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ALGARVE EAST FAQ'S

How do I get from the airport to the towns and villages of Algarve East?

Faro Airport (IATA code FAO), located 2 1/2 miles from Faro city, is the main international airport link North America and Europe has with the Algarve. With over 6 million travelers in 2015, it is the third-busiest airport in Portugal. Ryanair, easyJet, and Monarch Airlines use Faro Airport as a hub.

EVA Transportes (www.eva-bus.com) operates a daily bus which runs from Faro Bus Station and stops at Olhao Bus Station, Alfandanga, Luz de Tavira, Tavira Bus Station, Conceicao, Vila Nova de Cacela, Altura, Monte Gordo Church, and Vila Real de Santo Antonio Bus Station, in that order. First, take Faro`s city bus, called Proximo, from Faro Airport to Faro Bus Station using Line 16. The ticket will cost less than €3 and 20 buses take passengers between the two points each day (between 5:20 a.m. and 12:10 a.m.). If you are staying in Faro for an extended period of time, you can read more about Proximo by going to www.proximo.pt/en.

Daily EVA buses leave Faro Bus Station at 7:15 a.m., 9 a.m., 11 a.m., 1:25 p.m., 3:15 p.m., and 6:20 p.m. Traveling in a westerly direction, the daily buses to Faro leave from Vila Real de Santo Antonio at 7 a.m., 11:20 a.m., 12:15 p.m., 2:30 p.m., 4:30 p.m., and 6:30 p.m. Additional buses may run in both directions on weekdays only, weekends and holidays only, or during the school year. Travel time between Faro Bus Station and Tavira takes approximately one hour; between Tavira and Altura, 25 extra minutes; between Altura and Monte Gordo, 8 extra minutes; and between Monte Gordo and Vila Real de Santo Antonio, an extra 7 minutes.

For those arriving and wishing to take a taxi to your destination, you will find a taxi rank just outside the arrivals terminal at Faro Airport, and you will notice a big sign that quotes taxi prices from Faro Airport to various locations throughout the Algarve. The average fare between Faro Airport and Faro city ranges between €10 and €15. Expect to pay €35-€45 minimum to Tavira, €55-€65 to Altura, €65-€75 to Monte Gordo, and a similar price to Vila Real de Santo Antonio. Faro Airport`s arrivals taxi rank is one of the few ranks in the Algarve which sees taxis queue 24 hours a day.

For those driving, TripMasters does indeed recommend that you book a rental car during the reservation process. You will be picking up your car at Faro Airport`s car rental area adjacent to the arrivals terminal.

Driving directions: When you leave the airport, follow the signs for the N125-10. If you are first going to Faro, get off on the N2 which will take you directly to Avenida Calouste Gulbenkian and downtown Faro. If you are going further east, take the M522 road, for which you will see signs after a roundabout approximately a mile after the N2 turn. After you have passed Olhao, rejoin the N125. The N125 will pass directly through the towns of Tavira, Conceicao, Vila Nova de Cacela, and passes directly north of Altura and Monte Gordo before the route reaches its terminus in Vila Real de Santo Antonio.

Are there buses or trains that connect the cities and towns of Algarve East?

Comboios de Portugal`s Algarve Line connects Faro with all of the towns in the region. The Algarve Line`s train stops are, in this order: Faro, Bom Joao, Olhao, Fuseta-A, Fuseta, Livramento, Luz, Tavira, Porta Nova, Conceicao, Cacela, Castro Marim, Monte Gordo and Vila Real de Santo Antonio. A one-way fare from west to east will come in under €10 and the full trip, from Faro to Vila Real de Santo Antonio, takes an hour and eight minutes. It is a 40 minute train ride from Faro to Tavira, and an extra 25 minutes to Monte Gordo. The closest train station to Altura is Cacela, approximately 2.5 miles away. For more information, visit www.cp.pt (website in both Portuguese and English).

EVA Transportes bus service links Faro with the other towns in the Algarve. EVA Transportes also offers tickets to Andalusia in Spain, with thrice-daily service from Faro Airport to Ayamonte, Huelva and Seville. The bus that connects Faro Airport with Olhao, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio runs year-round, with more options in the summertime. The year-round bus leaves Faro Airport`s arrivals terminal at 8:30 a.m., stopping in Tavira at 9:15 and Vila Real de Santo Antonio at 9:45. There is an extra bus that operates during the months of July and August only, which leaves from Faro Airport at 5:20 p.m. each day, reaching Tavira at 6:05 p.m. (no stop in Vila Real). There is also a summer bus which leaves Faro Airport at 2:10 p.m. each day, arriving in Tavira at 2:40 p.m. (again, no stop in Vila Real). Tickets are priced around €20 for a one-way trip between Faro and Vila Real; prices will be cheaper if traveling only to Tavira. Note that these buses will be labeled `Algarve-Sevilha`, and you will want to look for buses stopping at `Faro Aeroporto`, not `Faro`, which is the main bus station in downtown Faro.

Intercity bus stations are open for business in Faro, Olhao, Tavira and Vila Real de Santo Antonio. In places like Altura and Monte Gordo, informal bus stopping points are utilized. In the case of Monte Gordo, for example, it is the village church.

How do I call/hail a taxi?

Calling for a cab over the telephone or via an app is preferred over hailing them on the street. With that said, it is possible to hail a cab from the street, and you will probably have the most success doing that in Faro.

All towns and villages have at least one taxi operator, with Faro obviously having the widest selection. Licensed cabs will be either beige or black and green in color; any other cab with different colors may very well be illegal. The meter in Faro will begin at €4 and an amount between €1.50 and €2 will be added with each mile traveled. Keep in mind that many taxis may charge a discounted fare if traveling between Faro and cities to the east; please have your hotel call ahead and inquire. Also keep in mind that in smaller towns, there may be a flat fee for traveling via taxi no matter where you go in the town.

NOTE: If you hail your cab from the street or walk up to a rank, do not assume your taxi driver will know how to speak English. You may find many English-speaking taxi drivers in Faro but the chances become smaller the further east you drive. Write out your destinations on pieces of paper and give the paper applicable to that specific trip to your driver before departing just to be safe.

How easy is it to explore the sights in the Algarve East region?

Towns in the Algarve East are compact, with the largest town in population and area being Faro. Tavira has a large population but is fairly compact. Altura, Monte Gordo, and Vila Real de Santo Antonio all have easy-to-explore downtown areas, and you will find promenades and sidewalks for your walking pleasure whenever possible. The streets of Faro`s old town and in various towns and villages to the east are cobbled, so be aware of that when you choose your footwear for your vacation. While the towns and villages themselves can be explored on foot, consider alternate transportation such as a taxi, bus or car to get between all of the towns and villages recommended by TripMasters.

How safe is the Algarve East region?

Faro is safer than many cities in Portugal, and definitely safer than most sizable cities in the UK, or in North America. There aren`t any areas of town that need to be avoided. With that said, you will encounter vagrants in Faro, as you will in many towns in the Algarve. They are harmless; simply ignore them and walk away purposefully. Vagrants have also been known to attempt selling drugs to tourists. Just say no and the vagrant will leave you alone. You may find vagrants, to a much lesser extent, in Monte Gordo as well. The other towns and villages should be free of any unwanted hassles.

All towns and villages in the Algarve East are safe to walk about at night, but stick to well-lit and well-populated routes, keep your wits about you, and always look like you know where you are going, even when you may not. Be sure to keep your valuables on your person at all times, and never keep all of your money in one place; split up your cash into various pockets in your clothes. When in doubt, call for a taxi or private transportation at night.

What is shopping like in Algarve East? Where can I find noteworthy souvenirs that are unique to the area?

The area from Rua Dom Francisco Gomes and Rua de Santo Antonio to Praca Ferreira de Almeida in Faro is a pedestrian-only shopping district. Lots of boutiques and stores are located down these streets, as are bakeries, cafes and restaurants.

A little more than a mile outside of Faro is Forum Algarve, the largest shopping center in town. Buses run from Faro city center to Forum Algarve at least three times per hour every day. The shopping center is anchored by GMS Store (Faro`s Apple Store reseller), Jumbo (a supermarket) and Zara (Spanish clothing retailer).

You can buy unique handicrafts in Tavira at Casa das Portas, located at Rua Doutor Augusto Silva Carvalho, No. 3. Tavira is also home to a North American-style indoor shopping mall, Tavira Gran-Plaza, located outside the city at Rua Almirante Candido dos Reis, No. 247. In Altura a good place to look for authentic souvenirs is the Mercado Municipal Altura Castro Marim (Rua da Alagoa 14, Altura). Fashion boutiques line the streets of Rua Gil Eanes and Rua Pedro Alvares Cabral in Monte Gordo. Vila Real de Santo Antonio`s informal `shopping street` is Rua Doutor Teofilo Braga.

Are there any delicacies that are unique to Algarve East?

In the Algarve, the seafood that is served at restaurants is some of the best in Europe. Bacalhau is probably the Algarve dish you will see most often in restaurants. It is dried cod, preserved in salt. You will find it cooked in many different manners; indeed, locals joke that there is a unique bacalhau recipe for every day of the calendar year!

You will also find chicken dishes served `piri-piri`, which is a hot, bright red pepper used for marinades. Americans may know the `piri-piri` chicken taste from the chain restaurant Nando`s. Cataplana is another traditional dish, and it was brought to the Algarve during the time of the Moors. Clams, fish and other types of seafood are cooked in a copper pan with spicy sausage, tomatoes, wine, herbs, and garlic.

Seafood is so plentiful that you should be on the lookout for various delicacies on the menu. Popular seafood options that you may see on local menus include enguias (eels), tainhas (mullet), robalos (sea bass), dourada (bream), atum (tuna), espadarte (swordfish), ameijoas (clams), conquilhas (small clams), camaraos (shrimp), sardinhas (sardines), polvo (octopus), and lula (squid).

For dessert, try the torta de amendoa. The Algarvian version is a Swiss roll with ground almonds and lemon peel.

Can I pay/tip in US dollars?

The currency of Portugal is the Euro and US dollars are not accepted for payment. Please be sure to have the correct currency on hand or be prepared to exchange your dollars for euros upon arrival. Currency exchange desks and ATMs can be found at your arrival airport and at many locations throughout the region.

I do not speak Portuguese. Do many people speak English?

It is more common to find English speakers in Portugal than it is in other southern European countries, such as Spain. A recent European Union language survey found that 32% of Portuguese people over the age of 18 can speak English on a conversational level or better.

With that said, you may encounter some difficulty finding an English speaker away from tourist areas such as Faro and Monte Gordo. It is recommended to brush up on basic Portuguese phrases before arriving, like basic pleasantries and numbers from 1 to 10. To ask someone if they speak English, say `Fala ingles?`

Note: Do not speak in Spanish to a Portuguese person, thinking they will understand you when you do so. Responses will range from stunned silence to outright hostility; the Portuguese people are proud of their culture and heritage, and such an act will cause nearly everyone to take personal offense. On another note, the vocabulary and pronunciation in Portuguese differs from Spanish more than you may realize.

What are the drinking laws in Portugal?

The legal drinking age in Portugal is 18, whether you find yourself in a pub or a nightclub. Asking for proof of age upon ordering an alcoholic beverage or entering a nightclub is becoming more commonplace, especially if you appear younger. Keep your passport with you as it doubles as proof of age and identification.

If you are renting a car, do not drive after consuming alcohol. A blood alcohol content level of 0.05 is considered the legal limit; penalties can range from fines to a jail sentence of up to one year. Save yourself the potential trouble and heartache.

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