The A22 is the Algarve's main arterial route, running the length of the coast between the Spanish border at Ayamonte to Portimao in the south west of Portugal. The motorway was operated free of charge to users until late 2011, when it was converted to a toll road. The change was well publicised locally, but came as a surprise to many visiting tourists who had used the road previously when there were no tolls.
The major concern for visitors to the Algarve who intend to rent a car is the method of payment for journeys on the A22. Unlike toll roads in France and Spain, there are no entry/exit payment booths for the A22, instead road usage is monitored by a dual system of cameras and transponders which record information at various points along the motorway. The pricing is calculated based on where the vehicle enters and exits the A22.
The A22 toll payment scheme was initially rather poorly thought out by the Portuguese authorities, resulting in many local people and visitors avoiding the A22 altogether, preferring to use the EN125 instead. The EN125 is notoriously busy at peak times and the traffic on the road increased significantly following the introduction of the A22 toll. Conversely, traffic on the A22 is estimated to have reduced by as much as 50% since the toll was introduced. There is more information on tariffs on our Faro Airport page.
So how can holiday visitors pay if they hire a car and want to use the A22? The payment system is a little complicated, but read on.
A transponder is an electronic device which records usage of the A22 by registering every time the vehicle enters or exits the road (rather than the camera system which photographs number plates). The information from the transponder is transmitted to a central computer which automatically bills users.
Residents who use the A22 frequently can purchase a transponder, but it is also possible to rent one from local Post Offices, or you can hire one from most car rental companies at Faro Airport. There is usually a charge of around € 20. If you rent a transponder from the vehicle hire company, they will generally come with a number of pre-paid A22 trips, with the option to purchase additional journeys using your credit card. This will save you a visit to a local post office to make the payment, but may involve you having to leave your credit card details with the rental company (this is in case you use more than the pre-paid number of trips).
If you are not comfortable with leaving your credit card details with the rental company, there is a Post Office inside Faro Airport where you can hire a transponder for the duration of your trip.
If you decide not to hire a transponder, you can pay for toll usage after you have finished your journey(s). Cameras will have recorded where and when you used the road. You must wait at least 48 hours and then pay at a local post office or other designated payment outlet, which may not be a practical option for many, especially if they use the A22 road on their return to the airport prior to departure. In this case, if you have hired a vehicle, the rental company will charge any additional usage to your credit card when it is billed (which will be at least 48 hours after you used the road).
If you have used the A22 and did not make a payment it is likely that the rental company will receive the bill and may make a deduction, possibly including an admin fee from the credit card whichwas used to hire the vehicle.
Drivers of foreign vehicles entering Portugal at Ayamonte (in Spain) can pay by credit card at special "EASYtoll" booths located the Portuguese side of the border. The payment is associated with the vehicle licence plate. Your card will be charged for all journeys made by the vehicle on the A22 during your visit to Portugal. Cameras photograph the vehicles number plates and your card is automatically debited each time the vehicle uses the road.
Read more about EASYtoll payment online.
The Tollcard scheme allows A22 road users with foreign registered vehicles to pre-purchase trips using a toll card which can be topped up on-line. Cards can be purchased here.