Renting a Car in the Azores: Everything You Need to Know
Last updated: 22 October 2020 | Tips & Tricks, Portugal
If you are wondering whether you should rent a car in the Azores. Don’t!
Renting a car in the Azores is probably the best way to explore the islands. Furthermore, it is quite easy to rent a car in the Azores and is relatively cheap. On top of that, the car rental companies offer brand new cars, so that you feel like a king on the road!
Surely, getting a car will make your trip on the islands a lot easier and hassle free. However, it is always good to be prepared when you decide to rent a car in the Azores. Thus, I have prepared this detailed post for you to with lots of useful information and tips on renting a car in the Azores.
Things to Know Before Renting a Car in the Azores
International Driver’s License
Renting a car in the Azores can be pretty easy for Europeans, but what about the rest of the world? Well, the rest of the world might need to provide a valid international driver’s license. An international driver’s license can be easily obtained in the Automobile Clubs across any country. However, the time to obtain one varies depending on the process established by the authorities. Thus, it can be just a few minutes or a few weeks.
When it comes to citizens of the United States, they do not need an IDP, as long as they are staying for less than 6 months. However, this might not be the case for other European countries, thus it is always good to check with the local authorities.
Deposits are a must
Unfortunately, whichever car rental company you choose, you will have to pay a deposit. The deposit for renting a car is required, so that it secures that you bring the car as it was.
In the Azores, the car rental companies usually charge anywhere from around 200 to 1200 EUR for a deposit to your credit card. However, this depends on many factors like the type of car, the insurance that you will choose and the car rental company itself.
Better buy the full insurance
Getting the full insurance package will save you lots of hassle in the future. Although, driving in the Azores can be quite easy and a very pleasant experience, it might cause you troubles. From little car scratches to broken parts of the car, it is definitely not a pleasant experience for anyone. Plus, it can cost you as little as 10 euros per day!
Going for the full insurance will cover all of this and you will be able to enjoy your trip without any worries. Furthermore, some car rental companies in the Azores are willing to waive the deposit altogether if you pay the full insurance. So, go for it!
Book early to get a better car
The saying “First come, first served” is absolutely true when it comes to booking a car in the Azores. The Azores islands have become one of the most visited islands and with that, there might be a shortage of cars to rent. Especially, during the high season.
Thus, when planning your trip to the Azores, make sure to check the best options for renting a car. Doing so a couple of months before your trip will save you some money for sure. Also, a few headaches and you might even end up with a better vehicle.
Local rental companies provide better offers
The local rent a car companies surely have better offers. The prices of the cars are a bit cheaper, deposits are lower or there are none at all. Not to mention that they are more reliable when there is an issue and would gladly help.
Overall, speaking from personal experience, I would suggest to always opt for the local rent a car, instead of the well-known companies. It is way easier with them and there is less documentation to fill.
At the end of this article you can find all of the local rental companies available on every island in the Azores.
The smaller the car the better
I never thought I would say that, but the smaller the car the better. That’s quite true for the Azores, as having a smaller car will make your driving way more pleasant. You will be able to park everywhere and not worry that you might end up stuck somewhere.
Furthermore, going to the cities around the Azores islands with a bigger car might create some issues. Not only with parking, but with driving in general. The cities have very narrow streets that are not suitable for big cars. Especially, when there are lots of cars parked on these streets and it is very hard to pass by. So, opt for a smaller vehicle!
Manual is cheaper than the automatic
Most of the cars offered for rent in the Azores are manual. That is why renting a manual car is usually cheaper than renting an automatic one. The price of the automatic car can be around 2-3 times higher than that of its manual counterparts.
Furthermore, automatic cars are not that widely spread around the islands. There is always a shortage of automatic cars, especially during the high season. Thus, it is recommended to book your car in advance to save yourself all the hassles.
Pick-ups are not a luxury
If your flights to the Azores is late in the evening, probably none of the counters at the airport will be working. However, most of the car rental companies in the Azores offer a pick-up service, which is sometimes included in the price.
For example, if you have booked a car for a week, the pick-up service will be included in the price. Or if you haven’t, most of them are charging around 20 euros to pick you up from the airport.
Likewise, when it comes to dropping off your vehicle, you can do it pretty much at any place and any time. However, it is advisable to do it during the working hours of the rental company. That way they will be able to estimate the damages easily if any and with your conscience.
Oh, and don’t forget to wash the car upon returning it, as they might charge you a cleaning fee (20 EUR).
Driving in the Azores
The Azores islands have right-hand traffic
For better or for worse, the traffic in the Azores is on the right side of the road. So, you can rest assured that you won’t have any issues driving in the Azores. On top of that, driving in the Azores can be pretty relaxing, there is not so much traffic and people drive pretty good.
Sincere apologies to all the Brits and Aussies visiting the Azores, though! I know it might be quite stressful at first, but one can pretty easily get used to it. Plus, drivers in the Azores are pretty tolerant, so that is a huge plus.
Gas prices are affordable
The Azores are a very affordable vacation destination, which surely won’t hurt your wallet. Renting a car in the Azores and filling up the tank should not cause you any worries.
Gasoline prices in the Azores as of 2020 are 1.45 EUR for a liter, which is a pretty good price. Not to mention that if the car is new, it won’t be wasting lots of it. So, with as little as 30 euros you can go to lots of places around the islands.
There are no toll roads
Unlike mainland Portugal, there are no toll roads on the Azores. Thus, you can drive freely without worrying where you should pay or whether you will get fined for not doing so.
This is definitely a plus on the islands and surely makes ones vacation a bit better and more pleasant.
The road is great!
Having the chance to drive around the islands is great, but having amazing roads is even greater! The roads on the Azores islands are very well maintained and there is not a single dump.
Although, the roads in cities like Ponta Delgada can be quite bumpy, due to the original paved roads. As well, the streets in the cities can be quite narrow, so they might cause you some anxiety. Overall, even that is not so much compared to other places in the world. So, take a deep breath and enjoy the ride!
Always follow the roads signs
Navigation is usually useful, but in the Azores it can seriously get you lost! It happened a couple of times to me and it was not nice. Thankfully, the signs on the islands are pretty accurate and you can navigate by only following them.
However, I would suggest that you use MAPS.me, which is a very cool app full of maps you can use offline. While on the islands, you might not always have a good connection, so sometimes you will have to refer to offline sources.
There are lots of roundabouts
If you are coming outside of Europe, you will probably be shocked by the many roundabouts on the islands. I wouldn’t say that there are lots of roundabouts, but if you are not used to them, it will surely shock you.
However, it is not something to be worried about, as you simply have to follow the signs and apply common sense.
Parking is (usually) free
Parking in the Azores is free almost everywhere. In the small cities around the islands, the parking is free and you can park wherever you want. Although, in the big cities parking prices may vary they are not that high.
For example, parking in Ponta Delgada costs around 4 euros for up to 4 hours, which is a pretty reasonable price. Then, on weekdays, it is free after 7 PM, so you should not worry about parking in the city.
The weather can be tricky
Weather in the Azores can be quite unpredictable. This is something you will have to be aware of and not play gamble with.
Even though, it might be summer, the Azores can still be a pretty rainy and foggy place. Thus, whenever you decide to drive always check the forecast for your final destination. Avoid driving where there is fog, as sometimes it gets so thick that you can’t see 5 meters before you. Also, if there is a heavy rainfall, wait for it to pass to avoid any troubles on the road.
Beware of the animals
Well, one might say that there are more cows in the Azores than people. And they can be right about it! The amount of cows grazing freely on the islands is fascinating. But they are not only grazing freely, but also walking freely… on the roads!
So, be careful when driving, as you might encounter a whole herd of cows on the road, which has no intention to move. So, you will have to wait for them.
Car Rentals Around the Azores
Before coming to the Azores, most of the people opt for a well-known rental company like Hertz, Europcar or Sixt. However, I would advise you to check the offers of the local rental companies, as they usually have better terms. Plus, it is usually cheaper to rent a car with them. Below I have added all of the local rent-a-car companies for you to review:
✖ São Miguel Rent a Car: Car rental in Ponta Delgada airport is fairly easy. Usually, most of the car rental companies have counters at Ponta Delgada airport. However, there are lots of other local car rentals that you might want to consider, which have better offers and terms. For example, the best car rental in Ponta Delgada is Luso rent a car. It has good rental cars and has one of the best term and lowest deposits.
✖ Terceira Car Rental: Terceira is a relatively small island, compared to São Miguel. Thus, car rental options are not so much, but most of them can be found at the airport. Among them, is MicAuto, which is a local car rental agency having the best terms and lowest deposits. Or you can try Way2Azores, which is a local car rental in Angra do Heroismo in Terceira.
✖ Pico Island Car Rental: If you need a car in Pico for a few days you can always rely on the local car rental agencies. Namely, there are two of them that provide good services – Rent-a-car Oasis and Pico Island Adventures. The latter does not even ask for a deposit, so it is a great plus!
✖ Faial Car Rental: Renting a car in Faial can be done either at the airport or in the city of Horta. There are lots of local car rentals to choose from, but I would suggest going with Small-Rent.
✖ Flores Car Rental: Although, it is one of the most remote islands from the archipelago, there are still car rental options. However, I would suggest getting a car from Santa Cruz das Flores that has the best offers on the island.
✖ São Jorge Car Rental: Car hire in Sao Jorge is not an issue and can be easily done in Velas city. One of the most reliable local rental companies is Azores By Car. If you want a cheap car, that is also new, you should definitely try them
Oftentimes, local car rentals are out of cars to rent and you might have to consider the regular rental companies. Below, I have added a table of all the well-known car rental companies and their availability among the island:
|Car Rental Company/ Island||Hertz||Europcar||Sixt||Avis||Budget||Thrifty|
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