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A Guide to Driving in Portugal

Driving in Portugal is very easy, given the large network of roads that crisscross the country. From to 8-lane highways to fast 4-lane roads, Portugal’s road network  is well maintained, and easy to navigate. Many of the roads have tolls, either with tollbooths where you can pay by credit card, or overhead tolling on secondary highways. In this case, we recommend getting a Via Verde toll device that lets you pay as you go from your car rental company, or register your car with a credit card at the boarder with Spain. 120km is the top speed, and signage is the same as the rest of Western Europe. Speeds in towns drops to 60 km per hour or less.


And enjoy the trip! The scenic road between Peso da Régua and Pinhão, in Northern Portugal, was considered the World Best Driving Road, by the Avis Driving Index

 Roads in Portugal:


Autoestrada means highway, and  Portugal has about 3,000 km of Autoestradas connecting the main cities and Lisbon. Several autoestradas are linked via Spain to the rest of Europe. Most of these roads were built in the last 25 years. Portugal went from 316 km of highways in 1990 to 2100 km by the end of 2007. These roads are mostly toll road, have services and food stops every 15-25 miles, and have regular police and breakdown patrols. BRISA runs these roads, and collects the tolls. Speed limits are 120 km per hour.


Itinerários principais 

The itinerários principais are also separated highways, mostly with no toll, that connect major cities and regions. These are not run by BRISA, but are like US freeways and speed limits are 120 km per hour.


Itinerários complementares

The itinerários complementares are improved roads that vary in design, some are 4-lane, other just 2. They have no tolls, and are local routes. They avoid city centers.


Estradas nacionais

Estradas nacionais (national routes) are local roads, mostly 2-lanes, no tolls, and often go thought the center of a city or town. This is the network of roads that were once the main roads before the building boom of the the last 225 years.



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