Visiting The Algarve Without A Car

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There are two types of people that visit the Algarve without a car: those that can’t drive and those that don’t want to drive.

If you can’t drive, read this articvle to see how to get around (skip the next section).

If you don’t want to drive, or you’re too nervous to drive in Portugal, maybe it’s worth reconsidering: getting around the Algarve without a car isn’t impossible, but it can be limiting – particularly if you want to visit more remote parts of the Algarve (e.g. some of the beaches or the West Coast).

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Of course, some people won’t need a car for their trip to the Algarve. If your plan is to head to your hotel, and if your hotel is within walking distance of a beach and some restaurants, and that’s really all you’re visiting the Algarve for, you probably won’t need a car. In fact, it’s probably easier just to take an airport transfer from Faro Airport to your accommodation and then to book a taxi or day trip if you decide to go somewhere.

If, you plan to do a little exploring however, either visiting the beaches or nearby towns, you’ll probably need to consider where you stay and how easy it is to get to other places from there.

Is driving in Portugal so bad?

Driving in Portugal can be a little bad sometimes, it has to be said, but actually the Algarve is one of the easiest places to drive in Portugal. The toll roads are practically empty most of the time, and even the non-toll roads are fairly easy to drive along.

Parking is also much easier here than it is in places like Lisbon and Porto: unless you’re in the heart of somewhere like Faro, you’ll rarely struggle to find a parking space or need to parallel park.

If you’ve never driven a left-hand drive before (British and Irish visitors) or if you’ve never driven a manual car before (North Americans), the Algarve is actually quite a good place to learn.

Still not convinced? Here’s how to get around the Algarve without a car.

Where to stay

If you don’t have a car, and especially if you’re visiting the Algarve during the summer, you’ll probably want to stay somewhere that’s within walking distance of a beach. If you want to explore several beaches (e.g. Marinha, Benagil) you’ll probably want to stay somewhere on the #52 EVA Cliffs Line e.g. Alvor, Portimão, Ferragudo, Armação de Pêra. The #77 from Lagoa also goes to several beaches.

If you’re planning on exploring a lot, you may also want to consider staying somewhere that has a train station. It’s not essential (you can get everywhere by bus), but it does give you an extra way of getting around the Algarve. 

 TrainBeach
Albufeira🚂* (Albufeira-Ferreiras is ~ 7 km)🏖️
Alcoutim
Aljezur~ 8 km
Alte🚂* (Messines-Alte train station is ~ 12 km)
Alvor🚂* (Alcantarilha train station is ~ 9 km)🏖️
Armação de Pêra🏖️
Burgau🏖️
CabanasAccessible by boat
Carvoeiro🏖️
Castro Marim🚂* (Castro Marim train station is ~ 5 km)~ 7 km
Faro🚂Accessible by bus/boat
Ferragudo🚂* (Parchal train station is ~ 3 km)🏖️
Lagoa🚂* (Estombar-Lagoa is ~ 3.5 km from Lagoa)
Lagos🚂🏖️
Loulé🚂* (Loulé train station is ~ 6 km)
Monchique🚂
Monte Gordo🚂* (Monte Gordo station is around ~ 1 km)🏖️
Olhão🚂🏖️
Portimão🚂~ 2 km
Praia da Luz🏖️
Praia da Rocha🚂* (Portimão station is ~ 2 km)🏖️
Quarteira🏖️
Sagres🏖️
São Bartolomeu de Messines🚂
São Bras de Alportel
Silves🚂* (Silves station is ~ 2 km)
Tavira🚂Accessible by boat
Vila do Bispo
Vilamoura🏖️
Vila Real de Santo Antonio🚂~ 3 km

Ways to get around the Algarve without a car

If you’re planning on exploring other towns on the Algarve, you’ll be able to do so by: train, bus, taxi, coach (day trips), renting a car, or by boat. 

Train

The train is one of the easiest ways to get around the Algarve but, as you can see from the table above, not every town has a train station which means you’ll have to take a bus to visit some towns. It’s also worth noting that some towns have train stations, but the train stations can be several kilometres from the actual town. Don’t worry, though: most of those train stations will have taxis waiting outside that you can take to get to the nearest town.

The main towns that have a train station are Lagos, Portimão, Faro, Olhão, Tavira, and Monte Gordo. You can check timetables and buy tickets at cp.pt

Bus

The Algarve has a good bus network that connects most of the towns and villages. The easiest thing to do is to decide where you want to stay, and then to see where you can get to by bus from there.

  • The main bus company in the Algarve is Vamus Algarve. Frota Azul also covers some routes in and around Portimão.
  • The Rota das Falésias minibus connects Ferragudo, Carvoeiro, and Lagoa with a number of beaches nearby (note: this bus only runs in summer).
  • There’s a free bus between Albufeira and Algarve Shopping, a small shopping mall with a cinema near Guia (note: this bus only runs in summer).
  • As of the end of 2021, there is a new bus route between Alvor and Armação de Pêra that covers many of the beaches in the Central Algarve (e.g. Praia da Marinha, Benagil). More information can be found at Vamus Algarve. According to AlgarveBus.info, a day ticket will cost €10 per person.

Taxi (or Uber)

Most towns on the Algarve have a taxi rank, and some taxi apps like Uber also work here as well.

Of all of these, Uber generally has the most cars and the shortest waiting time. Uber is most common in coastal towns like Albufeira, and you may have to wait longer if you’re somewhere more remote.

If there aren’t any Ubers nearby, and you can’t find the nearest taxi rank, you can phone Taxi Arade on 00-351-282460610 (operators speak English). 

Day trips

Most major coastal towns on the Algarve, like Albufeira, Praia da Rocha, and Carvoeiro, will offer day-trips by bus to nearby towns (especially Silves and Monchique), and you’ll see these tours advertised at local travel agencies in the town centres.

As well as coach and minibus day trips, you’ll also find:

Renting a car for the day

You may not want to rent a car for your entire trip to the Algarve but, if you’re planning on visiting more remote parts of the Algarve, it could be worth hiring a car for a day or two.

Most towns on the Algarve will have at least one car rental company, and you can easily see who is nearby using a website like rentalcars.com.

Boat

You can actually get around parts of the Algarve by boat.

  • Portimão to Silves: There’s a river boat ferry that takes you from Portimão to Silves by ferry, where you’ll then have some time to explore Silves before being taken back to Portimão again. Don’t worry if you’re not staying in Portimão as the boat company organises a free shuttlebus that’ll pick you up from your accommodation in Alvor, Portimão, and Praia da Rocha. (Buy tickets on AlgarveFun.com).
  • Ferragudo to Portimão: There’s a “taxi ferry” that connects Ferragudo and Portimão and vice versa. Finding timetables can be quite difficult, but you can ask them via their Facebook page.

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Comments

  1. Hello. We will be hiking in late October 2022 between Lagos and Cabo San Vicente, with stops in Praia da Luz, Salema and Sagres. In the event we find the hiking too much, are there transportation options between these towns (particularly Salema-Sagres and Sagres-Cabo San Vicente)? Taxi or Uber? Would one be able to arrange for these services in English? Thank you.

    Reply
    • I have been able to get an Uber in that part of Portugal before. However, it's often the case that there are only one or two drivers around. I would download some of the other apps (e.g. Bolt and Freenow) as well. Failing that, you will be able to Google local taxi companies.

      There is a bus that follows that route. You can see the timetable here - http://www.algarvebus.info/012.htm

      Reply
  2. Hi James,

    Thanks for this nice article. I am planning to travel to Algarve also to Lisbon in early May for a week and currently planning for all the days in different cities in order to book accommodation. Can you share your suggestion on below plan.

    Days Place Activity
    Day 1 Faro Reach accommodation in Faro
    Day 1 Faro Roam and explore Faro
    Day 2 Tavira Travel to Tavira castle and beach
    Day 2 Olhao Visit Ria formoosa national park, enjoy sunset
    Day 2 Faro Return to accommodation
    Day 3 Faro Depart to Lagos and settle in accommodation
    Day 3 Lagos Activity booking, Visit Praia do Pinhao, Praia de Dona
    ana, Ponta de Piedade
    Day 4 Lagos Activity - Benagil caves, Dolphin watching
    Day 4 Lagos Explore oldtown
    Day 5 Lagos Depart to Lisbon and settle with accommodation
    Day 5 Lisbon Explore oldtown
    Day 6 Lisbon Lisbon cathedral, Time-out market, Visit Castelo de S.Jorge
    Day 6 Lisbon Belem tower, Jerenimos Monastery
    Day 7 Lisbon Morning walk in oldtown and Travel to Faro
    Day 7 Faro Reach accommodation in Faro
    Day 7 Faro Explore oldtown
    Day 8 Faro Reach airport
    Day 8 Faro Fly back to home

    I am relying only on public transportation and would be good to know if you have any suggestion or other idea on this plan. I hope its doable.

    Reply
  3. Hi James!
    We're visiting Portugal in mid-May. We'll be passing to Faro from Lisbon via train, and have a flight back home from there, staying 4 days in total. We still don't have accommodation selected, any recommendations for a town to use as a base? (given we'd like to see around different towns and not necessarily looking to spend time on beaches every day)

    Reply
    • Hi Ecem,

      I'd probably work out where you want to see and then work from there. Some interesting towns of the top of my head are Faro, Tavira, Silves, Vila Real de Santo António, Olhão, Monchique, and Aljezur. You could split your time and do two days in the Eastern Algarve and two days in the Central Algarve. The Western Algarve is very beautiful, but perhaps more for nature rather than its towns.

      Reply
  4. Hi James, hope you’ve been well! I’ve stumbled upon your post just now as I am trying to do some research for me and my friend. Were planning on going for a long weekend in July and it will be our first time. Where is the best place to visit if we do want to explore the cliffs and at the same time relax by the beach? We will be relying mostly on trains/ bus (maybe taxi).

    Any advise is greatly appreciated!

    Reply
    • Hi Joelle,

      Difficult question! The beaches around Lagoa (e.g. Praia da Marinha) are probably what you're looking for but they're hard to get to without a car. You could do it with taxis, or there is a new summer bus route (#52) which is worth looking into - https://vamusalgarve.pt/#/pt/vamus%20algarve/routes

      The beaches that are accessible by train (e.g. Lagos, Monte Gordo) don't really have cliffs behind them.

      Albufeira has really nice red cliffs nearby (Praia da Falésia) but the town is pretty touristy in the summer.

      Reply
      • Hi James thank you for the article and all your responses. I am in the same shoes as Joelle as I would like to explore some nice beaches with the cliffs like Marinha Beach. I dont drive manual transmission so I will have to rely on public transportation and uber/taxi. I will be there for just 2 full days in the beginning of June, so I was hoping you could recommend the best area to stay to limit the long difficult drives.
        Thank you so much

        Reply
        • Hi Deema,

          The beaches around there (e.g. Marinha, Benagil, etc) are all great. If it's just a beach holiday, I would see if there's some accommodation within walking distance of one of those beaches (although you may not have a lot of restaurant options). If not, take a look at the towns around to see which you'd like to use as a base - Lagoa, Carvoreiro, Ferragudo, Armação de Pêra - and then get taxis from there. My preference would be either Ferragudo (a small, picturesque town that has a train station nearby) or Armação de Pêra (a slightly more built up beach town that attracts a lot of Portuguese, unlike a lot of the rest of the Algarve). Armação de Pêra has some nice cliffy beaches that you can walk to from the town as well.

          You can rent automatic transmission cars in Portugal. It's typically more expensive, though, and they tend to go quickly as there are fewer of these types of cars.

          https://www.portugalist.com/portugal-automatic-car-rental/

          Reply
          • Thank you so much James, would you recommend staying in Armação de Pêra instead of Albufeira if we like both beaches and restaurants. Also are there umbrellas to rent at the beaches, because my wife cant be out in the sun for too long

            Reply
  5. Hi James,

    I feel like I have a lot more reading to do! I just came across your post as I am planning to visit the Algarve for a couple of days while in Portugal. I am going to be traveling from Porto down to Carvoeiro and then to Lisbon. I am having trouble identifying the best way to get from Porto to Carvoeiro, particularly if looking at doing a train. What would you suggest is the best stop in the Algarve and then how do I navigate to my hotel?

    Thank you!

    Reply
    • Hi Kristina,

      Well, Carvoreiro doesn't have a train station, as I'm sure you've gathered. There are bus services from, say, Estombar or Ferragudo-Parchal (according to Algavebus.info - http://www.algarvebus.info/031.htm ) but there are only a few services per day, so it depends when you would arrive. I would probably get the train to Ferragudo-Parchal and then get a taxi from there. It's slightly bigger than Estombar, so there should be one outside and Uber is more likely to work there as well.

      Reply
  6. I want to know how it is for cycle touring, which is the real way to see nearly any kind of place, or at least travel to the seaside before relaxing a bit... You mention all these possibilities but not in your imagination could someone wish to travel by bike. Strange omission. It's technically the most energy-efficient form of travel. How fast depends on how much traffic and hills (and wind).

    Reply
    • Hi Windy Man,

      The Algarve is quickly becoming a very popular destination for cyclists and every year there seem to be more and more cyclists. It's something I've been meaning to write about for a while. The back roads don't get too busy, especially outside of summer. However, it's only starting to become a cycle destination and local drivers may not always drive in the most cyclist-friendly way. I think you'll like it, though.

      It's not an overly hilly region, with the exception of Monchique, but that information you should be able to get easily. Winds tend to be stronger on the west coast.

      Reply
  7. Hi, thank you so much for this very helpful layout! We're planning an 8-10 day trip between October 16th and 25th and we don't have a car. Which would be best as a base: Portimão, Lagos, or Albufeira? We want to explore two or three locations with natural rocky beaches and old towns. But we're not sure if that can be done without a car. Do you also think it would be possible to swim in the sea during this time? (we are middle-easterners with quite low tolerance to cold :D)

    Thank you

    Reply
    • Hi Maram,

      Portimão is probably the best in terms of location (as it's in the middle) but I would choose Lagos of the three. All three have old towns. Portimão is the least touristy (the old town, not Praia da Rocha area). Albufeira is the most touristy, but does have some nice beaches nearby.

      If staying in Lagos, I would stay on the side near Praia do Canavial or Porto Mós. Both are rockier than Meia Praia on the other side of town.

      In terms of the cold, the Portuguese sea is always cold as it's the Atlantic. I would bring your swimsuits but expect to feel the cold.

      Reply
  8. We are thinking of visiting the Algarve area in November. We will be coming by train from Lisbon. Thinking of staying in Lagos or Tavira or Faro. Will we be able to get from train station into the towns? Is one better than the other for someone without a car?

    Reply
    • All of them are fairly close, although it'll depend on where your accommodation is.

      Lagos has the advantage of having a beach you can walk to. In Faro and Tavira you have to take a ferry.

      Reply
  9. Since this about Algarve without a car, I am the ultimate pedestrian. I am legally blind. I am used to finding accommodations near markets etc but is there a town or city you feel is more pedestrian friendly than others? Streets blocked to vehicles, good sidewalks, not too hilly. Places you like to walk around.

    Reply
    • Hi Captn Blynd,

      It's a good question! A lot of towns will be a little hilly and often have quite narrow sidewalks, particularly older towns. Very few will be pedestrianised.

      Ferragudo is quite a small town that could meet a lot of these requirements. I think there's a market in the town but the main supermarket, Lidl, is a little outside. It's a little hilly but not too much.

      I would also look at:

      Tavira
      Lagos
      Vilamoura
      Vila Real de Santo António
      Sagres

      Reply
  10. Hi James,

    We are planning a trip to Portugal next week and were wondering how are business operating with COVID? Are most of them closed?

    Thank you,
    Angelica.

    Reply
    • Hi Angelica,

      It's more or less business as usual now. Most restaurants, cafés, shops, etc are open, but with some changes e.g. you need to wear a mask inside shops and there are restrictions on large groups meeting up.

      Generally, though, it's more or less the same as before but with less tourists.

      Reply
  11. Hi there. We are a family of 6 wanting to travel to the algarve this summer. We don't know much about the best places to stay. We won't be using a car so we're looking for a town that is quite compact that we could easily walk into. We will be booking a villa so would need to be able to walk to shops etc. Any advice?

    Reply
    • Hi Rose,

      The article above highlights the towns that are best without a car. If you're planning on doing day trips to other towns, it might be best to look at places with good public transport (the article above shows which towns are on the train line).

      I would look at Lagos. It has both a good bus and train station, you can walk to the beach, and there are several supermarkets that you can walk to as well.


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      Reply
      • Hi James, I am a solo traveler from the USA planning a trip to Portugal from mid-May to around June 8. I'm mostly an outdoor explorer and enjoy hiking, wildlife and beaches so I'm thinking to stay in Algarve. I won't have a car, mostly depending on public transport and if I can rent a bike. Which location would you recommend I stay to maximize my time in that area? Is 2 weeks sufficient? Also, is not knowing Portuguese going to be a problem?

        I was thinking I visit Lisbon and Porto as well, but not sure if I should do that before or after Algarve.

        Reply
        • Hi Ishika,

          Have you considered walking the fisherman's way? It goes along the west coast of the Algarve and Alentejo and you can stay in accommodation along the way. You could do some of it or the entire route. Personally, I would say this is the most beautiful part of the Algarve for hiking. If you're thinking about this, I'd try and book the accommodation in advance.

          You won't have any problems not knowing Portuguese in the Algarve. People speak it very well and if you end up in a very rural part, it's easy to get by in restaurants by pointing at things. Even those that don't speak will know one or two words and will hopefully be helpful.

          Up to you really whether you do Lisbon and Porto before. For me, it would probably depend on flights. If you're flying direct to Portugal, you're most likely going to have to go to Lisbon. If you're flying to another European city and connecting (Madrid is quite a large airport) then you can probably get a flight to Lisbon, Faro, or Porto.

          Reply
  12. Hi James, I have just come across your site and am finding it very informative and helpful. I am holidaying in Albufeira over Christmas and new year 2019 and would like visit Lisbon for 2 days, 1 night during that time. I am having difficulty figuring out if there is a direct train to Lisbon from Albufeira and if so which station in Lisbon it arrives at /leaves from. I would really appreciate any information you could give me. Many thanks, Denise

    Reply
    • Hi Denise,

      Albufeira's nearest train station is Ferreiras (it's normally called Albufeira-Ferreiras). Ferreiras is about 5-6 km from Albufeira, so you'll normally need to get a taxi there.

      There's also a bus station on Rua Paul Harris which, depending on where your accommodation is, may be closer.


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      Reply
  13. Hi James, I should have read your blog before booking my hotel. We are arriving this Sunday and while trying to book my tours, I found out that a lot of the tours would not pick up where I am. I thought I had a pretty good deal to book the Pine Cliffs but now it seems so far and I don't drive. I really wanted to see Benagil caves, Ria Formosa, Cape St. Vincent, Cork factory, Loulé but I feel I will spend so much on taxis 🙁 Any suggestions ?
    Thank you in advance

    Reply
    • Hey Krin,

      Sorry to hear that things have become complicated for you. You may find something in Olhos de Agua (map). I think there's a travel agency there called Expose Viagens, but their website is quite bad so I can't tell if they still do tours.

      Otherwise, I think you'll probably need to take a taxi to Albufeira (or maybe Vilamoura) to do most of the tours.


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      Reply
  14. we are going to Portugal in Feb.2020 for 1 month and when we arrive in Faro we were told about a Yellow Bird airport service to take us to our unit......could you give us the email or website for this...thank you

    Reply