Traffic in Portugal: bumper stickers and priority givers
Traffic is traffic you’d say
Yes, true, but it is just a little bit different everywhere.
And because you (probably) don’t drive your own car, you naturally drive a little more carefully.
Hopefully this helps to make you feel confident behind the wheel.
Point One: the roads are not too good
Certainly in the direction of Soure, there is plenty of bumpin’. So don’t drive too fast, because the car can only take so much.
What many Portuguese people do (including me): drive in the middle of the road, you’ll miss all the potholes and treeroot marks on the side. Only when you see an oncoming car coming you go to your own side. (We drive on the right side of the street, by the way ;))
Brings me to the following point:
anticipatory driving. Driving is of course about rules, but there are very few people here (read: police) who pay attention to this. So it’s mainly about whether you take your responsibility. If you don’t have much experience yet, it might be a bit trickier, but a good exercise.
Look ahead and calculate what your fellow road users will do.
(And what the road is going to do, because sometimes a bend seems to be a piece of cake, but once you get in it’s quite a challenge!)
That was once a lot more difficult, because in the past you could experience that a farmer just drove his old Ford with 30 kilometers unexpectedly onto the main road. Without looking up or down.
You’ll not experience that anymore. Those people are extinct, and their shiny vintage Fords too. The new generation drives around in neat new cars, all of which still have to be paid off, so they won’t do any of those tricks. They’re instead very careful – with their own car.
Many of our foreign guests complain about that exciting habit. And yes, I get it, because I’ve already had one on the back twice. That is never your fault, but annoying because of all the hassle that you get over you immediately. Filling out insurance papers is nobody’s hobby.
The first time it happened to me was because I was braking in a reflex for a dog that jumped onto the road just before my van. Now that is a rarity, and you always respond well with your brake reflex, but the lady behind me wasn’t paying attention.
Braked but slipped (this point will come back later).
Important point: what can you do about tail gating?
In fact: nothing. If you find it really annoying, and you notice that it makes you nervous, then just continue to breathe, and find a place to get out of the way. Grumbling, swearing and becoming nervous will not help you and your life (and that of your passengers) forward in a positive way.
Just continue at your own pace, and keep on smiling. Don’t be tempted by a power game.
With rain everything becomes different. We don’t have that wonderful asphalt here that you have in the north. The portuguese asphalt becomes slippery with rain or high humidity. That means that you have to drive a little slower, and especially in the winds and curves and bends. (We have a lot of those here!)
If you feel that you are going into a slip:
remain calm, steer a bit to the other side(don’t exaggerate) and especially don’t brake too hard. Then you definitely go in a slip. If you feel that you no longer have control of your car, you start pumping brakes. To me it seems a clear term, but for the sake of clarity: a moment to brake and then let go, and that a number of times in succession. You can also apply the parking brake. Moderately.
Snow, frost and associated slippery conditions – we don’t do those things here.
Boom means stop
Sun in your eyes! In the summer you won’t be bothered by that, because then the sun’s nice and high, but otherwise it can be pretty annoying, that sun. A good pair of sunglasses and your sunscreen down helps of course, but sometimes you go – just sayin’ – with the rising sun to the pastelaria, to buy fresh bread. Or you want to see the sun sink into the ocean. In both cases you will no longer be able to see anything because of the angle of the sun.
Then don’t drive too fast and in the middle of the road, because then you only know that there are cyclists and hikers on the road when you feel and hear a boom.
What the Portuguese don’t / do in traffic
I’ve rarely seen people use their flashing lights on a roundabout. Flashing lights are being used less and less often. Very annoying if you are waiting or holding back, because you are so nicely anticipatingly driving but have gambled wrong.
Portuguese drive fast. Don’t be tempted to participate if you don’t have your driver’s license for that long. Speeding is quite an art. And not everyone understands that art …
If anyone only looks at a pedestrian crossing, you stop. That’s common, and it’s considered incredibly rude when you drive on. If you really saw it too late, make an apologetic gesture.
The Portuguese are in fact quite polite, also in traffic. We would like to keep it that way, because the bluntness with which people drive in the north is not something you should want.
Priority is given. Let another person go before you and smile. It makes you feel so much better!
Nowadays you’ll find these signs in many places, in combination with a series of traffic lights. If you go faster than 50, the traffic light turns red. You never know if a camera is attached to it, so too bad.
On the way to Coimbra you’ll encounter these a few times.
It is compensated by the fact that you’ll see all traffic lights in Coimbra equipped with a counter. Very handy. This way you can chill out smoothly, because it still takes 68 seconds for you to turn green again.
Undoubtedly an unnecessary paragraph. Your phone is comfortable in its little corner, and you’ll see all chat messages on arrival.
Now, all the above reads as if you really have to be aware of all kinds of things, driving in Portugal. Not true. It was just to prepare you for some minor changes you will encounter. I hope it helps you to get behind the wheel of your (rental) car confidently and prepared!
We moved here in 2000 from Rotterdam, Holland to the Termas-da-Azenha, Portugal. A big step, especially with two small children. We are busy to rebuild one of portugals cultural heirlooms: Termas-da-Azenha, an old spa which has been turned into several holiday homes, rooms and campsites, with a lots of fun things to do: swimming pool, indoor and outdoor games like pingpong, petanque, a FancyDressingRoom and a small café. You’ll find and paintings everywhere.
The old bathhouse is going to be a museum, where you can see how things have changed. Since 2018 we call ourselves the first B&B&B in the world – Bed & Breakfast & Bathrobes. You can buy a home-made unique bathrobe/housecoat with us.
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