Flying from New York to Lisbon typically costs less than from New York to Paris, Amsterdam, or Frankfurt. The key to bargain airfares is to shop around.
Flying time from New York to Lisbon is about 6 1/2 hours; from Atlanta to Lisbon (with a stopover), it's 12 hours; from Los Angeles to Lisbon (with a stopover), it's 15 hours; and from Montreal or Toronto, it's 8 hours.
Major Airlines -- When it was established in 1946, TAP (tel. 800/221-7370; www.tap-airportugal.us), the national airline of Portugal, flew only between Lisbon and Angola and Mozambique (then Portuguese colonies). Today TAP flies to four continents and has one of the youngest fleets in the airline industry -- its aircraft have an average age of only 4 years. Its U.S. gateway is Newark, New Jersey. In Portugal, it flies to nine destinations, the most popular of which are Lisbon, Porto, and Faro.
Continental Airlines (tel. 800/231-0856 in the U.S.; www.continental.com) began flying to Lisbon from Newark International Airport in 1997. The increased capacity comes as a welcome addition to existing air service, particularly during heavy travel periods in summer.
Air Canada (tel. 888/247-2262 in the U.S. or Canada; www.aircanada.com) offers direct flights to Lisbon from Toronto, and also offers daily flights from Toronto and Montreal to Paris, where you can transfer to another carrier to reach Lisbon.
For flights from the U.K., contact British Airways (tel. 0844/493-0787; www.britishairways.com) or TAP (tel. 020/8745-7562; www.tap-airportugal.com). Or contact the budget carriers easyJet (tel. 0905/821-0905; www.easyjet.com), which flies daily to Lisbon from both Gatwick and Luton airports in the U.K., or Ryanair, which flies from London's Stansted Airport to Porto, Portugal's second city. Flights are daily; check www.ryanair.com or call tel. 0818/30-30-30 for info.
TAP also has frequent flights on popular routes from major cities in western Europe. Its flights to Lisbon from London are an especially good deal; sometimes they're priced so attractively that one might combine a sojourn in England with an inexpensive side excursion to Portugal. TAP gives passengers the option of stopping midway across the Atlantic in the Azores, and it makes baggage transfers and seat reservations on connecting flights within Portugal much easier.
Regular Fares -- All airlines divide their calendar year into three seasons -- basic, shoulder, and peak -- whose dates might vary slightly from airline to airline. TAP's basic season is November 1 to December 14 and December 25 to March 31. The most expensive season is its peak season from June 1 to September 15, when passengers tend to solidly book most transatlantic flights. Other dates are shoulder season.
Discounted Fares -- All the major carriers offer an APEX ticket, generally the cheapest transatlantic option. Usually such a ticket must be purchased 14 to 21 days in advance, and a stay in Europe must last at least 7 days but not more than 30. Changing the date of departure from North America within 21 days of departure sometimes entails a penalty of around $150; with some tickets, no changes of any kind are permitted.
A more flexible (but more expensive) option is the regular economy fare. This ticket offers the same seating and services as the APEX ticket for a shorter stay than the 7-day APEX minimum requirement. One of the most attractive side benefits of an economy-class ticket is the absolute freedom to make last-minute changes in flight dates and unrestricted stopovers.
For families, one strong attraction of TAP is that infants under 2 years pay 10% of the adult fare. (About a half-dozen bassinets are available on transatlantic flights, allowing parents to lift infants off their laps onto specially designed brackets during certain segments of the flight.) Children under 12 pay 75% of the adult price for most categories of tickets.
TAP offers a winter senior citizen fare from its three U.S. gateways to anywhere in Portugal. The discount is 10% off published fares. The discount applies for seniors (travelers 62 years of age or older) plus a companion of any age (spouse, grandchild, or friend). The maximum stay abroad with this type of ticket is 2 months. Tickets must be purchased at least 14 days before departure.
Subject to change, TAP offers a one-way youth fare. It's 50% off the regular fare, depending on the season, between New York or Boston and Lisbon. Tickets of this type can be purchased only at the last minute because they can be booked only within 72 hours of departure. Youth fares are offered only to travelers ages 12 to 24 and only if space is available. They cannot be mailed and must be purchased in person at a travel agent or any TAP counter.
None of the above options takes into account promotional fares airlines might initiate while you're planning your trip. These are usually particularly attractive during the basic season.
Clients who prefer not to specify when they'll return home, or who can't purchase their tickets within 21 days before takeoff, usually opt for TAP's excursion fare. It costs more than either APEX option but has no restrictions on advance purchases or time of travel.
The airline's most exclusive and most expensive class of service is named after the seafaring pioneers who spread Portugal's empire throughout the world. Navigator Class passengers benefit from better service and upgraded food and drink. This is TAP's version of business class, comparable to first class on other major carriers.
Thousands of traveling Brits (and foreigners visiting the U.K.) cross France and Spain by rail to begin their Portuguese holiday. If you opt for this, expect lots of worthwhile scenery, and be aware that you'll have to change trains in Paris.
Trains from London originate in Waterloo Station, pass through the Channel Tunnel, and arrive in Paris at Gare du Nord. Don't expect to merely cross over a railway platform to change trains: You'll have to traverse urban Paris, moving from Gare du Nord to Gare Montparnasse. You can do this for the cost of a Métro ticket, but if you have luggage, hiring a taxi makes the transit a lot easier. (Taxis line up near your point of arrival.) From Gare Montparnasse, the train continues through France but requires a change of equipment in Hendaye, on the Spanish-French border. It continues to Lisbon's Sta. Apolónia station. Total travel time for this itinerary is 22 hours, so we strongly recommend reserving a couchette (sleeping car). Budgeteers can save about 10% off fares by taking a slower, less convenient ferry across the English Channel. However, this option adds at least 5 hours, additional transfers, and many hassles at the docks on either side of the water, and will involve you in imbroglios that probably aren't worth the savings.
From Paris, the most luxurious way to reach Portugal is by the overnight Paris-Madrid Talgo express train. It leaves from Gare d'Austerlitz and arrives in Madrid's Chamartín Station, where you transfer to the Lisboa Express.
In Madrid, the Lusitania Express leaves the Atocha Station at 10:45pm and arrives in Lisbon at 8:15am; the 11pm train arrives in Lisbon at 8:40am.
For more complete information about rail connections, contact Caminhos de Ferro Portuguêses, Calçada do Duque 20, 1249 Lisboa (tel. 21/102-30-00; www.cp.pt in Lisbon).
If you plan much travel on European railroads, get the latest copy of the Thomas Cook European Timetable of Railroads. This 500-plus-page book documents all of Europe's main passenger rail services with detail and accuracy. It's available on the Web at www.thomascooktimetables.com.
Eurailpasses -- The Eurailpass is one of Europe's greatest bargains, permitting unlimited first-class rail travel through 17 countries in Europe, including Portugal. Passes are for periods as short as 15 days or as long as 3 months and are strictly nontransferable.
The Eurail Global Pass allows you unlimited travel in 18 Eurail-affiliated countries. You can travel on any of the days within the validity period, which is available for 15 days, 21 days, 1 month, 2 months, 3 months, and some other possibilities as well. Prices for first-class adult travel are $687 for 15 days, $890 for 21 days, $1,106 for 1 month, $1,561 for 2 months, and $1,926 for 3 months. Children 4 to 11 pay half fare; those 3 and under travel for free.
A Eurail Global Pass Saver, also valid for first-class travel in 18 countries, offers a special deal for two or more people traveling together. This pass costs $582 for 15 days, $756 for 21 days, $939 for 1 month, $1,327 for 2 months, and $1,643 for 3 months.
A Eurail Global Youth Pass for those 12 to 25 allows second-class travel in 18 countries. This pass costs $446 for 15 days, $578 for 21 days, $720 for 1 month, $1,016 for 2 months, and $1,255 for 3 months.
Eurail Selectpass: This pass offers unlimited travel on the national rail networks of any three, four, or five bordering countries out of the 22 Eurail nations linked by train or ship. Two or more passengers can travel together for big discounts, getting 5, 6, 8, 10, or 15 days of rail travel within any 2-month period on the national rail networks of any three, four, or five adjoining Eurail countries linked by train or ship. A sample fare: for 5 days in 2 months you pay $435 for three countries.
Other passes include Eurail Global Pass Flexi, allowing you to choose either 10 or 15 days of unlimited travel in 18 European countries, including Switzerland, within a 2-month period. In first class, $811 gets you 10 days of travel in 2 months, rising to $1,066 for 15 days in 2 months. Children 4 to 11 pay half the adult fare.
If you're under 26, you can avail yourself of a Eurail Global Pass Youth Flexi. In second class, you get 10 days of travel in 2 months for $529, or 15 days in 2 months for $693. For that you get to travel in 18 European countries, including Portugal.
Portuguese Railpass offers any 3 days in a month for $135, or 4 days in a month for $172. This pass is good for unlimited first-class travel.
The Spain 'n Portugal Saverpass, good for both Portugal and Spain, offers any 3 days of unlimited first-class train travel in a 2-month period for $295 (children 4-11 pay half fare on any of these discount passes).
Where to Buy Rail Passes -- Travel agents in all towns and railway agents in major North American cities sell all these tickets, but the biggest supplier is Rail Europe (tel. 877/272-RAIL  in the U.S. for information; tel. 0870/584-8848 for reservations from the U.K.; www.raileurope.com). Your best deal is to book with the 0870 number in England. If you reserve at least 7 days in advance, you get various reductions.
Many different rail passes are available in the United Kingdom for travel in Britain and continental Europe. Stop in at the International Rail Centre, Victoria Station, London SW1V 1JY (tel. 0870/584-8848 in the U.K.). Some of the most popular passes, including Inter-Rail and Euro Youth, are offered only to travelers under 26 years of age; these allow unlimited second-class travel through most European countries.
There is no convenient bus service from other parts of Europe to Portugal. Flying, driving, and traveling by rail are the preferred transport methods. However, the buses that do make the trip -- say, from London or France -- offer somewhat lower prices (and less comfort) than equivalent journeys by rail.
The largest bus line in Europe, Eurolines Ltd., 52 Grosvenor Gardens, London SW1W 0UA (tel. 08717/818-177; www.eurolines.com), operates bus routes to Portugal that stop at several places in France (including Paris) and Spain along the way. Buses leave from London's Victoria Coach Station daily, travel by ferry across the English Channel, and arrive in Lisbon 37 hours later. Tickets from London to Lisbon cost £83 to £110 one-way and £188 round-trip.
Eurolines also offers service from London's Victoria Coach Station to Faro, in southern Portugal, every Monday, Wednesday, and Friday at 10pm. Arrival is 2 days later, after multiple stops and delays.
By Ferry -- Brittany Ferries operates from Plymouth, England, to Santander, Spain. From March through November, crossing time is 23 to 24 hours. Between October and April, the trip takes 30 to 33 hours. Contact Brittany Ferries, Millbay Docks, Plymouth, England PL1 3EW (tel. 0871/244-0744; www.brittany-ferries.co.uk), for exact schedules and more information. From Santander, you can drive west to Galicia, in Spain, and then head south toward Portugal, entering through the Minho district.