Tips for Renting a Car and Driving Around Portugal

PUBLISHED ON Jan, 20 2023


Some people think that renting a vehicle while on vacation is complicated. Some are also intimidated by the idea of driving on roads unfamiliar to them. Who wants the additional stress, right? Of course everyone wants his vacation to be smooth and relaxing!

Fret not! Getting around Portugal on your own is not as hard or as stressful as you think. Here are some tips to make your journey fun and stress-free.

Research the car rental agencies.

Read the consumer reviews available to know which firms are worth considering and which ones should be avoided like the plague.

I suggest that you take note of the company’s fuel policy. Choose a company that offers either a “Return to Same Level” or “Full to Full” policy. A “Full to Empty” policy often results in you having to pay the rental agency a higher fuel price and chances are, you will return the vehicle with a half full tank and the company will sell the fuel to the next customer.

Also, not all cars have air conditioning, so request for that when booking. If you’re going to Alvor or other small towns, a compact car is the best choice because some roads are very narrow.

In addition, automatic vehicles tend to be rare and more costly, so if you can drive a manual car, opt for that instead. If an automatic car is what you need, book early to be sure it is available.

Consider getting an Excess Waiver Insurance before your trip.

Most car rental companies offer a Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) or a Loss Damage Waiver (LDW) which can help lower your out-of-pocket costs if you are in an accident. However, both protections come with an excess or deductible that must be paid and this can range from $500 to $2,500 or more.

A car hire excess insurance policy is a very affordable way to make sure that an excess or deductible payment doesn’t ruin your holiday. This coverage will reimburse you if you must pay the excess or deductible due to an accident with your rental car.

Our European Car Hire Excess Insurance covers your car rentals for a year:

With this, in case you damage the rental car, you can get a refund for the excess that you would pay.

There are car rental companies that are very pushy when it comes to selling their excess waiver insurance. Besides, the ones sold by these rental firms are more expensive than the ones you can get from third-party companies, so do proper research to find the best deal in terms of both price and coverage.

Use a satnav system.

Unless you love the thrill of possibly getting lost, I highly recommend that you get a satnav system. There are three options available to you:

  1. Use the one you own. If you choose to do this, make sure that it has accurate maps of your destination country (or countries).
  2. Rent a satnav from the car rental company. With this, you will have to pay around an extra 3 euros every day and you will have to learn how to program this new device, which can be challenging when it’s dark.
  3. Install a satnav app on your mobile phone. I have tried Waze, which works well and is free, just make sure to familiarize yourself with it before your trip. You can download it from

Know about the A22 and its tolls.

The A22 highway runs east-west across the Algarve. There are tolls but they are worth the money. In January, it is nearly empty, so if you want the fastest way to your destination, this is it. If you prefer to take a longer and more leisurely ride to enjoy the scenery, all without paying any toll, you can ride along the N125 instead.

Many rental companies have cars that are equipped with transponder units that update their record whenever you encounter a toll bridge. The toll fees will then be charged to your card when you return the vehicle.

Be mindful of bad drivers

There have been reports of bad drivers in Portugal, and accident reports back this up. I, personally, did not observe this problem when I was in the country. It is also possible that some of the terrible driving you will encounter are by a foreigner who is distracted by his companions or confused with the signs, roads, and features of the car that he is not yet familiar with.

Have a USB charger pack.

Your phone and other gadgets will inevitably run out of charge at some point in your trip. To avoid the hassle, I recommend that you bring a USB battery charger with you and always keep it charged. Such a device usually has multiple sockets so you can charge more than one gadget at a time. Some also have sockets that have different amperage, so make sure that your gadget is plugged into the correct slot.


Enjoy your trip!

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Can I buy a plan for just one day?

Yes. Insurance for a single day is available.

Can I buy a plan for part of my rental only?

No. We provide a single journey plan. You are covered from the time you pick up the rental car up to the time you return it or on the last date written on your Certificate of Insurance, whichever comes first.

Can I buy a plan when I pick up my rental car?

No. You should purchase a policy before starting your travel.

Find the answers you’re looking for to the most frequently asked car hire insurance questions as well as other questions relating to our products and services.

Visit the FAQ page