Hiring a car is a great way to explore the Algarve and opens up many remote beaches or traditional villages that have little or no public transport options. Most visitors collect their car from Faro Airport and this saves on transfer costs and delays. This guide will provide an overview of driving in Algarve.
- Traffic drives on the right-hand side of the road and it is compulsory for all passengers to wear seat belts.
- Motorcyclists must always wear helmets.
- Specific legislation is in force banning the use of mobile phones while driving, except when using hands-free equipment.
- Traffic signs comply with international conventions.
- When driving, the maximum level of alcohol permitted in the bloodstream is 0.5 grams/liter.
- There are 24-hour service stations in main urban centers, as well as on motorways and main roads.
- Petrol stations have variable opening hours.
Maximum speed limits for passenger vehicles without trailers and motorcycles:
In built-up areas: 50 km/hour
On main roads: 90 km/hour
On clearways: 100 km/hour
On motorways: 120 km/hour
- Identity card or passport
- Driving licence
- Insurance certificate
- Vehicle log book and proof of ownership
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- The Portuguese are very impatient drivers and will happily tailgate slower cars and attempt to overtake on hills or blind corners which has unfortunately given the country one of the highest levels of road deaths per population in Europe.
- While driving in the Algarve it is the law that the driver must have a photographic ID and it is recommended to carry both your EU driving license (or International Driving Permit if from a non-EU Country) and passport in the unlikely event of being stopped by the police.
- Other documents required by Portuguese are the car’s logbook (the Livrete) and the registration document (the Título de Registo de Propriedade), both documents can be combined to form the Documento Único Automóvel and are supplied by the car rental company. Non-Portuguese cars must have valid insurance and proof of ownership (the vehicle registration documents).
- Alcohol limits and fines have dramatically decreased/increased respectively after many years of rule flouting and horrific accidents by Portuguese drivers and there is an almost zero tolerance policy employed by the police, it is easier and safer not to drink and drive.
- The present-day alcohol limit is 0.05% which is equivalent to a small beer or a very small glass of wine.
- Children under 12 are not allowed to ride in front of a car unless they are taller than 150 cm. All young children in the rear must have suitable car or booster seats but these can be surprisingly expensive when hired from rental companies.
- One of the odd traffic rules that catch many foreign drivers to the Algarve is that traffic joining a road from the right has priority over the main road.