Your Guide to Driving in Portugal
The Moving Partnership provides removals to Portugal from the UK, Europe and most International destinations. If you are moving house to Portugal, we have created this useful guide to the country's basic rules and driving regulations, the road tax laws, basic speed limits, motorway and rural driving, parking and drink driving laws.
Portugal Removals click here for full information on our Portugal removals or click here for a free online moving quote.
Many of the basic rules and regulations for driving in Portugal are similar to those applied in most of Western Europe.
For some time Portugal had a fairly relaxed attitude to driving but years of high driver and pedestrian mortality through recklessness and speeding have led to the Portuguese authorities clamping down on the driving rules and regulations and on driver behaviour.
The basic rules and regulations for driving in Portugal
- The European and international emergency telephone number is 112.
- In Portugal they drive on the right hand side.
- Drivers must be of a minimum age of 18.
- Children below the age of 12 years must travel in the back seats unless they are 1 and a half metres tall or above.
- Motor bikes must not carry pillion passengers below the age of 7 years
- The driver and all passengers must wear a seatbelt if the car is fitted with them and dogs must also be restrained.
- Driving with headphones on is not permitted.
- Mobile phones can only be used in hands free mode.
- Radar detector devices or any other devices used to avoid the police are illegal.
- When driving through a tunnel in Portugal, headlight must always be used.
- Overtaking on the right hand side is illegal except when in slow moving traffic.
- Any loads carried outside the vehicle, on roof racks etc must not extend beyond the vehicle's length by more than 55cm at the front and 45 cm at the rear.
- Anyone involved in a road accident, if able to do so, is obliged to help wherever possible. This means helping the injured and assisting in the avoidance of danger to other road users. The police must be called in cases of injury and where immovable vehicles are blocking the road
Must have items to carry in your car at all times
In line with the rest of Europe, there are a number of essentials that must be carried in the car at all times. These are;
A reflective red warning triangle.
- A set of spare bulbs and the necessary tools to fit them.
- A hi-visibility jacket in reflective red, yellow or orange.
- An inflated spare wheel and the necessary tools to change it.
- Approved child booster seats for any children under 12 years or 150 cm in height.
You must have paperwork to carry in your car at all times
- Every driver must have a licence. Portuguese licences as well as European Union licences are acceptable as are some non EU licences, these however must be accompanied by an international driving licence.
- You must also carry your vehicle registration document and log book. In Portugal you may carry a DUA, this all in one document combines your registration document with your log book.
- All vehicles must be road taxed
- All vehicles must have a garage service record
- All vehicles older than four years must have a valid IPO certificate and the corresponding window sticker must be displayed in the windscreen.
- Every car must be insured to at least third party level and this must also be displayed on the windscreen
Portugal's road tax laws
The payment due will vary depending on the age and the cubic capacity of the vehicle and any vehicle registered on or after 2007, will be taxed taking into account its CO2 emissions.
Road tax in Portugal must be paid annually on the date that the vehicle was first registered and drivers are required to keep a receipt as proof of payment.
Identifying Portugal's roads
The Portuguese motorway network is demarcated in blue with regional road signs marked out on white with black lettering.
Motorway speed limits
The speed limit on Portugal's motorways is 120 km/h or 74 mph for cars and small trucks (LGV) and 100 Km/h or 62 mph for tricycles and vehicles with a trailer.
Motorway service stations
All motorways have service stations with fuel, cafeterias, rest rooms, newsagents and supermarkets. They also have emergency telephones, information points and repair garages though some are better equipped than others.
There are free emergency telephones coloured orange positioned, at the roadside, at roughly about three to five km intervals along the motorways. To use an emergency telephone, simply press the SOS button and wait for an answer.
Should you break down on the motorway, wear your reflective jackets and place the reflective triangles 30m behind your vehicle to warn other drivers.
The Portuguese equivalent of the AA and the RAC is the ACP or Automovel Clube De Portugal. Like its counterparts elsewhere in Europe it offers a breakdown and accident service, help and advice with legal documentation, advice of vehicle imports and car insurance.
Portugal's toll roads
The use of most Portuguese motorways is subject to a toll fee and since these toll roads are owned by privately run companies, the tolls will vary. They are however, regulated by the Portuguese government so they should never be extortionate.
When using a toll motorway, take a ticket from the station located at the start of your toll road journey and pay on completion of that stretch of road. Payment for the use of each stretch of road is made separately but if you are going to be using any particular stretch quite often, you can buy a monthly ticket and use the green route system. This system known as the "via verde" offers regular use savings and priority passage. You may only use the green passage way at toll booths if you have subscribed to the "via verde" system. Misuse of this system is penalised by a heavy fine.
Portugal's main roads
The dual carriageways in Portugal are toll free, they look very much like the motorways but are subject to different speed restrictions. The speed limit is 100 Km/h or 62 mph for cars, LGVs and motorbikes greater than 50cc. Motorbikes smaller than 50cc are not permitted on these roads.
The main roads in Portugal are limited to 90 Km/h, (55 mph) or 60 Km/h (37 mph) for motorbikes under 50cc. Overtaking on the right is illegal and banned if there is a solid white line separating the traffic.
Portugalâs rural roads
The speed limit is 50km/h (31 mph) in rural areas and other signs will be in place to highlight any further restriction. Some villages and residential areas have reduced speeds to as low as 20km/h (12 mph).
Things to watch out for on Portugal's rural roads
Watch out for level crossings with no barriers in rural parts and also mountain passes or bridges that may be closed due to bad weather. In the winter months, the use of snow tyres and snow chains is recommended.
Roadside parking in Portugal
Parking restrictions vary across Portugal according to the time of day, what day of the week it is and even which month of the year it is and there are different regulations from city to town.
A no parking sign is either blue or white with a red line across it but this same instruction can also be indicated by yellow or red markings on curb stones or by a sign reading "Proibido Estacionar" accompanied by a police code number. In this case the police have the right to tow any illegally parked vehicle.
Other parking restrictions include;
- No parking within 5 metres of a junction.
- No parking either 25 metres before or 5 metres after a bus stop.
- No parking within 6 metres of a tram stop.
Hints and tips for parking in Portugal
- Park your car facing the same direction as the traffic flow in one way streets.
- Be aware that in some areas you will require resident permits or business parking permits to park during business hours which are classed as being from 8am to 6pm.
- Some residential areas require parking permits at all times.
- Parking attendants are not always uniformed
Portugal's drink-driving laws
The drink/diving laws in Portugal are strictly enforced. The legal limit is under 0.5grammes per litre. Anyone found in charge of a vehicle with a blood alcohol level in excess of this figure will be prosecuted.
If you are found to have a blood alcohol level of between 0.5 and 0.8g/l, you will face a fine of between €250 and €1,250 and your driving licence will be suspended for anything between one month and one year. Those with alcohol levels of between 0.8g/l and 1.2g/l face fines of between €500 to €2,500 and those found with blood alcohol levels higher than that, face up to one year in prison and a three year driving ban.
Car rental in Portugal
To rent a car in Portugal, you will need to produce the following documents.
A high deposit is usually required when renting a car in Portugal. This deposit is refunded on the safe, undamaged return of the vehicle.
- ID card
- Valid credit card
- Proof of Portuguese address. This could be a hotel or guest house or your residency card.
- You will need official documentation proving your name, your date of birth and address and post code
- Driving licence
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