There are many ways to travel, perhaps the fastest and most comfortable being by plane, which is unrivalled for far-flung destinations. The train or bus can also be very valid options, although they do not reach the speed of air travel. On the other hand, the car is the option chosen by many travellers because of the advantages it offers: comfort, flexibility and freedom.
Portugal is an excellent destination to visit by car. From Spain, it is a pleasant trip that can be made in a day’s journey, regardless of your point of departure. Moreover, it is a magnificent country to drive in, beyond the myths and urban legends that have been spread about the way it is driven, in Portugal driving is very similar to Spain.
What do you need to drive in Portugal?
Like any other country where internal border controls have been eliminated to allow the free and unrestricted movement of people, goods and services (Schengen area), the documents you need to travel in Portugal are the same as in Spain and the rest of the EU countries:
- DNI and or passport, in addition, it is highly recommended to carry photocopies of both.
- Valid driving licence.
- Valid vehicle registration certificate and technical data sheet.
- Up to date MOT of the vehicle.
- Receipt of the last insurance payment for the vehicle.
- Accident reports from the insurance company.
- European health card.
Traffic regulations in Portugal
As in Spain, the same traffic regulations apply in Portugal as in Spain. For example, seat belts and child restraint systems are compulsory. The use of mobile phones while driving is also prohibited. The legal blood alcohol limit for driving a vehicle in Portugal is 0.5 g/l, and for novice or professional drivers it is reduced to 0.2 g/l.
Speed limits depend on the road. In urban areas, the maximum speed allowed is 50 km/h, on secondary roads it is 90 km/h and on motorways and dual carriageways, between 100 and 120 km/h. It is also compulsory to carry reflective waistcoats and triangles or emergency lights in the car to signal a breakdown or mishap.
How to pay tolls in Portugal
Tolls are perhaps the most cumbersome part of driving in Portugal, as there are two types of tolls: tolls with barriers and tolls without barriers. Barrier tolls are equipped with toll booths or machines where you can pay by cash or credit card.
If you have a ViaT or Via Verde device, you will cross through the lanes designated for this use, which are marked as ‘Vías Verdes’ (Green Lanes). If you have a Spanish ViaT device, you must make sure that the device (depending on the different concessionary companies) requires activation to be valid in Portugal.
How to pay motorway tolls in Portugal
Barrier-free tolls are the most different from the ones we know in Spain. They are electronic payment systems that photograph the vehicle’s number plate by means of cameras installed on metal gantries along the route of certain motorways. Vehicles must be equipped with one of the following payment systems:
- Easytoll: this is the simplest of them all. A bank card is associated with a number plate. In order to activate it, you have to cross the Portuguese border at the following points:
- A28 – Viana do Castelo
- A24 – 3.5 km from the border via Chaves/Verin
- A25 – Alto de Leomil service area (Vilar Formoso)
- A22 – Vila Real de Santo Antonio *This system is valid for 30 days.
- Tollcard: these are prepaid cards that can be purchased in shops, at Portuguese post offices or on the internet. They are similar to prepaid mobile phone cards. Amounts range from 5 euros to 40 euros.
- Tollservice: There are two types of cards, a prepaid card with a flat rate for three days and another for journeys from Spain to Oporto or Faro airports. It is only valid for cars, vans and motorbikes.
- Via-T/Bip&Drive: this is the most widely used electronic fare collection system in Spain and is compatible with the Portuguese system. It is placed on the windscreen. It is advisable to get confirmation from the company that it is valid in Portugal,
- Via Verde temporary device: the equivalent of the Spanish Via-T. It is purchased from the company’s website. It is also placed on the windscreen.
These electronic tolls work independently from the Via Verde tolls. Even if you carry the electronic payment system (EasyToll, TollCard, etc.) you will have to pay on motorways where there are barriers, as the two systems are different.
What happens if you do not pay the toll in Portugal?
To conclude on the subject of Portuguese tolls, it is very important to know the consequences of failing to pay through one of these systems on electronic toll motorways. On toll roads with barriers, there is no choice but to pay immediately.
The good news is that if you have been driving without having purchased an electronic payment system, you can pay within 24 hours of driving on electronic toll motorways. To do this, you must purchase a Tollcard and associate it with the registration number of the vehicle in question.
Failure to pay may result in a fine which will be sent to the Spanish address. In Portugal, non-payment of tolls is a tax offence, so it will be up to the tax administration itself to claim it legally in Spain, i.e. by means of the corresponding legal claim.
Petrol prices in Portugal
Until a few months ago, the recommendation would have been to fill up in Spain before crossing the border, as historically fuels in Portugal were more expensive, between 20 and 25 cents more expensive.
However, since the recent fuel crisis throughout Europe and especially in Spain, the tables have turned. Today (as can be seen in the table below) the price per litre of petrol and diesel is cheaper in Portugal, so it is advisable to fill up there.