Portugal is truly a wondrous place to visit, and touring this beautiful and culturally rich nation by car gives you the freedom to explore - not just the tourist hotspots, either, but also the hidden gems. Behind the wheel, you will be your own tour guide. And unlike those travelers who are stuck on a tour bus, you will be free to follow your muse and experience the real Portugal, however you see fit.
Take in the easygoing charm and old-world-meets-new allure of the city of Lisbon, while touring Portugal. Spend as many hours as you like among the pastoral vineyards and natural wonders of Douro Valley. Tour the remnants of the 13th century Moorish occupation in Tavira. Or suit up and SCUBA dive to a sunken submarine in Matosinhos. Where you go is up to you.
This guide is designed to help you make the most of your self-guided driving tour of Portugal. In it, we'll cover everything from must-see sights to the rules of the road, not to mention tips designed to help you make the most of your time in this amazing destination.
Driving in any new place can be a bit intimidating, but we'll have you driving like a Portuguese native in short order. Just follow these tips, and you'll make your time behind the wheel easier, and less stressful while touring Portugal.
This tip applies anywhere, of course, but doubly so in Portugal, especially outside of major cities. People in the countryside take a decidedly laid-back approach to driving, and it's not terribly uncommon to find roads temporarily blocked by old friends who've stopped to chat for a while. You may also find cars parked in the middle of the road, especially on roads less traveled. Just honk your horn, and someone will probably move the car fairly promptly.
Bumper riding or tailgating is a bit more common in Portugal than elsewhere. Just keep your cool. Don't drive faster than you are comfortable traveling. The tailgater will take the first opportunity to pass, so just give them room.
Portugal has strict regulations against passing on the right. You can be fined more than 1,000 Euros for doing so. If you find yourself in a situation where you must pass, be sure to do so on the left.
The Portuguese do not tolerate conversing on a mobile device while operating a vehicle. The fine? 600 Euros. Better pull off to the side and park, instead.
See also: lorries, scooters, donkeys, pedestrians, and carts. Don't be surprised if they pull out from a blind side street without warning when you're touring around Portugal by car.
Of course, this rule applies anywhere you go, but don't be tempted to bend the rules just because you're on vacation. The blood alcohol limit in Portugal is 0.05%.
Portugal seems to be full of oddly placed roundabouts these days, and to the uninitiated, they can be pretty chaotic. Yes, there are lanes. No, nobody uses them. Just be sure to stick to the inside lane until you find your exit.
The Portuguese are not big on the use of turn signals. By all means, use your own, but don't be surprised if the car ahead of you signals left before making an abrupt right turn.