Before driving in Portugal, foreigners have to familiarize themselves with traffic laws and local driving habits. Here is an overview of driving guidelines.
Portugal had a poor road infrastructure and fleet until the 90s. In fact, most roads were in a bad condition while vehicles met neither local nor international standards. In fact, there were no technical control regulations in the country. Hence, drivers did not really care about complying with vehicle control regulations or traffic laws. What mattered was to drive safely towards your destination.
However, Portuguese authorities soon revised existing regulations so as to modernize the system. Nowadays, the Portuguese road infrastructure meets international standards, in line with the rest of Europe. Moreover, Portuguese are investing more and more in new or high standard vehicles.
International driver's license
It is better to have an international driver's license if you wish to drive in Portugal, that is if you do not yet have a Portuguese driver's license. However, it is not compulsory. You can apply for an international driver's license from your home country by producing the following documents:
- a duly filled and signed application form
- two recent passport-size identity photos
- your local valid driver's license
- a valid identity document, that is your identity card or passport
- fees that apply (generally varying from one country to another, and may be free of charge in some countries).
The international driver's license has a three years validity. But it is renewable if you wish to stay longer in the country. Note, however, that you must also be in possession of your original and national driver's license while driving.
Foreigners having a non-European driver's license
European Union and European Economic Zone nationals may drive in Portugal with their national driver's license without having to obtain an international driver's license. They are not obliged to exchange their national driver's license for a Portuguese driver's license.
However, foreigners wishing to settle permanently in Portugal are required to register with the Transports and Mobility Institute (Instituto da mobilidade e dos transportes) within 60 days following your arrival in the country. You are required to produce your national driver's license (original and photocopy), your identity card or your passport, as well as the Modelo 13 IMT form.
Countries whose citizens are exempt from the international driver's license obligation are the following:
Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Norway, Netherlands, Poland, Czech Republic , Romania, United Kingdom, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden.
If you do not come from one of these countries, you are advised to inquire with the Portuguese Embassy or Consulate in your home country.
Speed limits are fixed at 100 km/h on highways, at 120 km/h on motorways and at 50 km/h in cities and urban areas.
Road accidents are quite frequent in Portugal in spite of road traffic regulations. In fact, some Portuguese drivers tend on interpret some laws at their convenience. Hence, you are advised to be careful while driving, particularly during weekends.
You are required to switch on your vehicle's headlights on some road sections, particularly on the A25 which connects Aveiro to Vilar Formoso. Otherwise, you may be fined.
While driving, you will have the priority over two-wheelers and animal driven vehicles unless you are coming out of a building, a parking or if you are engaging on a round-about.
If ever you are involved in an accident, police officers will evaluate damages. You will have to let the vehicle in its state, except in case of urgency.
Note that you are required to have a triangle sign and a fluorescent vest aboard your vehicle.
As regards overtaking, you could receive a 1,250 euros fine if you overtake on the right side of a vehicle. This is strictly prohibited. If you are caught on the phone while driving, you will have to pay a fine amounting to some 600 euros. The same applies to the absence of the triangle sign. Note that all fines have to be paid immediately. Otherwise your vehicle can be seized.
It is strictly prohibited to drink and drive. If your BAC amounts to more than 0,05 %, you can even be jailed and your driver's license will be suspended immediately.
Parking spaces are constantly modified in Portugal, at hours, weeks or months frequency. However, conditions vary from one city to another. Changes mainly apply in residential neighborhoods. Note that prohibited parking zones are marked by a blue sign or a white sign striped by a red bar. If pavement curbs are painted yellow or red, it also means that parking is prohibited.
Note, furthermore, that you are not allowed to park your vehicle at less than 6 meters from a tramway stop, less than 5 meters from a bus stop and less than 5 meters from crossroads.