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Things you need to know when driving in Portugal

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Last updated on January 19th, 2018

Here are some important tips to have in mind before driving in Portugal

Generally, I did not face any issues on my last road trip in Portugal. Driving in Portugal was easy and stress-free. I did not encounter any aggressive drivers, (maybe I was lucky), or something that was extraordinarily different from driving in Greece, (or pretty much anywhere else for that matter). As with all my previous road trips, I did wonder if the driving part would be any different compared to other countries. My general feeling when we finished was that as long as you apply normal driving etiquette and knowledge, you will drive through this country like a breeze.

The ‘Roundabout’ tip

There was a weird sense of deja-vu here! There were so many roundabouts, that I often thought I was driving in the UK. I also wondered if all these roundabouts were actually necessary? There were at every single intersection we went through. Eventually, you get used to seeing them creeping up on you but you need to be alert. Not everyone will drive through them with the same caution as you! Be very careful counting the exits and getting off the at right one. Sometimes your GPS will announce a certain exit, (3rd for example), that you should get off. You need to make sure that you count carefully because this could be wrong.We found that sometimes exit numbers could be wrong. This could be the GPS getting it wrong or you. When you think that it is the 3rd exit and you ought to get off, it could be the 4th or the 2nd exit. So pay attention to the signs of each exit point too and don’t always rely solely on the given number of the GPS, (I still love them).

When in doubt its best to make a complete circle and try again, rather than get off the wrong one. You could end up driving for many kilometres before having the chance to go back. All roundabouts will have lanes. If you are not certain which one to take, just go with the flow and use the exterior lane before turning off.

The ‘Slip road’ tip

When exiting a highway, ensure that you reduce your speed as far in advance as you can. Some of the slip roads are short which means that you will need to brake hard to pull out safely. I did find myself struggling with a few tight turns at some of these exit points.

The ‘Speed Radar’ tip

I was impressed with the number of speed radar signs along roads and highways. This is a good thing and it certainly had its effect on me. As soon as you see a nice, long stretch of road where you can let yourself go a little, a speed radar sign will pop up out of nowhere and make you push the brake faster than you can think.

You will eventually stop hoping for a bit of ‘safe speeding’ and learn to appreciate the frequency of these signs. Most car rental companies will charge you anywhere from 20-50 euros just to process speeding fines. This will be on top of paying for the actual fine.

You need to remember that you are not actually in a race, you are driving in Portugal for fun. A more casual drive will allow for better memories and keep you safe!

The Road Tolls tip

One of the best choices made on this road trip was to the option for automatic toll payments. It basically means that you can use the ‘automatic’ lane, (V-lane) when you pass through tolls. You will need to ask for the ‘V Tag’ upon collection to have a stress-free experience with the toll system. The ‘Via Verde’, will allow your validation each time you go through. Do not pass through this lane, unless you have this electronic transponder by your rear-view mirror. There are cameras everywhere and there will be a fine to pay.

Driving in Portugal
The ‘V-Tag’ road sign approaching a toll station.

You can also choose to manually pay each time you pass a toll station, but be warned that not every station will have manual booths that you can use. This is part of Portugal’s new ‘Electronic Toll’ road system, implemented back in 2012. If you pass

Driving in Portugal
The Electronic Tolls road sign in Portugal

through a station and there is no manual payment booth, you will need to pay a visit to the post office and pay for the whole length of that specific highway as you will not be able to prove your point of entry to the road.

Choosing the Via Verde, (automated lane for tolls), means that the total amount of all the tolls you have passed through will get charged to your credit card by the car rental company.This will ultimately save you a lot of time from queueing behind cars waiting to pay for the tolls. Make sure you ask for this option when collecting your car – you can thank me later!

Driving your own car with foreign number plates

You can stop at an ‘Easy Toll‘ station as soon as you cross the border. This is not the same as ‘Via Verde’ V-Tags. Their website has a lot of really useful info that you can read through – preparation is everything. You can also rent the V-Tags for a small weekly rental cost and handle it through the same website above.

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