A guide to driving in Portugal


You should never head into Portugal believing that their road laws will be exactly the same as what you have become accustomed to in your home nation.

Mount Pico, the highest peak in all Portugal, on volcanic Pico Island
Mount Pico, the highest peak in all Portugal, on volcanic Pico Island (photo courtesy of wikipedia)

So before you get behind the wheel of your rental car – Economy Car Hire has some excellent deals on car hire deals so that you can start exploring Portugal your way from the moment you arrive in this wonderful country – make sure you are aware of these very important rules.

  • A look at the general laws

Let’s begin with a few of the laws that you will be wise to abide to, otherwise a lot of your holiday spending money could end up going towards paying fines.

As long as they are fitted in your vehicle, every car passenger has to wear their seat belts while a car is in motion. What’s more, every car must contain a warning triangle, a reflective vest and the driver’s photo ID.

One of the quirkier – yet just as important – laws is that it is an offense to run out of petrol while you are crossing the mile-long 25 de Abril bridge in Lisbon. Another is that you will be in trouble with the law if you strap bicycles to the rear of your car.

  • Advice when traveling with children

Most countries have restrictions in place when it comes to children sitting in the front seat of a vehicle, but the laws surrounding this in Portugal are a bit more complex.

To begin with, any child under the age of 12 years old or below 1.5-metres tall cannot sit in the front. However, this law is wavered on two conditions – obviously if the car only has front seats, but also if there are no seat belts present on the back seats.

On top of this, passenger side airbags have to be disabled if parents are placing their little one into a rear-facing child seat in the front passenger seat.

  • The limits

There is a huge collection of speed limits enforced on Portugal’s roads. Drive around an urban area in the country and you must keep your speed at 50kmh or below, with this increasing to 90kmh on open roads and 120kmh on motorways.

However, tow another vehicle – whether this be a caravan or a car that has broken down – and you will be restricted to doing 70kmh on open roads and 100kmh on motorways.

Meanwhile, the drink-drive limit is stricter than quite a few other countries across Europe.

Take a breathalyzer test and be found to have more than 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood in your body and you can expect a fine or even a night inside a Portuguese prison.

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