Algarve Tourism Information
Here are some of the things that you might like to know when you
sample Algarve tourism for the first time (or even the second, come to that).
Just click on any of the links below if you'd like to go straight to a particular subject, or simply read through the whole
page for all the information.
For the latest information regarding Algarve Tourism,
check the news section.
There are useful general bits, like tourist information, security, holiday insurance,
gratuities, camping, mailing and telephoning.
Next, I've included health-related info on emergency number, hospitals, pharmacies and drinking.
Finally, there's the consumer side of Algarve tourism, with opening hours and currency.
Algarve Tourism News
Watch out, when you're out and about in the Algarve
interior (by which I mean anywhere that's not on a beach).
You may be the first to see one of the new awards given to
establishments that promote excellence in rural tourism.
The award is the Seal of Recommendation Rural (a literal
translation, that probably lost something in the process).
It goes to businesses, like accommodations and restaurants,
that demonstrate a high standard of quality in their
offerings to the Algarve visitor.
I'm trying to track down an example of the Seal so I can
post an image here, so we all know what to look out for.
Thus far, I've been unsuccessful. I may have to chance a
Google search and see whether the responsible organisation
has a website which contains any decent information.
(Posted December 2008)
Algarve Tourism Information
There are many tourist information offices (often signed just Turismo) throughout the region. You should never be far from one. There wasn't one down this alley, by the way...
But, there are offices at (west to
Lagos, Portimão, Silves, Carvoeiro,
Armação de Pera, Albufeira, Quarteira,
Loulé, Faro, Olhão, Tavira, and Vila Real.
Many tourist offices stock free information leaflets about Algarve tourism (even maps of the local resorts). They're a great way to discover 'what's on' locally during your stay.
You can also buy local publications that tell you much about the region's tourism and its everyday concerns. I can recommend the Algarve Resident and Algarve Good Life.
But, note that many restaurants and cafés give away handy local maps (that have ads for local businesses etc.) that put some of the 'official' versions to shame.
Although Portugal is one of the least crime-smitten countries in Europe, you're not visiting Utopia!
Algarve tourism does attract opportunist crimes such as bag-snatching, and car theft is increasingly a problem. Keep your valuables close to your person, and don't leave on view within your hire
car anything easily carried. That way, your Algarve tourism experience won't end on a sour note.
It's always such a bind to read the small print, I know, but you owe it to yourself to know what cover is actually provided under your Travel Insurance.
Some friends of mine recently found out that their cameras were classed as 'valuables' rather than personal
belongings, when they tried to claim for one that had been stolen from the boot of their rental car.
So, don't be caught out. Know exactly what your insurance will cover and what it won't. It'll save you tears in the long run...
And if you do have to make a claim, you should obtain a written police report (best within 24 hours of any incident). Make sure you get statements from anyone else relevant, such as hotel
management, if what was lost was from your room. Hopefully,
as they ought to be used to all that goes with Algarve tourism, they should show you the ropes readily enough.
Holiday Insurance Tip:
It's much cheaper, if you take more than one vacation per year, to go for a multi-trip policy that covers for the full 365/366 days. The best-value multi-trip policies on the market can even
be cheaper than some single-trip policies, if you search properly.
For Europeans, they're cheaper if you can confirm that you won't stray outside Europe, slightly more expensive if you want to include the USA and Canada, and dearer still if you want more exotic
foreign parts added to the cover...
They normally have a maximum length of stay per holiday period, too (typically 30 days... I wish!). Shop around on the good ol' Internet for the best multi-trip holiday insurance bargains.
As part of the EU, European travellers are entitled to state health care if they carry a valid European Health Insurance Card (EHIC). However, the EHIC doesnt cover travellers for private medical health care, repatriation costs or any items that are lost or stolen, therefore travel insurance is essential. Staysure specialise in providing affordable travel insurance for over 50s with pre-existing medical conditions. Its a good idea to have travel insurance when visiting Portugal in conjunction with an EHIC (for European citizens).
When you're a tourist, it's sometimes hard not to feel like a cash-cow! In particular, it can be irksome when a bill already includes a service charge, yet staff make it plain that a further
tip is expected. It all comes down to how laid back you are while on holiday. The expected uplift seems to be 10% of the bill (taxi drivers think 15% is fairer - but don't say to whom!)
The thing I never mind is leaving something for a church or monument I'm visiting anywhere in the Algarve. Those things don't take care of
themselves, and the effects of Algarve tourism can take their toll, so chipping in toward their maintenance seems fair enough to me.
Camping is a popular form of Algarve tourism, and there is lots of provision for camping, with well-run sites aplenty. Perhaps that's why you'll be in trouble if you think you can just chuck up
your tent on a beach and kip down for the night. Expect a visit from a non-sympathetic constabulary!
For hassle-free (or at least policia-free) camping there are purpose-made areas along the Algarve's coast-line that will accommodate you and provide all the necessary 'mod-cons'
(allegedly - I can't claim personal experience).
Here's where to find them, going anti-clockwise from the north west:
Sagres, Vila do Bispo, Budens, Lagos, Alvor, Ferragudo, Armacao da Pera, Canelas, Albufeira, Quarteira, Faro, Olhao,
Fuzeta, Tavira, Vila Nova de Cacela, Monte Gordo.
Of course, if you want the definitive detailed listing for Campismo sites, you should visit my dedicated Algarve camping page.
It's always best to telephone ahead and check availability.
One minor downside to Algarve tourism is that using the telephone is not like when you're at home. For one thing, unless you know what you're doing, it can prove inordinately expensive!
Public pay kiosks are best avoided, since they're often not regularly maintained. Cafés and bars are a better bet, since the phone is more likely to be in working order.
You can purchase pre-paid phone cards that are accepted by most
public telephones in such places. (They'll also work in many public booths that are full with money and would otherwise be out of action).
Unless you're loaded, you do not want to be making your telephone calls from hotels. Their charges veer between the sublime and the ridiculous!
For numbers within Portugal, no local codes are used, but the full, 9-digit number must always be dialled (so if you're a frequent dialler, prepare for finger-tip calluses).
Algarve Tourism - Health and Welfare
Algarve tourism is popular because of the warm climate, so it makes sense to keep up your liquid levels. This means sipping regularly, rather than trying to re-hydrate once you've come over all
Bear in mind that alcohol is a diuretic, so you actually lose more body fluid than you take in when you drink it. Not good practice during the heat of the day. (But hey, it's your
holiday... just don't say I didn't warn you).
Tap water is 'safe' in Portugal, but the flavour (and drinkability) is variable. I'm a
cautious tourist, so I always boil tap water, before cooling it in plastic bottles ready to take along on my next jaunt.
You can always buy bottled water, but I've read so many scare stories (about it containing more bugs than tap water) that I rarely chance it!
If you need bottled water, and you can't find anyone that speaks your lingo, ask for agua mineral. If you want fizzy, it's com gas, and
without bubbles is sem gas (say 'sine gas').
Sun and Protection
At the risk of stating the obvious, this would be a good
place to remind you - in case you had forgotten (!) - that
Algarve is a sunny place and, even in the shade, those white
buildings and sand reflect a lot of solar energy onto you.
Rather than take up any more space here, might I refer
you to my well-meant advice on how to counter any adverse
effects of Algarve sun?
I never know why these things can't be standardised. If you're in a jam, the last thing you need is to be racking your brain for the local emergency telephone number.
In Portugal, (as for most EC countries) it's 112.
Write it on your wrist and try to remember not to rub it off when you're towelling down...
Algarve tourism should be a laid-back and relaxing experience, but, if things go really pear-shaped while you're on holiday, you might need the services of your Consulate. For UK citizens,
that's 282-417800 (Portimao), and for visitors from the US, 21-7273300 (Lisbon).
Which brings us neatly to places that are among the last you would want to be phoning while on vacation...
Faro and Portimão have proper emergency departments. Other hospitals can handle less serious needs.
If your Portuguese is ropey, you might prefer to locate English-speaking doctors and dentists (or whatever). Those who are new to Algarve tourism are catered for by the free magazine
'Welcome' which carries details of medics and suchlike, and also the telephone numbers of the various hospitals. It makes sense to grab a copy and keep it handy.
Usually open 0900 to 1900 (minus siesta time, of course) most pharmacies also display the details of the current 'after hours' dispensary. But you
may need a map to find it!
Algarve Tourism - Shopping and Money
Banks are usually open from 0830 to 1500, but are closed at weekends and on public holidays. While that might be part of the charm of Algarve tourism that has not yet been lost, you
nevertheless don't want to get caught out without enough cash!
Shops mainly operate from 0900 to 1300, then 1500 to 1900, with no afternoon opening on Saturday and many don't open at all for business on Sundays - not even to exploit the income offered by Algarve tourism!
Algarve tourists who are used to longer trading hours will be relieved to learn that shopping centres are more attuned to the needs of disorganised holidaymakers and can often be found open
until 2200 (that's 10 p.m. in old money!)
As in most parts of continental Europe (except for the stroppier Nordic enclaves, including the UK) the money that changes hands in Algarve is Euros.
This must have been a 'mixed blessing' for the Portuguese.
A 'minus' in that the public always get stitched up well and truly by commercial enterprises when there are currency changes.
But a 'plus' because it meant discussing prices in sensible amounts, which was impossible with Escudos (when a coffee or beer would set you back hundreds).
You can do a 'live' check for the Euro against your own currency (should
it be different) with XE.com's universal
If you need to mail something while you're vacationing in Algarve,
you might like to know the following:
Always opt for normal mail service, unless something is extremely
urgent, in which case, go for 'Azul'.
Up to 20 grammes (postcard, 1-page letter etc.) :
Within European Union - 61 cents (normal) - 1.85 euros (Azul)
Spain - 52 cents (normal) - 1.85 euros (Azul)
Rest of World - 75 cents (normal) - 1.85 euros (Azul)
20 to 50 grammes:
Within European Union - 1.20 euros (normal) - 2.45 euros
Spain - 1.10 euros (normal) - 2.45 euros (Azul)
Rest of World - 1.80 euros (normal) - 2.45 euros (Azul)
NB: Normal mail goes into the RED
box, while Azul mail goes into the BLUE
I hope that you find this Algarve tourism information useful, and that it helps you enjoy your holiday without the sort of mishap or oversight that spoils your break.
(And if you ever get around to thinking that it would be
nice to settle permanently in Algarve, see how to go about
it on my Algarve
Real Estate page).
Keep up to date with what's happening in Algarve
by subscribing to my regular 'ezine'. Just use the form
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