Free standing or wild camping in Portugal is one of the best things to do when you are on a camping trip to Portugal. Just being able to stop and spend the night wherever you like and have a spectacular scenery right in front of your eyes can make a Portugal vacation unforgettable. There are so many beautiful beaches and incomparably beautiful cliffs in Portugal and especially in the Algarve. The desire of every camper is understandable to be free in the middle of nature.
But is it allowed to camp everywhere in Portugal? Is free standing and wild camping forbidden or is it sometimes tolerated in Portugal? We inform you about the legal situation regarding wild camping in Portugal and give you the most important tips for free standing in the Algarve and on the west coast of Portugal, so that your road trip will be unforgettable.
We are Sabrina and Andreas, two adventurous travelers who never miss an opportunity to discover the world. Whether by plane to distant countries or with our campervan Bruno, we just love to travel. We hope to give you helpful tips for your next trip on our blog.
Sabrina & Andreas Globetrotters, Travelers, Adventurers
Camping in Portugal
Wildcamping Portugal 2023 – The Legal Situation
More and more tourists rent a motorhome locally or drive directly from Europe with their camper up to Portugal. Of course, this has also led to negative effects. Campers leave their garbage behind, use nature as a toilet and use landscapes as a pitch, which are neither suitable nor approved for this purpose.
This has led a few years ago to an enormous tightening of the law, which has forbidden wild camping in Portugal almost everywhere. The laws for this were thankfully defused a few years ago and so you can now mostly legal wild camp in Portugal.
The laws are as follows: Wild camping is generally allowed in Portugal except:
- on areas of the Natura 2000 network
- in protected areas or the only National Park of Portugal North (Peneda Geres)
- in areas covered by coastal development plans
But what does this really mean? It is not easy to recognize protected areas. But you can orientate yourself – especially in the Algarve – by the fact that coastal areas are actually always forbidden for wild camping. So you should always drive a few kilometers inland to be on the safe side.
There are enormous differences between the very touristy Alrgarve in the south of Portugal and the less touristy Atlantic coast in the west of Portugal. More about this in the next sections.
Portugal Camping | Where to Camp in the Algarve?
In the popular vacation region Algarve a real camper boom has started in the last years. And because of the current legal situation (see above) it is not so easy to camp in the most beautiful coastal regions of the Algarve or to camp directly on the beach as a wild camper.
Directly at the coast or at the beach it is officially forbidden to camp and it is also checked by the police. In the best case you will only be sent away (it happened to us once) and in the worst case you will pay a several hundred Euro fine.
It is best not to try to camp directly on the beach or near the coast. In our opinion, a good compromise is to spend the day at the beach or on the coast and then drive a few kilometers inland in the evening to find a nice spot in nature.
Camping in Portugal | Wildcamping at the West Coast
On the west coast of Portugal between Lisbon and Porto the reality is a bit different. Theoretically, the same laws apply as in the Algarve, but they are handled much more laxly. On the west coast it is much easier to park directly on the cliffs or near the rough but beautiful beaches.
No Parking or no Entry for Campers
At very many top highlights of the Algarve there are parking bans for campers and motorhomes. Sometimes it is much worse and there are no-entry signs for campers on some roads leading to popular beaches. This is the case, for example, at the famous beaches of Praia da Marinha and Benagil (with the famous cave). Here you have to park your car in front of the prohibition sign and continue on foot or by bike.
Parking is also forbidden for campers at some popular sights. Often there are also only a few official camper parking spaces next to countless car parking spaces. Unfortunately, the correct parking is often also controlled by the police.
In general, however, we have found that both the parking bans and the entry bans are rather not controlled in the low season. In the high season, however, you should follow the rules, because the police (GNR) controls more often.
Rent a Camper in Portugal
If you don’t own a camper (yet), you can rent one locally. The best way to do this is to fly to Faro, Porto or Lisbon and rent a camper on the spot. There are many providers on site, some of which also allow a one-way rental. This means you can rent your campervan e.g. in Faro in the Algarve and return it in the north in Porto.
We can recommend you the following provider for Portugal if you want to travel by car: Cheap Car Rental*
Wildcamping Portugal | The 8 Most Important Things To Know
#1 Leave your campsite cleaner than you found it
Sounds a bit strange, but it makes total sense when you think about it. One of the reasons why wild camping has fallen into disrepute is that many campers leave their garbage and excrement behind. If you’ve ever gone behind the next bush at a nice campsite, you know what I mean: Mountains of tissues. This is not only disgusting, but also harms the environment.
We always take our own trash with us and leave nothing behind. Additionally, we try to collect some trash (especially on beaches as well) to leave the place cleaner than we found it. Sometimes we even take a trash bag with us to collect extra small trash. If everyone just collected some trash along the way, the world would soon look very different.
#2 RV Sites instead of Campsites
If you, like us, are less into real campsites, but still need the comfort and amenities, there is an alternative here in Portugal. In addition to the traditional campsites with all the bells and whistles, there are also simple mobile home sites.
These are, unlike real campsites not equipped for visitors with tents, but exclusively for motorhomes and campervans. Nevertheless, there is everything you need as a camper: Supply and disposal with water, toilets and showers are always on site. Often there are washing machines and free Wi-Fi.
In contrast to the campsite you pay here only 10-12 € per night. This price usually includes 2 people and a dog.
#3 Public Toilets in Portugal
One of the big difficulties I always find when camping is the issue of going to the toilet. We do have a small toilette on board, which we really appreciate, but in some situations you do wish you had a proper loo. In Portugal, finding a proper toilet is really easy, thank goodness.
Because there are free public toilets in every big supermarket. Especially in the tourist region Algarve – but also on the less touristy west coast – you will find many supermarkets of Aldi, Lidl and Intermarche.
#4 Showers when Wild Camping in Portugal
One of the most important reasons why we stay at a campsite during our camping vacations is the possibility to take a hot shower. We have a camping shower in the van, but it is not very comfortable. In Portugal, it is unfortunately not so easy to get a hot shower, if you are not on a campsite.
Nevertheless, there are hot showers at many highway gas stations, which you can use either completely free of charge or for a few Euros. Use the app Park4Night to find a shower.
Another problem with camping in nature is the laundry, which will want to be washed at some point. You don’t want to wear every Tshirt three times. Public laundromats or washing machines, which are usually found at gas stations or large supermarkets, can help.
There are many of them and you can wash your clothes during your shopping and dry them afterwards. This is not expensive and very practical. Laundromats can be found in almost every town and publicly accessible washing stations can be found in the parking lots of many Intermarche supermarkets.
#6 Water Supply and Disposal
Every few days while camping in Portugal you simply have to dispose of your grey and black water and of course fill up with new drinking water. This can be done at any campsite. But it is not really necessary to go to a paid campsite in Portugal.
Because there are also numerous free supply and disposal stations away from campsites. Some of them are located in the parking lots of large Intermarche supermarkets. Often, however, small communities have modern and free camping sites where you can easily dispose of gray and black water and fill up with fresh water.
To search, simply use the Park4Night app described below.
#7 WiFi while Camping in Portugal
In order not to overload the data volume of our cell phones we use public and free WiFi hotspots wherever possible. These are usually not so easy to find. In Portugal, however, almost every big supermarket has a free and usually quite fast WiFi network. So you only have to go to Lidl, Aldi or Intermarche to update apps or download Netzflix movies.
#8 The Best App for Free Pitches
But how to find the most beautiful pitches in the middle of nature in the Algarve? One app that helped us a lot in finding a great pitch for wild camping was Park4Night. Here you find a lot of accommodation options of pitches listed directly by the sea, in the middle of the forest or even directly on the road. Together with photos and meaningful reviews.
For us, this was really helpful in the evening while searching for a suitable pitch. Especially the timeliness of the data makes this app so valuable, because a pitch may have been allowed last year, but this year may already have been provided with a “Privado” sign. Therefore, you should always pay attention to the latest comments in the app.
We hope our blog post about camping Portugal has helped you. If you have any questions or tips, please leave us a comment.