Review: Is the Porto card worth it?
Top of my list, whenever I book a city break, is checking out the city pass. Having tried them in Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen among others, I know from experience that it can save a fortune… or be an expensively useless purchase.
So as I planned our city break in Portugal, I checked out Porto’s own specific version to decide, should I buy a Porto card?
Is the Porto card worth it?
The first thing to know is that unlike a lot of other cities, there are relatively few options included for free – the majority of the 170 benefits are a discount on entry, including restaurants and city tours as well as attractions.
On the plus side, that means the card is comparatively cheap, from 5.70 Euros for a one day card. On the downside, you will be paying more on top for entries, as only around 10 are completely free, and apart from a handful at 50% off, the majority are a 10-25% discount.
You also need to do your maths in advance or at least have a good idea of what you want to do, as the accompanying brochure tells you the discount you get but not the actual entry price. To work out what you’ll save, you can check through the individual places on the Porto card site, or look up the specific attraction separately.
That’s worth doing anyway as in some cases you’ll get other discounts direct too – for example the Sea Life Centre, which is 35% off with a Porto Card, has a separate online discount of around 20% (you can get one or the other). You do save more with the Porto Card but there’s only a couple of Euros in it.
Meanwhile the lovely little Museu das Marionetas which we visited has 50% off – but is only 2 Euros full price anyway.
And the port tour we took at Caves Calem is only valid between November and March. It also means you can’t book online in advance, and as the port cellar tours were pretty busy even in February, that could be a drawback.
As with most city passes, there are some which aren’t included such as World of Discoveries, one of the main attractions for families (incidentally you can get an online discount, and skip-the-queue tickets which are a very good idea in peak season).
Which Porto card to get?
There are several different versions of the Porto card – firstly a ‘pedestrian’ version, which doesn’t include transport. We were sent two two-day versions of these to use on our trip, courtesy of the tourist board.
You can also get a more expensive option including unlimited transport (excluding the trams). Or there’s a digital app you can use which is available at a 5% discount, plus it’s stored on your phone rather than having a physical card – although you do then need to pick up an Andante card to use on the buses and Metro if you choose the transport version.
There are one, two, three and four-day options of each. It’s valid from the time and date written on the card when first used, so if you time it cleverly, you can stretch a two-day card over three days. The transport tickets need to be validated at the start of each journey, or if you change lines or mode of transport (like the standard Andante card used on public transport).
Porto’s transport system isn’t the most straightforward to explain – although the ticket machines have English translations and there’s plenty of information once you’re there – as the zones depend on how far you’re travelling rather than, for example, a static zone 1, 2, 3 and so on in London.
I thought originally that having transport included would be far more useful. But with a one-day card, you’d need to make three journeys to come out ahead. If you’re staying somewhere relatively central, you’re unlikely to need to take public transport that much, although you might save some time on buying tickets if queues are worse in peak season than we experienced in February.
Buying individual tickets, even the journey from the airport to the centre was only 2.40 Euros each and the bus journey out to the Sea Life centre was 3.90 Euros for both of us.
Without the rain, and without a walk up a steep hill at the end of a busy day, I suspect we’d have skipped a few of our Metro journeys as well. So unless you know you’ll be seeing some of the sights further out of the immediate centre – the zoo, perhaps the Casa da Musica, the Sea Life Centre and beaches – this addition might not pay off.
Does the Porto card save you money?
Our visit in February coincided with some pretty dreadful weather, so we might have done more exploring on a sunny trip – although equally, we probably checked out a few more indoor attractions that wouldn’t have topped the list if we were ambling along in the sunshine between ice creams.
So is the Porto card worth it? Had we bought my own two-day card, and had we paid for entry to every attraction (we were given free entry to Sea Life and the Douro Azul cruise), I’d have saved about two euros. On a sunny visit, I think we’d have saved a few more by choosing other options. Either way, it would have paid to get the card.
The savings for Minnie, at five, were about half as much so would only have made it worth buying a one-day Porto card (assuming we could have fitted everything in within a day), as entry is already discounted (and often free) for under-18s. If you’re travelling with younger children, transport is also free for under-fives.
The short answer? Maybe….
Unlike some other cities, where you can’t fail to save money if you’re seeing the main sights or where the queue jumping is worth a fee in itself, it really does depend on what you plan to do.
In this lovely city, doing your research pays off – which means cross-checking everything on your must-see list against the Porto card discounts and the best entry deals out there.
So grab a guidebook – we took Lonely Planet’s Pocket Porto – and check out the tourist office website, as well as tour company sites like Get A Guide which has ideas for independent tours as well as skip-the-queue tickets, before you order.
For more inspiration on the best things to do in Porto with kids, check out
my list of the top 37
Disclosure: Our Porto cards were courtesy of Visit Porto and the North. All decisions on what to visit and opinions about the Porto card are my own, as is my love of queue jumping where possible. Not very British, I know. Contains affiliate links: any purchases you make are unaffected but I may receive a few pennies.
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