DRIVING IN PORTUGAL
In general, driving in Portugal is not much different from other western European countries, where you drive on the right-hand side of the road and overtake on the left.
WHAT DOCUMENTATION DO I NEED TO DRIVE IN PORTUGAL?
If you are a citizen from the EU, your regular licence is also valid in Portugal. But if you are coming from any other non-EU country, both in Europe and abroad, your driving licence must be accompanied by an International Driving Permit, which is basically a multiple language translation of your own driving licence.
WHAT VEHICLE DOCUMENTATION DO I NEED TO DRIVE IN PORTUGAL?
Vehicle documents – you should either have both the Registration Document (a blue paper named Título de Registo de Propriedade in Portuguese) and the Vehicle Registration Certificate, known as the log book (a green one called Livrete in Portuguese), or just the all-in-one document (Documento Único Automóvel), which comprises all the necessary information about the owner and the vehicle.
If you are driving a rental car these documents should be in the car.
WHAT INSURANCE DO I HAVE IN A RENTAL CAR?
Rental Cars have Third Party insurance and Collision Damage Waiver with a low excess. The excess can be waived by buying the usually called Super CDW which excempts you of any extra payment in case of accident.
WHAT ITEMS OR DEVICES THE CAR MUST HAVE?
Apart from the documentation, there are a few other items the car must have:
Reflective warning triangle – In case the vehicle breaks down or is involved in an accident, you should place this triangle behind your vehicle, to warn other drivers passing by.
Reflective safety vest – which you must wear in emergency situations when you are forced to leave the car.
ARE SEAT BELTS MANDATORY?
Yes. All the passengers must use a seat belt, which is compulsory both in the front and in the back seats.
WHAT ARE THE RULES FOR TREVELLING WITH CHILDREN?
If you are travelling with children under the age of 12, be advised that they cannot sit up front, unless they are taller than 150cm, and should be accommodated in appropriate child car seats.
The Right Carseat for Your Child:
Up to 1 year old and up to 20-22 pounds: Rear-facing Infant-only, Convertible or 3-in-1 seat
Ages 1-3 and 20 to 40 pounds: Rear-facing car seat until the top height and weight limit allowed by the manufacturer.
Ages 4-7 or until 4'9" tall: Forward-facing car seat until the top height and weight limit allowed by the manufacturer.
Age 8-12 or at least over 4'9": Booster Seat with lap and shoulder belts until the top height and weight limit allowed by the manufacturer.
WHAT ARE THE PENALTIES FOR DRIVING AFTER DRINKING?
Portugal is known by its excellent wine and if you want to taste the excellent and still cheap portuguese wines you should consider not to drive.
However, you might want to keep the intake of alcohol limited to a glass or two if you want to avoid being fined or, even worse, causing an accident. If you are stopped by the police, they may want you to take a breath alcohol test, which may result in one of the following:
- under 0.5 g/l (grams of alcohol per litre of blood) – you are within the law and will be able to continue your journey without further inconvenience.
- from 0.5 g/l to 0.8 g/l and from 0.8 g/l to 1.2 g/l - you will face a fine and suspension of licence, which will be determined by what range you fall in.
- above 1.2 g/l - you will be detained and taken before a judge. Penalties in this case include up to one year imprisonment and a three year driving ban.
WHAT ARE THE DRIVING SPEED LIMITS IN PORTUGAL?
Portuguese roads have different speed limits:
– 50 km/h for roads located in residential areas - 90 km/h in open roads
- 120 km/h in motorways.
CAN I PHONE WHILE I DRIVE?
Mobile phones may be used while driving but only can be used with a hands-free system.
CAN I LISTEN MUSIC WHILE I DRIVE?
Yes, but the sound volume should not interfere with the sounds around you and it is illegal to drive with headphones connected to a sound device.
TOLL ROADS IN PORTUGAL AND HOW TO PAY THEM?
You can drive troughout Portugal by the Nacional Roads that are free. However, if you decide to take one of the many motorways that cross the country, it is likely it will be a toll road. To pay for it, there are three possible systems:
- Toll booths – at the start of the route there will be a dispensing machine from which you should collect a ticket. As you are leaving the road, hand the ticket over at the toll booth and pay the fee, which varies from road to road and depends on distance travelled.
- Frequent user system – if you are a frequent user, which is probably not the case if you are just here for a quick visit, you can subscribe to the Via Verde system which allows drivers to avoid stopping at the toll booths and instead pay a monthly fee via ATM. For this, you will need to have an electronic device attached to your windshield, which then identifies your car.
- Electronic tolls – this is a relatively new system and, so far, has only been introduced on a few motorways and main roads – A28, A29, A44, A4, A41, A42, VRI – Via Regional Interior and parts of A25 and A17. On these roads, identified as “electronic toll only”, there is an overhead electronic system that reads information from a device located in the car’s windshield, much like the Via Verde system. To pay for the toll, you must either buy a permanent electronic device or get a temporary one, which can be leased from certain motorway service stations or post offices for use in foreign-registered vehicles. These may be used for stays of up to 90 days and will be either prepaid or charged to your credit card.
The major part of the rent a car companies in Portugal and Algarve have installed transponders for electronic payment on the electronic tolls.