Toll Charges on Motorways in Portugal - How to Pay

Toll Fees were introduced on Portugese motorways a couple of years ago - but their electronic system and number plate recognition system seem very confusing to the uninitiated. We explain all.

Look into the small print to see how your hire firm charges for Toll Roads before booking your car - fee structures vary considerably

Portugals Toll Roads

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Why are Portugals Toll Roads different?

Most toll roads that we come across have a ticket machine when you join them and a toll booth when you leave them - but Portugal is different. Instead of using toll booths at the start or end of the section of road, they adopted an electronic system using cameras to record your use of the motorway.

It is easy to understand why they went down this route - tolls were introduced as part of their money raising initiatives post economic crisis, so they came up with a system needing few people, no toll booths, and cheaper infrastructure. There are gantries above the road with cameras and transceivers. Registration numbers are recorded and if fitted in the vehicle a transponder device manages payment. However the ways of making payment are also what makes this a potentially complex system for car hirers using the motorway network.

Which roads have the electronic tolls?

The full list at the time of going to press is:

A4Sections both north of Porto from Matosinhos to Santas and south of Bragança
A8/IC36Section south of Leiria
A17/IC1Northern section from Mira to Aveiro
A19/IC2Section south of Batalha
A22All – Via do Infante
A28/IC1All except north of Viana do Castelo
A33West of Coina
A41/IC24Northern section Perafita/Freixieiro – Sêroa (West)

How do I pay the tolls?

Assuming your car is registered in Portugal (such as a Portuguese Rental Car)

Cars registered in Portugal can either use a transponder or pay after using the toll road.

The transponder is almost always the easier although it can end up being more expensive.

Transponders come in three options, although the choice of which will be dictated by your rental firm rather than you. Two are 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.

Portugal Motorway Toll Fees

Some of the car hire companies, such as Avis, fitted all their vehicles with transponders and bill renters for their actual use at the end of the car hire period. Others rent a transponder to you, some at cost, some at a premium, and some with additional fees collected locally. Firms differ in their approach so read the terms and conditions carefully.

A typical charge is €1.85 per day subject to a 10 day maximum charge, plus of course any toll fees incurred.

If your hire company propose excessive charges, you can rent your own temporary transponder from Via Verde Portugal shops, motorway service areas or the post office. Fees 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. You will not be refunded with any unused credit.

Payment after using the toll roads sounds the simplest but this is where some car hirers have found themselves really stuck.

You are not allowed to 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 if you are planning to return to the airport via the motorway you have a real issue.

Finally we have heard of people being charged for a previous renter’s unpaid usage.

So realistically most of us will opt for a transponder, or if you are staying close to your Airport stay off the motorway altogether during our stays!

Any questions? Why not 'Ask Mark'?

This content was last reviewed on 08/09/2014