The Blood Alcohol Limit (BAL) in Portugal for experienced drivers is 0.5 grams per 100 ml of blood, which means that just one average glass of wine or one large beer could take you over the limit, but for commercial drivers or novice drivers with less than 2 years driving experience it is reduced to 0.2 grams per 100 ml of blood so just one glass of wine or a small beer is enough to put most people over the limit.

However, in some areas you will see signs by the roadside reading “Tolerância Zero” which is simple to translate and it means that in the particular area there is NO allowance for ANY alcohol in your system.

If you are breathalysed by the police and found to be over the limit you will be fined, possibly have your licence taken from you immediately and potentially have your licence taken from you and imprisoned depending on how far over the maximum permitted alcohol level your count shows. This will apply equally if you are the innocent party in a collision as the law makes no allowance for not being at fault for an accident - if you are over the limit, you will face the consequences.

Not only will you suffer financially by the imposition of a fine, but driving under the influence of drugs or alcohol will invariably mean that if you are at fault for an accident, whilst your insurers will pay the costs for third party repairs or injury to any other person, they have the right to pursue you for recompense and they will definitely not pay for repairs to your own vehicle.

Roundabouts are recurring issues - the rules for use of roundabouts in Portugal are different to UK, and a summary is; if turning right, take the right-hand lane, if going straight ahead or turning left, take the left-hand lane. Taking the left lane to go straight ahead is alien to many people, but that is the rule! Simple, you may say, but then there is the complication of indicating! Turning right or left it is simple enough to understand but to go straight ahead, you indicate left as you enter the roundabout then change to indicate right when you reach your exit but it can and does lead to accidents. Other drivers can assume that because you are indicating left on entering the roundabout, you will not actually be turning left but going straight ahead, so drive straight onto the roundabout only to hit the car that has always been turning left.

Give Way is another unusual issue. If there is no "STOP" sign at a road junction, the car coming from the right ALWAYS has priority in Portugal. This does not apply to private driveways, but some roads look like private drives so keep a sharp eye for roads on your right-hand side.

Street parking is more logical than one may think. Unless it is a one-way street, you may only park on the right, facing the direction of travel so that the right side of your car is beside the kerb. It is for this reason that the insurance decal must be placed in that side of the car, so that it can be seen by any police officer on foot. You may only park on the left if it is a one-way street where parking is allowed on each side of the road, although it is not a common occurrence.

Carrying your documents is a sore point with many expatriates, usually quoting "You don't have to do this in UK". In fact, legally you are required to carry your documents in UK, it is just not rigorously enforced. In Portugal, you must carry the car ownership document, the MOT document for any car of an age that requires an inspection, Insurance Certificate, proof of payment of the annual road tax, your driving licence and proof of identity - and you cannot use your licence as proof of identity, it must be passport or residency document. To avoid carrying original documents, you can visit your local junta de freguesia (parish council) or a main post office with the original documents and they will photocopy them attach copies to a certificate of authenticity to carry when driving. You may also be required to produce the originals at a police station if stopped but unless it is for a serious offence, it is unlikely.

In short, know the rules where you are and this applies to all countries, not just Portugal.

If you have any queries, please don't hesitate to call into one of our offices in Almancil or Tavira to get the most suitable policy to meet your needs or call us on 800 860 708 / 289 399 774 for Almancil or 281 325 842 for Tavira. Or if you prefer, send an e-mail to