Driving in Portugal
Though the Portuguese are a warm and welcoming people, many seem to drive with a casual recklessness that can be terrifying.
Portugal is a stunning country worthy of a road trip. Going onto the motorway is a bit tricky though, as there are toll charges but no toll booths.
The easiest way to sort this is to go to a post office and get a prepaid pass that allows you unlimited travel for three consecutive days. They cost around €20 for a standard car.
Hit the road
The most confusing aspect of driving in Portugal is the law that gives priority to traffic coming from the right at crossroads and T-junctions.
Also, radar traps and unmarked police cars are used to enforce speed limits with most fines payable on the spot.
You can be fined between €30 to €2500 depending on how severely you broke the speed limit.
The route from Porto through Amarante, Regua, Pinhão and Mateus is stunning and there are plenty of vineyards where you can drop by for a wine tasting.
You'll need to spit it out, of course, but it's delicious nonetheless.
Best of the rest
Most visitors to the Algarve head straight from the motorway to the beach, but a tour down the back roads through the towns of Loulé, and Monchique provides an atmospheric alternative.
You can also venture further north to the Alentejo, an area of expansive plains, whitewashed villages, olive groves and wheat fields.
Laws of the land
- You must carry a warning triangle, reflective vest and photo ID.
- It’s illegal to run out of petrol when crossing Lisbon’s mile-long 25 de Abril bridge.
- For emergency services, dial 112.
- Motorcyclists must dip their headlights during the day and wear crash helmets.
Portuguese speed limits
|Road types||Speed limit|
|Urban areas||50 km/h|
|Open roads/ outside built-up areas||90 km/h|
|Motorways||120 km/h (minimum 50 km/h)|
|Cars towing on open roads||70 km/h|
|Cars towing on motorways||100 km/h|
In cities you should park in the direction of the traffic and not within 18m of a junction or 15m of a bus stop.
You may see unofficial “attendants” who will direct you to spaces. Locals pay them a €1 tip to “look after” their cars. Park illegally and you can be clamped or towed.
Planning on driving to another country? Take a look at our section on driving abroad.