Cycling between Ayamonte (Spain) and Vila Real de Santo António (Portugal)

Or vice versa if you like!

This is a trip he have done a number of times now and we have settled on the ferry as our preferred border crossing. Brilliant for bikes, convenient, cheap and even just a touch romantic.  What’s not to like? (We are not sure whether or not it’s possible to use the bridge that carries the motorway, but in any case it looks very daunting.)

Tip: choose a better day!
Tip: choose a better day!

The ferry runs every day of the week, takes about 20 minutes for the crossing and leaves on the hour from Vila Real de Santo António and on the half hour from Spain. It costs about 8 euro for two passengers and two bikes.  You can ride your bike on and while there is no obvious way to secure bikes on board, the boat is very stable and we have never had a problem with the bikes falling over or sliding about.

Bikes on board
Bikes on board

There is a terminal building on the Portuguese side, but not in Spain. Both sides have ticket offices. Both terminals are a literal stone throw from pretty squares with lots of cafes and restaurants.

When in Vila Real we stayed in the Arenilha Guest House. This was very modern and comfortable and they kindly allowed us to store the bikes in their secure inner patio.  The hotel is 5 minutes from the ferry and surrounded by hundreds of places to eat and drink. In Ayamonte we stayed a the Hotel Riavela. This was a nice, family run hotel and they were very bike-friendly with good safe indoor storage. The hotel is 10-15 minutes from the ferry by bike, but a long walk from places to eat.

The ferry terminals are very easy to find, tiny and so very relaxed affairs.

Crossing the Gaudiana
Crossing the Guadiana




6 thoughts on “Cycling between Ayamonte (Spain) and Vila Real de Santo António (Portugal)

  1. I agree I think ferries and cycling go hand in hand. Although they may sometimes be a tad unnecessary, I remember cycling in the Netherlands and they had a largish ferry which cost about 0.35€ and it moved about 20m across the river. I still cannot understand why they didn’t just build a bridge!


    1. I think you are right, Alex, a ferry crossing turns the most ordinary of cycle runs into a bit of an adventure somehow. Another favourite of ours is the Corran Ferry over to Ardnamurchan on the West Coast of Scotland. Perhaps because Ardnamuchan is just about as beautiful a spot as it’s possible to find and the ferry saves you from umpteen miles of busy main road.


  2. lol 😀

    Hi there,

    I was reading out of curiosity and i thought it was strange – there’s no ferry whatsoever between Vila Real and Ayamonte. 😀

    But later i understood.

    Here in Portugal nobody would mentioned “Vila Real” in the Algarve as “Vila Real” only, because then there would be two cities in the country with the exactly same name and no one could understand in a normal conversation which one we were talking about without more references.

    That is the reason why the first google map link you give it’s about a different place, almost in the other tip of the country about 700 km away, because the engine itself (and quite right) deduces that you are talking about the one “Vila Real”, the city founded in the Middle Ages and the capital city of one former historic district in the north of Portugal, and not the Algarvian one, founded in the 18th century, that has a different full name: as you can see below in your map “Crossing the Guadiana”, the city it’s called “Vila Real de Santo António”, and that way it’s impossible to confuse both, and everybody knows which one you’re referring to.

    Both cities were founded by royal decrees (hence their “Royal” title), but their names and their locations are a little different. So when you write “Vila Real” #only# you’re actually talking about the northern city, not the southern one.

    If you see anywhere written the nationwide known acronym “VRSA” it’s not about the antibiotic-resistant bacteria (well, maybe except on medical academic papers lol) but about the city on the eastern side of Algarve.


    1. Hello Hugo, and thanks for taking the trouble to explain. 🙂 I guess at one level I knew this as I once almost booked a hotel in the North after searching for Vila Real, but luckily just spotted that the map did not make sense as I wanted VRSA. I’ll edit the post now to avoid confusing any possible travellers. Thanks for the wee history lesson too – you learn a new thing every day. 😉 With thanks and best wishes, Norman


  3. Norman
    This is excellent, valuable info as have bike trip Faro – Oporto by circuitous route planned for late April wondered about river crossing as maps not very clear – now all makes sense – thanks a bunch – am also booked in Hotel Riavela – so your comments on that are also very useful


    1. Glad to hear the ferry info was useful, Sandy. Jacqui and I will be crossing back to Portugal from Spain the first week in March on our way from Alicante to the Algarve. I’ll post any update on the service if necessary. I was told by a Dutch cyclist that there is also a row boat casual ferry crossing up river at Alcoutim, but the only time we passed through on our way to Serpa it was not operating, so I have never risked it again. It’s a long way from anywhere if you are trying to cross the border! All the best for your trip and let us know how you get on.


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