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A Guide to Using the Toll Roads in Portugal

58 comments from other Portugalist readers

Using the toll roads is the fastest way to get around Portugal: a drive from Lisbon to Albufeira, for example, would take just under 2 and a half hours on the toll roads but around 3 and a half hours on the non-toll roads.

Speed isn’t everything, though, especially if you’re not in a rush to get anywhere. Driving on the non-toll roads you’re more likely to stop off at interesting towns and cities, and to see slices of Portuguese life that you aren’t likely to see on the toll roads. Of course, sometimes you just want to get from A to B. If that’s the case, this guide will explain how the toll system works in Portugal.

There are two types of toll roads in Portugal: toll roads that are entirely electronic and those that allow other types of payment as well (cash and card).

(Be sure to also read the guide on driving in Portugal, which covers different rules and tips for staying safe and making the most of your time in Portugal). 

Mixed toll roads (electronic tolls and cash/card payments)

Let’s start with the mixed toll roads because they’re the easiest to understand. There are only two things that you need to know about the mixed toll road.

Via Verde lanes

There are usually one or two lanes that are marked ‘Via Verde’. To use these lanes, you need an electronic transponder in your car. Otherwise, you should go through the normal lanes.

If you’re renting the car, your car rental company will be able to rent you a transponder. If it’s your own car, you can either purchase one or rent one.

It’s very easy to go through the Via Verde lanes accidently. If you do this, you won’t have a ticket, and you’re liable for a fine. You can either exit through the Via Verde lanes and wait for it to catch up with you, or you can try and get assistance there and then.

Have a backup payment

The second thing that you need to know is that non-Portuguese debit and credit cards don’t always work in the toll machines. For this reason, it’s a good idea to carry more than one card or ideally some cash as well. Don’t worry if you forget: most of the petrol stations have an ATM inside the shop.

Electronic toll roads

The electronic toll roads, for example the A22 in the Algarve, are a lot more confusing particularly when it comes to paying for them. You don’t take a ticket. Instead, the cameras record your number plate and the system calculates how much you owe.

You won’t be able to pay straight away, though. After 48 hours (excluding weekends), your journey should show up in the system and you’ll be able to pay your bill then. You need to pay for your journey within 5 days. 

Depending on your car, there are a few different ways that you can pay for your journey. It’s a good idea to read through this before using the motorway, so you can decide whether you actually want to use it.

(One payment option that isn’t mentioned below is Payshops such as newsagents and shops. Although you can pay your tolls here, it’s actually better to pay in the Post Office. The reason being that the system in the Post Office knows your exact journey and the exact amount you need to pay. The machines in newsagents don’t actually know how much you owe, so they just charge you the maximum amount. There have also been some stories of people paying at the newsagent, but the payment not being processed properly and the customer later receiving fines for not paying on time.)

Driving your own car on the electronic toll roads (Portuguese registration plate)

There are three ways of paying for the tolls if you have a car with Portuguese plates:

  • You can either pay afterwards at the Post Office
  • You can pay online.
  • You can pay at the multibanco

Paying online is definitely the easiest way of doing things. Simply head to the portagems payment page on ctt.pt and enter your licence plate number, phone number, and NIF. You’ll then need to login to your internet banking and send the money using the reference provided.

The Multibanco system follows the same steps except, rather than using your online banking to pay, you head to the ATM and pay there using the reference provided.

To pay at the Post Office, all you have to do is give over your vehicle’s licence plate details.

Driving  your own car on the electronic toll roads (foreign registration plate)

You may be driving your own, foreign reg, car if you’re driving to Portugal or living here as an expat. If you have a non-Portuguese car, things are slightly more complicated: if you drive a non-Portuguese car on the toll roads, you can’t actually pay for your journey (either online or at the Post Office).

Some people just drive on the toll roads anyway, and many have been doing this for years without ever receiving a bill. If you’re more cautious, however, there are a couple of things that you can do.

You can either:

  • Buy PAYG credit to use your car on the toll roads (note: you can only do this before going on the roads, not after).
  • Register your car at any easytoll station (you can see a list of Easytoll stations here).

Driving a rental car on the electronic toll roads (Portuguese registration plate)

If you want to drive a rental car on the A22, the easiest thing to do is to hire a transponder device to go in the car. Most car rental companies charge €1-2 per day for this device, and you will also need to pay the cost of the tolls as well. 

Alternatively, you could pay your toll fees in the Post Office. This does save you the cost of hiring the transponder, but it is extra hassle as going to the Post Office in Portugal can be very time-consuming. 

There’s also usually a 48-hour gap between a driver using the toll road and the cost of that journey appearing on the Post Office systems. That means that, if you use the toll roads on the last 2 days of your trip, you won’t be able to pay them in the Post Office while you’re in Portugal. Most likely, the car hire company will have to pay it and pass the bill onto you – which will probably come with an admin charge.  

Driving a rental car on the electronic toll roads (foreign registration plate)

If you’re driving a rental car from another country on the Portuguese toll roads, your options are the same as those given for driving your own car: you can either not register the car and hope nothing happens, you can register at an Easytoll station, or you can buy PAYG credit.

It’s probably not a good idea to cross your fingers and hope nothing happens when it comes to a rental car. Not only do you run the risk of eventually getting a fine from the Portuguese toll authorities, but the car rental company are likely to add an “admin” charge as well.

Oh no, I think I have tolls to pay!

The Portuguese toll system is quite messy, and it’s possible that you’ll end up with tolls (or fines, or both) to pay. 

Here are some examples:

  • You’re not sure if you went on a toll road while you were in Portugal. 
  • You went to the Post Office to pay your tolls, but you want to make sure that they were all paid. 

If you’re still in Portugal, go to the Post Office. Or, if you have a friend or relative in Portugal, get them to go. Of all the systems for paying tolls (payshops, online, and the Post Office), the system in the Post Office is the most informative and the most accurate. 

If you’ve already left Portugal, you can check on www.pagamentodeportagens.pt. For some reason, you can only lookup those trips 15 days or more after the trip occurred so be sure to put a note in your diary. 

 

Last updated in October 2019.
If you spot a mistake, leave a comment below.

58 thoughts on “A Guide to Using the Toll Roads in Portugal”

Leave a comment or ask a question below. I try and answer all of them.
    • We rented a camper in Spain with the advice being to just avoid the toll roads in Portugal ….impractical and not helpful. The electronic system does not appear easy for non locals even if in a Portuguese registered car. Our response was just to not go and instead we spent the time in Spain

    • You can’t pay cash in the electronic toll roads (but you can on the others). Those have cameras on the road that read your licence plates. You can then pay it in the Post Office or online (see the article above for more info).

      For the ones that aren’t completely electronic, they’re a mixture. Some are cash only, but a lot will have an employee as well. I’m not sure if there’s a way of knowing in advance whether they will have an employee or not.

  1. I entered by credit card details when entering Portugal in to the machive yet got stopped and issued with a fine on the A6 – confused

    As it would not accept my card to pay and I had no cash they asked me to pay at a post office within 6 days but I am now back in the UK

    How do I pay it

    • Hi Lucy,

      I’m not sure about paying a fine that you were stopped and issued with as this was never happened to me.

      As for unpaid tolls, if you were driving a hire car, the fine will go to the hire car company and they’ll pass it onto you. This can take some time (12 months isn’t unusual).

      If it was a UK reg car, in theory they’ll get the address where the car is registered and send the fine there but I don’t know if this happens in practice.

      It’s a very messy system.

  2. Hi, if using a rental car, can I pay online? We have been here 5 days- went to post office to pay but nothing on the system so can’t! Should we buy a prepaid ticket? Do they work for electronic only roads?

    • Hi Katie,

      Okay, so it takes around 48 hours for any journeys to show up in the Post Office system. Sometimes journeys don’t show up at all, and sometimes it seems like they’re delayed. Very frustrating! You might have to go back into the Post Office again after the weekend and see if anything shows up then.

      You can’t use prepaid credit on any journeys you’ve already taken and without a NIF (something you will only really have if you’re a resident here) you can’t pay online. The only way is at the Post Office or a payshop (but Post Office is the better option).

      As for the prepaid credit, this is only for non-Portuguese registration plates.

      So, my advice would be to go back into the Post Office after the weekend and hopefully it’ll show up then. Also, avoid using the toll roads for the last two days of your trip.

      Not the answer you wanted to hear, but hopefully it’s useful.

      • We came in from Spain at Guarda three days ago, in a UK reg car, used the A23/A25/A1 to Lisbon and drove through about 12 electronic tolls. I read your page (thanks) and decided to go to the CTT after 48 hours. The helpful woman there asked me how much I thought the tolls were, I said maybe 10-12 euros so she sold me a prepay scratchcard for 20 euros. I used this to send a text to CTT with card code and my registration no. I got a text back with a 6 digit Pin but no tolls deducted for the journey made. So I phoned CTT, they found my car, confirmed the PIN and told me that the tolls had now been charged. Also that from now on my reg would be recognised and the card would be charged automatically, for the 12 months the card would be valid. I can check balance of credit online or via text using the PIN. Interestingly, I have been massively undercharged for the journey made and can only speculate why, but will check with the PIN to see if further deductions are made for that journey.

        So it seems a prepay card can be used retrospectively after all.

        BTW I think any fines are a case of discrimination against people on grounds of nationality, and against both European and Portug Portuguese law. So I wouldn’t pay.

  3. Hi. I have a transponder with my rental car. But I accidentally went through a non V lane and had to take a paper ticket toll. Will that toll have to be paid separately or will it just be added to my normal bill when I bring my rental car back
    Thanks; Chris

    • Hi Chris,

      So, if I understand correctly you took a ticket but then exited the motorway using the Via Verde lane?

      I have no idea what’ll happen, but it might just calculate it as normal as sometimes the electronic tolls don’t pick up every time you go through. So, hopefully it’ll just work out where you came in and where you left and calculate it as normal.

      Of course, it’s impossible to know but hopefully that’s what’ll happen.

    • Hey Chris,

      Wow! That is a very long time.

      Hopefully, some other people will comment with their own experience. I’ve heard of people getting fines 1-2 years later. No idea what the average amount of time is, though.

      I guess you’ll need to go back to your car hire company and see if they know what the registration plate of the car that you hired was.

  4. Hello! Well, we had stopped & registered our campervan when we first arrived in Portugal, a girl speaking very good English said we would be automatically charged tolls as we travelled. Today we then went through a ‘no ticket’ lane, assuming they had our reg no. etc. At the tollbooth sometime later, we were told we had to pay €107.80!!!!!! We tried to pay with our santander credit card, (which was our registered card at the start), & were told we had to pay cash. It sounded highly suspicious, & in the end we were given a print out in Portuguese & told we would have to pay it later? !?!? Help! Many thanks
    Paula M

    • Hi Paula,

      Having to pay cash isn’t necessarily suspicious in Portugal. Card machines often don’t work here, or don’t accept foreign bank cards (even if they’re normally travel-friendly). It’s also not uncommon for one card machine to work and another not to. If you try to pay for petrol by card at the pumps, for example, it often won’t accept your card, but it will if you go in to pay. So, I wouldn’t assume a scam just because of that.

      As for the rest of your issue, I have no idea. I don’t understand why you went through the “no ticket” lane, but then to a tollbooth. Surely if your campervan is registered, you just keep using the no ticket lanes?

  5. hi, i have one question, if i have a pre-paid toll card for 40 EUR and used only 8 EUR from it (have been mostly in Lisboa neighborhood where electronic toll is not available) can i get money back from this card as it seems i will not use it anymore
    Regards from Comporta
    Radek

  6. Hello!

    Are via verde lanes available at both mixed & electronic toll roads?

    We are planning to hire a car at a local Avis office – how does it work with payments? Do we pay the amount the transponder shows to the rental company upon returning the car?

    Thanks!

    • Hi Sonia

      Okay, so there’s 1) the toll roads that are completely electronic and 2) the ones that have both the Via Verde lanes and cash/card payments (mixed). If you have a transponder, you can go through the Via Verde lane on the mixed toll roads and you can also used the electronic toll roads. In both cases the transponder will electronically record everything and the amount will be taken off your credit card (you give the car rental company your credit card details when you rent a transponder).

      You don’t normally need to pay anything for the transponder at the end. Everything is just taken off your credit card.

  7. Dear,
    Our plates in Morocco are in Arabic letters, I would like to know how can we register them, but the system itself does not recognize the Arabic letters ?
    Thanks in advance,
    Best Regards,

    • Hi MSaid,

      That’s an interesting question and something I hadn’t thought about before.

      I would recommend contacting the Portugal tolls service for foreign vehicles and asking ( [email protected] ) but it’s quite possible that there isn’t a solution for this and, if that’s the case, you probably won’t get a very helpful answer. That has been my experience anyway.

      If they aren’t able to help, you then have two options:
      1) Avoid the electronic toll roads while you’re in Portugal.
      2) Drive on them anyway and assume nothing will happen.

      Personally, I would just avoid the electronic toll roads (1) but I know all of people in Portugal drive on them with foreign registration plates and so far have never received a fine (2). It’s up to you.

  8. I wish the more I read the simpler it became but I’m confusing myself even more! If I am hiring a car at the airport and staying in Albufeira (possibly visiting other towns/resorts) is it essential to get a transponder? Is it possible to just use non toll roads to get around or is that not feasible?

  9. Thank you very much for this information on the toll roads as it was very informative and was easy to understand. i have a far better understanding of the systems, so again thank you for taking the time to create this page.

  10. Hello, i have a friend who has traveled to Portugal and at two tool gates got tickets and didn’t pay. Now he is in Spain. Is there anyway he or i can pay the two tickets online ? somewhere?
    Thank you,

    • Hi,
      first wanted to thank you for the time you toke to write this usefull article. I am travelling from Seville to faro and back. The way i see it, is no way avoiding a22, if there is, will be glad to know. but my question is, if i have to wait to pay in the post office, how should i do it when im back in Spain. For the return… I have nobody there and have booked a hotel in Faro. Im using a rental car, which i rented in spain.
      Sincerely
      Mossi

      • Hi Mossi,

        A few things that you could do

        1) Take the N125 instead of the A22.
        2) As you enter Portugal on the A22, there’s an Easytoll station where you can register your car to use the toll roads.
        3) Buy PAYG credit (website is in the article above) to use on the tolls.

        There’s also the option of paying afterwards via the website above, but I think it’s better to try and avoid that option just in case.

  11. Help

    We arrived late last night to visit friends in the hills above Lagos. I’d booked a hire car thru Ryanair and it was goldcar

    We went to the desk and the guy was so unhelpful. First he said gruffly “do you want to cover the excess or do you have insurance” in such an unclear way he convinced me I had to do one or the other – I didn’t! – he then told us we needed to activate the transponder for the tolls. Fair enough. Happy. But refused to accept the debit card i paid on – the one he’d just taken an insurance payment from. I don’t use credit. He also refused a telephone or online payment from me and he also refused both cash and a payment from my co-driver. Leaving us with no way to pay. He then said we’d have to stay off the A22 altogether -leaving two women driving unknown roads at night – and he offered no map or advice to help.
    We simply decided for safety to just take the A22 anyway and the transponder beeped away. How do we ensure we don’t get a fine now and how much is the fine anyway? If we offered to pay and all options were refused surely we shouldn’t have to pay a fine or admin fee?!

    • Ah, Goldcar!

      So there’s a lot in your comment, but I’ll try and answer it all.

      1) You generally need a credit card to rent a car. Even if you take out your own insurance (either through a site like Rental Cars or take out an excess insurance policy) they want to be able to block a certain amount on your card.

      There are one or two companies that will take the amount off a debit card, so I’ll need to put an article together about that.

      2) I don’t know why they can’t take payment for tolls on a debit card, but I guess they just don’t like accepting debit cards. Probably not a lot that you could have done there, unfortunately.

      3) If you have 3G and Google Maps, when you look up a route under ‘options’ you can set it to avoid toll roads.

      4) I’m not 100% sure what’ll happen to your toll fees and whether or not there is a way of paying them. The best thing that you can do is go into a Post Office with the car registration number 48+ hours after driving on the toll roads. They can lookup if you have incurred any charges or not. Unfortunately, if you can’t pay it in the Post Office then it’s probably being billed to Goldcar – in which case they will probably bill you with an admin charge.

      5) “If we offered to pay and all options were refused surely we shouldn’t have to pay a fine or admin fee?!” While that would seem reasonable, Goldcar (and car hire companies in general) aren’t very reasonable. Best of luck dealing with them.

  12. We are going to Portugal in November. Arriving in Santander we will tour northern Spain for just a week & then move to Portugal (in our motorhome) we will travel down to Gibraltar eventually. I would like to register a credit card to ‘pay as we go’ so to speak. Please, how do I do this.
    Thank you, Margaret Young

  13. Great info regarding tolls – we’re spending roughly 5 weeks travelling around Portugal and very much hope we can dodge the tolls. In the past, in other European countries, we’ve been able to tell our GPS (Janis) that we don’t wish to travel on toll roads and we end up on many beautiful scenic routes.

  14. I know that “ignorance of the law” is no excuse (although I am not sure that use of toll roads is “law”) but, never having driven into Portugal before (from Spain), I did not know about prepayment for the automatic tolls.
    Although there were four of us in the car, none of us saw warning signs ( I assume that there are some) and we drove past the toll gantries wondering where we should pay.
    Now I find that you cannot pay on line, unless you have Portuguese plates, and you cannot pay retrospectively.
    All I can do now is to try and see what they say at the local post office and otherwise wait for a fine ( in anything up to a year).
    Not exactly tourist-friendly!

  15. Is there any way to obtain a history of toll charges with a rental car for the rental period? We rented a car and turned it in on September 27th. We tried to avoid tolls as much as possible but when driving to Lisbon Airport we thought we might have gone through one. When we looked on CTT.pt we saw a toll charge. We went to the post office to pay the bill but were told we owed nothing. They indicated the charge was from September 29. They advised they could not provide us with a statement. How can we prove to the car rental company we have no toll charges?

  16. Hi! A lot of useful info thanks. In case I purchase my own transponder I saw an option on Via Verde website to change a registered plate. Can I use it with a rented car changing numbers each time I rent.
    In other words does system work with many transponders registered to the same plate?

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