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Tips for Portugal car rentals
A quick overview
What will I read about? Tips for renting a car in Portugal and finding fantastic car rental deals.
What are the costs? Car rental, possible toll roads, and optional extras like child seats or a young driver fee.
Where to rent a car in Portugal? Airports, popular cities, and towns.
Worth it? You’ll be easily able to visit Portugal and discover hidden gems such as the Atlantic Coast and small towns, but if you stay in the big cities only, you won’t need to hire a car.
Why should I rent a car in Portugal?
Let’s start with the question, do I need to be renting a car when visiting Portugal? And the answer is… it depends. If you visit major cities like Porto and Lisbon, Portugal, car rentals are unnecessary. The towns have an excellent public transport system and are very walkable. All the sights are easy to discover without a car. Parking spaces are limited in the cities, and parking can be expensive. You can always plan a few car-free days before picking up a car rental for further exploration.
But if you want to venture out and discover hidden gems in Portugal, a rental car is nearly a must. Especially when you wish to explore places in nature or stay on islands like Madeira and Azores, the bigger cities on mainland Portugal are well connected, and you can travel easily from, for example, Lisbon to Faro by train or bus. But if you like visiting rural beaches in the Algarve and exploring the southern coast, hiking in Madeira, or discovering snow in Serra da Estrela, a rental car is handy!
Don't hire a rental car in major cities like:
✅ Sintra (town)
Rent a car in Portugal when visiting:
Renting a car in Portugal
So you’ve decided to rent a vehicle? Fabulous! It’s an easy, convenient, and cheap way to travel off the beaten path. Thanks to the best car rental deals, you can easily travel to rural places, and you have the freedom to explore parts of Portugal that are lesser known. Discover the versatile landscape, deviate from the tourist destinations, and stop whenever and wherever you want! In addition, the roads to your final destination often lead to panoramic views that are more than worth exploring.
When you rent a car in Portugal, it can be much cheaper than booking individual tours. It’s the fastest way to explore some parts of the country, and it takes less time than planning and booking tours, buses and trains. Therefore, renting a car in Portugal is a convenient and affordable solution.
Rent a car in advance to get the best deals
You can, of course, rent a car in Portugal on the spot. But making the reservation in advance will be cheaper as you find the best car rental deals online, and you can also ensure your favourite automobile is still available. There are many car rental locations to choose from all over the country. More on this later, but most rental cars in Portugal have a gear stick. If you prefer automatic rental cars, you must make your reservations beforehand, especially in the high season.
Booking your rental car in advance ensures you can choose from a broader range of vehicles, and the prices will likely be lower. So if you’re looking for cheap rental cars and automatic cars, reserving a vehicle upfront in Portugal is a must! There are often exciting discounts online, which you won’t have by booking on the spot or close to your departure day. Moreover, your rental car will be ready as soon as you leave the plane. How convenient is that? You can immediately start your holiday!
How much does renting a car in Portugal cost?
There are several car rental companies in Portugal, which will all offer different prices. Always check which insurance is included, as this usually makes a big difference in price. Trusted partners are, for example, Europcar, Sixt, Hertz, Budget and Avis. There are no hidden fees, and the insurance policies are clear. Hiring from a reputable car rental company ensures you will avoid any surprises. Also, many car rentals will include unlimited kilometres and good cancellation conditions.
Full-to-Full fuel policy for car rentals
A Full-to-Full fuel policy is standard in Portugal, meaning you receive a full tank when you pick up the vehicle and return it with a full tank. If you bring rental cars back with less fuel, you’ll be charged a premium price for gas. This price will always be more than what you pay at the gas stations, so it’s worth filling up the rental car again before you drop it off.
Where to book my rental car in Portugal?
To compare car rental prices easily, check the offers below with DiscoverCars. Their intuitive website will make your booking super easy! The filters will help you select what you need, and you can filter for specific suppliers.
Check prices with DiscoverCars
Rent a Camper with Paul Camper
Car rental locations
You can find Portugal car rentals at Lisbon, Porto, Faro, Madeira and Azores airport locations. When you rent a car from airport locations, it is usually a bit more expensive. The plus side: the rental car companies at the international airports are typically open 24 hours, including the weekends, and a more comprehensive selection of rental cars is often available. If you rent a car in the city or a nearby town, the car rental desks might be closed at weekends and are open between certain hours. All major cities in Portugal have car rental locations available.
Portugal car rental periods
When renting a car in Portugal, the vehicle is paid for in 24-hour periods. This means when your pick-up date is Friday at 9 AM, it will be cheaper to return the rental car at 9 AM when you return. If you return the vehicle at 10 AM, you’ll end up paying for another day, not just one extra hour. Check the opening times of the Portugal car rental company to ensure the days work out for you and your desired pick-up date. And if you rent a car for 5 or 6 days? Check the price for a 7-day rental. The cheapest rental cars are often available for more extended periods or on a week-to-week basis!
Should I take out extra insurance for my car rental Portugal?
Whether you take out extra car rental insurance is a personal choice. But if you don’t, it’s recommended to ensure every scratch and dent is recorded when you pick up the car. A staff member will go around the car so you can double-check that no damage is missing but don’t assume and ask questions if you need clarification. Also, check the windows, tires and interior for any damage. Taking pictures and a video will ensure there won’t be surprises when you return. This is why renting a car with one of the better car rental companies is so important. A popular car rental company is EuropCar, for example. Other favourites are Sixt, Enterprise, Hertz, Alamo, Avis and Budget. With Discover Cars, you can easily compare prices with and without additional insurance.
When you return the car, and the staff is available to meet, you should mention any damage if needed. They’ll sign off the papers for you on the spot. If there is no staff to meet you, ensure you take more pictures and a video so you can prove the state of the car when you return it. You don’t want any unexpected surprises! If you take out additional insurance, you won’t have to worry about any of this.
Some things to keep in mind for your car rental in Portugal:
✅ Basic CDW is compulsory in Portugal but often requires a higher deposit. The price of CDW is already included in your rental price;
✅ Additional insurance will most likely cover theft, windscreen damage, mirror damage, tires, scratches etc. A daily charge will occur, and always check the terms;
✅ Booking the full coverage with your reservation is often cheaper than adding this during pick up at the counter.
What is considered damage depends on the company. Usually, anything smaller than 2 centimetres is fine. However, low-cost car rental companies might try to find any scratch they can. So cheap is only sometimes cheaper when hiring a car! Check your credit card as well for additional bonuses. Some travel credit cards cover the excess policy. But always ensure this is valid with the car rental agency.
Available extras and the average price when renting a car in Portugal
You’ll be offered several additional extras when you make the Portugal car rental reservation. You can pick and choose what makes sense for your trip. Below you’ll see some of the most common ones when renting a car in Portugal:
✅ An additional driver – perfect if you want to take breaks in between journeys and let someone else drive for a bit. There is an additional driver fee for each driver, and the average price is usually between € 10,00 to € 20,00 per day;
✅ Child seats are a must when travelling with young children. A car seat is compulsory for children under 12 or if they are shorter than 135 centimetres. The average price for a child seat or booster seat is often between € 10,00 to € 20,00 per day. But you can also bring your own! Check with the airline to see if it’s a cheaper option. Children under 12 cannot sit in the front passenger seat;
✅ The Electronic Toll Collection Card (ETC, more about this below) is a handy extra that is recommended;
✅ GPS can be helpful but unnecessarily expensive. Use offline Google Maps or buy a data plan to always be WIFI on the go. The average price is around € 25,00 per day if you choose this option;
✅ Some car rentals offer WIFI in the car, but a mobile plan will do the same trick and is often way cheaper. When you land, you can buy a local SIM card so you have WIFI on the go. Expect to pay an average price of € 15,00 to € 40,00 per day if you opt for WIFI in the car. As you can see, this is often a lot more expensive;
✅ A young driver surcharge is needed when you’re under a specific age. The amount depends on the company and car model. The charge can be anywhere from € 6,00 to € 20,00 per day, and it adds up! Ensure the driver is over 25 to save money or shop around for the best deal.
Book your car rental with ease without hidden fees
When searching for a deal with DiscoverCars, they will automatically calculate the price of extras for your entire rental. This is usually cheaper than the day rates you’ll find online. For example, a four-day car seat will have an average price of € 45,00 per rental. And the ETC Card for the tolls could be as cheap as €8.60 for a four-day rental. When you use the filters, the total price will be calculated for you automatically.
Different car categories in Portugal
Depending on where you’re from, a car in Portugal may look slightly different than your own, especially if you fly from other countries where a large vehicle is the norm. In Portugal, a compact car is the most popular car to drive. Finding the perfect car category for your travel companions is, however, pretty straightforward.
Automatic transmission or a gear stick
If your own car has automatic transmission, consider renting an automatic one in Portugal. As this is uncommon for Portuguese cars, you’ll pay more (sometimes twice the price!), as fewer cars are available. Booking ahead of time is super important as they’re quickly booked up! You have more options if you use a manual transmission or both. You also find the best deals with a manual transmission automatic transmission, consider renting an automatic one in Portugal. As this is uncommon for Portuguese cars, you’ll pay more (sometimes twice the price!), as fewer cars are available. Booking ahead of time is super important as they’re quickly booked up! You have more options if you use a manual transmission or both. You also find the best deals with a manual transmission.
Most popular rental car
Smaller vehicles are a popular rental car in Portugal, but there are several car categories to choose from. If you travel with suitcases, a compact car is quickly filled. So even when you travel with two people and two pieces of luggage, renting a five-door vehicle will be worth it. If you choose a smaller car, usually one suitcase ends up in the rear seats, which is visible to unwanted visitors. It is, of course, okay when you travel straight to your destination. But if you leave luggage in the car overnight, you might get break-ins that are best avoided.
A small car is great in cities and is easier to manoeuvre. The mini, economy, and compact cars are also cheaper to rent. Popular rental cars are Volkswagen, Renault, Opel, Citroen and Seat. There are also larger, luxury and popular rental cars such as Mercedes, BMW, Jeep, and even Porsche. The average price of a car rental in Portugal for a week can be as low as € 250,00 with a reputable car rental company or € 150,00 for a low-budget rental for a compact car. When you go the luxury route, it can cost a few thousand Euro per week. There is no need for a 4X4 unless you plan on some very adventurous trips!
To sum it up:
✅ Do not rent a car that is too small; go for a comfortable vehicle for your travel companions;
✅ Be sure to book all-inclusive insurance to drive around in peace;
✅ Reliable Portugal car rental companies are Sixt, Europcar, Alamo, OK Mobility, and Avis.;
✅ Book well in advance, especially if you prefer automatic transmission.
Requirements for hiring a car rental Portugal
A valid driver's license
If you have a valid driver’s license, renting a car in Portugal is usually very easy. In Portugal, the minimum age is 18 years to drive a vehicle, but if you rent a car, the minimum age is often between 21 and 25 years old (depending on the company). On top, many companies require you to have your driving license for at least a year, sometimes longer.
EU Citizens from other European countries can use their international driver’s license from the European Union with our restrictions. This is also the case for citizens of Switzerland and the EEA. If you don’t have a non-EU country license, but a valid driver’s license is issued in a country with a bilateral agreement with Portugal, your permit must be legitimate for at least 185 days (around six months). The permit must be in English or Portuguese in addition to the local language. All other citizens will also need an international driving permit (IDP).
A credit card
Besides a driver’s license, a credit card is needed for the car rental reservation. Bring the same credit card of the booking when picking up the vehicle for the deposit. And often, the credit card should be in the driver’s name. The deposit amount depends on the additional insurance and your rental company. This can be anywhere between € 0 and € 1200 or even more, so be sure you have enough funds available. Mastercard and VISA are widely accepted. Diners, American Express and prepaid cards are often not accepted. Some rental agencies accept debit cards but always check beforehand. DiscoverCars has an easy filter to show which suppliers accept credit and debit cards.
Proof of identity
Lastly, bring your passport or ID card, which you probably already have with you anyway!
A rental car in Portugal with a US or Canadian license
There is no need to apply for an international driving permit, but your international driver’s license must be valid for 185 days. If you stay longer, you must apply for a Portuguese driver’s license.
Toll roads in Portugal when you rent a car
When driving in Portugal, you most likely come across toll roads, and tolls may be paid manually or electronically. Tolls are paid on not only the motorways but also bridges. So if you drive from Lisbon to the south bank via Ponte 25 de Abril, for example, you’ll pay a toll. On the motorways, you’ll discover toll booths. You collect a ticket as you enter the motorway and pay the toll for your trip when you exit the highway. You can pay the toll manually, and vehicles must stop at the toll barriers.
There are dedicated lanes for manual payments. But not all toll roads have booths. Instead, they have a tracker that will register your number plate. You can pay these manually at the post office after a couple of days when the fees are written. You have only five days to pay, and the lines in the post office can be long. This option is not recommended! You can also sign up for Easytoll IF you know your number plate. Registrations with Easytoll are valid for 30 days and can be a solution for your trip to Portugal. However, you usually only see the number plate of a rental car in Portugal after you pick up the vehicle.
Add a toll tracker to your car rental
An easier way to travel around is to rent a toll tracker with your car rental in Portugal. With the Electronic Toll Collection Card (ETC), you don’t have to stop (but slow down!), and the tolls are added to your bill automatically. You can choose the reserved Via Verde lanes and won’t have to pay on the spot. The lanes are clearly marked with a green V-shaped logo above the road. The same goes for the automatic detection systems above the road. Once your car rental ends, you’ll receive a final bill, including tolls, in a few days. An ETC will usually cost a couple of euros a day.
You can avoid toll roads, but note the roads are often slower. Depending on how you like to travel, you can avoid them altogether. A trip from Portugal Lisbon to Faro will take around 2.5 to 3 hours. The average price will be approximately € 25,00 one way. If you avoid the toll roads, the travel time is easily 4 to 5 hours.
Traffic rules in Portugal
Before you step in a car, it’s wise to check the traffic rules in Portugal. Laws might be similar or slightly different depending on where you usually drive. Just a few tips to get you started:
✅ In Portugal, they drive on the right side of the road and overtake on the left. You’ll receive a right-hand drive vehicle;
✅ Like in many countries, drivers won’t necessarily use an indicator. Always be careful and pay attention;
✅ Local drivers might drive faster than you. No need to speed up, but maybe allow them to overtake you where possible;
✅ Some merge lanes in Portugal are very short. Traffic on the motorway always has priority;
✅ In certain municipalities, there are Low Emission Areas. Older vehicles are restricted from driving in these areas (your rental car in Portugal should be fine, as you rent a newer car);
✅ Ensure your rental car contains a spare wheel plus changing tools, a bright reflective danger vest, if necessary, a fire extinguisher, and a warning triangle;
✅ Seat belts are a must for all passengers! Also, in the back, including the use of child restraints. Noncompliance will cost between €120 – €600;
✅ Don’t use your phone when driving; the average price of a fine is between €120 – €600. Add GPS to your rental or bring a phone holder to use online maps;
✅ Permitted alcohol level is 50 mg per 100 ml of blood, or better, don’t drink at all when driving;
✅ Speed limits for cars are 50 km/h in urban areas and 120 km/h on highways (minimum speed 50 km/h). Rural roads have a speed limit of 90 km/h. Always check the signs on the road itself as they might differ; ✅ Don’t throw trash out the car, or you risk being fined;
✅ On motorways, it’s clearly signposted when you reach the nearest gas stations;
✅ The GNR (Guarda Nacional Republicana) is the traffic police; you’ll often see them in rural areas. The PSP, or Public Security Police, can be found in the cities.
The speed limit in Portugal
It´s good to know the speed limits in Portugal before you step into your rental car in Portugal.
The speed limit in urban areas is between 30 km/h to 50 km/h.
Speed limits on motorways are 120 km/h. The minimum speed on the highway is 50 km/h, so don´t drive too slow, either.
In other areas, it can be 70 km/h, 80 km/h, 90 km/h or 100 km/h. Always be sure to check the signs.
Specific speed limits exist for heavy vehicles (with or without a trailer) and campervans. The speed limits in Portugal can sometimes depend on the type of road and vehicle.
Driving in the popular cities
One tip when you rent a car: try to avoid it. But you may have to drive with your car rental in the bigger Portuguese cities. It can be challenging as it seems everyone knows where they’re going. Using a reliable GPS will be a lifesaver here, and take it easy. Keep an eye on the directions and signs, and you’ll be winging it! Avoid narrow streets when you rent a car, especially if you have a more significant car rental. For example, you can park a little out of town to avoid getting stuck. There are also some parking garages in the bigger towns and cities available.
Parking in the city
Parking your rental car can take time and effort. You can pay a meter on the streets (ensure to bring coins) or park your vehicle in a garage. These are often open 24 hours but check beforehand if they close earlier. When parking on the streets in bustling areas, you might also come across ‘attendants’ that will help you to park your car. They’ll wave at an available parking spot and help with parking if needed but will expect some money in return. They’re self-appointed parking assistants and often homeless. Some will even look out for your car and keep you out of trouble when the parking meter runs out. Up to you to decide if you take on their offer, although many might find their approach a little intimidating.
Driving from Portugal to Spain
You may want to visit Spain as well during your holiday. If you plan on doing this, you must inform the car rental beforehand. Driving a rental car in Portugal over the border to Spain is often a surcharge, and different insurances might apply. If you don’t mention cross-border driving ahead of time, your current insurance will be void. A cross-border car rental is available for around € 120.00. But the average price depends on the vehicle’s model and the rental duration. Please note: the International Driving Permit is required for anyone on a 90-day Schengen Tourist Visa in Spain! In other words, you will need a valid home country driving license and a valid International Driving Permit. Always check the Spanish regulations before your trip.
Island-hopping in the Azores
If you plan on visiting multiple islands in the Azores, it might be easiest to rent just one car. Fortunately, some rental companies (not many) will allow you to take the car on the ferries. The ferry ticket is more expensive, and you’ll most likely have to return the vehicle where you originally picked it up. Drop-offs in different locations are often allowed on mainland Portugal but not in the Azores. A rental car per island might be the easiest and cheapest solution. Some companies have car rental locations on multiple islands and offer a special price.
One-way car rentals
Many people travel to Portugal to make a road trip. You might want to start in Porto and finish in the Algarve. And although a one-way car rental is possible, you’ll be charged an extra fee. Planning a round trip will be a better option if you prefer to avoid this charge. You can also opt for multiple rentals around one location before taking a bus or train to the next.
Some extra tips while driving in Portugal
Driving in Portugal can be very safe, but always pay attention. Strong winds, winding roads, and heavy traffic can all cause accidents. Below are some final tips for car rentals in Portugal:
✅ Be aware of potholes and oncoming traffic. Some roads are bad, and drivers might try to avoid them;
✅ Use GPS to avoid getting lost with your rental car in Portugal – Waze and Google Maps work well in the country;
✅ Keep an eye out on pedestrians and cyclists, as many streets don’t have sidewalks;
✅ In rural areas, be careful with livestock on the road;
✅ Always watch your speed;
✅ Be sure you have enough gas in the tank before reaching the next gas stations;
✅ If there is an emergency, call 112;
Some helpful phrases along the way
I have a flat tire – Eu tenho um pneu furado
Where is the gas station? – Onde fica o posto de gasolina?
Where is the nearest garage? – Onde fica a oficina mais próxima?
Where is the police station? – Onde é a esquadra?
Benefits of car rental in Portugal with DiscoverCars
DiscoverCars has a very easy-to-navigate website. There are no hidden costs, and you can effortlessly select your perfect rental car in Portugal. The filters help choose the right size vehicle, optional extras, payment by debit cards, and insurance. DiscoverCars offers cars with various car rental agencies (around 30!). Companies include Dollar, Goldcar, Enterprise, OK Mobility, and Sixt. You receive an easy-to-navigate overview to compare the prices and find the best car rental locations.
Once you’ve selected your ideal rental car, you can make your reservation online. There is a free cancellation option until 48 hours before the rental. Plenty of time in case something happens before your trip! You can always amend your booking online, and the car rental conditions are clearly laid out for you. Always check the best rate for your trip to Portugal and ensure you’re coverage is perfect for your needs!
Renting a camper in Portugal
Another popular way to enjoy a road trip in Portugal is by campervan! There are several rental companies to offer camper travel, and they come in all shapes and sizes. You may prefer to have a toilet and shower in your vehicle, or you want to travel as compact as possible. Just like when you rent a car, the renter’s minimum age is usually 22 years. Wild camping is tolerated in Portugal, but make sure you read any signs; it is no longer allowed in some places. When you do decide to go wild camping, please always clean up after yourself in nature! Yes, that includes toilet paper… Or even better, stay at a specially marked parking lot for free camping. There are often even toilets and showers, which makes your stay very pleasant. A Class 3 driving license usually is sufficient, but this depends on the category and weight.
Some travel ideas in Portugal
Need help to figure out where to drive? There are plenty of unique places and interesting cities to visit in Portugal! Discover the Algarve, Portugal’s southernmost region, and find hidden beaches such as Praia da Bordeira or Praia do Vale de Centeanes or visit the town of Alcoutim. From Portugal Lisbon, you take your rental car to the Buddha Eden Garden, Azenhas do Mar, the Sado Estuary, Castelo de Almourol, and Parque Natural da Arrábida. Or discover a fascinating UNESCO World Heritage Site in places like Alcobaça and Tomar.
Further north, you’ll love Parque Nacional Peneda-Gerês and the Douro National Park. From Porto, you can also easily drive to Braga, Vila Nova de Gaia, Aveiro, or Guimarães. Or discover Serra da Estrela, where it even snows in winter! Do you prefer to see more of the Atlantic coast? Visit towns like Ericeira or book a holiday to the Portuguese islands. As you can see, car rental in Portugal is pretty straightforward and well worth it to discover the country. And with so many car rental locations, it’s super easy to book!
Rent a car FAQ
If you want to travel independently to some hidden gems, towns, and beaches, then absolutely yes! If you stay in popular cities like Lisbon and Porto, there is no need for a car rental.
If you are from the US or Canada, there is no need to apply for an international driving permit, but your international driver's license must be valid for 185 days. EU licenses are always accepted.
Yes, you can rent a car! If you are from the US or Canada, applying for an international driving permit is unnecessary, but your international driver's license must be valid for 185 days.
If applicable, a valid driver's license, a credit card, an IDP (international permit), and proof of identity.
No. Traffic can be chaotic and public transport works well. You can also take Uber or Bolt if needed.
Take a look on the DiscoverCars website to find the best car rental deals and best car rental locations.
Conclusion about car rental in Portugal
If you like road trips and off-the-beaten-track journeys, a rental car in Portugal is the best option for your holiday in Portugal! You can explore the country at your own pace and discover lesser-known towns and beaches. Car rentals are straightforward in Portugal and similar to other countries. There are many car rental locations from where you can get a rental car. But when you select a car rental company, ensure it’s right for all your needs. And most of all… enjoy! You’re going to find some fantastic places in Portugal!