A Survivor’s Guide to Driving in Portugal

Driving in Portugal is something of an experience to anyone visiting from the UK or USA where stringent driving tests mean that most people are ingrained with a sense of road etiquette and sense. As with all countries, not every driver is a bad one but nor is every one great either. What sets Portugal apart from most countries I’ve driven in is the lack of awareness on most drivers’ part; a sense that nobody else exists on the road.

First things first, the simple stuff. Indicating in Portugal is something of a novelty and if you do encounter someone using their indicators you should probably mark the occasion on the calendar. It’s a sharp contrast to somewhere like Germany where you’re greeted by mass protests if you should forget your blinkers once a year. It generally doesn’t happen so don’t expect it, but do work on your driving sixth sense and try to read the road positioning of drivers to see what they’ll do next.

Speed limits are also seen by most as a vague indication of the minimum speed they should drive and if you find yourself in their way you could well be in for a display of overtaking lunacy of the highest order – a kind of Evil Kinevil world record attempt to pass as many vehicles as possible before getting smashed in the face by a lorry. Blind bends do not register as a hazard in Portugal – both for overtaking or simply rounding them, a situation where you’ll often find yourself swerving to avoid an oncoming driver on your side of the road.

These things do of course happen in other countries but it’s the frequency with which they occur in Portugal that gets me. Driving can be life threatening all too regularly.

There is an antidote to all this traffic madness though and that is to drive more reservedly yourself, take your time on the roads and allow the Portuguese to drive as they have learned to do so, after all, it is part of their culture and not a display of dick waving or arrogance.

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  1. Pingback: Negotiating Electronic Toll Roads in Portugal | Portugal in a Campervan

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