Hotels located in large towns and cities, coastal resorts and spa towns are the most expensive, and rates in Lisbon and Porto are similar to other major European cities. However, inexpensive hotels and other accommodation can be found in most towns, where a single room ( quarto individual) can usually be found for €20 to €30 and a double ( quarto duplo) for €30 to €40 (usually with a private bath or shower). Hotel rates are fairly consistent throughout Portugal.
Minimum and maximum rates are fixed according to the facilities and the season, although there’s no season in the major cities or in Madeira. Rates are considerably higher in tourist areas during the high season of July and August, when rooms at any price are hard to find. On the other hand, outside the main season (particularly in winter) some hotels offer low half or full board rates, when a double room with a bath, including dinner ( buffet) and breakfast can be found for €40 for two (there are even better rates for stays of a week or longer).
Some hotels and apart-hotels (‘ hotels’ consisting of self-contained apartments) also offer special low rates for long-stay winter guests. However, hotels aren’t usually a cost-effective, long-term solution for home hunters, although there may be little choice if you need accommodation for a short period only. Inexpensive bed and breakfast (e.g. a pensão, residéncia or quarto) accommodation is also available in Portugal.
An alternative to renting is to exchange your home abroad with one in Portugal. This way you can experience home-living abroad for a relatively small cost and may save you the expense of a long-term rental.
Although there’s an element of risk involved in exchanging your home with another family – depending on whether your swap is made in heaven or hell! – most agencies thoroughly vet clients and have a track record of successful swaps. There are home exchange agencies in most countries, many of which are members of the International Home Exchange Association (IHEA).
The best place to find or contact home exchange organisations is via the Internet where you will find www.digsville.com (American-oriented with a retro-hippy feel), www.intervac.com (large membership, long-established), www.homebase-hols.com, www.homeexchange.com (boasts 250,000 requests per month from over 70 countries, with most properties in North America) and www.homelink.org.uk (over 12,000 members – one of the largest and best-known companies).