Drinking and Driving:

Drinking and driving is a major issue in Portugal, so much so that fines and punishments have increased dramatically in recent years. Drivers with a blood alcohol level of 0.05% or higher will be fined and have their licenses suspended. If your reading is higher than 0.08%, you will be expected to pay a fine upwards of €2500 and your driving privileges in Portugal will be revoked for up to two years. A reading higher than 0.1% will result in a year in jail. When in doubt, take a taxi to your hotel after drinking.

Seat Belts:

Seat belts are mandatory and must be worn by all passengers, in the front and back seats.

Cell Phones:

Cell phones are only allowed to be used by drivers in Portugal if the call can be conducted hands-free (like through Bluetooth and car speakers). Headsets and headphones are not sufficient and will result in a citation if you are caught using them.

Navigation Aids

Navigation aids are legal to use in Portugal, but keep in mind that the distracted driving laws passed here in 2017 are some of the most stringent in Europe. You have to pull off onto the side of the road, or into a parking lot, and either stop or idle the car while you access the information. It cannot be used en route by the driver, as that would constitute a distraction. The fine is the same amount as the fine for texting while driving: €600.

Speed Trap Detectors:

Radar detectors and similar speed trap devices are not legal to use in Portugal and will result in a fine if police catch you using one.

Driving Age:

To drive in Portugal you must be aged 18 or over. You must be 19 years old to rent a car in Portugal. Some companies require that you have driven in your home country for a year before renting a car in Portugal, while others do not have this requirement. If in doubt, have an established driver rent the car. Remember that you will also require a credit card to rent a vehicle.

Using Indicators:

You should use indicators when driving in Portugal, as they are compulsory, but Portugal also has a reputation for drivers being careless, so do not be too surprised if you notice locals who don`t use indicators. Practice defensive driving at all times.


Overtaking can only be done on the left side of the car that you wish to pass. Take care when overtaking - allow more space between you and the car in front so you can see further down the road ahead. If police find that you overtake a car without using an indicator, you can be fined on the spot. Fines must be paid in cash right away or you can be taken to a magistrate.


When approaching a roundabout give way to traffic already on the roundabout, on your left, unless signed otherwise. Keep in the interior lane until your turn is immediate.


Dipped headlights should be used in poor daytime visibility and while traveling through tunnels.

Good Samaritan:

Portugal`s Good Samaritan Law states that travelers must help others in `serious need, particularly provoked by disaster, accident, calamity or common danger situation, which put into risk the life, physical integrity or freedom of others`. Failing to do so can incur a punishment of a fine and imprisonment up to a year. There is an exception for people who cannot physically help due to undue risk on the helping party. If an accident is caused by you and you do not help the other injured driver, the punishment doubles. `Help` in this case means either calling 112 for assistance or waiting until police arrive before resuming your trip.

Losing Your License:

It is important that you keep your home driver`s license with the International Driving Permit. If you lose your home license, you will not be permitted to drive in Portugal.

Fines for Motoring Offenses in Portugal:

Fines can be steep and they must be paid in cash on the spot. If not, you will be taken to a judge and forced to pay the cost before you are allowed to leave. For example, driving below the speed limit on a motorway is an immediate €300 fine; texting or talking on the telephone while driving is €600; littering will set you back €300, and running a red light or going through a stop sign can cost as much as €2500. Fines for drunk driving, at minimum, start at €1250.


Children must sit in the back seat and must have a car seat if they are under the age of 12 and under the height of four feet eleven inches.


If there is an accident, please stop your car and put on your reflective jacket before exiting. Remove the warning triangle from your car and place it approximately 100 feet from your car so it will warn travelers that you have stopped and you are in need of assistance. If your accident involves another driver, exchange information. That includes car registration numbers, insurance information, name, and address. Write the license plate number down as well. Call 112 and make a formal statement, which the other driver will also do. Request a copy from the police so you can file it with the insurance company. If you do decide to take the other party to court, you have two months to file a lawsuit.