Charting a couple's move from London to Portugal, tales, adventures and moving advice

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Travelling Around the Algarve

Posted on May 09, 2013 by Ben Algarve
Meravista

(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.

Algarve Trains

Algarve Trains

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.

Faro Buses

Faro Buses

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.

Explore the inland Algarve with a hire car

Explore the inland Algarve with a hire car

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.

If you’re looking for a hire car, we recommend Economy Car Hire. Alternatively, use carhirefaroairport.com to search a host of local companies all at once. Enjoy your trip!

Image credits: guymoll, Wikimedia Commons

 

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10 to “Travelling Around the Algarve”

  1. saz says:

    OOh – are you moving back to Tavira?? Will look forward to hearing all about your plans in due course and hope they all run smoothly. :-)

    ps sorry if this comes through twice – captcha probs again

  2. Really useful post, Ben. I’ll be sharing that!

    I agree with you about hiring a car – it makes things so much easier but what about parking in peak season? It’s pretty difficult at the beaches in central Portugal so I’d have thought the Algarve would be a nightmare in July and August. What’s the reality?

  3. admin says:

    @Saz – No, a lot further West than that…keep guessing ;-)

  4. admin says:

    @Julie – I must admit, we avoid the main Algarve resorts like the plague in the summer, but we have experienced nightmare parking on a few occasions. Thankfully, the Portuguese “if they’ve run out of spaces, just stop where you can” attitude makes it a little easier!

    I would say, however, that there’s no shortage of parking at the main East Algarve beaches. Even in the peak of the summer, it’s easy to find a space at the likes of Altura, Manta Rota and Monte Gordo, although in the case of the latter you have to pay, which you don’t throughout the rest of the year!

    Best wishes,

    Ben

  5. Matt says:

    Another alternative is to get a taxi or an airport transfer – if you are on holiday in the Algarve and don’t plan on doing much driving this can work out cheaper, especially in July/August.

  6. saz says:

    right, next guess, either Praia de Rocha – but thats a bit dead in the winter, so I’m thinking Lagos? Getting warmer?? (NB its certainly not getting warmer over here in London, its freezing and currently snowing in Devon – allegedly). Saz

  7. admin says:

    @Matt – very true Matt, particularly if you are planning to stay near to your local area and not explore much – although the Algarve has so much to offer that I would always encourage a bit of exploration :-)

  8. admin says:

    @Saz – Lou here. You are spot on with Lagos, although our plans have now changed and we won’t be moving there after all! I’m sure Ben will detail it all in a post next week. Hope it warms up for you in London :-)

  9. Celia says:

    I agree that hiring a car is a great option – nothing provides more freedom to explore. Driving in Portugal is not for the faint hearted though!

  10. admin says:

    That’s certainly true Celia – nerves of steel are required, particularly when you have a huge lorry about 2 cm behind your rear bumper, ready to overtake on a corner!



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