This isn’t, however, the fun way to do it. Far more enjoyable is to make the journey by boat, from the border town of Vila Real de Santo Antonio.
Ferries run across the Guadiana river every 30 to 60 minutes, depending on the time of year, and the fare is no more than a couple of Euros. Exact times and costs can vary, as there are both Spanish and Portuguese boats in operation, usually alternating their days.
The trip across the water takes around twenty minutes. With Spain being one hour ahead of Portugal, this means that you get to arrive back in Portugal before you leave on the return journey!
Vila Real de Santo Antonio and Ayamonte are both attractive border towns, but distinct enough for you to really know you’re in a different country. A relaxing boat ride to Spain followed by a leisurely tapas lunch is a great way to combine the cultures of two countries in just one day.
To make the most of this trip there are a few things you should take into account: First off, remember the time difference, and the fact that Spain enjoys a generous siesta in the afternoon. If you time your trip badly you can find all the shops closed.
Secondly, don’t forget that although you’ve only travelled for twenty minutes, you ARE in a different country, with different banks and different phone networks, so make sure you are suitably prepared. If you’re planning to make any big purchases in Spain and want to use a credit card, you may well have to show your passport as identification.
Finally, make sure you check at the jetty to ascertain the time of the last boat back to Portugal. This is usually around dusk. Failure to catch it will make for a pricey cab ride back!