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Tips for Expats Driving in Porto

Driving in a new country can be daunting. These tips offer insight into what to expect when driving in Porto.
|-Tips for Expats Driving in Porto

1. Understanding the Driving Culture

Driving in Porto, like many European cities, can be a bit challenging for newcomers. The streets are often narrow and winding, and the traffic can be heavy, especially during rush hours. Portuguese drivers are known for their aggressive driving style, so it’s important to stay alert and cautious at all times.

2. Choosing the Right Car

Given the narrow streets and tight parking spaces, a small, compact car is usually the best choice for driving in Porto. Manual transmission cars are more common in Portugal, but automatic cars are also available. If you’re not comfortable driving a manual car, make sure to specify that you want an automatic when renting or buying a car.

3. Parking in Porto

Finding parking in Porto can be difficult, especially in the city center. Most parking spaces are metered, and the cost can add up quickly. There are also several parking garages available, but these can be quite expensive. It’s often easier and more cost-effective to use public transportation or walk when going into the city center.

4. Driving with an International License

Foreigners can drive in Portugal with an international driving permit (IDP) for up to six months. After that, you will need to obtain a Portuguese driver’s license. It’s important to note that an IDP is not a standalone document, but rather a translation of your home country’s driver’s license, so you’ll need to carry both your IDP and your original driver’s license when driving.

5. Obtaining a Portuguese Driver’s License

If you’re planning to stay in Portugal for more than six months, you’ll need to get a Portuguese driver’s license. The process involves a medical examination, a theory test, and a practical driving test. If your home country has a reciprocal agreement with Portugal, you may be able to exchange your home country’s license for a Portuguese one without taking the tests.

6. Familiarize Yourself with the Road Rules

Before you start driving in Porto, make sure to familiarize yourself with the local road rules. For example, in Portugal, you must always give way to vehicles coming from the right unless otherwise indicated. Seat belts are mandatory for all passengers, and the use of mobile phones while driving is strictly prohibited unless you’re using a hands-free system.

Joshua WoodJoshua Wood, LPC joined Expat Exchange in 2000 and serves as one of its Co-Presidents. He is also one of the Founders of Digital Nomad Exchange. Prior to Expat Exchange, Joshua worked for NBC Cable (MSNBC and CNBC Primetime). Joshua has a BA from Syracuse and a Master's in Clinical and Counseling Psychology from Fairleigh Dickinson University. Mr. Wood is also a licensed counselor and psychotherapist.

Some of Joshua's articles include Pros and Cons of Living in Portugal, 10 Best Places to Live in Ireland and Pros and Cons of Living in Uruguay. Connect with Joshua on LinkedIn.

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