Elderly couple driving through Portugal, is it safe?

My parents (early fifties) plan to drive themselves around portugal and neighboring countries. Is it safe for them? I read that Portugal has the highest road fatality statistics in Europe. Is this true? If so, would you recommend that my parents go on with their plan? I'd really appreciate your comments on this.


Country: Portugal


"Lisbon the capital of Portugal may be considered the safest and most shining city in Europe. Perhaps also one of the last worldwide refugia without religious confrontations." Let your parents come, no ? Text: Francisco Huguenin Uhlfelder
Lisbon is a beautiful city HOWEVER the Portuguese are not just notorious for bad driving but they suffer from chronic road rage. I have lived here, and driven here, for 13 years now. Never had an accident. Your parents will be fine if they follow these few rules: Stay out of the far left hand lane unless they are passing. Many people with BMW, Mercedes, Audis, etc., drive like maniacs and will fly up behind you and not let off the gas: you have to get out of their way. It is incredibly rude, selfish and indulgent behavior but a percentage of Portuguese drivers do this. Another percentage are incredibly irritated by it. They should stay in the far right hand lane and let people pass. There is no gray here - left is for passing, right is for slower traffic. On the off roads, in the countryside, you are expected to allow people to pass you if it is a single lane. You will see many people driving in the emergency lane to let people pass them. It is the safest thing to do and expected outside of Lisbon. I would suggest that they not navigate Lisbon too much as some of the round abouts are very confusing and Lisbon has a good transportation system. Driving in and parking or driving out. To get to the most beautiful areas of Portugal they HAVE TO DRIVE. Those statistics that you have quoted are from a highway up north, the A1, and the road is poorly engineered and sometimes floods when it rains. Plus, people drive too fast and they can not control their cars. People tail gate here the way they do in Italy and Greece. Tell your parents never to hit their brakes to warn someone to back off. They will get harassed later on for it.

I sincerely think that your parents will be fine - I understand your concern. The Spanish drive basically the same way so they will be seasoned by they time they arrive here. The Portuguese are very kind and compassionate people so if they get lost, they can just point to a map and they will be given the best instructions possible.
we have driven all over Europe and have not found the Portuguese to be any worse than any other country. Some of the minor roads in Portugal are not as good as we would like but the motorways are fine and empty away from the major cities.
If they are on the Algarve tell them to look us up,
P.S. 50 is not elderly we know people in their 80s who drive all over Europe in motorhomes.
Hi! Portugal is relatively safe, as long as you´re careful and dont walk around at night, It also depends on where your parents want to go. Lisbon, the capital, could be less safe at night but its worth the visit. If you need anymore help regarding places to see please let me know.
Well, the crime rate is rising because of the crisis but it's still lower than the majority of the countries throughout Europe. If they use common sense when walking or driving they'll certainly be allright.

As for the road fatality statistics you've mentioned, they're true. But I've driven in many european countries and don't find it that bad. Of course in Switzerland or Austria no one speeds but if you go to Italy, Malta, Spain, etc. you'll find that we (latins) are a little bit on the high-tempered side. If your parents travel within the speed limit and cautiously they'll have no problem. We have plenty of foreigners that drive through our country during Spring and Summer with their caravans.

I'm sure they will go back home saying that the portuguese are really one of the nicest peoples they've met.
Have fun
3 words: They must come. Basta !
Portugal is a pretty safe country to visit or to live... Regarding the road issues, as others have said, as long as they are careful, they are sure to have no problems.
Portugal is a pretty safe country to visit or to live... Regarding the road issues, as others have said, as long as they are careful, they are sure to have no problems.
as an english driver i have found no problems the major cities be careful as you would anyway but the open roads and main motorways are fine.
Answers by my fellow Localyters are most interesting. The reality is that here people on the roads are total lunatics, and, they are in complete denial. Meaning, the situation is not close to improve... cars here are extremely expensive: at least 30% more than anywhere else in Europe. This does not stop people from getting into serious debt to buy super powerful German gas guzzlers. These cars are essentially ego friendly vehicles... on the road, they play PacMan.. for real! My advice: get your dad to train for Portugal on Super Mario on WII. This will get him in the mood... one last thing.... get really drunk before getting in the car... you don't want to be the only one to be sober on the motorway.
They should be fine. Stick to the better quality main itineraries
If your parents enjoy driving safely they will be fine - just dont expect the same conditions and road rules as in England.

If they are used to driving anywhere around the London access/traffic jam spots, they will be used to the traffic jams that are a regular part of urban landscape here and on the numerous road works that are on the highways...

I agree with the advice to stay in the right hand lane as those drivers that abuse safe driving do come very fast and as if out of no-where sometimes.

It is useful to know that most people dont indicate so you need to keep your eyes scanning on all sides and be ready for sudden changes of lanes without warning.

Also motorbike riders criss cross between lanes with total abandon and fast...

If they have GPS then driving around Lisboa and Porto is fine - just expect to get lost once in a while and for the trip to probably take longer than exected due to traffic jams.

Above all, explore - go along the coast and into the mountains, the Minho, Douro, Alentejo are all wonderful parts of Portugal as well as the more frequently mentioned Algarve.

The amazing thing about Portugal - whilst it is a small country, it has very different landscapes, local foods and traditions from place to place.

In order to really explore, get of the highways and meander through the different regions. You will discover helpful people, plentiful fresh and tasty food and wine and a beautiful landscape.

Check out the Pousadas and Quintas for quality accomodation in historic buildings (last minute bookings can have advantages for best prices) and talk to the local people for recommendations as to special places, restaurants and guest house...

To be honest Portugal does have a reputation for poor driving but I suspect it's similar to driving to in many major cities like London and certainly not as stressful as Paris. The roads around Portugal are mixed, most of the major roads and highways/motorways are in good condition with several lanes and your parents would just need to keep inthe right lane, you do experience fast drivers coming very close behind you and it is advisable to move to an inside lane but keeping an eye on the rear mirror is good advice for anyone. Some of the country roads are narrow but similar to driving in Wales or Cornwall. Its all about keeping your concentration but not scary. I hope that helps.
Hi there. I'm sure your parents will be fine as long as they drive carefully and are aware that there are some drivers that overstep the mark. It is mainly due to drink driving and the worse times to be on the roads are late at night and after lunch. Tell them to take their time, the speed limit on the motorway here is 120k/h but few Portuguese drivers abide by it. The coaches (buses) have speed detectors on board and cannot pass the speed limit so stay on the inside lane with them! Overtake only when necessary and you have a clear view ahead. Common sense is the key, don't flash cash and keep valuables (and mobiles) out of sight. I'm sure they'll have a wonderful time because this is the most beautiful country in Europe and the Portuguese people are lovely and friendly. Hope they have a great journey.
I’ve read pretty useful tips from all this answers. Following this basic rules, all is well. Portugal is safe for sure. Just do not miss Sintra, very close to Lisbon. There are so amazing places to visit in this country, better plan well… I am much helpful for Lisbon area only.
But you cannot miss a visit to the Alentejo, Porto, Bragança, Amarante, and Nazaré.
I wouldn’t finish without saying that good European insurance is very helpful in any case because it turns everything faster and easyer(airport issues, car and hotel assistance, etc.).
Let them come and visit one of the most beautiful country of Europe!
I guess it is! I drove at Italy. There is really madness!
And by the way: driving with fear is not the best way for do it!
Portugal gas a reputation but things are improved. Most roads are very quiet. Only the big cities have very intensive traffic. For Lisbon the best thing is to park your car just outsite the city and take a bus or the metro.
when they take their time they can safely drive here
Madeleine van Rossem
I think its great that your parents thave this opportunity to drive through such a beautiful country as Portugal and many others in Europe. I have been here for 5 years and yes you do get your lack of civicism on the road but over all its okay. Just try not to drive at night, dawn or dusk and have a good map or GPS (although GPS might not show all the little nice villages they might like to visit). But people are usually very helpful when you are lost or looking for a place. In the big cities, like Lisbon or Porto rather drive in and park and use the public transport services, they are great and better for sigthseeing. Should they pass Alcobaça, where one of the 7 wonders of Portugal is, please tell them to look me up, I would love to show them around. Happy travels.
Well, what you read is true. The drivers here in Portugal are fast drivers and when they have to stop, by example befor a cross road, they stop on the last minute that's possible. And when it is reaning, they drive just the same way as when the sun is shining. So it's mostly than, that a lot of accidents happens. Because they sometimes don't seem to understand, that when it is raining, the roads are slippery.
So about that, its true that the portugues people aren't the safest drivers.
But I don't think that should be the reasen to cancel there driving vacation here in P. They just have to keep in mind that they have to be more alert when they're driving. So I think they should go on with their plan. ;-)
Greets Tabita and sorry if mine English is a little bad!
Hi!Your parents will be fine driving themselves around Portugal and Spain. The stats are mainly due to irresponsabilities and holidays...If your parents take the highways they will have no problem getting around; the secondary roads are ok too. Take the usual precautions like avoiding rush hours and driving late at night and i think they will have a great time!

Also, northern Portugal and Spain are mainly industrial so you must pay more attention when driving to these places because you'll find more trucks on the road.

Basically it´s fine to drive around (and a great way to know Portugal). There are no dangerous cities or regions. Take the same precautions you normally take when travelling and enjoy! Tell me if i can help you with anything else.
Hello Vasan,
I think it's safety...until now I haven't any kind of problems. The problems is in the national roads (old and lots of transit) and the secondary roads. You have the A1 - lisbon /Porto (north); A2 Lisbon /Algarve (sud) and A8 - for the coast of Portugal.
Please enjoy the voyage and find the region of Alentejo (sud). Lovely!

See you
You shouldn't worry so much about statistics. Sure portugal has a higher road fatality then any other country in europe, but i do'nt think it's the worst one to drive in. My parents are also early fifties, and even if they didn't know portugal i would be routing for them, and getting them information about nice places to visit. The important thing is to enjoy!!! If they do come i hope they enjoy!!!
Well, I have read all my fellow localytes answers and I believe that you have already a lot of material to decide to decide the following:
They can bring the car but in major cities and highways they need to be careful and preferably park the car when they go to Lisbon and Porto. For the rest of the cities they will be able to drive in and park the car easily.
In Lisbon and Porto they should just search for a good guide to take them to the best spots.

At night all Portuguese cities are safe if they stick for the normal areas - and I guess they are not going to be in dark roads at 4am...:)
Without a dought we do have a high road fatality rate, but do you in all honesty think that is that statistic that is going to change your parents opinion about coming to Portugal??
In every country you have the danger associated to something, you have to focus and help them to search new and unic experiences and beautiful things to see and experience, and I guarantee that there so many they would stay here for ages
Without a dought we do have a high road fatality rate, but do you in all honesty think that is that statistic that is going to change your parents opinion about coming to Portugal??
In every country you have the danger associated to something, you have to focus and help them to search new and unic experiences and beautiful things to see and experience, and I guarantee that there so many they would stay here for ages
For all I'v read here it seems to me that most of the people year with those long opinions either never travelled around or are simple scared tourists. Lisbon, Portugal itself is for sure one of the most safe countries left in Europe.
Your parents are early fifties as you say...not 150 Jesus Christ!!!! They are still very young!
Portugal is safe, just abide the simple rules. Right lane always, except when passing. Park the car in Lisbon and take the Metro(underground) almost everywhere. Get out of Lisbon. Take A5 and see Cascais and Sintra. Go north in A8 Oeste to visit beautiful Silver Coast like Obidos, S. Martinho do Porto and Nazare. When in that area, if you need any help, contact me. In A8, before Obidos, take IP6 to visit Peniche,beautiful beaches and dozens of seafood restaurants. Take A1 in Leiria and follow North. Make sure to visit Figueira da Foz and Coimbra, then up to Aveiro on the way up to Porto. While in Porto, park the car and visit downtown(ribeira)and anywhere else you feel like, mostly during the day. Book a tour up the Douro river. Leave Porto through A3 to Braga, then A11 to Guimarães. Follow North to Ponte de Lima.
Make sure to visit Geres Mountain. Come back down A11 and get IP4 to interior to Bragança. Come down the interior through IP2, stop in Guarda, then Covilhã and go up Portugal's highest mountain Serra Estrela. Keep coming down in IP2, visit all the beautiful interior towns, try their cheeses ans sausages, and wonderful food. Stop at Evora, park outside the walls and go around by foot. Getting out of Evora, go to the interior for a little bit and visit Monsaraz and the Alqueva lakes. Try the local red wine like Reguengos, Monte Velho and Borba. Come down IP2 until A2 motorway, visit Vila Nova de Mil Fontes and Zambujeira do Mar, great west Alentejo coastal spots. Follow down the Alentejo coast until you reach the southern province of Algarve at its westermost point. Then,just take A22, also called Via do Infante from one end of Portugal until Spain, making sure to take detours and visiting all coastal cities and beaches,namely, Portimão, Albufeira,Vilamoura, Faro, Olhão, Tavira. Once in Vila Real de Santo António, the far southeast city of Portugal, go up IC27 through interior Alentejo province until Beja, stopping in Mertola and anywhere you want along the way,take IP 8 back to A2 and up to Lisbon region, taking a detour to the left towards Setubal, take the coastal toad to Sesimbra , enjoying along the way all the beautiful scenery of beach coves. In sesimbra, go down by the water and eat some seafood. A12 out of Sesimbra, to A2 that takes you back to Lisbon. You'll be safe, and have seen Portugal at it's best.
Crime in Portugal is, by European standards, relatively low. However crimes do occur in Portugal with petty theft in larger towns, cities and tourist resort areas of the country a reality. More serious crimes such as robbery, murder and sexual assaults do occur in Portugal, though not in the numbers reported by other European countries.

Portugal is a relatively safe country to visit and live in, but it is always advisable to be vigilant with your personal possessions and safety.

There are two main police forces in Portugal - the metropolitan Policia de Seguranca Publica (PSP) and Guarda National Republicana (GNR).

The emergency number for the police is 112.

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