We visit the Algarve from the Costa del Sol at least twice a year. It's an easy drive. From Marbella on the AP7 toll road down to Los Barrios just before Algeciras and then inland to Sevilla. On maximum alert as we skirt Sevilla to the south, climbing the big suspension bridge over the Guadalquivir river before swinging west towards Huelva then Portugal.
|Guadiano River Bridge from the Portuguese side|
Two kilometres after the bridge over the River Guadiana along the A22 / IC highway, signs invite foreign motorists to pull off the road into a drive though area to register for the automatic registration plate recognition toll road charging system.
Our visit in mid August coincided with Spain's Virgen del Carmen long weekend and well trained teams of smiling Portuguese helpers were positioned ready to explain the system.
|A motorcyclist registering for the toll road|
print you off a ticket with all details recorded on it. This is valid for a month.
Not all of the A 22 toll highway is charged however, and as you approach the metered sections of the road, you'll see the cameras on overhead gantries and the charges for the upcoming section will be displayed. The automatic toll charging system means you can move easily from one side of the Algarve to the other, avoiding the overcrowded N125 old coast road which runs parallel to the A22 / IC toll road. It's overcrowded because the local Portuguese residents refuse to use the toll road and show their opposition to the scheme by simply avoiding any tolls.
|Credit card toll charge registration booths|
If you are driving on up to Lisbon or Oporto along the magificently empty IC 1 toll highway, then make very sure you pick up a ticket from an automatic ticket dispensing machine. You will be charged at your exit point. This system is separate to the Algarve toll roads. If you don't collect a ticket on entry, you will be charged the full north to south transit cost, nearly €50, even if your journey on the IC 1 was much shorter.