Driving in Portugal - An Introduction
Speeds in Portugal are measured in kilometres per hour (KPH).
Cars towing are restricted to 70kph (43mph) on open roads and 100kph (62mph) on Motorways. Drivers who have held a licence for less than one year must not exceed 90kph (55mph). There is also a minimum speed of 40kph (24mph) enforced on motorways.
You should also be aware that the 25 de Abril Bridge (linking Lisbon with the south bank of the Tagus River at the end of the Vila Franca de Xira motorway), has a speed limit of 30-50kph (18-31mph).
There are toll roads in Portugal, and the word for toll is portagem.
At road tolls you may notice green lanes, these are for drivers who have subscribed to an automated paying system, and you must not use them unless you have. Make sure you have currency to hand to pay for tolls, because if you are unable to, you will be fined. Visitors to Portugal are required to pay traffic fines on the spot, and they can be expensive.
The toll payable on the 25 de Abril Bridge (linking Lisbon with the south bank of the Tagus River at the end of the Vila Franca de Xira motorway) is payable by southbound traffic only. Rather than using the bridge you can use the car ferry, which has more favourable access from the centre of the city than the access road to the bridge. Services run (approximately) as follows:
- Before 10am: Every ten minutes.
- Between 10am and 5pm: Every twenty minutes.
- Between 5pm and 9.50pm: Every ten minutes.
Check locally for alterations to this service.
Toll roads in Portugal:
- A1 Lisboa to Santarem
- A1 Santarem to Fatima
- A1 Fatima to Coimbra
- A1 Coimbra to Aveiro
- A1 Aveiro to Porto
- A2 Lisboa to Marateca
- A3 Porto to Braga
- A4 Porto to Amarante
- A5 Lisboa to Cascais
- A6 Marateca to Montemor-o-Novo
- A8 Lisboa to Torres Vedras
General Tips and Road Information
In Portugal you drive on the right and overtake on the left. You must also give way to trams both when they overtake you and as they approach you from the right. Portuguese roads can be three lanes wide, but beware - the middle lane is used for overtaking from either direction.
Useful driving terms translated:
|Police station||Estacao de policia|
Parking, translated into Portuguese, is estacionamenfo. When parking, your car must be facing the same direction as the traffic, the exception being if a road only allows parking on one side of it. If you park illegally the car can be immobilised. Do not park in close range of a bus or tram stop or of a road junction (18 metres distance is required from a road junction).
In Lisbon you can obtain a Blue Zone Parking permit disc which is free, and available from the local police.
Trams operate in Portugal and where there is no platform for passengers to alight cars are required to give way to passengers making their way to the pavement.
In rural areas the locals still use animal-drawn carts, which are slow moving and unlit, so be alert - especially in bad visibility/at night.
Petrol/Fuel Stations are generally open from 7am until 10pm or midnight, although some are 24hours. You can pay with any major credit card, but be aware that this will incur a surcharge of 100 Esc. The fuel octane rating is 98 for leaded petrol and 95 or 98 for Super Unleaded.
Fuel types translated:
- Unleaded Petrol - Gasolina sin plomo or Gasolina sem chumbo
- Diesel - Gasóleo or Diesel
- LPG - Gáz Líquido
In Portugal it is illegal to carry spare fuel.
Taking your car into Portugal:
Tourists may take a vehicle into Portugal for 180 days maximum within a calendar year (12 months). It is required that the vehicle is in the country only for the owner(s)'s use and must not be used by anyone else for any other purpose. Anyone wishing to bring a vehicle into the country for longer must make an application to Portuguese Customs so that it can be legally imported. Do not leave the country without your vehicle as there is a fine applicable.
Minimum driving age:
The minimum driving age in Portugal is 17 years.
When driving in Portugal you must carry the following:
- Your Driving Licence
- The Vehicle's Log Book or Rental Contract
- Proof of Insurance
- MOT Certificate (if appropriate)
The vehicle must have a red warning triangle in case of emergency, which is placed at the rear of the car in the event of an accident or if you breakdown.
All occupants of a vehicle are required to wear seatbelts whilst travelling, both in the front and the rear of the vehicle.
In Portugal it is required that children under 12 years do not travel in the front seat of a vehicle.
If you passed your driving test less than 12 months ago there are restrictions to the speeds you are allowed to drive at. You must apply to the ACP (Automovel Club de Portugal), the Portuguese motor club, for a yellow disc that denotes this, and it must be displayed at all times in your vehicle. The disc has number 90 on it, which refers to the restriction of 90 kph (56mph) - the speed you must keep to at all times.
Emergency Telephone Number
As with most of Europe you can use 112 to get through to emergency services. This number is multilingual.
The above pointers are by no means exhaustive. Drivers spending any time in Portugal should try to familiarise themselves with all the rules of the road, including traffic signals, signposting, road-markings, speed limits etc.
Take care and enjoy the drive!