How to drive in Portugal?

Basic rules of the roads and driving requirements.


Traffic drives on the right and overtakes on the left, be careful of signs indicating the contrary.  It is recommended not to obstruct fast lanes.


Portugal lagged behind other countries in Western Europe in developing a national highway system, and as a result super highways are limited. A four-line highway “auto estrada” runs approximately 360mi/590km from Lisbon to Porto while two-lane highways of good quality connect the rest of the country. Roads are often three lanes, with the middle lane used for passing in both directions. Beware of animal-drawn unlit carts in rural areas at night.


Where there is no platform, cars are required to give way to passengers. Trams have the right-of-way both when they overtake you and as they approach.


At the junction of two roads of equal size, traffic entering from the right has priority unless otherwise indicated. Vehicles already in a round-about have priority over those about to enter.


Parking against the flow of traffic is illegal. Vehicles parked on pavements other than when permitted by signs will be impounded for a period from one to twelve months.
“Blue zone” parking exists in many towns and you can obtain a cardboard disc, free of charge, from either the police or local motor club offices. Central Lisbon offers very little on-street parking.


On-the-spot traffic fines apply and the Police may demand immediate payment either by cash or credit card. Crossing white lines, running red lights, and ignoring police signals are subject suspension of your license from two to twelve months. Use of mobile phones when driving is illegal and subject to a fine of up to €600.00.  Littering while driving is subject to a fine of up to € 300.00.  A driver's blood alcohol level is not allowed to exceed 0.05 percent, and the penalties may include imprisonment for up to 2 years and a fine of €2,500.00. Driving a vehicle without insurance carries a fine of up to €2,500.00.


Petrol/fuel stations are generally open from 7am to 10pm or midnight, although some are 24hours and you can pay by credit card. The fuel octane rating is 98 for leaded petrol and 95 or 98 for super unleaded.


Motorways - 120 kmh / 75 mph
Highways - 100 kmh / 62 mph
Other roads - 90 kmh / 56 mph
Built up areas - 50 kmh / 31 mph


Toll roads in are extremely expensive and less frequently used by native drivers. The high price of tolls, along with the dramatic increase in car ownership, has greatly increased congestion on smaller roads.  Green lanes are for drivers subscribed to an automated paying system.


The minimum legal age to drive in Portugal is 17. To rent a car, you must be at least 21, age may vary depending on the car category and you must have held your license for at least one year.


European Community format pink/green license is accepted; old-style green or non European license must be accompanied by an International Driving license (IDL).


Fire and third party liability insurance is mandatory.


The International Driver’s License (IDL) and documents relating to the car and its insurance must be kept in the vehicle. All vehicles must carry a legal reflector vest and must be worn by any person investigating or carrying out repairs when outside the vehicle while it is stationary on the road. All vehicles must carry an authorized triangle which must be displayed on the road to warn oncoming drivers that the vehicle is stalled.


Seat belts must be worn at all times.


Children under 12 years old are prohibited from riding in the front seat and are required to be fastened in the appropriate child seat. Baby and booster seats are required by law up to age of 12 and they must be securely fastened when travelling.


All emergencies 112

Portugal driving advice

Sources: BUG Europe / AutoEurope / / Portugal Info /