What it’s Like to Live in The Algarve… Should You Move Here?

By James Cave / Published: September 2020.
Posted in: The Algarve / No Comments or Questions Yet

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With more than 300 days of sunshine, over 100 beaches, and a relatively low cost of living, the Algarve is one of the most popular expat destinations in Europe. 

Many people imagine the Algarve to be beach resorts and, while that does exist, it’s only one side of the Algarve (mainly Albufeira and Praia da Rocha). The Algarve is roughly 155 km in width, and the region stretches from the Atlantic on the West Coast to the Spanish-Portuguese border in the East. Within the Algarve, you’ll find all different styles of living and all different types of people that move there. There’s the Golden Triangle, for example, which is known for its gated villas, Michelin-star restaurants, and yacht-owning residents. Then there are places like Monchique, the mountainous and rustic spa town, that attract a more alternative, yoga-loving crowd, particularly from Germany and Holland. The Algarve is incredibly varied in this way, and it’s all about finding the right part of the Algarve for you. 

The majority of people that move to the Algarve are retirement age, but, besides those that come to work in tourism, it also attracts people who come and start their own business or are able to work remotely.

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Photos of the Algarve

Pros & cons of living here

Like everywhere, there are good and bad bits to living in the Algarve.

Pros

  • More than 300 days of sunshine per year
  • More than 100 beaches, many of which are considered to be some of the best in the world
  • Large international community made up of multiple nationalities, including Brits, Germans, Americans, South Africans, Dutch, French, and Swedish
  • From British supermarkets to South African butchers, it’s never too hard to find a taste of home here

Cons

  • One of the most touristy parts of Portugal, particularly during the summer months
  • Some places can feel very expaty and not authentically Portuguese
  • Fewer historical and cultural attractions than other parts of Portugal
  • House prices can be high, particularly near the coast

Where to move to

You may have decided that you’re moving to the Algarve, but the next step is to decide where. The Algarve is a large area that’s around 150 km in length. Although you can easily get across it, particularly on the A22 motorway, you should concentrate on a particular part of the Algarve.

It can help to focus on one of the three unofficial regions of the Algarve: the Eastern, Central, and Western Algarve. Each region has its own feel, and its own pros and cons for moving there. The Central Algarve, for example, has some of the best beaches and is in an ideal location for exploring to the East or West. However, it’s also the most touristy part of the Algarve.

Eastern Algarve

  • Faro – The capital of the Algarve, Faro has all the benefits of a small city as well as lots of charming buildings and historical attractions
  • Tavira – Known for its charming Roman bridge and other historical attractions, Tavira and the surrounding area is a popular option for expats wanting to live in the Eastern Algarve
  • Olhão – Famous for its fish market, Olhão is a traditional Portuguese town that still remains much of its authenticity
  • The Golden Triangle – For perfect lawns and multi-million Euro houses, look no further than Almancil, Vale de Lobo, Quinta do Lago, and Vilamoura — an area often referred to as “the golden triangle”
  • Vila Real de Santo António – Located on the border with Spain, Vila Real de Santo António is perfect for those that want to be in a charming Portuguese town but close to Spain. The beach is only 2 km from the town centre as well

Central Algarve

  • Silves – Located inland, Silves is famous for its castle and other historical attractions. It’s
  • Monchique – Monchique is situated in the highest part of the Algarve, and typically attracts those interested in nature, yoga, and all things wholesome
  • Ferragudo – Small and picturesque, Ferragudo has a very laid-back and liveable feel to it

Western Algarve

  • Portimão – The second-largest city in the Algarve, Portimão is more popular with locals than expats and tourists but this could be a good reason to move there
  • Lagos – A popular destination for digital nomads, surfers, and those that want a large town close to the Algarve’s west coast
  • Alvor – This picturesque town may attract its share of tourists in the summer, but it never loses too much of its small town charm
  • Aljezur – Another popular destination for surfers and those that want to live near the West Coast

Regional Algarve Food

Portuguese food on the Algarve is a mixture of traditional Portuguese dishes that you can find throughout the country and local Algarve dishes that aren’t really found anywhere else.

Regional specialities include cataplanas (a type of stew cooked in a clam-shaped dish), rural Algarve dishes like javali (wild board), and frango piri piri (piri-piri chicken). You’ll actually find piri-piri chicken in other parts of Portugal, especially at churrasqueira takeaway restaurants, but the best piri-piri restaurants are on the Algarve.

Read more about regional Algarve food

Weather on the Algarve

In the past, most people visited the Algarve in July and August but that’s starting to change. More and more people are coming to the Algarve outside of the peak summer months and even through the winter months (the Algarve does have more than 300 days of sunshine after all).

Although it’s impossible to predict, the following month-by-month guide should give you an idea of what the Algarve is like throughout the year.

 Average TempRainfall (mm)
January1678 (9 rain days)
February1772 (7 rain days)
March1839 (10 rain days)
April2038 (6 rain days)
May2221 (4 rain days)
June258 (1 wet day)
July291 (0 rain days)
August294 (0 rain days)
September2714 (2 rain days)
October2367 (6 rain days)
November1986 (8 rain days)
December1794 (9 rain days)

Getting around & public transport

As with most of Portugal, the easiest way to get around the Algarve is, without a doubt, with a car. Public transport can be limited, although it does vary from town to town.

The Algarve’s trainline runs from Vila Real de Santo António in the Eastern Algarve (next to the Spanish border) until Lagos in the West. It doesn’t stop at all of the towns along the way, however, and often the train stations are located several kilometres outside of the town centres. Still, it covers a lot of the Algarve, and is a very pleasant way to get around.

There are also local bus services, although the frequency varies from town to town.

The Algarve also has its own regional airport, Faro Airport. This mainly offers flights to northern European countries like Germany, The Netherlands, and the UK, and for other international flights, you may need to go to Lisbon or take a connecting flight to Madrid or Barcelona. There’s also a very small airport near Alvor called Portimão Airport, which offers some flights within Portugal.

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