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Review: Perusing Portugal with Permobil’s SmartDrive

We review the FreeWheel and SmartDrive from Permobil and how they fit in with sunshine, cobblestones and holiday vibes in Portugal.

The travel bug, once acquired, is hard to kick. Over the past 40 years, I have been fortunate enough to travel extensively. One of the reasons I love to travel is for the challenges it presents – and with the right assistive technology, I have found I can push the boundaries further than ever before. 

Recently my wife and I visited Porto in Portugal. We booked a room through Airbnb using the accessibility filters. We ended up in a one-bedroom apartment right in the heart of Porto, equipped with a kitchen, good living-room space and a bathroom set-up that worked for me. 

A man in a wheelchair coming down a cobblestone street in Portugal
Splashes of colour exploring Porto, Portugal. Credit: Supplied.

Porto is an ancient city, built around the Douro River. This means there are a lot of steep hills, cobblestones and narrow alleys – not ideal for wheelchairs! But to compensate for this it is a beautiful city with magnificent views, architecture, history and very friendly locals. In addition, there is some excellent infrastructure, such as the funicular, cable cars, accessible buses and accessible paths along the river and on the famous Dom Luís I Bridge. We also did a half-day river cruise, which was spectacular and included a train ride back to Porto.

In terms of getting around, we explored a lot of the city by wheeling/walking. I find that one of the attractions of old cities like this is to just wheel through the lanes and alleyways, get a feel for the history and be surprised by the small shops and their produce. 

A man in a wheelchair sitting on a bridge over a river on a bright sunny day, smiling and giving a thumbs up
It isn’t hard to smile in sunny Portugal. Credit: Supplied

Two essential pieces of equipment were the SmartDrive™ and the FreeWheel®. These two products work so well together – the FreeWheel® for the cobblestones and going down steep hills, the SmartDrive™ for getting up the steep hills. Having travelled through Europe without the FreeWheel®, the difference it makes on cobblestones is truly liberating! Having the SmartDrive™ allowed my wife and I to explore much more of the city than we could have without it.

I used the new E2 PushTracker™ from SmartDrive™ and was really impressed with it. The connectivity, screen and ease of use is improved from the original PushTracker™. Using it only for the SmartDrive™, the battery lasted all day for me. On days I knew I would be relying heavily on the SmartDrive™, I put the E2 into battery-saver mode (a simple swipe and one-click process) when I was not using my SmartDrive™ and ended up with battery to spare at the end of the day.

For more information on these products, visit, email or call 1300 845 483.

A man in a wheelchair in a narrow cobblestone laneway in Portugal
The FreeWheel is well-suited to the cobblestones of European side streets! Credit: Supplied
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