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Driving in Portugal

If you're driving in Portugal your checklist requirements are:

  • A valid UK driving licence - both the photo and paper parts. If you don't have a photo card licence, you'll need an International Driving Permit - find out more here
  • A GB sticker on the back of your car - unless your car has 'Euro-plates' (number-plates that show a circle of 12 stars on a blue background)
  • Your motor insurance certificate, V5 registration document or hire car paperwork, and your MOT certificate if your car is over three years old
  • A warning triangle inside the car in case you break down
  • Headlamp converters (stickers you put on your headlights when you're driving on the right, so your lights don't dazzle motorists coming the other way)
  • A reflective jacket within easy reach inside the car. You'll need to wear this if you stop for any reason outside built-up areas, even if you're just setting up a warning triangle
  • Spare bulbs for your car's external lights
  • Your passport - police often stop foreign drivers to check ID
  • A yellow '90' disc displayed in the car if you've held your licence for less than a year - you can apply for this from the ACP (Automovel de Club Portugal), the Portuguese motoring club

If you usually wear glasses or contact lenses, you must carry a spare pair with you in the car.

You must also:

  • Be 18 or over
  • Make sure everyone in the car wears a seatbelt at all times
  • Wear a crash helmet if you're riding a motorcycle

It's a good idea to have:

  • A fire extinguisher
  • A first aid kit
  • A Green Card - it's a useful back-up to your motor insurance documents and shows you've got the minimum legal level of cover. If you'd like to find out more, contact your insurance company
  • A Camping Card International to give you additional proof of identity, third party liability insurance, plus discounts at a wide range of campsites and tourist attractions. Find out more here

Other things you should know:

  • You will have to pay tolls for some motorways, when driving through Portugal
  • Petrol (unleaded and lead replacement), diesel and LPG are readily available
  • You can pay by credit card at petrol stations but there's often a €0.50 charge for this
  • The speed limit is 50kph in built-up areas, 90kph on open roads and 120kph on motorways
  • If you're caught committing a driving offence, you'll be given an on-the-spot fine
  • The drink driving limit is 50mg of alcohol per 100ml of blood - less than the UK limit of 80mg per 100ml
  • It's illegal to carry any radar detection equipment, whether or not it's switched on
  • You shouldn't use your horn at night except in cases of extreme danger
  • Children under age 12 can't sit in the front
  • If you're driving on motorways, don't use the green lanes - they're reserved for drivers who use the automatic payment system
  • If a driver flashes their lights at you, they want you to give way
  • Cars already on roundabouts have right of way
  • Where there's no tram platform at the side of the road, you must give way to anyone coming off the tram and walking back to the pavement
  • You mustn't carry a can of petrol in the car at any time

Useful guides and maps

Michelin - National Map Spain & Portugal
Michelin Motoring Atlas: Europe

What RAC can do for you

RAC offers great-value, flexible RAC European breakdown cover tailored to meet your needs. We also offer comprehensive travel insurance, including cover for medical expenses, baggage, personal money and belongings.


Sources: Foreign & Commonwealth Office, www.nationaldrivesafe.co.uk.

Disclaimer: RAC are not responsible for the content of external websites. The information provided is correct as of August 2009 to the best of our knowledge and should be referred to for information purposes only - it should not be relied upon as formal advice. Please always check the current requirements of the country you are visiting before you leave.

Around 2.1 million British nationals visit Portugal every year. Most visits are trouble-free.

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Walking the levadas (ancient irrigation channels) is a popular activity in Madeira, but the walks can be challenging if you are inexperienced.  See Local travel - Madeira

There is an underlying threat from terrorism. See Terrorism

The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.

Take out comprehensive travel and medical insurance and get a free European Health Insurance Card before you travel. See Health

FCO TRAVEL ADVICE - know before you go - fco.gov.uk/travel
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