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Driving in Portugal

How difficult is it to drive in Portugal? I am thinking of renting a car out of Lisboa and driving to Navarre-Fatima and then to the Algarve region. Want to also see Obidos, Sintra and Evora. Am I better off while in Lisboa for a few days, taking day trips to Sintra and Evora by train? I plan on being in the Algarve area for 1 week and plan on renting a car anyways, so trying to determine if it makes more sense to get the car earlier- any recommendations? Thanks.

Posted by
10339 posts

Portugal has had one of the higher accident rates in the EU. I'm not sure why, or if it still holds true--but that fact surprises some people.

On this site you'll tend to hear from people who say things like "we drove in Portugal, no problem, go for it" (but not the above posts, they're interested in giving you accurate information!)--it's easier to be encouraging rather than saying anything that could be construed as "negative." But giving people accurate information is important.

Posted by
8293 posts

We did drive from Lisbon (Cascais, actually) to the Albufeira in the Algarve one year, and apart from it being a boring drive, it was fine and we really enjoyed having the car to make day trips. Beware the Portuguese drivers, however. They are (how can I put this?) eccentric and unpredictable.

Posted by
178 posts

Carla, my wife and I had a rental car in Portugal for a week last Fall. We booked it through Autoeurope and picked it up in Porto at the end of our Porto visit. We then drove east through the Douro Valley for a few days, south to Evora for a few days, returning it at the Lisbon Airport before staying a week in Lisbon. We had a manual shift and had no problems, although, yes, we did have the occasional local driver in the Douro who wanted to go way faster than I was comfortable on the windy roads. Easy solution ... pull over and let them by ... we weren't in a hurry.

Posted by
864 posts

I found driving in Portugal to be no more taxing than driving in rural Spain or even Italy. You'd be mad however to try driving in any of the cities (at least during rush hour). Don't go for a full size car, bigger is not better driving down narrow streets/roads. Hopefully you have a co-pilot that can read a map who can navigate around those pesky detours that say "detour" (not in English of course) end of information. I learned to drive a stick o I never think about it but if you're not really comfortable driving one this is not the place to practice. Not the best drivers on God's little blue planet but they beat the hell out of drivers in Turkey and Egypt.

Posted by
7 posts

Thanks for all the feedback-just a few more questions? How far is the train from Lisboa to Porto and Lisboa to Lagos? Is it advisable to have a car in the Algarve region to tour the area. I will probably spend a week there.

Posted by
655 posts

In 2008 we drove for thirty days all over Portugal and Spain with the exception of Lisbon and Madrid. We had no problems at all. We found the highways to be quite good and the traffic light. We thought the drivers were fine. A small car is a good idea. It will probably be diesel. A co-pilot to navigate is a big assist and so would be a gps unit.

We did the reverse of what you're planning. We stayed near Sintra and took the local train into Lisbon. Except for parking in Sintra it was an easy ride and pretty inexpensive.

Posted by
632 posts

I advise having a car for the Algarve...I don't remember seeing many buses (and no trains) from Lagos to Sagres...we stayed in Salema and enjoyed having the freedom of going where we wanted when we wanted...the drive to Lisboa took about 4 hours or so, but we drove on some back roads before connecting with the A2.

Posted by
4125 posts

When I was in Portugal I saw some of the worst driving I have ever seen.

And, I'm from Boston.