Advice for driving in Portugal
27 September 2023
Tips, Checklist & Legal Requirements
Every year Portugal is visited by around 1.9 million British nationals. Distances are not huge in Lisbon and public transportation covers most of the city. Parking is usually easy on the outskirts but quite difficult in most cities and towns. Credit cards are accepted at most petrol stations in Portugal but a tax of 0.5 Euros is charged for the use of a card.
What do I need to drive in Portugal?
The minimum age at which a UK driving licence holder may drive a car or motorbike in Portugal is 17. All valid UK driving licences should be accepted in Portugal.
- · Valid driving licence
- · Proof of identification (passport)
- · Insurance documents
- · Proof of ownership (registration certificate)
If you do not own the vehicle you are driving, you are advised to obtain written permission from the registered owner.
Portugal has one of the highest rates of automobile accidents and related fatalities in Europe. Drivers should use extreme caution, as local driving habits, high speeds, and poorly marked roads pose special hazards. In 2011 there were 8.4 road deaths per 100,000 of population and compares to the UK average of 3.1 road deaths per 100,000 of population in 2011.
Portugal Driving Laws
If you are stopped by the Police you can be charged an on the spot fine. The police can issue but not collect fines on the spot. An official receipt showing the maximum amount of the fine should be obtained. Foreign motorists refusing to pay an on-the-spot fine will be asked for a deposit to cover the maximum fine for the offence committed. If a motorist refuses to do this, the police can take the driving licence, registration document or failing that they can confiscate the vehicle. Wheel-clamping and towing are in operation for illegally parked vehicles.
It is compulsory for passengers in cars to wear seatbelts in the front and rear of vehicles in Portugal. Children under 1.5m or 12 years of age cannot seat in the front. No children under 3 years old can be carried if the vehicle has no seat belts in the back.
The wearing of reflective jacket/tabbard is recommended for the driver and/or passenger(s) who exits an immobilised vehicle on all motorways and main or busy roads. We recommend the jacket be carried in the passenger compartment of the vehicle within arms reach.
It is compulsory in Portugal to carry the following equipment within any vehicle with more than 2 wheels:
- · Photographic ID
- · A Warning triangle
- · Reflective Jacket
- · Headlamp converters
- · Spare parts kit including bulbs (recommended)
Standard speed limits (km/h) unless otherwise stated by traffic signs:
Urban roads (31 mph).
Non-urban roads (56 mph).
Motorways / expressways (74 - 62 mph).
Urban roads (31 mph).
Non-urban roads (43 mph).
Motorways / expressways (62 - 50 mph).
Please be aware that a great number of Portuguese people don't follow these restricitions.
Any instruments that interfere with Police operations including radar detector are banned in Portugal.
If the level of alcohol in the bloodstream is 0.05 per cent to 0.08 per cent, then a fine will be imposed and you face the withdrawal of your driving licence for a minimum of one month and up to a maximum of one year. If the driver has more than 0.08 per cent, you face a fine and the withdrawal of your driving licence for a minimum of two months and up to a maximum of two years. The police are also empowered to carry out testing on drivers for narcotics.
Motorbikes must use dipped headlights at all times and the wearing of crash helmets is compulsory for both driver and passenger. Children under 7 may not ride pillion.
It's illegal to use a mobile phone whilst driving and can carry a fine of up to €600.00.
Use of dipped headlights is compulsory at all times in tunnels and in bad weather in Portugal.
Driving in Winter
Winter or studded tyres are prohibited and in winter conditions snow chains can be used.
General Driving Advice
In terms of Portugal driving habits the following are worth noting:
- · Wheel-clamping and towing are in operation for illegally parked vehicles
- · In built up areas in Portugal the use of the horn is prohibited during the hours of darkness except in the case of immediate danger
- · At night the use of full beam, in built up areas, is prohibited
- · Drivers should use extreme caution, as local driving habits, high speeds, and poorly marked roads pose special hazards.
So to recap here is our checklist for driving in Portugal:
- Ensure you have proper documentation: valid driving licence, photographic ID, driving insurance covering driving in Portugal, proof of ownership (registration certification).
- Take plenty of breaks when driving long distances.
- Ensure rear passengers are wearing seat belts and remember children 1.5 m or 12 years of age are not allowed to travel in the front seat. Children below 3 yrs are also required to be seated with a restraint system.
- Ensure your car is equipped with the following safety equipment: A Warning triangle, Reflective Jacket, Headlamp converters and spare bulb kit if possible.
- Check fuel compatibility as some fuels may not be compatible with your vehicle.
- Do not drink and drive.
- Observe local speed limits – as a general rule built up areas have limits of 50km/h (31 mph), outside built up areas are 90km/h (56mph)and in car radar detectors are illegal.
- Dipped headlights are recommended in even in daytime conditions.
Driving to Portugal from another destination? You might like to read our guides to:
Need breakdown cover for Portugal? Eurobreakdown.com can provide you with comprehensive single trip breakdown cover or annual multi trip breakdown policies with a best price guarantee.
Reference: The statistics mentioned on this page were sourced from the International Transport Forum’s Road Safety Annual Report 2013 and, to the best of Eurobreakdown.com’s knowledge, are correct at the time of publication (May 2014).
For general European driving tips click here