(Ben) I must start today’s post with a humble apology. This blog’s been a little neglected of late, due to a combination of hosting guests, working to save up for our impending tax bill, and our decision to move house in the near future.
I’ll go into more detail on the latter in a future post, as I want to give the story behind our plans to move and details of the plans themselves the space they deserve. For now, however, I’ll just say that we are remaining in the Algarve but moving somewhere with a little more life and variety.
Now, I’ve got you guessing, I’ll proceed with today’s post, which is about travel within the Algarve. The tourist season is underway, and we find ourselves being asked lots of questions (both by our own guests and by random people we meet) about how best to travel around the Algarve region. I’m going to start by talking about trains.
Trains in the Algarve
The Algarve train line stretches for almost the entire length of the coast, beginning at the border with Spain at Vila Real de Santo Antonio and ending just shy of the far West in the city of Lagos.
For those visiting the East Algarve, where we currently live, the train is a great way of getting around. It’s cheap, and practically hugs the coast from Faro to the Spanish border. It’s not especially fast (Faro to Tavira takes 40 minutes), but it’s cheap, and, importantly for tourists, it’s possible to access beaches and resort towns by alighting at Olhao, Fuseta, Tavira, Conceicao or Monte Gordo.
West of Faro, the train’s not quite as good as the route map might suggest. Between Faro and Portimao, few of the stations are anywhere near the towns that they suggest they are. Albufeira station, for example, is several miles from civilization. Journeys on this section of the line seem long, with Faro to Lagos taking nearly two hours – twice as long as by road.
Still, I for one love a journey on the train, but if you intend to take a long trip, don’t do it in July and August. I travelled from Tavira to Lagos and back last summer for a meeting when the temperature was pushing 40 degrees, and it was torturously hot on board.
Buses in the Algarve
The Algarve has a surprisingly extensive bus network, and for some journeys (Faro to Albufeira being a good example), bus travel is a more sensible option than riding the rails.
However, it’s fair to say that travelling by local buses and locating the correct bus stops and timetables can be a challenge if you don’t understand Portuguese.
If you do fancy giving it a go, however, I can recommend a fabulous website, Algarve Bus Info. The site owner has clearly spent hours amalgamating all possible Algarve travel information into one place, and the information also covers train timetables and tips on journeys to Lisbon as well as Spain and beyond.
Car Hire in the Algarve
If you really want to experience the Algarve properly, it’s undoubtedly best to hire a car. Most of our guests don’t bother, but they’re lucky enough to have my wife to drive them around!
If you really don’t want to drive in Portugal, then it’s best to choose a resort such as Lagos, Tavira or Albufeira, where you can rely on an airport transfer at either end of the holiday and have sufficient amenities on hand that you need not travel away from the town.
But this, to me, is missing the point. You won’t find tucked-away, “secret” beaches without a car. You won’t be able to stop at tiny makeshift fruit stalls, and you won’t get to go off the beaten track and find the “real” Algarve.
Also, at least outside of peak tourist season, it’s often cheaper to hire a car for a week than it is to pay for two airport transfers.
So, my local’s recommendation is to take to the roads when you visit the Algarve – you’ll see so much more of this wonderful region.
Image credits: guymoll, Wikimedia Commons