A guide to driving in Portugal

Driving abroad: Portugal

No turn is a wrong turn when driving through Portugal's scenic lands.

Wherever the road may led you, there will always be a sight to see. But to make sure you enjoy every moment of the drive, we've outlined a few rules of the road you should keep in mind before setting off.

Regardless of whether you prefer the coastal breeze or mountain air, our driving guide to Portugal is here to help you steer clear of any issues. Know what to expect and have a stress-free journey.

Toll roads and laws

Italy's toll motorways, known as autostrade, stretch across the country creating an extensive network of roads. The motorways are identified by an A in front of the road number and green directional signs.


Driving checklist Portuguese law
Overtaking on the left Pass on the left, you can be fined over 1,000 euros for overtaking on the right.
Mobile phones Hands-free and headsets are permitted, though you may only use one earpiece with a headset.
Headphones Illegal to use.
Seatbelts Must be worn by driver and passengers at all times.
Drink drive limit Driving is not permitted with a blood alcohol content beyond 0.05 percent. If you have held your licence for less than three years, the maximum alcohol limit is 0.02 percent.
Radar detectors Any device that warns of upcoming speed camera is illegal. If you have a SatNav with this system, be sure to disable the setting otherwise you could incur a fine.
Petrol cans It is illegal to carry a can of petrol in the car.
Glasses If you wear glasses or contact lenses, you must carry a spare pair with you while driving.

Toll roads in Portugal

If you plan on heading outside of any major city, you're likely to end up on one of Portugal's many toll roads, known as autoestradas. Almost all of the country's motorways are tolled and can be identified by an “A” or blue sign.

Fewer and fewer of these toll roads are controlled by physical toll booths that accept cash or card. Majority are Via Verde lanes, which are operated through electroic toll booth, only allowing vehicles fitted with a toll tag or electronic transponder are to pass through. But be aware, there is no phycial toll gate, so you can accidently drive on. Signs will indicate ahead of time the types of payment systems available.

When travelling with a rental car, it is best to ask your supplier how to pay the tolls. Generally though, you have three different options: a Tollcard, Tollservice or temporary Via Verde transponder. Tollcards and Tollservices may be bought from post offices while a temporary transponders can be rented from your rental company.

Price are based on distance travelled, so you may want to consider the length of your journey before heading off. You can calculate the cost at portugaltolls.com

Is driving in Portugal easy?

Traffic and other drivers

For the most part, the road conditions in Portugal are very good and motorways are often free of traffic. However, road accidents in Portugal still remain higher than most other EU countries.

Trying to predict another driver's next move when driving in Portuagal can be nearly impossible as signalling isn't a common practice and speed limits are often ignored. Portuguese drivers also tend to drive close, almost hanging on to the rear of your car, tailgating until they have just enough room to pass (even if that mean overtaking on a blind hill).

Driving defensively, maintaining a safe distance and keeping your cool is the best approach to take when hitting Portugal's roads.

Driving in Portugal

Good to know:

Speed limits

Type of road Speed limits
Urban areas (local roads) 30mph/50km
Minor out-of-town roads (national roads)56mph/90km
Major out-of-town roads (main highway) 62mph/100km
Motorways (autostrada) 74mph/120km

What to carry

Car checklist Requirement
Licence requirement Full licence for minimum of one year
Passport and driving licence To always be carried while driving
International Driving Permit Not needed by those with UK or EU licences. If your licence for some reason doesn't have a photo, you will need an international driving permit.
Valid insurance compulsory
Warning triangle compulsory
Reflective vest compulsory
Spare bulbs compulsory

Book your car hire now