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A Guide to Using the Toll Roads in Portugal

27 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.

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

27 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.
  1. Hi
    A very useful page of information as usually no two sets of information of roads/charges in Portugal are the same or even similar. This covers all you need to know.

  2. Is there an English language version of the Via Verde website? Impossible to use the system if the only access is in Portuguese!

  3. Can you pay in cash in all toll stations?
    Is it automatic coin or bank note mashines or you meet an emploee?

    • 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.

  4. 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.

  5. 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.

  6. 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.

  7. Hi
    How long after using a toll road should you receive the charge. I have just received a charge from 2015!! and cannot prove whether it was the vehicle i hired

    Chris

    • 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.

  8. 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?

  9. 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

  10. Leaving Portugal today we used a toll road. How do we pay for this? Think we have paid for all other usage.

  11. 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.

  12. 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.

  13. 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?

  14. If i buy a transponder for the ” Via verde” is that specific for one car or can I use it regardless of which car I am driving?

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