FIRST WINTERING IN SOUTHERN EUROPE, HOW MUCH DOES IT COST?
COSTS OF DAILY LIFE IN PORTUGAL IN WINTER
Although at the beginning we were more concerned with the question of where we could wintering in southern Europe on the mainland with best weather. But at some point you also come to the question of what does wintering in a van cost and make a cash check.
Portugal, in the south of Europe, with its variety of wines, fruits and cork products, is considered one of the most popular destinations for many travelers during the winter season, along with the south of Spain. This is not least due to the year-round surf spots and countless opportunities to stand directly by the sea with the van.
However, not everything is dirt cheap in a country with an average income of 600€-800€. Just the diesel for our two vans is (as of December 2019) at 1.38€-1.57€ per liter. The situation is similar for certain foods. While poultry and fish is incredibly cheap, beef costs a little more on average than it does in Germany. The price of a packet of butter is €1.50.
Especially when it comes to shopping, there are considerable differences between the individual supermarkets. Aldi (not quite as common) and Lidl (also not as common as in Germany) certainly have the most favorable selection. On the other hand, you will only find a limited range of products at both. If that doesn’t bother you, you’re in good hands with the discounters, even with numerous German products.
There are other suppliers, such as Auchan or Spar, where we have not yet shopped. Basically, we prefer Intermarché or Continente. Intermarché also offers various services such as washing machines or supply and disposal for van travelers in its parking lots. Here you can run a washing machine for 4€. In addition, depending on the size of the store, the range of goods is more comprehensive and represents good value for money. Continente has the most comprehensive product assortment also in the non-food area, but is from our point of view the most expensive shopping option. Nevertheless, we occasionally like to shop there.
COSTS FOR CAMPSITES IN THE LOW SEASON
We love being free standing, but also have phases to put in at campsites. At the moment, we don’t have solar panels on our vans, so we occasionally have to plug in to work. At the same time, especially in the off-season, you can find inexpensive places that offer every conceivable amenity.
The last campsites in the Algarve that we had used were about 10€ per night. This included two vans, 2 adults, a dog and space for our new front tent. Most recently we used an extremely large site and had taken advantage of a monthly offer where you pay 220€ all-inclusive for the site plus the electricity (1KW=0,35€). In addition, there were 50 cents for 5 minutes of hot water in the shower and washing machine (5€) and dryer (5€). In total, we have paid a little less than 300€ in a month.
Of course, it is much cheaper to do it free-standing. For this reason, we are considering investing in sufficient solar power on the large van in the near future. Since in Portugal the sun shines many hours a day even in winter, we can reduce our costs for wintering once again significantly.
TOLLS FOR THE FREEWAYS
A cost that does not apply to us. Nevertheless, there is the possibility to use paid highways. How exactly the costs for the individual sections in Portugal are composed, I actually do not know. However, we have met countless travelers who absolutely did not get along with the billing system and therefore also swerved to the well-connected and developed routes without tolls.
Update: While it was until 2 months ago for me still a mystery, how that should work with the toll, I have then seen on the trip from Isla Christina (Spain) to Portugal directly behind the border a station where you can register. As I understood it, the license plate of the vehicle is then connected to the registered credit card (Visa or Maestro only) and when passing the digital readers an amount for the distance traveled is automatically charged to the card. But as I said, we have so far always arrived at our destination without toll roads and have gladly waived the costs.
EXPENSES FOR EXCURSIONS OR VISITS
Portugal offers many opportunities to hike or visit cities. Even entrance fees for sights (if they cost anything) are often more than affordable with 1-2€. I should say, however, that we almost completely avoided visiting tourist magnets in and around Porto and Lisbon. Tendentially, I can imagine that the prices in these two cities are on a different level than in the regions where we stay.
Most of the things we do are possible for free. These include sightseeing, visiting a market, spending time at the beach, or going on various hiking trails. Likewise, we avoid eating out as much as possible. We shop several times a week and almost always cook our own food. So, of course, the costs vary according to the type of recreation. So far, we have not really noticed that the prices are significantly lower than in Germany. A meal for two people with two drinks each in a mediocre restaurant was over 50€.
This means in total costs for our wintering in Portugal
- Pitch, electricity and water: 300€
- Fuel/tax/insurance per van: 150€ x2
- Food, drink, dog food, hygiene items: 900€
- Other expenses: 400€
We are thus at a total monthly expenditure for 2 adults with two vans and a dog of about 1900€ in the low season.
Savings are of course possible in various places. For example, you can save costs of around 300€ by consistently freestanding. The other expenses of €400 are also optional. These mostly concern things that make our van life more comfortable. Thus one would come with these savings on 1200€ for 2 persons, 1 dog and still 2 vans. But since most certainly travel with only one van, you can also deduct another 150€ here. The costs for fuel would probably increase a bit due to the free standing and the frequent change of places, as well as the 1 van variant. Thus, one should need in this constellation at about 1100 € per month.
If you save on the selection of food, renounce other luxury expenses such as cigarettes, alcoholic beverages or expensive sweets, a budget of less than 1000€ for 2 adults with dog is quite realistic. From our point of view, you can spend the winter with this budget, 500-600€ per person, very pleasant in Portugal and still does not have the feeling to have to save extremely.
I hope this list helps you a bit with your planning. If you have any questions about the costs, feel free to write it in the comments or by email. We are happy to help you!