When driving in Portugal, you'll need to obey the rules of the road, and that includes following traffic signs and parking regulations. Here are some tips to keep your motoring experience as stress-free as possible during your Portugal travel.
When venturing beyond our home turf, we're sometimes struck by how much we take traffic signs for granted. At home, we rely on them so often that we almost forget they exist. Abroad, however, we may find ourselves looking to signs for instruction, only to find that they're both unfamiliar and confusing.
Thankfully, the road signs in Portugal are quite intuitive.
Warning signs are equilateral red triangles with illustrative pictograms in their white centers. In Portugal, warning signs are often used to indicate narrowing roads, curves, extreme grades, animal crossings, and other potential traffic hazards.
There are a few warning signs that are not as easy to understand as the others. For example, the "low visibility" sign looks a bit a like a car surrounded by a swarm of insects. The sign for "obstruction" is a toppled sedan. If you see an exclamation point, the sign is meant to convey that the nature of the danger is unspecified. In these cases, be sure to keep an eye out for anything that looks like it could pose a threat to your continued safety, and then adjust your driving accordingly.
Yield signs feature the same red triangle, inverted. Stop signs in Portugal are the same red octagon that most of us are accustomed to.
Prohibitory signs feature red circles enclosing whatever is prohibited. Again, the meanings of most of them are easy to understand.
Round signs featuring black circles and five diagonal crosshatches may appear to prohibit specific actions, but in actuality, their purpose is to notify drivers that previous prohibitions have ended. You'll see them marking the end of no-passing zones, and speed limit zones.
Mandatory signs are round and blue, with white borders. These signs indicate actions that must be performed, such as keeping left, turning right, or turning on dimmed headlamps.
Informational signs are generally blue in color and rectangular in shape, though some may be white, green, or square.
While we're still on the subject of signs, if you see a round white or blue sign with a red circle and diagonal cross, then don't park. That's the Portuguese "no parking" sign. Yellow and red lines on curbs also mean "no parking."
You should always park facing the same direction as traffic on one-way streets. Do not park within 5 meters of a road junction, 25 meters before, and 5 meters after a bus stop, or anywhere within 6 meters of a tram stop.
And while you may see the locals parking in the middle of the street with their emergency flashers engaged, don't try it yourself. It's illegal in Portugal, and could result in a hefty fine.