of these euros during your trip, meaning you will either have to load more or use another card that attracts fees.  Once the pre-authorisation is released, long after you may have finished your trip, the funds are released and must sit on your card to use next time.  If there is a next time.

The best money tip we can ever give is to ensure you have multiple payment methods with you, for those just in case moments and to never put a deposit onto a debit card or a travel card.  If you are putting it on a credit card, make sure you know your credit limit and ensure you have plenty of space on it, should it be your only payment option.

Extras for your hire period

There are so many extras available with Indie Campers and the only issue would be finding the space to put them all in.  With beaches that are well known for producing mammoth waves, why wouldn’t you hire a surfboard and give them a crack yourself?  For those who aren’t quite prepared to get thrashed by the ocean, there’s a more sedate paddleboard, or a wetsuit to try and keep yourself warm in the freezing waters of the Atlantic.

Take advantage of the warm weather in Portugal with a variety of outdoor equipment such as tables and chairs, barbeques, and bicycles.  Or, in winter you can throw in a portable heater to warm you up.

With such stunning weather on offer as we drove along the west coast, we were so thankful for our small table and fold up chairs.  They got used every night as we sat outside the camper, eating local foods we’d collected along the way and drinking some of Portugal’s wonderful wines.

chairs and tables

As responsible road trippers, we also hired a portable chemical toilet that fit snugly in the back of the vehicle when we were driving and inside at night.  A bedding kit also meant we didn’t have to bring all of our sheets, blankets and pillows from home, or buy it over there.  For a seven day trip, it’s the simple and easiest way to do it.  We’d get the bedding kit for longer trips also just to avoid the hassle. Note the bedding kit does not include towels.

We had our own wifi to use throughout the trip but it was good to know that you could also hire it as an extra for a one-off payment.

All of the extras are available for selection on the website as part of the booking process.

Check out process

Location: Indie Campers Lisbon | Solvay Business Park, R. Eng. Clément Dumoulin Armazém J, 2625-106 Póvoa de Santa Iria, Portugal

During the summer, the staff at Indie Campers are on the go all day, checking out their vehicles.  As such, they have the checkout process down to a fine art.  It’s an efficient process that involves paying the final balance for your hire, finalising any insurance you want to take out, assigning drivers, processing the deposit and doing the final vehicle check.

Standard check-in times are 2.30 pm – 4.30 pm. Pick-up times are between 8.00 am and 11.00 am. 24-hour services are available but require prior approval and costs will be added to your booking.

our camper

Driver requirements

  • You will need to be over the age of 18 to hire a vehicle.  If any of the drivers are under 25, it is mandatory to take out a higher level of insurance.
  • An International Drivers Permit is not required.  Thankfully, these forms of identification seem to be fading into history.  It’s been quite a while since we’ve needed one.  A copy of your passport and your own country’s driver’s licence is sufficient.

Vehicle condition

The most important part of this process is checking out, and recording, the condition of the vehicle.  This is the part that protects you as the hirer and prevents any unwanted surprises at the end when you return it.  Irrespective of whether the hiring company is trying to speed up this process or not, take your time and do a thorough inspection of the vehicle.  We loved the Indie Campers’ approach to this.  They were extremely willing to discuss any issues we pointed out and were more than accommodating of the time we took to inspect.  This tells us straight away that this is a reputable company.  A big tick from us.

A member of the company’s team should inspect the vehicle with you, marking out any damage on the condition report.  It is important that you point out anything in addition to what they find and have that noted, however small or insignificant you think it is.  If there’s a mark, a scratch, or a dent, we mark it down.

We also take photos as we go, further proof of the damage that existed pre-hire.  We do a walkaround with the staff member, and take the photos.  It’s not about being pedantic, this is your insurance policy as well and the consequence of not recording this properly could mean your loss of deposit at the end of your hire.

completing the condition report
Completing the condition report

Remember to look for damage inside the vehicle as well as externally. Also, remember to check underneath and on the roof as much as you can.

Don’t just take someone’s word for any of this as they are more than likely not going to be the same person who checks your vehicle back in, especially if you are doing a one-way hire.

How to choose a campervan

Choosing a campervan that’s right for you is really important. Not all campervans are created equal.

For help in understanding more about campervan hire, we recommend reading the following articles.

Budget

The price of campervans varies depending on demand and time of year, location, one-way hires, hiring company, size of vehicle and length of hire. When planning on hiring a campervan or motorhome, also consider the cost of fuel, the distances you plan on travelling, plus if you are planning on cooking your own food, the availability and cost of it. It’s not so much an issue in Portugal, but in Iceland, supermarkets were few and far between and they were expensive.

Vehicle size

How big are you prepared to go? If you are trying to save money and a cosy environment isn’t a problem, then a smaller campervan would be an economical option.  If you need space, go larger. Work out the number of people that will be travelling with you. Does the configuration of the space inside allow for people to have their own space? Where are the beds? Are the travellers happy to sleep in close proximity to each other? How much luggage and equipment will you have with you.

Type of vehicle

Not only is size important, but the transmission of the vehicle can make a huge difference. Most campervans available for hire in Portugal have manual transmission. Some drivers do not have manual licences or simply cannot drive manual vehicles. If you can only drive an automatic, make sure you discuss this with the hiring company before you book it.

Bedding configuration

Some campervans have various options for sleeping. On the main level of our vehicle, the rear seats fold out and join up with the storage area at the rear to form one double bed.  The kitchen cabinetry ran down one side, meaning the width of the bed was slightly less than the other area.

The smaller the campervan, the more likely you will have to make up your bedding every day if you want to be able to use other areas within the van. If you are travelling with more than two people, this will be necessary. Larger motorhomes usually have dedicated areas for beds that can stay made up all day.

lower bed unmade
lower bed

Immediately above this area, suspended up in the roof area, was another fixed bed.  This one had a full-width area making it a better choice in some ways than the one beneath it.  It’s worthy of pointing out though that you need to use your best ninja skills in order to access the rooftop bed.  Without a ladder, this area with a small amount of clearance between your body and the roof of the vehicle is quite tricky to get into.

As I am a smaller person, I was able to get up there a little easier than the broad-shouldered, six-foot Stirling.  Each night we would amuse ourselves as we tried a different way of getting into bed.  Feet first was too difficult, going head first meant we had to do a u-turn at the end and come back to the front.  Again, ok for me but at times I thought we were going to need a can opener to get Stirling back out.

The great thing about having only two people in this particular campervan is that when we finally decided we would use the higher bed, we could keep it made up all day.  Using the lower bed means you have to pack it up every morning to free up space.  Using the high bed also meant we could leave our suitcases out on the rear storage area for quick access.

It’s all totally flexible, however, and on occasions when we had amazing overnight parking spots, we would just make up the lower bed to use for general relaxation.

relaxing on the lower bed

The campervan has curtains but if you are a light sleeper I’d recommend taking an eye mask.  It is all fully lined as well which does help to insulate from the cold and heat.

Kitchen

Do you want to cook your own meals? If so, make sure you get a vehicle with a kitchen. The camper we hired had built-in cupboards with very good storage and a kitchen sink with running water, which is always very useful.  An indoor table can also be assembled although due to space and the outdoors being so nice, we mostly used the outdoor table and chairs.  Basic plastic plates and cups and utensils are provided, along with a one-ring gas stove.  Being portable meant we could also cook outside the campervan.

gas stove

Storage

How much storage do you need? The rear doors open in our campervan provided access to the storage areas. Note that even with some storage, there usually isn’t much, so try to limit your luggage as much as possible.

rear storage areas

It’s also great to be able to keep them open when you are parked up.  It’s great for cooling down the vehicle quickly and for checking out some of the amazing views we had.

doors open for a view

Power requirements

We are power-hungry, with multiple devices that always need charging. There were two 12-volt charging spots in the vehicle we hired.  Also included is an auxiliary battery as well as the main vehicle battery.   Normally the auxiliary battery is used for charging of your devices and even the fridge when the vehicle is not going.  Auxillary batteries are then kept charged when the vehicle is being driven. 

Questions to ask about power capability:

  • What 12-volt outlets are in the vehicle?
  • What USB outlets are in the vehicle?
  • Does it have a 12-volt fridge or cooler?
  • Do the auxiliary/leisure/house batteries get charged by the engine battery when it is running?
  • Are the auxiliary batteries running at full capacity?

The alternative is to plug into mains power but you can only do that at campsites so unless you are planning to stay at them, it’s important to have your batteries in your hired campervan working properly.

Bathroom amenities

As mentioned above, some of the vehicles do not have toilets as a standard inclusion, but it was excellent to see that Indie Campers provide them as an extra.  We hired a portable chemical toilet for the trip which really helps life on the road.  It also ensures that we continue to be responsible travellers.

When the toilet wasn’t being used, it stayed packed away in the rear.

rear storage

When it was being used and at night, it was simple enough to place it in the front.  There are plenty of authorised locations around Portugal to dispose of the waste.

portable toilet inside the campervan

Returning the campervan

This is usually the easy part, provided you know where your location is and ensure that you have left plenty of time to get there.  The vehicle must be returned with a full tank of fuel and must be returned in a clean state.  Failure to do so will incur an additional charge.  If like us, you rented a portable toilet, then it too must be emptied and cleaned.

Where are the Indie Camper locations?

Indie Campers now operate all over the world. In Portugal, they have depots in Lisbon, Porto and Faro and in Spain they have Malaga and Seville.  You can pick up and return from any of these locations.  The locations of the depots are usually in industrial areas, a little out of the main towns.  Public transport, Uber and taxis are usually the most common way of reaching the depots, however, they also operate private pickups and dropoffs for an additional charge.

Try the campervan life in Portugal

Portugal is such a small country that doing a road trip is one of the best ways to see more of the country.    Finding great locations to stay for the night is incredibly easy, and the people of Portugal welcome your presence.  As is always the case when we travel like this, we stop in small villages and towns along the way, spending money in as many as possible.  We buy from local vendors at the markets and support small businesses where we can.  This was one of the easiest road trips we had, with small kilometres, great locations, a great vehicle and all the freedom we wanted.

enjoying eating and drinking outside

More articles to help you plan your Portugal trip

Book your flight: Flights are an important part of travel and we’re always looking for the best deals. If you can travel mid-week and be flexible, you’ll often find great deals on flights. We use I Want That Flight in Australia (for domestic and international flights deals). We also use Skyscanner and Momondo(US) and Airfare Watchdog is a useful resource for checking flight prices.

Book your accommodation: We all love to stay in different places. From the comfort of a self-contained apartment or house to a resort or luxury hotel. sometimes we just need something quick, easy and comfortable for an overnight stay. Vrbo is great for holiday rentals of more than seven days and often has great discounts for longer periods. Trip Advisor is perfect for getting reviews, checking availability and pricing comparisons all in one place. For the same reason, we also love Booking.com (they have excellent cancelling and refund options) and Hotels Combined and have often found great savings on their sites.

Book your rental car or motorhome: We always use Rentalcars.com anywhere in the world for car hire. We recommend Apollo Motorhomes in Hamburg (use our code APDEBEERCROI for €50 off your hire) and Anywhere Campers if you want one-way hire motorhome in Europe. If you’d like to buy your own motorhome in France, we use and recommend France Motorhome Sales.

Book a tour:  We travel independently but occasionally even we find a great tour we are dying to take. If you are looking for advance tickets to an attraction, groups tours or private tours, we use and recommend Get Your Guide and Viator. Both have a great range of tours and flexible cancellation policies. If you are looking to do a food tour in Europe, we also recommend Eating Europe Tours.

Be covered: We always travel with travel insurance. We did it before the pandemic and it’s even more important for us to do so now. We use Cover-More in Australia. SafetyWing has great rates for travellers who are away from home for extended periods. World Nomads also has good coverage.

Be ready: Make sure you pack a few essentials; universal adaptor, power bank, noise cancelling headphones

4 thoughts on “Campervan hire in Portugal – An independent review of Indie Campers campervan”

  1. Going on a road trip around Portugal sounds like the adventure of a lifetime!

    I’ve never traveled in a camper van but it must be quite an experience.

    I was shocked to read about the procedure to book a van and all that comes along with it. It’s more complicated and more expensive than a rental car. But in the end it ends up being the best option.

    Will keep it in mind shall we decide to hit the road in style & comfort ?

  2. It’s not complicated though, that’s the thing. I provide this advice so that readers and potential road trippers are well informed but it’s not hard. Forearmed is forewarned.

  3. Hi! I am desperate to know where the photo was taken out the back of your van with your feet over the coast and sea, it looks beautiful! Was this a camping spot or a quick rest? Please let me know location as my boyfriend and I are off to Portugal for two weeks in June and would love to stop here!!

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