If you're moving to Portugal from the UK and plan on driving your own car, you can relax for a while as you don't have to do anything right away, other than popping a GB sticker on the back of your vehicle and getting some easy to install headlight converters. Once you've settled in there are a few jobs to do, to make sure you're driving on the right side of the law.


Getting a license

Generally, if you’re an EU citizen and hold a valid driving license then you can drive for up to 6 months without issue. If you are planning on living in Portugal permanently, you can still drive using your EU driving licence, but you need to register with the Institute for Mobility (IMT) or Instituto da Mobilidade e dos Transportes within 30 days of receiving your certificate of residency, or certificado do registo de cidadão da união Europeia.

It’s a good idea to get yourself a Portuguese driving licence anyway if you plan on living in Portugal long term, as obtaining replacement documents will prove much simpler down the line than if you need to go through the Swansea based DVLA!

When you apply for a Portuguese license you will be issued a temporary one, as your UK license will be sent off whilst you wait.


Essential documents to keep in the car

When you’re driving, make sure you have these documents on you at all times.

~ Driving license

~ Vehicle registration document

~ MOT certificate

~ Insurance documentation      


Essential items:

  • A high vis vest and warning triangle to use in the event you break down
  • Headlight converters – which are stickers you put on your headlights so as not to dazzle oncoming traffic (this is only the case if you’ve been in the country for less than 6 months and haven’t yet changed your car)
  • A GB sticker attached to the back of your vehicle unless you have an EU number plate


Hiring a car in Portugal

If you’ve made the choice not to drive full time once you’ve made the move, you might find the need to rent a car from time to time. Handy for picking relatives up from the airport or for exploring further afield. To avoid paying over the odds, do a bit of research on comparison sights and ensure you book in advance where you can. As is the case wherever you go, busy periods can mean higher tariffs for renting a car so again planning ahead is key. To be able to rent a car in Portugal, you just need to be over the age of 18, having held a valid EU driving licence for over a year. Drivers under the age of 25 may be subject to a young driver’s charge.


Taking your car with you from home

If you’ve decided not to part ways with your UK registered car, you can drive it in Portugal for up 6 months before it needs to be ‘matriculated’ or registered locally. We recommend starting the process with plenty of notice as otherwise you run the risk of a hefty fine if stopped by the police and your car hasn’t been properly imported.

To avoid paying the import tax (called IVA in Portugal), you must have owned the car for a minimum of a year before bringing in into the country.


Rules of thumb:

  • It’s a legal requirement for the driver and all passengers in a car to wear their seat belt – just like in the UK
  • Drive on the right-hand side! – this one seems obvious but we can’t not mention it…
  • It’s against the law to use a mobile phone whilst driving unless using hands free
  • Generally, speed limits are as follows:

~ 120 kph (75 mph) on motorways

~ 90 kph (56 mph) on rural roads

~ 50 kph (32 mph) in built up areas

  • There are a number of toll roads in Portugal that vary in price. You can pay these in a number of ways; buy a prepaid card for a fixed fee which is valid until your credit runs out, a fixed fee ticket which is valid for 3 days. Or by linking your bank account to an app which means the money is debited straight from your account when you go through a toll.


How to stay calm when driving in Portugal

Don’t panic! Driving in Portugal is a little different to the UK (which is to be expected), certain rules of the road we take as a given aren’t the case. A few things to be aware of before taking to the roads are:

  • The use of indicators: in the UK the use of indicators is second nature to the majority of drivers, but don’t be surprised if you see someone taking an exit or stopping in the road without signalling first
  • Overtaking: always on the left! You could be fined in excess of €1,000 if you pass a driver on the right
  • Sat-navs: As is sometimes the case wherever you are, some sat-navs haven’t been updated with new roads so it’s best to have an idea of where you’re headed before you set of – but that’s just good sense!
  • Parking: it seems to be the case that as long as you aren’t getting in the way or putting anyone in danger, you can park where you can find a space! You will see a lot of questionable parking, whilst it seems as though everyone is doing it it’s still illegal so best not to partake. No parking signs are a blue or white sign with a red line through the middle – so if you see one steer clear.


Download our moving abroad checklist

Download here