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Tips on renting a car and drving in Portugal

Renting a car and driving in Portugal can be a convenient way to explore the country, offering flexibility and the opportunity to visit less accessible destinations. However, it's essential to be well-prepared and informed to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are some tips for renting a car and driving in Portugal:

1. Rental Car Booking:

  • Reserve your rental car in advance, especially during peak tourist seasons, to secure the best rates and availability.
  • Compare prices and terms from different car rental companies to find the most suitable deal for your needs.
  • Lisbin has both on airport and off airport agents- be sure you know where to go. The shuttles meet near the Vodafone desk  outside of Arrivals

2. Documentation:

  • Ensure you have a valid driver's license. An international driver's permit (IDP) is generally not required for tourists, as long as your license is in English or uses the Latin alphabet.
  • Carry your passport and rental car documents (contract, insurance, etc.) with you at all times while driving.

3. Insurance:

  • Verify the insurance coverage provided with your rental car. Consider purchasing additional insurance for peace of mind, especially if you plan to drive extensively. Remeber that many credit cards offer full insurance, but you have to decline any rental company insurance. Check before you go.

4. Vehicle Size:

  • Choose a car size that suits your needs and is appropriate for the roads you plan to travel. Smaller cars are often more convenient for navigating narrow streets in historic towns. Many towns have very tight streets, so big cars may not pass.

5. Road Rules:

  • Familiarize yourself with Portuguese road rules and regulations before you start driving. Some rules may differ from what you're used to in your home country.
  • In Portugal, driving is on the right-hand side of the road.

6. Speed Limits:

  • Pay attention to speed limits. They are typically well-marked, with urban areas having lower limits (usually 50 km/h) and highways having higher limits (usually 120 km/h).

7. Toll Roads:

  • Portugal has an extensive network of toll roads. Some require manual payment at booths, while others use electronic overhead toll collection systems. Your rental car may have an electronic toll device, or you can rent a temporary toll pass called a Via Verde. This allows you to use overhead tolling - which otherwise is billed to your plate at a higher rate. If the vehicles do not have devices, drivers usually make the payment afterwards at Post Offices (Estações de Correio - CTT) or shops belonging to the Payshop network, as of the second day after passing through the tollgate. The deadline for payment is 15 working days, after which the driver will be in violation and subject to a fine. To make a payment, vehicles with foreign number plates may use the forms of payment listed at There are several possibilities that are intended specifically and solely for the electronic lanes, whose purchase may also be done online.

8. Parking:

  • Parking can be challenging in city centers, especially in older towns with narrow streets. Look for designated parking areas or garages and be prepared to pay for parking. Be careful in big tourist areas where fines can be high for parking.
  • Always follow parking signs and regulations to avoid fines or towing. When in doubt, ask.

9. Road Signs:

  • Pay attention to road signs, as they are often in Portuguese. The signs are European standard.  Familiarize yourself with common road signs before your trip.

10. GPS and Navigation: - Consider using a GPS device or a navigation app on your smartphone to help you navigate. Make sure it's updated with current maps. And be aware for bad advice on some apps.

11. Fueling Up: - Gas stations are widely available in Portugal. Most accept major credit cards, but it's a good idea to carry some cash just in case.

12. Be Courteous: - Portuguese drivers are generally courteous. Stay calm and follow traffic rules.

13. Rest Stops: - Take regular breaks on long drives to stay alert and enjoy the scenery. Portugal offers many picturesque rest areas.

14. Emergency Numbers: - Familiarize yourself with emergency numbers. In Portugal, the general emergency number is 112.

Navigating Portuguese roads can be an enjoyable and efficient way to explore the country's diverse landscapes and charming towns. Here's a quick guide to help you understand the types of roads, road signs, and essential driving tips in Portugal:


Types of Roads:

  • Autoestradas (Highways): These are the major highways in Portugal, often toll roads. They have the prefix "A" followed by a number (e.g., A1, A2). Autoestradas are well-maintained and have higher speed limits. These are mostly toll roads. There are also main highways (Itinerários Principais - IP), complementary roads (Itinerários Complementares - IC).
  • Estradas Nacionais (National Roads): These are national roads, typically indicated with an "N" followed by a number (e.g., N125). They can vary in quality, from modern dual carriageways to narrow and winding roads.
  • Estradas Regionais (Regional Roads): These are smaller roads that connect towns and villages. They are often more scenic but may be narrower and winding. Town roads are called municipal roads (Estradas Municipais).

Road Signs:

  • Directional Signs: Follow signs with the names of cities or towns to navigate. Major cities are usually indicated in green, while smaller towns are in white.
  • Speed Limits: Pay attention to speed limit signs, which are usually in kilometers per hour (km/h). Common speed limits include 50 km/h in urban areas and 120 km/h on highways.
  • Warning Signs: Look out for warning signs indicating curves, intersections, pedestrian crossings, and other potential hazards.
  • Toll Signs: Be prepared for tolls on some highways. Electronic tolls are common, and you may need to follow specific lanes or purchase a temporary toll pass.
  • Parking Signs: Pay attention to parking regulations in cities and towns. Blue lines on the road typically indicate paid parking zones.


  • Portugal has many roundabouts (rotundas). Vehicles inside the roundabout have the right of way, and you yield to traffic entering the roundabout.


  • Overtake slower vehicles on the left. The right lane is typically for slower-moving or exiting traffic.

Seat Belts:

  • Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers in the vehicle.

Alcohol Limit:

  • Portugal has strict alcohol limits for drivers. The legal blood alcohol concentration (BAC) limit is 0.05 grams per deciliter (g/dL).


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