Driving in Portugal

So, you are thinking of either moving to Portugal or just going to visit and explore the beautiful country. While Portugal has vast public transportation, some may prefer to bring their own vehicle or rent one there. Before you jump behind the wheel here are some things to take note of when you are driving in Portugal.

Can I legally drive in Portugal? Driving on a US or UK license

If you are a United States citizen visiting as a tourist, your US Driver’s License entitles you to drive in Portugal for a period of no more than 185 in a year without being a legal resident of Portugal. If a US resident would like to stay longer and decides to gain citizenship in Portugal, then they have 90 days from gaining citizenship to request an exchange of license without being required to take a driving test. If someone fails to request the exchange in the 90-day window, they must stop driving, but can still request a license exchange within 2 years without a driving test. 

How difficult is it to drive in Portugal?

It may surprise some that in Portugal they drive on the right-hand side, just like in the United States. But if you suffer from road rage and enjoy speeding past other drivers, be warned that you may only overtake another vehicle on the left. If a driver decides to undertake (overtaking on the right), they could be in for a hefty fine. So, while it may be tempting to pass someone on the right, it’s best to be avoided. If you are visiting the country and looking to rent a vehicle there are some things to consider. The legal driving age in Portugal is 18 and depending on companies a tourist may need to be 23 or 25 to rent a vehicle. Keep in mind young drivers can also receive additional fees for being less experienced. 

Things to look out for when Driving in Portugal 

Like with driving in any foreign country, there are differences to be on the lookout for. When planning a route to explore consider trying to avoid the following roads. The IP5 and the N125 can be dangerous routes to the Algarve. In addition, the Antigua ER101, the EN125, and the A20 in Porto can also be dangerous roads due to high winds, narrow roads, and poorly maintained rural roads. Also, be sure to pay attention to the toll roads throughout the county. They can be paid for via cash, card, or automated tags that are placed in the windshield of a vehicle through the VIA Verde program. 

Safety while driving in Portugal

The safety record on Portugal roads isn’t one of the best. This can be attributed to things like pedestrians in the road due to lack of sidewalks, poorly lit roads at night, and an abundance of livestock on the roads in rural areas. If you are planning to take on driving in Portugal, here are a few more regulations to pay attention to:

  • It is illegal to litter from your vehicle and will land you a fine.
  • Speeding in the country will likely lead to being pulled over and issued a citation. 
  • Speed limits range from 31 mph in urban areas, 57 mph, and 74 mph on motorways.
  • It is illegal to use a cellphone and drive.

Overall if someone is planning to explore Portugal there are many options for public transportation. But if your visit is more permanent it may make more sense to jump behind the wheel and take on driving in Portugal.

Further Reading on Driving in Portugal

If you are from the UK and thinking about exchanging your license in Portugal, check out this article: https://movetoalgarve.com/exchanging-uk-driving-license-for-portuguese/

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