EP word of the week (#11): autoestrada

One of the things Portugal has been known for since its accession to the EEC (now EU) is a proliferation of the number of constructed highways/freeways, with the progress in fast travel and road safety being sometimes shadowed by allegations of corruption in the construction process and the inclusion of tolls in previously toll-free roads.

[A] autoestrada is the name we give to these highways; in traffic signs, they’re recognizable by the blue background of the signs and the letter A followed by the road number. Autoestradas are also special due to the higher speeds one can travel there: a minimum of 50 kph (something unique to highways) and a maximum of 120 kph (the highest possible legal speed, which you’ll see infringed more often than not) for cars and motorcycles (trucks and buses operate at slightly lower speeds).

Autoestrada 23 (A 23 – pronounced “A [the letter] vinte e três [the number]”

Portugal is also world-renowned for its Via Verde (lit. “Green Way”) system, which allows users to buy a small electronic device that’s attached to the windscreen and registers the value of a toll automatically in specific toll lanes, therefore allowing drivers to pass tolling areas without stopping, being billed the value of their toll at a different date (or using our also highly advanced electronic banking system, Multibanco, a word I’ll take a look at sometime in the future).

You can find out more about the Portuguese road system by reading this interesting article.

Related words/Useful sentences:

  • [a] portagem: toll (the tax) / toll station (single booth used to pay tolls)
  • [as] portagens: toll station area (row of toll booths, and the area they’re in)
  • [a] velocidade: speed
  • [a] estação de serviço: rest area
  • [o] troco: change [money given back when a customer hand over more than the exact value of the service]
  • [os] trocos: loose change [loose coins/bills a person has on them]
  • ter dinheiro trocado: to have enough money to pay the exact value of the bill/tax/fine without the need for paying more (therefore not creating the need for the service giver to hand out troco in return)
  • trocar dinheiro: to exchange money in the same amount to create loose change (for example, to exchange a 20 € bill for four 5 € bills or two 10 € bills)


  • A A1 [autoestrada n.º 1] liga Lisboa ao Porto. A1 [highway 1] connects Lisbon and Oporto.
  • [Vocês] Querem parar na próxima estação de serviço antes de continuarmos a viagem? Would you like to stop at the next rest area before we continue our trip?
  • Tens dinheiro trocado para a pagar a portagem? Do you have enough change to pay the toll tax?

5 thoughts on “EP word of the week (#11): autoestrada

  1. Alex February 28, 2016 / 3:21 am

    Your Via Verde system sounds like our EZ Pass – electronic tags that automatically debit the toll from your account. There’s usually a discount for paying with EZ Pass rather than cash, too. Does Via Verde have that kind of incentive as well, or is it just the convenience?


    • luisdomingos February 28, 2016 / 4:55 pm

      I’m not entirely sure, Alex; usually people and companies view not having to stop and wait in line as convenient enough, but I’m sure there are other discounts I’m not aware of. I’ll look into it and edit this comment if and when I find anything.

      P.S.: It turns out there are a ton of discounts for Via Verde users! There’s a points system (anytime someone passes through a Via Verde toll booth), and discounts at Pousadas de Portugal (which is a group of classy inns / B&Bs), on gas, meals at rest stop restaurants (and McDrive), and certain car equipment/parts (all partnerships with specific brands). https://www.viaverde.pt/viagens-vantagens

      There doesn’t seem to be discounts on the actual fares, but these incentives all sound pretty good (Portuguese companies try to compensate that with synergy among businesses and products – for example, certain credit cards give you free movie tickets on certain days, and a points card for a gas/petrol company gives you discounts on fast food restaurants, and so on).

      P.P.S. Via Verde is a national system, yes. All main highways have at least one green lane on their toll areas (:


      • Alex February 28, 2016 / 5:08 pm

        It’s no big deal, I was just curious. I think most of the discounts with EZ Pass are aimed at commuters – if you cross the Tappan Zee bridge 20 times per month you get charged $2/trip instead of $5/trip, for example. Is the Via Verde system used throughout Portugal? EZ Pass is regional here, it’s only in the northeast as far as I know.


  2. Josef Correia Herbert March 13, 2016 / 8:50 am

    From what I’ve heard, Via Verde pioneered this kind of tolling system and all other systems are based on the one Portugal developed. The same with the pre-paid SIM card.


    • luisdomingos March 13, 2016 / 5:37 pm

      Hi, Josef! Thanks for reading and for your comment (:

      As far as I can tell, Via Verde really was one of the first of its kind, and also the first system to have a nationwide coverage. Together with our network of interbank, multitask ATMs (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Multibanco), it represents one of the few contributions of Portuguese expertise to world tech.

      Good luck with your studies (:

      Liked by 1 person

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