Then the good news is that the rules of the road are quite similar to the UK, apart from of course they drive on the right. There actually isn’t any bad news about driving here unless you don’t like driving on unpaved or narrow roads. In which case you may have a problem as there are quite a few of both! It was the rules of the road though that led to this post. I was pondering them the other day, and it occurred to me that you might find the information useful too.
- You must carry when driving your driving licence, photographic ID and relevant vehicle documentation eg insurance papers, car hire paperwork or vehicle registration documents. It is not unusual for the police to set up check points.
- Apparently cars flashing their headlights at you mean they want right of way, not that they’re giving way to you.
- Always give priority to traffic from the right unless otherwise stated, and you must give way to traffic already on a roundabout.
- Like in the UK wearing a seat belts is compulsory both in the front and in the back seats.
- Headlights must always be used in tunnels
- In a town with trams and notice there is no tram platform at the side of the road, then you must give way to anyone coming off the tram and walking back to the pavement.
- The maximum allowed alcohol level in Portugal is 50mg per 100ml of blood; less than that of the UK. It means that even a single drink can take you over the limit.So don’t drink and drive.
- On the spot fines can be issued by the traffic police, for example not stopping at a stop sign. The fines must be paid in Euros and in cash. I read somewhere that most traffic police vehicles are fitted with portable ATM machines!
- Signs are usually placed at the exact moment you need to turn
- If you’re driving on motorways, don’t use the green lanes unless you have a working automatic payment transponder in the car
- It is illegal to use a mobile phone while driving unless it is hands free, unfortunately as in the UK many people seems to ignore this and put themselves and others at risk.
- And whether it is a hire car or your own car you must have a yellow, red or orange reflective jacket which is accessible without leaving the car, a reflective warning triangle, spare bulbs and the tools required to fit them and a spare wheel, inflated and the tools necessary to change it
There are Speed Limits despite the behaviour of some of the other drivers. Unless otherwise indicated these are;
- 50 kilometres per hour in built up areas
- 90 kilometres per hour on national roads
- 120 kilometres per hour on motorways (with a minimum speed of 50km/h)
I’m not sure though I’d like to try 50km/h on any of the roads below!
In a breakdown or accident put on your reflective jacket and then place your warning triangle 30m behind the car.
- All drivers involved must exchange details: registration number, insurance details, name and address. Also take the licence plate number of all the vehicles involved and record details (including a sketch or photographs) of what happened
- If it is minor accident you can simply make a declaration of events with the other driver(s) involved. Never, though, sign any paperwork unless certain you both understand it and that you agree with what is written
- If however there is substantial damage, a dispute over fault or if someone is hurt, you must call the emergency services (112) and wait until they arrive. Leaving the scene of a serious accident is a crime in Portugal. Whilst waiting do help anyone who needs help and do leave vehicles where they are.
- If the accident involves a parked car or someone’s property and the owner is not present then the accident must be reported to the nearest police station so that they can make contact with the owner.
Hopefully you won’t be involved in any accidents, and if you are away from the touristy areas it is certainly unlikely given how quiet the roads are.
There are of course far more rules than this, but I hope you have found this brief overview helpful. To finish how about a few observations;
- There seem to be two speeds for most drivers – very very fast or leisurely
- In fact it is not unusual to find a car stopped in the middle of the road and the occupants catching up with someone.
- You may also find in villages and some towns that you are sharing the road with a cart and horse, flocks of sheep and goats, the odd dog and even wild pigs.
- As I’ve previously mentioned and my photographs highlight not all roads are paved, and some roads are incredibly narrow.
- There are no cats eyes and many white lines would benefit from a fresh lick of paint
- Slip roads on and off dual carriageways can be very short
- An upside though is that you might be the only ones driving on the road.
If you have any helpful tips about driving in Portugal or have had any interesting experiences please do share in the comments below.
And just before I go – please note this post only aims to raise awareness of some of the rules, it is not nor should it be considered formal advice. For more detailed advice click here, and should you wish to check the official rules click here.