Vehicle registration plates of Portugal

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Post-2005 type licence plate (for a January 2006 registered vehicle)

The Portuguese Car number plate system for automobiles and motorcycles is simple and sequential. The system has no link to geographical locations or similar. It is an incremental numbering system consisting of three groups of two characters, separated by dashes. This system started in 1937 with AA-10-00, then went on to 00-00-AA and recently changed over to 00-AA-00. When this last sequence comes to an end, it will be replaced by the sequence AA-00-AA. A list of the first registration numbers issued each month since March 1992 (starting with 00-01-AA) is available at the website of the Automobile Association of Portugal.[1]

The Portuguese System is similar to the Netherlands former license plate systems, and follows the same lines as former AA-00-00 and 00-00-AA, current 00-AA-00, and future AA-00-AA, AA-AA-00 and 00-AA-AA.


Initially there were white characters on a black ground, all in plastic. In 1992, the design was changed to one of black characters on a white background in metal; in that same year, the European blue ribbon was added with the Portuguese 'P' denominator. In 1998, a yellow ribbon on the right side was added with the month and year in which the car was first registered (e.g. 99/12 for December 1999 - the year comes on top of the month). This is different from systems such as in Germany (where the numbers indicate the start and end month of the vehicle's registration) and more similar to systems such as in Italy (where the date indicates the year of vehicle registration). Note that the date is that of first-ever registration of the vehicle, not the date the vehicle was registered in Portugal. Some vehicles carry plates that have a year and month seemingly out of tune with the alphanumeric sequence, and the reason for this is that these are imported used vehicles.

Special licence plates[edit]

Diplomatic plate
Portuguese National Republican Guard
Trailer plate
  • The sequences MG-00-00, ME-00-00 and MX-00-00 are only used by Portuguese Army vehicles.
  • The sequence AP-00-00 is only used by Portuguese Navy vehicles.
  • The sequence AM-00-00 is only used by Portuguese Air Force vehicles.
  • The sequence 00-00-KA to 00-00-KZ was used for second hand imported vehicles in 1997, and later abandoned, as it only reached KF. The letters K, Y and W are not used as they are not part of the Portuguese alphabet.
  • Portuguese National Republican Guard uses the special sequence GNR A-01 to GNR Z-9999 in which the letter after the GNR identifies the type of vehicle.
  • Diplomatic vehicles use the sequences 000-CD000 (diplomats), 000-CC000 (consular personnel) and 000-FM000 (non-diplomatic embassy personnel) in which the first group of three numbers identify the country, with red characters on white and without the European blue ribbon.
  • Vehicles on sale use special plates with the name of the dealer followed by an identification number, with white characters on red and without the European blue ribbon.
  • Trailers use another sequence which consist of two groups of characters separated by a dash. The first with one or two letters is the code of the regional registering office. The second is a sequential registration number with up to six digits.
  • Vehicles for exportation use an inverse sequence of the trailers, first the registration number and second the office code. In this vehicles the letters "EXP" are placed in the yellow ribbon above the date.
  • Industrial machines use the same sequence as the automobiles and the motorcycles but with black characters on red. This vehicles have an "A" in the yellow ribbon replacing the date.
  • Duty unpaid vehicles use the two groups of characters separated by a dash. The first is a sequential number up to five digits while the second is a letter. The year band is white and isn't based a year. Also, the color is yellow, like Netherlands vehicle registration plates.
  • Iberlant NATO Base plates had blue background with yellow font and use sequence IBL-00-00.
  • NATO plates start with NATO and followed by four numbers.

District codes[edit]

Trailers and vehicles for export have the following district code letters in their licence plates:[2]

Until the 1970s only the codes A, AN, C, H, L, M and P existed. After that, other registering offices were created with new codes.

The following special codes are also used for trailers:

  • D - Diplomatic
  • F - non-diplomatic embassy.



Local licence plates were issued at least since 1901, which usually consisted of the full name or the abbreviation of the name of the district, followed by a serial number. (e.g. "LISBOA 123" or "LXA. 123" for a vehicle in Lisbon).


A national car registration system was established in 1911. The country was divided in five zones (North, Center, South, Azores and Madeira), each having an identification number sequence for the licence plates, respectively N-000, C-000, S-000, A-000 and M-000. In the mid-1930s there were already so many vehicles registered, especially in the South Zone which included the City of Lisbon, that the identification number was already up to five digits. As this created some difficulties in the identification of vehicles by authorities it was decided to change the system.


Type of licence plate issued between 1937 and 1992

In 1937, the second Portuguese car registration system was established. This consisted of the sequence AA-10-00 to ZZ-99-99. The division in zones was kept. The letters AA to LZ were reserved for the South (Lisbon), the MA to TZ to the North (Oporto) and the UA to ZZ to the Center (Coimbra).

The vehicles registered with the old system had to change to the new one. In Lisbon the vehicles of the series S-000 and S-1000 changed to the series AA-00-00, those of the S-10000 to the AB-00-00, the S-20000 to the AC-00-00 and the S-30000 to the AD-00-00. In Oporto the changes were from the N-000 and N-1000 to the MM-00-00 and from the N-10000 to the MN-00-00. In Coimbra all vehicles changed to the series UU-00-00. In the new licences, the vehicles kept the previous numbers, with the exception of those of the tens of thousand (e.g. the vehicle C-123 would change to UU-01-23, the N-1234 to MM-12-34 and the S-12345 to AB-23-45).

The letters MG, and later ME and MX were reserved for the Army, AP for the Navy, AM for the Air Force and EP for the government civil ministries. The letters CD, CC and FM were reserved for diplomatic vehicles (respectively for diplomatic, consular and non-diplomatic personnel), but with red characters on white ground. The letters TA, TB and TC, in red plates with white characters were reserved for temporary licences respectively in Lisbon, Oporto and Coimbra. National Republican Guard and the former Fiscal Guard had special sequences beginning respectively with the letters GNR and GF.

In the Azores and Madeira the new system was only adopted in 1962. By this time the Azores were themselves divided in three registering districts: Ponta Delgada, Angra do Heroismo and Horta. In this case the groups of letters AN were reserved for Angra, AR and AS for Ponta Delgada and HO for Horta. For Madeira were reserved the groups MA and MD. The white letters on red TD, TG, TH and TF were for temporary licences respectively in Ponta Delgada, Angra, Horta and Madeira.

In the beginning of the 1980s it was decided to end with reservation of letter sequences by zones, as a result Lisbon registered vehicles used sequences that were reserved for Oporto from 1982, with the NA to NL sequence, or from 1987 the sequences OA to OL, PA to PL, RA to RL or SA to SL, and from 1990 of former Coimbra reserved sequences, for instance, UA to UL or XA to XZ (the latter being the last left side letters sequence used). Oporto letter sequences, in fact, always consisted of a combination of the two letters, both alphabetically equal or above M.

The reservation by zones, however, has been kept until 1992, but throughout the 1980's the vehicles would eventually be registered by the zone where the importer of the respective vehicle brand was located. For instance, a Toyota would be registered with letters reserved for Oporto, because its importer is located in Vila Nova de Gaia and a Nissan would be registered with letters reserved for Lisbon, since its importer is located in Lisbon.

By 1992, with the 00-00-AA sequence, the reservation of letter sequences came to the real end and a national sequential system was introduced.

Still before the ending of the reservation of letters by zone, new registering offices opened, and some groups were reserved for them: EM and EV for Évora, ZA and ZB for Braga, ZC and ZD for Vila Real, ZE and ZF for Aveiro, ZG and ZH for Guarda, ZI and ZL for Santarém, ZM and ZN for Setúbal and ZO and ZP for Faro. As Évora was considered a central office it also had a temporary licences code: TE. However most of these sequences were never used or were used already as part of the national sequence.

Currently it is possible to get an old (white on black) number plate for classic cars. This number is not the official car license, but rather an alias for it. Therefore, cars with black number plates also have a new license number, but it is only in the car's license, and not shown on the car itself.


Type licence plate issued between 1992 and 2005, before the introduction of the yellow ribbon, in 1998.
Type licence plate (for a June 2004 registered vehicle) issued between 1992 and 2005.

In 1992, with the end of the AA-00-00 sequence, a new one was introduced, the 00-00-AA. Just before that time the black plates were changed by white ones, which included the European blue ribbon with the national code "P" on the left.

In 1998 a yellow ribbon with the date of the first register of the vehicle was introduced on the right side of the plate. This is mandatory for all newly registered vehicles, whether new or second-hand imports. In 2005 the 00-00-AA sequence ended, and 00-AA-00 was introduced.

Sequences with the letters CU and OO, were not used since right side letters sequences were introduced, the first because it coincides with a slang word for Buttocks and the second to avoid confusion with 00 (zero, zero). The CU sequence was used in 1982 on Lisbon registered vehicles and OO in 1966, 1967, 1978, 1979 and 1982 on Oporto registered vehicles.[3]

It should be noted that it is technically incorrect to say that licence plates are issued. The authorities issue a registration number and it is then the owner's responsibility to have the plates made up, either of plastic or metal, on production of the appropriate documentation.

Portuguese Overseas Territories Former plates[edit]

Angolan license plate in 1949, with serial number.
Angolan plate, 1972, showing an initial A.
Ford Taunus with an Angolan plate, in 1972.

The models of Portuguese car plates were followed by the then Portuguese colonies. At the beginning the model of 1911 was followed. Each colony had a group of one to three letters which designated the colony itself or a district inside the colony. The letters were followed by a serial number (e.g. G-1234 for a car registered in Guinea or CVS-1235 for one registered in the south-east district of Cape Verde). In the 1950s and 1960s, the licensing systems in all colonies were changed to systems based on the Portuguese one of 1937. By territory the sequences used were:

  • Angola: Axx-00-00 - the second and third letters were reserved by district
  • Cape Verde: CVx-00-00 - the third letter identified the district (S: southeast, B: northwest)
  • Portuguese Guinea: G-00-00
  • Portuguese India: Ixx-00-00 - the second and third letters were reserved by district (IGA to IGZ for Goa district)
  • Macau: M-00-00 and later Mx-00-00 - the second letter was sequential (ME-00-00 numbers did not cause problems as Portugal withdrew its armed forces in the 1970s)
  • Mozambique: Mxx-00-00 - the second and third letters were reserved by district
  • São Tomé and Príncipe: STP-00-00
  • Portuguese Timor: T-00-00 and latter TP-00-00

With some minor differences, these systems are still in use in São Tomé and Príncipe, Mozambique, Macau, and Angola. Cape Verde has adapted the system to use different two-letter codes for each island.

See also[edit]


External links[edit]