Portugal Driving Guide
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 Driving Permit for Portugal 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 the scenic parts of Portugal, be sure to know the relevant information to 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 rent a car. This guide also contains road and traffic rules, driving situations, and top places to go to have a meaningful and memorable adventure.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Renting a Car in Portugal
Renting a car in Portugal is not just the cheapest transportation option for traveling, but it is also the most convenient and comfortable option. It's a better option than riding public transport. Portugal has a good road network so it will be easier to drive around the country by car. The road network comprises motorways, main roads, secondary roads, primary 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, it is the best to rent a car and 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
- Auto Rent Rent a Car
- Drive on Holidays
- Luzcars Rent a Car
- 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.
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:
- 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.
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
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
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.
Many road rules are being implemented in the country so be sure that you know and you follow these rules when driving in Portugal. The most important rules are listed below:
- Drunk driving is prohibited. The alcohol limit is 0.50 grams per liter of blood. If you are above this limit, you may face a fine of up to €1,250. Your International Driving Permit will also be suspended for up to one year. You could face double the fine or a long driving ban or be in prison for a year if authorities found that you are significantly over the limit.
- Wearing headphones while driving is illegal
- The use of mobile phones while driving is prohibited. You may use a hands-free in-vehicle phone system and portable device with only a single ear-piece. This is to avoid distractions that can lead to car accidents. If you violate this law, you are subject to a fine of up to €600
Similar to Spain, the legal alcohol limit in Portugal is 0.5 grams per liter of blood. It follows the standard limit for most EU countries. There are specific tests that authorities do to know that you are not drunk while driving. The police can use a breathalyzer to test your breath if you’re over the limit. The policemen have the right to detain you. The following are the penalty for violating this law:
- If your blood alcohol level reaches the range 0.5 g/l - 0.8 g/l, there’s a €250 - €1250 fine
- If your blood alcohol level reaches the range 0.8 g/l - 1.2 g/l, your penalty is €500 - €2500
The local authorities will suspend your International Driving Permit for up to one year if you violate the drunk-driving law. You could face double the fine or a lengthy driving ban or be in prison for a year if authorities found that you are significantly over the limit.
In Portugal, you can use many public lots for parking. In general, street parking is free. Just make sure you’re not blocking the driveways and park where the bus stops. There are things you need to keep an eye on when you’re packing in any place in Portugal.
- Estacionamento Probido - this is the sign you see in a “No Parking” area
- Usually, a white and blue sign with a red line across signifies areas where parking is not allowed
- No parking zone has a yellow or red sign painted on the curb
- In a one-way street, you should park in the same traffic direction
If you are not following the law, you’ll need to face your penalty and fines. In case that you are repeatedly parking illegally in Portugal, local authorities can give points on your driving license that will indeed affect your insurance premiums.
Portugal is implementing general speed limits in different areas and road types. If you do not follow the posted speed limits, speeding fines will be charged depending on how far above the set limit you are driving. For example, if you are over the limit of 60 km/h to 80 km/h on rural roads, you’re fine may reach up to €600.
- Built-up urban areas: 50 km/h
- Rural areas: 90 km/h
- Motorways: 120 km/h
What Are the Seatbelt Laws?
In Portugal, the law regarding the use of seatbelts closely follows EU standards. All vehicles must use seatbelts. As stated in the law, seatbelts are compulsory for the driver and all the passengers. Seat belt use for all passengers does not apply to large vehicles such as buses. The fine for violating this law is €120 - €600 for each person transported improperly
You might be confused about how you should go and drive in roundabouts since Portugal’s driving side is in life. If you enter a roundabout in Portugal, remember to give way to the traffic already on the roundabout, approaching the left. The rule is simple if the roundabout has one lane, just enter the roundabout, then take the exit lane that you want to.
Did you know the roundabout hardly existed in Portugal before the country joined the European Commission? So, most of the Portuguese never had to learn how to drive in a roundabout quickly. In Portugal, you need to enter the roundabout on the left side, so it’s not clockwise but the other way around. Stay on the inside lane until you approach the exit. If you violate traffic laws on this, you’ll pay between €60 and €300.
Traffic Road Signs
Road signs may be confusing to you especially if it is your first time to drive in Portugal. You must know the traffic signs of Portugal so that you know how to behave on the road and the traffic signs give you some sense of direction to drive safely and smoothly. Traffic signs are located on the top or the side of the road. Portugal’s traffic signs include information signs, mandatory signs, warning signs, priority signs, and prohibitory signs.
- Information signs give you the information on the kind of traffic situation you’ll expect to have along the way. Information signs are usually rectangular-shaped signs indicating “begin of a motorway,” “road with one-way traffic,” “national speed limits,” and “ end of the tunnel” signs.
- Mandatory signs are the command road users must comply with. These are the blue and circular signs that you are to follow. Some of the signs include “passing left mandatory,” “driving straight ahead,” “mandatory lane for trucks,” and “mandatory lights off.”
- Warning signs are used to remind road users of the potential dangerous traffic situation. These are red triangles with illustrations in the center. Warning signs include “warning for a speed bump,” “warning for a curve to the right,” “warning for a road narrowing,” and “ warning for a heavy crosswind.”
- Priority signs are in place to let the road users know who should give priority and who has the priority. Some of the priority signs include “give way to all drivers,” “curve of the main road,” “warning for a roundabout,” and “warning for uncontrolled crossroads.”
- Prohibitory signs indicate certain actions that road users are not allowed to do. Examples of these are “entry prohibited,” “pedestrians prohibited,” “using the horn prohibited,” and “overtaking prohibited.”
Right of Way
People walking and riding bicycles can cross the pedestrian which is usually painted with black and white stripes of what they call zebra crossing. People crossing the pedestrian way have given priority to the vehicles on the road. If you are driving in Portugal, you must stop your car at a pedestrian crossing. Recently, the government has installed roundabouts and pedestrian crossings to reduce accidents.
Legal Driving Age
The legal driving age requirement may be different from European countries, but in Portugal, you must be at least 19 years old, and you already have your driving license for about a year. Also, take note that drivers under 25 years old must pay a young driver surcharge.
Laws on Overtaking
You cannot overtake on the right side in free-flowing traffic. Always keep in mind that you must overtake on the left side of the road. Violating this law may incur a €250 - €1250 fine. Be cautious of drivers who will potentially overtake you, especially in low visibility areas such as mountains and hills.
You must always drive on the right hand side of the road, which is the same as the US. On the other hand, you need to overtake on the left. Overtaking on the right side has a fine of €1,000. You also need to take note that you need to give priority to the traffic from the right. Just be prepared for vehicles that are suddenly turning out of the side streets since locals do not usually use indicators.
Familiarize yourself with Portugal’s driving rules to ensure a safe and secure journey. Take note of tips on driving in Portugal so you can enjoy the beauty of the country from the north to the south part of it.
Driving Etiquette in Portugal
In some countries, driving is like a horror-show due to poor road conditions and road signs. But it is different in this country as it is a delight to drive in Portugal. The road systems are modern and extensive. Driving in Portugal is highly recommended because of its excellent road conditions.
If you periodically check your car and you always have car maintenance, it is with high chances that car breakdowns are avoidable. But sometimes, due to unforeseen events, your car breaks down, and you don’t have any idea what to do next. Can breakdowns are very disappointing because they will not just delay your travel, they will also give you unnecessary problems.
If car breakdowns happen, do not panic. Be alert with your environment and locate where you can stop your car so it won’t block the driveway. Park your vehicle in a safe place and open area. Do not forget to turn on your emergency indicators and lights. Seek assistance and call the emergency services hotline by calling 112. If you rent a car, do not worry since the car rental company will be the one which will shoulder your car maintenance costs.
If you are driving in Portugal and the police suddenly stop you, do not be scared especially if you have not violated any traffic rules. The first thing you need to do is to provide a legal document. It is best if you always bring your native and International Driver’s License to present that you are legally driving in Portugal. Failing to do so may result in driving delays. You may be taken to custody so that police can verify your identity.
Driving laws and fines are strictly implemented in Portugal. Policemen in Portugal are professional and well-trained and they have a good command of English. Avoid being rude to them and avoid initiating aggressive behavior. Courtesy and kindness go a long way. You can politely ask what is the reason behind the policeman’s action and ask why you’re being stopped. But after you have presented your legal document, you are good to go.
Driving directions in Portugal can be challenging, especially if you are not speaking Portuguese. Portugal’s official language is Portuguese, but English is a widely-used language, especially in tourist places. There isn't much language barrier if you know how to speak in English. You can try to communicate in English first, but if the locals can’t speak English, you can learn the basic phrases to ask to get to your destinations. Here are some of the essential words and phrases to ask for driving directions in Portugal:
- Topo – Top
- Fundo – Bottom
- Cima – Up
- Baixo – Down
- Meio – Middle
- Centro – Center
- Frente – Front
- Atrás – Back
- Onde tem um …? – Where is there a …?
- Onde fica o … mais próximo? – Where is the closest …?
- Como eu chego a/ao …? – How do I get to the …?
- Como eu faço para chegar a/ao … – What do I do to get to the …?
- Onde está o …? – Where is the …?
- É muito longe? – Is it far from here?
- Qual é a distância? – How far is it?
In border crossing posts and checkpoints, there is always surveillance and inspection. There are checkpoints to check people’s movements and prevent undocumented travelers from any part of the world. Do not worry if you are at border checkpoints. Just present your legal documents, and the authorities will give clearance for your entry or exit.
If you wanted to travel to another country, there are no border controls between Portugal and Spain. You can drive to Spain and Portugal. The only thing you need to present is your ID and legal document. It is vital to have your native driver’s license and your international driver’s license with you so that authorities can verify your identity.
What Will You Do if You’re Involved in an Accident?
You do not know what will happen to you along your journey. Even though you’re driving safely, you can be involved in accidents if other drivers are reckless. If car accidents happen, you need to know how to behave. Just stay calm. If any of you suffered injury or death, you must wait until Portuguese authorities arrive at the scene. Once they arrive, make sure your accident details are true and these are recorded.
Call the emergency number 112 and the operator will notify the police and also call for an ambulance service. Stay calm and answer all the questions the operator may ask. You should never give medical assistance if you do not know what to do or you are not even qualified. Just wait for the ambulance service and let the health professional be the one to administer first aid.
What Are the Emergency Numbers to Know in Portugal?
In case, you find yourself in emergencies while you’re in Portugal, here is the list of the important numbers you need to call:
- Police / ambulance / firefighters: 112
- 24/7 emergency health line: 808 242 424
- Forest fires: 117
- Maritime police: 210 911 100
Driving Situations and Conditions in Portugal
Driving in Portugal is not as problematic compared to other European countries. There is better road safety awareness, modern road infrastructures, and easily understandable road signs. If you want to drive in Portugal, you do not have to worry since Portugal is made for safe driving. Portugal is the second-best road out of all the 28 European Member States. You have a less stressful driving experience here.
In a 2019 report presented by Portugal’s Department of Transport, there were 621 road deaths in the country. This equates to 60 road deaths per million population which is above the EU average. Portugal’s death rates are lower compared to Spain’s 1,755 road deaths last year. The government is continuously seeking necessary intervention in line with its main accident issues namely, drink driving, people being run over, and car accidents.
Portugal is one of those which have the most reduced road accidents and deaths between 2010 and 2019, based on a report published by the European Transport Safety Council. Also, Portugal and Greece were the best performing countries in line with the accident rates in the European Union. They have the highest drop in the number of car accident fatalities.
In 2019, there are 223,800 vehicles registered in the country, which is a slight decrease from the previous years. The standard cars in Portugal are sedans and SUVs. The top car in 2018 is a super minicar with adequate interior space and excellent safety and car models that can have three-cylinder engines of 1,000cc or less. There are also current trends and demands on zero-emissions electric vehicles and hybrid vehicles.
If you are driving in Portugal, you’ll come across toll roads or what the locals call Autoestradas, in which you are going to pay to use a section of the motorway. You need to pay tolls via electronic tolls that already existed back in 2012. You’ll take a ticket from a machine and hand in your payment to the one in charge in the toll booth or whom they call Portagen. The significant tolls are A1 between Lisbon and Porto, A22 between Faro and Portimao, and A28 between Porto and Valencia.
In Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, it is quite challenging to drive since the road surface is narrow and old. One of the challenges in driving in Lisbon is the lack of parking space and poor traffic management since many cars go in and out of the city. The historic center of Lisbon has quite a high volume of vehicles. You need to have a lot of patience when driving in Lisbon.
If you wanted to have some kind of adventure, Madeira is the place for you. This mountainous portion of Portugal has impressive scenery and refreshing views. Just take note of the challenges you’ll encounter in driving in Madeira. There are steep slopes, massive cliffs sides, and narrow roads. Just make sure you prepare before going to Madeira since many roads are going up and down. Stop from time to time to enjoy the view. Overall, Portuguese roads can be challenging so exercise caution when driving.
Generally, Portuguese drivers strictly adhere to road and driving rules in Portugal. However, there are still drivers who are driving too fast, especially on highways and motorways. Just be cautious when you encounter these drivers. Remember to follow the driving rules and to go within the accepted speed limit. Since the roads’ quality is in good condition, it is up to the drivers to keep a safe and secure driving situation.
Things to Do in Portugal
The moment you set your feet in Portugal, you will understand why it is appealing to travelers from different parts of the world. The timeless villages and towns, the natural beauty and creation, beautiful beaches, and the good-year-round climate make you want to stay for so long. Portugal has a lot of things to offer you. You can also do many things of your choice.
Drive as a Tourist
Tourist driving in Portugal is a rewarding experience because you’re the one who is going to manage your time going to different places. Of course, you can drive in Portugal as a tourist, just make sure you have the legal document for driving in Portugal. If your country is part of the European Union, you can have your native driver’s license to drive in Portugal. If you’re from a non-EU country, you need both your native driver’s license and your IDP.
Work as a Driver
To drive a vehicle in Portugal, you must be legally qualified, which means, you already have your driving license. You can apply as a driver if you meet the qualifications and license requirements. As a rule, anyone who’s over 18 years old who has no physical and mental disabilities can get a driving license to drive around different places and areas in Portugal. You can even apply as an Uber driver in Portugal.
Work as a Travel Guide
With many historic districts in Portugal, it is no surprise that people wanted to host tours to be able to promote the history and culture of the country. To be a licensed tourist guide, you should have a degree in Tourism Information or History and you must pass a specific oral exam. You will be asked anything about Portugal, may it be heritage, traditions, architecture, and food. You’ll get your golden badge as a licensed tourist guide, once you pass it.
You can apply if you see that you meet these requirements given for a licensed tourist. It takes a lot of preparation and passion to be able to be worthy of that very important job. Licensed tourist guides have to successfully give relevant information and historic significance about the culture and history of the country.
Apply for Residency
Affordable living cost in Portugal is the most appealing aspect of living in the country. Portugal is also the 3rd safest country in the world. If you are planning to stay in the country for good and for a long time, you can gain residency via Portugal's Golden Visa Program. It is a residency granted based on investments in Portugal. Here is the list of requirements needed under this program:
- You need a minimum of one million euros to be transferred to Portugal’s bank
- Set up a business in Portugal and capitalize it with at least €500,000
- Create at least ten jobs in the country, or
- Purchase a property worth at least €530,000 in Portugal
As a resident in Portugal, you can also live in any country in the Schengen region, such as Austria, France, and Germany. After you get your residency, you must live for at least seven days in the first year and at least 14 years for the subsequent years. Live and explore the wonders of the country, and you'll surely be golden.
The Top Destinations in Portugal
Despite being a relatively small country, Portugal has a lot of hidden places to unravel. The best way to explore Portugal’s secret spots and breath-taking views is by driving a car. You may have a dilemma about where to go first, you can check out the driving map of Portugal to help you decide. You can also check this road trip itinerary that will allow you to see the wonders and charms Portugal has to offer.
Road trips are the best way for budget and slow travel. You can just enjoy the moments and views. In Portugal, you’ll never run out of things to do and places to go to since many destinations are worth your time. Whether your trip is for urban exploration, or fine fine wines, or even stunning beaches, massive cliffs, glorious mountains, and changing landscapes, Portugal has it all. See what the country has to offer.
Start your road trip to Portugal’s capital which is Lisbon. It is a must-have experience because this city has palaces, monasteries, enchanting villages, and scenic views. Lisbon still has traces of its ancient past evident in its narrow alleyways. Your Lisbon trip would not be complete without going to the lamplit streets and romantic evening view. You can check the driving map of Portugal to see another tourist spot near the capital.
From Lisbon Portela Airport, it will take you less than 20 minutes to get to Belem neighborhood if you drive to the A36 route. Here is your driving guide:
- Head west on Av. Berlim
- At the roundabout, take the 4th exit and stay on Av. Berlim
- Use the left lane to take the ramp onto E1
- Merge onto E1 and continue onto 2ª Circular
- Continue onto 2ª Circular/A37
- Use the right 2 lanes to take exit 1 to merge onto CRIL/A36/IC17 toward Zona Portuária Algés/A5/Cascais
- Keep left to continue on A36
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto Av. Brasília heading to Lisboa Centro/Zona Portuária Alcântara
Things to Do
1. Take a day trip to Sintra.
The town of Sintra has been the summer retreat of Portugal's royal family as it is home to the fairytale castle, exquisite architecture, exotic flowers, and lush green forests. You can add this breathtaking and one-of-a-kind view of castles, palaces, and manor estates. If you ever get lost or don’t know where to head next, you can check Portugal’s driving map to check the best places to see next.
2. Go for a city Cruise by sailboat.
Embark on a new experience of the city cruise on the Tagus River. Discover Lisbon’s historic waterfront and sail under the grand iconic Belem Tower, famous landmarks like MAAT Museum and Commerce Square, and other historical monuments along the way. When you are on the cruise, enjoy the live commentary and learn about the city waterways’ history. Catch the fantastic golden-lit views of the city, especially during the sunset hours.
3. Ride Tram 28.
One of the exciting things to do in Lisbon is to ride Tram 28 from Martim Moniz to Campo Ourique. If you want to avoid some walk, but still want to know more about the city’s history, riding the tram is the best for you. Just take note that the tram is full and crowded at midday and rush hours, so go before 11 am.
4. Visit the colorful food markets in the city.
One of the best places to interact and connect with locals is by going to the market. Go to the Mercado de Alvalade Norte, where you can buy fresh food and freshly made bread from local vendors. The market is open from Monday to Friday from 7 am to 3 pm, and on Saturday, it’s available from 7 am to 4 pm.
5. Go to the Belem neighborhood.
Although Belem is not the city’s central place, it remains one of Lisbon’s famous neighborhoods since you can see the Belem Tower’s iconic monument. You can easily access Belem by taking tram number 15 in the Cais do Sodre station. You can also go to the nearby Jeronimos Monastery, a beautiful work of architecture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
You’ll have a two-hour drive if you’re from Lisbon Airport going to Cais da Ribeira. If you want to avoid congestions and you want to drive the fastest route, take A2. But take note that you’ll pass toll roads if you drive to this route. Here’s your driving guide:
- Merge onto E1 and continue onto A1/E1
- Take exit 14 toward A12 Sul and merge onto A36
- Continue onto A12 (toll road) and keep left at the fork to continue on IP1, follow signs for E90/E1/A2/Algarve/Évora
- Merge onto A2/IP1
- Keep left at the fork to stay on A2, follow signs for E01/Algarve/Alcácer
- Take exit 13 toward N393/Almodôvar/Gomes Aires (toll road)
- Take N393 to cais da ribeira in Almodôvar
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto N393 and turn right to stay on N393
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto R. António Cândido Colaço/N2
- Turn right onto R. Nova de São Pedro
- R. Nova de São Pedro turns left and becomes Rua de S. Pedro
- Turn right toward cais da ribeira
Things to Do
1. Explore Cais da Ribeira.
The Porto’s riverside area used to be a hive of commerce and businesses. Now, it is where people mingle and have a lot of fun times. There are many restaurants and bars in the place and there is a picturesque piazza where people gather around. You can also see Luis I Bridge in Cais da Ribeira.
2. Have a great day knowing history at Serralves Museum & Villa.
Serralves is in the western region of Porto and it is the home of Casa de Serralves, an Art Deco in 1925-1944 which houses different art works. On the other side, there is the Contemporary Art Museum which opened in 1999 for high-profile exhibitions.
3. Stroll in the trendy district of Foz de Douro.
Foz do Douro is a former civil parish in Porto and it is in the western part where the Douro River meets the Atlantic Ocean. The place has its own fashionable and relaxed vibes in the city and it has a very sophisticated neighborhood with stunning mansions. There are two fortresses you can go to near the Douro River Bank in the direction of Matosinhos. You can also find here the Farol Molhe Douro Lighthouse which guided vessels in and out of the city, although it was deactivated in 2009.
4. Visit the oldest part of Porto and see the Porto Cathedral.
Do not forget to go to Porto’s historical landmark and an old center and find an important religious building, Sé do Porto Catedral. The most notable architectural styles of it are romantic, gothic, and baroque styles. Despite going through a lot of changes and renovations, you can see the pieces of the 12th to 13th century architecture that are still left in the cathedral. Along your way, you’ll discover stories and secrets of both the cathedral and the area in Porto.
5. Visit the Church of Santa Clara.
In a replacement for a medieval content, people built the Church of Santa Clara in 1457. In the 18th century, there were extravagant renovations to different religious buildings. Most of them had red marble, gilding mouldings, wooden carvings on the walls with intricate details, and the exterior of the building is in Gothic style.
Faro and Algarve
If you’re from Faro Airport, it will take you less than 15 minutes to go to Cidade Velha. Just take the fastest route in N125-10. Follow this driving guide to avoid traffic:
- Continue to N125-10
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto N125-10
- Use the right lane to take the ramp to Faro
- Merge onto Av. Dr. Gordinho Moreira/IC4
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Av. José Maria Nunes
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto Praça Largo de Camões/Av. Prof. Dr. Adelino da Palma Carlos
- At the roundabout, take the 1st exit onto R. Gomes Freire
- Turn left onto R. Miguel Bombarda
- Turn right onto R. Gil Eanes
- Turn left onto Av. da República and slight right toward Praça Dom Francisco Gomes
- At the roundabout, take the 2nd exit onto R. da Misericórdia
- R. da Misericórdia turns right and becomes R. do Albergue then becomes R. José Maria Brandeiro
- Sharp left onto Praça do Afonso III
Things to Do
1. Explore Faro’s Old Town which is the Cidade Velha.
The best way to get to know Algarve’s capital city is to explore Faro’s compact Old Town. When you get into this area, you’ll realize how rich is the history and how turbulent is the past of this place. oIn Cidade Velha, there are cobblestoned streets that will lead you to a church in the heart of the city. In the vicinity, you’ll see the dusty medieval walls built over Roman foundations.
2. Visit the Faro Cathedral.
Faro Cathedral’s exterior has Renaissance, Gothic, and Baroque styles. On the other hand, the interior has a glittering chancel coated with azulejos panels and an ornate chapel with intricate wood carvings. There are also Chinese motifs that adorned the church’s organ. Go inside the church and check out the beautiful work of art. You can go to the terrace if you want to have an estuary seascape.
3. Relax in the beautiful Ria Formosa Nature Reserve.
If you want to get away with city life and any crowded places, you can relax and refresh in this subliminal and pristine Ria Formosa Nature Reserve. The park encloses over 18,00 hectares of salt pans, channels, islets, and lagoons. The nature reserve ecosystem is one of the most important wetland habitats all over Europe. You can take a sightseeing cruise to have a view of the lagoon waters up to the Deserted Island.
4. Try riding the Comboio Turistica or the tourist train to discover many places in Faro.
One of the exciting ways to learn and discover Faro’s places and culture is to ride a Comboio Turistica, or tourist train. The ride will start from Jardim Manuel Bivar and pass its way to the city’s landmarks and different top tourist destinations. It will take you about 45 minutes to have one circular route, and one of the impressive stops is in Sao Pedro Church.
5. Swim in the beautiful beaches in Lagos
Situated on the beautiful Western Algarve is this historic city that boasts seafaring heritage. If you want to get away from the crowded city, it is best to drive from Lisbon to Lagos to see the beautiful and dramatic scenery that is one of Algarve’s finest holiday destinations. From buzzing nightlife to stunning morning views on beaches, the city retains its charm and character.
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