Driving in Portugal

Laws, Hints and Tips

Portugal is the smaller neighbour to Spain, and shares a similar history and culture, although Portuguese is a distinct language. Portugal, like other Mediterranean countries, can get very hot in summer, so ensure you have sufficient coolant, and that your radiator fan is fully working, especially if towing.

While much of the main road network is modern and has good signs, many of the towns can be confusing for first time visitors, and some roads will have two different names. Smaller side roads, and older roads can be in poor condition with potholes and crumbling verges.

There is a wide mix of vehicles on the roads in Portugal, from modern cars (generally) exceeding the posted speed limits to horse (or donkey!) drawn carts and scooters that appear to be several vehicles bolted together. The variety of traffic, combined with low visibility on winding roads means you may come up behind another vehicle very suddenly.

Basic Requirements
Legal Requirements
Driving Tips

Basic Legal Requirements

Driving Licence

UK Driving Licence (Sample) When driving in Portugal, you will need to ensure you bring both parts of your driving licence - the Photocard plus the Paper Counterpart (D740). If you do not have a Photocard yet, only the paper copy is required, but you will need Photo ID, such as a Passport

You must be the holder of a full driving licence (not a provisional), and have passed your test. The Portuguese law states you must be at least 17 years, but some young drivers have reported problems with the authorities for those under 18

The International Driving Permit is not required, but if you would like one you can apply through the Post Office. The international driving permit is in addition to your driving licence, so you will need to carry both copies.

While a photocopy may be useful if your licence is lost, you should carry the original with you. It is recommended that you also carry your passport for proof of identification - you must have at least one photographic ID.

Car Documents

You should carry your vehicles Registration Certificate (V5C) with you, which should be updated to show your correct details. For security reasons, it's best NOT to leave the Registration Certificate in the vehicle while it is parked - it makes it harder to a thief to resell the vehicle if they do not have the documentation.

While a photocopy may be useful if your Registration Certificate is lost, you should carry the original with you.


It is compulsory to have at least third- party insurance for Portugal, as for the UK. Most UK insurance policies will allow an element of European driving, often for a limited period.

Before leaving the UK, it is a good idea to contact your insurer, and check what your existing cover allows. You can also request a 'Green Card' which is an internationally recognised form of proof of insurance. You should carry proof of insurance with you while driving.

If your existing insurance does not provide European cover for the period required, most insurance brokers will have a suitable policy covering Portugal.

Your Vehicle

headlight beam adaptors for European driving Your headlights will need to be adjusted to ensure that they do not dazzle oncoming users.

Standard halogen headlights and Autobulbs Xenon HID Conversion kits can be modified by the use of a stick on Headlight Beam Adaptor. Vehicles with factory fitted Xenon HID headlights may find there is an adjuster either on the headlights themselves or on the dashboard - check your manual for details. If there is no adjuster, you may need to visit a dealer for them to make the adjustments, and again to change them back after your visit.

Reflective Jackets or vests are compulsory for locals, and strongly recommended for visitors, and must be worn when getting out of a vehicle stuck on a motorway, dual carriageway or other busy road.

European Travel Kit with Spare bulb Kit You should also carry a reflective Warning Triangle in the vehicle - they are not compulsory to carry, but you must use one if you break down. In the event of an accident or breakdown, the triangle should be set up by the side of the road, at least 50 meters in the direction of of the traffic. If you have broken down in the outer lane of a dual carriageway or motorway, or attempting to place the warning triangle would place you in danger, do not use it. Remember to collect your warning triangle before leaving! Warning triangles are not required for motorbikes.

If you are planning on driving in mountain areas in winter, you must carry snow chains and fit them when conditions demand it. Spiked tyres are not allowed.

Vehicles must NOT be carried on the back of cars - use a roof rack cycle system instead.

Children under the age of 12 must not travel in the front seats, and should use use child seats, booster seats or seatbelt adaptations suitable for their size in the rear seats. All passengers must use seat belts if fitted.

Number plate with European GB Logo You may have a number plate that already has a valid 'GB' mark. If you do not, you will need to apply a GB sticker to the back of your vehicle.

There is no legal requirement to carry a first aid kit or a fire extinguisher in the vehicle, but they are generally a useful safety item to carry if you have the space.

spare it is recommended (but not required) that you carry a bulb kit suitable for your vehicle, and the tools to change the bulbs if needed. While HID bulbs last longer than their halogen counterparts, it makes sense to carry at least one spare Xenon HID bulb suitable for your headlights.