Motorways: Electronic tolls explained

Estradas de Portugal placed two new payment terminals in Vilar Formoso, yesterday, July 16. These payment terminals allow foreign drivers to pay any road tolls in a quick and safe manner. Find out how these works, and what other payment options are available to you, here.

Tips 4 Tourists What's New — 17 July 2012 by Carolina Antunes
Motorways: Electronic tolls explained

Electronic tolls were created on previously free motorways in several regions of the country (Photograph: Brisa. All Rights Reserved)

During the 2012 Easter weekend, the Portuguese government implemented electronic tolls on its previously free motorways in order to generate revenues. Because the motorways had not been built to include toll booths, electronic tolls were created instead, causing much confusion among foreign visitors. The government, motorway operator Estradas de Portugal and rent-a-car companies have now come up with ways to simplify electronic tolls. Estradas de Portugal have launched a new website that will help motorists understand how these electronic tolls work, and how to pay them.


Scenario 1: I’m driving to Portugal with my car

1. How do I know which motorways have an electronic toll?
At the beginning of the motorway there is a sign warning motorists they are entering a highway with an electronic toll. If the motorist fails to notice this and passes through the toll, (s)he can stop at a post office, or at one of the service areas listed on number 9 to pay his/her toll fees without incurring a fine.


2. Which motorways have an electronic toll?
A very helpful map can be found here

- A27/IP9: Viana do Castelo – Ponte de Lima
- A28/IC1: Viana do Castelo – Porto
- A4: Variante Sul de Bragança
- A24/IP3: Vila Verde da Raia (border) – Viseu
- A4: Matosinhos – Águas Santas
– A41/IC24: Perafita/Freixieiro – Sêroa (Oeste)
– A42/IC25: Sêroa (Oeste) – Lousada
- A17/IC1: Estádio de Aveiro – Mira
– A25/IP5: Albergaria-a-velha (A1/IP1) – Vilar Formoso (border)
– A29/IC1: Miramar – Angeja
- A23/IP6: Torres Novas – Guarda
- A13/IC3: Atalaia – Tomar
- A8/IC36: Variante Sul de Leiria
– A19/IC2: Variante da Batalha
- A33 – Belverde – Coina
- A22: Lagos – Castro Marim


3. How do I pay? What different methods of paying are there?
a) At payment terminals to be implemented in July of this year
b) At a CTT (Portuguese post office) and buying a CTT electronic monitor or choosing a prepaid option
c) Using an automatic CTT machine – locations to be announced soon

d) Using a TollCard


4. Where are payment terminals located?
Mainly at the border. Two payment terminals are found in Vilar Formoso.


5. How do payment terminals work?
The payment terminals link a bank card to a car number plate. By swiping the bank card at an electronic terminal, the machine will take a picture of the car’s number plate and create a connection between the card and the car. Afterwards, toll fees will automatically be charged to the card every time the car passes through an electronic tool.


6. Where are the CTT automatic machines located?
At the border, at the beginning of any electronic toll motorway. Please note that only prepaid options are available.


7. How does the CTT option work? How long does it last and how much does it cost?
There are four different options to choose from:
a) Virtual prepaid payment for 3 days (available at automatic machines)
This option is designed for those who do not plan on spending more than three days in Portugal. The €20 fee allows unlimited trips on all motorways during three consecutive days. There is no need to top-up throughout your stay. It works by memorising your number plate and automatic debit to your prepaid account. This option is only available for class 1, 2, and 5 vehicles.

b) Virtual prepaid payment for 5 days (available at automatic machines)
Similar to the previous option, this one lasts for 5 consecutive days and is available for all vehicles. It requires an initial top-up of €10 for classes 1, 2 and 5 or €20 for classes 3 and 4. Online top-up is available.

c) Prepaid, Predefined routes (available at automatic machines)
This option is available to those who wish to travel only on predefined routes. The three routes available are: Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (via A28/A41), Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (via A41/A42) and Faro Airport (via A22) as a one-way or return trip. Prices vary depending on vehicles, routes and whether the trip is one-way or return. There is no need for top-ups as price includes tolls and admin fees.

d) Temporary electronic device
For stays over 5 days, prepaid electronic devices (see question 8) are available for rent. They come preloaded with toll fees, allowing the user to remain anonymous and doing away with the need to link a bank card to a car number plate.

To rent a device, a deposit (of €27,50) is required but it is refundable within 30 days of returning the device. Failure to return the device within that time will void the deposit as the device will be considered sold by CTT. There is no refund for unused credit.

Minimum credit:
Classes 1, 2 and 5: €10
Classes 3 and 4: €20
Balance valid for 90 days

The device can be topped-up as required afterwards.

8. Can I only buy the CTT electronic devices, prepaid options and top-up at a post office?
No. A virtual prepayment  is available online on the CTT website. To make online purchases, you need to create an account. There are also several places where the devices are sold.

3-day and 5-day virtual prepaid payment, predefined routes:
– Service areas: CEPSA A28 Viana do Castelo, CEPSA A22 Olhão, CEPSA A23 Abrantes, GALP A28 Vila do Conde, GALP A25 Celorico da Beira
– IKEA Matosinhos
– Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (Information Office)

Temporary Electronic device:
– Service areas: CEPSA A28 Viana do Castelo, CEPSA A22 Olhão, CEPSA A23 Abrantes, GALP A25 Celorico da Beira


9. What is a TollCard and how does it work?
According to Estradas de Portugal, TollCard is an “‘on the shelf’ product, activated through an SMS, with a fixed amount to be consumed depending on circulation”. You can pay for this service with your bank card or cash. It is valid for one year and the motorist can buy a pre-loaded card with €5, €10, €20 or €40.

To activate the card the motorist has to send a text message with the code printed on the pre-loaded card and the number plate of the vehicle. All of these instructions will be available on the card. Once the card balance runs out, the motorist will receive an alert text message.

TollCards can be obtained in the service areas mentioned in question 8.


10. Is there one website where I can access all this information?
A website that allows motorists to create an account and access information regarding electronic tolls and payment options has just been launched. Estradas de Portugal’s new website also allows motorists to check their balance on both prepaid options and Toll Cards, and top up as required.

 The website has two language options, Portuguese and English, but by the end of the day Spanish and French will also be added.


11. What happens if I don’t pay?
A letter will be sent to your home address with the amount due plus a fine.


Useful websites:
CTT: Find out which solution is best for you at the Portuguese post office’s website

Estradas de Portugal


Scenario 2: I’m going to rent a car

Case Study 1: Avis

1. How are they dealing with the electronic toll?
They implemented a system called e-toll.

2. How does e-toll work?
Avis e-tolls make an electronic payment for all Avis cars. It works as a transponder so that the electronic toll device can recognise the vehicle.

3. How much does it cost?
-It costs €1.50 per day, plus the face value of the toll during the rental.
-Maximum costs are €15 for 10 days or more.

4. When do you pay?
-The total amount due will be processed up to 15 days after the rental and does not carry extra admin costs.

5. Is it already available?
– Yes.

6. What happens if you don’t ask for the transponder, go through a motorway with an electronic toll and don’t pay?
– Avis has to contact CTT and you will receive a letter at home with your fine.


Case Study 2: Europcar
1. How are they dealing with the electronic toll?
-They are installing the Via Verde system in all their cars (most cars will be equipped by July).
2. How does via verde work?
– Like the Avis e-toll, Via Verde is a transponder. It works on both the former free motorways and other highways and has been in use for years.

3. How much does it cost?

-It costs €1.50 a day plus VAT.

4. When do you pay?
-At the end of the rental.

5. What happens if you don’t have a car equipped with a Via Verde (because you didn’t want one) and go through an electronic toll?
-Europcar will inform CTT and you will receive the fine at home.

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Carolina Antunes

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