Renting a car in the Azores (2023): A Complete Guide

Are you planning on renting a car in the Azores? Look no further. In this post, you will find all the information you need to get your car rental and drive around like a pro!

I just came back from an amazing trip to the Azores Islands where I explore 5 islands and drove around in four of them.

Needless to say, I had a blast, and a fell in love with the beauty of each island while I was cruising around and checking every beach, natural pool, hidden waterfall, and lookouts.

Renting a car in the Azores is very easy but if you know what to expect it will be even easier.

If you are a solo traveler, fear not. The Azores are one of the best places to travel for a solo female, so safe and clean and with very hospitable people.

So keep reading and learn how to drive around and pick the best car rental deal in the Azores islands.

Driving in the Azores you will find spectacular sceneries just like this one in the central road in Pico.

Table of Contents

Renting a car in the Azores: Overview

The Azores is an archipelago of 9 islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. The islands belong to Portugal, but they’re not at all like the mainland.

They’re known for their thriving nature, stunning whale watching Azores experience, and delightful cuisine – along with many other unique charms.

In fact, I also found people extremely kind and welcoming and the destination sparking clean.

One of the guides I had during my stay even told me that some neighborhoods take pride in the cleaners of their area and compete with each other for which one is the cleanest. You can imagine the result! I found it fascinating.

You can hop from island to island by flight with Azores Airlines which in low season is very affordable.

However, some islands are connected by ferry where you can also bring your car rental with you so that you can just rent it for a longer period of time and get the best deal. I will tell you more about it here below.

Although there are guided tours that I still recommend joining, renting a car is one of the best ways to explore this breathtaking destination.

So, in this post, I will guide you through the entire process and tell you everything you need to know to rent a car in the Azores.

Miraduro da grota do infierno
Miraduro da Grota da Infierno, Azores

Important: if you travel in the summer…

I don’t want to rush you, but you should know that if you are traveling from June through August, you better rent your car way in advance or you run the risk to remain without it.

These months are considered the high season for the amazing weather and when people actually travel to the Azores. I did it in April/May so I didn’t have any issues with booking last minute.

But I was told by locals that summertime is a completely different story. So if you are planning now make sure you book your car right after the flights.

If you don’t know how to get to the Azores, I’ve got you covered as well! (click on the link)

Renting a Car in the Azores: Things to Know

Do you need a car in the Azores?

The short answer is yes, you do need a car in the Azores. The long answer is that you can make do without a car, especially if you’re only planning on staying within an urban city like Ponta Delgada, one of the cutest cities in Portugal for a day or two.

You could use public transport within the city or even walk around and take tours to explore the rest of the island. However, if you want to truly explore the Azores, a car is a must for it.

There are so many incredible places to see and explore, and so many things to do, that using taxis or private transfers is not very convenient.

Renting a car is the cheapest option because the Azores (especially the more touristy islands) have very affordable rates on rentals.

A car also gives you the freedom and flexibility to explore at your own pace and make fun itineraries.

Car parked on the side of a random road while exploring the Azores by car
My car rental in the Azores park near an Old Aqueduct in Sao Miguel Island

How much does it cost to rent a car in the Azores?

Renting a car in the Azores doesn’t cost a lot. On average, the rental fee is between $30-$50 a day. But prices do vary based on the car type (automatics cost much more), the insurance coverage, and the time of year.

You can do your research and compare prices using someplace like Discover Cars to get the best rate possible. And that’s just the beginning.

Gas prices are pocket-friendly too, it usually costs around US$5 per gallon. Parking is mostly free, and even when it’s paid the prices are not that bad.

There are also no tolls on the roads in the Azores, so that’s another reason the overall cost is cheaper than many other destinations.

Do I need an international driver’s license in the Azores?

Usually, you don’t need an international driving license. I had a Mexican driving license and it was accepted with no issue.

But if you come from a country that uses an alphabet different from the Roman one, you may want to check it out with the car rental company you choose, before booking.

Is driving in the Azores difficult?

Not at all. The traffic in the Azores is relaxed, the roads are in great condition (albeit narrow in some places), and you won’t encounter many aggressive drivers on the roads – all of which make for a really pleasant driving experience.

Though, there is the fact that local laws are something you need to learn more about before hitting the roads in the Azores.

There are also tons of roundabouts here and they come with their specific rules. In short, you won’t have any trouble driving in the Azores if you do just a little bit of prep beforehand.

Beautiful road in Sao Miguel
Beautiful road in Sao Miguel

Where to rent a car in the Azores

Renting a car in Sao Miguel (Ponta Delgada)

Ponta Delgada is the scenic capital city of the Azores, and it’s located on the largest of the 9 islands, Sao Miguel. Almost all the international flights land here, so getting a car in Ponta Delgada is a really good option in general if you’re looking for a car rental in Sao Miguel Azores.

You will find plenty of options for car rental in Ponta Delgada, which also means better rates and more car models to choose from.

The airport has stood for many rental companies, including famous ones like Sixt, AutAtlantis, Ilha Verde, and Wayzor. Then there are the rentals in the town as well.

You can rent either from the airport or town, but read reviews about the rentals and compare prices before you select one.

I always suggest comparing rates on Discover Cars because it’s one of the best platforms where to compare prices and also buy cheap, but comprehensive insurance.

They have more than 100.000 Reviews with an average of 4.6/5 stars on Trust Pilot. So it’s definitely not only me! 🙂

Best Car Rental Deals w/ Free Cancellation, Compare & Save! | Discover Cars

Find the best car rental deals and explore around freely, at your own pace. My favorite way to enjoy a destination!

Also, comparing and booking online is a really good way to rent a car in the Azores – no matter which island you’re on. There are so many advantages, like getting the best rates, finding your ideal car model, and avoiding extra fees/hidden charges.

On DiscoverCars you can find reliable rental companies that you can compare prices between, a free cancellation policy, affordable full insurance coverage, and many additional perks.

Renting a car in Faial

Faial Lookout point, one of the best sites that you can reach if you rent a car.

Just like you can’t take a bus to most places out of Ponta Delgada on Sao Miguel, going for hikes or visiting attractions outside of Horta on Faial requires either expensive taxis/private transfers or a car. A

gain, renting a car here is the best option to explore the island properly if you’re staying for multiple days.

You can rent a car in Faial Azores fairly easily using DisoverCars or directly from a Faial rent a car at the airport/city center, there are plenty of international as well as local rentals here.

Just make sure to research the rentals beforehand and read lots of reviews.

I went directly from Pico with my car rental. In fact, you can take the ferry from Pico to Faial in your car, if you want to spare the hassle of new paperwork.

You can book your ferry on Direct Ferries site which is very easy and practical. Ferries from Pico to Faial can leave either from Madalena to Horta or from Sao Roque to Horta.

Check both ports on the day you want to travel, because they may change depending on the sea conditions.

Renting a car in Pico

Pico Island road
Road in Pico Island

Pico is another one of the touristy islands in the Azores, so car rental options are plenty here.

You can rent from local car hire or international car rental on Pico Island, and chances are that they might even have free-of-cost pick-up available for the harbor if you’re coming to the island by ferry.

I rented with Tropical Rent-a-car and they were fantastic.

However, I would suggest you should compare prices among different rentals on DiscoverCars also works well here too, or you can just go with the same company you hired a car from on another Azores island if they offer multi-island rentals.

They may give you a discount.

Renting a car in Sao Jorge

Faja in Sao Jorge
One of the famous Fajas in Sao Jorge

The top car rentals I mentioned earlier, like Ilha Verde, AutAtlantis, and Way2Azores are all available in Sao Jorge as well. As usual, they have stands at the airport and also offer online booking.

Local companies like the Azores by Car are also a great option if you’re visiting only Sao Jorge and won’t need the multi-island hiring option.

However, I have to warn you that Sao Jorge is the most difficult island to visit on your own. I didn’t rent a car there and I booked a guided tour and that was the best decision ever.

Here is my video about the full-day tour. I booked with Jamie from Land Tours and I cannot recommend him enough.

The reason why it’s better to book a tour than go on your own in Sao Jorge is that there are a lot of “Fajal” which are stretches of land along the coast that are beautiful to visit but difficult to reach as the roads are usually narrow and unpaved.

It’s easy to get stuck or to end up on the wrong road, even more, if it rains.

So if you are staying in Sao Jorge for some time you may need the car to travel to the main areas of the island.

However, make sure you book a tour to explore the most interesting areas and hidden gems.

My video on Sao Jorge


Renting a car in Flores

You will arrive in Santa Cruz when you visit Flores. The airport of the city has lots of rentals to choose from, and you can rent a car in Flores Azores from the town center as well.

Sixt, AutAtlantis, Europcar, and many other rentals are on the island, so you can book either from their website or from the rental office when you arrive on the island.

Just don’t forget to compare them before booking.

Terceira Island Road
Renting a Car in Tercera Island – this is how the roads look like

Renting a car in Terceira

You will definitely need a car in Terceira. Driving around the island and to the main attractions is very easy. I also book a tour to learn about the history of the island but you don’t actually need it.

Make sure you drive to the spectacular natural pools of Biscoito and take a swim, among other things.

Both the airport and ferry terminal in Terceira has lots of great car rentals. Most of the rentals are at the airport, so that’s where you will find companies like Ilha Verde, Sixt, AutAtlantis, and many others.

Reliable local rentals include MicAuto and Way2Azores.

You can use DiscoverCars to compare all these rentals and find the best deals for your car rental in Terceira Azores.

Road to a town in Tercera Island Azores

Which car do you need in the Azores?

Renting a car in the Azores is a really good idea, but it’s also important to consider the type you will need there.

The exact type of car for you will depend on your needs and preferences, but I will tell you a few things that should help you pick just the right one.

In general, you don’t need a big car. A smaller car will not only save you a lot of money on rent and fuel costs but also be better for the narrow roads of the Azores.

Tercera Island Road
Terceira Island Road

Do you need a 4×4 in the Azores?

You can rent a 4×4 in the Azores, but you won’t necessarily need one. The roads on the Azores islands are all in really good condition, so you can enjoy a pleasant driving experience anywhere on its islands even without a 4×4.

And when the roads are not in good condition, I would suggest you avoid them, no matter what type of car you have.

Renting a car in the Azores  is the best way to explore the winding roads of islands, like this one in Pico.

Can you rent automatic cars in the Azores?

Another thing that you need to consider is whether to choose a manual or automatic. Most cars in the Azores are manual, which means automatic transmission cars cost more and need to be booked in advance.

So, you can rent an automatic in the Azores, but make your reservation at least a month in advance to make sure there are no availability issues.

You can easily do that online on DiscoverCars.

Car Rental Delivery

Documents required before renting a car in the Azores

Driver’s License

A valid driver’s license is needed wherever you’re renting a car, and the Azores are no exception to that – but what’s more, is that most rentals in the Azores also ask for a license that was issued at least a year prior to the date on which you’re renting a car from them.

All the licenses issued from EU countries work in the Azores, because the archipelago is officially a part of Portugal.

US and Canadian licenses are also accepted and I rented my car with a Mexican driving license which was only 2 months old because I had just renewed.

In many car rental websites in the Azores, it’s mentioned that your driver’s license must have a validity of at least 1 year. It wasn’t my case.

However, I would suggest you check with the car rental if your driving license has a shorter validity, just to be on the safe side and avoid surprises.

International driving permit

As I was explaining earlier, you might also need an international driving permit (IDP) depending on where you’re coming from or how long you’re staying in the Azores for. European citizens won’t need one, and tourists from the US, Canada, and Mexico visiting for less than half a year also won’t.

Ideally, you should research the IDP requirements based on your country of origin.


A passport with your photo on it (or an ID) is also required by car rentals in the Azores, and you might also need to show it when driving on the road. You can bring along a photocopy of it when going to the rental in case you might need one.

Road in the Azores Sao Miguel island.
Road in Sao Miguel Azores to a lookout point

Credit card

Almost all the car rentals in the Azores also require a credit card in your own name so they can reserve a deposit amount – and that deposit amount can be up to $1,500-$2,000, depending on what kind of insurance you purchase.

The broader the insurance coverage, the lower the security deposit amount.

So make sure your credit card has a high enough credit limit for the rental deposit.

The deposit doesn’t have to be that high, because there are also some rentals that ask for smaller amounts.

And some rentals also let you use a debit card, but you will need enough funds in them for the deposit. Just do your research on the rental deposit policy and reach out to them if needed and you will be all good.

Faial Horta Overview
Horta – Faial Overview

Things to know before renting a car in the Azores

Car rental insurance

Opting for insurance is a good idea when renting a car in Azores. Although the roads and drivers here are nice, and traffic is very relaxed, you can never be sure whether or not the car will get damaged.

This is especially true when you get on the narrower roads I mentioned.

Along with the basic coverage offered by the rental, your credit card might offer international coverage, but getting full coverage insurance from the rental or a place like DiscoverCars is still what I recommend.

It costs $10 or less a day but secures you from a lot of trouble and worry.

✅ Pick-up and drop-off locations

Many Azores rentals have multiple outlets across the different islands of the archipelago, which means you can choose the pick-up location for your rental that’s most convenient for you.

What’s more, you also have the option to choose a drop-off location that is different from the original pick-up point.

This makes it convenient if you’re arriving in one place and then leaving from another, but keep in mind that it does cost extra if you choose a different drop-off point because the rental has to drive that car back to its original location.

Generally, dropping off at the same location is a better idea, so calculate the expenses of traveling to another place and renting a car there along with using the different drop-off options beforehand, and only choose a different drop-off location if it saves you money.

Sao Jorge view of a the coastline
Sao Jorge view of the Coastline

✅ Multi-Island car hiring

Azores consists of 9 islands, and if you’re visiting multiple of them, renting a car on each one might seem like too much hassle. But you will still need a car to explore them, so what should you do? Well, it’s not that big of a deal, really.

Car rentals in the Azores have a multi-island hiring option that makes renting a car from the same company much easier on different islands.

You won’t have to pay a deposit each time you rent, because the initial deposit will just get transferred. What’s more, the paperwork involved is also minimal for every subsequent car you rent.

There are also select car rentals in the Azores that let you take the rental car to different islands via ferry, but I only recommend it if you intend to go back to the original island like I did when I went to Faial from Pico.

Otherwise, it’s much more convenient to rent a new car on each island.

A road in Pico Azores Islands
Pico – Azores Islands

✅ Avoid extra charges

There are many ways a rental in the Azores might charge you extra. This includes putting add-ons on your rental agreement without your asking for them, having hidden fees in place, and sometimes blaming you for damage that was already on the car when you go back to drop it off.

But don’t worry, not all rentals do this. You can avoid the hidden fees and add-on fees by renting from a reputable rental or booking through a place like DiscoverCars, which they guarantee no hidden fees.

Doing that will save you from most of the extra charges, but you should also do a couple more things.

✔️ Do a thorough inspection of the car when you go to pick it up. This is to make sure all the existing damage, scratches, and faults are noted down so that you don’t have to pay for those later.

You can also take pictures on your phone for extra safety, just be sure to send them to an agent at the rental during pick-up.

✔️ Most car rentals have a fuel management policy where you have to return the car with a full tank (or with the same amount of fuel it had when you picked it up).

If you don’t return it with a full tank, the extra charge for it is much more than the fuel price, so make sure to avoid that by refilling at a nearby station. You can just ask an agent at the rental where the nearest gas station is.

Practical Driving Tips in the Azores

1. Drive on the right-hand side of the road

People in the Azores as well as Portugal drive on the right side of the road. This is something you will need to get used to if you’re coming from a country where driving on the left is the norm.

Fortunately, traffic is pretty relaxed in the Azores so you can easily adjust while driving.

Just be extra careful while you’re still getting used to driving on the opposite side, and rent an automatic if you’re used to driving on the left because then you won’t have to deal with the gearbox being on the opposite hand as well.

Angra - Terceira's Capital City - Azores

2. Road conditions in the Azores

Roads in the Azores are in good condition mostly. There are some islands where you will encounter bumpy roads and some unmaintained ones, but those are scarce. Also, many roads are quite narrow here.

The traffic on these roads is not much, so driving is still a pleasant experience. But try to drive slowly on the not-so-well-maintained and narrow strips of roads, and also when you’re going off the road to reach a tourist attraction.

3. Parking in the Azores

Parking is easily available in the Azores and the price for it is also really affordable or even free.

You can expect a cost of around $0.70 per hour in cities like Ponta Delgada, and usually no charges for parking on most of the islands.

One thing to learn about before you go is the parking meters. They resemble old computers and have instructions in Portuguese, so you might find it challenging to use them.

But don’t panic if you come across one of them, it’s fairly easy to get your parking ticket.

  1. First, you need to enter your car’s registration number, so take a photo of it on your phone and keep it handy.
  2. The next step is to select the number of hours you’re parking there, and you can choose up to 4 hours.
  3. Then insert coins for the amount shown on the screen, press the checkmark button to get your ticket, and put it on your dashboard where it’s visible from outside the car.
ponta delgada parking machine
Parking in Ponta Delgada

4. Use GPS

Many rental cars come with a GPS device already in them, but if not, you can ask for it as an add-on from the rental.

Luckily, the roads on the Azores islands aren’t very complex, so you won’t need a GPS much.

You can instead use Google Maps. They work really well in the Azores.

Get a local SIM to buy affordable data on it, and you can use Maps wherever you are in the Azores.

Or, if you are planning to travel around Europe for a few weeks or month, you can always get an e-sim from this site and add it to your phone. It’s very easy and you don’t need to have a dual-sim phone.

Make sure you check that’s compatible with your device though.

5. Fuel up your rental car

Just like parking, gas is also really affordable in the Azores despite it being so far away from the mainland.

This is another reason why exploring the islands by car is such a pocket-friendly option. You can purchase a gallon of gas for about 5 dollars.

That being said, you won’t find gas stations offering round-the-clock service on most islands.

They usually open up early in the morning and close up before midnight. You can pay by card.

Also, make sure you pick the right kind of fuel you’re putting in your car. It’s written on the dashboard of the car and by the fuel tank so you cannot miss it.

Most of the gas stations are self-service. Once you put fuel in your car, you leave your car locked and then get inside the store tell the staff the number of your pump, and pay. Easy!

You may find some gas stations that have service but you still have to get inside the shop to pay.

Me fueling up the car in Ponta Delgada, Azores.
Me fueling up the car rental in Ponta Delgada Azores

Island-Hopping in the Azores by Rental Car

As I was telling you earlier, some rentals in the Azores let you take the rental car to other islands via ferry. 

This might look like a convenient way to explore the Azores, but I don’t usually recommend taking the same car to different islands unless you are planning on returning to the first island anyway.

Otherwise dropping off the car on a different island, supposed that’s even an option, it’s going to be very expensive.

Instead, just rent a different car from the same car rental on each island using their multi-island hiring policy, it’ll save you a lot of hassle.

Use this tool to book your ferry

Change the place of origin and destination, and all the other parameters using the scroll-down features.

Frequently Asked Questions

Can you get around the Azores without a car?

Yes, you can but it’s not ideal. Although in some islands it’s even more practical to book tours, a car rental will always come handy to reach some destinations where not all tours go or just to browse around at your own pace.

Islands such as Sao Miguel have a good bus system, so you can get around the island with some ease, but you will still need to take cabs or private transfers to many attractions outside of Ponta Delgada.

Pretty much all of the other islands also don’t have an extensive public transport system.

So, in short, you can get around the Azores without a car – but it’s far from ideal. I highly recommend renting a car in the Azores.

Getting a car on the islands is hands down the best way to explore them, and it doesn’t cost a lot either.

Road in Terceira Island
Road in Terceira Island

Why is car rental in the Azores expensive?

Renting a car in the Azores is not that expensive compared to other destinations.

Also, it depends on what season you are renting.

Summer is definitely the most expensive time of the year to go to the Azores, but it’s also the season with the best weather.

Additionally, automatic transmission cars are also rare in the Azores, so going for one of those is another reason you might have to pay more. Similarly, a luxury car will cost higher as well.

So, it all depends on many things. But it doesn’t have to be expensive. In fact, the Azores islands have fairly pocket-friendly rental prices compared to many other popular island destinations.

As long as you research the car rentals, compare prices and offers, and choose a smaller car, you will get to explore these stunning islands without breaking the bank.

I recommend using DiscoverCars to get all those things done in one place and also benefit from its free cancellation and affordable insurance.

What is the best way to travel around the Azores?

There are many ways to explore the Azores, so the best one will definitely vary from person to person.

I recommend using ferries and flights to get from one island to another and renting a car on the island to explore all its attractions.

This is because these islands have so many activities and attractions that you can’t try using just public transport.

Your only options are either using cabs and private transfers or renting a car. The latter is better because it’s flexible as well as affordable.

But you can’t take the same rental car to all the islands without a lot of hassle, so that’s where the ferries and planes come in.

You can use the multi-island hiring policy offered by rental companies in the Azores to get another car without much trouble when you get to the next island.

Trees in Pico
Pico Costal road

How long does it take to drive around the Azores?

Usually, 2-3 days on an island will give you a good taste of everything it has on offer.

However, I would spend at least a week in Sao Miguel, being the biggest island and with much more to see.

But the overall time it takes for you to drive around the Azores will depend on things like your itinerary and what you’re planning to do and see on each island.

You can spend a week on just one island, or spend anywhere from 1-3 days on each island if you’re visiting more than one island in the Azores.

And if you want to dive deeper into each island you visit, you can even spend a month without running out of incredible things to see and do in the Azores.

I spent a month and visited 5 islands but I felt I was rushing it and I can’t wait to go back. So, it’s very personal and it depends on your budget, time, and interests.

Miraduro grota do infierno
Miraduro Grota do infierno. Make sure you visit this spectacular site early morning before the tours get there. This is one of the reasons why renting a car in the Azores is a must!

How much does it cost to rent a car in Ponta Delgada?

On average, renting a car in Ponta Delgada costs about $30-$60 per day.

It’s because Sao Miguel is one of the more touristy islands, so rental prices are competitive here.

Still, the cost varies a lot depending on the car type, insurance, additional fees, and the time of year.

That’s why I always recommend booking on Discover Cars, so that you can compare rates and pick the best one for you.

Once I choose the car rental I want to book with, I always check with them directly and make sure the Discover Cars deal is better.

Final Thoughts: Renting a car in the Azores

Renting a car in the Azores is very easy but I hope this guide made it even easier and gave you enough information for you to find the confidence you need to explore these amazing islands by car. Stay tuned for more travel resources to the Azores. I’m working on it. 🙂

Before you go…

Traveling to the Azores any time soon? check out my posts on the spectacular archipelago: