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Driving in Portugal: Guide for Foreign Driver’s License Holders

27 de September, 2023

Driving in Portugal: Guide for Foreign Driver’s License Holders

Learn how to validate your foreign driver's license in Portugal. Understand the rules for EU, EEA, and non-EU citizens. Find out how to drive legally in Portugal as an expat.
Reading: 7 min

When you move to Portugal as an expat, one of the first things you need to consider is how to validate your foreign driver’s license (or “carta de condução”, as it’s called here) . Portugal, like many European countries, has specific rules for foreign driver´s license holders, even those with dual citizenship. It is important to understand these rules to ensure that you are driving legally.

The country offers a relatively simple process for expats who wish to drive legally on its picturesque roads, even for those who wish to work driving a vehicle. In this guide, we’ll explore the steps required to validate your driver’s license and tips for driving in Portugal.

Can I drive with a foreign driver´s license in Portugal?

Yes, as a tourist you can drive in Portugal with a foreign driver’s license for a limited period.

If you want to live in the country, you need to be aware of the law which lays down certain conditions depending on the origin of your document, the length of your stay in the country and the category of vehicle you are driving.

How long can I drive with a international license in Portugal?

A foreign driver´s licence is only valid for a period of 185 days after entering the country.

Standards for driving licenses issued in the European Union (EU) and European Economic Area (EEA)

Driving licenses issued by countries belonging to the European Union and the European Economic Area (EEA – Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway) are valid in Portugal until the document expires. However, drivers who decide to take up residence in Portugal need to inform the Regional or District IMT Service of their area of residence within 60 days.

Do you want to live in Europe?

Realizing your goal of living in Europe or obtaining European citizenship can be simpler than you think. We offer personalized support to make the immigration process more accessible and uncomplicated.

How to register residence to drive in Portugal (EU and EEA)

Residence registration can be done online through the IMTonline.

If you prefer, you can register in person at an IMT counter by submitting the form form.

You must include the documents with your application:

  • identification document and proof of residence permit in national territory;
  • foreign driving license and photocopy of the document.

Lifetime driving license

If your driving license has no expiration date, you will need to exchange it for a Portuguese license within 2 years of obtaining residency in Portugal.

Standards for driving licenses between countries with bilateral agreements and conventions (OECD and CPLP)

Since July 1, 2022, driver’s licenses issued by a member state of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) or the Community of Portuguese Speaking Countries (CPLP) will now be valid in Portugal. According to Decree no. 46 of 2022, documents issued by these countries do not need to be validated in Portugal

This rule applies to countries such as Angola, Australia, Brazil, Cape Verde, Canada, Chile, the United States, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Mozambique, New Zealand, the United Kingdom, the Republic of Korea, São Tomé and Príncipe, Switzerland and Turkey.

In these cases, even if you are resident in Portugal, it is not necessary to exchange your license for a Portuguese one if you meet the following criteria:

  • be under 60 years old;
  • meet the minimum age requirement in Portugal to drive the vehicle of the category indicated on the foreign license;
  • the foreign license is valid;
  • no more than 15 years have passed since the foreign license was issued or last renewed;
  • the country issuing the license is a party to the transit conventions (Geneva, 1949 and/or Vienna, 1968) or has a bilateral agreement with Portugal;
  • the foreign license is not seized, suspended, expired or revoked in Portugal or in the country of origin.

If you want or need to exchange your driving license for a Portuguese one, you will be “exempt from taking exams for all the categories they wish to exchange”, according to Decree-Law no. 46/2022.

Licenses from countries not adhering to international road traffic conventions

If your driver’s license was issued by a country that does not adhere to the international conventions, you must exchange it immediately. To obtain a Portuguese document you will need to take a driving test for each category of license you have.

How to validate a foreign driver’s license in Portugal?

To be issued with a Portuguese driving license, you must present the following documents:

  • a valid foreign driving license (you must hand in the original when you receive an e-mail telling you to go to the IMT office);
  • identification document;
  • proof of residence permit in Portugal (even for those with dual citizenship);
  • Tax Identification Number (NIF);
  • Electronic Medical Certificate (sent online by the doctor to the IMT);
  • A favorable psychological evaluation certificate issued by a psychologist (for categories C1, C1E, C, CE, D1, D1E and DE, as well as B and BE in the case of ambulances, fire engines, school transport, patient transport, collective transport of children and light rental vehicles).

If your qualification is not in Portuguese, English, French or Spanish, you must submit a sworn translation of the document authenticated by the consular service of Portugal or another member state in the respective country.

In addition, a declaration may be required from the entity that issued the license or from a diplomatic or consular authority proving the authenticity of the driving license, its date of issue, validity, vehicle categories and the passing of a driving test.

Who can apply for a Portuguese driver’s license?

Anyone aged 18 or over who has a residence permit in Portugal can obtain a driving license for cars in Portugal. You also need to be physically, mentally and psychologically fit, and you must not be banned from driving in your country of origin. Read more at IMT website.

How much does it cost to validate a foreign driving license in Portugal?

The driver’s license transfer fee is 30€.

However, you will have to consider other costs that you may have: a medical certificate, translation of the license (if necessary) and proof of driving. As published in the Público newspaper code and driving tests can cost more than €200.

What’s the traffic like in Portugal?

Traffic and traffic laws in Portugal are similar to those in other European countries, but it is important to know the specific rules when driving in Portugal. Be aware of a few details:

  1. Driving on the right : In Portugal, you must drive on the right-hand side of the road, with the steering wheel on the left.
  2. Speed limits Speed limits in Portugal can vary depending on the type of road and conditions. In general, the standard limit on highways is 120 km/h, on national roads it is 90 km/h, and in urban areas it is 50 km/h. However, pay attention to the road signs, as there may be variations.
  3. Seat belts : The use of seat belts is compulsory for all occupants of the vehicle, including the rear seat.
  4. Alcohol and Driving : Blood alcohol limits in Portugal are strict. The maximum permitted level is 0.05 g/dL (grams per deciliter) of alcohol in the blood. For drivers with less than 3 years’ experience or under the age of 21, the permitted level is 0.02 g/dL.
  5. Documentation It is mandatory that you carry your driver’s license, vehicle document and proof of insurance whenever you are driving. If you don’t have a citizen’s card, you must carry the NIF registration paper. If you want, you can have the documents in digital form as long as they are in the Official government app created for this purpose (ID.GOV.PT).
  6. Tolls Many highways in Portugal require toll payment, which means you have to pay a toll. There are different payment systems, including electronic tags and payment at toll stations.
  7. Compulsory insurance: Car insurance is compulsory in Portugal. However, you only need third-party insurance that covers damage to other vehicles.

Can I be an Uber driver with a foreign driver’s license?

No. To transport passengers on platforms such as Uber, you must obtain a Portuguese license. In addition, there are other requirements. Take Uber for exemple:

  • You are a legal resident: You have a Citizen’s Card or Provisional Citizen’s Card, or proof of renewal of the Citizen’s Card, Identity Card, Certificate of registration as a citizen of the European Union (only accepted for holders of a foreign passport or identity card), Residence Permit, Appointment for renewal of the residence permit, Proof of renewal of the residence permit.
  • Have a driving license: Must be valid and more than 3 years old for category B with an endorsement in group 2.
  • Criminal record certificate: Must be requested for the purpose of “profession/activity without special law”, with the job specification “TVDE operator – IMT”, E – IMT”, “TDVE Driver * Digital TVDE Platforms” , “TVDE Driver * Uber” or “Taxi/Passenger Car Driver” and the mention “involves regular contact with minors (Law no. 113/2009)”; The criminal record must not have any convictions and must mention “NOTHING CONCERNING THE PERSON IDENTIFIED ABOVE”.
  • Passenger transport license (TVDE)
  • A profile picture.

Is it worth driving in Portugal?

Although Portugal has an efficient public transportation service, driving in the country can be a wonderful experience, allowing you to explore its rich culture and stunning landscapes. However, it is essential to follow all traffic rules and regulations to avoid fines, which can be significant.

Traffic laws in Portugal are strictly enforced in practice. The Portuguese traffic authorities have an efficient enforcement system to ensure safety on the roads. This includes enforcement of speeding, drunken driving, the use of seat belts, the use of cell phones while driving, among other infractions.

With this information in hand, you’re ready to start your journey on Portugal’s roads safely and legally. Make the most of your stay and enjoy the beauty this country has to offer while driving responsibly.

Talk to our experts!

*Silvia Resende is a journalist at Atlantic Bridge. Brazilian (from Bahia), she arrived in Portugal in 2015 to build a new life with her family. She has a Master’s degree in Communication Sciences from the University of Porto. She has worked as a TV presenter, reporter and event producer. As well as being a content creator, she also works as a tour guide in Porto.

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Atlantic Bridge

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