The Algarve Without A Car – Here’s How To Do It

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Last updated on June 4, 2024 | Est. Reading Time: 6 minutes

When planning a trip to the Algarve or considering a move to this stunning region of Portugal, many people assume that having a car is essential. However, there are several reasons why you might prefer to explore the Algarve without a car.

  • Firstly, some travellers, especially those coming from countries like the UK or Ireland where they drive on the left side of the road, may feel apprehensive about driving in Portugal.
  • Secondly, budget-conscious travellers may want to avoid the expenses associated with renting a car, buying fuel, and paying for parking.
  • Additionally, some visitors may choose to forego a car as part of a greener lifestyle or to experience a change of pace, particularly if you’re moving from the US where owning a car is a necessity.

While it is indeed possible to visit and even live in the Algarve without a car, it’s important to choose the right base. The quality of public transport in the Algarve can be described as mediocre, but its usefulness largely depends on where you choose to stay. Selecting the right location is key to enjoying a car-free experience in the Algarve, and this article aims to help you make an informed decision.

Some of the region’s most beautiful beaches and inland natural attractions, such as walking routes, may not always be easily accessible by public transportation. So it does depend a lot on what you want to do.

That said, there is a train line and there are local buses, not to mention Ubers and taxis, so it is possible to get around the Algarve without a car.

Towns & Cities and Their Public Transport Options

 TrainBeach
Albufeira(Albufeira-Ferreiras is ~ 7 km)YES
Alcoutim
Aljezur~ 8 km
Alte(Messines-Alte train station is ~ 12 km)
Alvor(Alcantarilha train station is ~ 9 km)YES
Armação de PêraYES
BurgauYES
CabanasAccessible by boat
CarvoeiroYES
Castro Marim(Castro Marim train station is ~ 5 km)~ 7 km
FaroYESAccessible by bus/boat
Ferragudo(Parchal train station is ~ 3 km)YES
Lagoa(Estombar-Lagoa is ~ 3.5 km from Lagoa)
LagosYESYES
Loulé(Loulé train station is ~ 6 km)
MonchiqueYES
Monte Gordo(Monte Gordo station is around ~ 1 km)YES
OlhãoYESYES
PortimãoYES~ 2 km
Praia da LuzYES
Praia da Rocha(Portimão station is ~ 2 km)YES
QuarteiraYES
SagresYES
São Bartolomeu de MessinesYES
São Bras de Alportel
Silves(Silves station is ~ 2 km)
TaviraYESAccessible by boat
Vila do Bispo
VilamouraYES
Vila Real de Santo AntonioYES~ 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.

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.

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James Cave is the founder of Portugalist and the author of the bestselling book, Moving to Portugal Made Simple. He has visited just about every part of Portugal, including Madeira and all nine islands of the Azores, and lived in several parts of Portugal including Lisbon, the Algarve, and Northern Portugal.

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