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The ABCs Of Driving In Portugal

The ABCs Of Driving In Portugal

The number of fatalities on Portuguese roads has increased to 14% in 2017 compared to 2016 and is the second highest in the EU 28 after Cyprus. The good news is according to the 12th Road Safety Performance Report, Portugal is one of the 15 countries in the European Union that performed better than the EU average when it comes to reducing serious injuries and road deaths. That said, whether you intend to visit or to relocate in the country, driving is a privilege that should not be taken lightly. It pays to know local traffic laws so that you can drive comfortably and safely.


Road traffic rules and laws differ in the EU

Although there is a move to harmonise EU traffic regulations, some laws do not yet apply to other countries. But two basic rules that cover all EU countries including Portugal is that all passengers and drivers must wear seat belts in cars, coaches, and minibuses. Children must be restrained in cars, trucks, and if possible, in other types of vehicles.

Before you can drive on Portugal’s roads, a valid licence is required. The legal age to drive in the country is 18 years and from 23 to 25 years to rent a car depending on the agency. If you are in possession of a driving licence that has been issued for life by another EU country, you need to renew it two years after changing your habitual place of residence according to the Europa website. For non-EU driving licences, you can exchange it within 185 days after receiving a residence permit in Portugal. This also applies if you intend to change your residence to Portugal even if you have an EU licence. Otherwise, all EU-issued driving licences are valid in the country.

The law also requires third-party liability insurance as a minimum which is usually included in a car rental price if renting one or if you intend to bring your vehicle to the country, you must ensure that it is adequately insured. Plus, if registering the car in Portugal, the corresponding road tax must be paid.

Basic driving and traffic rules

Portugal drives on the right side of the road and overtakes on the left. It is forbidden to pass another vehicle on the right and if caught, you will be fined up to €1,000 according to Unless otherwise reflected on traffic signs, the standard speed limits for passenger cars and vans below 3.5t are 50km/h on urban roads, 90km/h on non-urban roads and 100km/h to 120 km/h on motorways and expressways.

Alcohol consumption is a major cause of road deaths in Portugal prompting the government to enforce safety campaigns. Therefore, pay strict attention to the maximum blood alcohol content (BAC) which is 0,5g/l for standard drivers and 0,2g/l for novice drivers. Drivers are not allowed to use their mobile phones without a hands-free safety kit. All cars must also carry safety equipment including a reflective vest and a warning triangle.

Driving in Portugal is no different than in any country and by knowing the basic traffic regulations, you’ll be able to drive confidently and safely. While it may take you a little time to adjust especially if you’re used to driving on the left, you’ll soon get the hang of it. Remember though to adopt a defensive style of driving as you might encounter close calls with tailgaters or drivers who overtake recklessly.

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