How to Rent a Car in Lisbon

Portugal’s capital, Lisbon, is one of Europe’s genuinely undiscovered, and unspoilt, gems. The Castelo de São Jorge sits at the top of the historic Alfama district, looking down across the River Tagus, and the stunning Ponte 25 de Abril suspension bridge. At the waterside, the historic Belém district is a tourist’s delight, and is home to the historic monastery, the Contemporary Arts Museum and the Torre de Belém, not to mention the Pasteis de Belém, the original pasteis de nata pastry that is beloved by the Portuguese and visitors alike

In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the intricacies of renting a car in Lisbon, exploring the when, why, and how of this transportation choice.

Disclaimer: This post contains affiliate links. If you book or buy something through these links, I earn a small commission to keep this website going (at no extra cost to you) so its a win-win!

Why Rent a Car in Lisbon?

One of the primary reasons to opt for a rental car is the freedom it offers. Public transportation is undoubtedly efficient within Lisbon, but to venture out to Cabo de Roca, Sintra, Mafra, Cascais, and beyond, you need a car. I personally recommend to book a car through

No fixed schedules or crowded buses – just the open road and your itinerary.

Discover Hidden Gems Outside of Lisbon

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Lisbon boasts architectural wonders and vibrant city life, the real gems often lie off the beaten path. You can discover charming villages, secluded beaches, and local eateries that might be missed by those confined to city limits. The whims of exploration are at your fingertips.

Scenic Drives and Panoramic Views Outside of Lisbon

Portugal’s landscapes are diverse, from coastal vistas in Nazaré and Cabo de Roca, to the golden sand beaches of Carvalhal Beach just south of Lisbon. Renting a car opens up the possibility of indulging in scenic drives along the Costa Dorada or conquering the hairpin bends of the Pyrenees. Capture breathtaking views, stop at viewpoints, and create your own personalized adventure.

Nazaré: Located on the picturesque coast of Portugal, is renowned for its stunning beaches, vibrant culture, and world-famous giant waves. This coastal town attracts surfers and spectators alike, thanks to the awe-inspiring waves that can reach incredible heights, particularly at Praia do Norte. Nazaré’s traditional charm is reflected in its narrow cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and the iconic Sanctuary of Our Lady of Nazaré perched atop a cliff, offering breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Beyond its natural beauty, Nazaré boasts a rich maritime history, with fishermen still using traditional wooden boats and donning distinctively colorful attire. Visitors can savor fresh seafood in local restaurants, explore the historic sites, and immerse themselves in the lively atmosphere of this captivating Portuguese gem.

Cabo de Roca: Situated on the westernmost point of continental Europe in Portugal, is a dramatic and rugged headland that commands breathtaking views of the Atlantic Ocean. Known as “The Edge of the World,” Cabo de Roca is marked by towering cliffs that plunge dramatically into the sea, creating a stunning and wild coastal landscape. The site is distinguished by a lighthouse and a monument commemorating its geographic significance. Visitors are treated to panoramic vistas of the untamed ocean, with the crashing waves below adding to the sense of awe. Cabo de Roca holds historical significance as a landmark navigational point and, with its windswept beauty, attracts travelers seeking both natural wonders and a sense of standing on the edge of the European continent.

Carvalhal Beach: Located on the stunning Comporta coastline in Portugal, is a pristine and idyllic stretch of golden sands bordered by dunes and pine forests. This unspoiled beach offers a serene retreat away from the hustle and bustle, characterized by its natural beauty and tranquility. The clear blue waters of the Atlantic Ocean gently meet the shore, making it an inviting spot for sunbathing and swimming. Carvalhal Beach is favored by surfers for its consistent waves, attracting both beginners and experienced surf enthusiasts. The surrounding landscape is dotted with beach bars and seafood restaurants, providing a perfect setting to savor local cuisine while enjoying panoramic ocean views. With its unpretentious charm and natural allure, Carvalhal Beach is a hidden gem for those seeking a peaceful and picturesque coastal experience in Portugal.

Time Efficiency

For those with a limited schedule, time is of the essence. A rental car ensures that you maximize your time exploring rather than waiting for public transport connections. Whether you’re chasing sunset on Carvalhal Beach or catching the biggest waves you have ever seen in Nazaré.

When Renting a Car in Lisbon is a Bad Idea

Renting a car in Lisbon may not be ideal for everyone, depending on the traveler’s preferences and the nature of their trip. Here are some reasons why renting a car in Lisbon might be considered a less favorable option:

Efficient Public Transportation: Lisbon has a comprehensive public transportation system that includes buses, metro lines, trams, and Uber. This network is efficient, cost-effective, and allows visitors to explore the city conveniently without the hassle of driving.

Limited Parking: Parking in the city center can be scarce and expensive. Finding a suitable parking spot can be time-consuming, and some accommodations might not offer convenient parking facilities. Additionally, parking fines are not uncommon for those unfamiliar with local regulations.

Urban Congestion: Lisbon is the city of seven hills. Navigating the city streets, which can be narrow and congested, may be challenging and stressful for drivers, especially those unfamiliar with local traffic patterns.

Historic and Pedestrian Areas: Much of Lisbon’s charm lies in exploring the city on foot. It’s not advised to rent a car inside the city center.

What Does it Cost to Rent a Car in Lisbon

While rates are subject to change, here are some general pricing guidelines on

Economy Cars: On average, economy cars can start from around €20 to €40 per day.

Compact Cars: Rates for compact cars may range from €25 to €60 per day.

Mid-Size Cars: Mid-size cars can be in the range of €35 to €80 per day.

SUVs and Larger Vehicles: Rates for SUVs and larger vehicles might start from €50 and can go up to €120 or more per day.

Luxury Cars: Luxury or premium car rentals will have higher rates, typically starting from €80 to several hundred euros per day.

It’s crucial to carefully read the terms and conditions, including insurance coverage, mileage limitations, and any potential additional charges. Also, consider customer reviews and the reputation of the rental company when making your decision. 

I would recommend the following companies: Hertz, Enterprise, and Budget.

How to Rent a Car in Lisbon

Documents Needed For Renting a Car and Driving Legally in Portugal

To rent a car and drive legally in Spain, you typically need the following documents:

Driving License: You must have a valid driver’s license. International visitors usually can use their national driving license, provided it’s in Roman characters. If your license is not in Roman characters, an International Driving Permit (IDP) is often recommended as well.

Proof of Identity: Carry a valid passport or national ID card.

Credit Card: Most rental companies require a credit card in the driver’s name for the security deposit. Debit cards may not be accepted or may come with additional conditions. You should always travel with at least one travel rewards credit cards. Here are my favorite travel credit cards.

Age Requirement: The minimum age to rent a car in Portugal is typically 18-21, and drivers under 25 might incur a young drivers surcharge.

Rental Voucher/Booking Confirmation: Have the rental voucher or booking confirmation from the rental company. This includes details of your reservation.

Insurance Documents: Verify the insurance coverage provided by the rental company. It’s common to have basic insurance included, but additional coverage might be advisable. If you have a Chase Sapphire Travel Rewards credit card, primary insurance is included (a HUGE perk that will save you a lot of money!).

International Driving Permit (IDP): While not always mandatory, an IDP is recommended, especially if your driver’s license is not in Roman characters. It translates the details of your national license into multiple languages.

Related: What’s an International Driving Permit?

Traffic Violation Payment: Ensure you have a way to pay for any potential traffic violations. Some rental companies charge administrative fees for handling traffic fines.

Proof of Accommodation: Some rental companies might ask for proof of your accommodation in Lisbon.

Always check the specific requirements of the rental company you choose, as there can be variations.

 It’s also essential to familiarize yourself with local traffic rules and regulations in Portugal, including speed limits, parking rules, and any specific driving conditions. Additionally, consider purchasing adequate insurance coverage to ensure you’re protected during your travels.

Tips for Renting a Car in Lisbon

1. Book in Advance: Secure your rental car online before arriving in Lisbon for better deals and availability.

2. Understand Local Traffic Rules: Familiarize yourself with local road regulations to ensure a smooth and safe journey.

3. Choose the Right Size: Opt for a vehicle that suits your travel needs, considering both passenger comfort and luggage space.

4. Check Insurance Coverage: Ensure you have adequate insurance coverage, including collision and comprehensive, for peace of mind during your travels.

5. Duration Discounts: Rental companies often offer lower daily rates for longer rental durations. Weekly rentals might provide a better daily rate compared to daily rentals.

Common Words and Phrases on the Road in Portugal

When driving on the roads in Portugal, it can be helpful to know some common words and phrases related to traffic, directions, and general communication. Here are essential words and phrases for navigating the roads in Portugal:


1. Traffic and Driving:

   – Drive: Conduzir

   – Stop: Pare

   – Slow down: Abrandar

   – Speed limit: Limite de velocidade

   – Road: Estrada

   – Highway: Autoestrada

   – Intersection: Cruzamento

   – Roundabout: Rotunda


2. Directions:

   – Turn left: Vire à esquerda

   – Turn right: Vire à direita

   – Straight ahead: Em frente

   – Where is…?: Onde fica…?


3. Common Road Signs:

   – Stop sign: Sinal de STOP

   – Yield: Cedência de passagem

   – No entry: Proibido a entrada

   – One-way street: Sentido único

   – Parking: Estacionamento


4. Fuel Station:

   – Gas station: Estação de serviço

   – Diesel: Gasóleo

   – Gasoline: Gasolina

   – Fill it up, please: Encha o depósito, por favor


5. Emergency Situations:

   – Help!: Socorro!

   – Police: Polícia

   – Hospital: Hospital

   – Accident: Acidente


6. General Phrases:

   – Excuse me: Desculpe

   – Thank you: Obrigado (male) / Obrigada (female)

   – You’re welcome: De nada

   – Good trip!: Boa viagem!


7. Numbers (for distances, etc.):

   – One: Um

   – Two: Dois

   – Three: Três

   – Four: Quatro

   – Five: Cinco


8. Weather Conditions:

   – Rain: Chuva

   – Sun: Sol

   – Wind: Vento

   – Fog: Nevoeiro


9. Vehicle Issues:

   – Flat tire: Pneu furado

   – Breakdown: Avaria

   – Towing service: Assistência em viagem


10. Greetings (when interacting with locals):

    – Hello: Olá

    – Good morning: Bom dia

    – Good afternoon: Boa tarde

    – Good evening: Boa noite


Learning and using these phrases can enhance your experience on the roads in Portugal and make communication smoother, especially in situations where English may not be widely spoken.


Renting a car in Portugal to explore beyond Lisbon isn’t just a transportation choice – it’s a key to unlocking the full richness of this beautiful country. From historic towns to pristine beaches, the treasures that await are countless. 

But ,while renting a car can be advantageous for exploring more remote areas or specific itineraries, it’s essential to weigh the convenience of public transportation against the potential challenges of driving in a busy city like Lisbon. Ultimately, the choice depends on individual preferences, travel plans, and the desired level of convenience. 

In my opinion, don’t rent a car in Lisbon, but do rent a car if you plan on going outside of the city.

So, grab the keys, hit the road, and let the adventure unfold!

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