Before I went to The Algarve I didn’t really consider whether it was a good solo travel destination. I didn’t even realise that it was ~the~ place to go during summer 2019 until I came home and realised pretty much everyone I knew had been or was going too.
I flew from Birmingham to Faro and landed quite late at night. I worried that it wouldn’t be safe for me to travel from the airport to my hostel alone at nearly midnight. I worried that it would be a sleepy town where everyone would already be in bed by the time I arrived and that there would be nowhere open for me to get food. I need not have worried about any of this. So, that’s the first thing you need to know about solo travel in The Algarve: it’s safe and you’re trip there can be as lively as you want it to be.
Read on to find out what else you need to know about solo travel in The Algarve, based on what I wished I knew before I went:
It is not ‘all the same’ and you need to do your research on the different towns.
For solo travellers, Faro is probably the best place you could be. It has a good mix of hostels, beaches (although they are all either a bus or boat ride away), bars/restaurants/cafes, and sightseeing activities. Lagos is good if you want to go out and get drunk every night but I got the impression it was somewhere groups of friends came to together. Places like Luz and Silves are a bit quieter and tend to be frequented by middle-class Brits looking for relaxation. Albufeira is a big resort town. You need to decide what kind of trip you want so that you can pick the right town(s) for you.
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The Algarve has something for every age.
Head to Lagos or Portimao if you want to stay up all night exploring the nightlife. Head to Albufeira or Luz if you’re older and want to relax. In Faro the people I met ranged from mid-twenties to early forties. Solo travel in The Algarve is a good idea for everyone, no matter your age.
Public transport is not very frequent or clearly timetabled
I went in summer and it was only by pure luck that the airport shuttle came at the right time to get me to the airport, I can only imagine the chaos in colder months. If you’re staying in Faro you will be fine as there are regular local buses to the airport, if not you may be splashing out on private transport/taxis. Many of the buses go to the main towns but not to the smaller ones, so if you’re planning on heading to those then you may have to splash out on private transfers anyway. There are also buses and trains that go to bigger cities like Lisbon and Porto, however, these take quite a while and a trip will need careful planning beforehand. Faro is your best starting point for these trips as it has a big train and bus station.
Faro is the only town with an airport
While we’re on the subject of transport, The Algarve does have an airport but it is in Faro, which is to the East. Buses to Faro town centre are frequent and only take around twenty minutes. Buses to the other cities are not frequent (as mentioned above) and they take a lot longer to get there than I was expecting. The coaches going to other towns stop at the popular resorts along the way. Faro to Lagos took two and a half hours. Make sure you factor this in when heading back to the airport for your flight home.
It is very safe
I wandered around Lagos at night and there were just as many people about as during the day. Faro felt a little less safe, especially around the back streets away from the harbour and old town, but I still didn’t fear for my safety. I can’t speak for the other towns but I’m sure bigger places like Albufeira and Portimao would be the same. Obviously use your judgement and common sense, don’t do things you wouldn’t do at home in terms of your safety, and watch out for pickpockets.
There are only really two types of holiday you can have in The Algarve:
Relax by the beach all day and party all night or an active holiday, full of walking or watersports. There’s not a lot to do in terms of sightseeing, unless you head to Faro’s old town. There are coastal walks and dolphin excursions (and a castle in Lagos which just isn’t that great) but if you like diving into the history of a country you would probably enjoy heading up to Lisbon instead.
Lagos has an annual outdoor international food market during July.
It was great for me as I have yet to master the art of eating dinner in a restaurant by myself. If that sounds like you too, I recommend going to Lagos and eating your way around the market every night.
Portuguese hostels tend to be very clean and nicely presented.
I only stayed in two (but one was a party hostel) and they were both immaculate. No matter what time of day it was, the communal areas and bathrooms were spotless. A quick search of a number of hostels in The Algarve brings up lots of reviews from travellers saying the same thing.
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English is widely spoken
Like with any country it is nice to learn a few basic words as the locals will appreciate it more, however, English is widely spoken in The Algarve. This means it would make a great place for your first solo trip as you don’t have the added worry of a significant language barrier.
Oh, and yes it is safe to drink the water. Strangely, every time I have travelled to Spain or Portugal with others they have never drank tap water as they heard it makes them ill. Tap water in The Algarve is safe so you can take your refillable bottle and use that instead of buying plastic bottles.
Have you ever travelled solo in The Algarve? Is there anything you would add to this list? Would you consider The Algarve for a solo trip? Let me know in the comments!
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