Driving in Portugal

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Before driving through Portugal, it is a good idea to be familiar with the rules and regulations of the country just to avoid any confusion. When in Portugal, drive on the right side of the road. Watch out for aggressive drivers while driving through Portugal. The drivers are reckless and this makes Portugal one of the most dangerous countries to drive in Europe.

The roads are quite wide in Portugal, at least three lanes. The middle lane allows cars to pass in either direction. There are several toll roads in Portugal such as the A1 Lisboa to Santarem, the A1 Santarem to Fatima, the A1 Fatima to Coimbra etc. A toll is taken from vehicles traveling towards the south crossing the 25 de Abril Bridge. This bridge connects Lisbon with the southern bank of the Tagus River.


Always carry your driving license, vehicle registration document (V5), and certificate of motor insurance. Third-party insurance is compulsory. If the vehicle is not registered in your name, carry a letter from the registered owner giving you permission to drive.

The license might be a slight problem in Portugal as an old style green or non-European license has to be accompanied with an International Driver's Permit. An EC format pink/green license is also accepted. Ensure you carry your passport to validate the license.

Speed limits

Speed limits are implemented rigorously, and radar traps and unmarked police cars are frequent. Speed limits are 50 kph in built-up areas, 90-100 kph on the open roads and 120kph on motorways. The minimum speed limit on motorways is 50 kph. Radar detectors are forbidden.

Age requirements

The minimum age for driving is 17 years, though the minimum rental age is usually 23. Foreigners who have held a license for less than a year must follow certain rules. They must obtain a yellow sticker from the ACP motoring club with the number 90 on it. This indicates that they are allowed a maximum speed limit of 90 kph.

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.


At the junction of two roads of equal size, traffic coming from the right has priority unless otherwise signified. In portugal, vehicles already in a traffic circle have priority over those about to enter.

Seat belts

Seat belts front and rear are obligatory everywhere.

Drinking and driving

Portugal has strict drink driving laws. The amount of alcohol allowed in the blood while driving is 0.05%, so just don't do it. Over the alcohol limit and you could face anything from a severe fine, withdrawal of your license, up to imprisonment.


Always park on the right - you are not allowed to park your car facing oncoming traffic. Parking laws are strict and if violated, vehicles can be immobilized. Vehicles parked on pavements other when permitted as indicated by signs, are subject to the vehicle being impounded for a period of one month up to one year.

The police

The police in Portugal have the authority to accept on the spot fines using either cash or credit cards. Most Police vehicles have a portable credit/debit card machine. Failure to pay on the spot will result in documents apprehension and, eventually, the vehicle. In case of documents apprehension, the Police Officer will issue an official document stating that your documents are apprehended and allowing you to drive for a few days. In this case, make sure you understand the address where you will pick up your documents and that you are given two documents: the apprehension document and the traffic citation.

Crossing white lines, jumping red lights, ignoring policemen signals, all are subject to losing a licence to drive from two months up to one year. Passing another vehicle on their right side then the driver can be fined up to €1,250.00. Drivers failing to respect for "Stop" signs can lead to a fine of up to €2.500.00.

Car equipment

All cars must carry a legal reflector vest within the interior of the car. This must be worn by any person carrying out repairs when outside the vehicle and the vehicle is stationary on the road.

An authorized warning triangle is mandatory, and it must be displayed on the road to warn oncoming drivers that your vehicle has problems.

A replacement bulb set is also mandatory. First-aid kit is advised, but not compulsory.


The use of mobile phones is banned and if caught you will be heavily fined. The roads of Portugal are extremely clean because of the strict anti-litter laws imposed. Fines for littering can go up to €300. Dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility. The horn is meant to be used only in times of extreme danger. There are several tramways in Portugal. Therefore if a tram stops and there is no way a passenger can get to the sidewalk, the driver must make way for disembarking passengers. Use of mobile phones when driving is illegal and subject to a fine of up to €600.00.