Alcohol limits in Portugal
Portugal drink drive limit is 0.5 grams per liter of blood, with lower limit 0.2 for some drivers. EU standard. Severe fines for drunk driving.
- Penalty: €250 - €1250 fine if blood alcohol level in range 0.5 g/l - 0.8 g/l. See Note 1.
- Penalty: €500 - €2500 fine if blood alcohol level in range 0.8 g/l - 1.2 g/l or if medical or expert report determines that the driver is under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
- Blood alcohol level above 1.2 g/l: The main law here is not clear on penalty, but you should assume very severe e.g. a large fine and your driving license revoked.
Note 1: The limit is reduced to 0.2 g/l - 0.5 g/l for learner drivers, drivers of emergency services vehicles, drivers of vehicles transporting young persons up to age 16, taxi drivers, large vehicles or vehicles transporting dangerous goods.
The limit of 0.5 g/l is standard in most EU countries, although some Western European countries have the lower limit of 0.2 g/l.
Breath tests: If the police use a breathalyser, the conversion is 1 mg of alcohol per liter of expired air (breath) is equivalent to 2.3 g of alcohol per liter of blood. So you are over the limit of 0.5 g/l if the breathalyser shows a reading of more than 0.2 (or scaled up e.g. 21 depending upon the calibration of the device).
The Portuguese police have the right to detain you and/or your vehicle if your continued driving is unsafe. The law here may not be very explicit, but you should assume the police can do whatever they wish and there is very little you can do about it.
How much is safe to drink: The short answer is 'nothing' if you plan to drive. There are many personal and situational factors that determine how alcohol consumption translates into a measurement in a drunk-driving test. Approximately, you should assume that one large glass of beer or wine is enough to put you just below or above the legal limit for drink driving.
Drugs (psychotropic substances): There is no specific measurement in Portugal for the extent of drug use while driving. The law simply says the degree of driving impairment is determined by 'a medical or expert report'. The police may not be able to test you for drug use at the time, but will observe and record your behaviour and gather evidence of drug-taking. Then simply detain you and/or your vehicle if they feel that is necessary. Subsequent examinations may then occur. Realistically there is little you can do to dispute this unless the evidence against you is poor quality.
Drink-driving in Portugal is very risky, particularly during holidays (Xmas / New Year and the main summer holidays around August). Portugal is quite a socialist and statist country and the police may be very heavy-handed with drink driving - because that is the way they want to run their country. Respect for Portugal means respect for their laws. Do not drink and drive.