Driving in Portugal
Portugal is a stunning country worthy of a road trip. But before you head off, there are some important things to remember.
Impact of Brexit on driving abroad
The UK is no longer part of the EU.
We're now in a transition period until the end of 2020 while the UK and EU carry out negotiations.
Until then, the current rules for driving abroad won't change.
For more information on travelling in 2021 and beyond, visit GOV.UK.
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What do I need to drive in Portugal?
First, the documents you'll need are:
Your motor insurance certificate.
Your MOT certificate if your car is over three years old.
V5 registration or hire car paperwork.
In your car you'll need:
A GB sticker, unless you have a Euro-plate (a number plate with a circle of 12 stars on a blue background)
A reflective warning triangle in case you break down
A reflective jacket. If you stop for any reason outside a built up area you’ll need to wear this, so make sure it’s within easy reach.
Headlamp converter stickers. These will stop other road users getting dazzled whilst you’re driving on the right side of the road.
Spare bulbs for your headlights
Read more: A guide to holiday car hire
Motorway tolls in Portugal
Something that may take tourists by surprise in Portugal is the motorway toll system.
Many motorways have electronic systems that link your bank account directly to a tag or pre-paid card.
Others may have a more traditional payment system, such as cash or card.
Be sure to think through your travel plans carefully and, if you think you’ll be using toll roads, choose a payment method that suits you best.
Some of the main options include:
This system is relatively straightforward and handy instructions are written on each card.
You buy a pre-loaded card with either 5, 10, 20 or 40 euros.
You then activate the card with an SMS message, using the code printed on the card and the licence plate of the vehicle.
You can purchase more than one card and activate them as and when. However, there is an added service cost of 0.74 euros for each card purchased.
If you head home with credit still on your toll card you can get this refunded – just return it to the main post office in Portugal, the CTT.
It’s easy to check your balance online here, plus you’ll get an SMS message once your balance runs out.
The Easy Toll is a system that uses your bankcard and number plate to take payments.
When you place your card in the toll terminal the system will automatically associate your bankcard with your registration plate.
The amount is then taken directly from your account.
Signing up costs 0.74 euros, plus a 0.32 euro administrative fee.
This method is valid for 30 days, and the tickets issued at the toll must be kept as proof in case of a problem.
You can amend the associated number plate or cancel the membership through a call centre or online. Both can be found on the Portugal tolls website.
Other toll services
In addition to the two methods just mentioned, there are other ways to pay too.
For example, those visiting Portugal for longer periods may want to consider renting a Via Verde device.
This is a prepaid tag that attaches to your windscreen and opens the toll barriers automatically.
For more information on the different types of tags, including how to purchase them, visit the Portugal tolls website.
Motoring rules and regulations in Portugal
Whatever country you're in you should be aware of the rules and regulations of the road, but it is easy to get confused.
Here are some laws and restrictions to be aware of:
For emergency services, dial 112.
It’s illegal to run out of petrol when crossing Lisbon’s mile-long 25 de Abril bridge.
Motorcyclists must dip their headlights during the day and wear crash helmets.
The blood alcohol level in Portugal is 0.2 grammes per litre of blood for newly qualified drivers (under 3 years experience on the road) and professional drivers. If you're found with a blood alcohol level exceeding 0.5 grammes per litre you will face a driving ban and fines.
Read more: Avoid these holiday motoring traps
Portuguese speed limits
The Portuguese authorities are tough on speeding, using radar traps and unmarked police cars to enforce speed limits.
And if you're caught, you may have to may the fine on the spot.
This can be anywhere between 30 euros to 2500 euros depending on how severely you broke the speed limit.
Speed limits for different road types are as follows:
|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|