Most travellers that are going to Portugal take the night trains from Hendaye/Irun and Madrid to Lisbon. However, there is another possibility to get to the beautiful country in the west of Europe by train: the Celta trains between Vigo and Porto. I travelled this route on my last Interrail trip and have compiled all information about schedules, tickets and reservations you need to know for your own trip.
From Vigo to Porto
Vigo is connected by two daily "Celta" express trains to Porto. They cover the journey in just 2h15 (consider that Portugal is one hour behind of Spain) and make only a few intermediate stops along the route. A single trip costs 14,95€, including a seat reservation. When travelling with Interrail, seat reservation is compulsory and free of charge. The Celta trains depart from Vigo Guixar, the traditional terminus of the city, a few minutes away from the city centre (read more about the other station, Vigo Urzaiz, below). After leaving Vigo, the train runs along the Ria de Vigo, a large bay of the Atlantic, before turning southwards at Redondela.
Half an hour later you reach Tui on the river Minho on the border to Portugal. On a double-deck combined rail/car bridge you cross the river and arrive in the Portuguese city of Valenca. The train now follows the river Minho until it reaches the Atlantic coast (sit on the right hand side of the train), continuing south until Viana de Castelo, the next stop. From here the railway line runs inland until Porto, stopping in Nine only where you have connections to Braga. In Porto, the Celta trains terminate at the city's main station of Campanha, where you have connections to Lisbon. If you are going to stay in Porto, you probably want to change here and take a local train that takes you to Sao Bento station right in the heart of the city.
Besides the two fast Celta trains from Vigo to Porto there is also a connection with regional trains between the two cities. Normally the Celta trains are the better option. However I have included these trains in the timetables below as well.
From Santiago to Vigo
If you are staying in Santiago de Compostela (which to be honest is a much more interesting city than Vigo), you will need to get to Vigo first and change trains here to get to Porto. Between Santiago and Vigo there are two railway lines: The old single-track diesel line that meanders along rivers and the Atlantic coast and the new double-track electrified high-speed line. There are frequent connections (about one train per hour), completing the trip in 50 min (via the high-speed line) or 1h30 (via the old line). The single trip on board the MD trains on the high-speed line is 11,10€, while a trip with the regional trains on the old line is slightly cheaper at 9,25€. If you are travelling with Interrail you need a seat reservation on both trains which costs 4€.
It is important to know that there are two stations in Vigo: While the regional trains from Santiago, long distance and night trains from Madrid, Barcelona and San Sebastian as well as the Celta trains from Porto arrive at Vigo Guixar, the MD high speed trains from A Coruna and Santiago arrive at the new station of Vigo Urzaiz. Both stations are about 1km apart, it takes roughly 15min to walk between them. Guixar station is located directly at the harbour, while Urzaiz is a little bit uphill, so if you need to walk from Guixar to Urzaiz, take that into account. However, when travelling from Porto to Santiago, the connecting train leaves from Guixar station so you don't have to change stations anyway.
Timetables and Tickets
If you are travelling with single tickets you can simply buy your tickets locally at train stations (either at ticket desk or ticket machines). You can also purchase tickets online in advance but as there are no special advance fares available this is not necessary. The ticket for the MD Santiago - Vigo is 11,10€, while the ticket for the Celta Vigo - Porto is 14,95€. Seat reservation is included, trains are 2nd class only.
If you like to buy your ticket online in advance, one option is like: first a ticket from Santiago to Vigo on Trainline - then a second ticket from Vigo to Porto, as well from Trainline.
When travelling with Interrail, you need seat reservations on all trains. The seat reservation for the MD is 4€, the reservation for the Celta is free. Reservations are available at ticket desks at the stations.
I was travelling in July and bought my tickets at short notice - there were plenty of seats available. The booking system for the Celta trains seems to book seats starting from the middle of each carriage, so I would recommend to take a free seat towards the end of the carriage if you are unhappy with your seat (I got a seat at a very dirty window so I took another, free seat). You can also select your seat when buying tickets at a machine. If you get your ticket/reservation from the ticket desk, you could also ask for a specific seat.
|Tui (ES, CET)|||||10:03||18:58||||
|Valenca (PT, GMT)||08:36||09:11||11:16||18:06||18:34||19:37|
|Valenca (PT, GMT)||09:24||09:57||10:05||19:36||19:44||20:50|
|Tui (ES, CET)|||||11:12||20:51||||
If you have any questions, feel free to comment or make a post in the railcc forum.
Update: April 2018