A Major Error: Landing in Porto Santo Island, Instead of Porto, Portugal

From the title of this blog, something drastic must have happened. Indeed, it did. So it all started like this. I was in Paris waiting for my 10-year US visa and it was approved, but I was waiting for it to be ready to pick it up. I was planning on going to Porto, Portugal for a few days, but I had to get my passport back in order to book my flight. I finally got an email from the embassy that the passport was delivered to the delivery location in the 15th Arrondissement and thus, I booked my plane ticket. It was a Friday morning at 10:15 am and I only had around 6 hours of sleep after a long night of drinking wine from 7:30pm at the Seine River the night before. I booked my one-way flight to Porto via Lisbon and was ready to leave the next day at 2pm. I booked my 4-night accommodation in Porto and the one-way flight from Porto to Madrid.

Porto Santo Airport

Everything went normal the next day. I got to Orly Airport and boarded my flight without a problem, but it was delayed for an hour. My connection in Lisbon was only 30 minutes and I had to hurry to the gate since the gate was closing shortly. When I deplaned, the TAP Airways lady told me to go to Gate 26, when I showed my boarding pass. I got to the gate and it was written PORTO SANTO. I got on without a problem and fell asleep immediately (I normally always fall asleep on flights). I woke up about 30 minutes before landing and all I saw were clouds and gloomy skies. In Lisbon, the temperature was 38 degrees and it was like a sauna when I got in from Paris.

As we were landing, all I saw were water and mountains. I thought to myself, Porto is close to the northwestern part of Spain and I remember windy, rainy, and cold weather, even in the summer. I deplaned via the stairs and walked to the main airport building. It did not look small or too big, but I was with roughly 150 others and due to my delayed flight, my backpack was the first one out. I got my backpack and went out to look for the metro straight into town. The airport was small and quiet with roughly 10 people around only. I looked for the metro sign, but all I saw was the taxi sign. I proceeded that way until I ran into the information booth.

I asked the lady in Portuguese, “Where is the metro station, I want to get into town?” She goes, “The only way into town is via taxi.” At this point, I’m thinking… Why is this woman trying to cheat me? Does she have some kind of agreement with the taxi drivers? I told her, “I checked online earlier and there is a line E that goes from the airport straight into the city center.” She states again that there is no metro and the only way is to take a taxi. I blurt out, “I thought we are in Oporto (the Portuguese pronunciation).” She goes, “We are in Porto Santo, not Oporto.” At this point, I’m kind of panicking. I asked her for a map, but she did not have one. I asked her where we were in respect to the mainland and drew a map of the Iberian Peninsula. She points out to the southwest. I realized at that point that I had come to an island. I took a screen shot of my Google Map location. Holy cow, I was in a location to the west of Morocco, a bit north of the Canary Islands of Spain.


My location when I connected to Google Map at the airport.


I go to the ticket counter to see if I can get a flight to Oporto, since I knew the flight that I came on would return to Lisbon. The ticket lady tells me that the flight is completely full and I will have to wait until tomorrow. At this point, I had very little option but to stay in Porto Santo for the night and decide my next move. I had the following options:

1)      Leave on Sunday from Porto Santo to Oporto via Lisbon for 380 Euros, but arriving at midnight.

2)      Leave on Monday from Porto Santo to Oporto via Lisbon for 250 Euros, but arriving late in the evening.

3)      Fly to Madeira Island (55 Euros, 15 minutes) on Sunday and then take the evening flight for 250 Euros, but arriving at midnight.

4)      Take the flight from Madeira on Monday afternoon and goes directly to Lisbon for 100 Euros.


The view of the mountains outside the airport. I was waiting for a taxi here.


Believe it or not, it seemed like a difficult choice, but I decided to just stay in Porto Santo and Madeira. Some kind of destiny brought me to the islands and I could always visit Porto any time. Besides, the damage was already done and I wasted 115 Euros on the accommodation and flight from Porto, but that’s just life. I quickly booked a hotel nearby via Booking.com and got a reasonable hotel for 55 Euros for that night. Keep in mind that this was an island away from the mainland and everything seemed pretty expensive.


Porto Santo has one of the best beaches in all of Portugal. You can see why right?


As a reader, you are probably wondering how all this happened. Well, going back to the day before on Friday morning, I was happy to hear the news of the passport being ready and I booked my ticket online with a major hangover and minimum sleep. I booked my ticket and went straight back to bed for three hours. I wanted to book the ticket so that there was no further last minute increase in pricing, since I was leaving the next day.

At the airport in Lisbon, I was in a hurry getting from one gate to the other since the Porto Santo flight was already boarding. Nothing ever crossed my mind thinking that Porto and Porto Santo were two different places. That would be confusing to begin with!

Thus, the adventure of Porto Santo began.

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