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Driving in Portugal: what do I need to know?

In Portugal you need to drive on the right hand side of the road and things are generally very similar to driving in the rest of mainland Europe.

Speed limits in Portugal

Speed limits are broadly in line with the UK at 50 km/h (31 mph) in built up areas, 90 km/h (55 mph) in non-urban areas and 120 km/h (74 mph) on motorways.

One unusual rule is that if you have had your licence for under 12 months, you should not go faster than 55 mph when driving in Portugal, even on motorways.

You are not allowed to carry a radar detector when driving in Portugal.

What you need to carry with you

Rules about carrying bikes

You are not allowed to attach bicycles to a rack on the back of a passenger car, including 4x4s and MPVs. When driving in Portugal, bikes must be carried on the roof or within your vehicle.

Drink driving laws in Portugal

Lower level drink driving can result in a ban of as little as one month, whereas higher alcohol levels lead to longer bans, up to two years. Unlike other countries, Portuguese police carry portable ATM machines for on the spot fines, so there is no excuse for non-payment. If you dispute the fine, you should still pay a deposit, or you may find that your licence is taken away and your car impounded. Always make sure you get a receipt, especially if paying with cash.

A note about toll roads

One important thing to remember when driving in Portugal is that many of the motorways are toll roads, and these must be paid for in advance, as they are fully automatic and there are no manned toll booths.

If you hire a car, the chances are it will come with a pre-registered electronic device and your hire company will pass on the toll charges to you. If you take your own car, you can either rent a device which you can then pre-load with funds for tolls, or you can log your vehicle registration online and prepay via the website.

For more information on road tolls when driving in Portugal, visit the Visit Portugal website, or try the Portugal Toll Roads tool by Sixt rent a car.

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