How to drive in Portugal

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Updated 2021-09-23 09:41

If you're relocating to Portugal as an expat and plan on driving, it is important to be aware of the administrative requirements for driving, obtaining a licence, and the rules of the road. Portugal has both modern highway systems and narrow country roads. While the driving rules are likely similar to your home country, it is important to familiarise yourself with Portugal's rules and requirements before driving.

Do you need an International driver's licence to drive in Portugal?

If you do not have a Portuguese licence, you may wish to obtain an international licence before arriving. It is not compulsory for a short visit but may be useful if your licence isn't in English or Portuguese. If you plan to stay in Portugal for longer than six months, an international or Portuguese licence is required for driving in the country. Tourists or expats staying in Portugal for less than six months can drive on their international licence.

You can apply for an international driver's licence from your home country by producing the following documents:

  • Completed application form
  • Recent passport-size identity photos
  • Valid driver's licence from your home country
  • Application fees, which can vary from country to country

Note, however, that you must also be in possession of your original driver's licence while driving.

Driving in Portugal for non-EU driver's license holders

European Union and European Economic Zone nationals may drive in Portugal with their national driver's licence without having to obtain an international driver's licence. They are not obliged to exchange their national driver's licence for a Portuguese driver's licence. If you hold an EU-issued licence, it will be recognised in Portugal, as long as it is valid and current.

However, expats 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 their arrival in the country. You are required to produce your national driver's licence (original and photocopy), your identity card or your passport, as well as the Modelo 13 IMT form.

Driving rules and regulations in Portugal

Before you get behind the wheel in Portugal, it is absolutely essential that you familiarize yourself with all the rules and regulations of driving in the country. Naturally, we won't be able to list all driving rules and regulations here, but here is a quick introduction:

  • In Portugal, drive on the right side of the road
  • Speed limits, unless marked otherwise, are 50 kph in urban areas, 90 kph on rural roads, and 120 kph on motorways
  • The blood alcohol limit is 0.05%
  • Phones are not to be used while driving unless they are hands-free. Fees for using your phone while driving can be upwards of EUR 600
  • Seatbelts are mandatory for every passenger
  • While driving, always have your licence, proof of insurance, your vehicle registration, and consider also having your passport with you, in case of emergency
  • Many motorways have tolls, which can be paid with cash, or via an electronic sensor that you can arrange to deduct the tolls from your account

Parking in Portugal

In most Portuguese cities, parking restrictions are in place. If you park in a spot where parking is not allowed, you will first receive a fine. However, if you are “caught” parking in wrong places repeatedly, you could receive points on your license — which will have a direct effect on your insurance.

Here is some more information about parking in Portugal:

  • If you see a sign saying “Estacionamento Probido”, it means that parking here is not allowed.
  • No parking zones are typically marked with a blue sign that has a red line running across it.
  • Yellow or red signs are also painted on the curb to mark areas where parking is not allowed.
  • Generally, you are not allowed to park in areas that are within five metres from a junction, 25 metres from a bus stop or six metres from a tram stop.
  • Additionally, some areas may also require a resident's parking permit.

Naturally, this is not a full list of parking regulations that may be in place in a Portuguese city. This is why it is very important to keep your eyes open for no parking signs.

Useful links:

Driving distances between cities

EU licence requirements

Road tolls

We do our best to provide accurate and up to date information. However, if you have noticed any inaccuracies in this article, please let us know in the comments section below.