Coimbra is home to an airport which welcomes private aircraft only. You will be entering Portugal via air at Lisbon`s Humberto Delgado Airport (called Portela Airport by locals, IATA code LIS) or Porto`s Francisco Sa Carneiro Airport (IATA code OPO). Lisbon`s airport is approximately 125 miles south of Coimbra, while Porto`s airport is about 80 miles north of Coimbra.
From Lisbon Airport (LIS): Follow the signs in the airport for the Lisbon Metro. Once you have arrived at Aeroporto station on the airport grounds, you will take the Red Line (`Linha Vermelha`) to Oriente station, approximately ten minutes away. The fare costs less than €2. From Oriente station, you will purchase a ticket to Coimbra-B train station on the North Line (`Linha do Norte`) operated by Comboios de Portugal (`CP`). One-way tickets cost between €15 and €25 (90 minutes to two hours). If purchased online and in advance, special Internet-only fares discount the ticket even more. For more information, visit venda.cp.pt (website in both Portuguese and English). There will be taxis queuing outside the station waiting to take you to your hotel. There is also a bus (free with train ticket arriving in Coimbra that same day) that will take travelers to Coimbra-Cidade train station near the city center, which also boasts a fleet of taxis queuing at the station.
From Porto Airport (OPO): Look for the signs for the Metro do Porto. Once at Aeroporto station on the airport grounds, you will take the E line to Campanha station. The trip will take about 35 minutes and the fare is less than €3 for a one-way ride. The Metro and train stations at Campanha are opposite one another, so you will need to exit the Metro station and cross the street to Campanha train station. Purchase a ticket for Coimbra-B train station; the journey will take approximately an hour and the ticket will cost between €12 and €18 depending on time of day and availability. (Internet-only fares can be snatched up for cheaper if bought well-enough in advance.) Taxis will be waiting to take you from Coimbra-B station or Coimbra-Cidade station if you decide to take the free bus for CP ticketholders.How do I get from the train station to my hotel?
Nearly everybody arriving in Coimbra by train will arrive at Coimbra-B train station, a little less than a mile outside the city center. Taxis can be found outside the train station during normal business hours. The taxi fare will cost you less than €10 from Coimbra-B to nearly anywhere you want to go in the Coimbra city limits. CP operates a park and ride bus from Coimbra-B station that stops at Coimbra-Cidade station, which is free for travelers who arrived in Coimbra on a CP train that day (ticket or other proof of purchase needed). Taxis are also waiting outside Coimbra-Cidade station to take you to your hotel.
Apart from obvious taxi queues, locals insist that the best way to get a cab is to call for one in advance. Politaxis - Central De Radio Taxis De Coimbra (www.politaxis.pt, 239 49 90 90) is the largest and oldest taxi company in Coimbra and they take calls 24 hours a day.How do I get around using public transportation?
Bus transportation in Coimbra is operated by SMTUC - Transportes Urbanos de Coimbra. Nearly twenty bus routes run every day of the week to areas in and around Coimbra, not to mention eight extra routes which cover suburbs as far as 10 miles from the city center. Tickets are priced under €5 for an all-day pass, allowing you to ride on the city`s buses, the Linha Azul (`the Blue Line`, a hop-on, hop-off service connecting many of Coimbra`s sights), and the Elevador de Mercado, an elevator/funicular hybrid linking the riverside area to the city market. Tickets (single-ride, all-day and longer passes) can be purchased from self-serve kiosks, hotels and selected convenience stores and newsagents. Single-ride tickets for the local bus routes (Linha Azul excepted) may also be purchased from the bus driver directly (approx. €2).
Buses run every 10-15 minutes between 7 a.m. and 9 p.m. weekdays; bus wait times expand to 30-45 minutes on weekends, after 9 p.m., and during public holidays. In the city center, many bus stops feature countdown clocks which will tell you the wait time until the next bus arrives. For more information on Coimbra`s bus service and the SMTUC organization, visit www.smtuc.pt. (Portuguese)How do I call/hail a taxi?
While in theory you can hail a cab from the street, it usually is not done that way in Coimbra. Taxis usually queue outside the train stations, shopping centers and most tourist attractions. If you find yourself in need of a cab and none are around, phone a cab company or have somebody do it for you. The number for Politaxis, the largest taxi company in Coimbra, is listed above.
NOTE: While Coimbra does welcome its fair share of tourists, you should not assume that your taxidriver will know how to speak English. Write out your destinations on paper and give the paper applicable to that specific trip to your driver before departing.Should I rent a car in Coimbra?
There is no problem with using a car to navigate Coimbra and areas in the Coimbra region, although you will find that a portion of the city center (as well as much of the University of Coimbra) has closed off traffic to automobiles. If you are only seeing the sights in Coimbra proper, you can get by with taking just taxis and buses.
The worldwide rental companies Europcar, Hertz and Avis are represented in Coimbra. An economy car rental starts at €20 per day while mid-size four-doors (e.g. Nissan, Peugeot) will set you back between €50 and €60 per day.
Parking is plentiful and can be acquired by paying between €2 and €3 per hour in the quarter-mile radius around the University of Coimbra. Parking further afield, especially west of the River Mondego, is more ubiquitous and many times costs nothing. SMTUC offers a free park and ride from Coimbra B train station; there is a 12-hour parking limit from this lot.
NOTE: Many of the tour packages we offer are self-drives. If you have a rental car reservation included in your itinerary, please pick your car up at the airport when you enter the country (via Lisbon or Porto).Is Coimbra a walking city?
Coimbra is a walking city in the sense that a lot of the sights are situated in an area of just one-eighth of a square mile, so the distances are very short, but keep in mind that Coimbra was built on a succession of hills. Within a quarter-mile from the riverside, the altitude rises over 150 feet, so people unaccustomed to walking up stairs and inclines may experience some trouble.Is Coimbra a dangerous city? Are there any areas I should avoid?
Coimbra is a vibrant university town, and it tends to buzz with activity well into the late night. The level of crime is lower than in Lisbon and Porto, making Coimbra one of the safest major population centers in the country. In particular, reports of violence against minorities (gay people, ethnic and religious minorities, etc.) are registered at a rate of just one-sixth of the national average.
Even though Coimbra is safe, take the necessary safety precautions just like you would at home. Take only well-lit and well-populated routes, keep your wits about you, and always look like you know where you are going, even when you may not. Be sure to keep your valuables on your person at all times, and never keep all of your money in one place; split up your cash into various pockets in your clothes.Which areas are the best for shopping?
If you are looking for traditional Portuguese souvenirs such as ceramics, embroidery, baskets, linens, etc., you should check the boutiques and mom-and-pop shops around the Se Velha and on Rua Ferreira Borges. As the commercial center of the city, the Praca do Comercio also offers top-notch shopping, including many traditional crafts retailers.
Those who want a more traditional `shop til you drop` American-style mall experience may appreciate Forum Coimbra, a three-story shopping center anchored by the British chains Primark and C&A in addition to the Portuguese hypermarket Continente. This shopping center is located about a mile northwest of the city center on the west bank of the River Mondego.Can I pay/tip in US dollars?
The currency of Portugal is the Euro and US dollars are not accepted for payment. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATMs can be found at your arrival airport and at many locations throughout the city.I do not speak Portuguese. Do many people speak English?
It is more common to find English speakers in Portugal than it is in other southern European countries, such as Spain. A recent European Union language survey found that 32% of Portuguese people over the age of 18 can speak English on a conversational level or better.
With that said, you may encounter some difficulty finding an English speaker away from tourist areas such as hotels, museums, and the train station. It is recommended to brush up on basic Portuguese phrases before arriving, like basic pleasantries and numbers from 1 to 10. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Fala ingles?`
NOTE: Do not speak in Spanish to a Portuguese person, thinking they will understand you when you do so. Responses will range from stunned silence to outright hostility; the Portuguese people are proud of their culture and heritage, and such an act will cause nearly everyone to take personal offense. On another note, the vocabulary and pronunciation in Portuguese differs from Spanish more than you may realize.What are the drinking laws in Portugal?
The legal drinking age in Portugal is 18, whether you find yourself in a pub or a nightclub. Asking for proof of age upon ordering an alcoholic beverage or entering a nightclub is becoming more commonplace, especially if you appear younger. Keep your passport with you as it doubles as proof of age and identification.
If you are renting a car, do not drive after consuming alcohol. A blood alcohol content level of 0.05 is considered the legal limit; penalties can range from fines to a jail sentence of up to one year. Save yourself the potential trouble and heartache.What is nightlife like in Coimbra?
Coimbra, as stated before, is a big university town, so you will find that most of the nightlife caters to the student population. You will find lots of live music venues and dance-all-night discos and nightclubs around the Se Velha. Head toward the Praca da Republica for nightlife options that cater to the traveler who has left their college days behind. Bars are open at least five days a week (all seven during the school term), and stay open until 3 a.m. during the week; some nightclubs stay open until dawn on weekends.