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The best independent guide to the Algarve

Algarve-Tourist.com

The best independent guide to the Algarve

Lisbon to the Algarve – the best ways to travel between the Algarve and Lisbon in 2024

The Algarve is the beautiful coastline of southern Portugal and one of the most popular tourist destinations in the country. Lisbon is Portugal’s vibrant capital city, which is where the country’s main international airport is situated.

There are many ways to travel between the Algarve and Lisbon, including intercity coach services, express trains, and by car along the A2 expressway. The best method of travel for you will depend on your budget and which town in the Algarve you’re heading to/from.

This article will provide a high-level guide on how best to get from Lisbon to the Algarve, as well as links to relevant transport companies and useful travel advice.

Overview of travel between Lisbon and the Algarve

The Algarve is a large and diverse region, with many towns and villages dotted along the coastline. The exact travel details will depend on your destination, but a general overview is:

Private transfer – The fastest and most convenient method of travel to the Algarve, however it also the most expensive. This may be a good option if you are travelling as a group of four.

 

 

Driving along the A2/A22 expressways – The quickest driving route follows the A2 expressway north/south as it cuts through the centre of the Alentejo region. At the southern end of the A2 it joins the A22, the expressway that extends the length of the Algarve. The A2 and A22 are toll expressways and are surprisingly expensive; the 235km, 2-hour drive along the A2 costs €21 for a car. The A2 is a very dull driving route through the interior of Portugal, with no interesting sights or detours along the journey.

Driving along the Alentejo coastline (N120) – This is a much more scenic driving route, but expect it to take at least 90 minutes longer than if using the A2 expressway. The route mostly follows the N120, which is toll-free but slower due to its single carriageways roads. You may need to pay tolls around Lisbon.

Warning: If travelling by car, please be aware of tolls and how to pay them. Details are provided at the end of this guide. The company that manages the roads has recently discovered that foreign tourists are a great source of funds, and is quick to issue fines – it has even been sending out fines from 5 years ago!

Train travel – The most comfortable way to travel between Lisbon and the Algarve. There are express trains from Lisbon to the Algarve, and a regional train service that connects the towns of the Algarve. The issue with the regional train is that the route misses many of the resort towns (such as Vilamoura, Alvor, Carvoeiro and Armação de Pêra), so a further taxi journey is needed. A single fare will cost €22 to €30 depending on the town you’re heading to/from. The national train company of Portugal is Comboios de Portugal (CP).

Bus - Rede Expressos – Rede Expressos is the main intercity bus company of Portugal, providing direct services to the majority of towns in the Algarve. Bus travel is much cheaper than train (a typical bus fare costs €10 to €25), but the routes often have multiple stops in the Algarve and journey times are comparable to the train.

Bus, Flixbus – A low-cost bus company that has driven down the price of coach travel in Portugal. This is the best option if you are a budget traveller, but it only serves the Algarve’s larger towns. Fares can be as low as €7 if booked far enough in advance, but expect the buses to be packed in summer.

 

 

Advice: Whichever option you choose, it always makes sense to book directly with the transport company, instead of third-party ticket resellers. Buying directly will reduce booking fees and ensure each company is more accommodating if there are issues. Links to their websites are:
Comboios de Portugal - www.cp.pt
Rede Expressos - rede-expressos.pt
Flixbus - www.flixbus.pt

Lisbon to the Algarve by bus

Intercity coach travel in Portugal is safe and comfortable, with both Flixbus and Rede Expressos using modern coaches.

Train, Bus or Low-Cost Bus from Lisbon to the Algarve?

When travelling from Lisbon to the Algarve, or vice-versa, one crucial decision is your mode of transportation: train, bus, or low-cost bus. Your choice will depend on various factors like comfort, cost and convenience.

Train travel is generally recommended over coach for its comfort and spaciousness. The train journey requires a connection at Tunes or Faro, however the connection is manageable if you follow the timetabled routes (details later). The downside of train travel is the cost, with prices typically costing €10 to €20 more for an adult ticket than the low-cost bus.

The intercity bus routes provide a direct service between Lisbon and the Algarve, but the journey times are comparable to those of the trains. For example, the fastest daily train and bus times are: Lagos to Lisbon, 3 hours 52 mins by train and 3 hours 45 mins by bus; and Tavira to Lisbon, 4 hours 2 mins by train and 4 hours 15 mins by bus.

 

 

Depending on your destination in the Algarve, its proximity to the train station should be another consideration. Some of the most popular resort towns are far from a station; Albufeira is 7km away from its nearest station, Vilamoura is 5km away, and Armação de Pêra is 8km away. This makes the bus a more convenient option.

Our opinion: For the journey by public transport we would choose the train, as it is more spacious and comfortable. The bus routes through the Algarve have many roundabouts and twisting roads, and it can feel like a very long journey when jammed into a packed coach.

Intercidades (intercity) train to faro pulling into Oriente in Lisbon

The Intercidades (intercity) train to faro pulling into Oriente in Lisbon

Book your seats in advance!

If you take just one thing from this article, it should be to book your tickets (for both the train and bus) well in advance of your journey. Booking beforehand not only saves money, but also secures seats, as popular services will sell out in the peak season.

The intercity train between Lisbon and Tunes has only a limited number of seats, and once they are all sold there will be no more space available. There is no standing allowed on the Alfa Pendular or Intercidades services to/from Lisbon.

Buses between Lisbon and the Algarve can get extremely busy during the summer, and popular services - such as on Friday evenings and at weekends - will sell out.

Both Flixbus and Rede Expressos use dynamic pricing, where seats purchased well in advance or on low-demand services will be inexpensive. Tickets purchased last minute or on popular routes will cost significantly more. Flixbus is usually cheaper than Rede Expressos during the summer, but it is always worth checking both websites.

Lisbon to the Algarve by train

The Algarve and Lisbon railways are operated by Comboios de Portugal (CP), the national train company of Portugal.

There are two stages of train travel from Lisbon to the Algarve. The first stage is the fast-intercity service between Lisbon, Tunes and Faro. The second stage is the slow regional train from Tunes (for the western Algarve) or Faro (to the east Algarve).

For the express train from Lisbon to Tunes, there are two types of train - the Alfa Pendular (AP) and the Intercidades (intercity – IC). The Alfa Pendular is the more modern train, while the Intercidades is slightly cheaper, but both provide a high level of comfort.

Lisbon to Faro train tickets must be pre-booked, as each ticket is for a designated seat and the number of seats is limited. The latest timetable for services between Lisbon and the Algarve can be seen on the CP website:
www.cp.pt/StaticFiles/horarios/longo-curso/comboio-porto-lisboa-faro-lagos-v.r.s.antonio.pdf
(The link opens a PDF, which may be downloaded on mobile phones)
To purchase tickets, it is advisable use the CP website: www.cp.pt/

There are reductions for Children (50% discount), under 25s (25% discount), seniors 65+ (50% discount) or buying a return ticket (10% reduction). These age-related discounts can be applied during the online booking in the “Options” stage of the booking process. If using any age-based discounts, always travel with a valid ID to prove your age.

Warning: Popular summer services do sell out. It is not advisable just to turn up at the station shortly before the departure time and hope that there are still seats available for the express train.

Insight:It is a large step down from the carriage to the station at both Tunes and Faro. If you have mobility issues or are travelling with young children, it is advisable to chat with the guard if help or extra time is needed.

The Alfa Pendular

The Alfa Pendular is the express train of Portugal

Lisbon train station

All trains to the Algarve depart from the Estação do Oriente in Lisbon.

Oriente station is to the north-east of Lisbon, GPS: 38.767, -9.099 (link to Google Maps), and is in the Parque das Nações district. The Estação do Oriente is connected to the red metro line, and this metro line also serves the airport.

Oriente is a busy transport interchange with metro, bus and train stations, but it is easy to navigate around, with clear signage and plenty of lifts. Opposite the station is the modern Vasco da Gama shopping centre, where there are numerous restaurants and cafes.
Related articles: Estação do Oriente

Porto to the Algarve

There are two daily train services between Faro and Porto, with connections to Tunes. The Faro to Porto journey takes 6 hours 37mins, with tickets for the service costing €57.40/€78.90 (2nd/1st class).

The train is the recommended means of travel for such long distances, and the latest timetable can be seen on the CP website: www.cp.pt/

You may not have considered Porto as part of your holiday, but it is a fascinating city that is equally as good as Lisbon.
Related articles: Our Porto guide

The Algarve regional railway

The second stage of the train journey uses the Algarve regional train to travel to your final destination. If you are heading to the east of the Algarve (Tavira, Monte Gordo, Olhao), the connection is in the city of Faro.

If travelling to the western Algarve (Lagos, Portimão, Praia da Rocha), the connection is at the town of Tunes. For Albufeira, depart at Ferreiras station (the station after Tunes) and catch a taxi for the 6km journey to the resort centre.

The Algarve railway is very slow; it takes almost an hour to travel from Lagos to Tunes, or 40 minutes from Faro to Tavira. Departure times of the regional services align with the arrival and departure of the timetabled Lisbon express trains.

When heading west, the regional train does not pass close to any of the main resorts, so an onward taxi will be required.

Lagos train station is situated close to the city and it is only a short walk to the main centre. The towns to the east of the Algarve are located close to the train station and only a short onward journey is required.

The train stations in the Algarve are much smaller, often with two platforms and a handful of services per day. Most stations have a ticket offices, a café and not much else.

Algrave regional train

The slow regional train of the Algarve

Lisbon to the Algarve by bus

Bus travel in Portugal is safe and inexpensive, and the coaches used by Rede Expressos and Flixbus are smart and modern.

Rede Expressos is the main inter-city bus company of Portugal, covering many routes throughout the country. It is a conglomerate of lots of smaller bus companies, and the Lisbon to Algarve services may be provided by Renex, Mundial Turismo or Rede Expressos.

Flixbus is a low-cost bus company that provides services along many of the more popular routes in Portugal. Since it started operating, the price of bus travel has significantly fallen and is now much cheaper than train travel.

Flixbus services will be cheaper when booked in advance, but its services will sell out during popular times. Also, expect Flixbus to be much busier than the Rede Expressos equivalent.
Rede Expressos - rede-expressos.pt/
Flixbus - www.flixbus.pt/

Both bus companies use dynamic pricing, with the cost of the ticket increasing closer to the departure time and with demand.

Flixbus Lisbon

Flixbus in Oriente bus station

Lisbon bus stations

The majority of Rede Expresso buses depart Lisbon from the Sete Rios bus station (GPS: 38.741, -9.166), which is the main bus station of Lisbon. It is located on the blue metro line and is connected to the Jardim Zoológico metro station.

Flixbus services depart from the Estação do Oriente bus station (GPS: 38.767, -9.099), which is connected to the train station. This is in the Parque das Nações district and is connected to the red metro line by the Oriente metro station.

Advice: Always check your ticket for the departure location, especially when travelling with Rede Expressos buses. Sete Rios bus station is full to capacity and services may depart from Oriente where there is more space.

Both Sete Rios and Estação do Oriente are large and modern bus stations with late-opening ticket offices and generally good facilities. Lisbon bus stations are safe, but always use common sense when passing through, as pickpockets are always on the search for easy opportunities.
Related articles: Sete Rios bus station

Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon

Sete Rios bus station in Lisbon

Driving between Lisbon and the Algarve via the A2 and A22

The journey by car from Lisbon to the Algarve follows the A2 expressway, and the A22 is the expressway of the Algarve. Both of these roads have tolls and the cost will vary from €20 to €25 – almost the same as the train.

The tolls are paid by the Via Verde transponder, which you should ask for if you are renting a car in Portugal. Full details are provided on their website:
visitors.viaverde.pt

If you are planning on driving a foreign registered car, please see this website:
www.portugaltolls.com/

It is highly recommended to have a Via Verde transponder while driving in Portugal, as many expressways only have automatic toll collection. To estimate the cost of tolls in Portugal, use the website:
https://portagens.infraestruturasdeportugal.pt/

The A2 is a very boring drive through the interior of the Alentejo region. There are no noteworthy towns or sights along the route.

The coastal route along the N120 is much more scenic, but it is a single-carriageway that meanders through the countryside and will take much longer. Along the N120, pretty towns and villages include:
Odeceixe – A small village in a region of pristine and dramatic beaches.
Zambujeira do Mar – A picturesque village perched on the top of cliffs that overlook a beautiful beach.
Vila Nova de Milfontes – A traditional beach town, which is a fantastic location from which to explore the Alentejo coastline.
Porto Covo – A pretty coastal village
Sines – A historic port city, but sadly it is very industrial, with a massive oil refinery and docks.

Do you need a car for Lisbon?
Having a car in the Algarve is great for exploring and discovering hard to reach beaches or villages, but in Lisbon it can be a hinderance. Lisbon has excellent public transport and the ride hailing apps (such as Uber or Bolt) are inexpensive for private travel. Driving in Lisbon can be very demanding, with heavy traffic, erratic driving and severely limited car parking.
We would recommend having a car in Lagos, but there is no need for one during your time in Lisbon.

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Algarve-Tourist.com

The best guide to the Algarve

Where to stay in the algarve
Top 10 Algarve
Algarve Best Beaches
Algarve Families holiday
Algarve day trips
Albufeira guide
Lagos Portugal
tavira guide
Carvoeiro Algarve
faro guide
vilamoura Algarve
Silves Algarve
Praia da Rocha Algarve
Loulé Algarve
Alvor Algarve
Praia da Luz Algarve
Sagres Algarve
Vila Nova de Milfontes
Where to stay in the algarve
Top 10 Algarve
Albufeira guide
Lagos Portugal
tavira guide
Carvoeiro Algarve
faro guide
vilamoura Algarve
Silves Algarve
Praia da Rocha Algarve
Loulé Algarve
Alvor Algarve
Praia da Luz Algarve
Sagres Algarve
Vila Nova de Milfontes