I’ve had a number of enquiries from folks planning to visit the Algarve without a car. Where can I go? What sightseeing can I do without a car? How easy is it to get around, they ask. It is pretty darned easy, actually, as bus and train service is widely available. Now remember always when you are using public transportation you have to allow lots of extra time. Keep in mind that the except for the narrow strip along the coast, the Algarve is amazingly sparsely populated so don’t expect big city schedules and convenience. But if you are willing to invest a little time and effort into planning and scheduling your outings, you can a lot of the Algarve and its many treasures without a car. And it won’t break the bank either!
The good news is that local bus service is pretty decent so you can see a lot. Eva is the Algarve bus company. Alas, their website is all in Portuguese but there are enough pictures, etc. that you should be able to find your way around. If you go to you’ll see a page that shows all the towns across the Algarve you can visit using their Tourist Pass. Eva’s buses run from Quarteira in the east to Lagos in the west, with branches off to Loule, Silves and Monchique. The Tourist Pass is an ‘all you can eat’ over a 3-day period. I’d recommend that you take some time to plan out your itinerary and then commit yourself to 3 days of intense sightseeing to make best use of your pass. Locations where you can buy the pass and pick up the bus are also listed.
Check out other tabs on Eva’s very informative site. They appear to have a tour bus run that takes you out to Cape St. Vincent. And if you are interested in the commuter buses that follow the coast from town to town, there are bus route maps, timetables, etc.
There is a commuter train that runs from the Spanish border (Villa Real de San Antonio) all the way west to Lagos. Faro is the hub of this rail line and you’ll apparently have to change trains there if you want to visit towns further east or west. CP is the train company. The good news is that it has an English website The less good news is that their information doesn’t seem to be well laid out.
Finally, if you decide to stay in Albufeira or make a day trip of it, the city offers a small tourist train that meanders around various sites and lets you get on an off for a set fee. Pick up a brochure and map at the local tourist information office or most hotels.
It always takes more time to travel around when you are using public transportation. Make sure you allow for it. The nice thing about hanging around waiting for a bus or train is that it is a great opportunity for people watching, for having another spectacular Portuguese coffee or glass of vinho and for just sitting quietly reconnecting with yourself. So even if you opt for an Algarve visit with a car, you are not stuck to one village or town. Probably 75% of the sights and activities that car drivers can access you’ll be able to get to as well.