FAQ about traveling to the Azores Islands
Planning your Azores trip? Before you pack your bags and prepare for your departure, there are some things you will want to know about this special island archipelago. We’ve gathered the most faq and are answering them all for you so that you can be prepared for your Azores travel. Read on for the inside scoop on all things Azores, including the top tips when traveling to the Azores.
1. How many islands are in the Azores?
The Azores are a Portuguese archipelago that is made up of nine islands, divided into three different groups. The Eastern Group comprises São Miguel Island and Santa Maria Island. The islands of Terceira, Graciosa, Faial, São Jorge and Pico make up the Central Group. Finally, the Western Group consists of Corvo Island and Flores Island.
Even though these islands share some similarities, each island is quite unique and different when you compare their heritage, history, and traditions. Wondering which Azores island to visit? Keep reading the rest of this amazing article to see which island offers your desired activities and best fits your individual wants and unique traveler profile.
2. How is the weather in the Azores?
Azores weather can be quite unpredictable. For instance, on the same day when traveling in the Azores, you can experience all four seasons! You could start the day off with a light rain, only to have the sun burst out mere minutes later, followed by a bit of wind, and more! For this reason, don’t rely too much on the weather forecasts while you travel, and come prepared and dressed accordingly (we suggest layers!) so that you can make the most out of everyday, come rain or shine. That being said, although the Azores is a mild and moderate climate, it does experience four seasons.
3. Do I need to rent a car?
We always recommend that visitors to the Azores rent a car. It’s simply the best way to make sure that you can see all that you want to see and explore every bit of the islands, from waterfalls off the beaten path to hiking trails in the country, and so much more. Don’t be worried about renting a car, as rental car rates are affordable in the Azores, and it’s easy to drive. Although the Azores does have public transit in the form of buses, it is very limited and the buses are not frequent. As taxis are a bit more expensive option, it really does make the most sense to rent a car and ensure that your Azores vacation is all that you want it to be and that you can do everything you want to do on your time schedule, too.
When you are ready to book your trip, there is no need to be overwhelmed at the amount of rental car options out there. Azores Getaways offers you the best deals and prices, with a variety of rental car options for you to choose from.
4. What should I see in the Azores?
There are so many things to see in the Azores, the list for top travel tips of must-sees could be endless! However, we’ll provide you with the most commonly sought after highlights to enjoy as you make your way around the islands. All around the Azores, you’ll see various signs that alert you to different Azores wonders. As you are driving around, be sure and pull over for scenic viewpoints (called miradouros), as well as waterfalls (cascatas), hot springs (fontes termais), and more. Those are just to name a few, but honestly, any place in the Azores is picturesque enough to take a break and enjoy soaking up the pristine and natural beauty of these Portuguese islands.
5. Can I fly between the Azores islands?
Yes, you can fly between the Azores islands! In fact, we highly recommend you fly to each of the islands, as every Azores island is unique and different in its own special way. The great news is that SATA Air Açores flies to every island in the Azores on a daily basis, which means that if you want to visit more than one island, especially during the winter months, this is definitely the way to go.
Whether you are planning to island-hop to Sao Miguel, Santa Maria, Terceira, Graciosa, Sao Jorge, Pico, Faial, Flores or Corvo, this article has everything you need to know about inter-island flights in the Azores.
6. Can I travel by boat between the islands?
Yes, you can..sort of. If you’re traveling from one island to a nearby island, like those islands found in the central and western groups, Atlântico Line, the regional ferry transport company, offers year-round travel options between Pico, Faial, Sao Jorge and Flores to Corvo.
Before booking a trip, make sure to plan ahead and know everything about the schedules and routes you need to take. If you are thinking of traveling between different island groups, like from São Miguel to Terceira, be aware that this is only possible in peak season, between the months of May to September.
Want to know what to expect when traveling on a ferry in the Azores?! Click here.
7. What should I bring on a hike?
There are plenty of beautiful and natural hiking trails to discover in the Azores. But before you set out and hit the trail, there are some important hiking tips and things to keep in mind, including proper attire and which necessities to pack. Make sure to bring a raincoat, some snacks along the way, plenty of water, sunscreen, and perhaps even some lunch if the hike is going to last a bit longer than a short walk. You’ll find that Azores trails often have scenic picnic areas dotted along the footpaths, many of which offer views that are absolutely unforgettable. Also, don’t forget to bring proper hiking shoes, especially since some trails can be tricky in certain places, so having good grip on your shoes can make a big difference. You may also want to consider investing in waterproof or water resistant trail shoes, as part of what makes the Azores so lush and beautiful is the amount of rainfall it gets each year, and that calls for sometimes muddy and rainy--but epic--hiking!
8. What to know before taking a hike
Be aware as you head out on the trails in the Azores that not every trail is circular. There are some trails that are one-way. In this case, planning ahead is important, and you will either need to be prepared to take a taxi back to your original destination, or plan some alternative return. Also make sure you do your research and are aware of the particular hike’s difficulty and length to be sure that you can physically handle it. The great news is that the Azores offers a wide range of trails, from easy and enjoyable nature walks to some natural trails that are far more difficult and challenging, so you will certainly be able to get out on some trail and enjoy the beauty of this pristine island paradise.
9. What can I see for free?
Visitors to the Azores will be happy to find that there are many attractions in the islands that are free. In fact, nearly every single hike, view, or lake can be seen free, and in the Azores, the lush locales that list features are near endless! So, you’ll never run out of epic, absolutely free options.
10. But not Everything is free
As mentioned above, not every single Azores attraction is free. For example, to enter the Terra Nostra Gardens or Caldeira Velha--two of the top tourist destinations--you will need to pay an entrance fee. Although these idyllic locales are more than worth the price for entry, it is just good to know in advance so you can be prepared to make sure and have some euros with you. Also worthy of note, activities like whale watching, canyoning, and professional guided tours are not free, but are still great options for discovering all of the wonders of the Azores. Guided tours can especially be great because you are benefitting from all of the inside tips and places from local experts. To find your perfect guided tour, Azores Getaways has the top local experts on speed dial and can arrange everything for you.
11. Should I make restaurant reservations?
Yes, you should always plan ahead and make restaurant reservations just to be safe, especially during the peak summer season. Since many of the Azores’ restaurants are not very big, making a reservation beforehand will help you ensure that you have a seat waiting for you and can eat where and when you want, even in the highly recommended local restaurants that tend to fill up fast!
Keep in mind that in the Azores, you may still need to call or email (only a few) the restaurants. This is because not many Azores restaurants have the possibility to book online yet, which is actually part of the islands’ charm. It really does feel like you have stepped back into a simper, purer time--you just need to plan ahead accordingly! Even though we do recommend making reservations as a smart, general rule, some restaurants don’t accept reservations, like the popular Bar Caloura restaurant. In those cases, all we can say is arrive early and cross your fingers--but in the Azores, any local cuisine will be worth the wait!
12. Should I tip?
It’s not usual to tip in the Azores like you would in the United States, where you tip at least 15% of the meal’s whole cost. Of course, if you enjoyed the service and felt it was very good, you are free to leave some euros as a kind gesture. Just be aware that it is not expected or considered rude to not do so, either.
13. What about nightlife and parties in the Azores?
The Azores are not known as a party destination, like Ibiza or Saint Tropez. The most you can expect to find are some local pubs or bars to relax in and have a drink with friends and welcoming residents. The “wild” that the Azores is known for is its untamed and untouched nature that will simply take your breath away, so we consider that a pretty amazing tradeoff! However, if you do want to enjoy some live music and throw back a few drinks, keep an eye out for the various fun festivals that the Azores hosts, especially during the summer. That should give you your fix, and they’re also a great way to experience more of the local Azorean culture while meeting more locals.
14. Azores, Portugal: a place for outdoor and adventure activities
In the Azores, there are so many activities you can try. In fact, Azores Getaways has partnerships with companies that provide a wide range of activities, including exciting expeditions and unforgettable island tours to choose from. The best part is that Azores Getaways’ friendly travel experts can help take care of all the planning for you. We particularly recommend activities like canyoning, hiking, whale watching, horseback riding, diving, surfing, swimming with dolphins, and lots more! Contact us today, because your Azores adventure awaits!
15. Many Azoreans speak English
The official language in the Azores is Portuguese, but English is widely spoken in all of the islands. The good news, too, is that if somebody doesn’t understand your particular language, you can always use the Google Translate app if you want to translate or explain something. Modern technology is pretty amazing, right?!
16. The Azores are not a beach destination
Even though the Azores does have beautiful volcanic, black-sand beaches, it is more known for its unspoiled and gorgeous pastoral nature and lush, countryside. With many visitors having even compared its amazingly vibrant landscapes to those of Ireland, you imagine how green and picturesque the Azores is, and you can expect to see lakes, waterfalls, hot springs, trails, and so much more--just not endless sandy beaches for lounging.
17. The Azores are volcanic islands
Practically everywhere you look in the Azores, you can see clear signs of volcanic activity, from steaming hot springs to the hardened lava remains of recent eruptions. While you are visiting, be sure to check out the black sand beaches in the Azores, as well as the geysers and thermal springs found in the famous Furnas Valley on Sao Miguel Island. You can even sample a special Azores meal called cozido that is actually cooked underground by the natural heat of the volcano! And if you want to see the effects of a recent eruption, go to Faial Island and explore the Capelinhos Volcano.
18. Try out the thermal springs
One of the most memorable highlights of your entire Azores trip will surely be enjoying a delightful bath in the numerous thermal springs that are located on the islands, especially in São Miguel Island. While visiting this largest of the Azores islands, you must try out the most famous of the springs: Poça Dona da Beija, Caldeira Velha, and Terra Nostra. All of these dreamy locales feature beautiful, iron-rich pools, where you can relax in warm waters and luxuraite in the peaceful and serene beauty of Azores nature.
19. It’s an affordable destination
Thankfully, the Azores is a destination where your wallet won’t suffer. You can get a lot of value from the Azores, and it is a place where your money goes a long way. For example, food and accommodation in the Azores are relatively cheap when compared to the rest of Western Europe. To give you an idea of average costs you can expect to pay when dining out, budget for around 15 euros per meal, and that includes eating quite well! Also, for two people sharing a typical double-occupancy hotel room, the average price for that accomodation in the Azores would be around 100 euros per day.
20. What COVID-19 guidelines are in place to enter the Azores due to the pandemic?
Visitors heading to the Azores must provide proof of a negative test for COVID-19 made within 72 hours prior to arrival. Read more about Azores entry requirements, safety measures, and specific COVID-19 guidelines here.
21. What’s the official government in the Azores?
The Azores are an Autonomous Region of Portugal and a part of the European Union.
22. What is the official currency used in the Azores?
The Azores use the Euro, although most major credit cards are accepted throughout the islands. Regarding ATMs, they are widely available and can be found in most of the large villages and towns. If you’re flying direct to the Azores, currency can also be exchanged at airports, banks, and most hotels.
23. Is there Internet and WiFi in the Azores?
Free WiFi is widely available in many public areas, restaurants, bars, shopping centers and hotels, but you should contact your mobile provider ahead of your trip and find out about your plan’s international data rates and any relevant roaming fees that may apply. The last thing you want is to get home to a bunch of surprise charges for overseas data usage!
24. What voltage is used in the Azores?
The Azores uses electricity at 220-240V, 50Hz, with European standard Europlug and Schuko plug sockets. If you plan on using electrical appliances that operate on a different voltage, you will need a transformer. As for appliances that have different plugs, those will need an adapter.
25. How’s the attire in the Azores?
The style of dress in the Azores is fairly casual, particularly during the day. Comfortable athletic wear is perfectly acceptable during the day, while smart, casual dress is recommended for dinner.
26. What should I pack to travel to the Azores?
While not at all an exhaustive list, the items below are what we consider to be essentials, and a good start:
- Bathing suit;
- Water shoes;
- Sunglasses/sun hat;
- Power plug adaptor/voltage converter;
- Camera and/or camera phone;
- Lightweight coat/windbreaker or raincoat;
- Walking shoes/sneakers (sandals or flip-flops for pool or dinners only);
- Comfortable/athletic wear/shorts;
- Lightweight backpack for walks/hikes.
27. Emergency contact: dial 112
The Azores Getaways Customer Care team is available 7 days a week to answer any of your concerns by phone, email, or online chat, but in the case of an emergency, you should dial 112.