As easy as buying scratch cards at the post office…

2018 3

(Porto buildings and steps and Denis)

We didn’t go back to the park today, instead we decided to go to Porto and sort out our toll road issue. We haven’t been on toll roads yet in Portugal and it’s only a matter of time. I think I might have explained this before but I have new information, thanks to the Porto tourist office and the man in the post office of Porto.

2018 2

(Tram tracks on a cobble-stoned road with tiled footpaths)

So, going back to the start… there are toll roads with booths where we can stop and pay and there are toll roads with electronic readers where they automatically charge your vehicle… if you have bought a pre-pay card or you have connected your vehicle online. If you don’t have a pre-paid card or you haven’t connected properly, there is no way to pay retrospectively! And you can be fined by the police. I had tried to do the connecting last year and it was really stressful and it didn’t work. This year I decided that I didn’t like the fine option and that we would stop at one of the special places set up at the border for tourists to connect their vehicle with their credit card. I was really looking forward to that special place. Unfortunately, we couldn’t find that special place. I am no longer sure that special place exists…

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(And a tram)

So I have been having palpitations whenever there is the possibility we might stray onto an electronic toll road. It was past time to do something about it and here we were very close to a city with a tourist office. We took the bus to Porto and the nice English-speaking lady in the tourist office explained that the easiest way to do it all was online… “Noooo, I tried that last year and it got messy, they wanted me to print the receipt and stick it in the window and the printer didn’t work and most of the instructions were in Portuguese and I think we were driving under the electronic tolls illegally!” says I.

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(Colourful market stall at the indoor market, Porto)

The nice lady was a little taken back but finally found her voice and suggested the other option –  the post office and it was just across the road. So off we went to the post office. The nice English-speaking man in the post office took us through the instructions (in spite of the long queue behind us). First buy the pre-pay toll road scratch card then scratch it, then send a text to the toll company with the scratch card number and the van registration number. Very quickly they sent us back a text telling us our balance. It worked! The balance amount turned out to be a bit of a surprise, though… it was twice the amount we paid in the post office.

There was no need to panic, it had worked last year, Mairead.

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