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Looking for an excuse to tour Portugal?

Article posted: 20/09/2012 13:35:25
Motorcycle touring in Portugal is often overlooked.Motorcycle touring in Portugal is often overlooked.

Given the extra distance involved in getting there, it's small wonder that motorcycle touring in Portugal is not top of everyone's agenda.

Getting to Spain by ferry or through France is a long enough trip. Then, once in the bigger Iberian country, there is so much to explore, so many roads and usually so little time that a trip across the border to Portugal seems a bit pointless.

But, Portugal has a lot to offer. From the famous wine-growing Duoro Valley to fishing villages clinging to the Atlantic coast, it is a country full of natural beauty and traditional culture.

And if any other excuse were needed for a quick autumn getaway, the World Superbike circus is rolling into Portimao next weekend. Honda is even opening up its garage to fans again, so there is an added incentive if you are a Jonathan Rea follower.

Portimao (pictured) is way down in the south on the Algarve, where there are plenty of great routes to explore within a day of the track. However, the real find is further north, in the expanse of country between Lisbon and Porto.

If you're a fan of Napoleonic history, the region has rich pickings. Evidence of the Wellington's Peninsular campaign is all around, in names like Badajoz and Ciudad Rodrigo, though these are both on the Spanish side of the border.

These are two of the main entry points for Portugal from Spain and if you go through these passes by bike it becomes easy to appreciate why they were so important to the Iron Duke. Of course, there really isn't any other way to get there by bike other than through Spain.

Brittany Ferries operates services from England to Santander and Bilbao in the north, from where you can take fairly fast roads towards Portgual. Coming in this direction, you may wish to find an alternative entry point into the country.

Taking the A52 west as your main artery, there are lots of interesting routes across the border around Chaves and Braganca. If you head even further west in Spain towards Ourense and then cut south, there are some good options through the stunning landscapes of the Peneda-Geres National Park.

Portugal riding tips

Drive on the right-hand side, just like the rest of Europe. And just like France, vehicles coming from the right have priority in squares and at intersections. At roundabouts, vehicles already on the roundabout have right of way.

Thanks to a number of recent improvements that have seen the country catch up with the rest of Europe, roads are generally pretty good and you can reach almost all major cities easily. Lesser and more picturesque roads, however, are not as well surfaced and can prove dangerous if you are not careful, especially on sports bikes.

There is an electronic toll paying system, but you can use cash or credit card. Watch out, if you end up in the wrong lane (Via Verde) you will need to pay within 48 hours or face a fine on top of the toll fee.

You need to be 18 to ride a motorcycle and that applies to visitors as well, though you will likely spot locals riding mopeds at 14. Crash helmets and daytime lights are compulsory.

The standard of driving in Portugal is not great and the accident rate is above the European Union average. Some of the worst areas are those within 50km around Lisbon or Porto, the A1 and A2 and the Algarve area. It's best to avoid these roads in rush hour. Away from these routes, the roads are relatively quiet and covered by speed cameras.

Failing to respect Stop signs can lead to a fine of up to €2,500 and driving below 50kmh on motorways can result in being fined up to €300. Fines are on-the-spot and the police officer can impound the bike if he wants to.

The drink driving limit is 0.49g/L. Get caught above this and you will get a fine of up to €1,250 and have your licence suspended for one to twelve months.

If you are tested and record between 0.8 and 1.2g/L, the fine may reach €2500 and you'll be facing a ban between two months and two years. Driving with levels above 1.2g/L is a criminal offence punished with up to one year in prison and a three year driving ban.

Speed limits in Portugal are 50kmh in the city, between 90 and 100kmh on open roads and 120kmh on motorways.

Posted by Marcus Blackburn

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