Motorbike touring in Portugal
Guide to bike touring in Portugal
Tips on riding in Portugal, motoring rules and regulations as well as Portuguese motoring laws and more.
At one time Portugal lagged behind other countries in Western Europe in developing a national highway system, although recently it has increased its road infrastructure including motorways, making most of the country easily accessible.
A four-lane motorway or 'auto estrada,' runs about 360mls/ 590km from Lisbon to Porto, while good quality two lane highways, including toll roads connect the rest of the country.
Roads are generally good and you can reach almost all major cities with ease, although some secondary roads are not as well surfaced and may be dangerous if proper care is not taken when using them, especially on sports bikes.
Portugal has an electronic toll paying system, but visitors can pay by cash or credit card. However, if you end up in the wrong lane (Via Verde) you will need to pay within 48 hours or face a fine on top of the toll fee. (Pre-loaded toll machines can be hired for use while in the country.)
Vehicles drive on the right in Portugal and like France unless Portugal otherwise indicated, vehicles coming from the right have priority in squares and at intersections. At junctions with roundabouts, vehicles already on the roundabout have right of way. Road signs generally comply with international rules.
Unfortunately Portugal has a road accident fatality rate higher than the EU average, primarily due to the local's aggressive driving habits and high speeds. Recent attempts to rid the country of this unwanted reputation by government have meant that the fines for traffic violations are substantial and usually must be paid on the spot.
The motorways and areas still with the most reckless driving reputation are those within 50km around Lisbon or Porto, the A1 and A2 and the Algarve area.
However, away from this on the quieter roads that a motorcyclist is likely to seek out, care still needs to be taken, especially in small towns, which are covered by speed cameras..
To give you some idea of likely penalties failing to respect "Stop" signs can lead to a fine of up to €2,500 and driving below 50kph on Motorways can result in being fined up to €300.00. On the spot fines are issued and at the discretion of the officer the vehicle can be seized until payment is made.
Drunk driving is still rather common in Portugal despite the recent crackdowns and heavy fines. The current limit is 0.49g/L. Being above this limit will result in a fine of up to €1250 and your licence suspended for one to twelve months.
If you are tested and record between 0.8 and 1.2g/L, the fine may reach €2500 and you'll be facing a ban between two months and two years. Driving with levels above 1.2g/L is a criminal offence punished with up to one year in prison and a three year driving ban!
If you are unfortunate enough to be involved in a collision you must remain at the scene of any accident involving death or serious injury until Police arrive.
Speed limits and radar detectors
Speed limits are enforced by radar traps and unmarked police cars and speeding fines can be as high as €2,500 euros and vehicles can be confiscated in lieu of payment.
Speed limits in Portugal are in the city are 50kph, on open roads they vary between 90 and 100kph with motorways being 120kph.
Like France, radar detectors are illegal and cannot be carried or used with penalties being severe for those who have them.
Documents relating to the bike and its insurance must be kept with the vehicle, these include your own personal ID, driving licence, insurance certificate, vehicle registration or equivalent, so if you have followed our advice you will always be legal.
Petrol stations are generally open from 7am to 10pm and many stations located on the main roads are open 24 hours and most take credit/debit cards.
In Portugal, like France, you need to be 18 to ride a motorcycle and that applies to visitors as well. Crash helmets and daytime lights are also compulsory.
Locals can ride a moped at 14 years old and a recently passed law permits holders of cat 'B' licences (car) to ride motorcycles not exceeding 125cc.