What You Must Know Before Driving In Portugal

Planning on driving in Portugal?  Well, we have a few tips to help you out.  First we will thrill you with our story and you will find some resourceful information at the end.  We’ve enjoyed 2 road trips to Portugal.  The first was to the Algarve and Lisbon and our most recent was to Porto.  Both times we felt that driving in Portugal was pretty similar to Spain or even the USA.  The roads are well-marked and it was easy enough for us to find our way around.  There was however one thing that just flat-out puzzled us each trip and on our way home from Porto, we finally figured out the answer.

Driving in PortugalYou see, as we were driving along the highway each time we noticed there are “free” roads and “toll” roads.  The peculiar thing on some of the toll roads was the sign with the Euro symbol and below that a listing of how much the toll was, but no booth to pay.  Eventually we would happen upon a station to take a ticket and then continue on the toll road and eventually a booth to pay.  The problem was the fee we paid didn’t always add up to what we calculated as we passed each sign.  We just chalked it up to being in Portugal and thinking “they just don’t know how to calculate”.  It was to our advantage, so we just let it be.

On our second trip, again we noticed the same thing but did nothing about it.  On our return home we followed a new route back to Spain for a change of scenery.  We cut across Portugal from Aveiro to Spain.  We noticed far more of these toll signs again with the price as well as overhead cameras.  “Assumption”- these cameras were capturing all of the speeders out there and ensured we were driving the speed limit as we passed each of them.  I began to do the calculations and we were up to about  €14 and still no toll booth.  After driving a good hour on this nice toll road, we pulled off at a gas station to use the restrooms.  We all had a little stretch and walked around.

Driving in Portugal Toll Roads

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

As we were packing back into our car, we noticed a “road side assistance car” pull up ahead of us and park.  Two uniformed men exited the car and approached us.  We had our friendly hello’s, and then they began to ask us questions about where we were going and where we came from.  We explained as best we could with a bit of a language barrier.  They then explained to us that we were on an “Electronic Toll” road and we said we knew, but didn’t see a booth to get a ticket.  Apparently there are no tickets.  You are just supposed to know, when driving in Portugal, there are electronic toll only roads and you need to purchase a “reader/transponder” in advance.  This transponder will debit your credit card each time you pass a camera.

After much discussion with the gentlemen, it was determined that we needed to pay them on the spot for our tolls via credit card only.  We showed them on the map, where we came from and where we were heading.  Apparently they had been following us (trying to catch up) for about 40 km, to inform us that we were not compliant.  It felt a bit weird, like being pulled over in Mexico and trying to bribe your way out of a false accusation.  We reluctantly paid up, asked for a receipt and were squared away.  They also provided us with a small road map outlining the electronic toll roads, for future reference.  They weren’t police and we didn’t receive any ticket, but we had their info on the receipt if anything turned out to be fishy.  At this point we just wanted to get back to our roads in Spain.  Luckily the border was very close and we were back in our “homeland” in no time.

Alan’s Note:  At first, I was about to call B.S. on this “Pay us the toll” thing, but they were in a very conspicuous car that had safety markings all over it and an orange light bar.  Both of the men in the car were wearing safety uniforms, had safety gear in the back of the car, and lastly, had a credit card swipe machine.  Had they asked for cash, I would not have paid.  It’s lucky they talked to us while we were at the gas station, because I probably would not have pulled over if they had turned their lights on.

What You Must Know Before Driving In Portugal

  1. Completely understand the Toll Roads
  2. Calculate your route and tolls in advance.  This will help you determine which advance payment option is best for you.  
  3. If you have “foreign plates” (non Portugal) you may want to look at the above options.  
  4. If renting a car in Portugal, it is very important when picking up your car that you ask the car rental company how payment is to be made regarding electronic tolls and whether you can rent a‘Via Verde’ device or determine your options.
  5. General Driving in Portugal information –
    1. A very helpful map 
    2. Frequently Asked Questions about tolls

This should provide you with an excellent start if you find yourself wanting to drive in Portugal.  Stay safe!
      

This entry was posted in Portugal, Tips and Tricks and tagged , , , by Heidi. Bookmark the permalink.

About Heidi

Heidi has a passion for travel and has been exploring the world with her husband and 2 kids, since August 2012. She's visited more than 50 countries and loves to write about their family adventures, mishaps and costs. She has been an inspiration to others wanting to live their dreams. Her travel tips, planning posts, cost breakdowns, accommodation, and product reviews are also very popular. Her current home base is in Spain.

7 thoughts on “What You Must Know Before Driving In Portugal

  1. Oh guys, I wish I’d read this before we headed into Portugal! Such a helpful post.

    The whole Portugal road toll system is completely confusing. We did sign up for the EasyPay electronic toll when we entered Portugal (where they match your license plate with your credit card and deduct the toll every time you drive through). Unfortunately for us, we thought the Via Verde system was the same thing, and blew through all of the Via Verde tolls thinking we were paying for them automatically. We finally figured it out, and tried to pay at a post office before we left, but all the post offices within 100 km of the border (and maybe for all of the country!) were closed on the Sunday we left! It’s been over a month since we left, and I’m still nervously awaiting a bill for the tolls from our rental car company in Spain.
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    • Hey Micki! I hope you guys are all doing well. Isn’t it crazy how they work the road system there. It’s almost as if they need it all written up and handed to you as you drive across the border. It was a shock that there weren’t signs “preventing” us from getting on the road in the first place. I guess this is a good way to make a little money (don’t tell the tourists!) 🙂

      Oh, how I know what you mean about waiting for those “tickets/fines” to appear one day. All over Spain are the radar/camera’s and they have unfortunately found us a few times. Since there were cameras all over the roads in Portugal, I think we may get a present in the mail sometime too.

      All of this aside, I do love Portugal!

  2. Pingback: The Ultimate Guide to Toll Roads in Portugal. What Every Traveler Should Know. | The Barefoot Nomad

  3. I never knew there was this a problem in the Portuguese road system =S your devices don’t work in our roads? I thought those devices were universal. Most highways still have ticket-type paying, but it’s something that is disappearing. Sense I have a license I never stopped to pay, it just pays directly from my bank account.
    We take pride for having the best road system in Europe, second best in the world
    (Global Competitiveness Report for 2014–2015) that we never hear about problems with it=( hope you have a better experience next time.

    • Hi Vasco, thanks for your comment. I guess we weren’t aware of needing a device to have the charges taken. Now we know, as there aren’t toll booths to pay on all of the roads.

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