Driving in Portugal

Huge improvements have been made over the past few years in Portugal's roads. Nevertheless, it is important you drive with caution; it can be easy to forget that you should be on the 'wrong' side of the road! When driving in the cities it can be a little bit stressful, especially during the morning and evening rush hours but in the countryside it can be very pleasant - often not seing another vehicle for kilometres.

Driving around the Algarve is simply the best way to discover it. There are lots of hidden beaches and beautifully set villages hidden in the Portuguese countryside that simply need to be discovered.

Most of the motorways in Portugal are toll roads, inclusive the A22 (IMPORTANT: please read this) and except the A22 they do generally accept all major credit cards. Some visitors have had problems getting tickets and have ended up paying more than they should. If you keep away from the lanes with a big green V above (the Via Verde lanes) then you will be able to get a ticket. These lanes read boxes fitted in the front of the car (similar to the Dart Tags used on the Dartford Crossings in the UK) to automatically pay the tolls.

The motorways are usually good roads and kept in good order with plenty of service stations and places to stop. The Mediterranean Coastal Motorway (A-7/E-15) toll road that runs from Lisbon all the way along the Mediterranean coast to Monte Carlo, is a recently built 4-lane motorway that makes a very enjoyable drive along the Mediterranean Coast.

Essential Information

Always have with you your insurance documents, driving licence, car-hire agreement, passport (or copy of)

Seat Belts must be worn at all times, by all occupants of the vehicle.

Driving with children: Children under 12 years old are nto allowed to sit in the front seat (unless they are over 150cm tall), and are required to be fastened in the appropriate style chairs for their age in the back. Baby and booster seats are required by law up to age of 12 and must be used with their fastening system when travelling

A reflective vest must be kept in the vehicle at all times and worn when examining/repairing a vehicle at the roadside.

A warning triangle must be displayed at the rear of the car if you have stopped at the side of the road as a result of breakdown or problems.

If you have held your license for less than 12 months then you must not exceed 90kph (55mph) and display a yellow "90" disc at the back of the car.

Useful terms for when refueling your car.
Unleaded Regular - Gasolina Sem Chumbo
Diesel - Diesel

Useful translations;

Toll - portagem
Parking - estacionamento
Exit - saida
Entrance - entrada
Detour - atalho
Hospital - hospital
Police - policia
Police station - estacao de policia

Mobile Phones
The use of a mobile phone in a car is only allowed if you have either a hands free kit or a headset.

You must park in the same direction of traffic, parking facing on-coming traffic is illegal. If you are visiting Lisbon, it is recommended that you get a Blue Zone parking disc which are available from the local police and are free of charge.

Please note the speed limits;
Town: 50 km/h . . . 30 mph
Main roads: 90 km/h . . . 56 mph
Motor traffic 100 km/h . . . 62 mph
Motorway: 120 km/h . . . 74 mph

Note: Some hire car companies may restrict the top speed at which you can drive. Always read the small print or ask before setting off

Minor traffic violations are frequently on-the-spot fines.

Please note there is a zero-tolerance to drinking and driving in Portugal.