Portugal Driving Guide 2021

Portugal is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

If you are looking for historic cities, world-renowned cuisine, stunning beaches, and some of the world’s most geographic landscapes, Portugal has it all. Perched on the western end of Europe, Portugal will definitely surprise you with turquoise beaches and cliffs for your outdoor adventure. This rich land with complex history will lead you to palaces, majestic plazas, and cobblestone villages, that will leave you in awe and makes you want to stay.

To make your Portugal travel journey easier, comfortable, and flexible, it is best to have an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) to rent a car. In this way, you’ll be able to drive to your set destinations without going through the hassle of going to the limited suburban trains to purchase tickets. Portugal has generally good road conditions, so driving in Portugal will not be a problem. With an IDP, you will enjoy all the wonders and beauty of Portugal.

How can this guide help you?

Before going to Portugal, be sure to know the relevant information that will help you enrich your journey and experience. This guide will help you make an informed decision in traveling as it includes how to get an International Driver’s License to be able to rent a car. This guide also contains current border updates, road and traffic rules, driving situations, and top places to go to have a meaningful and memorable adventure.

General Information

Portugal may be in the shadows of European giants such as France, Spain, and Italy, but it has its own beauty to offer both tourists and countrymen alike. If you’re going here for the first time, you will be struck by ancient kingdoms and walled towns, affordable food and wine, and the majestic architectures that will allure you. You must be prepared to be charmed.

Portugal shares commonalities with other European countries having a cold and mountainous exterior, but its beauty is indeed a sight to see. But as the world dramatically changes due to the global health crisis, travel restrictions are being implemented. The government is taking all the necessary health measures to protect the public. Just be sure to know Portugal’s travel ban and the health protocols for easier travel.

Geographic Location

Portugal is located in the far Southwest of Europe, lying across the Atlantic coast of the Iberian Peninsula. Portugal’s only neighbor is Spain which shares a border to the north and the east. To the west and southwest of Portugal lies the Azores and Madeira Islands which are part of Metropolitan Portugal. The Atlantic Ocean is found in the country’s south and west portion. It boasts 1,793 kilometers of coastline including the perimeters of its islands.

Languages Spoken

Portuguese is the official language in Portugal, and it is the 9th most spoken language in the world. The Portuguese language is not difficult to learn, especially for native English speakers, because words have Latin roots. The English language is the second most common language in Portugal, and the locals often spoke it in major cities and tourist areas. There are also a lot of people who can communicate in French and Spanish here.

Land Area

Mainland Portugal has an area of 88,889 sq km, which is slightly smaller than Indiana. It occupies one-sixth of the Iberian Peninsula in Europe’s southwestern perimeter. It has a 1,215 km border with Spain. Portugal’s major cities include Lisbon, which is the country’s capital, followed by Porto and Vila Nova de Gaia.

The population of Portugal already reached 10 million. The population density is the biggest in the major cities and tourist areas such as Lisbon and Oporto in the north. The majority of the people are living in the coastal regions rather than inland areas.


Portugal was an important European power during the 15th and 16th centuries. Its power has an equal status with France, Spain, and England. Portugal’s colonial power suddenly weakened in 1822 when the Napoleon Empire occupied the country and a sudden earthquake hit Lisbon, the country’s economic and cultural center. This led the Portuguese to go to Brazil and the United States.

In the early 1900s, the military took over the country which did not solve most of its crisis, until a new government was established in 1974. Various democratic reforms are established and implemented. A year after, Portugal granted sovereignty to all its African colonies.


Portugal has an established system of government both parliamentary and presidential. Portugal’s government type is a Parliamentary Particracy in which people vote for a Party. The parties are the one which appoints the representative pre-formed via lists. The remarkable development happened in 1974 when the authoritarian-corporatist regime of António de Oliveira Salazar was replaced with a democratic government.

The national currency of Portugal is the Euro. In general, the country’s financial system is stable and well-managed since it became a member of the European Union in 1986. However, the financial crisis of 2008 and excessive debt levels continue to affect the Portuguese economy. The government attempted to stimulate the economy. The main industries that boost the economy are oil refineries, plastic products, wine, and tourism.


Portugal has been one of the popular destinations in Europe. The number of international tourists continued to grow, resulting in increased tourism spending in the country. In 2019, Portugal had about 27 million visitors worldwide, rising 7.3% compared to 2018. The tourism industry increased to over 4.28 billion Euros. Hotels are still the lead choice, with about 58 million stays over 10 million local accommodation visits.

It is worth traveling to Portugal to explore the wonders of the country. Compared to Spain’s neighboring country, Portugal’s small country size makes it best to explore the country by driving. Driving in Portugal is more convenient since they have excellent roads and signages.


I’m sure that you don’t want any hassle in your travel and you don’t want to have a headache going to an unfamiliar place. Getting an International Driving Permit (IDP) in Portugal allows you to rent a car and get around different areas more manageable. In that case, you will have the luxury of traveling anywhere you want to go, especially to this small country full of surprises. Be sure to drive safely and legally by having an IDP in Portugal.

No one wants to have travel delays and driving violations. But don’t worry, as long as you have an IDP in Portugal and proper documentation, you can go to Portugal. The primary function of an IDP is to allow law enforcement authorities to verify and check your local driver’s license. IDP is a translation of your local driver’s license so that the police can understand you

Do You Need an International Driving Permit for Portugal?

You might be wondering if you need an International Driver’s Permit in Portugal. If your home country is part of the European Union, you no longer need an International Driver’s Permit. But in case you’re not from the European Union countries, Portugal requires an IDP. Your IDP in Portugal serves as a supplement to your local license so that you can legally drive to different places in the country.

If you plan to enjoy a short-term stay in Portugal, then getting an IDP is the best for you. Government officials, business travelers, students, and even those planning to travel to Portugal should get an IDP. But if you are a European citizen and a US citizen, you just need your local driver’s license to drive to different destinations in the country. Europeans and Americans do not need an IDP to go to Portugal.

Does Portugal Require an IDP?

Just visit our application page here, and you can quickly get your IDP within a few hours. Just select your IDP plan, fill out the driver’s information and the shipping address, pay for the fee, and wait for a confirmation email. Once you’re approved, IDA will send a digital copy of your IDP after a few hours. Remember that the processing time is faster if you complete your application online than by mailing your application.

If you wonder whether your International Driver’s Permit will replace your native driver’s license or not, the simple answer is no. An IDP is just a translation of your native license. An IDP is a legally translated document that you need to present alongside your local license. It just translates your native license into 12 of the most commonly used languages, including Portuguese.

Is a US Driver’s License Valid in Portugal?

If you’re wondering if you need an IDP to rent a car in Portugal, the answer depends on your driving license. According to law, the government does not require US citizens to have an IDP to drive around the country. Driving in Portugal with a US license is allowed as long as the US citizen stays in the country for less than six months. But if your native driver’s license is in the non-Roman Alphabet, you need an IDP to rent a car in Portugal.

If you want to travel to Portugal, then now is the best time to get an IDP and learn to acquire one. Having an IDP makes your driving in Portugal easier and more convenient. If you also want to travel to Spain, IDP is a must. It is a good idea to get an International Driver’s Permit not to have delays in traveling, especially if you get into traffic accidents.

Getting an IDP is best, especially if you are traveling to Portugal for a short period. Portugal is not a large country. You can even drive to its neighbor country, which is Spain. Driving in Spain and Portugal will hit you two birds in one stone. You can already cross out both Spain and Portugal on your travel list.

Renting A Car in Portugal

Renting a car in Portugal is not just the cheapest transportation option in traveling but it is also the most convenient and comfortable option. Portugal has a good road network so it will be easier to drive around the country by car. The road network is composed of motorways, main roads, secondary roads, main and complementary trunk routes. It is worth your money especially when you are traveling in a group.

To make your Portugal travel journey easier, comfortable, and flexible, you can rent a car to explore cities and the beauty of the country. Just make sure that you have a valid driver’s license and the International Driver’s License in hand. Finding a rental car is not a problem too. There are car rental services in airports, major cities, and towns, and even in international rail terminuses.

Car Rental Companies

Car rentals are easily available in airports and even in different major cities in Portugal. You can find cars at the lowest possible rates in tourist areas such as Lisbon, Porto, Faro, and Lagos. You can book a car online, just select a place and a date on the booking form, then select a car, and lastly, book and enjoy driving in Portugal.

  • Amoita Car Rentals
  • Alamo
  • Auto Rent Rent a Car
  • Avis
  • Drive on Holidays
  • Enterprise
  • Europcar
  • Global
  • Hertz
  • Luzcars Rent a Car
  • Sixt
  • Portugal Cars

Renting a car just only takes a few steps, and voila! You can already drive to Portugal. All you have to do is complete the requirements for renting a car. Do not forget to have your IDP and your local driver’s license. After that, all you need to do is pay the deposit either by cash or credit card. The deposit will be refunded once you return the car in good shape and condition.

Documents Required

You must show an identification card for EU citizens or a valid International Driving Permit for other nationalities. Pay attention to the requirements so that you’ll not encounter problems during your trip to Portugal. Some situations require additional car rental fees and of course, you don’t want to be allocating your budget to extra fees.

To rent a car, you also need to provide the following documents:

  • Passport
  • A valid native driving license
  • Identity card
  • ID card showing name, date of birth, and address
  • Credit card

You need a credit card to be able to rent a car in Portugal. Car rental companies will deduct a certain amount of money depending on the type of car you choose. Car companies will refund your deposit if you return the vehicle in good condition. You need to deposit €100 or to €3,000 depending on vehicle type and car insurance.

Vehicle Types

If you’re thinking about what is the best car type you should choose for driving in Portugal, the answer really depends on where you want to go and how many people are with you on the travel journey. You can also take note of the driving distances in Portugal and find out what are the best vehicles to use on long drives or even on adventures.

Car Rental Cost

Your car rental cost will depend on your chosen car type and how long you will use the car. Here is the cost of the cheapest car rental in Portugal per day.

  • Economy car – $5 per day
  • Compact car – $6 per day
  • SUV – $8 per day
  • Convertible car – $13 per day
  • Standard car – $27 per day
  • Minivan – $22 per day
  • Premium car – $35 per day
  • Luxury car – $37 per day
  • Premium station wagon – $54 per day

Age Requirements

Although the legal driving age in Portugal is 18 years old, you must remember that the Portuguese car rental company has its age requirement. Some deviate from the minimum age depending on the type of vehicle. Some car rental companies require drivers to be at least 21 years old. In this way, car companies can avoid the risks associated with having younger and less experienced drivers. Please note that you need to pay a young driver’s fee for those under 25 years old.

Car Insurance Cost

The cost of your insurance will depend on your age and driving history. You need to consider other things when applying for car insurance, such as your driving vehicle’s model and power. As part of the risk assessment, you need to provide information on where you live and your job. The collision damage waiver and theft protection insurance cost at the counter is $19 – $70 per day, and the deductible insurance cost at $1,140 – $3,975.

You may never know what will happen to you and your loved ones while driving in Portugal. In case anything happens, you’ll be secured. If you’re involved in an accident, you can claim benefits from your car insurance company. You can immediately call, and someone from the insurance company will provide you specific advice for your situation.

Car Insurance Policy

There are various types of car insurance you can choose depending on your needs and budget. The basic car insurance is the one that will cover accidents and even theft. It is very important to get one for your safety. The following are the 3 main types of insurance in Portugal:

  • Fully comprehensive insurance (Seguro Contra Todos) – this insurance is for all parties involved in the accident
  • Third-party (Responsabilidade Civil Obrigatoria) – this insurance covers other parties who need to claim after an accident
  • Third-party and legal fees (Responsabilidade Civil Facultativa Juridicia) – this insurance covers any legal fees involved in an accident involving your car

Other Tips

Besides the information mentioned above, it’s essential to know more tips before renting a car. In this way, you’ll save more money, and you get to have the best deal. Read other relevant information you need to know below.

  • Be sure to be up to date on the car company’s policies and rules. Different car companies have different sets of requirements. Some would require the driver to be at least 21 years old to be permitted to rent a car, but some require the driver to be 25 years old. You may also want to know about their policies on gas. Some companies note the amount of gas left and will require you to return it to the same level
  • Know what are the car company’s fees and the extra charges that you must pay and make sure it is worth the pay. To avoid extra charges, it is always best to do your research, compare prices, and book in advance
  • Figure out how the tolls work in Portugal. All main freeways have tolls. There are alternative routes but it will take you longer and will cost you more gas. Many car rental companies offer Via Verde. You don’t need to worry about tolls if you have this Via Verde card.

Can I Take My Rental Car Outside Portugal?

The good news is most car rental companies allow travelers to enter other European cities without additional charges. You must take this excellent opportunity to drive both in Spain and Portugal. You can extend your travel list to Portugal’s neighboring country, which is Spain. That is hitting two birds in one stone.

Do I Have to Return My Rental Car to the Same Location?

Returning your rental car to the same place you get is not necessarily the case. Many car rental companies will allow you to return it to many different locations in European cities. However, you need to pay for the one-way car rental fees. You can return your car to other areas if you’re considering a cross-border trip to Spain and want to end your travel there.

What Are the Driving Distances in Portugal?

As stated in Portugal’s driving law, drivers of a moving vehicle must keep enough distance to avoid accidents. There should be a sufficient lateral driving distance between your car and other vehicles traveling in the same or the opposite directions. For a motor vehicle, Portugal’s driving distances must have a lateral length of at least 1.5 meters to avoid accidents. Violating this law will incur a fine of €60 to €300.

Make the most out of your trip by driving in Portugal. One of the advantages of renting a car is that you can go to places out of reach by riding public transportation. The Serra de Estrela mountain range is an important tourist place in Portugal that is only reachable by private cars. You can even travel beyond major cities and tourist attractions. Some rental companies allow you to drive in Spain and Portugal and other European cities. Enjoy!

The Road Rules in Portugal

There are so many things to consider before driving in Portugal. Driving will be easier, flexible, and convenient if you know information about the road rules, road signs, driving etiquette, and the required driving distances in Portugal. Driving rules in Portugal may be different from what is implemented in your home country so it’s best to know these rules to avoid violations and fines.

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