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Rental Cars and paying the electronic tolls in Portugal

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Sep 20th, 2012, 09:23 AM
  #1
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Rental Cars and paying the electronic tolls in Portugal

Here is some information from Europcar concerning paying the electronic tolls in Portugal that you might find useful:

Starting in early July 2012 , Europcar in Portugal is providing a new service called Electronic Toll Service - "Toll Management", a solution for payment of ex-SCUTs (highways with virtual tolls) and highways with toll booths.

All our vehicles (passenger light cars and light commercial vehicles) are equipped with an electronic toll device “Via Verde”. This service is effective ​​from the time when the electronic device is installed in the Europcar vehicle.

If you choose this service, you just need to fill out and sign the appropriate form (“Terms & Conditions”) and present a valid credit card at rental time.

This service has the cost of € 1.50 + VAT per day, charged up to a maximum of 10 days per rental. The value of the tolls will be debited at no additional cost to your customer’s credit card until 30 days after the end date of the rental.

The benefits of this new service, “Toll Management”, for you are very simple and clear:

• Facilitates compliance with Portuguese law, avoiding fines and additional administrative costs;
• Avoids stopping and waiting in queues at pay toll booths;
• Simplifies the payment of ex-SCUTs;
• Prevents unnecessary trips and waiting in queues at authorized payment authorities (Post Offices and Payshops).

Terms & Conditions of the Toll Management Service (“Toll Management”) to be filled out and signed by the Driver at the time of pick-up of the car.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 09:38 AM
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What travelers need to know is that there are some stretches of the toll roads in Portugal where THERE IS NO ONE TO TAKE YOUR MONEY.

THEREFORE, if you want to use those toll roads, you either need to take a ticket and later pay the toll at a post office somewhere before you leave the country, or you can use this Via Verde system.

I just used this system in Portugal, renting a car from Europcar. I haven't seen my credit card bill yet, so I don't know if all went smoothly. But I saw several people ahead of me on line who were renting a car who were acting as if Europcar was trying to stick them with some extra charge for offering it. It really held up the rental car line while the staff tried to explain it over and over to renters.

When you drive, the VIa Verde lanes are clearly marked, well in advance.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 09:42 AM
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It's very important to interrogate the car hire company when you take the car out about its policy on this.

For many tourists,the Portuguese system makes it simply impossible to pay the toll: there are no toll booths on some toll motorways, you can't pay on line and your return journey to your departure airport doesn't go live on the payment centres' computers till you're back home. Finding post offices in many small towns can be a nightmare anyway.

Some hire companies seem to expect you to authorise your credit card for retrospective payment: others simply tell you upfront that they refuse all demands from the system for toll payment and send the letters back with "hirer unknown" written across.

There are rumours in the Algarve about the EU taking legal action against Portugal over the whole issue (the damn roads were built with OUR money) - and whatever the situation today, it'll be different next year.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 10:37 AM
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Robert a big thank you for the up date.
Just yesterday I drove over the border between Galicia and Valença, Portugal. As you cross the bridge over the River Miño into Portugal on the left you see some advertising hoardings. One of those hoardings states that the road is an electronic toll road. The rest I was not able to read as I only saw it at the last moment. What a great place to warn tourists. I was lucky as I was not travelling right into Portugal so I did not have to use any toll roads on this trip.
Flanner the rumours about going to the EU are way out of date. It is not going to happen. These tolls have been in operation for just about 2 years now.I have to say the information you have about only paying at Post Offices is also out of date.
All car hire companies expect you as driver to pay fines and tolls. So all CC can have retrospective payments added at a later date.
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Sep 20th, 2012, 11:47 AM
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It is possible I didn't hear everything -- or remember everything -- that was said to me at the rental desk. What was conveyed to me was that if I didn't want to use the device in my rental car to pay the tolls, I would be responsible for paying them at designated places.

I fully understood when I signed the contract that I was pre-authorizing charges to my credit card. I did to avoid the very hassles flanneruk is going on about.

Like I said, I haven't seen my credit card bill yet, so I don't know if everything worked smoothly. If it did, this strikes me as very tourist-friendly improvement on the system I had only read about before and didn't really understand.

I picked up the car in Porto and I was really surprised that the very first toll road I took had no manned booths when I exited, and I hadn't gone all that far from Porto. I had assumed I would only encounter such roads in rather remote situations.
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Sep 21st, 2012, 04:32 AM
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The airport for Oporto is "ringed" with these roads. There is only one way to exit the airport without paying and that involves a torturous route via an industrial/business park. Not a nice route to enter a country is it?
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Oct 4th, 2012, 03:30 AM
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I cannot comment on the situation in the North of Portugal, but if you plan to drive in the Algarve region, I strongly recommend to pay the aforementioned fee for the electronic toll device for the rental car.

And inquire in advance if your rental car company offers them (all majors seem to offer them now, smaller/regional companies are a mixed bag).

Along the Algarve you can (theoretically) always use the national road N125 to avoid the electronically tolled A22 motorway.

But:
For someone unfamiliar with the area (or without GPS) it is surprisingly complicated at many points to find or follow the route of N125.
The reason for that is that, once the Algarve motorway got built (and when it was still free), all signage but local signs were set up to guide you to the motorway. Quite reasonably so, by the way, as N125 was (and now is again) infamous for being one the busiest and dangerous 2-lane highways in the country.
So, today, you are stuck with mostly local signage, and only irregular signs for "long-distance" travel to Lagos, Faro or Tavira. Often even the road numbering "N125" is not given on all signs.
And traffic on N125 between Lagos and Tavira is really heavy all day, often bumper to bumper, with interesting suicidal manoeuvres of overtaking to witness. Don't expect more than 50kph as an average.

Technically, you can use a few legs of the A22 without paying electronic tolls as the camera-equipped bridges to not scan the full length of the motorway between each and every exit.
This is somewhat helpful if you drive down from Lisbon on the A2 (with regular toll plazas to pay as you drive) without an electronic toll device. You can drive the A2 until it merges with A22, follow signs for Faro and take the very next exit (#9) which will take you to Albufeira and/or the N125.

But in general it will save you lots of nerves if you pay the aforementioned €1.50 a day for the toll device if you plan to drive in regions with electronic tolls.
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Oct 4th, 2012, 08:27 AM
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"I have to say the information you have about only paying at Post Offices is also out of date"

Not, as of mid-August, according to CTT it isn't. And not according to my hire company.

CTT claim you can't pay anywhere else. The hire company agrees. Both agree that if you take the A22 eastbound to Faro airport, the payment doesn't come up on the CTT system till the following day. By which time you're back home.
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Oct 5th, 2012, 03:11 PM
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My experience was slightly different. In a trip to the north of Portugal last spring, we found that our charges didn't show up in the system for at least two days.

I also learned that payment can be made in the post office, or in any shop that has a little red sign in the door, which says, in English "Pay shop". This can be a cafe/bar, newpaper/stationery store, or lots of other little places. It was more convenient for us than the post office so we went to the little place near our hotel wit the pay shop sign.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 02:25 PM
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We heard our car rental agent rant about this issue when we returned our car to Viana do Castelo in March 2011. Either the system was not fully in place yet, or we just happened to miss the toll roads. In any case, this is much too difficult for us to even contemplate on future trips.

Vacation time (and money) is too precious to spend trying to find the right place to pay, the specific roads to avoid, and the dreaded surprise of "unpredictable" backcharges on our credit card. However much we loved Portugal, we won't be back until this insane system is changed. Hopefully, this "great idea" doesn't spread anywhere else.

--Annie
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Oct 6th, 2012, 04:26 PM
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annie,

Maybe you didn't understand the thread you posted in, but the point of the thread is that the system has changed in Portugal. You can rent from your Portuguese car rental office a device that functions like similar devices or stickers in the US. You pass through a toll booth without stoppng, and the camera makes a record of your plates or device, and charges the device --- and your credit card pays for it. The device is already in the car. The rental company turns it on for you.

The alternative for Portugal would be to have manned toll booths everywhere or install credit card payment systems at hundreds of toll booths. Portugal doesn't have the money to do that. I hope the euro crisis is over soon, too, but I wouldn't wait for the end of it to go back to Portugal. You could be waiting a long time.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 08:31 PM
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From my understanding of the situation, the electronic tolls where placed on roads where the government could not put up a manned toll booth because of the width of the road/highway where they wanted to add the toll. It makes sense in a strange sort of way since it would be very expense to add several lanes (widen the highway) to install manned toll booths.
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Oct 6th, 2012, 09:17 PM
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But if you rent out of the country, say in Spain, and drive into Portugal, the tourist is still up against it -- if I'm reading this right. Our solution last spring was to avoid the toll roads whenever possible, even driving the infamous A22 (with no problems, I might add) We did, however, drive one stretch of the northern toll road without paying simply because there was no way to pay. Even the post office couldn't take payment after the fact. On the very last stretch of the Algarve, heading back to Spain, we went to the post office and bought the toll fare to get us out of the country. So far, no charges have appeared on our credit card statement. It looks like the best bet for tourists is to rent their car in Portugal to take advantage of the "Via Verde" device.
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Oct 7th, 2012, 06:27 AM
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Biz, thank-you for the clarification, but I understand completely. We are not interested in having a device that a) can't tell us what we are/have spent and b) charges our credit card long after we may have returned home. It doesn't sound like these devices can keep a running tab or that it is very easy to avoid the toll roads.

We don't expect Portugal to do an expensive overhaul of their EU upgraded roads, but there will need to be a better system installed before we visit again.

--Annie
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Oct 7th, 2012, 08:26 PM
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Well, given the current climate, it may be awhile before the situation changes, considering the current conditions. I have no problem dealing with the situation "as is" and it shouldn't deter anyone else interested in visiting Europe's underrated, and beautiful, "West Coast".
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Oct 9th, 2012, 08:57 AM
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Totally agree with Robert2533.
Besides, what is the problem when one can rent a car with a device? This was not the case in June last and it will definitely simplify things for us next year. We have our tickets booked and can't wait! ... 7 months until then
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Oct 18th, 2012, 10:05 AM
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This is interesting, since we drove in Portugal before all of this (2006), and will probably be back driving there next spring. We will definitely pay for the Via Verde device if we do rent a car. We've done something similar in Florida before, and it was great--can't remember if the payment system was similar, but it was seamless.

Not sure why this would be perceived to be a problem, unless the tolls are very high, or ubiquitous. If we drove around between Lisbon and Porto for a few days, what kinds of toll fees do you think we would accrue?
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Oct 20th, 2012, 03:38 AM
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WW the tolls are not high, in fact they have just been reduced to a level below when they were introduced in 2010.
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Oct 20th, 2012, 07:57 PM
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We also used the automated toll transponder. It was much easier and quicker, and as others have pointed out there are several unmanned toll plazas that require the transponder or exact change.

The autoroutes were a pleasure to use - easy to access and basically empty. (We're awaiting our next Mastercard with some apprehension.) The speed limit is 120 kph, 140 kph seemed to be the defacto limit.

You should be careful about about damage to the rental car. We never take insurance and finally had a claim - our car was scratched on both doors in a parking lot. Avis charged us 225 euros; we're tryng to claim back against Mastercard.
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Oct 20th, 2012, 08:09 PM
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We also used the automated toll transponder. It was much easier and quicker, and as others have pointed out there are several unmanned toll plazas that require the transponder or exact change.

The autoroutes were a pleasure to use - easy to access and basically empty. (We're awaiting our next Mastercard with some apprehension.) The speed limit is 120 kph, 140 kph seemed to be the defacto limit.

You should be careful about about damage to the rental car. We never take insurance and finally had a claim - our car was scratched on both doors in a parking lot. Avis charged us 225 euros; we're tryng to claim back against Mastercard.
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