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 toll roads is, rather than use toll booths at the start or end of the section of road, they are converting to an electronic system recording your use of and payment for the use of the toll road. Gradually the 'pay at booth' toll roads are being phased out.
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 devices which record your entry on to and exit off the toll road.
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.
|Electronic Toll Roads|
|A4 | Sections north of Porto from Matosinhos to Águas Santas and south of Bragança|
|A8/IC36 | Section south of Leiria|
|A13/IC3 | All|
|A17/IC1 | Northern section from Mira to Aveiro|
|A19/IC2 | From A8 to just south of Batalha|
|A22 | All – Via do Infante|
|A23/IP6 | All|
|A24/IP3 | All|
|A25/IP5 | All|
|A27/IP9 | All|
|A28/IC1 | All|
|A29/IC1 | All|
|A33 | West of Coina|
|A41/IC24 | Northern section Perafita/Freixieiro – Sêroa (West)|
|A42/IC25 | All|
A recent map version can be reviewed here.
This is an updated list of roads which have the electronic system but more are added every year. There are many other roads which have a manual payment system where you take a ticket when entering and pay on exit.
The methods available vary according to whether you are driving a car registered in Portugal or one with a foreign (to them) licence plate.
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 a few 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.
By far the simplest option is to use a transponder. These little devices are fitted on the windscreen of the car and register your use of the toll roads. Many car hire companies have these already fitted in their cars and you can pay to have them activated for your hire.
Use our sister site Clarify Car Hire to compare the cost of car hire with a transponder included. After running a quote for your car hire needs, you can use the filter on the left hand side to tailor your quotes to just those for car hire with a transponder fitted.
Once you have had your transponder activated, you then pay for any toll roads you have used at the car hire desk at the end of your hire. As it takes 48 hours for tolls to register, any charges you incur in the last couple of days of your trip will be charged to your credit card after your return.
The advantage of using these is that there will be no worry when you get to the electronic toll road - you can drive right through - and the transponder (also known as a Via Verde device) means that you can also use the Via Verde lanes on the toll roads (as well as the normal lanes). These are marked with a green 'V' sign. You cannot use these lanes without a transponder.
You can choose to rent your own temporary transponder from highway service areas, the post office or Via Verde Portugal shops if you wish. Costs are €6 rental for the first week, €1.50 for further weeks, there is a €27.50 refundable deposit and you must pre-load it with a minimum of €10 credit. Unused credit is not refunded.
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 - A28 Viana do Castelo service area, A24 3.5km from Chaves/Veribn border, A25 Vilar Formoso (Alto de Leomil service area) and A22 Vila Real de Santo Antonio (next to Castro Marim/Ayamonte border). Enter your credit card into the payment machine and the system links your car registration to the credit card.
None of options 1-3 allow you to use the Via Verde lanes on the electronic toll roads.
4. Via Verde Visitors
Aimed at frequent visitors, you can rent a visitor's 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.
If you think you may have used a toll road and haven't paid or installed a transponder, you can check using your licence plate via the Portugal Toll Payments page.