Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

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ChinchillaWhiplash
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Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by ChinchillaWhiplash » Tue May 14, 2019 11:13 am

For an upcoming trip, looks like it would be best for me to rent a car. Will be starting in Lisbon and going to the Silver Coast in rather remote areas with not much available for transportation. Would mostly be on the toll road going north, but it sounds like Lisbon can be kind of crazy to drive in. Would be at the end of July. Was wondering if it would be best to take a shuttle or taxi to Obidos (18km from our hotel) and get a car there or just suck it up and rent from Lisbon and brave the traffic there?

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kramer
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by kramer » Tue May 14, 2019 11:34 am

I have not been to Portugal but I have driven in many countries. One of my personal rules is that I strongly prefer to observe and experience traffic in a country for at least a short time before I actually drive. If I am going to cold to a new country, I would be nervous about renting at the airport and experiencing the country for the first time driving. Also, it might be cheaper to rent away from the airport. All this being said, Portugal is a developed country and driving there probably isn't that bad.

Valuethinker
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Valuethinker » Tue May 14, 2019 11:41 am

kramer wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 11:34 am
I have not been to Portugal but I have driven in many countries. One of my personal rules is that I strongly prefer to observe and experience traffic in a country for at least a short time before I actually drive. If I am going to cold to a new country, I would be nervous about renting at the airport and experiencing the country for the first time driving. Also, it might be cheaper to rent away from the airport. All this being said, Portugal is a developed country and driving there probably isn't that bad.
Portugal is manageable.

It does have the highest road death rate in Western Europe (Belgium is number 2). However that does not mean it is dangerous by the standards of any countries *other than* NW European & N American & Japan - it's safe compared to say, Turkey. Those countries I let someone else do the driving.

Probably as much as possible not drive at night and avoid rainy weather (if you can). But this is all not to cause paranoia.

Valuethinker
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Valuethinker » Tue May 14, 2019 11:43 am

ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 11:13 am
For an upcoming trip, looks like it would be best for me to rent a car. Will be starting in Lisbon and going to the Silver Coast in rather remote areas with not much available for transportation. Would mostly be on the toll road going north, but it sounds like Lisbon can be kind of crazy to drive in. Would be at the end of July. Was wondering if it would be best to take a shuttle or taxi to Obidos (18km from our hotel) and get a car there or just suck it up and rent from Lisbon and brave the traffic there?
Lisbon is a bit crazy. But that also means its low speed. You won't die and it's unlikely you will have an accident.

I've never done it, but I would tough it out and pick up the car in Lisbon - or did you mean travel to the airport? That's usually a good place to pick up and return a vehicle.

Starfish
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Starfish » Tue May 14, 2019 11:55 am

1. Make sure you learn the signs and rules of the road.
2. If you stick on the main roads and get on the highway ASAP you should be fine.
3. Don't rent from the airport, but from a place near your hotel so you can minimize the period you have the car. Parking can be a PITA. I used Sixt, I like them. Don't get anything larger than a Golf.

Portugal has a good highway system.
Generally it is hard for Americans to drive in European cities but main boulevards are just as wide as in US. Once you get to the hotel don't use the car. Parking can be a bit difficult, but it depends where you live right now (if you are in Manhattan or SF you are already and expert). Make sure you read the signs, depending on neighborhood you might not be able to park for free 24h. If your hotel is in the older neighborhoods it will be harder.

I got lost a lot in Portugal using Google maps without data, but this was several years ago. I usually save the maps on the phone and don't bother to get a SIM card but in Portugal it did not work that well.
In the end we discovered that the rental car had a built in GPS. We did not buy the option so I never looked.
It was a good experience, we've seen new places while getting lost.
It's really easy to get to Obidos, Sintra (park up on the mountain, go early to get a spot), Cascais by car from Lisbon.

coalcracker
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by coalcracker » Tue May 14, 2019 12:02 pm

I have not driven in Portugal but have vacationed in Lisbon a few times. I would not want to drive around central Lisbon, especially in the area around Barrio Alto. We stayed near there and were driven to and from our flat; the roads were steep and narrow, and the routes to get around were confusing (at least to us).

I think it would be much less stressful to take a taxi to the airport and rent from there. (Edit: meaning don't get a rental car while you are in Lisbon, rather only get one on the day you leave)

FireProof
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by FireProof » Tue May 14, 2019 12:18 pm

Valuethinker wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 11:41 am
kramer wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 11:34 am
I have not been to Portugal but I have driven in many countries. One of my personal rules is that I strongly prefer to observe and experience traffic in a country for at least a short time before I actually drive. If I am going to cold to a new country, I would be nervous about renting at the airport and experiencing the country for the first time driving. Also, it might be cheaper to rent away from the airport. All this being said, Portugal is a developed country and driving there probably isn't that bad.
Portugal is manageable.

It does have the highest road death rate in Western Europe (Belgium is number 2). However that does not mean it is dangerous by the standards of any countries *other than* NW European & N American & Japan - it's safe compared to say, Turkey. Those countries I let someone else do the driving.

Probably as much as possible not drive at night and avoid rainy weather (if you can). But this is all not to cause paranoia.
The road death rate in Portugal is also much lower than in the United States, around half, for what it's worth. https://data.oecd.org/transport/road-accidents.htm

Topic Author
ChinchillaWhiplash
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by ChinchillaWhiplash » Tue May 14, 2019 1:43 pm

So far plan is to fly in on July 26th. Won't be there until the evening. Get a hotel near airport. Probably uber or taxi to hotel. Get a car the 27th and then drive to our destination. Think we will be close to the toll highway, so hopefully driving won't be too bad. Looking at a compact w/manual to rent. Need to get an international driver permit. Looks like AAA has them. Will see if I can find a site with street/road signs to get familiar with. How do you deal with insurance? Call your regular provider or buy a policy from rental company?

Starfish
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Starfish » Tue May 14, 2019 1:57 pm

I drove in many counties with my California license, and Portugal is one of them.
I always refuse insurance (I have the CSR credit card) but in many countries there is a mandatory part already included in the price.

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Rager1
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Rager1 » Tue May 14, 2019 1:59 pm

We spent a month in Portugal during a 2 month road trip through Spain and Portugal in 2016. We rented a car at the Madrid Airport and returned it there on our way home.

All in all, we drove over 3,200 miles and didn't have any problems. We spent five days at the Lisbon Marriott Hotel located near the city center. It's a bit crazy, but doable. We now always rent a car with a built in GPS system. For previous international trips we used a Garmin, but we found it the least reliable when we needed it the most. So, we happily pay the extra charge for a built in GPS.

There are many tolls on Portugal’s roads, and they have an automatic credit card system. It requires you to insert your credit card at the first toll booth you reach in Portugal, and a photo is taken of your license plate. This “EZ Pass” service is good for 30 days or until you cancel. (This was the procedure when we visited in 2016). So, each time you go through a toll booth, your credit card is charged the proper toll. If you don't stay in Portugal for at least 30 days, be sure to cancel the "EZ Pass" connected to the license plate on your rental car. (This can be done online). Otherwise, the next renter's tolls will end up on your credit card statement.

Ed

michaeljc70
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by michaeljc70 » Tue May 14, 2019 2:08 pm

I did not have a car while in Lisbon as it was a short trip. A good friend just did this in February though. He kept the car while in Lisbon but used it mostly for sightseeing in the suburbs and going to Porto. He used the metro in Lisbon mostly. I am probably going to do the same this fall. The only issue he had was he happened to be walking from his hotel past the rental car and it was being hoisted up on a tow truck. He bribed the guy to get it back. Apparently the 4 spots at the corner were special and he couldn't read the sign.

Someone above said they drove in Portugal on their CA drivers license but Portugal requires an international drivers license.

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sunnywindy
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by sunnywindy » Tue May 14, 2019 2:09 pm

ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 1:43 pm
So far plan is to fly in on July 26th. Won't be there until the evening. Get a hotel near airport. Probably uber or taxi to hotel. Get a car the 27th and then drive to our destination. Think we will be close to the toll highway, so hopefully driving won't be too bad. Looking at a compact w/manual to rent. Need to get an international driver permit. Looks like AAA has them. Will see if I can find a site with street/road signs to get familiar with. How do you deal with insurance? Call your regular provider or buy a policy from rental company?
Driving in central Lisbon is a lot like driving in Pittsburgh - steep, narrow, winding, except the drivers in Lisbon are less aggressive than Pittsburgh. It is a very 'chill' city for its size. You'll be fine.

But instead of staying around the airport, I would use the Lisbon Metro to find a place to stay. The Lisbon Metro is probably the easiest airport metro I have ever used; it's right under the airport and it has a very relaxed spacious atmosphere. Depending on what time your flight gets in, I would take the Metro into downtown Lisbon for a hotel. Plenty of hotels near some of the stations and then you can stretch your legs and maybe eat a meal. Your metro ride back to the airport will be just as easy. Lisbon is a BEAUTIFUL city and you will be glad you got at least a glimpse of it on foot.
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TravelGeek
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by TravelGeek » Tue May 14, 2019 2:31 pm

michaeljc70 wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 2:08 pm
Someone above said they drove in Portugal on their CA drivers license but Portugal requires an international drivers license.
I didn’t have a CA license, but my other-west-coast state license was accepted without any issue by Hertz in Faro. (I did have a backup in my back pocket - an EU-issued drivers license - but did not use/show it).

It seems there is a lot of contradictory information about this on the web. E.g.

https://community.ricksteves.com/travel ... car-rental

(includes an email from the Portuguese consulate confirming that an IDP is not required for US-licensed drivers for short stays).

In the end, though, what matters is what the rental car agent says... and perhaps a cop pulling you over.

As for driving in Lisboa, no experience, but driving in southern Portugual was easy. And airport rentals tend to in an area with wide well-marked roads; I would rent there instead of a “local edition” in some neighborhood in Lisbon if driving in an unfamiliar country is a major concern. I would not rent a car for/during a stay in Lisbon, though. Public transportation FTW.
Rager1 wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 1:59 pm

There are many tolls on Portugal’s roads, and they have an automatic credit card system. It requires you to insert your credit card at the first toll booth you reach in Portugal, and a photo is taken of your license plate. This “EZ Pass” service is good for 30 days or until you cancel. (This was the procedure when we visited in 2016). So, each time you go through a toll booth, your credit card is charged the proper toll. If you don't stay in Portugal for at least 30 days, be sure to cancel the "EZ Pass" connected to the license plate on your rental car. (This can be done online). Otherwise, the next renter's tolls will end up on your credit card statement.
Our rental car either had its license plate already registered or a transponder. In any case, we didn’t have to register it and the toll charges were billed to our credit card by Hertz. I suspect that was a bit more expensive, but as I recall it was maybe $20-30 total for a week, and we use toll roads a lot. In any case, thanks for the tip - I will keep that in mind for our next rental.

jminv
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by jminv » Tue May 14, 2019 2:50 pm

Driving around Lisbon is not a problem to the extent of not renting a car there. It doesn’t sound like you’re staying in Lisbon so you can avoid the old narrow streets if you want to. If you are staying in Lisbon for a few days, just use the metro/public transportation while you’re there. It’s good, inexpensive, and goes to the airport. Can also get Uber for cheap. It’ll save you in rental and parking fees.

I googled this to see where the idea that Lisbon driving is to be avoided and found a couple alarmist websites. It sounded like ‘I survived driving in lisbon’ which is a little ridiculous. Honestly, there are a number of European cities that I find a lot more of a pain to drive in than Lisbon and a lot more dangerous ones in the USA.

There are two small issues with Lisbon and cars. The first is parking. It’s hard to find parking so use google maps and find the parking garage you want to park at before leaving. The map points for the parking garages aren’t necessarily at their entrances so you might need to circle around. Also, parking in garages is expensive for what is an otherwise less expensive destination. Secondly, if you miss a turn it can take awhile to figure out how to correct but that’s why you should use google maps or Waze for directions.

coalcracker
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by coalcracker » Tue May 14, 2019 2:56 pm

sunnywindy wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 2:09 pm
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 1:43 pm
So far plan is to fly in on July 26th. Won't be there until the evening. Get a hotel near airport. Probably uber or taxi to hotel. Get a car the 27th and then drive to our destination. Think we will be close to the toll highway, so hopefully driving won't be too bad. Looking at a compact w/manual to rent. Need to get an international driver permit. Looks like AAA has them. Will see if I can find a site with street/road signs to get familiar with. How do you deal with insurance? Call your regular provider or buy a policy from rental company?
Driving in central Lisbon is a lot like driving in Pittsburgh - steep, narrow, winding, except the drivers in Lisbon are less aggressive than Pittsburgh. It is a very 'chill' city for its size. You'll be fine.

But instead of staying around the airport, I would use the Lisbon Metro to find a place to stay. The Lisbon Metro is probably the easiest airport metro I have ever used; it's right under the airport and it has a very relaxed spacious atmosphere. Depending on what time your flight gets in, I would take the Metro into downtown Lisbon for a hotel. Plenty of hotels near some of the stations and then you can stretch your legs and maybe eat a meal. Your metro ride back to the airport will be just as easy. Lisbon is a BEAUTIFUL city and you will be glad you got at least a glimpse of it on foot.
Ha! I live in Pittsburgh, and driving here would be quite different from Lisbon :D

First, there are a number of pedestrian-only streets in central Lisbon, some of which are staircases. To get to one of our apartments, our driver had to loop around the circumference of the neighborhood so we could enter via a narrow alley on the other side. Some of the alleys are narrow such that you could touch the buildings on either side if you reached out of open car windows.

Also you share the streets with trolleys; once we were riding the trolley, and it was delayed for 15 minutes because someone double parked on the street. The sidewalks in many parts of the city are quite narrow, and people (including tourists) are often forced to walk on the street.

My point is that, if you've never driven a car in a European city, be prepared for some new experiences.

WhiteMaxima
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by WhiteMaxima » Tue May 14, 2019 3:13 pm

Rent the smallest car avaivable. narrow street. No need car in City of Lisbon. But if you like to visit cape roco and sintra, you will need a car. The road in Sintra area is very narrow, only allow one car to pass. Parking is very tight. I suggest take bus. Paking is expensive. get a city pass and go as you wish. If you want to explore algrave region, then you will need a car. Ask for a toll transponder. otherwise, you have to stop by post office to pay the toll.
Last edited by WhiteMaxima on Tue May 14, 2019 3:24 pm, edited 1 time in total.

California88
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by California88 » Tue May 14, 2019 3:18 pm

Just rented a car in Australia for a week ... made the reservation here - got a really good rate doing it that way (not waiting till I got there to rent it) - Portugal could be the same!

Starfish
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Starfish » Tue May 14, 2019 3:50 pm

michaeljc70 wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 2:08 pm
I did not have a car while in Lisbon as it was a short trip. A good friend just did this in February though. He kept the car while in Lisbon but used it mostly for sightseeing in the suburbs and going to Porto. He used the metro in Lisbon mostly. I am probably going to do the same this fall. The only issue he had was he happened to be walking from his hotel past the rental car and it was being hoisted up on a tow truck. He bribed the guy to get it back. Apparently the 4 spots at the corner were special and he couldn't read the sign.

Someone above said they drove in Portugal on their CA drivers license but Portugal requires an international drivers license.
I have never heard of any country to require IDL. By require I mean you cannot get your car from the rental company, not a 20$ or even 200$ fine. However my driving experience is limited to ~ 10 countries.

dot00
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by dot00 » Tue May 14, 2019 6:22 pm

I found driving in Lisbon a bit hairy but not that scary. I think I only had one or two Clark Griswold-style affairs with the roundabouts. :D The drive down to the Algarve was easy.

TravelGeek
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by TravelGeek » Tue May 14, 2019 7:10 pm

Starfish wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 3:50 pm
I have never heard of any country to require IDL. By require I mean you cannot get your car from the rental company, not a 20$ or even 200$ fine. However my driving experience is limited to ~ 10 countries.
Technically it's called IDP -- Permit, not License. Whatever the difference may be, but it helps in searches.

The IDP is essentially a certified and standardized translation of your national drivers license into 10 languages. It's not valid to operate a vehicle by itself and must be accompanied by the original drivers license. The idea is to make licenses such as

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driving_licence_in_Japan

decipherable by police officers (and car rental agents, I guess) worldwide. The US Government states:

"People who drive in the U.S. must have a valid driver's license. Some states require an International Driving Permit (IDP) from foreign nationals, in addition to a valid license from your own country. Contact the motor vehicle department of each state you will drive in for its requirements. "

https://www.usa.gov/visitors-driving

I am currently researching a trip to Greece and found the following:

"U.S. citizen tourists/temporary residents with stays less than six months must have a driver’s license from the United States and an international driver’s permit (IDP) issued by American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance to drive or rent a car in Greece. (...)

Some Greek rental car agencies rent cars to tourists without informing them of problems that might occur if one is driving without the proper documentation. If you drive without one of these documents, you may face high fines or be responsible for all expenses in the event of an accident."

https://gr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-se ... in-greece/

In the end, as I mentioned earlier, it doesn't really matter what anecdotal stories we find on the internet. If the rental car agent as LIS airport insists on an IDP, it doesn't help the OP if TravelGeek on Bogleheads told him/her that Hertz in Faro didn't ask for it.

kenoryan
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by kenoryan » Tue May 14, 2019 8:44 pm

We were in Portugal last year. We flew into Lisbon from Chicago, took an Uber to our Airbnb right in downtown on the river. We spent 3 days in Lisbon and we ubered everywhere. It was dirt cheap. We took a tour bus to Sintra and Cascais. Then we rented a car from the airport and drove to Lagos for a week. It was no trouble at all. Returned the car at the Lisbon airport and spent a few days again in Lisbon. Then took an uber to the airport and flew back to Chicago. It’s only $10 to the airport from downtown.

My wife and I both drove on our US licenses. No IDP. Europcar..Nice little Mercedes.

SCb&b
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by SCb&b » Tue May 14, 2019 8:57 pm

Was in Lisbon less than a year ago. Would never drive in the city - ubers and taxis are plentiful and cheap and roads are narrow, steep and one-way.

However we did rent a car on outskirts of town and drove south out of Lisbon down to coast and then back without a problem. Just have a navigation system or google maps and you'll be fine. No IDL required. They did try to screw us on not having an automatic car available so pre-pay if you can or use reputable US rental car company.

Kiter
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Kiter » Tue May 14, 2019 9:17 pm

Avoid commuting times if you can, the fact that you are asking this question means you WILL be tailgated.

Starfish
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by Starfish » Tue May 14, 2019 11:20 pm

TravelGeek wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 7:10 pm
Starfish wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 3:50 pm
I have never heard of any country to require IDL. By require I mean you cannot get your car from the rental company, not a 20$ or even 200$ fine. However my driving experience is limited to ~ 10 countries.
Technically it's called IDP -- Permit, not License. Whatever the difference may be, but it helps in searches.

The IDP is essentially a certified and standardized translation of your national drivers license into 10 languages. It's not valid to operate a vehicle by itself and must be accompanied by the original drivers license. The idea is to make licenses such as

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Driving_licence_in_Japan

decipherable by police officers (and car rental agents, I guess) worldwide. The US Government states:

"People who drive in the U.S. must have a valid driver's license. Some states require an International Driving Permit (IDP) from foreign nationals, in addition to a valid license from your own country. Contact the motor vehicle department of each state you will drive in for its requirements. "

https://www.usa.gov/visitors-driving

I am currently researching a trip to Greece and found the following:

"U.S. citizen tourists/temporary residents with stays less than six months must have a driver’s license from the United States and an international driver’s permit (IDP) issued by American Automobile Association (AAA) and the American Automobile Touring Alliance to drive or rent a car in Greece. (...)

Some Greek rental car agencies rent cars to tourists without informing them of problems that might occur if one is driving without the proper documentation. If you drive without one of these documents, you may face high fines or be responsible for all expenses in the event of an accident."

https://gr.usembassy.gov/u-s-citizen-se ... in-greece/

In the end, as I mentioned earlier, it doesn't really matter what anecdotal stories we find on the internet. If the rental car agent as LIS airport insists on an IDP, it doesn't help the OP if TravelGeek on Bogleheads told him/her that Hertz in Faro didn't ask for it.
Thank you, good to know. I have a AAA membership, I will stop tomorrow at their offices to get one. It cannot hurt.

111
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by 111 » Wed May 15, 2019 7:58 am

I lived in Lisbon for 2 years and drove and it isn't really too bad for the most part. The one thing you have to watch out for is following your GPS into old walled cities. GPS might say "turn right" when the "street" to the right is only like 4' wide.

But, the highways are easy and getting to Obidos was easy. We just parked in the lot at the bottom and walked up, but I think if you are staying there you may be able to drive up and park somewhere, I'm not really sure.

Try to make sure your rental car has the Via Verde (EZ Pass type thing) so you don't have to worry about the tolls as they can be a pain to deal with. Some have no actual booths to pay at and just record your license plate going through and then you have to pay at a post office within a week or so. Even if the rental place charges extra for the Via Verde it is worth it for the convenience.

WhyNotUs
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Re: Driving in Lisbon Portugal?

Post by WhyNotUs » Thu May 16, 2019 7:30 am

Given this scenario you won't really be driving in Lisbon much at all. The core of Lisbon has narrow streets, lots of one ways, and some trolleys and that is what someone might fear. The airport is right off of E1 and that will connect to whatever route you are taking north. There are quite a few freeway exits before you get too far but as long as you have gps on phone or in car then you should be fine.

Driving there seemed pretty normal to me, nothing exceptional except the tolls, so make sure to get the device from your car rental company to pay the tolls. They also use the camera for speeding tickets there, the black Mercedes and Audi that blew by me must have exemption as I got a ticket and was only 10 kmh over limit.

I got the Intl DL, many people do not but I did. It is a requirement but I can't recall whether the rental co asked to see it, I don't think so. I had planned to use my credit card rental coverage, insurance is a hard sell for some of the car rental companies in PT. However, when I went on Auto Europe for a quote, there was a rental company with a small car within my budget that included $0 deductible so I just rented that instead.
ChinchillaWhiplash wrote:
Tue May 14, 2019 1:43 pm
So far plan is to fly in on July 26th. Won't be there until the evening. Get a hotel near airport. Probably uber or taxi to hotel. Get a car the 27th and then drive to our destination. Think we will be close to the toll highway, so hopefully driving won't be too bad. Looking at a compact w/manual to rent. Need to get an international driver permit. Looks like AAA has them. Will see if I can find a site with street/road signs to get familiar with. How do you deal with insurance? Call your regular provider or buy a policy from rental company?
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