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Portuguese Toll Roads - A Guide to Toll Roads in Portugal

Whilst excellent in terms of quality and coverage, toll roads in Portugal have come in for a lot of criticism over the years because of the complex system they use for paying tolls and the likelihood of being fined for breaking the law regarding them. The road system has recently been voted the best in Europe and the second best in the world so you know that you’ll encounter few difficulties (apart from the toll system!)
Most of the autoestrada system is governed by tolls with exceptions including ring roads around the cities. In almost all cases the toll road is shadowed by a free route which offers a reasonable driving experience. All autoestradas are designated by an A followed by a number but sometimes an E when it is part of the European road network.

toll roads in portugal
History of Toll Roads in Portugal
Until the 1970s, motorways were unheard of in Portugal and as the decade broke, the country possessed less that 100kms of motorway. That decade saw rapid expansion of the motorway network increasing further when Portugal joined the EU. The motorway system is called autoestrada in Portugal and this system now extends to over 3000km. In 2015, the country’s road network was named as being the best in Europe and the second best in the world. The country is also home to what was voted by a car hire company as the top drive in the world the Peso de Regua to Pinhao N222, just 28kms long but stunningly beautiful. 
Using the Toll Roads
As is common with most toll roads, there are different ways of paying for the journey. Some of the toll roads allow you to pay in cash or with credit cards, others must be paid for with a vignette of which there are different types designed to suit local needs or those of tourists. For some you take a ticket and pay when you leave the motorway, for others you pay for the entire stretch, even if you only enter partway along it whilst the electronic section charges you by reading the vignette in your windscreen.  When you enter a toll booth area, the electronic toll lane is usually to the left whist straight in are the toll booths where you’ll pay. Be careful not to enter the electronic lane without a vignette for if you do so, you will be liable for a reasonably hefty fine plus the toll. 
Some toll roads only have these Electronic Toll collection points and so buying or renting a transponder is a must. You can pay just with a credit card by entering the car in a machine at motorway service stations. This allows you to link the card with your registration number and means that when you enter the card into the toll payment booth, it will pay the toll for the given registration. You must remember to de-link the registration afterwards though. Registering your card costs 60c plus VAT and each toll charged attracts an administration fee of 26c plus VAT.
Another alternative is to buy a pre-paid card for up to 40 euros. This costs 26c plus VAT for the card value but means that you can simply get the cost of tolls deducted from the card using the toll machines.  You can also use an unlimited journey card for three days. It costs 20 euros plus a 60c +VAT admin charge and a 26c plus VAT per toll charge. Finally, you can rent a Via Verde transponder or vignette for 6 euros plus VAT and a weekly charge of 1.50 euros although you’ll have to pay a 27.50 euro deposit. If you live in Portugal or are intending to stay for some while, buying a transponder may be a better idea. They can be bought online or at service stations or in Via Verde shops and certain banks. 
Cost - How Much Do Toll Roads in Portugal Cost?
Toll charges in Portugal are around the European average and vary with the length of route. Longer distances are more expensive, mainly as the government is trying to discourage driving and encourage public transport. Shorter distance routes tend to be cheaper because the government is trying to reduce congestion on national and local roads and hence pollution around cities.

a22 toll road in Portugal
Lisbon to Porto
Porto to Valenca
Lisbon to Elvas
Faro to Portimao
There are advantages and disadvantages with each:
Using Autoestradas
  • You’ll get there quicker because traffic is lighter and the autoestradas are usually less busy and have a higher speed limit- 75 mph
  • Maintaining an average speed saves on fuel consumption
  • The roads are better maintained although new, purpose-built autoestradas are excellent, having been voted the best in Europe
  • The cost of around a euro per 13 kilometres for longer routes but cheaper for shorter journeys
  • The routes avoid towns and cities so mostly you’ll just see concrete or tarmac and countryside for hundreds of miles
  • Fuel prices are much higher on the toll roads and you won’t get any of the local flavour from eateries along the way.
Using Other Routes
  • No charges for travelling on them
  • Many will pass through villages, towns and cities meaning you can stop off and see some of Portugal’s sights, others parallel the toll roads so are only slightly slower
  • Fuel is cheaper in the towns and villages and you’ll find beautiful cafes and restaurants for a taste of regional Portuguese cuisine
  • Driving will be much more interesting with less chance of becoming drowsy from the monotony of the route
  • The journey time can be longer as the free roads are typically 10% longer in time and sometimes distance for journeys between A and B
  • Fuel costs will be higher because of the extra distance and irregular travelling speeds
  • Roads are often less well maintained and there’s a greater chance of getting lost; even with a sat-nav, although many roads follow the route of the autoestradas.

Sample routes and their costs:
  • The A1 from Lisbon to Porto: 301 kms; €22.55 / Journey time approximately 2 hours 45 minutes
  • The A10 Bucelas to Bucavente: 40 kms; €1.80 / Journey time approximately 30 minutes
  • On the A17 from Marinha Grande to Aviero: 117 kms; €9.00 / Journey time approximately one hour 20 minutes
It’s very easy to avoid toll roads in Portugal as the country legislated that a secondary road had to closely parallel the toll roads. We recommend that you mix and match your routes to allow you to experience some of the real Portugal whilst using the autoestradas for rapid travel between regions.  Route planners and sat-navs will give you an alternative toll-free route to your destination whilst road maps of the country also show the tolled A roads as well as the free national roads.

Selected Routes - Popular Toll Road Journeys in Portugal
Lisbon to Porto by Toll Road
301 kms
2 hrs 45 mins
Toll Roads Used
Toll Charges
€22.55 on the A1
Lisbon is Portugal’s beautiful capital city and has stunning architecture as well as a thriving cultural scene. It’s where you’ll find a lot of the cultural and archaeological highlights of the country and is a favourite city break destination. Porto is world famous as the home of the fortified wine, Port, and no trip to the city would be complete without a visit to one of the port warehouses that line the Douro river. 
If you want to make your visit to the country a two centre one, the trip between the cities can be done easily in under three hours along the A1 inland motorway. You have the option of using other, less direct routes including the A17 motorway and, unless you are prepared to use very minor roads or urban routes, sticking to the autostrada is much quicker.  In doing so, you’ll pass by Aveiro and Coimbra, both interesting cities and worth an hour of your time if you want to break up the journey. 
Lagos to Vila Real de Santo António by Toll Road
133 kms
1 hr 52 min
Toll Roads Used
Toll Charges
€ 10.05
Lagos is the main city for people holidaying on Portugal’s Algarve coast. It’s around an hour from Faro Airport along the A22. From here it’s a nearly two hour journey to the east of the Algarve coast, a journey with many beautiful stopovers to allow you to enjoy the beaches, the culture and the food of Portugal’s holiday coastline. Highlights include Portimao, Albufeira and the river delta south of Faro. Along the route, looking north, you’ll enjoy beautiful mountain views best accessed from the Estoi turn off.  If speed isn’t of the essence, the national routes N270, N125 and N269 will get you to the same destination but on slower, often more picturesque roads that run north and south of the main autoestrada.
Porto to Valencia by Toll Road
9 kms
1 hr 12 mins
Roads Used
Toll Charges
€ 3.78
Northern Portugal offers a very different holiday experience and here we recommend starting at Porto with its port warehouses and head north on the A28 to Valencia on the Spanish border. The A28 skirts the coast and passes through the Parque Natural do Litoral Norte, taking in the stunning coastline as well as the beautiful landscape of the interior. Viana do Castelo is a pretty town built on both banks of the Lima River. Further north still is the crossing of the Rio Mino which passes through Valencia.
If you want to avoid the toll road, there’s the option of the national road, the N13. Taking this route will add an extra half hour to your journey but will allow you a more leisurely drive to the north. Crossing the border at Valencia you’ll find yourself in the charming Parque Natural Monte Aloia. 
Lisbon to Elvas
159 kms
1 hr 45 mins
Roads Used
Toll Charges
€ 13.05
Travelling across Portugal to the Spanish border you can cross at Elvas to reach the Spanish city of Badajoz.  The journey isn’t particularly picturesque, crossing dry, barren fields in summer which only come alive in winter and spring. That said, although Badajoz is an interesting city, particularly for lovers of culture, it’s not got the best reputation for cuisine and many guide books recommend that you stay on the Portuguese side of the border for the best food. 
The best alternative route is the national road, the N251 which crosses the country in an arc to the north. A slower road, this will add thirty minutes to your journey and, given the lack of interesting places to see on the way, we’d recommend that you use the autoestrada.
Aveiro to Vilar Formoso by Toll Road
197 kms
2 hr 08 mins
Toll Roads Used
Toll Charges
€ 14.90
This drive is a really interesting one for those who love open countryside and wine tasting. One of the more attractive towns on the route is Viseu, which is famed for its Grao Vasco Museum as well as the delicious pale white wine produced in the nearby hills. Albergaria a Velha is also pretty with open squares and traditional Portuguese buildings dotting the town. The route encounters more dramatic scenery as it passes Queira before dropping down to lush meadows later in the journey.
The N16, N232 and N17 combine to help you avoid tolls but the routes deviate widely from the autoestrada and are comprised of hundreds of hairpin bends as the road winds up and down the mountains, great if you’re in no hurry but torture if you need to get to Vila Formoso quickly.

Map of Toll Roads in Portugal
toll roads in portugal

Further Reading on Driving in Portugal;

Chloe Demaret
Posted: October 09, 2015 by Chloe Demaret
About the Author -

Travel writer, social media guru, Chloe keeps our readers and customers up to speed with all the car rental and travel trends on our blog. Favourite destination: Dubai.

Last updated: Friday, May 10, 2019
Can I buy an electronic toll card online and does it work on the A1/E1
12/26/2019 2:01:06 PM

Aldo da Rin
I did not link my registration plate to any credit card as I did not know it was possible. Is there a different way to pay? Via credit card after?
9/16/2019 4:00:26 PM

Bull. Just drove from Coimbra outside of Lisbon and 47 Euro. Don't know why. WTF. First time on toll road in country, best of my knowledge but who could tell while driving here. Don't drive here. I repeat. Don't drive here.
12/16/2016 3:38:48 PM