Types of Roads
Make sure you know how to use the Portuguese road system and when and how to pay your highway tolls...
Portuguese roads have been reclassified since the World Expo in Lisbon in 1998 and the European Cup Football Championships in 2004. The aim is to make them easier to understand and more consistent across the country. Many signposts and maps have been updated in the past decade. However be aware that in some cases a road may have two names and maps may be out of date.
- The motorway network is the Autoestrada; road signs are blue
- The regional road signs are white with black lettering
Motorways/highways - Autoestrada
- The speed limit (limite de velocidade) on Portuguese Autoestradas is 120 Km/h for cars and small trucks (LGV) and 100 Km/h for tricycles and vehicles with a trailer
- Motorway entries (entradas) and exits (saidas) are numbered
Motorways have service stations with fuel, cafeterias, newsagents and supermarkets. They also have emergency telephones, information points and repair garages.
Orange emergency SOS telephones are positioned about every three to five kilometres. To use an emergency telephone, press the SOS button and wait for a reply (no charge).
In the event of a motorway breakdown, wear a reflective jacket and place the reflective triangles 30m behind and in front of vehicles to warn other drivers.
The Guarda Nacional Republicana is responsible for terrestrial traffic and highway transport.
Rural and secondary Roads
- Speed limits are 50 Km/h in rural areas and are sign posted if there are further restrictions – to as low as 20 Km/h in villages and residential areas
- There may be railway crossings with no barriers on these roads
- Mountain passes and bridges are closed in extreme weather
- Snow tyres and chains are recommended in some areas such as Serra da Estrela in the winter
Toll Road System on Motorways and Trunk Roads (Autoestrada SCUT)
Introduced in 1997 by the government, SCUT (Sem Custos para o Utente, "No Cost to Users"), gives private companies the task of maintenance and operation of the highways. The companies are Autoestradas do Atlantico, Ascendi, Brisa and Lusoponte.
Toll roads have been in effect countrywide since April 2012.
To use a toll road, take a ticket from the dispensing machine at the start of the route and hand it over at the toll booth (Portagen) at the end where a toll fee (Portagem) is charged. Each of the companies has its own pricing structure; toll fees vary.
Via Verde subscribers
Frequent toll road users can subscribe to the Via Verde (Green Route) system which allows drivers to pay monthly via Multibanco. An electronic device (Entidade de Cobrança de Portagens - DECP) is attached to the windscreen and automatically registers the vehicle when it passes through the toll. The cost of passage is calculated and deducted off the subscriber's account. The Via Verde system gives priority passage at the toll points and discounted toll fees. Only subscribers may use the green Via Verde motorway toll gates.
- Find out more from Via Verde (in Portuguese)
Some roadways have an overhead electronic toll gantry system (they do not have toll booths allowing for for cash or card payment) and tolls are collected automatically by reading the electronic device (dispositivo electronico - DE) fitted to the car windscreen.
DE are sold at Via Verde shops (Lojas Via Verde) and the post office (CCT). Payment for passage can be made in one of the following ways:
- Automatic payment: as with Via Verde DECP device, payment for passage is charged directly to the bank account of the subscriber
- Prepayment: either specific to a vehicle owner or to the device, the passage fee is paid for in advance and "loaded" to the device then deducted each time a toll is passed
In the case that a vehicle does not have a DE, the vehicle registration is logged and payment plus a small administrative fee must be made within five days at the post office or Payshop. This option is not available for foreign-registered vehicles.
Passage of a car with a Via Verde pass is automatically debited.
- Find a list of Via Verde shops (in Portuguese)
Toll Roads and Foreign-registered Cars
Foreign-registered cars have four options for paying tolls: TOLLCard, TOLLService, EASYToll and Via Verde Visitors Device. The Portugal Tolls website has information about toll roads for foreign-registered vehicles.
The TOLLCard is a pre-loaded card with a fixed amount from €5 to €40 to be used for electronic-only tolls. The cards may be purchased at EASYToll Welcome Points, at CTT post-offices, online, at service areas in Portugal and Spain, and certain hotels and tourist offices. After purchase, a simple SMS text message from a mobile phone activates the card. The TOLLCard is valid for one year or until the pre-loaded amount is spent.
The TOLLService is a €20 pre-paid ticket with unlimited use for 3 days for passenger vehicles. Pre-paid TOLLService tickets are also available for pre-defined round-trip journeys (for instance, from the border of Spain to the Porto airport and back). The ticket is sold online, and at some EASYToll Welcome Points on border posts.
- Learn more about TollService and where to buy the ticket
Drivers of foreign-plated cars can use the EASYToll system by entering their license plate number and a bank card into an EASYToll machine at the beginning of their journey. The plate number is read at each electronic toll station thereafter and the toll is automatically debited from the bank card. A paper receipt is issued at each toll station. No other devices are required. Once activated, the EASYToll validity period is 30 days.
- Find out more about Easy Toll and where to sign up
Receipts should be kept as proof of charges and journeys. In the event of a change of licence plates or to cancel the membership may be done via a call center or online, contact Portugal Tolls
- Portugal Tolls
Tel: 707 500 501 (national) or +351 212 879 555 (International)
Via Verde Visitors Device
The Via Verde Visitors device can be used to pay tolls automatically at tollbooths in Portugal. Payments are automatically deducted from an associated credit card. These electronic devices can be used for up to 90 days, extendable another 90 days. In addition to the deposit and the consumption fees, it has a weekly rental fee.
- Find further details with information about how to sign up online
Pagamento de Portagens is the online service that allows a user to input the vehicle license number and a date range to inquire as to any unpaid tolls prior to the information being sent to tax authorities. Payment of the toll may be possible via the website. There is also an FAQ section to assist the reader who has other questions.