Renting a Car in Portugal in 2024: A Full Guide


This website uses affiliate links which earn a small commission at no additional cost to you.

Welcome to Portugal, a picturesque gem in Europe. With its breathtaking coastlines ideal for surfing, varied national parks, verdant vineyard-covered hills, and cities rich in history, there is certainly much to explore here. The best way to experience all that Portugal has to offer is by driving. Travel at your leisure and uncover hidden treasures on your personal road trip.

How to rent a car in Portugal

Portugal is often synonymous with the vibrant streets of Lisbon or the renowned beaches of the Algarve region in the south. Yet, there is so much more to explore beyond these popular areas. Public transportation becomes scarce once you leave the major cities and is typically restricted by schedules. To truly experience the lush vineyards, stunning coastal cliffs, and ancient cities at your own pace, traveling by car is ideal. This guide will provide detailed instructions on how to rent a car in Portugal and what driving in the country entails.


What do you need to rent a car in Portugal? 

When renting a car in Portugal, make sure to have the following documents with you:

  • Your driver’s license from your home country
  • Your passport (as a form of ID)
  • A credit card issued in your name
  • An International Driver’s Permit (recommended)

While you can legally drive in Portugal at 18, renting a car usually requires you to be older. Most companies set a minimum age of 21, and some might even require you to have held your license for at least a year. To rent a car, you’ll always need to show a valid driver’s license, identification proving your identity, and a credit card for payment.

Please Note: Most car rentals in Portugal do charge an extra fee if you’re under 25 years old.

For non-EU citizens with an English or Portuguese license, an International Driver’s Permit (IDP) isn’t legally required in Portugal. However, if your European travels extend beyond Portugal, consider getting an IDP. It’s mandatory in some countries, like Spain, for non-EU drivers with foreign licenses.

Rental car insurance in Portugal

Renting a car in Portugal automatically includes basic third-party liability insurance, which covers damage to other vehicles you might accidentally hit. However, this type of insurance often comes with an “excess” – a deductible amount you’d still be responsible for if your rental car is damaged.

To minimize your financial risk, consider adding additional coverage that lowers your excess. It’s a good idea to check if your travel credit card offers such coverage, especially if you use that card to reserve and pay for your rental.

If your credit card doesn’t provide any coverage, most rental companies allow you to pay a daily fee to waive the excess on the Collision Damage Waiver (CDW). This eliminates your financial responsibility for any accidental damage to the rental car.

We highly recommend opting for full coverage, especially if you’ll be driving in busy cities. Unexpected nicks or dents can happen easily, and full coverage offers peace of mind. An added benefit is that full coverage often speeds up the car return process, as there’s no need to debate who’s responsible for minor damage.

  • Beware the deductible: This type of insurance usually comes with a deductible, which is the amount you’d still be responsible for if there’s damage. The rental agency might put a hold on your credit card for this amount, so make sure you have enough available credit.
  • Extra coverage is optional: You’re not obligated to buy extra insurance, but it can provide peace of mind. If you’re interested, book it at the same time as your car rental to get the best price.
  • Check your credit card: Some credit cards offer car rental insurance for Portugal. It’s worth checking your card’s policy before you decide to buy additional coverage from the rental company.

Crossing borders with your rental car:

  • Inform the rental company: If you plan to drive your rental car into Spain or any other country, letting the rental company know beforehand is crucial. There are two main reasons for this:
    • An extra fee typically applies for crossing borders. Failing to tell the company can void your insurance.
    • Different insurance requirements might exist in other countries. It’s always best to clarify these details before signing the contract.

We recommend to rent a car in Portugal through Discover Cars, they compare prices and review multiple car rental agencies. Book your rental car here.

Is it easy to drive in Portugal?


Portugal offers a smooth driving experience with a well-maintained road network. Recent construction projects have kept many roads in great condition, making road trips a breeze. Here’s a quick rundown of the different road types and their corresponding speed limits:

  • Motorways: Buckle up for speeds of up to 120 km/h.
  • Departmental roads: These open roads dominate the countryside and allow you to cruise at 90 km/h.
  • Mountain roads and residential areas: Keep your speed down to 50 km/h for safety reasons.

Be aware of the “velocidade controlada” traffic light signs you’ll find in most residential areas. These signs warn you about an upcoming traffic light and indicate the need to slow down to 50 km/h as you enter the town or city.

Traveling with a trailer? Remember to adjust your speed accordingly! Here are the reduced speed limits for towing a trailer in Portugal:

  • Motorways: 100 km/h (down from 120 km/h)
  • Open roads: 70 km/h (down from 90 km/h)

Heads-up for busy areas:

  • Cities and the Algarve: Traffic jams and congestion can occur, especially during peak season. Consider these factors when planning your route.
  • Historic centers and villages: Narrow streets are common. Exploring these areas on foot is often the best way to experience their charm.

We recommend to rent a car in Portugal through Discover Cars, they compare prices and review multiple car rental agencies. Book your rental car here.

Mountain driving:

  • Conditions: Most mountain roads are well-maintained, but cautious driving is essential due to winding roads and potential drop-offs.
  • Winter travel: Snow chains might be required in the mountains during winter. Ask your rental company about snow chain availability when picking up your car.

Top tips for renting a car in Portugal

Renting a car:

  • Do a thorough check: Upon pickup, inspect the car for existing damage and ensure it has a warning triangle, reflective vest, and spare wheel. Take pictures of any damage and the fuel gauge reading.
  • Smaller car for convenience: Opt for a smaller car for easier navigation on narrow streets and parking. Consider declining upgrades unless you have specific needs.
    N.B. If you are in Madiera then choose a small car with a hefty engine, the hills are steep!
  • Carry your Documents: Always carry your rental agreement, valid licence and photo ID with you in the car.
  • City driving? Skip the car: Public transportation is often a better option in major cities due to traffic, narrow streets, and limited parking.

Driving in Portugal:

  • Navigation tips: Use an updated navigation system and prioritize main roads over shortcuts suggested by your navigation system, especially in cities.
  • Toll roads: Portugal uses electronic tolls (e-tolls) via a Via Verde transponder. Rental companies typically offer these with your rental; the cost is deducted from your credit card. Alternatively, register for EasyToll online and link your license plate with a credit card.
  • Fueling your car: Gas stations are widely available, but consider planning ahead in Alentejo. Use the 1-2-3 Fuel app to find the cheapest stations. Portugal has relatively expensive fuel (around €2.04 per liter). Choose diesel (gasoleo) or unleaded petrol (gasolina sem chumbo 95 or 98). Check the fuel type sticker on your car if unsure. Electric car charging stations can be found on Google Maps.

Additional notes:

  • Not paying tolls without e-tolls or EasyToll can result in a fine (applicable only in southern Portugal without toll booths).
  • Winter travel in mountainous regions might require snow chains; check with your rental company.
  • Seat belts must be worn in both front and back seats

Where do I rent a car in Portugal?

Portugal offers a variety of reputable car rental companies to choose from. They have offices conveniently located in major cities, airports, and on islands like Madeira and the Azores. Booking your car in advance is particularly wise for summer travel. This ensures you get the car type you desire, potentially at a better price, and gives you more time to compare different rental options.

We recommend to rent a car in Portugal through Discover Cars, they compare prices and review multiple car rental agencies. Book your rental car here.

Parking your car in Portugal

A white or blue sign with a red circle and diagonal cross, means don’t park. Yellow and red lines on curbs also mean “no parking.” Always park in the direction of traffic flow when using street parking

City Parking:

  • Street Parking: Forget free spots – most are paid with coin meters. Rates range from €0.80 to €3 per hour depending on the zone.
  • Free Night Parking: Look for marked areas with free parking between 7pm and 9am (check signs for variations). Great for overnight stays near your hotel.
  • Parking Garages: Consider garages for longer stays. Most offer hourly and daily rates displayed upfront.
  • Hotel Tip: While hotels recommend garages, do your own research! We found a cheaper option near our Lisbon hotel that was just as convenient.

Outside the Cities:

  • Small Towns: Parking is much easier. Some larger towns might have paid street parking, but finding a short-term spot is usually a breeze.
  • Attractions: Most UNESCO World Heritage Sites and attractions we visited offered ample free parking.

Why we recomend Discover Cars

Discover Cars serves as a comprehensive platform for all car rental needs, providing options for both car hire and rentals. As a third-party rental car aggregator, Discover Cars aggregates pricing from multiple car rental agencies across nearly 150 countries. This enables customers to effortlessly find the most competitive prices for their car rental, saving them both time and effort that would otherwise be spent on searching for rentals independently.