If you’re thinking of renting a car in Portugal but are nervous because you’ve never driven abroad before then you’re in the right place!

Portugal was the first place I ever drove abroad and I found I actually really enjoyed it. I’m a fairly confident driver at home but still felt a little nervous getting behind the wheel in a foreign country and driving on the other side of the road.

I worried about looking the wrong way at junctions, pulling out onto the wrong side of the road and pretty much everything else there is to worry about. But, I survived! And actually it was a great experience. It means when I’m abroad now I know I can drive around, giving me greater freedom and the ability to see and do more.

Here are my top tips for driving in Portugal (without killing yourself or anyone else!)…

1. Navigation 

One of the main things I think people are nervous about when driving abroad is not knowing where they’re going. I know that if I’m unsure of where I’m going, trying to read road signs just gets me worked up. Especially in a foreign place where I’m already concentrating on remembering to drive on the other side of the road!

For this reason, navigation of some kind is absolutely key. If you have Google Maps on your phone and access to mobile data then you can set this up quickly and easily. If you don’t, I suggest paying the extra fee to get sat nav in your rental car. So worth it to know where you’re going.

2. Know about tolls

top tips for driving in portugal
Lots of Portuguese motorways have tolls on them. They’re not the old-fashioned kind where you stop and hand over money though, they’re completely automated.

If you hire a rental car, it’ll be fitted with an electronic sensor that beeps when you drive along and charges accordingly. For this reason, you’ll have to state whether you want to include tolls or not when picking up your rental car. The rental company will normally take a deposit from you for this and refund any money not used. This is totally normal.

If you don’t want to be charged for tolls then there are other roads you can take to avoid these. These won’t be motorways and will be longer (often quite a bit longer),

3. Be confident 

Okay, I know being confident is easier said than done, but it’s definitely important when driving. Try to be as confident as you can behind the wheel. You have as much right to be on the road as anyone else.

Portuguese drivers and roads are pretty easy to deal with in comparison to many other countries. Lots of the roads and blissfully quiet and generally other drivers aren’t completely nuts (Italy, I’m talking about you here!). This makes it the perfect place for a first-time-abroad driving experience. 

4. Manual cars 

top tips for driving in portugal
If you’re travelling from somewhere like the USA where most cars are automatic, you should be aware pretty much all cars in Europe are manual. Should you want an automatic car you’ll have to pay extra for it. If you’re used to manual cars (or are brave enough to try one!) then you’ll save a tonne of money.

Other things to know:

Generally, the roads in Portugal are in pretty good condition

 There are tolls on motorways

 Rental cars in Portugal are really cheap, but it’s worth adding on the extra excess and insurance just to be safe!