Short-Term Visits to the Algarve With UK Cars
If you planning to visit the Algarve to look for properties and have decided to bring your UK-registered car with you you will need to know the options and limitations.
Options For Getting to the Algarve from the UK
You have several choices to get your car to the Algarve depending on your situation and preference. From personal experience, the ferry down to Santander or Bilbao in northern Spain is much more relaxing. It takes longer, the crossing is normally around 24 hours but cuts more than 12 hours of driving.
The ferry from Dover to Calais is not bad and doesn’t take too long. A faster option is the Eurotunnel but is more expensive. However, with either of these options, you are still going to have around 22 hours of solid driving time.
Bringing Your Car Short-Term Rules
Firstly you are allowed to enter Portugal with a car registered in your name and use the car legally for 180 days in one year.
Meaning the car must leave after 180 days and not return until one year has passed from the day the car exits the country.
It is wise to keep your receipt from the ferry or Eurotunnel to prove the approximate date of entry.
The car must only be used by the registered owner or the family of the registered owner.
The car must have insurance from your insurance company in the UK or a Portuguese-based UK insurance company that insures UK cars.
The car must be roadworthy for the extent of the period the car is in the country. If you are taking the car back to the UK you will need an MOT certificate to enter or a booking at an MOT station within 24hrs.
The driver must have a valid UK driver’s licence.
Driver must carry all relevant documents with them at all times.
Road tax is not required in the Algarve, you can SORN (statutory off-road notification) your car in the UK, however, if you take the car back you must pay the road tax again before you enter.
If your car is kept longer than 180 days it will become illegal and can be confiscated if you are caught. Although in the past the authorities seemed to turn a blind eye to UK-registered cars they have started to crack down.
If you use the motorway or autostradas your number plate is read each time you use them and the journey cost is registered to your car. You can pay the fees online at the ViaVerde website or at any of the post offices. If not paid and your car is checked by the SEF you will need to pay on the spot or have your car confiscated.
If your car has the option, don’t forget to swap the headlights to the European setting. If not you can buy the headlight sets on the ferry or Eurotunnel.
At the same time, you should change your system over to metric using kilometres per hour instead of miles to help stay within the speed limits. Also, all distances are signed and posted in kilometres so helps gauge the fuel needed.
Obviously and quite importantly drive on the right-hand side of the road! It can be a little disconcerting at first but you soon get used to it.
A few things to note from personal experience to be aware of.
Some Portuguese drivers tend to drive fast and don’t know what indicators are for! They also don’t mind bumping into other cars so don’t be surprised if you find a few unexplained dents in your car!
When you leave a roundabout there is always a pedestrian crossing right on the exit. Most of the crossings are hidden by parked cars or not marked very well.
Staying on the roundabouts, this is the favourite location for police checks. Be prepared to pull over if you see them parked there.
The alcohol limit for driving in the Algarve is 0.5 g/l, similar to most European countries. Most shots and cocktails in the Algarve contain much more alcohol than UK drinks so something to think about. Better still don’t drink or get a taxi or Uber.
Although there’re no fixed speed cameras the police have now started to use portable ones, hidden in problem points they are not easy to spot!
The roads are built for hot weather so when it rains they can become very slippery.
If your car is right-hand drive entering some of the junctions can be quite tricky as your vision can be impaired when looking over your shoulder.
In the summer months, parking spaces around the towns and cities can be scarce, so it is far easier to find the nearest municipal car park and walk.
Some of the road surfaces leave a lot to be desired with many potholes and humps where the tree roots have forced the tarmac up.
Many of the roads in the villages and towns in the Algarve were built many years ago for horse and cart access only so there are some pretty narrow streets to navigate and parking is near on impossible.
Remember if you are entering a multi-storey car park or where a ticket is issued with a righthand drive car you will need to get out to get the ticket or have long arms if you are on your own!
One good point is that fuel is a little cheaper than in the UK.
A Conclusion To Bringing UK Cars to the Algarve
Having driven righthand drive cars for many years in the Algarve I can say that once you get used to it it becomes second nature. Except on the odd occasion when forgetting which side of the road you are supposed to be on!
If you find an Algarve property and decide to make the move to relocate you can keep your UK-registered car but will need to matriculate the vehicle and begin the process before the car has been in the country for 60 days.
Delaying the start of the process can cause problems if you are hoping to be exempt from paying import tax under the government’s rules allowing foreigners to bring their cars duty-free.
I have lived in the Algarve for over 20 years and love the experience. Now writing about and photographing the Algarve experience to share with others.
Contributor to all that is Algarve on Wikipedia – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/User:MarkMcLoughlinAlgarve
Books – https://amazon.com/author/markmcloughlin
YouTube Channel Algarve Elevated: Stunning Aerial Views- https://youtube.com/@MarkMcLoughlinAlgarve
Level 10 Google Local Guide for the Algarve – https://maps.app.goo.gl/QRC1qeLiWUc9wmQj6