Things to Remember When Driving in Portugal

Portugal is a beautiful southern European country settled on the Iberian Peninsula. There are so many stunning places to see in Portugal that it’s definitely a country worthy of a road trip.

Starting in Porto you could make your way down south stopping in Lisbon before enjoying all that the Algarve has to offer.

But before embarking on your Portuguese adventure there are some things to note. The Portuguese have a bit of a bad reputation for driving so we’ve included some top tips for staying safe and comfortable on the roads.

What do I need?

First things first, to be able to drive in Portugal, you will need:

  • A valid UK driving license. If you don’t have the photocard, you’ll need an international driving permit
  • Your motor insurance certificate.
  • Your MOT certificate if your car is over three years old.
  • V5 registration or hire car paperwork.
  • Your passport.

Speed Limits

If you have held a driving license for less than a year, you absolutely must not exceed 55 mph or any lower speed limit. The standard legal limits for driving in Portugal, are as follows:

Built-up areas 50 km/h (31 mph)
Outside built-up areas >90 km/h (55 mph) or 100 km/h (62 mph)
On motorways (max) 120 km/h (74 mph)
On motorways (min) 50 km/h (31 mph)


Motorways in Portugal are a little different. Many motorways have electronic systems that link your bank account directly to a tag or pre-paid card whilst others have a more traditional payment system, such as cash or card.

Some of the main options include:

Toll Card – buy a pre-loaded card with either 5, 10, 20 or 40 euros and activate it via an SMS message, using the code printed on the card and the license plate of the vehicle.

Easy Toll – use your bank card and number plate to take payments. When you place your card in the toll terminal the system will automatically associate your bank card with your registration plate. The amount is then taken directly from your account.

Via Verde device – a prepaid tag that you put in your windscreen which opens the toll barriers automatically

Top Tips

It’s always daunting driving on different roads, especially when it’s on the opposite side. To make sure you’re as ready as you can be for your Portugal road trip here are some rules and tips that you should be aware of.

  • It might sound stupid but you’ll be surprised how many people don’t realise. When driving in Portugal you must drive on the right-hand side (the opposite side to us in the UK)
  • As always, it’s compulsory for front and rear passengers to wear seat belts
  • Children under 12 and less than 1.50m in height cannot travel as front-seat passengers. They must travel in the back in a suitable car seat
  • Children under 3 can be seated in the front passenger seat if in a suitable child car seat, however, the airbag must be switched off if using a rear-facing child restraint system
  • The legal driving age is 18 is the legal driving age but to hire a car, the minimum age is 23 or 25 depending on the hiring company
  • Third-party insurance is mandatory
  • Similarly, to the UK, the use of mobile phones when driving is illegal in Portugal and subject to a fine of up to 600.00 euros

Car Hire Excess Insurance

If you’re hiring a car for your road trip to Portugal you might want to purchase hire car excess insurance. This will protect you against high excess costs should your rental car get stolen or damaged.

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