The southernmost region of mainland Portugal, The Algarve has a rich history, stretching back to pre-Roman times. The region was shaped by Moorish invasions, the 1755 Lisbon earthquake and the Napoleonic and Portuguese Civil Wars.
Today, the Algarve is the third richest region of Portugal boosted largely by tourism. It offers beautiful sandy beaches, fantastic golf courses, exquisite food (particularly seafood) and some interesting natural and historical sights.
For gay rights in Portugal, please check our Gay Lisbon City Guide page.
In comparison to Lisbon or the Spanish Costas, the Algarve has a very minimal gay scene. This does not, however, mean that it is not popular with gay tourists who are drawn to the beautiful beaches, excellent food and beautiful scenery.
For gay nightlife, check out the Gay Bars in Albufeira and Portimão.
Faro Airport (FAR) is the gateway to The Algarve and is situated 4km west of the city it’s named after. The airport becomes extremely busy in the summer and is mostly served by European budget and charter carriers.
The main options from the airport to your hotel are:-
• Hire a car – there are plenty of rental operators at the airport, some just a short walk from the terminal (turn right as you exit the baggage reclaim area).
• Taxi / Private Transfer – can be expensive, so best book in advance.
• Hotel Shuttles – most hotels offer an airport transfer service.
There is a bus service to Faro, but that’s not usually much help for arriving tourists who usually head west, away from the city.
There is a limited rail service between Lisbon and Faro – up to 5 trains a day. Journey time approximately 3 hours.
Portugal and Spain both have generally well maintained road networks. The motorway from Lisbon to the Algarve and the A22 dual carriageway that runs from from Lagos to the Spanish boarder are toll road.
The easiest way to get around the Algarve is to hire a car. You need to be at least 18 years old and have held your licence for over a year (an under 25 surcharge may apply).
The A22 duel carriageway that runs through the Algarve is an electronic only toll road. Most hire companies will rent you a transponder with tolls being charged to your credit card.
By public transport
Outside of the major towns you may struggle to get from a to b due to a lack of infrastructure. EVA and Frota Azul are the main bus companies in the region and offer singles starting from €1. 3 day tourist passes are available for €29.50.
Both rail and bus services finish relatively early so it will be hard to get public transport late at night.
All the main towns have taxi ranks and in busy times these are the only spots you’ll be able to flag one. Licenced taxis are beige or green and black and will have a meter. Items of luggage add an extra surcharge to your final bill.
The Algarve has a plethora of towns and resorts to stay in, each with their own flavour. For a list of recommended hotels in Albufeira and other popular areas, check our Gay Algarve Hotels page.
Lagos – take in for yourself the wonderful winding streets of historic Lagos. Appreciate it’s colourful cafes, vibrant parties and general welcoming vibe. There is a good selection of gay beaches just outside of the town.
Silves – the former capital of the region, Silves was of great importance during the time of the Moorish invasions. Evidence of this can be seen by the imposing red stone castle which is certainly worth a visit.
Monchique – away from the beaches take a drive up to the top of Monchique. The views at the top are stunning. On the way down stop off at one of the numerous roadside restaurants, then visit the beautiful little village Caldas De Monchiuque.
Vilamoura – There is a nice beach, but we think Vilamoura is best visited in the evening for dinner. The town’s marina is surrounded by restaurants and cafes. You can take boat rides along the coast from here.
Play golf – not only is the Algarve famous for its beaches, there are numerous internationally renowned golf courses here for those who feel like they could be the next Tiger Woods.
The Algarve is pleasant all year round. Winters are short and cool and summers are long and warm. May to early July is best for beating the crowds. July to September are peak for roasting on the beach, with good weather continuing into October.
Golf courses are open all year round but do get busier in the summer months. There are many festivals across the region such as Albufeira’s Jazz festival in September, the Liberation Day parade in April, and Olhos de Água’s uniquely Portuguese Sardine festival.
Portugal is within the Schengen zone. Those who do not hold an EU passport or a valid Schengen Visa should check requirements with their own embassy.
Portugal’s currency is the Euro. Most bank branches in tourist areas provide foreign exchange services and you won’t have difficulty finding a cash dispenser. However, be aware the maximum you can withdraw from a machine in 2 x 200 euros per day. Local banks tend to add fees to foreign card cash withdrawals.
Credit and debit cards are very widely accepted. Best advice is to take as much cash as you fee comfortable carrying and pay by card wherever possible.
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