5 reasons to tuk tuk Porto, Portugal

Get to know Portugal’s second city from an open-air, whisper-quiet electric tuk-tuk tour

Taking in the sights of Porto, Portugal’s Old Town also means taking in lots of slopes. Built up from the banks of the Douro River, the historic city winds up and down hills. Stone staircases and beautiful, intriguing, narrow old streets can get you from the cafes and promenades of the Ribeira riverside area, to the hilltop Porto Se, or city cathedral. Walking the city can be wonderful. But for an introductory tour, we much preferred to tuk tuk Porto.

The tuk tuk Porto tour we enjoyed

“Our guide was fluent in Portuguese, English, and five other languages. He’s also learning Chinese.”

About Porto: seeing it by tuk tuk tour

Porto, Portugal’s second city, stands on hills at the eastern edge of the Atlantic Ocean. Further inland, the lush, terraced vineyard hills of the Douro River Valley are an epicenter of Portuguese winemaking, especially of port, or fortified Portuguese wine. Getting around the hilly city center entails lots of walking, mostly along cobbled streets. Porto is a beautiful place, full of history and modern vibrancy. But giving the entire area a good wander amidst all the slopes, stairs, ups, and downs is going to be tiring for any traveler, especially kids, or an amputee like Jodie.

So we didn’t walk around. Instead, from the Clerigos Tower area, visitors to Porto can hop on a tuk-tuk for a guided tour of the Old Town. Not only do friendly guides sprinkle in facts, history, current events, and some repartee. The open-sided tuk-tuk connects you more to the sounds and rhythm of the city itself. Plus, taking in the Old Town via a Porto tuk-tuk tour can help you identify places you’d like to check out more.

“You have to go up Clérigos tower,” said our guide and tuk-tuk driver. “Not going up is like Paris without Eiffel.”

5 reasons to tour Porto by electric tuk-tuk

As we considered how we wanted to get familiar with Porto, Jodie found that tuk-tuk tours run throughout the city center. Here’s why we decided a tuk-tuk tour was right for us:

Less walking, more enjoying

We try to be tactical with our walking, especially to make sure Jodie is getting the most out of her mobility as an amputee who uses a prosthetic leg. Being able to sit back, relax, and enjoy the tour helped Jodie get more out of our tour experience. 

Plus, we could enjoy curious tidbits about the city. Portugal’s iconic tiles, for example, can reflect summer heat and keep buildings cooler. During plague years in centuries past, it didn’t hurt that the tiles were too slippery for rats to climb.

Sample the city

Porto’s Old Town is full of incredible shops, cafes, restaurants, and scenic streets. We also keep an eye out for notable bakeries, especially ones that specialize in Porto’s favorite treat, the egg and custard pastries called pasteis de nata. There’s so much more to take in than we could do by walking around, even if we were staying in the city for a year.

Taking our tuk-tuk tour gave us a chance to sample the city, so we could take in a few sights, and note places we wanted to come back to for a more in-depth visit. Our driver also gave his opinions and suggestions on what we might want to do.

“You have to go up Clérigos tower,” said our guide and tuk-tuk driver. “Not going up is like Paris without Eiffel.”

Insights into local culture and history

Between two churches—the Igreja dos Carmelitas and the Igreja do Carmo—there’s not an empty space, but a house. Granted, this house is only 1.5 meters (4.9 feet) wide. Built in 1768, A Casa Escondida was built to bridge the two churches, though it’s served many roles over the centuries but isn’t currently open to the public.

And we never would have noticed it, had our guide not pointed it out.

As much as we love to travel independently and do most of our own guiding, sometimes we prefer to trust an excellent guide. Good guides offer solid tours, and they can tweak things to your preferences and interests. Plus, they typically are repositories of local culture and history, and can help you learn more about a place than you could on your own.

Our guide peppered our tour with anecdotes and little facts, and was always ready to slow down and point out some small yet intriguing detail that we would have missed otherwise. As we passed by part of the University of Porto campus, our driver explained, “Porto has a population of 250,000, and 35,000 are students. The city is the campus.”

Tuk-tuks are fun, and electric ones help you hear more of the city and your guide

Our first electric tuk-tuk tour experience was in Bangkok, Thailand. The open-air vehicle helped us take in more of the city. But the electric motor meant our ride was quieter and didn’t smell of exhaust. We felt more aware of and engaged in the overall city.

Our Porto tuk-tuk tour reinforced this joy of a quiet ride where it was easy to take in the rhythm of the city. We also liked that our electric tuk-tuk made for a more sustainable way to enjoy Porto. Plus, since our guide didn’t have to compete with a rumbling engine, it was much easier to hear him.

Stops give a chance to get out on foot, then continue the ride

While riding in the tuk-tuk is the main point of this Porto sightseeing tour, it was also nice to have chances to get out and wander.

On our tour, our guide dropped us off at the hilltop Porto Se. This large cathedral has a next door neighbor of a bishop’s palace, from earlier times when the Catholic Church in Porto sought political as well as religious authority in the city. The large plaza surrounding them gives visitors some of the Porto’s best vantages and panoramas.

After our free wandering around the plaza, we met back up with our guide and continued to tour more of Porto’s Old Town.

What to look for in a tuk-tuk tour of Porto

Tuk-tuk tours, especially electric ones, are growing in popularity in cities around the world. And it makes sense. Not only are tuk-tuks inherently fun, the open-air design engaged us more with our surroundings, and the electric motor made for a quiet ride. From our experiences in Bangkok and Porto, here are some things we suggest you look for when booking a tuk-tuk tour in Porto.

Private or public?

We booked a private tuk-tuk tour, but other options are available at various price points. Some tours group multiple people. Others can just be you and yours.

Check reviews

Porto is growing in popularity with tourists, as are tuk-tuk tours. You can expect a quality, reliable operator to have consistently good reviews, with the occasional clunker since some people just won’t be pleased.

Weather contingencies

Yes, it’s a tuk-tuk, but that doesn’t mean you’re exposed to the elements. Our tuk-tuk had clear plastic sides that could be raised or lowered. Even if it had been raining, we could stay dry.

Layers are a good idea for tuk-tuk tours, especially if you’re visiting Porto outside the summer months. We were there in November, but stayed comfy with warm mid layers and fleece jackets.

Itinerary options

Many tours run routes throughout the Old Town, but other options may be available. 

Languages

Portugal is an international city, and many people speak multiple languages. You can find out language options from many tour listings, or message the tour operator with questions. Our guide was fluent in Portuguese, English, and five other languages.

He’s also learning Chinese.

Age restrictions

Our tour allowed kids as long as they were at least 7 years old. Other tours may have different rules.

Length of tour

Our tour lasted an hour and a half. It was a wonderful little in-town road trip, giving us just enough time to check some things out, but not so long that we felt tired after.

Accessibility

Our guide was there to give Jodie a hand if she needed help getting in or out of the tuk-tuk.

The tour we took listed that it was wheelchair accessible, but that they didn’t recommend the tour for “travelers with back problems.”

More and more tour operators are expanding their accessibility and try to accommodate people’s disabilities. Tour listings typically note accessibility options. If you have accessibility or mobility considerations, odds are you can find a tour that will work for you, and you can contact the tour operator to discuss what you need to know to see if the tour is a good fit for you.

Our Porto tour in an electric tuk-tuk gave us a delightful introduction to this amazing Portuguese city

Two kids look out over a hilltop wall at the skyline of Porto, Portugal

Getting to know Porto while riding in a tuk-tuk was an absolute delight for our family of four. We enjoyed our guide, the open-air ride, and getting a chance to really take in the city at a slow pace.

Electric tuk-tuk tours have become one of our favorite ways to get an introduction to a new city. While riding along, we can get an initial sense of where something is, determine if we want to go deeper, and then make plans for the rest of our stay.

Above all, here’s the thing: riding in a tuk-tuk throughout beautiful, historic Porto is simply an incredible way to enjoy an amazing city.

Book a tuk tuk tour of Porto

5 reasons to tuk tuk tour Porto, Portugal
About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

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