The secret to understanding Spanish tollgates


As I spend a lot of my time near Girona when not guiding wine tours or off on other wine adventures, I’m often using the western ring road to pop in and out of town. This is due to driving through Girona being one of those things in life that can spontaneously give you scabies. I do this because despite the AP-7 being a toll road, the four exits around Girona are free to enter and exit. There is of course one catch to this in that for many people, the act of paying a toll in the 21st century is beyond them.

This was reinforced the other day when exiting and getting stuck behind some old German fellow who was feebly trying to stick a five euro note in to the slot for the credit card. This was naturally in vain as he had pulled in to a gate that was only for credit cards and the only solution to this is to back out, fuck up everyone’s day and then go to another gate where you can pay with cash. Someone then comes out of a booth to hit you over the head with a lead pipe when you ask for the receipt. Sadly for those of us who reside in Spain, the lead pipe hitters have been heavily decreased in recent years due to budget cuts.

So, let’s do a quick review of how to know which lane to go in to when exiting a Spanish toll road which is to say a Catalan toll road as there are essentially no other toll roads in Spain outside of these.

  • An image of a credit card – You can see this on the right above. That amazingly means, “credit cards only”.
  • An image of a credit card and coins with a Euro symbol – You can see that in the middle and you’ll be surprised to know that you can pay with credit card and cash there. If in doubt, always, always choose this fucking lane.
  • An image of a person – This isn’t in the above image as not all tollgates are manned but you will be shocked (yes, shocked!) to know that this means there is a person there who can begrudgingly help you. This might also be a person armed with a lead pipe to hit your soft head so just remember to carry fucking money and/or credit cards while driving. Seriously, if you’re in a car, how do you not have either?
  • That T thing – Don’t worry about it unless it’s just a T, in which case, don’t go there. That doesn’t mean “tourist” lane and doubly don’t go there if it’s a blue lane. This is a transponder device system we who reside here (as well as for the French) can use to not bother stopping called Via T. Feel free to try this if you want as there’s no gate. It’s just that a camera will take a photo of your license plate and you’ll get a nice fat fine in the mail for not paying.

And that’s it. It’s amazing simple system that works nearly identically to every other fucking toll system in the world. They’re not going to overcharge your credit and if you’re in the Eurozone, it’s all the same damned currency, so use your credit card! If you fear the toll roads, don’t use them. Your choice to be cheap and take the scenic route will probably double your travel time and cost you more in gas then the toll road, but hey, to each their own that’s why you come down with a camping caravan dragging along behind your car, right?