Driving in Lisbon & Portugal: The Complete Guide

Lisbon can be a tough city to drive a car in, particularly at peak times. Traffic can be intense and aggressive, and parking can be difficult in central Lisbon.

Driving the narrow streets of historic neighbourhoods poses an additional challenge. If you are hiring a car, you’ll be glad to be driving a small vehicle, and to have subscribed an insurance that covers accidental scratches.

Many locals and tourists find it more convenient to rely on Lisbon public transport to get around between most places. In fact, you can visit the city easily without ever stepping foot in a car.

Of course, if you are planning to drive in Lisbon, you should get familiar with the driving requirements in Portugal, as well as the basics of rules of the road, hiring a car and finding parking in Lisbon.

Driving Requirements in Portugal

To drive in Portugal, you must be 18 years old and have a valid driving licence. Citizens from other European Union countries, the UK, Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, the US, Canada, Brazil, and more, are allowed to drive in Portugal as tourists with their local driving licences.

To hire a car, you must be 21 years old and have a driving licence for at least one year. Each rental car company can define its own age limits.

Essential Rules of the Road in Portugal

Driving rules in Portugal should not be essentially different from the one’s of most countries, but make sure you are fully aware of the most important rules.

Seat belt

Driver and passengers in the car must wear seat belts.

Helmet

Motorcyclists must wear a helmet.

Children

Kids under 12 and less than 135cm (about 4ft 5in) tall are not permitted to ride in the front passenger and must use a proper child restraint.

Alcohol

In Portugal, the permitted alcohol blood level for drivers is 0.5 g/l (grams per litre of blood). There are strict driving penalties if you are caught over the limit.

Right-hand traffic

In Portugal, cars drive on the right and you should give way to traffic from the right, unless there is a traffic sign saying you have the priority.

Speed limits

Speeds are shown in kilometers per hour (km/h). Inside Lisbon, and in urban areas in general, speed limits are usually 50 km/h. Ring roads usually have a limit speed of 80 km/h. Non-urban roads have a limit of 90km/h. Motorways (auto-estradas) have a limit speed of 120 km/h.

Portugal has a speed-trap system in place, with several fixed speeding camera sites in Lisbon and across Portugal in roads and motorways. A sign warning drivers that a speed camera is ahead is mandatory but not always clearly visible. Don’t take any unnecessary risks – the speeding fines are high.

Cell phones

Phones and similar electronic devices may not be used by drivers unless in hands-free mode. Fines can be issued on the spot if you are caught breaking this rule.

Gas/fuel stations and charge points

Most gas stations have moved to the periphery of Lisbon with only a few remaining in the city centre. However, several public charge points are available in the city.

There are plenty of gas stations on roads and motorways across Portugal, many have charge points.

Google Maps will help you locate the closest gas station and charge point.

Toll roads

There are no tolls in Lisbon, but you will pass through tolls if you drive into Lisbon coming from other destinations. Cash and major debit and credit cards are generally accepted as payment.

However, if you are planning to drive across Portugal, consider renting the Via Verde transponder as there are a number of completely electronic motorways in Portugal (no toll booths where you can manually pay). Ask your car rental company or read about the Via Verde Visitors.

Cyclists, e-scooters and pedestrians

When driving in Lisbon, watch out for them in general and especially at busy intersections. They don’t always follow traffic laws, and often appear unexpectedly.

Parking in Lisbon

Parking is difficult to find in central Lisbon, and virtually impossible in historic neighbourhoods. On the street, and when they are available spots, you’ll have to pay to use them during working hours. There are also numerous underground garages in the city. Read about Parking in Lisbon: How and Where to Park for information.

Car hire in Lisbon

While you can rely on public transport to visit Lisbon, car hire companies have offices in the city centre as well as at Lisbon airport. Cars can be booked online in advance through websites such as discovercars.com that help you compare deals from different companies. See also Where to hire a car in Lisbon for additional information.

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