Portugal is a great country to make wonderful road trips. The roads are in good condition to cross the whole country. From the north to the south you’ll encounter a wonderful diversity of nature, breathtaking landscapes as well as beautiful typical Portuguese architecture and picturesque towns and villages. And if this all is not enough, Portugal has a stunning Atlantic coast line from the north to the south. So, be ready to make unforgettable road trips in Portugal.
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The roads in Portugal are ideal to make stunning road trips through the whole country. With great views, nature and beautiful landscapes. What are the best roads to take when you travel through Portugal?
When you make a road trip, you can choose to cruise. In that case, the best way is to take the roads of the Route National (EN). These are wide and high speed roads leading you through the smaller towns and villages. Another option is to take a fast way to travel. So, this way it is better to take the highways. These are indicated with the letter A. Keep in mind that a lot of highways are tollways in Portugal.
To keep it short, in Portugal you have 4 most used speed limits on the roads: 30 km/h, 50 km/h, 90 km/h and 120 km/h. Otherwise it normally is indicated.
Sometimes, in the central areas in the urban areas of a city or a village, you are allowed to drive with a maximum speed limit of 30 km/h or even 20 km/h. These are in the streets where you have a lot of slow traffic, like many pedestrians.
In urban areas the speed limit normally is 50 km/h. Otherwise it is indicated. When you arrive in an urban area from a main connection way, the lower speed limit can be indicated with a road sign “velocidade controlada”.
On the main connection roads, you have a speed limit of 90 km/h. Don’t be worried about your speed if someone drives close to your car and overtakes you on a straight part. This is because there are few speed controls in Portugal and the speed cameras have relative wide tolerances. But don’t be a hero on the roads. Because driving at a too high speed can become very dangerous and the fines are high in case the police catches you. So, there is nothing wrong with keeping a maximum speed of around 90 km/h in case you don’t know the roads.
Highways in Portugal have a speed limit of 120 km/h. In Portugal, highways are indicated with the letter A, like A1, A2, A6, A8, … while a route national has the letter EN or only N. The speed limit on a route national is 90 km/h. On highways, you also can discover road signs with a minimum speed limit. Most of the highways are tollways in Portugal. So, you have to pay to be allowed to drive these roads. Below you read more about Toll in Portugal.
Traffic signs with the text “velocidade controlada” are located at the roads when you arrive an urban area from a main connection road. Or on a highway when you enter a danger zone. These are used to indicate that you are entering an area with a lower and custom speed limit. Not that there are speed cameras for fines. In the urban areas, these signs mostly are also followed by traffic lights. When your speed still is too high, the traffic light will become red. You have to wait till the traffic light again becomes green. And also the drivers of the other direction at other side of the traffic lights. So, it is better to not drive too fast in this area. Because, the others also don’t like it to wait at these traffic lights.
Aside of the roads in Portugal, sometimes you discover a blue sign with a white number in the middle, mostly round. This indicates the minimum speed you must drive on this road or lane. A lot of these traffic signs are located aside the highways.
To drive on the most highways in Portugal, you have to pay toll. Some parts are toll-free. Toll pay toll, you have to pass a toll gate and pay the amount at a terminal or a person before you the gate opens and you are allowed to drive further.
But there also is another way to pay your toll. It is possible to pass the toll gates without the need to stop your car. This works with an automatic toll transponder in your car, which is connected with your payment card. So when you drive through the toll gate, the toll amount will be paid with your payment card, mostly a credit card. This is easy, fast and mostly cheaper. Also some highways only allow this method to pay your toll. So, there are no toll gates anymore, but sensors over the lanes of the tollway. In Portugal, the system of automatic toll is from Via Verde. The lanes to pass with this system at the toll gates are indicated with a green V.
So as already told above, Portugal is a great country to make a road trip. In that case, it is a good idea to rent a car by a car rental company, because not everyone enters Portugal with his own car. Below are 5 great tips listed to rent a car in complete safety and confidence to make an unforgettable road trip in Portugal.
There are many companies where you can rent a car. To make an unforgettable road trip in Portugal, you better go for one of the larger international companies. Because, they mostly have always new cars and due to their international presence, they can give you the most trust about your rental service. And rent by these companies itself. While comparing sites are ideal for what the name says: to compare. Yes, of course, it is a very good idea to compare the options, prices and extras on sites like autoeurope.eu or rentalcars.com. But keep by the large international rental companies to rent your car. Take in mind, you’re gonna rent a car to drive in the traffic in a country and on roads that you mostly aren’t familiar with. So, it is better to go for a service provider you can trust.
You’re not gonna drive your own car. So, it is good to feel yourself comfortable and safe in your car. Select a car with all he comfort you need. To keep the price as low as possible, it also is a good idea not select a car larger than needed. By most car brands, a 5 door is safer on the road as a 3 door. Personally, I always go for a 5 door rental car, also when I don’t really need the rear seat passenger doors.
Portugal is not a flat country. When you make a road trip in Portugal, you’ll find out that you have to drive many times up, with wind on bridges and so on. So, it is good to have a car with enough horse power to feel yourself comfortable on your road trip in Portugal. Personally, in the past, I already have had a rental car where I struggled to reach 60 km/h on a highway when I had to go up a mountain after a bridge. Renting a car with enough power is not an unnecessary option. This is why I not go for a mini car, but for a comfort car.
You’re gonna drive with a car that you are not familiar with, in a country that you mostly not are familiar with and the same for the roads. Maybe you don’t speak the language of the locals. So, reasons enough to go for a complete insurance package, with excess 0 euro. In this case you will have roadside assistance, no own costs in case of a damage and they don’t look around for damages at your car at drop off. Indeed, it may cost you a little bit more, but you will go on road trip with peace in mind.
Via Verde is the system in Portugal to use the automatic toll payment. When you rent a car and plan to make a road trip with it, make it yourself easy. Activate the automatic toll transponder of Via Verde and ask the rental company to connect it with your credit card. In this case, you can pass the fast Via Verde lanes on the tollways. It also is possible to take the tollways only allowed with a toll payment transponder. So, you don’t have to think about, which road you are allowed to drive and which not. Also, it is not needed to wait at a toll gate and first pay your toll.
Now we know how to make a road trip in Portugal, it is time to plan and make an unforgettable road trip in Portugal. In this section are 5 stunning road trip ideas to discover the most beautiful locations of Portugal.
First, I start with the most historical route from north t south in Portugal. Travel 738 km from Chaves in the north to Faro in the Algarve at the Atlantic Ocean. This is a wonderful route to discover all the wonders of Portugal. Read more about this road trip in our post about the Rota EN2. Rota EN2 is a fantastic route for the real road tripper.
The silver coast is the Atlantic coast line between Porto and Lisboa of around 240 km. In Portuguese, it is known as “Costa da Prata”. This coast line houses a lot of fishing towns and stunning beaches stretching from Esmoriz, in between Porto and Ovar, to Santa Cruz which is part of Torres Vedras, located above Lisboa. Top locations to discover here are Aveiro, Coimbra, Leiria, Fátima, Nazaré, Caldas da Rainha, Óbidos and Peniche. It also is possible to make some site steps. Inspire yourself with our post of the road trip “From Lisboa to Porto”.
At the other side of Lisboa, the capital of Portugal, you also can make a wonderful road trip at the Atlantic coast line. Discover the coast line of the Alentejo to reach the Algarve. This is a great trip. Must stop places on this road trip are: Costa da Caparica, Sesimbra, Setúbal, Alcácer do Sal, Tróia, Melides, Grândola, Sines, Santiago do Cacém, Aljezur, Sagres and Lagos.
The largest part of Portugal is the Alentejo. At the same time, it also is the Portuguese region with the lowest population. So, the Alentejo is marked by peace, relax, wonderful landscape views, history and a great gastronomy. In the Alentejo, you don’t care about time. The region is separated in 4 parts: Alto Alentejo, Alentejo Central, Baixa Alentejo and Alentejo Litoral. Here it still is possible to meet no one else on the roads and see only cork oaks and olive trees while you drive for 30 minutes on the roads.
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Now you already have 5 great ideas to make unforgettable road trips in Portugal. Finally, aside these 5 road trip tips, it also is possible to make a road trip in the Minho. This is located in the north of the country, above Porto and the home of the Portuguese Vinho Verde. Top locations to visit here are Viana do Castelo, Gerês, Barcelos, Braga and Guimarães. The Minho also is known as the cradle of Portugal. Or what do you think of a road trip at the Atlantic coast line through the Algarve in the south of continental Portugal?
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