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A22 Algarve Tolls - What you need to know

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The introduction of electronic tolls (no pay booths) on the A22 Algarve Motorway, and other similar motorways in the north of Portugal has caused chaos, especially with visitors. Most people tell us they don't mind the tolls, but object to the method of payment, especially for foreign registered cars. The problem is quite simply that these roads were not built as toll roads, so they have no space to build toll booths and as a result, the system has to be fully automatic.

How it works: Toll payment is based on a small transponder which is linked to your Portuguese bank account, and debited within a day or two of every passage, which is fine if you are a resident with a Portuguese bank account.

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Photo above: The electronic toll transponder machine at the Spanish border

The alternative is to pay your tolls at the Post Office or Pay Shop, which must be done within five days, but only after 48 hours have transpired. That's ok if you have a rent-a-car with Portuguese plates, but you cannot post-pay your tolls if you have foreign number plates. The official answer is "wait until we write to you at your address back home", the reality is that we don't know anyone (yet) who has received such a letter. So, if you are a visitor, how do you pay, where do you pay, what will it cost?

If you are a visitor, arriving at the Spanish Border in a foreign registered car
At the border on the A22 you will find an automatic vending machine (see photo above). Here you can rent a transponder by entering your car registration number and your credit card. On your return you can drop off your 'used' transponder at the last service station (Olhao) where you will get part of the original cost refunded less a small rental fee. All tolls will be charged to your credit card. Should the vending machine be busy, you can also rent a transponder at the first service area on the motorway (Olhao).

You can also rent a transponder at any Post Office and from Faro Airport (in the Post Office),

Cost: It will cost Euros 27.50 (refundable less the rental charge). It is valid for up to 90 says. The rental cost is Euros 6 for the first week, and Euros 1.5 a week thereafter. Tolls are charged to your credit card.

Pre Paid Passes: If you have a foreign registered car, there are alternative options. Option One: You can purchase a pre-paid pass, valid for 3 days from any Post Office (and they are very clued up on the whole situation). A three day pass costs Euros 20 for a normal car, and is for unlimited tolls along the whole motorway for the three (consecutive) days you specify. You can only purchase six of these passes every year. Pre Paid Airport trip. You can also buy a one way or return journey pre paid ticket for a trip to: Faro Airport (via A22). Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (Porto) (via A28/A41); or Francisco Sá Carneiro Airport (via A41/A42) from any Post Office

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Photo above; The Via Verde transponder

Option Two is to purchase a five day pass, again from any Post Office, The cost is Euros 10 initially (or more), tolls must be pre-paid, so deposit enough to cover your expected journeys. As far as we can ascertain, you can only buy one of these, and you pay the normal toll charge, based on your journey. Refunds of unused tolls are possible, but we don't know anyone who has tried! You will get a receipt which you should display on your dashboard, and keep in a safe place thereafter. One reader has told us that he has been told that the unused part of his payment will be refunded to his Credit Card automatically once the toll road concessionaires have calculated what he has used in tolls.

Option Three (NEW).

Easy Toll & Toll Card (introduced July 2012). The new system features two methods of payment called ‘Easy Toll’ and ‘Toll Card’, developed by the national road company Estradas de Portugal in cooperation with the CTT postal service and electronic payment company UNICRE. Easy Toll is available at border crossings into Portugal featuring or near a former SCUT motorway; Vila Formoso (A25), Vila Real de Santo António (A22), Chaves (A24) and Vila Nova de Cerveira (EN13). Machines have been installed for users to pay tolls and staff are available to provide information. The Easy Toll system enables drivers of foreign registered vehicles to associate their number plate to a bank card for a period of up to one month, with toll charges being debited directly from their account. Toll Card meanwhile is a method whereby users can buy a card that is prepaid with five, ten, 20 or 40 euros, and can be activated and linked to a vehicle licence number by sending a text message. Toll cards can be bought online, at post offices and motorway services stations

Full report
Beneath you will find guidance on how to buy these passes online

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If you are planning to use a Rent-a-Car at Faro Airport
The rent a car companies have been in 'consultation' with the government for several months, but a solution seems now to finally being implemented. Full details are in the article beneath (Solution to car hire toll chaos), but in principle, the major rent a car companies are now in the process of installing transponders in all their cars. You can rent one (optional) much as you might rent a satnav system, and pay the rental fee Euros 1.5 a day, plus the tolls, direct to the rent a car company at the end of your rental period.

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Above, the charge made at each toll gate (see map above for location). Class 1 is a normal car, people carriers, jeeps etc are Class 2. You are charged the above fee 'sector by sector' so as you pass through you are charged. if you turn off before the next 'toll gate' there is no further charge

Which Rent a Car companies have already fitted transponders?
So far (12 April 2012) the companies who have already installed transponders on all their Faro Airport based cars are:

We will keep this list updated as more companies fit their fleets.

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Key points
Foreign number plated cars cant 'post-pay' tolls, get a pass or rent a transponder
Buying a 3 or 5 day pass is a good option
You can get a simple single or return pass for the airport from any Post Office
Rent a transponder from the Post Office if you are staying for a longer period

Online information in English
The Portuguese Post Office (CTT)
Estradas de Portugal (Portuguese road authority)
Via Verde (the eToll operating authority)
Check if you owe any tolls (Portuguese number plates only)

Please note that at the time of writing (April 2012), the online payment option is still under development, and you will need to register to use this facility. These sites are changing daily as they work on the online payment facilities. The registration part of the site (to get a password and username) is still in Portuguese, though its not difficult to understand if you want to do everything online. The first site above (CTT) is the place to start, and to register look for this "Se ainda não está registado clique aqui" its on the right, and its the last option. Click on the word "aqui". On the form the first questions are obvious, where it says "

Articles from The Portugal News you may like to read for more information

31/10/2012  Lisbon ready to legislate on car hire toll chaos
18/10/2012  Algarve motorway discounts vary from 9 to 20 percent 
Toll solution confusion
Traffic plummets on former SCUT motorways
Toll exemptions for residesnts extended for 3 months
Toll booth assistants hired to help tourists at border
Algarve pleads for toll u-turn
12/04/2012  Debit card road-toll payments coming for foreigners
Motorway exemptions to end on 30 June
14/04/2012  Solution to car hire toll chaos
07/04/2012  Government alludes to foreign-registration toll flaw
07/04/2012  Eastern Algarve councils promoting free roads
10/03/2012  EU rules electronic toll exemptions illegal
04/02/2012  Traffic halved on A22 motorway
28/01/2012  Increased traffic brings old problems back to the EN125
14/01/2012  Toll and trouble
17/12/2011  Wave of registration plate thefts hits Algarve
17/12/2011  Motorway toll battles turn violent
10/12/2011  Let the tolls commence