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Portugese Highways: Tolls & GPS

I'm getting a lot of confusing and sometimes conflicting information about how to "handle" the new highways in Portugal with regard to to taking care of toll charges AND whether or not the newest toll roads are included in GPS software. Hoping someone who's been there recently can inform and assure me that the automatic toll sensors along these highways are trustworthy, and, whether or not GPS works well there.

I have the Garmin Nuvi 1370. Garmin's last updates for Spain and Portugal were in 2012. I have not purchased an update because I'm concerned it may not be recent enough for the new highway construction.

Thanks a million!

Posted by
409 posts

I was waiting to see if anyone responded who was recently there, as I travelled up and down Portugal the summer of 2013. I can only offer my experience as to that trip.

We rented a van at the airport for our 3 week trip and did use the "new" highway system. All the tolls were automatically paid by the rental agency and of course were charged to my credit card. No problems at all and no worries. However, my niece rented a car from an off site agency (her car was not equipped with the toll transponder) for her 2 weeks with us and if she used the "new" highway system, she had to go to a local post office within 48 hours (I think) and pay the toll in person...headaches and wasted time! Check with the rental agency if they provide the toll sensor in their cars and avoid this issue.

The GPS issue is a different story. I have a TomTom, with a 4 year old Europe map, and only had some minor issues. All the highways and signage is quite good in Portugal, so for me as long as I was heading in the direction of my destination I felt fine. The cities and towns worked great for my older GPS map. If I did jump on the newer highway system, of course my GPS did not recognize it, but I used common sense where I needed to get off. I would do some more research on the Garmin website or maybe call them and ask. With the maps in the Rick Steves Portugal book, I think you are fine, but it will depend on your definition of "fine". :-) I also had his Spain and Portugal folding map which I highly recommend even with an up-to-date GPS also came in handy with his book.

One last note: be cautious if your GPS wants to send you down what looks like a narrow road in a village or city...Look for an alternative because that narrow road could get even narrower and you may end up having inches on either side of your car. This happened to me and I was driving a 9-passenger van! To say the least, I had never been so nervous driving in Europe, but I luckily got out of that jam with no scratches or dents. Lesson learned and I am passing it on. I hope this helped a little at least.

Posted by
4 posts

Many thanks for your informative response regarding your recent experience in Portugal. It was very helpful. And, I do know what you mean as concerns "narrowing roadway situations" in Europe. Several years ago we were arriving, late at night, at an ancient hilltop B&B in Tuscany. What was a fairly narrow, two-way dirt road at the bottom of the hill got progressively narrower, with switchbacks, as we climbed about five miles up the hill. At a particularly nasty spot, with a steep drop-off on one side, the road looked to be no more than one lane wide. Naturally, it was at that point that we saw an oncoming car. I slowed to a near stop, inching my way as far to the right as I dared without going into a ditch. The approaching driver never slowed down but in the last few moments I saw his arm reach out to fold in his outside mirror -- which gave him maybe another two inches of wiggle room! My wife and her friend in the back seat just about lost their lunch. But, it's because of experiences like those that we all travel, right? They make us feel we're alive -- and are so entertaining when we look back on them. Thanks again.