Highway toll Portugal – how to pay for motorway/highway road charges with the electronic collection system (SCUT)
For first time visitors to Portugal, the toll system on Portuguese highways may seem a bit complicated. Particularly, that refers to motor ways, that do not have physical points (gates) for charging. And this way of implementing toll charges in Portugal seems to be increasing.
The system of electronic gates, which can read vehicle plates, was implemented in 2010 on toll roads, previously known as SCUT (currently ex-SCUT). The way of regulating the fees for using these roads is significantly different depending on if the car has Portuguese or foreign plates.
SCUT Highways – what is it?
The name SCUT is an abbreviation of the Portuguese “Via Sem Custos Para o Utilizador”, which means ‘a road without fees for the user’. It does not make sense, but find the SCUT explanation below:
The SCUT term was given to segments of roads, which construction and maintenance was outsourced to the companies in exchange for exclusivity for concessions of service points along them distributed (gas stations, restaurants, etc …). On these roads, there were no direct fees charged from the users i.e. drivers/car owners (who paid indirectly, through the services they were using during the trip).
However, that model appeared to be unprofitable and was liquidated in October 2010. The state took over the responsibility for maintaining those SCUT highways, at the same time launching charge for the vehicles using them.
Since the existing infrastructure, in many cases, does not allow for installation of traditional gates (serviced by personnel), the system for electronic identification of plates and for reading the Via Verde signal (Portugal special device needed) was chosen. The way to implement VIA VERDE was to allow to install cameras and readers in special structures located above the highway.
Via Verde is the Portuguese system of automatic toll collection, requiring installation of a special identification device on the windshield. The emitted signal will collect automatically a fee from the bank account connected with the vehicle. It only works if you are signed up to VIA VERDE and if you have the device in the car connected to it – basically no good for tourists from abroad.
Electronic gates on motorways in Portugal. The following signs inform you about approaching them:
The majority of Portuguese highways covered by the vehicle electronic identification system are situated in the north of the country. The most important exception is the Via do Infante route, which lays along the southern seacoast in the popular tourist area of the Algarve.
How to do a toll payment?
The method of payment for the toll, on which the electronic vehicle identification system is installed is being done in two different ways, depending on whether the car is registered in Portugal or outside its borders.
In a case of vehicles with Portuguese registration, which are equipped with a Via Verde device, the fee is charged automatically from the owner’s bank account. Each Via Verde transponder is connected with one vehicle and can’t be moved to another vehicle. The exception here is, however, the Via Verde Visitors device, about which later on in this article.
A much less comfortable method of payment applies to the Portuguese drivers who don’t have Via Verde. After using SCUT highways, they must go to the post office or to the PayShop point in order to be able to have an opportunity to pay after giving their registration numbers.
Portuguese confusion about toll roads
The terms in which the fee must be paid is also a quite complicated subject: the payment code is available only 48 hours after using the motorway.
This is the time necessary to put the car register number into the system, which is used by the post office and PayShop branches. At the same time, the term of 5 working days should not be exceeded from the moment the payment code is entered into the system.
After that time, it’s not possible anymore to make a payment and you should expect a payment request, charged with an additional financial penalty, which the Portuguese Tax Office sends to the vehicle owner’s address. Ignoring this request can bring serious consequences and even higher penalty and the start of enforcement proceedings.
How do the foreigners pay for highways in Portugal?
People, who are traveling in Portugal by cars on foreign plates, on traditional highways can simply pay “on the gate”. In a case of motorways with only an electronic toll collection system, they have several options to choose from.
The EasyToll system was created, specifically, for the needs of foreigners and a large group of Portuguese emigrants visiting their homeland and moving around by the SCUT highways. It is relatively easy in using, but requires prior registration, which involves connecting the registration numbers with the user’s credit card. It can be done in special points, which are usually placed at the entrance to the motorway. They are quite well marked with a sign “foreign vehicles”.
After registration, which consists of placing a payment card in a special terminal and providing vehicle plates, the driver gets a receipt, which should be kept as a proof. The registration is valid for 30 days, after which it automatically expires. It can also be canceled by phone before the end of this time.
Additional costs are also included with this method of payment. In addition to the fee of the passage through the motorway section, an administrative fee of € 0.26 + VAT for each trip and registration fee: € 0.60 + VAT are also charged.
EasyToll points (terminals) can be found at the following segments of motorways: A28 – Viana do Castelo, A24 – Chaves, A25 – Vilar Formoso, A22 – Vila Real de Santo Antonio.
For those, who doesn’t want to use a credit card, pre-paid TollCard can be bought. Cards with a value of € 5, 10, 20 or 40 can be bought at the post office, at gas stations at the motorways and at the Internet (www.tollcard.pt). The card should be activated according to the SMS instructions, giving the registration number of the vehicle. From that moment, the fee for each trip at the motorway with the electronic toll collection system will be taken from the purchased balance. Several cards could be connected with one registration number and the user will be notified about the low balance status by SMS in advance.
With using this method of payment, a payment for using the highways is the same as with the EasyToll service (see above).
There is an option of using TollService card for tourists visiting Portugal for a very short time, for example on weekends, that allows to use all SCUT highways for a period of 3 days for a fee of € 20.
Important note: The EasyToll system does not include the Via Verde priority passages, which can only be used by cars equipped with the Via Verde device.
It also should be mentioned that the SCUT motorways are quite strongly patrolled, so cars on foreign plates are often stopped for inspection. The refusal to show proof of payment (TollService card or TollCard or also a confirmation of registration in the EasyToll system) will end up with a penalty payable on the spot.
Is it possible to rent Via Verde?
The majority of car rental companies in Portugal offer the option of renting a Via Verde transponder for a variable price.
Such service is usually offered by the operator for much better price. A temporary device called Via Verde Visitors is connected with the client’s bank account. The price of that service is €6 for the first week of use and €1.5 for the each next one plus, of course, the costs of tolls on motorways.
In case of payments through the Via Verde system, there are no administrative fees for each passed section, however, you need to leave a refundable deposit of around €30. The Via Verde balance can be checked on-line via the operator’s website.
The unbeatable advantage of such option for paying tolls for motorways in Portugal is the ability to use priority passages just by passing through the gates on which you do not have to stop, but only to slow down. They are marked with green color on the road and with inclined letter V. They often allow you to avoid long and tedious waiting in the queue to the gates, especially when entering the bridges.
Motorways with the electronic toll collection system – where are they?
The main SCUT motorways in Portugal in regions in particular:
- A4 (Auto-estrada Transmontana)
- A24 (Auto-estrada Interior Norte)
- A25 (Auto-estrada Beira Litoral e Alta)
- A28 (Auto-estrada Litoral Norte)
- A29 (Auto-estrada Costa da Prata)
- A42 (Auto-estrada Douro Litoral)
- A41 (CREP)
- A23 (Auto-estrada Beira Interior)
- A17 (Litoral Centro Motorway)
- A22 (Via do Infante)