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  • Writer's pictureVanessa Valenti

Plan your low-cost trip to São Miguel, in the Azores Islands, in 6 simple steps

The Azores archipelago, located in the Atlantic Ocean, is made up of 9 volcanic islands: the main and largest São Miguel, then Terceira, São Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores, Graciosa, Corvo and finally Santa Maria.

These islands are of volcanic origin, wild, very green and uncontaminated: a true paradise for nature lovers and active and adventurous travellers. Whatever island you choose, the opportunities are various: from trekking, to the sea, and then the splendid lakes, natural spas and a vast choice of marine activities.

READ ALSO: Best hikes in São Miguel, in the Azores Islands - between volcanoes, forests and waterfalls Of all the 9 islands, São Miguel is the most visited being the one most connected in terms of flights, but it is also the largest and perhaps the one with the most activities, so we decided to dedicate the entire trip to it and explore it thoroughly and I guarantee you that it was all served - if you are interested in our one week itinerary in São Miguel, I refer you to the dedicated post São Miguel, Azores - the samazing Green Island: one week itinerary To go on a tour of several islands, I recommend at least 2 or 3 weeks, since that travel within the archipelago is not so easy: the boat trips are very long, and the alternative is to take internal planes. Planning a trip on your ownto the Azores is not complex: once you decide which islands to visit, it's all downhill. Let's see the basic steps and some tips to better enjoy your journey to discover the Azores islands.


1. Keep an eye to the budget

First, let's talk about budget.. if you've gotten to know me by now, you'll have understood that my motto is: spend less and travel more. I always prefer to save money on transport and accommodation but fully enjoy the place! In this the Azores help it's quite easy since they are a really cheap destination. To be more clear: we stayed in São Miguel for 8 days and 7 nights, and in total we spent 680€ each for two people - this means counting everything: flights, car rental and petrol, accommodation, food and excursions.

To get an idea of ​​the prices:

  • Flight ∓ €200 return

  • Accommodation ∓ €200 per person for one week

  • Car rental €200-300 for a week

  • Fuel - petrol €1.73 per litre

  • Activities: almost all free, except for the natural spas (€8-10 each)

  • Boat excursions eg: whale watching 50-60€

  • Meals - breakfast ∓ €5, quick lunch ∓ €8, dinner ∓ €15

These are all approximate prices, obviously influenced by the time you go, what you look for from the accommodation and where and how you eat. In general, however, the Azores Islands are a simple, humble and unpretentious place: the accommodations are simple, as are the restaurants and typical dishes. The attractions are practically all free although they are always provided with excellent services, which here in Italy we can only envy. Therefore, if you are looking for a cheap half for an epic journey, the Azores islands, but above all São Miguel is the right place for you. Some general advice to save money during your holiday in the Azores:

  • if you want to save money, focus on São Miguel - inter-island travel is quite expensive and São Miguel has everything you want from the Azores, as well as being the largest and richest;

  • settle for simple and functional accommodation, giving priority to apartments - choose a house means you will have the kitchen at your disposal, where you can possibly have breakfast before leaving and prepare some snacks, and last but not least the washing machine, which will allow you to save on luggage;

  • travel light - few but carefully chosen clothes: it is not a place for nightlife or elegant clubs, give priority to comfortable and technical clothing;

  • rent a car and go around independently without relying on who knows which tour operators - the islands are small and the roads are well made and signposted, you will have no problems;

  • choose a small and undemanding car: the roads are all in excellent condition, no jeeps or special vehicles are needed;

  • always choose local restaurants and places where they serve authentic food and from the islands themselves, in order to experience the place to the fullest and save considerably - to have a look at the typical Azorean dishes and where you can find them in São Miguel READ ALSO:What and where to eat in São Miguel, the green island of the Azores

2. Choose the right time to go

The Azores islands, thanks to their position, have a subtropical oceanic climate which means that temperatures remain constant almost all year round: the change between summer and winter is minimal, with an average of 15/17 °C in winter and 24 /26 °C in the warmer months. In general, the recommended period to visit the Azores and therefore also the high season is from June to September. I went in the second half of September - from 15 to 22 September - and I can only warmly recommend this period, which in my opinion, but also hearing what the locals said, is definitely the best. In September the climate is still excellent, the average is 23°C (the minimum at night reached 20°C) with scorching sun practically every day; some sporadic rain at night or in the most central part of the island in the mountains. Furthermore, the flow of tourists has already diminished: the island begins to empty and turn divinely, making the atmosphere very pleasant and peaceful.

Webcam Meteo

Speaking of weather, before leaving, know that these small islands have a very variable climate, even during the same day. Usually in the morning it's increasingly cloudy, then towards lunchtime the sky tends to clear up. Unfortunately, even in summer, and therefore during the best time to visit these places, especially inland and on the hills, the clouds are often low and prevent you from enjoying the wonderful views. I read of many people who had to return, for example, to Miradouro do Grota do Inferno several consecutive days before finding clear skies and good visibility. For this reason, during my pre-departure searches, I identified two websites that show the view of various points of interest via webcam in real time: in this way, before going to the various places, I knew in advance what the weather was and I could organize your days according to this. In doing so, we always chose the right places on the right days, without having to skip or postpone anything. Here are the two links:

P.S. I remind you that the time zone with respect to Italy is two hours behind: when, for example, it is 12 in Italy, in the Azores it is 10 in the morning.


3. Find the right flight

TAP Air Portugal, volo per le Azzorre

Unfortunately, to reach the Azores there are no direct flights from Italy, you must necessarily make a stopover in Portugal. From Italy you can choose to fly with the Portuguese national airline TAP Air Portugal then making a stopover in Lisbon or Porto, to then go directly to São Miguel or Terceira. This is the option we chose as it allowed me to book everything with a single company without having to make two separate purchases, furthermore the stopovers were a couple of hours, nothing excessive. Even in terms of price, I would say excellent value: we spent €205 each return trip including a backpack each and small cabin luggage included.

Alternatively, Ryanair also flies to São Miguel or you can book two separate flights, one to Portugal and then a flight to any of the islands of the archipelago, thanks to the connections offered by SATA Air Açores, the Azores airline.

If you have a few days spare from work, you can also think of flying to Lisbon or Porto, spend 1 or 2 days in the city and then keep on with your journey to the Azores, or vice versa, stopping over on the way back. If I had had a few more days I would have gladly returned to one of the two: last year, during our road trip in Portugal, I literally fell in love with them. If you want to take a look at the two cities to choose where to stop, I leave you the links of the dedicated posts:

As I said before, I booked with flyTAP and I must say that I was quite happy with our flight: don't expect free food and drink and the spaces on board are minimal (the same as Ryanair). This is the itinerary of my trip: THU 15 SEPTEMBER BLQ 17:45 - LIS 9:40 LIS 12:40 - PDL 14:05 THU 22 SEPTEMBER PDL 06:30 - LIS 09:45 LIS 1.10pm - BLQ 4.50pm If you need to book your car parking at the airport in Italy, I always recommend King Parking, which is the one I rely on: we've always had a great time. The car park is located 5 minutes by car from Bologna airport (but there are also ones in Milan, Rome and other airports in Italy, check on the website). Prices are always very affordable, and the shuttle service is always quick and efficient!

Azores Islands Visa

The Azores Islands tourist visa is also known as a Schengen visa because the Azores, Madeira, and the Canary Islands are special members of the EU and part of the Schengen Zone, even though they are located outside the European continent.

Being part of the Schengen area, along with 25 other countries, means that a visa obtained from any of these countries will allow you to visit all the other countries. However, if you apply for a Portugal visa, your first entry point should be in the Portugal.

You DO NOT need a tourist visa to visit the Portugal if:

  • You are from a country with a visa-free agreement with Schengen, and you will visit for a short trip (max. 90 days). This includes countries like the United States of America, the United Kingdom, Mexico, Australia, Canada, etc.

  • You are from an EU/EEA country or Switzerland.

The documents required for a Portugal Schengen visa are so many that I suggest you to rely on an agency that deals with all this paperwork for you and also saves lot of time.

iVisa.com provides online travel documents such as visas for entry to countries around the world, including the ones in Schengen area (but also health declaration forms, embassy documents, passport photos, passport renewals, tourist cards and other travel documents ). The site is safe and secure, the service is fast and efficient, and the team is experienced and available 24 hours a day for any need. To rely oniVisa.com will allow you to fully concentrate on your journey without wasting time and struggling with bureaucracy, as well as allowing you to leave without anxiety because there will be no hitches once you reach your destination.Click here to access directly to the page to apply for visas and travel documents.


4. Choose the ideal accommodation

Choosing where to stay for me is always a reason for thorough research and study as I try to find good price, excellent location and the minimum and indispensable services. In São Miguel this research was influenced by these factors as follows:

Ponta Delgada, São Miguel, Isole Azzorre, Portogallo
Ponta Delgada, São Miguel
  • as regards the location, I strongly advise you to stay in Ponta Delgada, it is the best equipped and connected city on the island, in an excellent position thanks to which you can reach every point comfortably, and it is also the city where the airport is;

  • usually I am a big fan of itinerant trips, in which I tend to change accommodation as I proceed with my itinerary, but I guarantee you that here it is not necessary: ​​the island is small, and being based in São Miguel you can get anywhere very well without having to drive too much;

  • the classic hotel or apartment choice - as already mentioned, on slightly longer trips I always tend to prefer the second option, so that I can take advantage of the kitchen and organize myself independently at least for breakfast and some snacks/packed lunches, so to save both time and money. Furthermore, on this trip, in addition to the kitchen, the apartment also had a washing machine bonus, which in such a humid place, where it often rains and there is a lot of trekking, was a godsend: by doing a washing machine in the middle of the week we saved a lot on the suitcase;

  • autonomous check-in and check-out, so as not to depend on the host's schedules; as always I prefer to pay little for a place where basically I only spend my time sleeping: I care very little about where I sleep and I prefer to spend more on enjoying the trip.

After all these considerations we booked the apartment through AirBnB Loft delle Azorre dal 15 al 22 Settembre per 310€ in totale in 2 (per cui 155€ a testa).

The location is excellent: 3 minutes walk from the car rental, 10 minutes walk from the main square and 8 minutes by taxi from the airport. In addition, there are plenty of free parking spaces on the street.

The Loft is small: ideal for 1-2 people, it has a single bed from which another bed emerges underneath. Apart from this, the spaces are excellent, the house is very clean, fully equipped and super supplied, with everything needed for cooking (salt, oil and pepper), linen for the bathroom and for the bed, washing machine, bathroom, a closet, and even a small internal courtyard where you can hang your clothes. The wifi is free and the connection is very good. Another thing I really appreciated about this choice, in addition to the excellent value for money, was the possibility of checking in and out independently thanks to a safety deposit box with a code outside the door. The owner is André but the apartment is managed by his mother Rosa, a very kind lady, always available on whatsapp, also for logistical advice. If you are interested in the apartment, I'll leave you Rosa's number +351 919 979 545 who was kind enough to leave it for me so I could book directly with her without the commissions of intermediary sites.


5. Choose how to get around in São Miguel

Rent a car

In my opinion, the only way to really visit São Miguel, in complete freedom and comfort, and the Azores islands in general, is to rent a car. Here is a quick list of the reasons why:

  • practically every point of interest is difficult to reach by public transport and booking excursions with transport included is expensive and quite limiting;

  • the weather often changes so quickly it requires considerable flexibility in programs and itinerary, which a car fully guarantees;

  • the wide variety of things to do and see on the island means that in the morning you may need heavy hiking clothing, and in the afternoon a towel, flip flops and swimsuit. For this reason, having your own car allows you to always have the change ready at your disposal;

  • the roads in São Miguel are excellent, brand new, wide and with little traffic, as well as well distributed so driving is really simple; only in some points of interest where we had to go down the cliffs did we come across some narrow streets with sharp bends, but overall the road system is excellent;

  • driving in the Azores is an exciting, relaxing and incredibly rewarding experience: expanses of green hills, ortensia bushes, grazing cows and incredible ocean views.

Noleggiare un auto a São Miguel, Isole Azzorre

Car prices in the Azores are quite affordable: we booked online a few months in advance on the AVIS website which in São Miguel and the other islands is managed by the local company Ilha Verde (if you want you can also book directly here). After some reflection we decided not to collect the car at the airport but directly in the city center since we arrived very late, at midnight - collecting the car at that time means a considerable surcharge (the same goes for the return, we had the flight very early in the morning and we would have had to pay a surplus on that occasion too). In this way we saved almost a full day of rental, booking from 16 to 21 September, and we chose the accommodation by virtue of this, in order to have to walk a few hundred meters to get to the car pick-up. We payed €218 (€109 each) in total for 6 full days of renting a manual petrol Ford Fiesta. With a full tank of €60 we drove all 6 days - I remind you that petrol costs €1.73 per liter (updated September 2022). 》To drive in the Azores (Portugal) an Italian driving license or any other European driving license is enough.

Take a Taxi to and from the airport

Having therefore chosen to collect the car in the city center of Ponta Delgada, we took a taxi to and from the airport. The journey from the airport to the Azores apartment costs €10 for two (€8 without suitcases) - the journey takes about 8-10 minutes, so it is a very reasonable cost. For the return we booked it by phone using the number on the airport board which I report below together with the various rates depending on the destination.


6. Pack smart and light!

We reached the last and perhaps most important point of this mini guide on how to plan your perfect trip to São Miguel: what to pack! I assure you that the suitcase for the Azores was one of the most difficult suitcases of my life: I was totally in crisis since I had a very small piece of luggage and the unpredictability and of the weather wasn't of any help. In the end, thanks also to the washing machine, I even managed to bring some clothes home without ever using them, so I'm quite satisfied. At the end of the day I can tell you that the temperatures are actually quite constant, there is no sudden change so it's not as difficult as I thought. Follow these few tips and you'll do just fine:

  • bring a comfortable sneaker or a trekking style for the day: pretty much anything you do in the Azores, it involves walking, often uphill, and often in nature - I use Salomon's X Ultra model in Goretex, probably my best buy ever! To find out which fantastic routes to do in São Miguel READ ALSO: Best hikes in São Miguel, in the Azores Islands - between volcanoes, forests and waterfalls

  • bring your rock shoes: they will be very useful in Ilhéu de Vila Franca and also in the waterfalls if you intend to swim;

  • don't forget a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen - when the sun is out it really hits hard, especially on the whale watching boat excursion. Remember to always choose a product that does not contain oxybenzone, responsible for coral bleaching and damage to coral reefs and which is therefore REEF FRIENDLY certified. I use the Hawaiian Tropic Aloha Care line in both the body and face version, both with SPF30;

  • bring a raincoat to always keep in your backpack - as we have already said the weather is really changeable, it changes often during the day and also according to the place;

  • always keep a sweatshirt in your backpack - going up in altitude it is always cooler and a sweatshirt can always be useful; honestly, in addition to the sweatshirt, I had always kept, in case of need, also a pair of long trousers and I must say that they had proved to be very useful several times;

Poca da Dona Beija, São Miguel, Isole Azzorre, Portogallo
  • bring your bathing suit and always keep it in your backpack, for the beaches and Ilhéu de Vila Franca, but also for the numerous thermal springs - as far as the springs are concerned, I strongly advise you to take an old swimsuit, preferably black because most likely it will stain yellow due to the iron present in the thermal waters;

  • bring a beach towel and always keep this in your backpack; also in this case the same goes for the bathing suit - choose one that can get dirty;

  • leave with a comfortable backpack with which to always travel - I use the Borealis Classic - North Face model, by now my most faithful and irreplaceable travel companion. It has lots of very useful pockets and compartments, two external bottle holders and the straps to fasten it to the waist and chest allow me to keep it on my shoulder comfortably without getting tired.

In general, however, opt for comfortable and breathable sportswear: in the summer, shorts and a t-shirt and a sweatshirt are sufficient during the day, while in the evening long jeans and a long-sleeved t-shirt because it tends to be more fresh. In any case, the secret on this trip in my opinion is to have a good backpack and always keep it in it: sweatshirt, long trousers, raincoat, swimsuit, slippers and beach towel.


Well, we came to the end of this short guide of 6 simple steps to plan a perfect trip to São Miguel, in the Azores Islands. I told you about all the things that were fundamental for me before leaving with the addition of all the considerations made afterwards: if by chance you have any other questions or curiosities, do not hesitate to contact me or comment below. If you liked this article and found it useful, leave a like and comment! READ ALSO: São Miguel, Azores - the amazing Green Island: one-week itinerary For a look at typical Azorean dishes and where you can find them in São Miguel READ ALSO:What and where to eat in São Miguel, the green island of the Azores To learn more about walking and trekking on the island READ ALSO: Best hikes in São Miguel, in the Azores Islands - between volcanoes, forests and waterfalls Have a good trip - Boa Viagem!

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