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Tips for driving in Portugal

Even if you’re an experienced driver, hitting the road in a foreign country can make you think twice. However Driving in Portugalthe reality of driving in Portugal is that it’s one of the easiest places to get behind the wheel. As with any country, local regulations and paperwork exist, so here it’s all laid out neatly so you can understand exactly how to stay on the right side of the law.

Portuguese driving licence

If you hold an EU driving licence, you may drive in Portugal using your valid driving licence from your own country for up to 90 days if you are not a resident. After 90 days you apply for your residency card and, once it’s issued, you have 30 days to register your driving licence with the Portuguese driving authorities (IMTT). The following paperwork will be required:

  • Valid insurance, including the display of the tear-off section in the front windscreen.
  • Proof of residency ( your Autorização de Residência)
  • A completed copy of IMTT Modelo 13 (it’s in Portuguese you may need help)
  • A photocopy of your current driving licence
  • Proof of identity (your passport or other ID with photograph)Portuguese driving license

You will be issued a document to carry with your licence if you wish to keep your own licence. However, you should make sure that you apply to exchange your existing licence for a Portuguese licence BEFORE it expires. Certain non-EU licences are accepted for a period of time if accompanied by an International Driving Licence.

Find more information from the IMTT - Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes Terrestres website (local driving authority).

Note: If you get stopped by the police, or you're involved in an accident, it’s important to make sure that you're carrying a valid driving licence.

Documents for vehicles

As in all countries you need to have your car documents with you at all times when driving. The following documents are required in Portugal.

  • The  Certificado de Matricula – the vehicle registration certificate.
  • Valid insurance, including the display of the tear-off section in the front windscreen.
  • A current IPO (Inspecção Périodica Obrigatória) certificate proving that the vehicle is roadworthy, with the the tear-off section displayed on the windscreen.
  • Fiscal ID card (cartão de contribuinte) if the number is not mentioned on the identity document presented and the driver is resident in Portugal.
  • If you do not have a Portuguese issued driving licence, then you should also carry an alternative, valid identity document, such as a Passport.

Buying a Portuguese vehicle

Road signs

The cost of vehicles is notoriously high in Portugal so it’s worth shopping around and deciding if you want a new or used car before you commit. Once you buy, you need to get your car registered and pay road tax.

If you buy from a dealer, the dealer should arrange the registration of the vehicle for you. If you buy privately, the buyer and the seller need to sign a Requerimento de Registo Automóvel form. As a buyer, it’s your responsibility to register the change of ownership within 30 days of the sale. This can be done at your local Conservatória (car registration office).

Vehicle inspection

The IPO - Inspecção Périodica Obrigatória is the roadworthiness test of a motor vehicle in Portugal. All cars and motorbikes (250cc+) over four years old must be inspected and tested at an approved test centre every two years until they are 7 years old, and then they must be tested every year.

Driving in Portugal

Getting around by road is pretty simple. Roads are well sign-posted. Maps are readily available and on the whole GPS systems are current. There are motorways and highways between cities, some of which require toll payments.

Toll Roads

There are a number of toll roads (fee-paying roads) in Portugal. The main ones that serve the Algarve are the A2, to and from Lisbon, and the A22 through the Algarve.

As anywhere, there a few things to remember when driving in Portugal.

 Basic ‘Do’s’

  • DO drive on the right
  • DO overtake on the left
  • DO observe the speed limits
  • DO wear seat belts (bikers wear crash helmets)
  • DO carry all required documents and equipment in case of breakdown
  • DO carry a yellow, reflective vest and traffic triangle for roadside stops or breakdowns
Road rules


Basic ‘Don’ts'

  • DON’T use a mobile phone while driving (hands free is OK)
  • DON’T allow people under 12 and/or under 150 cms tall to sit in the front.
  • DON’T take passengers under 7 years old on the back of a scooter or motorbike
  • DON’T carry items that exceed the vehicle's length by more than 45cm at the rear and 55cm at the front
  • DON’T leave dogs unrestrained while driving
  • DON'T drink and drive. The legal limit has been severely reduced 
Dog driving in a car

Remember the all-important rule:  never, under any circumstances, leave a baby or animal in a parked car, even with windows open. The climate in the south of Portugal can kill, even if left for a short time. This applies to summer and winter.

Further information

For more detailed information check the IMTT (Portuguese authority) website or read our blogs on Driving in the Algarve:

Driving in the Algarve – part 1:  Rules & regulations

Driving in the Algarve – part 2:  Safety first

Driving in the Algarve – part 3:  Documents to have with you

Driving in the Algarve – part 4:  Driving licences

Driving in the Algarve – part 5:  Using toll roads

Driving in the Algarve – part 6:  Owning a car in Portugal

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