How to get to the Azores? Which airline to choose? Is it worth to make a stopover? How did i prepare for my move to the Azores?
My travel experience when moving to the Azores
When I moved to the Azores I had quite a few suitcases with me (I was travelling with my parents, because I wanted to show them my new home). At this stage the choices to travel from Budapest to Ponta Delgada were somewhat limited. So I ended up opting for a combination of Wizz Air & TAP Portugal airlines. At Wizz Air I went for the Wizz Plus, at TAP Portugal the Business Class option. Sadly, when I booked our tickets there was no direct TAP Portugal flight between Budapest and Lisbon – but there is one since the summer of 2017 which makes planning and organizing trips to the Azores so much easier, and also more comfortable.
In case of Wizz Air the Wizz Plus ticket allows 1 piece of maximum 32 kg check-in luggage, a relatively large cabin luggage and a smaller handbag or personal item, camera bag or laptop bag. In case of TAP Portugal the Business Class ticket allows 2 pieces of maximum 23 kg check-in luggage. Therefore, when packing our bags – since I was not the only one traveling – we applied the „suitcase in a suitcase” method.
The „suitcase in a suitcase” method means that the personal belongings were packed in smaller, ultra light foldable suitcases (purchased at IKEA) and these ultra light suitcases were put into the big suitcases making sure that the weight of the big suitcases was within the 32 kg limit. Then during the stopover these ultra light suitcases were checked-in separately or were again merged and put into a big suitcase, making sure that the number and weight of the check-in luggages did not exceed 2 pieces per traveller and a maximum of 23 kg. Using this “trick” I managed to take a lot of personal belongings with me to the Azores.
A digital luggage scale is a travel essential every traveler should own
The best and cheapest option at Wizz Air is to purchase the extra baggage allowance during the ticket booking. If you are not sure how many items of luggage will you have at the end, I recommend leaving the printing of the boarding passes to the last minute. Also, extra baggage allowance can be booked online in addition to an existing booking up to 3 hours prior departure (much cheaper than at the airport).
New possibilities with TAP Portugal airline
All what I said about the Wizz Air – TAP Portugal combination is a thing of the past. As of 1st of July 2017 there is a direct TAP Portugal flight available between Budapest and Lisbon which makes planning an Azorean holiday much easier. There is a direct flight almost every day between Hungary and Portugal. However, there is no direct flight from Budapest to the Azores yet, which means we need to make a stopover on our way to Paradise. The most likely stopover options in Portugal are Lisbon and Porto.
I can only recommend taking the TAP Portugal „STOPOVER” option when planning a Portugal round trip. I have heard it from a fellow traveler and I think it is a brilliant idea: when a booking is made with stopover, TAP Portugal is offering an activity in the stopover city – Lisbon or Porto – for free. An activity might be a 3 hour sightseeing tour, wine tasting etc. there are several options and I think it is something worth trying out.
However, if you have something else on your mind or you are visiting Lisbon or Porto not as a stopover, but as a proper city break it might be a good idea to seek advice from the Hungarian tour guides – whom I already introduced in a previous blog post – in these cities. You can get a lot of – also insider – information about the city and Portugal within a few hours, in Hungarian.
Flight connections are pretty good and involve reasonable wait times, but it still takes at least 6 hours to arrive at Ponta Delgada (from Budapest), with the flight arriving around midnight on the Azores.
Personally, my favourite is the SATA Azorean airlines. Even though I did not book myself into expensive travel classes, I felt like a VIP every time I travelled with them. It was such a nice experience, I even thanked the flight attendants. They did not do anything extraordinary, but they were very attentive and nice with everybody.
I have also experienced this VIP feeling on a few flights with TAP Portugal. Once I was upgraded to first class which has been particularly nice. TAP Portugal is also doing one or two promotions every year to encourage Hungarians to travel to Portugal. One of these promotions is usually at the beginning of the calendar year and gives a 10 to 15% discount on the airfare. It is therefore a good idea to book during these promotional periods.
Traveling with TAP Portugal has several benefits compared to the low-cost / changing terminals at connecting flights options (for example Wizz Air + Ryanair). According to my experience in case of low-cost airlines you always need to change terminals, and you cannot check in your luggage for the entire journey (in fact, you need to take it from the baggage reclaim and check it in again before boarding the connecting flight at the other airline). Also the waiting area at the low-cost terminals is far from comfortable. There isn’t enough seating, the restrooms are unclean, and there is little to no food options – especially for someone on a gluten-free diet. All in all, not a nice experience – and I traveled in the spring, in the summer, and early autumn. Of course, this is my experience only, other travelers might have other priorities.
The advantages of traveling with TAP Portugal
Hereby I would like to note, that this is not sponsored content, what you can read below is based on my own experience. I am only hoping to give you all the possible information so you can make the best decision about how you travel.
Apart from the available good flight connections, the main advantage of traveling with TAP Portugal is that the luggage can be checked in from Budapest all the way to Ponta Delgada which makes changing flights very comfortable – with only a cabin luggage to carry and staying within the same terminal building.
Also a major benefit of travelling with one airline: if the first flight is delayed, the connecting flight will most likely wait for the transfer passengers (or transfer passengers will be booked automatically on the next flight and will be looked after by the ground crew). This is obviously not the case when you are traveling with a low-cost airline combination.
With only one luggage policy to adhere to, there is no need to reorganize luggages – as per the „suitcase in a suitcase” technique, or any other way – before checking in on the second flight.
I can therefore absolutely recommend traveling with TAP Portugal. You can find more information here: www.tap.pt
One more observation: my flight has never been delayed when travelling with SATA and TAP Portugal (unlike in case of Ryanair where there has been a delay almost every time).
Ever since the TAP Portugal direct flight between Budapest and Lisbon has been introduced the Wizz Air + Ryanair combination is not really an attractive option anymore (neither in terms of price, nor in terms of travel time).
How to get to Ponta Delgada from countries other than Hungary?
With SATA Azorean Airline from Toronto, Montreal, Frankfurt, Lisbon, Porto, Funchal, London (Gatwick), Boston, Providence (USA).
With TAP Portugal Airline from Lisbon and Porto.
With Ryanair from Frankfurt, Lisbon, Porto, London (Stansted), Manchester.
With TUI from Brussels.
With Primera Air from Coppenhagen, Billund, and Allborg.
How to do insel-hopping at the Azores?
Island-hopping can be most conveniently done with the help of SATA Azorean airline. Under certain conditions, this airline offers FREE flights between the islands (more information is available in English when clicking the link). Based on my experience the price of these island-hopping flights is pretty much set and barely changes, is however relatively expensive.
I hope I could give you a few ideas for planning your trip to the Azores.
If you liked this post and have some further questions, please leave it in the comments below or on the Facebook page Azori Eden, alternatively you can drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more photos and inspiration please head over to the Eden Azores Instagram.