Andrew leads our Operational Team and is our expert when it comes to all the ins and outs of car hire excess insurance.
What are they?
We're all familiar with the concept of toll roads, where you pay to use a section of highway. The difference with the Portuguese system is, rather than use toll booths at the start or end of the section of road, they opted for a purely electronic system recording your use of and payment for the use of the toll road. The electronic system has several advantages, no wide areas of tarmac necessary for toll booths or staff to collect monies and no interruption of your journey when passing through a toll. Gantries over the road have both cameras and transceivers. The registration plate is recorded and the transceiver communicates with a transponder device in the car (if fitted) to manage payments. The use of transponders and complex payment options are the main downsides of the system for visitors wishing to use the motorway network.
Which roads have the electronic tolls?
The most infamous is the A22 Via do Infante, paid for with EU money leading to complaints from EU visitors that they effectively have to pay twice to use the road but it's probably best to regard it as a local tax from a country that needs to raise funds.
The full list is:
|Road||Which roads have tolls?|
|A4||Sections north of Porto from Matosinhos to Águas Santas and south of Bragança|
|A8/IC36||Section south of Leiria|
|A17/IC1||Northern section from Mira to Aveiro|
|A19/IC2||Section south of Batalha|
|A22||All – Via do Infante|
|A28/IC1||All except north of Viana do Castelo|
|A33||West of Coina|
|A41/IC24||Northern section Perafita/Freixieiro – Sêroa (West)|
How do I pay the tolls?
The methods available vary according to whether you are driving a car registered in Portugal or one with a foreign (to them) licence plate.
Foreign Licence Plate Vehicles
If you're driving your own car in Portugal you have 4 options.
1. Toll Card
These are pre-paid cards with €5, €10, €20 or €40 credit. They can be purchased from many places including CTT post-offices, Easy Toll Welcome points, service areas and tourist offices and online (though we can't tell if they'll deliver to non-Portuguese addresses). Once purchased, you activate it by sending a text message including a code on the card and your registration number. The cards last for one year or until the balance is exhausted, you can check the balance online and you can activate more than one card at a time.
2. Toll Service
Similar to the toll card, but costs €20 for unlimited use for 3 days or you can purchase pre-defined journeys like Spain to Faro Airport via A22 and back. These can be purchased online or at Easy Toll Welcome Points at certain border posts and airports.
3. Easy Toll
Only available at 4 border posts (EN13 Vila Nova de Ceveira, A24 Chaves, A25 Vilar Formoso and A22 Vila Real de Santo Antonio), enter your credit card into the payment machine and the system links your car registration to the credit card.
4. Via Verde Visitors
Aimed at frequent visitors, you can rent a visitors transponder device. They cost €6 for the first week then €1.50 per week plus a refundable deposit of €27.50. You have to register a credit card with the system and tolls are automatically debited from the card. The Via Verde transponder can also be used on motorways with traditional toll areas allowing you use the quicker green Via Verde lanes.
Cars Registered in Portugal including Portuguese Hire Cars
Cars registered in Portugal can either use a transponder or pay after using the toll road.
Payment after using the toll roads sounds the simplest but there are two things making it more awkward than it should be. Firstly, you cannot pay for using a toll road any sooner than 2 days after your journey. You must also pay within 5 days. And you must pay at a post office or a Payshop. There is no online option. So how you are supposed to pay for using the toll road on your return to the airport is anyone's guess.
There have also been reports of people being faced with the bills from previous renter's unpaid usage.
There are no less than three transponder options available two pre-paid – one where the registration number of the vehicle is linked to the transponder, one where it isn't (also known as a temporary device or anonymous transponder) and a third where the transponder is linked to a bank account.
Some of the car hire companies (Avis for example) decided to fit all their cars with transponders and bill customers for what they actually use when the car is returned. Others will rent a transponder to you, some at cost others adding their own charges and some make it a mandatory additional charge collected locally. There's little consistency so you need to check the terms and conditions of your car hire.
If your hire company propose excessive but avoidable charges, you can rent your own temporary transponder from highway service areas, the post office or Via Verde Portugal shops. Costs are €6 rental for the first week, €1.50 for further weeks, a €27.50 refundable deposit and you must pre-load it with a minimum of €10 credit. Unused credit is not refunded.