Hiring a car and driving in Portugal can be a very rewarding experience thanks to the fantastic range of sights and attractions that you will have access to.
If you have never driven in Portugal before you shouldn’t be worried, the country generally has a modern and well-maintained road system, although some of the secondary roads can be surprisingly badly kept.
If you are completely unfamiliar with Portuguese roads and the local driving style, it’s best to adopt a cautious approach.
Portuguese drivers regularly break the speed limits, attempt to overtake in very small spaces and can drive somewhat more aggressively than you might be used to.
What do you need to drive in Portugal?
When on the roads in Portugal there are a few things that you will need to have with you:
- A valid driving licence – if your licence doesn’t have a photo you will need an International Driving Permit.
- Your passport – it is relatively common for police in Portugal to stop foreign drivers to ensure that they have all of the relevant documents.
- Paperwork – if you have hired a car you should have all the relevant paperwork with you at all times.
- Safety items – you need to carry in your car a warning triangle, a reflective jacket and spare bulbs for external lights.
Whether you are driving in Portugal for the first time or just want a refresher to remind you of the rules here, there are something important things that it is very valuable to know:
- Speed limit – typically the speed limit is 50kph in built-up areas, 90kph on open roads and 120kph on motorways
- Tolls – most motorways are toll roads. You can pay at the toll booths using cash or debit/credit card. There is an electronic toll paying system that is usually the two lanes on the furthest left (marked with a green V, which stands for Via Verde) – you won’t be subscribed to this so use the other lanes. If you forget and go through the wrong lane you can go to a Via Verde office within 48 hours and pay the toll to avoid a fine.
- Filling up – petrol, diesel and LPG are widely available at petrol stations. You can pay with a credit card by there is often a small fee to do so.
- Give way – when a driver flashes their lights at you it means that they want you to give way, not that they are giving way to you.
- 112 – if you are in any kind of accident or emergency and require emergency services you should call 112. The operator will be able to answer your call in English, French or Portuguese.
- Drunk driving – just don’t do it. Portugal has combatted dangerous driving by imposing very heavy fines on drunk drivers.
- Front seat – children under the age of 12 are not allowed to sit in the front passenger seat.
- Radar detector – if you have a speed camera/radar detector, don’t bring it to Portugal. It is illegal to have one in your car, even if it’s turned off.