As the Azores are part of Portugal – a full member of the European Union – nationals of other EU countries do not require a visa. Given the United Kingdom’s decision in 2016 to exit the EU, documentation requirements for UK citizens could change during the lifetime of this edition. Check before travelling. Should you need consular assistance during your stay, these are the contact numbers of those consulates represented in the Azores. Largely these responsibilities are undertaken by private individuals in an honorary capacity without official premises. They can issue emergency passports and contact relatives.
From the UK there are direct flights with Azores Airlines, formerly SATA Internacional, from Gatwick to Ponta Delgada (São Miguel) every Saturday between April and October, with a flying time of around 4 hours. Ryanair currently offers once-weekly, year-round flights on a Saturday direct from London Stansted and on a Thursday (summer only) from Manchester, both to Ponta Delgada. Tap Air Portugal has departures throughout the year from Heathrow and Gatwick, changing planes in Lisbon, and then onward to Ponta Delgada or with less frequency from Lisbon to Horta (on Faial), Lajes (Terceira), Santa Maria and Pico. The second leg of these flights is often code-shared with Azores Airlines. Flying via Lisbon or Porto allows you to then fly with Azores Airlines directly to Santa Maria, Pico and Faial, though these flights are somewhat infrequent; you could also break your return journey and spend some nights in Lisbon, using Tap’s stopover programme – see the airline website for details. Flights take just over 2 hours from the UK to Lisbon and another 2 hours from Lisbon to the Azores.
Of the options from the rest of Europe, there are direct flights from Gran Canaria to the Azores and connections through mainland Portugal from Frankfurt, Munich, Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Paris; from Portugal there are direct flights from Faro, Lisbon, Porto and Funchal (Madeira).from Faro, Lisbon, Porto and Funchal (Madeira).
From the USA and Canada there are direct Azores Airlines flights throughout the year from Boston, Providence and Toronto to Ponta Delgada, and now a weekly flight from Boston to Terceira. Delta Airlines fly directly once a week from New York JFK. Flights generally increase in summer, and there are indirect code-share flights to/from other US and Canadian cities.
By cruise ship
Increasing numbers of cruise ships are calling in at the Azores, particularly at Horta and Ponta Delgada, and this is now a very important part of Azorean tourism. Ponta Delgada receives the most cruise visitors and with a single ship carrying up to 5,000 passengers, the impact on the town’s cafés and restaurants can be instantly overwhelming. Small-ship cruises also operate, visiting all nine islands using onboard Zodiac craft for some excursions. It was in 1867 that the first scheduled cruise ship put in at Horta, steaming from New York on a five-month cruise to the Mediterranean.
Facilities are concentrated in the principal ports, the most popular of which for transatlantic yachts is Horta on Faial. Opened in 1986, and having held the European Blue Flag since 1987, it can take 300 vessels and claims to be the world’s fourth-most-visited ocean marina. Second-most popular is Ponta Delgada on São Miguel, with a modern marina taking 470 yachts, followed by Praia da Vitória on Terceira. All three provide fuel, water, waste handling and repair services. There are also small marinas opened in recent years at Velas on São Jorge, Madalena on Pico, Lajes on Flores, Vila do Porto on Santa Maria and Vila Franca do Campo on São Miguel. The website noonsite.com/Countries/Azores gives the latest information on facilities, immigration, etc, and anchorages on the other islands.
SATA/Azores Airlines is the only inter-island airline and its website contains all the information you require to plan your trip.
Flights are inevitably subject to the weather, and can be delayed or cancelled. When it happens, it is bad luck and you simply have to be philosophical about it and make sure there is a good book to hand.
Getting between the islands is not always straightforward, especially in winter, but more flights are being introduced every year, and independent travellers should spend time studying the Azores Airlines website. Most non-stop flights between each island take about 30 minutes, except São Miguel to Flores, which takes 75 minutes.For travellers with an international Azores Airlines air ticket, the airline offers some advanced purchase reductions; again, see the website.
Not all flights are non-stop: some will stop at one or two islands en route, and others will involve a layover of a few hours and a change of plane; not all flights operate every day, with islands such as Graciosa and particularly tiny Corvo being
served less than daily.
Careful planning is required, but the airline is generally reliable and most islands can be reached on most days of the week. One-way fl ight prices are from €35 for the 15-minute hop between Flores and Corvo, to around €90 for longer inter-island trips. Note that on many inter-island journeys there is no allocated seating, so getting to the front of the queue to bag a window seat can be advantageous.
Taking a boat is great fun if you have the time; there are always seabirds to look out for, and if you are lucky there is a chance of seeing dolphins or maybe even a whale. Tickets can be purchased at the quayside office a few days in advance, or via travel agents. On some islands, you can buy the tickets at the RIAC (Citizens’
Support Office) – see individual island chapters. With a credit card and after a registration process, you can now also reserve online and print off your ticket.
Not all services operate year-round; some are summer-only and some see an increased schedule in the warmer months.
Throughout the year there are several sailings daily between Horta (Faial) and Madalena (Pico), a 30-minute crossing, costing around €3.60. Between Flores and Corvo, there is a year-round passenger service (45mins, €10), though weather can disrupt this in winter.
In summer (Jun–Sep), there is a twice-daily Horta–Velas (São Jorge) service (around 2hrs, €15.50), sometimes via Pico (Madalena and some sailings also via São Roque). This means that, in summer at least, it is quite possible to make day excursions to São Jorge from Faial or Pico, and vice versa.
Again in summer, you can get between Santa Maria and São Miguel (3hrs 45mins, €30) up to three-times weekly, and from Graciosa to both Velas on São Jorge (2hrs 15mins or 2hrs 45mins, €32) and Praia da Vitória on Terceira (3hrs 30mins, €27.50). From Praia da Vitória to Velas (6hrs 45mins, €32), there is a summer service with a stop-off in Graciosa. An infrequent summer ferry service also runs between Ponta Delgada on São Miguel and Praia da Vitória on Terceira (6hrs, €50).
For up-to-date details of all current ferry services, a route map, prices and reservations, always check the website www.atlanticoline.pt, which has an English-language option.
As in mainland Portugal, driving is on the right. At crossroads vehicles approaching from the right have priority. There is a maximum speed limit of 80km/h, 50km/h in built-up areas. Seat belts have to be worn at all times, including the rear passengers.
The new main roads are good but the small country roads can be pot-holed and narrow. One thing to be very careful about when driving in fog or low cloud and poor visibility is the Azorean black-and-white cow wandering on the road, either singly or in a scattered herd; in such conditions they are superbly camouflaged!
Many of the minor roads are not signposted. Diversions for roadworks are signposted, but if the sign disappears after a few days it is seldom replaced because by then it is assumed everyone knows the way!
For UK drivers, a full driving licence is required and those aged under 25 years should check minimum requirements for hiring a car at the time of making a booking. Citizens from non-European countries similarly require a driving licence, along with a passport or other form of official identification.
Normally there is no upper age limit but again this should be checked at the time of booking. In peak summer season there is a shortage of hire cars, and reservations should be made well in advance.
Some islands are better served than others. On São Miguel you can see a lot of the island by public bus. You can make a circuit on the islands of Faial and Pico, and some trips by bus on Terceira and São Jorge. For details see the Getting around section for the individual island. For the other four islands, bus services are not very frequent. Most tourist offices have bus timetables to hand out