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Chaves as a first stop in Portugal? - driving from Bilbao

Chaves as a first stop in Portugal? - driving from Bilbao

Old Jan 24th, 2023, 04:32 PM
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Chaves as a first stop in Portugal? - driving from Bilbao

We will be driving south to Portugal from Sarlat, Dordogne, in France (mid-September) - planning a stop overnight in Bilbao (Spain) and then on to Portugal for a three-week road trip. I'm looking at Chaves as our first stop.in Portugal. It sounds interesting - may use it as a base for a couple days to explore the surrounding area before heading toward Porto. Anyone familiar with Chaves? Thermal hot springs? Are there better choices for that area? We don't want to drive too much longer before stopping - after coming from Bilbao.
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Old Jan 24th, 2023, 11:00 PM
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It would be the easiest entrance point for you so as to use one of the 4 Welcome Points Easy Toll booths so as to pay the electronic tolls you'll encounter in Portugal. There is a Welcome Point in Chaves-

"Easytoll is an automatic payment solution for Portuguese tolls; it is great for tourists and foreign workers. It is based on the association of a Visa or Mastercard credit card to the vehicle’s license plate. The driver, without having to leave the vehicle, places the credit card inside the machine and the system automatically associates the vehicle’s license plate to the card. The toll rate will be automatically debited on the card. Signing up to Easytoll costs 0,60 euro and each trip has an administrative cost of 0.26 euro. It is possible to subscribe to the service at the following Welcome Points located at the following locations: 0,A28 – Viana do Castelo A24 – Chaves A25 – Vilar Formoso A22 – Vila Real de Santo António" - https://www.portugal.net/en/highway-portugal/

Read all about Portugal's electronic toll system here-
https://www.portugaltolls.com/en
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Old Jan 24th, 2023, 11:46 PM
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I would not drive Chaves if I wanted Oporto. The A 231 (via Leon) is in some of the most boring landscape Spain has to offer, Flat and featureless.
The route A8 dropping off to Lugo. Galicia and then inland Galicia to Tui is far more scenic. Avoid A Coruna and the rest of the coast. There are free hot springs in Oruense, Galicia
As noted above when in Portugal you may find yourself on a toll road which have no payment cabins.
Here is the official website about the system. Sometimes it is easy to miss the first payment area. I personally would ensure all is in order before you travel

https://www.portugaltolls.com/en#como-pagar
Chaves is ok but it is a small town maybe off the normal routes because of this. I did not know about the thermal baths, so I looked it up. The website says that you have to stay in certain hotels to take advantage of them. Prices are not cheap and the website has not been updated to 2023. Maybe because the season has not started just yet.
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Old Jan 25th, 2023, 07:26 AM
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I mentioned in my post above, also giving you the official Portugal toll web site, that Chaves has a Welcome Center Easy Toll, one of only 4 in the country, that will allow you to pay for your tolls via credit card in a machine without even exiting your vehicle rather than dealing with the hassle of securing a transponder. This is simply from a practical standpoint, making the payment of Portugal tolls hassle free.

From Bilbao to Lugo, then down to Tui, then to Porto, I've driven many times, but it will take you 9 hours, 30+ minutes without any stops for refueling, for comfort breaks, for a meal stop. Check the distance and time involved at www.viamichelin.com

Yes, it's quite scenic, but you certainly won't want to make that drive in one day!
When I drive from Bilbao along the Cantabrian coast to Lugo, I actually make two overnights on this stunning coast, the first in Asturias (Ribadesella, Cudillero, Villaviciosa, Lastres, etc) and one in Galicia somewhere between Lugo and the border at Valença do Minho (in Pontevedra or Cambados).

While Bilbao to Chaves will take you under 6 hours. Again, check with www,viamichelin.com for routing.

I assumed you wanted to drive from Bilbao straight into Portugal in one day, without multiple stops on the Cantabrian coast along the way, since you stated in your title, from Bilbao. the best first point of entry into Portugal.

There is a Welcome Center Easy Toll area across the border at Viana do Castelo, beyond Valença do Minho, if you do want to make this drive stopping for an overnight or two in Spain.

More info about Portuguese tolls here-
https://www.thebarefootnomad.com/eur...s-in-portugal/
  1. The easiest option for foreign visitors driving into the country from Spain is the EASYToll option. If you’re driving in via highway A-25 (E-80) from Salamanca, just keep driving as you cross the border into Portugal. About five kilometers in (we thought we must have missed it) and well past the little border town there are huge signs and directions to the EASYToll dispenser (it looks a little like a vending machine) just off the highway (close to a gas station). After pulling into the station we turned around and drove up to the EASYToll booth. We dropped in our credit card and the ticket instantly popped out with our license plate already on the ticket. It was incredibly easy to do, it lasts for 30 days and can be cancelled via their site as you leave the country."
While you won't want to cross into Portugal from Salamanca, you'll find the Welcome Center Easy Toll option, just like the quotation above in Chaves.

These are the only 4 Easy Toll Welcome Points:
  • A28 – Viana do Castelo Service Area.
  • A24 – at 3,5km from Chaves/Veribn border.
  • A25 – Alto de Leomil Service Area.
  • A22 – next to Castro Marim/Ayamonte border.

Last edited by Maribel; Jan 25th, 2023 at 07:59 AM.
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Old Jan 25th, 2023, 01:41 PM
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It was easy to miss as just after the border there is this sign. There is nothing at 500 meters.


Just drove on. Still you do not need any toll pass if you drive from the border to the junction for the town.
You can avoid the tolls by setting GPS to avoid them.
I feel your posts are a little misleading.
In your first post you say
Signing up to Easytoll costs 0,60 euro
. I refer to the Portugaltolls.com website that is now 77 cents and is available for only 30 days.
In the second post you write
that will allow you to pay for your tolls via credit card in a machine without even exiting your vehicle rather than dealing with the hassle of securing a transponder.
. You do not pay for any tolls. It is impossible to pay tolls before. It does say in the Portugaltoll.com website that there is a set up fee. All can be done on line, just like reserving accommodation.

I never suggested making the drive in one day. The question gave no hint they wanted to do this in a day. I feel I gave a fair warning about the dreadfully boring drive. They were looking for alternative spa choices. Hence the suggestion of the free ones in Galicia. Lugo to the border at Tui does not need are drive to the coast of Galicia as you suggest. That is a long and unnecessary diversion IMHO.
The blog post you linked to is now 9 years old. Some of the information written down is out of date.
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Old Jan 25th, 2023, 07:58 PM
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Just curious if you are leasing or renting a car. Picking up in France and dropping off in Portugal? Also Bordeaux is an interesting city along your way to Portugal as are the coast south of Bordeaux and San Sebastian and Basque county. If it's just a long drive to northern Portugal you could fly from Bordeaux to Lisbon or Toulouse to Porto or Lisbon. Might save time, gas, tolls and possibly a drop off fee in another country.
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Old Jan 25th, 2023, 09:01 PM
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scdreamer,
From your first thread,
France to Portugal road trip Aug/Oct 2023

I understood that you didn't want to repeat in Spain what you had done before.

"I don't want to repeat earlier trips. We enjoyed an amazing three-week road trip through Galicia a number of years ago - beginning in Madrid, driving to Leon, Santiago de Compostela, and throughout Galica and along the west coast ending in Vigo. We've visited Salamanca twice, as well, on other trips. I hate to think of just taking the toll road through Spain to get to Portugal, but I think we may be wise to reserve the better part of our time for Portugal, a country we have not yet visited."

That is simply why I suggested an entry point into Portugal with the Welcome Center Easy Toll area that would avoid repeating Galicia.

I personally wouldn't set my GPS to avoid these tolls, as the toll highways are very well maintained, in far better condition than some of the rural roads, speedy rather than slow and in many cases you'll have them practically to your self.
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 05:33 AM
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I read your initial post on this trip that Maribel cites with great interest, because we have a similar journey: Bordeaux to Portugal with Spain as a passthrough, including a region we had already visited somewhat extensively. So, our route is: Bordeaux, lunch in Getaria, overnight in Burgos, then to Pinhao for four nights in Duoro Valley before going to Porto. Getaria is the one place we've already been, and we're really happy it literally is the midway point, because it is the perfect place to stop!
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 06:17 AM
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I just read your other post which had to be linked to by Maribel. SI am sorry i missed that. Sorry that you did not include it in this post.But you still have not seen inland Galicia. The coast is ok but has the greater amount of villages towns and cites in the community. Inland is very different.
Can someone merge your requests for information as it will stop duplication of information. have you managed to get your vehicle reserved?
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 07:32 AM
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The Welcome Center Easy Toll stations are not found right at the border but instead inland a few kms, but they are well signed on the autoroutes in Portuguese and English.

The machine asks your non’Portuguese license plate number and a credit card (Visa, MC) to be associated with your license plate for the electric tolls to be debited from your c.c. You can also do this online at www.portuguesetolls.com. This is how your tolls are “paid” as you use the electric toll roads. This is the easy system that foreign visitors use. You are given a receipt that you must save. This is valid for 30 days and can be canceled on line if staying in Portugal for less then 30 days.

Whenever your vehicle passes an electric toll reader, the toll is debited from your card on file. When you drive on a traditional toll road with manual lanes, you won’t be able to speed through the Via Verde lane to the left, as it is for vehicles with transponders only.



Another option would be to be to purchase online or at the Welcome Center a pre-paid card that can be loaded with up to 40 euros.



Some roads are non toll, some are traditional toll roads that do have manual pay lanes as well as Via Verde lanes only for Portuguese vehicles with transponders (which you won’t have since you will be driving a French vehicle (a lease?) and some, the very best maintained, speedy and with little traffic are exclusively electric toll roads.

We enjoy using them because they are safe, fast and we often have them to ourselves. Example: the electric toll road from Porto to Vila Real, which speeds us to the Douro in no time. Also the toll road west to east in the Algarve.
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 09:45 AM
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Just to add,
Using the toll roads is the fastest way to get around Portugal: a drive from Lisbon to Albufeira, for example, would take just under 2 and a half hours on the toll roads but around 3 and a half hours on the non-toll roads.

On the traditional toll roads (not electronic), the ones with a manual pay lane and a Via Verde lane (usually to the left) reserved only for vehicles equipped with a transponder (which your French vehicle rather than a Portuguese car will not have), you’ll need to go through the manual lane. If you go through the Via Verde lane accidentally, you’re liable for a fine, so be careful.


On the fully electronic toll roads, such as the A22 in the Algarve, the cameras record your number plate, and the system calculates how much you owe, and if you register online or register your French vehicle at the Chaves Welcome Center or any of the 4 Welcome Centers, your credit card, associated with your vehicle license plate will be charged.
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 12:45 PM
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OP here - thank you for so much information - especially all the toll road info Maribel has so generously shared! And to Vanaarle for the link to tolls and foreign registered cars.That information will be invaluable for us.Again, thank you so much.

We will have a leased car - registered in France. Picking up at Orly (Paris) and dropping off in Lisbon. Much less expensive than a comparable rental.

I apologize for not linking my initial post with reasons we are driving straight south from Bilbao to Portugal. As I wrote, we made a three-week road trip through Galicia a number of years ago, and we did drive through and stay in the interior, as well as the coastal areas. We started our Galician adventure in Santiago de Compostela, headed inland, then to the north and west coasts, ending in Vigo.

I have also visited Salamanca, Spain, three times over the last 12 years, so I don't feel a need to go that way.

I'm still pretty sure we will drive on the toll road through Spain to Chaves, just to get ourselves into Portugal in as timely a manner as possible. We will, of course, visit Porto, but it's not our direct destination. We want to explore the area further northeast first. I've read about Chaves in a few guidebooks and also online, and it seems interesting to me - and quite inexpensive as far as a decent hotel experience. We're suckers for old Roman history and architectural remains.

Likely we will use the toll roads often in Portugal, but as we decide on places to use as a base (we will have about three weeks total), we will drive the back roads much of the time.

* * * It's highly likely I will be posting here more - asking for info on itinerary and routes, as I get further along in my planning. As a preview (and feel free to offer any advice), the rough plan is to head from Chaves and the surrounding area toward Porto, then south along the coast and inland to skirt Lisbon and on to the south coastal areas before we head north again to return the leased car in Lisbon, We prefer to spend three or more days in any given area (not Chaves, though) using our accommodation as a base for exploring. We usually stay in airbnb type places - but sometimes hotels. ***
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 01:35 PM
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Originally Posted by mjs
Just curious if you are leasing or renting a car. Picking up in France and dropping off in Portugal? Also Bordeaux is an interesting city along your way to Portugal as are the coast south of Bordeaux and San Sebastian and Basque county. If it's just a long drive to northern Portugal you could fly from Bordeaux to Lisbon or Toulouse to Porto or Lisbon. Might save time, gas, tolls and possibly a drop off fee in another country.
We are leasing a car at Orly - driving to Dordogne - with possibly a day or two in Bordeaux - and after about 10 days in Dordogne, we will be driving to Portugal for three weeks.(overnight on the way in either San Sebastion or Bilbao) Dropping off the car in Lisbon a few days before we fly back to the US.
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Old Jan 26th, 2023, 11:33 PM
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Just so that you’ll know, for the drive from Bilbao to Chaves www.viamichelin.com suggests their recommended route through Burgos and Benavente via the A-231 and A-52 and estimates driving time w/o stops, traffic tie-ups, to be about 5 hours, 45 min. The 2 other suggested routes will take much longer, 6.5 hours and 7.15 hours, again w/o stops.

Viamichelin.com also will give you the total cost of tolls on any route.

Because this will be a very long drive, would you consider an overnight in Burgos to visit the stunning Gothic Cathedral, or if you’ve already visited, then an overnight in Benavente at the castle-Parador (which we’ve used on our drives from Salamanca to Santiago)?

Just a thought…
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Old Jan 27th, 2023, 06:13 PM
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Originally Posted by Maribel
Just so that you’ll know, for the drive from Bilbao to Chaves www.viamichelin.com suggests their recommended route through Burgos and Benavente via the A-231 and A-52 and estimates driving time w/o stops, traffic tie-ups, to be about 5 hours, 45 min. The 2 other suggested routes will take much longer, 6.5 hours and 7.15 hours, again w/o stops.

Viamichelin.com also will give you the total cost of tolls on any route.

Because this will be a very long drive, would you consider an overnight in Burgos to visit the stunning Gothic Cathedral, or if you’ve already visited, then an overnight in Benavente at the castle-Parador (which we’ve used on our drives from Salamanca to Santiago)?

Just a thought…
Thanks, Maribel - I am struggling with this. We will be leaving Sarlat, France, with two night/three days to drive to Chaves. It really is a lot of driving over a few days, but we don't want to lose any of our time in Portugal. We aren't really set on Bilbao - but it's on the way and will be at the end of a good long day's drive from Sarlat. Not sure if there's a better way for us to get to Portugal than to power through over the course of the three days. Maybe a stop in Benavente could help break it up. I have a Friends of Paradores "membership" somewhere, unless it has expired.
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Old Jan 27th, 2023, 10:57 PM
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Thanks for the explanation/expansion of details of this trip.
If overnight somewhere. Do not pick the most expensive accommodation. You will be too tired to appreciate the finer things. Choose a stop which is convenient to your route. Save time when getting back behind the wheel for another day. The same with meal breaks.
Heads up if you did not know. Road tolls in France a re very expensive, especially when compared with Spain and Portugal.
There are plans this year for cities and towns to introduce emission zones. All vehicles have to display a disc to enter. No matter what the class of engine is. This may or may not affect you as this is being introduced from 1st Jan 2023 and will take up to 18 months to be fully implemented. So a bit by bit.
https://www.rtve.es/noticias/2023012.../2405632.shtml
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Old Jan 27th, 2023, 10:59 PM
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Sorry, scdreamer, but my suggestion of the Benavente castle Parador won’t work because I just realized that it’s temporarily closed. It closed in November for renovation that is estimated to take 6 months, but that’s just an estimate. The 2 million dollar renovation will probably take longer.

The Amigos membership doesn’t ever expire but the points obtained via Parador stays & Parador dining do expire.
The Parador web site has changed and now all you need to do to access the Amigos area to begin your session is to type in your email address—no longer need to type in your Amigos number—-and your password. If you’ve forgotten your password you can change it.

Amigos members receive any promotional rates, and there is also a senior rate for those 55+ that gives a 10% discount on lodging and buffet breakfast.
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Old Jan 28th, 2023, 08:58 AM
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Originally Posted by Maribel
Sorry, scdreamer, but my suggestion of the Benavente castle Parador won’t work because I just realized that it’s temporarily closed. It closed in November for renovation that is estimated to take 6 months, but that’s just an estimate. The 2 million dollar renovation will probably take longer.

The Amigos membership doesn’t ever expire but the points obtained via Parador stays & Parador dining do expire.
The Parador web site has changed and now all you need to do to access the Amigos area to begin your session is to type in your email address—no longer need to type in your Amigos number—-and your password. If you’ve forgotten your password you can change it.

Amigos members receive any promotional rates, and there is also a senior rate for those 55+ that gives a 10% discount on lodging and buffet breakfast.
Thanks Maribel - I'm still exploring our route from France to Portugal, with minimal time spent in Spain along the way. Still wishing to enter at Chaves - but now I wonder if this might be an alternative: Sarlat to Bilbao 5 hours. Spend a night - visit Guggenheim in the morning. Bilbao to Oviedo 3 hours (along the coast). Spend a night in Oviedo. Drive to Chaves the following day 3.5 hours. At least the coastal route further north will be a bit more scenic, I imagine. I know nothing about Oviedo - worth a short visit? Or somewhere nearby?

I'm still open to making the drive from Bilbao to Chaves in a day - we have done a number of road trips with longer days' drives interspersed with extended stay at bases from which to explore. Six hours really doesn't seem out of the question - leave early in the morning and make a quick stop for lunch along the way. We always carry a soft sided cooler with drinks and snacks, so we only need to stop for gas and to stretch our legs occasionally.

I feel as if I'm spending an inordinate amount of time pondering this short transit - but I need to figure this out before I can actually move on to planning the timeline for the rest of the Portugal itinerary.
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Old Jan 28th, 2023, 11:46 AM
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I personally love Oviedo, the lively and very pretty capital of Asturias, with a beautiful cathedral, a nice Museo de Bellas Artes, 2 impressive pre-Romanesque churches on Monte Naranjo. a great indoor market, the buzzy Calle Gascona, lined with cider houses, a stunning public park, delicious pastry shops (the jewel box Camilo de Blas that José Andrés recently featured in his Asturias episode of “J.A. and family Go to Spain”) impressive dining (Casa Fermín and Ca Suso) and in general a really pleasant vibe that would make for a more interesting stop. Last fall we did the coastal drive until Gijón then headed south to Oviedo.

For lodging you have the venerable Eurostars Hotel La Reconquista, where the king and queen stay when in town and where Woody Allen filmed scenes of Vicky Cristina Barcelona and just a block or two away the contemporary Barceló Cervantes, which are walkable to the center and both have parking. Those are 2 that I like for their location. There is also the less impressive but dependable NH Oviedo Principado closer to the cathedral, also with parking. This is where Fodorite ekscrunchy stayed when the Reconquista was fully booked.

I now understand your method of making long drives with quick lunch stops along the way, but in northern Spain, lunch stops, if not taken at motor route cafeterías-fueling stations, are not quick stops. They tend to be more time consuming.
We don’t drive any further than Hossegor in the Landes to Bilbao, but we make a fairly lengthy stop for the market and lunch in St-Jean-de-Luz. But you have more experience and tolerance for longer drives than we do.
I do like the new plan you list above.
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Old Jan 29th, 2023, 05:52 AM
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Originally Posted by VANAARLE
Thanks for the explanation/expansion of details of this trip.
If overnight somewhere. Do not pick the most expensive accommodation. You will be too tired to appreciate the finer things. Choose a stop which is convenient to your route. Save time when getting back behind the wheel for another day. The same with meal breaks.
Heads up if you did not know. Road tolls in France a re very expensive, especially when compared with Spain and Portugal.
There are plans this year for cities and towns to introduce emission zones. All vehicles have to display a disc to enter. No matter what the class of engine is. This may or may not affect you as this is being introduced from 1st Jan 2023 and will take up to 18 months to be fully implemented. So a bit by bit.
https://www.rtve.es/noticias/2023012.../2405632.shtml
Thank you - good suggestions regarding stop-overs and meals while in transit. We do know about the cost of driving on the toll roads in France, having spent four weeks road tripping in Provence and the Loire Valley last September. Glad to know the tolls may be lower in Portugal!
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