WARNING! Portugal roads have electronic tolls without human intervention and WITHOUT the possibility to pay it as you go. Yes, it works like that and if you do not pay accordingly (in advance) you will get fined.
In most countries around the World, drivers are asked to pay to use a section of a road/highway. This money is then used for maintenance and other stuff. The Portuguese system approach is purely automatic and electronic, with its pros and cons:
- No wide areas for toll booths
- No need of staff
- Less traffic interruption
- Need to find out how they work and the right way to pay
- Not easy to spend just the right amount (i.e. you may need to ask for a refund if there is credit left on a card)
Gantries over the road have cameras that record the plates and then communicate with the appropriate device to process the payment, or the fine. So…
How do I pay the tolls?
Foreign licensed vehicles
1. Toll Card
These are pre-paid cards that can be loaded with €5, €10, €20 or €40 credit, and have an additional service cost of 0.74€. They can be purchased online here, but also from other places including CTT post-offices, Easy Toll Welcome Points, tourist offices and the following service areas:
- All within A23 highway
- All within A22 highway
- Celorico, Vouzela and Aveiro on the A25 highway
- Viana do Castelo and Vila do Conde on the A28 highway
- Almodôvar on A2 highway
- Estremoz on A6 highway
- Barcelos on A3 highway
- Seide on A7 highway
Once purchased, cards need to be activated it by sending a text message including a code on the card and the license plate of the vehicle so that it can be associated. The cards last for one year or until the balance is exhausted, which you can check online.
Do you have remaining credit on your card? It can also be refunded within 6 months, but only if a credit card was used for the payment.
2. Toll Service
This is also a pre-paid product, with 2 available options:
- Unlimited use for 3 days, with a cost of €20 (plus 0.74€)
- A single or round trip on two pre-defined routes:
- Spain – Porto Airport, via A28 or A41
- Spain – Faro Airport via A22
It can be purchased online here, at CTT post-offices, Porto’s airport, or at the following Cepsa service areas:
- Viana dos Castelo (A28)
- Abrantes (A23)
- Olhão (A22)
3. Easy Toll
This is the easiest option for foreign visitors, especially those driving from Spain. It can be purchased at an Easy Toll Welcome Point without having to leave the vehicle, and it associates a credit card (Mastercard, Visa or Maestro) to the vehicle’s license plate. There is sign up cost of 0.74 € and each journey has an administrative cost of 0.32 €.
!!) Because the credit card is linked to the vehicle, the membership needs to be cancelled, otherwise, the same credit card can be charged in the case of a new customer renting the same vehicle.
!!) You are not allowed to use Via Verde lanes with options 1 (Toll Card), 2 (Toll Service) nor 3 (Easy Toll), unless you have a special device called transponder (see option 4).
These are the only 4 Easy Toll Welcome Point available:
- A28 – Viana do Castelo Service Area
- A24 – at 3,5km from Chaves/Veribn border
- A25 – Alto de Leomil Service Area
- A22 – next to Castro Marim/Ayamonte border
4. Via Verde Visitors
Aimed at longer stays or frequent visitors, you can rent a temporary transponder device for €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. It is valid for a maximum of 90 days and can be used on electronic toll roads.
You can buy them online here.
Vehicles Registered in Portugal (including Hire Cars)
Local vehicles can either use a transponder (option 4) or pay after using the toll road.
The latter seems to be the best and easiest, but it is not. This is because you cannot pay for using a toll road any sooner than 2 days after your journey, but you must also pay within 5 days. Besides you need to pay at a post office or a Payshop, as there is no online option.
Some car hire companies decided to fit all their cars with transponders, such as Europcar. However; it is not always the case so you should ask and make the appropriate arrangements with them.
This is too complicated… What shall I do?
- Are you flying in? ==> Ask the agency for a Via Verde device!
- Are you driving from Spain? ==> Go for an Easy Toll, but plan it in advance!
For more information, including an up to date list of tolls locations and rates, visit the official website.
Additional travel tips and recommendations
- I strongly recommend Skyscanner for searching both cars and flights. I always find the best deals. For cars, local agencies are normally much cheaper than the big names such as Europcar and Hertz.
- If you are in Lisbon and have some extra time, I would strongly recommend visiting Porto. It is only 3 hours away by train or car, and it is an incredible city. Once in Porto, do not miss the beautiful Douro Valley, land of wine, sun and great landscapes.
- If you are looking for a good tour from Lisbon, I would recommend taking a day trip to Sintra and Cascais (Viator, Get Your Guide, Klook).